With so many performance mods available, it can be overwhelming to know which ones are right for your vehicle and your budget. An upgraded exhaust system is a quick and easy way to boost your car’s horsepower and fuel economy while also generating a unique sound.
A cat-back exhaust system typically costs between $300 and $1,500. The price mainly depends on what the exhaust system is made of, whether it’s a full system or just certain components, the quality, and whether you install it yourself or pay for labor.
Cost For a Cat-Back Exhaust System
Cat-back exhaust systems are popular upgrades because they’re easy to install and give the car an instant performance boost. They’re also pretty affordable, starting as low as $300 for the parts.
Of course, there are many factors that could affect your total cost. So, you’ll need to weigh the cost against the potential benefit for your vehicle as well as your personal preferences to decide if upgrading your exhaust system is something you’re interested in doing.
For example, the make, model, and year of your vehicle could impact the price of a new exhaust. In general, luxury cars are more expensive to maintain and modify as compared to standard cars. Similarly, a large truck may be more costly than a small compact car.
Cost Estimate for Cat-Back Exhaust
|Low-End Cost Estimate||$300-$400|
|Mid-Range Cost Estimate||$500-$700|
|High-End Cost Estimate|
|Average Cost Range||$650-$1,000|
The bulk of the expense for a cat-back exhaust system will be for parts because the labor is relatively simple and can be performed by most mechanics in an hour or less. Depending on what kinds of parts you select and the quality, the price may be much higher or lower. Cat-Back Exhaust Parts Cost
The parts for the system typically cost anywhere from $150-$1,000, but they can run much higher for specific brands, sizes, or fits for certain vehicles.
For example, exhaust systems for a large truck are bigger and require more materials, so they’re usually priced higher than small racing systems. There are also multiple components to the exhaust system that you may want to replace, or you may decide that you are only interested in replacing certain parts.
There is also the price difference between genuine factory parts from the manufacturer (original equipment manufacturer, or, OEM) versus aftermarket parts. Usually, upgraded exhaust systems will be aftermarket.
The cat-back system could be made from either stainless steel or galvanized aluminum. Stainless steel exhaust systems are more durable and sturdy, so they’re typically more expensive than aluminum systems.
Some manufacturers make exhaust systems using mild steel, which is cheaper than stainless but may rust or corrode faster. In addition, many people prefer the sound produced by galvanized aluminum or stainless steel exhaust systems over lower-quality metals.
The steel’s thickness will also have an impact on the price, with thicker piping at a higher price point than thinner metal.
Cat-Back Exhaust Parts Pricing
|Mild Steel||Least Expensive|
|Stainless Steel||Most Expensive|
Stainless steel exhaust systems should last for the lifetime of the vehicle, which makes them a popular choice and a better value for the cost in most cases.
The stainless steel systems may also include a series number (200, 300, or 400), but there’s no evidence that anyone stainless steel performs better than the others.
You should also consider your local environment and conditions when selecting the metal and quality for your exhaust system. Since this will be underneath your vehicle and exposed to the harshest conditions, it would be a good idea to think about things like salt on the roads or other conditions that may promote rust and corrosion.
Other parts that most people purchase when upgrading their exhaust systems include an upgraded muffler and muffler tip. A high-performance muffler may cost anywhere from $75 to $300, depending on many of the same factors as the exhaust system.
For example, the muffler’s quality, materials, and thickness will all impact the potential price for the equipment. In addition to a muffler, many owners add an exhaust tip. If you purchase a full exhaust system, it will typically include this component as well as the muffler.
If you don’t buy the full exhaust system, you can purchase the exhaust system tip separately for somewhere in the range of $25-$150. The exhaust system tip doesn’t do anything to improve your vehicle’s performance the way that the other components do.
It doesn’t add horsepower or improve airflow, it’s simply an aesthetic feature that some people prefer. For this reason, you may decide not to spend the extra money on the exhaust tip.
