Though you’ve felt their impact while traveling over an uneven road, have you ever stopped to think about the role shocks and struts play in your vehicle's performance? Without these essential components, your car's suspension wouldn't be able to transfer its weight around when you roll over an obstacle or takes a hard turn.

In short, a shock- or strut-less vehicle does not handle well at all, regardless of the road condition. The same can be said of a vehicle whose shocks or struts have worn out. Your vehicle may be in a comparable state right now, and if so, you've found precisely the right guide.

In this guide, you’ll learn all about how struts and shocks work as well as how to identify when they need to be replaced. If your vehicle’s performance meets those criteria, you’ll be able to select from one of the 7 best shocks and struts reviewed in this guide. After reading this guide, you'll know how to spot a quality shock or strut when you see it as well as maintain your vehicle's new shocks and struts going forward.


Preview

Product

Shock or Strut?

Material

Check Price

Bilstein 5100 Series Shock Kit for Toyota...

Bilstein 5100 Series

Shock

Corrosion-resistant zinc finish, nitrogen gas

KYB KIT 4 FRONT & REAR shocks / struts 2003 -...

KYB KIT

Both

Triple chrome plating

Monroe 139105 Quick-Strut Complete Strut...

Monroe 139105

Strut

Powder-coated steel, SAE-grade nuts, and bolts

Detroit Axle - 2.2L Front & Rear Complete...

Detroit Axle

Both

High-quality steel

Auto Shack CSS121-243PR Front Strut Spring...

Prime Choice Auto Parts CSS121-243PR

Both

Powder-coated steel

Detroit Axle 172518 Front Quick Struts and...

Detroit Axle 172518

Both

N/A

DTA 70090X Full Set 2 Front Complete Strut...

DTA 70090X

Shocks

Heated-treated and powder-coated steel, chrome plating, nitrogen gas


Why Replace Shocks & Struts

Shocks and struts operate similarly. Both dampen the effects of uneven movement across a vehicle's suspension by absorbing part of that movement's downward momentum. Both also ensure that a vehicle's wheels remain in contact with the pavement at all times, which in turn makes for more reliable handling.

When a shock or strut is allowed to degrade past an operable point, however, a vehicle’s handling can be severely impact. Most noticeably, when either a shock or a strut begins to fail, a driver will notice slower breaking response times and a bumpier ride, even on otherwise smooth pavement (more signs of worn shocks can be found here).

Shocks and struts should be replaced as soon as any sign of wear appears to prevent unnecessary wear upon your vehicle's all-important suspension. Doing so can also make your vehicle far safer, given what a failed shock or strut can do to your vehicle’s handling and response time.


Factors to Consider When Choosing Shocks & Struts

Vehicle Year, Make & Model

While shocks and struts may appear similar at first glance, they are not all compatible with every type of vehicle. Most shock and strut kits are only designed to be compatible with certain vehicle brands, makes, or model years. Some kits even purposely replicate OEM shocks and struts, which would make that kit’s compatibility even more limited.

Also, shocks and struts may be designed for not only compatibility with a particular vehicle make or model but also compatibility with a lifted suspension. These shocks or struts are typically longer to accommodate the added space that occurs after a lift modification is performed. In this case, also, it is worth your time and money to check if your chosen kit will suit your vehicle’s unique needs.

Shock Type

Shocks come in several different types, though spring-type and gas-chamber types are the most common today. Spring-type shocks utilize an ultra-strong coil which compresses and extends as needed when the vehicle's suspension is put under pressure. A gas-chamber type shock operates similarly, though with a sealed chamber, a piston, and pressurized gas. Both can provide outstanding performance depending on if they are used on the vehicle's front or back end.

Durability

Durability is essential when it comes to long-lasting shocks or struts. Ideally, your shocks or struts should be built from reinforced metals that can support far more than your vehicle's combined weight. Even small details, such as extra welding at the connection joints, can indicate that a shock or strut was built to last. Shocks and struts are exposed to the elements as well, so even an anti-corrosion paint coating can make a difference on this front.

