Cat Back vs Turbo Back

Written by

Charles Bolte


Vernon Hoppe 

Planning to customize your car but can’t decide if you’ll go for a cat-back exhaust or turbo-back exhaust? While both have their pros and cons, it will still depend on the kind of experience you’re looking for. Deciding on an exhaust system depends on the sound, the design, the speed, and the power you want for your car.

In this article, we’ll go through each factor to distinguish between cat-back vs turbo back. The table below shows the factors that this article will elaborate on these two options:

Factor Cat-back exhaust Turbo-back exhaust
Sound More aggressive More aggressive
Power Moderate Substantial
Emissions Compliance Compliant May affect compliance if the downpipe is modified
Legal considerations Good for street use May not comply with regulations in other areas if the downpipe is modified
Cost Lower cost Higher cost
Customisation options Limited options More options

Overview of Turbo Back vs Cat Back


Before laying out the differences between each exhaust system, let’s first define them.

1. Cat-back Exhaust System


A cat-back exhaust system is a type of car-customisation that replaces your vehicle’s exhaust system from the catalytic converter, essentially where its name comes from, up to its rear.

It comes in standard vehicles and is designed to improve exhaust flow. Furthermore, cat-back exhaust systems are popular among car enthusiasts because it is not as costly.

  • Improved Sound: Installing a catalytic converter means that you’ll also be removing your resonator, which increases the sound of your vehicle because your muffler will flow better.
  • Increased performance and power: The design of a cat-back exhaust system allows better scavenging for a car, which results in better power and speed because there are fewer restrictions for the movement of air and fuel.
  • Acceptable emissions and compliance with regulations: Although the cat-back exhaust system increases the sound of your vehicle, it can still maintain emission compliance, making it a safe choice if you decide to drive it around in regions with strict regulations.
  • Customisation options: Setting up a cat-back exhaust system may interfere with adding more modifications to your vehicle, making it inconvenient for you if you’re an enthusiast.

2. Turbo-back Exhaust System


A turbo-back exhaust system is a vehicle modification that replaces the entire exhaust system by starting with the turbocharger’s outlet and going all the way to the rear. The name “turbo-back” comes from “turbocharger”. It can significantly enhance your vehicle’s overall performance compared to cat-back exhaust systems.

  • Performance Gain: The selling point of turbo-back exhaust systems for enthusiasts is their significant performance gains, which greatly improve their power and speed because of reduced turbo lag.
  • Improved sound: Turbo-back exhaust systems have a roar-like exhaust sound compared to cat-back exhaust systems that every enthusiast likes.
  • Less restrictive customization options: Turbo-back exhaust systems can be customized to your preferences, which allows you to have the freedom to modify it.
  • Costly: Turbo-back exhaust systems cost more than cat-back because of the need for a professional installation and other modifications you want to do with them.
  • Complicated Installation: Likewise, turbo-back exhaust systems are difficult to install if you are not a professional because of their many components.
  • Emission and legal compliance: Since turbo-back exhaust systems tend to be more modified, some states may not allow the modifications you’ll be doing to your vehicle. You may have to check before installing or traveling to ensure that you follow the regulations.

Which Exhaust System is Better: Cat-back or Turbo-back


In deciding which exhaust system is better, you would have to check in with your personal preferences.

  • Performance and speed: If you’re looking for moderate or subtle performance gains in your vehicle’s power and speed, a cat-back exhaust system is the better choice. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for more performance gains than what cat-back has to offer, then the turbo-back exhaust system is the most ideal.
  • Sound: If you’re looking to improve the sound of your vehicle more than improving its performance, go for a cat-back exhaust system. But, if you want both the improved sound and improved performance, the best option would be to use a turbo-back system instead.
  • Cost: If you’re sticking to a budget, the friendly option is to go for a cat-back exhaust system. But, if you don’t mind the cost, going for a turbo-back exhaust system is better.
  • Emissions and legal compliance: If you’re planning to use your vehicle everywhere and do not want to be constrained by regulations, a cat-back exhaust system is ideal. But, if you’re willing to go through emission checks and legal concerns, a turbo-back exhaust system works as well.
  • Customization: If your main goal is not completely to modify your vehicle, a cat-back exhaust system is a perfect choice. But, if you want to do various modifications, go for a turbo-back exhaust system.


There are multiple factors to consider in the discussion of cat-back vs turbo-back. Remember that the cat-back exhaust system and turbo-back exhaust system have their own pros and cons, and it all falls down to your preferences.

Performance gain, sound, cost, emissions and legal compliance, and customization all play a role in your decision. The factors outlined throughout the article can serve as a helpful guide in choosing what type of exhaust system you’ll go for.

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