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Pros and Cons of Air Suspension

If you’re searching for a new or used luxury car, it’s likely you’ve seen air suspension on the standard or optional features list. It’s also likely you’ve heard negative remarks about the feature — especially concerning its long-term reliability. If you’re on the fence about whether or not to get a car with it, we’ve listed a few pros and cons to help you make the decision. Find a new car for sale near you

The Benefits

"Air ride" suspension, as it’s sometimes called, offers several important benefits that may be useful to drivers interested in luxury cars. The primary benefit is ride quality: Vehicles with air suspension are often said to "glide" over bumps, while traditional steel spring suspension can cause a harsher ride. Also, air suspension is often adjustable. That means drivers can select a cushy ride if they’re on a rough road or a harsh ride if they want to improve handling.

Another big benefit is that SUVs or trucks with the feature boast improved towing capabilities. In most of these SUVs or trucks, drivers can increase firmness when towing to account for heavier loads. That’s not true of SUVs or trucks with spring suspension, where large loads can weigh down the vehicle.

The Drawbacks

While air suspension may be tempting, there are two downsides, both relating to cost. One is the cost of buying it in the first place. In most vehicles — even luxury models — it comes at an extra cost. Only very high-end cars and SUVs such as the Mercedes S-Class and the Range Rover include it as standard. In other cars, it can be an expensive option.

The Chevrolet Tahoe, for instance, offers it, but you have to upgrade to the luxury-trimmed LTZ model to get it. That means spending more than $55,000 — $15,000 more than the Tahoe’s base price.

For shoppers interested in a used car, the bigger drawback of the feature is maintenance costs. While air suspension is great when it works, it can be expensive to fix. And it’s not a feature you can simply forget about: If it breaks, the car can tilt to one side while moving. That said, many drivers replace broken systems with more traditional steel springs — a cheaper fix, but one that removes an important feature from the vehicle. Find a used car for sale near you

Our Verdict

If you’re interested in a new car that offers optional air suspension, be sure to test drive models with the feature and without it. That way, you can decide if it’s worth the added cost. If you’re looking for a used car with it, be sure to get a mechanical inspection before signing the papers. Note, however, that even a well-inspected system can break as it ages, so you’ll want some room left in your budget for a repair if it’s necessary.

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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.

 
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I just replaced the air suspension with traditional springs in my 2002 Lincoln TC. Both air bags were leaking. My mechanic, who’ve I’ve trusted for over 20 years recommended the conversion kit if I was looking to spend $1,300 instead of $2,200. (was also having the steering rods replaced) I opted for the conversion kit. I am disappointed and regret my decision. It does not ride as well at all. I feel every bump and vibration now and that “float” feeling is nonexistent. I would not recommend anything other than the air suspension in cars designed with them. Conversion kits do not give the same luxurious ride.

    • Hey man I did my 04 for only $85. Brand New from Amazon. Loosen or take out mid to rear body mount bolts for best access. Separate body from frame one side at a time. Disconnect solenoid… Remove top nuts… Pry out the bottom…. Take them out. Put new bags in. MAKE SURE U DONE LET THE REAR BOTTOM OUT WHEN U REENERGIZE THE NEW BAGS. I drove TC across the country in the dead of winter and back. ONE YEAR NO PROBLEMS. 

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