Wheels are by far the most impactful factor when it comes to customizing your vehicle. Adjusting the offset with spacers or replacing the stock with aftermarket wheels, I’ve always made some changes to my rims.
Since you landed on this page, I assume you already know what it takes to get a flush wheel fitment.
In this article, we’ll dive into wheel spacers vs offset rims so you can figure out which option is the right one for you.
That’ll be an easy to understand guide for those running stock suspension or minor upgrades like lowering springs on street driven vehicles.
Wheel Spacers or Offset Rims: What’s Better?
Wheel spacers and lower offset wheels serve the same purpose. Both options will move your rims towards the fenders and get you closer to that perfect fitment you’re after.
So, what’s better?
It depends on the circumstances, so it’s your call. To help you with that:
I’ll talk about the scenarios when using each one is more appropriate.
- I’ll give examples based on my experience with modified street cars.
- I’ll tell you how to find the right wheel offset or wheel spacer size.
Let’s start with the spacers.
When to Use Wheel Spacers?
Even if you believe in the myth that wheel spacers are bad for your vehicle, they are a must in some situations. For example, you must deal with clearance issues when installing coilovers or an air suspension on your car or fitting bigger tires on your truck.
If you’re happy with the looks of your OEM rims and your current ride quality, running spacers is the best way to achieve a flush fitment.
Why spend four figures on new wheels with lower or negative offset when you can buy quality hub centric spacers for $150 on average?
Sometimes, you may even want to install spacers with your new aftermarket wheels. It happened to me a long time ago when I got my eyes on a set of staggered 15s for my Civic.
I knew the rear offset wasn’t low enough for me, but I got them anyway. A pair of 5mm universal lug-centric spacers did the job with the same lug nuts. And yes, non-hub centric spacers are safe with such small thicknesses.
Disadvantages of Wheel Spacers
I have another article about how wheel spacers can affect your vehicle. Here, I’ll just mention the disadvantages of using spacers vs lower offset wheels.
Installing wheel spacers will add extra weight, putting more load on your suspension. The consequences can be accelerated wheel bearings wear or more rigid steering if you have very thick spacers in the front.
However, these problems can occur only due to improper installation or if you’re aiming for a way too aggressive stance with low-quality non-hub centric wheel spacers, as they don’t transfer the load through the hub flange.
If you don’t go wild with the thickness and buy solid, lightweight spacers, chances are slim.
What Size Wheel Spacers Do You Need?
If you do a Google search, all the articles are about taking measurements. But why bother? I mean, the wheel spacer manufacturers have already done that and will also tell you what wheel studs you need.
Of course, you must measure if you’re building a race car with tons of suspension upgrades and huge brakes or an offroad warrior. But if that was the case, you wouldn’t read this post.
That said, if you’re running a stock offset, anything between 10 and 15mm and up to 20mm in the rear will get your rims to sit flush on a passenger car. You can go from 25 to 50mm for trucks, depending on your model and needs.
In both cases, you can figure it out by checking what’s available on the aftermarket for your vehicle. Most sites will have before/after photos; if not, you can find plenty online. I did that when researching the right spacers for our Tesla Model 3.
When to Choose Lower Offset Rims?
The number one reason to choose new rims over wheel spacers is to change the looks of your car rather than just enhance the stance. In this case, I usually leave the old ones for my winter setup and buy a new wheel and tire package.
New offset rims are the way to go when you want to keep your weight in check and don’t want to add extra components to your vehicle. Be sure to buy quality lightweight wheels because the cheap ones look good but, in most cases, will be heavier and easier to bend than your stock ones.
If you drive an RWD vehicle and want a significant improvement in traction and cornering, a staggered setup with lower offset rims is the right choice.
When I bought my BMW E38, it had square 18s. I put 15mm spacers on the rear wheels, but I still wasn’t happy. Then I got a staggered set of 19s, and these bad boys made a big difference in both the looks and performance of the Bimmer.
Drawbacks of Offset Wheels
The price tag is the only drawback of buying offset rims and not spacers for your current wheel setup. Good quality forged wheels will cost you at least 10x the price of hub-centric wheel spacers.
I must mention that while many people don’t want to run spacers because of the extra wheel bearing load, the same thing happens when you change the offset with new rims.
What Wheel Offset Do You Need?
First and foremost, remember that when you’re shopping for new offset rims, you also need to pay attention to the wheel width. Here is what I mean:
If your stock wheels are 8.0 wide with a +30 offset, and you replace those with another set of 8.0 wide rims but with a +15 offset, they’ll flush with the fenders, and you’re good to go.
However, if you buy wheels 9.0 wide with a +15 offset, they’ll stick out way too much and may rub against the fender in turns or potholes.
As a rule of thumb, downsize your stock wheel offset by 15-20mm to achieve flush fitment with lower offset rims. If you change the wheel width from 8.0 to 9.0 or 9.0 to 10, stick with the stock offset or downsize it by 5-10mm.
One last thing to keep in mind is that when buying rims with a different bolt pattern, you’ll have to use wheel adapters. While adapters and spacers aren’t the same, both parts will change the offset.
So, if you found the perfect wheel design with the right specs but need to adapt those to your axle, check the adapters’ thickness. There is a big chance you’ll end up with a zero or even negative offset.
I hope these simple guidelines were helpful and that you feel more confident in your choice between wheel spacers and offset rims.
If you’re still unsure what the perfect setup for your ride is, run a quick Google search with your vehicle model and wheel size specs. I always do that when buying new rims to see how they’ll fit on my car with the particular specs. Good luck!