Let’s take a look at the prices for some cat-back exhaust systems among some of the popular brands:
Sample Cost for Cat-Back Exhaust Parts
|K&N||2014-19 Chevy/GMC Silverado 1500/Sierra 1500||$550-$565|
|K&N||2017-19 Ford F-150||$495-$505|
|K&N||2019-20 Chevy/GMC Silverado 1500/Sierra 1500||$535-$550|
|K&N||2009-19 Dodge RAM 1500||$285-$295|
|K&N||2018-19 Jeep Wrangler JL||$365-$375|
|MagnaFlow||Performance Street Series Kit (15710)||$990-$1000|
|MagnaFlow||Performance Street Series Kit (16829)||$675-$685|
|MagnaFlow||Stainless Steel 3” piping + 4” tip (truck kit - 15267)||$960-$975|
|Flowmaster||2019 Silverado/Sierra 1500||$865-$880|
|Flowmaster||Doss Exhaust System Kit (717787)||$560-$580|
|Bettercloud||1989-97 Mazda Miata MX-5||$170-$185|
|Borla||Full System Kit - 140332||$1,015-$1,030|
|Powergo||Silverado 1500/Sierra 1500||$390-$405|
|Spec-D||2006-2011 Honda Civic 4D Sedan||$150-$165|
|Yonaka||2012-2015 Honda Civic 2D Coupe (3” piping)||$450-$465|
|Northeastern Exhaust||1997-2001 Honda CRV 2.0L||$215-$225|
|aFe||BMW 135i E82/88 L6-3.0L||$770-$780|
If you don’t purchase a full exhaust system, you can replace the individual components, though it is probably more cost-efficient to purchase the cat-back exhaust system as a whole. The exhaust system is made up of several different parts:
- Exhaust manifold: collects and removes exhaust fumes.
- Flange gasket: the seal between the exhaust manifold and exhaust pipe.
- Middle or cross piping: houses the resonator.
- Resonator: funnels engine noise out through the muffler.
- Muffler: “muffles” the sound from the engine and creates back-pressure to improve performance.
- Catalytic converter: reduces harmful emissions.
Labor Cost to Install a Cat-Back Exhaust System
The labor cost to install a cat-back exhaust system is usually relatively low, especially when compared to other performance-boosting modifications. When you install the entire system, it usually just entails removing the existing system and bolting the new one into place.
Many shops will install the cat-back exhaust system for free (or at a very deep discount) if you purchase the system from them.
In most cases, the job should only take about an hour or less. You shouldn’t expect to pay more than $100-$250 for the installation.
In fact, many people find that it’s cheaper to replace the entire exhaust system with a cat-back versus replacing just the muffler on their existing exhaust system. In some cases, the existing muffler has to be cut off for removal and the new one has to be welded on, resulting in additional labor to get the parts to fit correctly.
The installation process for a cat-back exhaust system is so simple that some people choose to do the work themselves. You won’t be able to get the job done as quickly as the pros can without a lift, but overall it’s an easy project.
The basic steps for installing a cat-back exhaust system include:
- Wear protective eyewear and gloves if necessary.
- Park the vehicle on a flat, hard surface like a garage or level driveway.
- Lift the car using a jack and jack stands.
- Find where the tailpipes are connected to the vehicle’s chassis using rubber isolators, cover the isolator with WD-40, and push using a screwdriver. Have someone else gently pull and wiggle out the tailpipe.
- Starting from the muffler, measure 2 inches back and cut the tailpipes carefully using a hacksaw. Remove tailpipes.
- Unbolt the muffler pipe at the flanges and remove it.
- Slide the new flanges over the stud – the holes should line up.
- Slide the new muffler assembly over the flange studs and connect the hangers from the muffler to the outlet pipes.
- Slide the tailpipes in, line up and tighten flange nuts.
- Install exhaust clamps onto the inlet pipe and muffler. Tighten the clamp on the muffler and tailpipe.
- Carefully check for any misalignment and that the suspension and chassis aren’t touching the tailpipes.
- Lower the vehicle off the jack(s) and start the car.
The Bottom Line
A cat-back exhaust system is a simple way to add some customization to your vehicle and also boost its performance. Many people install a new exhaust system just for the improved sound alone.
The cost for the exhaust system itself mostly depends on the materials, brand, quality, and where you purchase it from. However, most people spend anywhere from $300 to $1,500 to replace their existing exhaust system with a cat-back.
The labor costs for having the exhaust installed professionally shouldn’t be very high, and you may be able to find a deal where the shop will do the installation for free when you purchase the equipment directly from them.
It’s always a good idea to shop around and get a few quotes so you can get the best deal for your specific vehicle. You may be interested in our racing stripes cost guide.