Everything You Need To Know About Aftermarket Exhaust Systems

Are you looking for an upgrade to your car's exhaust system?

Then, you might have heard of aftermarket exhaust systems.

They offer benefits like improved power and torque and a unique growl when accelerating or revving at high speeds.

But even if all-out acceleration isn't in your wheelhouse, replacing your factory exhaust with an aftermarket system could be an option to explore.

But before you rush out and buy one, there's essential information you need to know.

Read on to find out how aftermarket exhaust systems work, what they can do for your ride, and their pros and cons to help you make informed purchasing decisions when choosing the perfect system.

An Overview Of Aftermarket Exhaust Systems

An aftermarket exhaust system upgrades a car's existing factory-installed exhaust system. It typically replaces the muffler and tailpipe but may also replace other system parts. Aftermarket systems are designed to improve performance and sound by increasing airflow through the engine and allowing for more efficient fuel burning. In addition, they can reduce emissions significantly, which is one of the great reasons for a sport exhaust.

Typically, it comes in various materials such as stainless steel, mild steel, or titanium; each offering different benefits depending on its use case. Stainless steel provides superior corrosion resistance, while mild steel offers durability at a lower cost. Titanium is lightweight and retains less heat than either stainless or mild steel, reducing burn risks.  

Types Of Aftermarket Exhaust Systems

Generally speaking, each type of aftermarket exhaust system has distinct advantages depending on your needs. Below are the three types of exhaust systems you can choose from: 

exhaust system


Axle-back exhaust systems are an easy and cost-effective way if you’re looking to improve the sound of your car.

Since it replaces your vehicle’s stock exhaust system from its rear axle to the muffler with a specially designed performance version, it can offer a more aggressive sound than the original one, giving it that muscle car rumble most enthusiasts crave.

In addition, this type of aftermarket exhaust system can help boost engine power by reducing back pressure in the exhaust system. It also offers greater flexibility for future upgrades. Installing this kind of aftermarket product is generally straightforward; the process can be completed between one to two hours.


Cat-Back exhaust systems are a popular choice among aftermarket enthusiasts. This system replaces your car's stock exhaust system from its catalytic converter to the muffler. It can be a cost-effective way to increase the power and performance of your vehicle while still keeping it street-legal in many states. Cat-Back is typically made up of three parts:

  • Muffler - this acts as the main silencer, reducing engine noise
  • Resonator - helps further reduce sound levels
  • Tailpipe - exits the exhaust gases from the rear of the vehicle

The benefits of installing a Cat-Back system include increased horsepower, improved fuel economy, and a deeper, more aggressive-sounding exhaust note without being too loud or obnoxious. Plus, they're easy to install, a good option for those who want to DIY. However, while it’s generally not a complex task, it’d be best to seek professional installation.


This system is designed to improve performance by replacing the entire exhaust system from the back of the manifold or headers. It usually includes larger diameter pipes and a more free-flowing muffler than what you'd get with a standard factory setup.

The installation process for this type of system can be quite elaborate, as it requires removing the existing parts before installing new ones. Header-back systems are typically more expensive because they require more labor and materials. However, if you're serious about improving your car's performance, investing in one could be worthwhile.

Benefits Of Aftermarket Exhaust Systems

Aftermarket exhaust systems can provide many benefits to car owners. Aside from offering greater customization options for vehicle owners, here are the other ways you can benefit from it:

Improved Engine Performance

When it comes to aftermarket exhaust systems, the most significant advantage is improved engine performance. Replacing your factory-made exhaust system allows for a better flow of gases from the engine and can be tuned for power gains in certain areas. This increased gas flow can result in improved torque and horsepower output throughout the revolutions per minute (RPM) range.  

Generally, you can expect smoother acceleration and boosted power capabilities with a well-tuned exhaust system.

Saves Fuel

Aftermarket exhaust systems can help improve fuel mileage in a few ways. Firstly, they reduce the back pressure on the engine by allowing it to push out exhaust gases from the combustion chamber more easily. This reduces drag within the engine and thus improves its efficiency, resulting in better gas mileage. Secondly, aftermarket exhausts are often made from lighter materials than stock models, reducing weight and improving fuel economy. 

