Is A Prerunner Worth It?

September 8, 2022

If you're anything like us, you probably spent your childhood playing with trucks and tractors in the dirt. We can think of countless hours that we all spent mobbing through the dirt on our hands and knees, and while most of these Tonka trucks were pretty frickin' cool, there's one that sticks out in our heads above all others, a square-body Chevy on some massive mud boggers. Of course, it had a massive lift kit.

Although things have changed a lot since then, and the toys that we're playing with nowadays are bigger and much more expensive, that obsession with lifted trucks has never really gone away. But there's one type of build that gets us every single time, and since you've seen the title of the blog, you know we're talking about prerunners. These long-travel suspension, big tire, small wheel-having off-road machines have a special place in our hearts and they always will, but where did they come from? What makes them so special, and why are they so cool? Today, we'll be answering all those questions to help you out if you've been looking for a Prerunner for yourself. Let's jump right in.

1995 Toyota Tacoma with American Racing Baja wheels

What Is A Prerunner Truck Build?

Before we begin, you might be wondering: "What the heck is a Prerunner, anyway?" Well, the term is thrown around a lot in the industry, and there really aren't too many people who know what it means. Word on the streets is that the term "pre-runner" comes from the racing world, where these vehicles were used to pre-run an off-road course. We're talking about things like trophy trucks, off-road ultra four cars, and other Baja 1000-type stuff that we all wish we could play with but can't afford.

Most race teams out there today will have a separate, secondary vehicle that's built in a similar fashion to their actual racing truck, and these pre-runner vehicles allow race teams to drive the course and get familiar with the terrain in a vehicle that's gonna handle similarly to the race truck without risking it. As desert racing grew in popularity, pre-runners continued to grow as well, and like pretty much everything else in the world, if it looks cool and people like it, it's bound to show up everywhere. As the desert scene exploded in SoCal, people outside of the race teams began craving this purpose-built truck style, built in a street legal configuration, and thus, the pre-runner scene was born.

Read More: Are Smaller Wheels Worth It For Your Truck Build?

What Makes Pre-Runners So Popular and Appealing?

So why do so many people like pre-runners nowadays? For these trucks, it's all about functionality. Even if you're not on a pro race team, pre-runners by nature are designed to be ripped through the desert, taking all the bumps and rough terrain that entails in stride, ultimately giving you the freedom to roll through the desert at Mach 10 and still run up the 5 to LA if you need to take a business call.

Pre-runners typically feature a long-travel suspension with a widened track width on the front end, and of course, big all-terrain or mud-terrain tires on a smaller wheel that'll give them more of an off-road look. Also, most pre-runner builds will feature some sort of wider bodywork than the factory, which helps not only with suspension clearance but also opens you up to bigger wheels and tires.

1992 Toyota Tacoma with Cragar wheels

What Are The Best Trucks To Start A Prerunner Build?

So let's say you want to build a Prerunner, and honestly, you should. What kind of truck are you even looking for? There are several extremely custom builds up there, but the most popular ones will be based on the Ford Ranger or the Toyota Tacoma. Not only did these trucks make up the majority of the sportsman racing classes between the early 1980s and mid-2000s, but they're also some of the most inexpensive trucks to build into a pre-runner style.

In more recent years, full-sized Prerunner builds have popped up on popular trucks like the F-150, Silverado 1500, and of course, the Raptor.

Read More: Is The Ford Raptor Worth Buying?

Best Suspension Kit Setups For A Prerunner Truck Build

What about suspension setups then? What should you be looking for if you crave that off-road, dirt-slinging goodness that Prerunners offer? For starters, we'll take a look at lift kits, and while those might give you the look of a Prerunner, if you want to walk the walk, you'll be looking for a long-travel suspension kit. Long travel suspension kits are different because, wait for it - they have longer travel than a standard lift kit, hence the name.

Long travel suspension kits are essential for Prerunners for two key reasons: First, the faster you want to go, the more suspension travel you'll need, because you'll be taking bumps much more quickly than you otherwise would. Second, when you launch this thing off a sand dune (which we're not condoning, but come on, that's rad) you're gonna want to make sure that you have a nice, soft landing when you come back down.

For both of these reasons, long-travel suspension kits feature longer-than-normal upper control arms, a longer coilover in the front, remote reservoirs, and other features to help them ensure that your truck will be able to handle all the abuse that you'll be throwing at it if you have a prerunner.

How Much Do Long-Travel Suspension Kits Cost?

Unfortunately, like everything else in life, if you get more, it's gonna cost you more, and it's quite a bit more if we're talking about long-travel lift kits. While average lift kits can cost you somewhere between $1500 and $3000, long travel lift kits can be upwards of $10000 or more. That's a huge chunk of change to dish out, but for the functionality that these kits provide, it might just be worth it for the build you're trying to create.

1997 Ford Ranger with Mickey Thompson Classic wheels

What Size Wheels and Tires Should You Get For A Prerunner Build?

Most guys will be looking for function over form on their prerunners, and that makes sense given how these things will inevitably be used. You'll want to run either 9 or 10-wide wheels, usually not bigger than 20 inches in diameter. Also, be sure to wrap them up in tires that are 35 inches or a bit taller, and again, we're talking mud-terrains or all-terrains depending on where you're located.

Build Your Wheel and Tire Package In Our Store!

Shop Wheels, Tires, and Suspension For Your Prerunner Build At Custom Offsets

If you've been wanting to jump on the Prerunner train, now's a perfect time, because we have plenty of top-tier wheels, tires, and suspension kits from America's top brands to help you get your build taken care of. Check out our inventory today and package your wheels and tires together for free mounting, balancing, and shipping to the lower 48 - of course, if you have any questions or need help getting the right set for you, hit us up and we're always happy to lend a hand!

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