Coilovers Vs Wheels: Which One To Get First?

By October 16, 2020Coilovers

“I finally saved up enough. Do I go coilovers or wheels first?” This question comes up very often but for a good reason. Both wheels and coilovers improve handling and can make your car an instant head-turner. But if you have to choose just one?

You should get coilovers first if your priority is improved handling. Go for wheels first if your priority is an upgraded look. Good quality coilovers are more expensive but they can improve handling significantly while being adjustable.

A set of wheels and tires are cheaper, give less improvement in handling but will not go unnoticed for the public eyes. 

That’s just the short answer. Now let’s discuss the pros and cons of both in detail. I will also include my personal recommendation. You should be able to make up your mind by the end of this article.

Recap: What Does Coilover Do?

Before we get into the pros and cons, we must first understand what each of them does. This section is for the beginner enthusiasts. You can skip this if you are already familiar 🙂 

Do you realize that when you take a corner, your car will lean towards one side? This is known as body roll. Body roll prevents you from cornering at high speed and only happens if your car suspension is loose and your car is tall.

This is where coilovers come in. Coilovers are aftermarket parts that lower your car and make your suspension stiffer – allowing you to corner at high speed without much body roll. Pretty cool huh? 🙂 That’s it you need to know for now, we will talk pros and cons later. 

I cover more about coilovers in this article. Are Coilovers Good For Daily Driving? 

Image of KW Coilovers
Image of coilovers.

Recap: What Does Aftermarket Wheels Do?

When people go for aftermarket wheels, they usually upgrade for bigger ones. 

Aside from the sexier looks, bigger wheels allow you to equip bigger tires. Which means more grip because bigger tires have bigger surface area that is in contact with the road surface.

More grip on the tires provides more control when you take corners and brake. I will cover the pros and cons of wheels in more detail at a later section, so keep reading 🙂

aftermarket wheels
Image of coilovers.

Why Coilovers First? (Pros & Cons)

Here I summarize the pros and cons of coilovers, so you can easily make a decision. I will also share my recommendation at the end – so you won’t have any doubts.

Pros Of Coilovers

1. Amazing handling. Coilovers can give you significant improvement in handling.  I am talking night and day – you can definitely feel it. After all, coilovers are made with only one thing in mind and that is improved handling.  

2. Adjustable. You can adjust the coilovers depending on your preference. You can have your car kick ass in cornering but very stiff or you can have moderate improvement in handling but still comfortable enough for daily driving.

This is done by adjusting the rebound, compression and ride height. I cover how you could adjust your coilovers for a comfortable daily driving in this article. Coilovers For Daily Driving: How To Make Them Comfortable?

3. Lowered car for aggressive look. After lowering your car, sit back and admire how aggressive your car will look. Nothing can make a car look better than the lowered aggressive look. I mean… Where do you see a sports car that has a huge wheel gap?

Cons Of Coilovers

1. Needs realignment. That’s right – after installing or adjusting your coilovers, you will need to bring your car for a wheel alignment. Installing coilovers is not easy and it requires tweaking the car suspension. Unless you purchase the same exact coilovers with the same exact settings, there’s no way you won’t need an alignment. 

The good news is you don’t need realignment for small adjustments like rebound and compression control. You will only need realignment if you do something major like replacing the coilovers or adjusting the caster plating.

I have an article about coilovers and realignment. You can read it if you are worried about the realignment you have to perform (they aren’t cheap!) Should You Get An Alignment After Coilovers? 

2. Uncomfortable ride. Did I already tell you how stiff your ride will become? Yeah. This actually depends on your configuration. If you set your rebound and compression on the lowest settings, then you will definitely have a super stiff ride (super great cornering too 😉 )

If your car is a daily driver, then I suggest to go moderately on the compression and rebound. It’s definitely possible to equip coilovers on your daily driver. So don’t worry too much about this. 

3. Harder to install. Compared to new wheels, coilovers are harder to install. You need to take out the existing shocks and springs. And you also need to install the new coilovers to your caster plate. 