Ease of Installation

If you’re planning on installing your own shocks or struts, be on the lookout for a kit that promises a simplified installation. This can save you a lot of time and effort, given that not all shocks and struts can be installed without professional tools. User reviews are a great place to confirm those kinds of claims because those previous users of the same shocks or struts can give you a realistic view of what the installation required.

Value for Money

As always, you should be on the hunt for a bargain when it comes to shocks and struts. While you shouldn’t settle for a lesser quality product, you really can save a lot on this vehicle maintenance job by simply comparing in-store prices to online retailer prices. While analyzing those costs, don’t forget to account for the money-saving opportunity that comes with a solid warranty, either.


7 Best Shocks & Struts Reviewed

1. Bilstein 5100 Series

Best Overall Shock Kit

Shock or Strut?

Shock

Material

Corrosion-resistant zinc finish, nitrogen gas

Weight

27 lbs.

Position

Both (set)

Warranty

Yes, lifetime

Bilstein has long been a trusted name in the shock and strut industry. So, it should be no surprise at all that their 5100 Series Shock Kit ranks as one of the best overall shock kits on the market today. Just about every aspect of this kit’s shocks are an improvement on OEM designs, including its multiple snap-ring grooves. These allow for more customized mounting options, including on a 2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner 4WD.

Most every part of this kit’s spring are built to last too, particularly in the conditions brought on by driving off of paved roads. For example, each of these springs includes a specialized zinc finish that can fully resist corrosion. What's more, the unique nitrogen gas blend used within these shocks was formulated to retain resilience, even after many years of use. Even this model’s self-adjusting digressive piston is larger than average, thus making it sturdier overall.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this kit is rather expensive at just over $350. But for that price, you get all of the quality performance described above plus a reliable lifetime warranty. Though I don’t expect you’ll need it, it’s good to see that some shock brands continue to honor their commitments to their customers in this way.

Pros

  • Multiple snap-ring grooves allow for more customized installation up to 2.5”
  • Self-adjusting digressive piston is much larger than average
  • Nitrogen gas performance optimized for racing

Cons

  • May ship without some mounting hardware

2. KYB KIT

Best Shocks For A Honda Pilot

Shock or Strut?

Both

Material

Triple chrome plating

Weight

60 Lbs.

Position

Both

Warranty

Yes, limited lifetime

KYB is another name in the strut and shock industry that amateurs and professionals alike have trusted for a long time. KYB has kept that trustworthy reputation alive with this shock and strut kit, which can be a significant asset if you are trying to restore a Honda Pilot's old ride height and handling. In fact, the shocks in this kit even use the OEM twin-tube construction in order to make your Honda Pilot handle like it is fresh off the lot.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I really do consider these to be the best shocks for a Honda Pilot. While their performance is one of their main attractions, I believe some shoppers may be equally impressed with their durability. For example, this set’s shocks utilize triple chrome-plated piston rods and multi-lip oil seals. These two aspects combine to reduce internal wear, which results in a longer usable lifespan in turn.

Speaking of the pistons on these shocks, I was also impressed to see that they utilized a PTFE-coated piston band. These are known to reduce internal friction, thus making it far less likely that your new shocks will be damaged due to overuse. Even the seamless mounting eye rings and bolt bushings are built with solid construction techniques, almost ensuring that they will remain strong and structurally sound throughout their active lifespan.

Pros

  • Designed to recreate precise handling of OEM struts
  • PTFE-coated piston band reduces friction and improves longevity
  • Triple chrome plated piston rod, and multi-lip oil seals reduce internal wear

Cons

  • Hard to find this set at online retailers

3. Monroe 139105 Quick-Strut

Safest To Install Strut

Shock or Strut?

