Whether you need to replace a part of the exhaust system or it’s time for a complete overhaul, you want to understand what you are looking at. How much does it cost to replace an exhaust system and is it something you should consider?
In this guide, we cover all of the costs broken down. We also look at the factors that adjust the cost you can expect to pay. At the end of our article, we discuss whether it’s better to replace one part at a time or the entire exhaust at once.
Exhaust System Parts Cost
On average, you might spend $350 to $1,500 to replace an entire exhaust system. The exhaust manifold can cost $500, while the mufflers and downpipes can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 each. The cost depends solely on your vehicle type, the quality of parts and the labor rate.
1. Exhaust Manifold
As a critical part of the exhaust system, you can expect to spend the most on this component. The manifold is responsible for taking the toxic gases and sending them away from the car. In some cars, there could be two exhaust manifolds, one placed on either side of the engine.
Over time, the manifold can crack. This problem occurs most often when using a cast iron manifold, which is cheaper. The steel manifold holds up to high temperatures better and won’t corrode as easily, but also costs more.
On average, you may spend $500 for the exhaust manifold and the labor to install it. The manifold is going to be the most expensive part to replace. Besides the part, you may spend one to four hours on labor, so the rate you pay can make a big difference. However, it is luckily not very common that the exhaust manifold will go bad and you are most of the time fine to replace the exhaust parts after it.
The downpipe is responsible for connecting the exhaust with the turbocharger so fumes can be directed away from the engine. It’s also where the catalytic converter is found. When the gases reach the catalytic converter, emissions are changed from toxic to less harmful. We didn’t deal with the catalytic converter in this replacement guide because it only needs to be replaced when it fails.
To replace the downpipe, you may spend $50 to $200, depending on if you need someone to install it for you. The majority of downpipes are made from stainless steel, which allows you to avoid corrosion.
If the rings and clamps aren’t included with your downpipe installation, you may have to spend extra. However, these shouldn’t cost you more than another $25 to $50.
The muffler is needed to reduce the noise that comes out of the engine. With a steel design, it can effectively absorb noise coming from the motor’s combustion. Noise is redirected from the motor to keep the vehicle running as quietly as possible.
In general, you might spend $50 to $200 for a new muffler. If you prefer a high-performance muffler, the price can quickly go higher. Plus, you will need to spend an hour or two on labor charges if you aren’t able to put the muffler on yourself.
Factors Affecting Exhaust System Replacement Cost
1. Make/Model of Car
The biggest factor is going to be what kind of vehicle you drive. Those who drive small, economical cars are going to have the lowest possible price on the exhaust system. If you drive a luxury car, the parts are naturally going to cost more.
There will also be high-performance cars that require better exhaust systems to work properly. These cars can also be more time-consuming to work on, thereby increasing the labor bill.
2. OEM vs. Aftermarket
As you shop for new exhaust parts, you’ll see the option to choose OEM or aftermarket parts. OEM parts mean they are the original equipment manufacturers, while aftermarket parts can be constructed by anyone. These third-party manufacturers don’t usually have approval from the original automaker, but it’s possible that they do.
OEM parts are going to cost you significantly more. However, the quality of these parts is comparable to what was installed on the car from the factory. For this reason, many people prefer to stick to OEM parts to ensure the highest performance level. You can also put these parts on without voiding the car’s warranty.
You could choose aftermarket parts if you are looking for a way to save some cash. You just have to be sure you choose something made to fit your vehicle and parts that come from a reputable brand. Taking the time to do your research can help you avoid problems later.
3. Exhaust System Type
On your vehicle, you are dealing with one of two types of exhaust systems in most cases. You might have an axle-back system or a cat-back. While they are similar in how they operate, it’s what parts are included that changes the cost.
The axle-back system gets installed after the axle with a muffler, tailpipe and exhaust tips. However, the cat-back system is attached to the catalytic converter. On average, you will spend more to replace the cat-back exhaust than you might with an axle-back.
You have options when you choose the materials that create your car’s exhaust. While you will spend more to get an exhaust made from stainless steel, these are more durable and will last longer.
On the other hand, there are times when you need to save money on the exhaust. In this case, you can choose mild steel, which reduces the cost but still resists some corrosion.
5. Labor Rate
If you can replace your exhaust on your own, there’s a lot of money to be saved. You only need some basic tools to replace an exhaust in most situations.
If you aren’t able to replace the exhaust, you need to pay a professional. Depending on your car, this professional could be high-priced, especially if you have a luxury car. The labor rate also significantly changes depending on where you live. If you are in a major city, your mechanic’s labor rate could be double that of a comparable mechanic in the country.
Do I Need to Replace the Entire Exhaust System?
There’s a lot of money wrapped up in the exhaust system replacement. If you don’t need to replace it all, it’s best to avoid that, especially when money is tight. The only time you would need to replace the whole exhaust is when the damage is widespread. The exhaust system is prone to warping, especially if the materials are sub-par. If the car is older, it’s very possible that everything needs to go because of wear and tear.
Otherwise, you would do better to replace one part at a time. While the job is easier to do at once while things are already apart, you can spend less on the parts by taking your time. However, you could take a piece off and find it doesn’t fit with the rest of the exhaust because of warping. In this situation, you would be back to replacing multiple components at once.