Not to mention you have to be careful when taking off the springs. Make a mistake and the spring can come flying off to your direction. Before installing coilovers, make sure you have watched how it’s done. YouTube is a good place for tutorials. Or just bring your car to a workshop and have them install it for you 🙂 

4. Expensive. Good coilovers can easily start at $1000. I say ‘good’ coilovers because you should only look to install good coilovers from reputable brands. Coilovers are the hardest working component in your car and you don’t want the headaches and constant repairs – trust me. 

I heard many horror stories about cheap eBay coilovers where they simply break down after a few weeks or months. Oil leak, squeaking noises, blown shocks – these are some of the common problems with cheap coilovers.

Why Wheels First? (Pros & Cons)

Pros Of Aftermarket Wheels

1. Improved handling. You will get a slightly improved handling because bigger wheels and tires have more contact on the road surface – providing more grip. This means you can go faster on corners. But still not too fast if your car is high because of body rolls. 

2. Improved braking. This point is similar to above. Bigger wheels and tires provide bigger contact on the road surface. The contact is extremely important when braking because that’s the key for putting your car to a stop. Expect your car to have a shorter braking distance when using bigger aftermarket wheels. 

3. Looks great from the outside. Aftermarket wheels are clearly visible on the outside – generating more head-turns per minute. If that’s what you care about 🙂 

4. No need for alignment. You don’t need realignment after installing new wheels. Unless you did something wrong during the installation and accidentally impacted the suspension. Just make sure your steering wheels are not pulled on either side. Then you should be fine.

Cons Of Aftermarket Wheels

1. Expensive. To install bigger aftermarket wheels, you need to purchase 4 sets of wheels and tires. That can total up to a pretty high cost. Coilovers could be a cheaper option considering that you need to purchase 4 sets of wheels and tires. 

2. Less handling improvement. Compared to coilovers, bigger wheels provide much less handling improvement. Don’t buy bigger wheels for handling improvement alone.

Coilovers Vs Wheels (Comparison Table)

Here’s a comparison table between coilovers and aftermarket wheels. Use this as a summary of what I discussed above.

Which muffler is your car right now?

Component

Coilovers

Aftermarket Wheels

Handling improvement Awesome Moderate
Looks improvement  Yes (lowered car) Yes 
Braking improvement No Yes
Cost Cheaper More expensive
Easy installation No Yes (easier)
Stiff ride Yes No
Daily drivable  Yes (With adjustment) Yes
Need wheels alignment Yes No
Legal Yes Yes

My Recommendation

Personally, I would go for coilovers first. The handling improvement it gives is night and day and it’s cheaper than a set of wheels and tires. Even though the coilovers will not be clearly seen from the outside, the lowered look is a good enough improvement for me. 

Also, If you are a beginner car enthusiast, installing and adjusting coilovers can deeply expose you to the suspension system in a car. It will be a good experience and a major step forward on your journey to be a car head. 

Coilovers For Handling & Wheels For Looks

My recommendation aside, what you choose is entirely up to you. For a generic recommendation, I suggest to go for the coilovers if you care more about handling and go for the new sets of wheels if you care more about the outer experience. Both are good upgrades on their own right.

The only thing I have to insist is that you purchase coilovers or wheels that are good quality from reputable brands. I am a firm believer of only purchasing high quality mods for your car. Not only will they last long, they will save you tons of headaches and money for repair. 

If you are interested in coilovers, check out my other article where I discuss the things you need to look for when buying coilovers and which coilovers I recommend. Best Coilovers: Which One To Get And What To Look For?  

Coiled Springs & Wheels 

If you decide aftermarket wheels are the way to go, then I suggest you consider installing a lowering springs as well. Lowering springs are similar to coilovers – they lower your car and provide handling improvement.

However, lowering springs are much cheaper because they don’t provide customizations like coilovers and they don’t provide the same handling improvement. I just think that bigger wheels without the lowered look is a bit odd (see image below). 

You can get the best of both worlds by installing lowering springs and aftermarket wheels – which means lowered look, great wheels and improvement handling. A good lowering spring starts cost about $250. Not too expensive huh? 🙂 

Here’s another article I wrote about choosing lowering springs. Give it a read if you are also interested. Best Lowering Springs: Which One To Get And What To Look For? 

Image of Muscle Car With Cold Air Intake
Aftermarket wheels without lowered body doesn’t look so good.
Ifandi S.

Ifandi S.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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