When lifting your vehicle up in the garage, there are a lot of different choices available for both ramps and floor jacks. The best car ramps, no matter their material, offer ease of lifting as you can just drive your vehicle straight onto them and lift your vehicle up for service. An added benefit to ramps in that you can also use them to drive onto a higher surface rather than having to precariously lift the vehicle and push it forward to make it over the edge.
Car Ramps have a lot of different designs and are made from different materials. Some designs include removable sections that allow your vehicle to sit on the highest section of the ramp, yet remove a portion to give you access to the floor space that would have been covered. Some have an indentation that keeps your car centered fore and aft once you pull on the ramps. Lastly they come in different materials, such as metal or plastic. For this article, we will focus on the he advantages and disadvantages of plastic versus metal car ramps.
Metal Car Ramps
Metal ramps are the original design that hit the market decades ago. They can be made from different metals, such as simple carbon steel, high-grade aluminum, or an alloy designed for low weight and high strength. Although it’s counterintuitive, metal ramps actually cost less than plastic ramps more often than not. This is due to material availability and ease of manufacturing.
While metal ramps typically offer low cost and a simple design, they also have potential for corrosion over time in harsh environments. Steel ramps are typically either painted or powder coated to prevent initial corrosion, but with rough use in harsh environments that coating can slowly be compromised over time, allowing moisture to contact the underlying material. Aluminum is designed to have better corrosion resistance, but you will pay more for this privilege as aluminum ramps tend to be pricier than their steel counterparts.
Plastic Car Ramps
Plastic ramps have really come a long way in terms of design over the last few years to offer some features that are hard to reproduce in a metal ramp. As mentioned, plastic ramps can offer removable sections that allow the vehicle to be raised and don’t block floor access to anything except where the tire would normally be sitting. This is a huge benefit if you are completing work that needs a secondary jack to lift a part in place.
Additional features such as a texture on the driving surface create a non-slip ramp and there is often a molded lip on the edge of the ramp to prevent you driving too far and going off the edge. Plastic ramp construction typically eliminates the space below the ramp meaning the construction won’t allow you to lose a tool under the ramp. They also come in various sizes so you can find sets of car ramps that can support anything from a small sub-compact car to a large pickup truck.
While plastic ramps have many great advantages in design options, one of the large disadvantages they have is the cost to purchase. Typically a plastic ramp is going to be more expensive than a metal ramp. The design options with the plastic ramps can add a significant amount to the price tag. There are some that are priced competitively to a metal ramps, but the design options and feature set will be limited. One other thing to mention about plastic ramps is that the plastic material can potentially be affected by UV light exposure over time. If you plan to only use them in a garage, this probably isn’t a concern. If you plan to use them continuously outside in the direct sunlight, such as at car shows, plastic ramps may be more prone to color fading.
Whether you are selecting a set of car ramps for your home garage or to have on hand at a track day, there are going to be a lot of options to choose from. Lifting height, width of the driving surface, overall design, removable sections, and material are all considerations to think about for what you need. One thing to remember is that material of the ramp shouldn’t concern you from a capacity standpoint as anything you select for your application will be designed to hold its rated advertised capacity. As such, we suggest you focus your attention on the design features you want and the price you can afford as you make your decision.
If you’d like to check out some car ramp options in both plastic and metal, check out our article where we provide more in depth car ramp info and reviews. Happy wrenching!