Cat Back Exhaust – Benefits, Cost & Why You Should Care

If you’re like most people, the first time you heard the term cat-back exhaust system was when someone mentioned it in relation to car upgrades, and I am not surprised since it offers several benefits.

If you are looking to improve your car’s performance or change your old rusty stock exhaust for something better, you might want to consider a cat-back exhaust system upgrade. But you might wonder, what is a cat-back exhaust?

In this article, we will discuss more what a cat-back exhaust is, its benefits, the cost of installing them, and why you should consider one. We’ll also provide some tips on choosing the right cat-back system for your car.

What Is a Cat-Back Exhaust?

A cat-back exhaust is the part of the exhaust system that runs from the catalytic converter to the exhaust tip. Anything past the catalytic converter is considered the cat back, hence the name. It usually includes the resonator, muffler, piping, clamps, and the tailpipe or exhaust tip.

When talking in the context of car upgrades and improving performance, a cat-back exhaust system is an aftermarket upgrade that replaces the regular exhaust system.

This provides several benefits, especially if you already did other performance-increasing upgrades to your car, such as cold air intake.

Some of its benefits are increased HP, different sound, and better appearance. It might also help to increase MPG.

Related: Does A Cold Air Intake Increase MPG?

What Is the Difference Between Cat-Back And Regular Exhaust?

Of course you can talk about the difference in sound, look etc. But the two biggest differences is quality and the possibility of improving your vehicles exhaust flow. So Lets take a look at that.


One difference is the quality. Most cat-back exhaust systems are made of stainless steel, which means you don’t have to worry about replacing a rusty exhaust system.

Exhaust Flow Restriction

The main difference between a cat-back exhaust and a regular exhaust is that a cat-back will improve the airflow.

Stock exhaust systems tend to have restrictions when you improve the engine’s power. If you are a car enthusiast or DIY mechanic, you probably know that better airflow can be a massive benefit if you have done any performance upgrades to your car.

Let me give you an example with a car that has about 140HP.

As I mentioned, with the stock exhaust, which probably has been optimized by the engineers for 140 horsepower, you will likely have some restrictions in your exhaust system if you increase the horsepower to greater than that.

So let’s say this car has a stock exhaust that has a 1,8 inches or 45,73 millimeters inner diameter, and you replace it with an aftermarket cat-back exhaust that has a 2,263 inches or 57,5 millimeters inner diameter.

By dividing the areas, we can find out that the aftermarket cat-back exhaust has about 60% more area, rounded up.

So going with the same theory that the engineers who optimized the stock exhaust, it is easy to find out what an ideal horsepower range would be for the new cat-back exhaust, which is about 225.

So with this cat-back exhaust, it means you would probably see significant gains from an engine producing 225 horsepower.

The Benefits Of a Cat-Back Exhaust

1. Increased Horsepower

As we just discussed, one of the main benefits of a cat-back exhaust is that it likely will increase horsepower.

If you have a car that is already at or near its factory engine horsepower limit, a cat-back exhaust might not make much of a difference.

If a stock exhaust system doesn’t let the engine run at full potential, because of airflow restrictions, then a cat-back exhaust is definitely going to help with that issue.

Note: The success of improving performance also lies on the initial factory exhaust design and the catalytic converter. If there is restrictions before the cat back part, then you won’t benefit much from a cat-back system upgrade.

2. Better Fuel economy

Fuel economy is not generally increased with the installation of a cat-back exhaust. But if your car’s engine is running more efficiently with lesser restrictions, it may result in less fuel consumption.

That said, you might see an increase in miles per gallon (MPG)

3. Different Sound

Another popular reason people install a cat-back exhaust is for the sound it produces. And you might think an exhaust system is going to sound the same as all others. In fact, each exhaust has a different sound, depending on the materials used and the design of the system.

So based on your preference, you can choose an exhaust that fits your style. So when buying a cat-back system, make sure to do your research to find an exhaust with the right sound for you.

4. Appearance

Few things make you say WOW like a nice stainless steel cat-back exhaust. And before you say, “Huh? No one sees it under the car anyway, ” let me tell you that it might be as important as a pair of nice wheels for a real car enthusiast.

