Ramps vs. Jack Stands: Which are Best for Auto Service?

If you’re the DIY kind of auto owner who enjoys performing your own oil changes and routine maintenance, it’s inevitable that at some point in time, you’re going to have to hoist your vehicle off the ground to get a better look at things underneath. And, unless you’ve got your own in-garage hydraulic system, the lift you’re likely going to be looking at is going to come from ramps or a jack and jack stand.

Like every subject in the world of automotive care, there are two sides to the debate between ramps and jack stands: some prefer one option, while others swear by the opposite. So, which is truly better for helping you perform those oil changes and other aspects of routine maintenance: ramps or jack stands?

Car Ramps

Everyone knows how to use a ramp and such familiarity with these simple machines is usually what draws people to them when it comes to auto maintenance—not to mention how easy they are to use! Just plop down a pair of ramps, drive up the incline, pop the parking brake on, set down the appropriate wheel chocks, and you’re good to start working. There’s not much else to them!

Many people also swear by ramps for the safety factor—auto ramps are generally thought to be more stable than jack stands and there’s less of a chance for error with ramps because they offer a larger surface area for support, both in adding traction to the ground (on applicable surfaces) and to supporting the wheels of the vehicle itself.

Finally, one of the biggest advantages that ramps have over jack stands is their affordability. Getting a good set of ramps for your vehicle comes with a marginal cost compared to the cost of a good jack and set of jack stands.

The downfall of ramps? Well, if positioned on a surface that doesn’t offer a whole lot of traction, they can slide while you’re trying to drive onto them. Also, having to move the vehicle backwards or forwards to make room for and mount the ramps might not be an option in cramped quarters. Other than that, ramps are tremendously safe and easy to use!

Jack Stands

Jack stands are a bit more complicated to use when compared to ramps, but provided you know where your vehicle's lift points are, they only require a few more steps. To get these supports in place you'll need to crank the parking brake on your vehicle, chock the wheels that will remain on the ground, jack the car up with a properly rated floor jack, place the jack stands under the appropriate lift points, and slowly lower the jack down until the vehicle is supported by the jack stands themselves.

So, why might someone prefer using jack stands to ramps when working on their vehicle? Well, for one, you don’t have to move your vehicle at all to hoist it up, whereas with a ramp, you have to either back up to allow for ramp placement or drive forward onto ramps to gain lift.

Second, and just as important, depending on the type of work you’re doing, a jack stand can actually invite better mobility into your work environment, such as allowing you to remove wheels while the vehicle is aloft. This is definitely important when you’re working on something like brakes, where ramps simply wouldn’t be a solution.

The drawback of jack stands? They require absolute precision when being set in place and have a much smaller margin of error associated with them. If your jack stands are not properly supporting the weight of your vehicle or are not positioned in an area that’s completely secure, one accidental bump into the vehicle could send it crashing down. Jack stands aren’t a tool for beginners!

The Verdict

If you couldn’t tell by now, Discount Ramps thoroughly supports the use of ramps when it comes to DIY automotive care. Aside from the lower cost, familiarity and ease of use that accompanies ramps, the sheer safety aspect of ramps over jack stands has us recommending these to our customers to ensure complete peace of mind. While jack stands do have their place in the world of automotive services, we’re going to have to go with ramps for your everyday procedures—especially if you’re just getting started in the world of DIY automotive!