Finally, high-performance aftermarket exhausts also come with adjustable baffles that allow you to control the sound of your vehicle's exhaust system and affect its performance. You can optimize power output while minimizing fuel consumption by controlling how much air is allowed at any time.  

exhaust systems

Climate Change Reduction

Exhaust systems are a major source of emissions. Therefore, it’s important to consider how your car can help reduce the effects of climate change. The most effective way to reduce emissions from exhausts is by fitting aftermarket catalytic converters or replacing existing ones with higher-efficiency models. Catalytic converters break down harmful pollutants in engine exhaust gases into less toxic compounds like carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. 

Boost Car Value  

Adding an aftermarket exhaust system to your car can boost its value. Depending on the type of system you choose, it could give your vehicle better performance and a unique look, boosting its resale value.

Here are some reasons why adding an aftermarket exhaust system can add value to your car:

  • Improved throttle response
  • Increased power output
  • Elevated sound profile
  • Aesthetic appeal with customizing options

However, note that different models provide different advantages, so research which will work best for you. 

Drawbacks Of Aftermarket Exhaust System

Although aftermarket exhaust systems offer promising benefits, they also have some drawbacks. Here are some of its disadvantages: 

Expensive Price

It's no secret that aftermarket exhaust systems can come with a hefty price tag. While relatively inexpensive kits are available for those who want to start small, some more luxurious or powerful models can cost quite a bit.  

Furthermore, below are the expenses you need to know and prepare for: 

  • Installation costs: Installation fees can be expensive depending on where you get your system installed and how complex the job is. 
  • Parts costs: The parts are usually costly, depending on your chosen brand and model. 
  • Maintenance costs: Repairing or replacing broken components may be expensive if something goes wrong while using an aftermarket exhaust system. 

Given these factors, anyone buying an aftermarket exhaust system must carefully consider all aspects before deciding. Ensuring your investment is worth it regarding performance gains versus cost incurred over time is essential. 

Time-Consuming Installation 

Installing an aftermarket exhaust system can be a time-consuming job. Depending on the type of vehicle and the particular exhaust parts you have chosen, it could take anywhere from two to eight hours or more. And if you are not mechanically inclined, leave this task up to a professional mechanic or automotive technician with experience with these systems. 

Furthermore, additional components may also need to be added, like catalytic converters, mufflers, hangers, flanges, and gaskets, which can increase installation times even further.  


exhaust systems car

As mentioned, aftermarket systems are designed to enhance your car's performance and sound.

The sound can vary greatly depending on the type of system you choose. While this seems to be an advantage since you can customize it according to your preference, it’s important to note that these modifications may increase the volume level and make your vehicle illegal under specific regulations due to excessive noise output.  

Generally speaking, stainless steel systems will provide the most resounding rumble, while aluminized systems tend to be slightly less aggressive in noise output. Larger pipes also typically result in louder noises.


When it comes to aftermarket exhaust systems, certain legalities need to be taken into consideration, which can vary greatly depending on where you live. That said, checking with local authorities before changing your vehicle's exhaust system is crucial. 

Typically, installing an aftermarket exhaust may not be allowed in some areas due to environmental and noise pollution concerns. So, if you're considering changing out your car's factory exhaust system, do your research first. Ensure any replacements or additions you wish to have will adhere to the legalities.


If you're considering upgrading your car with an aftermarket exhaust system, there's much to consider. It can be expensive and take a long time to install, but it could also make your vehicle sound better and more powerful. 

Moreover, regardless of the type of aftermarket exhaust system you choose, it’s best to check local laws and regulations, as some may be illegal where you live. Ultimately, it comes down to weighing up all these factors before deciding whether or not this is the right upgrade for your car.

Author - Aleksandra Djurdjevic
Aleksandra Djurdjevic          

Senior Content Creator

Aleksandra Djurdjevic is a senior writer and editor, covering motorcycle adventures, biker tips and tricks and general exploring on two wheels. She has previously worked as ESL teacher for English Tochka. Aleksandra graduated from the Comparative Literature department at the Faculty of Philosophy in Serbia. Aleksandra’s love for the biking and adventure, getting out on the open road, year after year across the planet helps her continue to be a top expert at RMJ.


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