5. Better Quality

A final reason to install a cat-back has to do with quality. Over time, your car’s stock exhaust system will rust and eventually fail. When it does, you’ll be left with a big repair bill.

A cat-back exhaust, on the other hand, is built to last. So, not only will it improve your car’s performance, but it will also save you money in the long run.

How Much Does a Cat-Back Exhaust Cost?

So now that you know about the benefits, you might wonder about what costs are generally involved. So to the first question, how much does a cat-back exhaust cost?

Depending on quality, the average cost of a cat-back exhaust system starts at around $300 and can go up to anywhere around $3000 or more. The most popular ones are around $900 to around $1300. 

If you don’t want to install the system yourself, you could ask a mechanic shop or performance shop to install it for you. Sometimes they will install the cat-back exhaust system without taking extra charge if you purchase it directly from them. But how much does the labor normally cost?

Depending on a few factors, the labor costs of installing a cat back exhaust system are usually the same or a little less than installing a normal exhaust system. Usually around $100 to 300$. 

Estimated Cost For Cat Back Exhaust

Low-End Cost Estimate$300-$600
Mid-Range Cost Estimate$700-1000$
High-End Cost Estimate$1100+
Average Cost Range$700-$1400

How to Pick the Right Cat-Back System

There are generally three things to consider when shopping for a cat back exhaust. The type of exhaust for your vehicle, how much you want to spend, and the quality.

All three things have a direct impact on each other, price and quality being the most essential.

Single Exhaust vs. Dual Exhaust

The most common types of exhaust systems are single exhaust and dual exhaust. A single exhaust is a more modest modification that is lighter and more affordable than a dual.

The single exhaust system is most likely the best fit for most people since the extra airflow provided will be enough to increase the horsepower range your engine can achieve. Of course, depending on the inner diameter of the exhaust pipes.

On the other hand, the dual exhaust system is the best fit if you are a car enthusiast that wants your car to have that little extra. It will give your car a more sporty look, a more growly sound, and of course, also contribute to better performance.

This system is more expensive since the system comprises two sets of exhaust pipes, catalytic converters, mufflers, and exhaust tips.

If you don’t want to spend too much money, a single exhaust is probably the best way to go.

If your car does not have dual exhaust systems, you could use dual exits to make it look like you do. Dual exit is a modification to the single exhaust and is a great option for aesthetic reasons.

A dual exit exhaust has two pipes, each exiting on either side of the car, making the car look more aggressive and sporty. This is a great option if you want the look of dual exhaust without the extra cost.

Material And Quality

When choosing a cat-back exhaust, it is important to consider the quality and material of the product. Aftermarket exhaust systems for performance are normally made of stainless steel or aluminum.

  • Stainless steel: The stainless steel is the most popular material for aftermarket exhaust systems. It has great durability and rust resistance. It will last longer and continue to look great, even in the harshest environments. The downside is that it’s relative expensive.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum cat-back systems is a cheaper, more light-weight alternative to stainless steel. It is also resistant to corrosion. However, it is not as durable as stainless steel and is more prone to dents.

At last, it comes down to how much you’re willing to pay. If you are looking for the best, highest quality, and most popular cat-back exhaust system, then go with stainless steel.


Is a Cat-Back Exhaust Loud?

No, a cat-back exhaust is not inherently loud. However, the sound it produces will depend on the design of the system. Some are designed to produce a louder sound than others.

Is a Cat-Back Exhaust System Legal?

Yes, as long as it’s not too loud. Since the modification starts after the catalytic converter, it doesn’t affect any emission control components of your car. This means it is also legal in California.

Does a Cat-Back Exhaust Add Power?

Yes, a cat-back can add power by creating a better airflow if your currently stock exhaust is causing a restriction.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to improve the performance of your car, then a cat-back exhaust is a great modification to make. It will increase the airflow and horsepower of your engine.

However, you will not see an increase in horsepower if the airflow is not currently restricted by the stock exhaust.

Be sure to consider the cost, quality, and material when shopping for a cat-back exhaust system.

We hope you found this blog post helpful.

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Rickard Cefalk

Rickard is the owner of and a dedicated and avid do-it-yourselfer who has always enjoyed working on his own vehicles since childhood. He now devotes his time to sharing his expert knowledge of car maintenance and other car-related information through his website.

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