Strut

Material

Powder-coated steel, SAE-grade nuts, and bolts

Weight

24.3 Lbs.

Position

Front

Warranty

Yes, 30-day

If you’re planning to install your new struts on your own, you should read up on how to perform this kind of modification before you start to get your hands dirty. But at the same time, you should try to find the safest possible strut set to install. You won’t need to search for long, though, because you’ll find that right here with the Monroe 139105 Quick-Strut. That’s because its springs don’t require compression in order to be installed correctly.

But just because you’ll be able to install these struts with ease does not mean that you’ll be compromising their durability at all. In fact, the powder-coated steel used to make up the majority of these struts will resist warping, even in instances of repeated use. Everything down to the SAE-grade nuts and bolts are built to take the heat of active use, too, which should be no surprise given that these struts are made entirely in the US.

While most struts in the Monroe 139105 Quick-Strut’s class today include spring isolators, this model’s use of this component is a significant improvement on the standard up to this point. They've been built in a manner that eliminates noise and reduces metal-on-metal contact almost entirely. This kind of quality will run you $113 per strut, though, so these may not be the best pick for a DIYer on a budget.

Pros

  • Built from high-quality, powder-coated US steel that won't bend under pressure
  • Newly added spring isolator eliminates noise and reduces metal-on-metal contact
  • Spring does not need to be compressed for safe and proper installation

Cons

  • Very brief warranty of only 30 days

4. Detroit Axle

Best Shocks For A Toyota Camry

Shock or Strut?

Both

Material

High-quality steel

Weight

88 Lbs.

Position

Both

Warranty

None Listed

Next up is this Detroit Axle shock and strut set, which I believe is the best shock and strut set for a Toyota Camry on the market today. That's because, for a 4-piece set, this kit costs less than $250. That's a remarkable value all things considered, given that the struts alone in most kits cost that much. This kit does not come with a listed warranty, though, which might explain its otherwise low overall price.

But that aside, there’s a lot to be impressed with when it comes to this Detroit Axle set. For example, this company’s engineering team calibrated each of the shock springs so that they can carry a Camry’s weight with perfect distribution. The upper spring seats on these shocks also transfer almost no sound or vibration to the chassis at all, which is surprising given this vehicle’s overall size.

If you’re planning to change your own Camry’s struts and shocks, this kit also has something to offer you. Namely, it comes with just about everything you’ll need to start this job from scratch, including appropriately sized sway bars. In essence, this kit’s shocks and struts are ready to install right out the box, which is rare among aftermarket strut and shock kits today.

Pros

  • Each spring calibrated to hold Camry’s weight and distribution perfectly
  • Durable strut boot protects strut rod and seal effectively
  • Upper spring seat transfers almost no sound or vibration to the chassis

Cons

  • Same kit sold by other brands

5. Prime Choice Auto Parts CSS121-243PR

Best Overall Shock And Strut Set

Shock or Strut?

Both

Material

Powder-coated steel

Weight

42.5 Lbs.

Position

Both

Warranty

None Listed

It’s a crowded field out there. But even so, I believe that the Prime Choice Auto Parts CSS121-243PR kit is one of the best overall shock and strut sets around. The struts and shocks in this kit were really built with quality in mind, as evidenced in their general durability. This kit’s use of powder-coated steel is to thank for that degree of structural stability, which competitors should take note of immediately.

Along the same lines, you’ll note that the springs in the Prime Choice Auto Parts CSS121-243PR kit include a neoprene boot. Though a small detail, this kind of covering can make a major difference when it comes to preventing corrosion from decreasing your new shock’s effective lifespan. Corrosion won’t even be an internal threat for these shocks, either, given that it features fully-functional spring isolators.

I will say that I was disappointed to see that this kit lacks any listed warranty, though. That would make me reconsider buying it myself, but the value presented by its price tag alone makes it a worthwhile option for someone who wants to save a few bucks.

