Cat Back vs Downpipe: Which One You Should Install?

Written by

Charles Bolte


Vernon Hoppe 

cat back vs downpipe

If you are a vehicle enthusiast, you might be stuck in choosing the better exhaust system, i.e., cat-back or downpipe, because both seem beneficial and essential for optimal performance.

Enhancement in car performance requires choosing the right exhaust system, as it directly impacts the technical proficiency of the vehicle. By understanding the basic difference between their modifications, you can make an informed decision while upgrading the system.

Let’s delve deep into comparing cat back vs downpipe to find out.

Features/Aspects Downpipe Exhaust System Cat-back Exhaust System
  • Between the turbo and center muffler
  • Extends from the exhaust manifold to the catalytic converter
Behind the catalytic converter
  • Connection flange for turbocharger
  • Flexible hose, pre-cat, and main cat
  • Thraeded connection for lambda sensor
  • Combination of a resonator, rear pipe, and muffler
  • Depending on models containing mid-pipe, h-pipe, y-pipe
  • Reduces stress on turbocharger
  • Reduces back pressure and increases torque
  • Power increase and responsiveness
  • Improves exhaust flow and reduces back pressure
  • Enhances performance and sound.
Installation time Takes around 1 to 2 hours for the upgrade, depending on the availability of the jack-sound. Takes around 1 to 2 hours with a jack-stand, it might take 6 hours without it.
Cost Average range is about 80$ to 600$, varying on mod specification. Average range is between 300$ and 1500$
Types After-market downpipe contains catted and cat-less downpipe
  • Single exhaust
  • Dual exhaust
  • Dual exit
  • Stainless steel
  • Carbon fiber alloy
  • 304 stainless steel
  • Aluminum steel

Cat-back Exhaust System Vs. Downpipe Exhaust: How Are They Impactful?


A downpipe exhaust system is specifically impactful for turbo engines due to its power-creating magic of throwing away the gas flow from the turbine.

The simplest mod of cat-back exhaust would be a beneficial factor in improving your engine’s gas flow and sound.

However, you can see that the cat-back performance system is designed variably using larger pipes and smoother bends for easy expulsion of gases through a proper flow.

Let’s see the similar and different features of both systems.



  • Improvement in exhaust flow

Cat-back and downpipe systems have primary features in the exhaust flow that minimize the backpressure, resulting in a power increase and speedy follow-up.

  • Alteration in exhaust notes:

Both systems can alter the sound notes, resulting in a more aggressive snorty sound. Although these aspects completely depend on the vehicle’s design, material, and modifications.

Differences Between Downpipe Vs Catback

1. Location


You can see that the cat-back exhaust system is usually attached to the rear of the catalytic converter. It extends from the outlet of the converter to the exhaust tips.

Meanwhile, a downpipe is conjoined at the turbine housing, located at the front of the catalytic converter from the exhaust manifolds.

2. Cost


Both cat-back and downpipe exhaust systems cost variable depending on their types. The after-market downpipe will cost you around 150$ to 2000$, while the catted downpipe will cost you 300$ or a little above.

You’ll find the cat-back exhaust system from 300$ to 1500$. However, the cost can also go up or down depending on the parts, quality, and modifications you choose for your vehicle upgrade. The elements could cost you around 150-100$ according to brand, vehicle model, or size.

3. Material


The cat-back exhaust system is mostly made from 304 stainless steel coated with corrosion-resistant metal or aluminized steel.

While the downpipe is made from stainless steel or carbon fiber alloy, which proves to be resistant to a heated environment.

4. Pros and Cons

Let’s delve deep into the pros and cons of each, along with determining their impact on sound, horsepower, torque, and optimal vehicle performance.

  • A cat-back system allows the free flow to exhaust the engine’s gases, which increases torque and horsepower.
  • It helps to improve sound, performance, and fuel economy without breaking the bank.
  • Reducing weight, boosting exhaust flow, and replacing the factory catalytic converter with a higher-flow unit.
  • Downpipes are worthwhile for dyno tunes as they give your car a sportier sound and maximize horsepower.
  • With the reduction in engine temperature, the downpipe system has a better life span capacity, which is a positive point for the vehicle’s optimal performance.
  • A cat-back system is expensive and comes with aggressive noise, which is unpleasant for many people.
  • Also comes with fitment issues with some cars; while installing, it may not fit properly in your vehicle.
  • Unrestricted exhaust flow of the downpipe directly impacts the environment’s pollution with foil smell and failed emission.

5. Considerations:

  1. Before installing any of these upgrade exhaust systems, consider these factors properly:
  2. Compatibility of both systems, including power output and sound quality.
  3. Cost of the method according to your region and your budget.
  4. Do you want a custom designed cat-back for off-roading or a simpler one for gas mileage?

6. Recommendations:

  1. A downpipe isn’t worth it if you want to upgrade the system only for sound improvement. Mods like resonators, axle-back, and mufflers must be considered for these improvements as they are cheaper and more efficient for sound.
  2. Installing a system without a tune isn’t recommended for downpipe; it may drastically impact the horsepower and power value.
  3. Professional installments of these systems are highly recommended.

Which One You Should Install?


Installing or upgrading the exhaust system depends on your requirements.

For more power output, you should go with a downpipe; it improves sound and performance.

However, the cat-less downpipe will make the noise louder, but not to the extent of the cat-back exhaust system. Adding a tune will boost the horsepower gain, a powerful improvement.

A downpipe will give you fun driving and other significant optimization by pairing it with the right software.


There is a slight difference in features of both cat back vs downpipe exhaust systems, so it is better to go well-informed in the market before installing the system.

Now you know what a downpipe does and catback’s functionality, as well as distinct features of both systems with valuable recommendations. It will help you decide, as the final decision is only yours.

So just evaluate your preferences, requirements, and options and start the optimizing journey of your vehicle!

5/5 - (2 votes)

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