Pros

  • Powder-coated steel finish won’t chip or corrode
  • Each spring features neoprene boot for added protection
  • Spring isolator prevents unnecessary wear through friction

Cons

  • Lacks a listed warranty

6. Detroit Axle 172518

Best GMC Acadia Shock And Strut Set

Shock or Strut?

Both

Material

N/A

Weight

50 Lbs.

Position

Both

Warranty

Yes, 10-year

If you’re an owner of a GMC Arcadia, it only makes sense that you’d be looking for the best GMC Acadia shock and strut set. Though you might not have guessed it, you’ll find that right here with the Detroit Axle 172518 set. Not only is this kit compatible with 2007-2018 Arcadias, but owners of a 2008-2016 Buick Enclave, 2009-2016 Chevy Traverse, or 2007-2010 Saturn Outlook can use this kit’s struts and shocks without any risk of incompatibility.

With that broad of a compatibility range, you might wonder how Detroit Axle managed to make each component of its 172518 kit fit so well with each type of vehicle. As it turns out, this flexibility with installation is a result of their OEM direct-fit design style, which allows even a DIY to install each of these parts without needing any special tools. Each component attaches as a uniform piece, too, thus removing an opportunity to improperly install a shock or strut.

Also, I really must applaud the Detroit Axle 172518 set for being one of the only offerings on the market today with a concrete warranty policy. While it is okay to see competing models offering “lifetime” warranties, I feel far more reassured to see the 10-year warranty provided by this kit's manufacturer.

Pros

  • OEM design is a direct fit that doesn’t require special tools to install
  • Affordable for a 4-piece set with both front and back components
  • Impressive 10-year warranty

Cons

  • Calipers are known to be less durable than average

7. DTA 70090X

Best Toyota Tacoma Shock And Strut Set

Shock or Strut?

Shocks

Material

Heated-treated and powder-coated steel, chrome plating, nitrogen gas

Weight

44 Lbs.

Position

Both (set)

Warranty

None Listed

Finally, we come to my selection for the best Toyota Tacoma shock and strut set – the DTA 70090X. This kit really pulls out all of the stops when it comes to providing enhanced durability to your favorite truck’s suspension system. Take the heated-treated and powder-coated steel shocks in this kit, for example. They’ve been tested to stand up to even industrial-grade use, so even your work truck can operate safely using them.

Corrosion won’t touch the DTA 70090X’s shocks, either. That’s because they each feature chrome plating that is sure to prevent dirt and other off-road debris from decreasing these shocks' useful lifespan. But if that's still not enough, these shocks also come with neoprene boots and bump stops that will ensure that nothing but a decade or more of use causes you to replace them.

Even the internal stability of these shocks is something to take note of. While the Teflon-banded piston seal used in these shocks is impressive in its own right, I want to really emphasize this kit’s so-called “all-weather fluid.” It has been formulated to maintain the same consistency regardless of outdoor temperature. So, with these shocks installed, shock fluid leaks are a thing of the past.

Pros

  • Teflon-banded piston seal won’t degrade over time
  • All-weather fluid won’t react to changing seasons
  • Heated-treated and powder-coated steel withstands heavy-duty and industrial use with ease

Cons

  • Lacks a listed warranty

Difference Between Shocks and Struts

Though they serve a similar purpose, shocks and struts are not the same. Their primary difference comes in their implementation within a vehicle. To that end, struts are considered to be part of a vehicle’s suspension system, while shocks merely serve as an auxiliary component outside the main suspension system. A vehicle also usually requires re-alignment after a strut replacement, which is not the case with shocks.

Also, shocks and struts are not interchangeable. If your vehicle utilizes shocks, those shocks should only be replaced with new, compatible shocks. Meanwhile, vehicles with struts should only have those components replaced with new struts of the proper size and strength.


Shocks & Struts Inspection & Replacement

There are numerous signs that it is time to replace your vehicle’s shocks or struts. If you notice any of the following, then you should schedule an appointment with a trusted mechanic to see if your shocks or struts are at fault:

  • Noticeable tire shaking or instability when driving on uneven or wet surfaces
  • Bottoming out on bumps or inclines
  • Body shaking or swaying in high winds or during turns
  • Front end "nose-diving" when braking
  • Delayed braking response times

There are several ways to check to see if your shocks or struts may need replacement. These typically involve testing those components in a controlled environment to see if they respond as intended. For example, with your vehicle parked and turned off, you can press directly down on the front or back end of your vehicle just above the wheel well. This can give a quick indicator of that shock or struts response time.

This article can teach you about more tests you can perform to check your strut or shock’s condition.


Proper & Safe Disposal of Old Shocks & Struts

Proper environmental protection is key to modern living. As such, you should be mindful of how you dispose of your old shocks and struts once they have passed their expected lifespan.If you have your shocks or struts replace professionally, this step is already done for you and is factored into your service cost. 

However, if you are replacing your own shocks or struts, you’ll need to know that you cannot simply throw these in the garbage can. Instead, you’ll need to contact a locally certified disposal company to see about opportunities to deposit your old car parts. Also, before disposing of a gas-filled strut, you’ll need to empty its fluids. You can learn more about how to do that here.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

How often do struts and shocks need to be replaced? How long do they last?

Shock and strut replacement time periods will differ greatly depending on how much stress those components are regularly put under. For example, a truck driver who routinely operates off of paved roads may need to have their shocks or struts checked every year to prevent a sudden decrease in handling. Meanwhile, a car driver who usually drives on paved roads can often go a few years before having their shocks or struts checked for wear.

In most cases, a set of shocks or struts can last up to 10 years if they are properly maintained and put through a regular amount of stress. However, excessive use or poor maintenance may require a vehicle's shocks or struts to be replaced in as few as 4 years. In any case, it is wise to get your shocks or struts replaced every 50,000 miles or so, regardless of your regular driving habits.

How much will it cost to replace shocks and struts?

Shocks and struts typically cost between $60 and $130 apiece, so a typical set of two will cost $120 to $260 on average. As a result, replacing either your front or rear end shocks or struts does not have to be an expensive task if it is done at home. However, professional shock or strut replacement comes with labor costs, which can raise the price of this job to between $150 and $300 on average.

Should I replace all 4 shocks and struts at the same time?

Generally speaking, yes, you should replace all 4 shocks or struts at once if you can afford it. This is to ensure that all 4 pieces of this critical suspension system are in the same condition going forward. Only replacing 1 or 2 shocks or struts at any given time can cause an excessive amount of wear on the new components due to the imbalance of pressure they create.

What is the best brand for shocks and struts?

There are many popular shock and strut brands out there today, though KYB, Monroe, Detroit Axle, and Bilstein remain favorites among mechanics and DIYers. In fact, there’s often a debate question whether Monroe or KYB shocks and struts are better than the other. In truth, both are great performers that can serve different types of vehicles and differing budgets well.

Where is the best place to buy shocks and struts online?

Though it might surprise you, Amazon has become a great online shopping destination for shocks and struts. This is because they have a far more extensive selection than any brick-and-mortar store, and their shipping rates cannot be beaten. So, as long as you know which kits are compatible with your vehicle, this should be your shopping destination for shocks or struts.


Conclusion

There’s still a lot to know about shocks and struts, but now you have a firm understanding of how these important components operate and how you can find a new set to match your vehicle’s needs. You also now know what to look for when it comes time to replace your shocks or struts, either on your own or with the assistance of a professional.

Whichever path you choose, you can be sure that your compatible vehicle will be well supported if you go with the Bilstein 5100 Series Shock Kit. This kit includes a full set of four sturdy shocks that fit vehicle heights up to 2.5 inches. They also come with a lifetime warranty, so you can be sure that they are a wise investment.