Turbo Back vs Cat Back Exhaust (Pros, Cons, & Differences)

Wondering whether a Turbo back or a Cat back system is right for your car? While they both have their benefits, there is a clear winner in most cases.

So, which is the better exhaust system, Turbo Back or Cat Back?

It depends on what you’re looking for. A Turbo Back exhaust system is going to get you a lot more power, but a Cat Back exhaust system is going to get you a lot more sound. If you’re wanting to with power and speed, choose the Turbo Back, but if sounding cool off the line is what you’re looking for, you might want the Cat Back.

Read on for more information comparing a Turbo Back exhaust system to a Cat Back Exhaust system!

What is a Turbo Back Exhaust System? 

Turbo Back is the portion of the exhaust system that the turbocharger engine uses as the last outlet to the open air. It differs from vehicles with Cat Back systems because it usually is using aftermarket parts, whereas some Cat Back systems come standard issue with vehicles. 

When you install a Turbo Back Exhaust system, you’re essentially replacing the Cat Back Exhaust system with a new and improved version.  The tailpipe and what leads the tailpipe to the final outlet is all replaced when you install a Turbo Back. You’re upgrading the Cat Back system, but replacing even more parts than just the cat back system. 

  • The good news is that upgrading to a Turbo Back system is definitely going to give you more horsepower because it essentially increases the gases that are leaving the Turbo. 
  • The down side is that it can be costly to install a Turbo Back system, and if you’re doing it yourself, it’s also not the easiest process. Plus, you won’t get as many cool sound effects from a Turbo Back system as you will from a Cat Back system.

What is a Cat Back Exhaust System?

Essentially, this type of exhaust system is the exhaust portion from the back of the “cat” up to the tips. In this case, “cat” refers to catalytic converters. 

A lot of times the exhaust system that will come installed with your vehicle incorporate a resonator, which essentially serves to eliminate any noise that the primary muffler misses. By installing a Cat Back Exhaust system, you’re removing this part, which will serve to increase the sound of your vehicle. With the Cat Back exhaust system, you’ll have a muffler that flows better, which will be largely responsible for the improved sound. 

Cat Back exhaust systems might also have a slightly larger pipe than what came factory installed on your vehicle. Is it worth it to you? Do you want to consider installing the larger pipe, or is the factory installed version acceptable? The increased pipe size will also help generate increased sound from your vehicle, as it contributes to making the muffler flow better. 

Not all Cat Back Exhaust Systems are created equal. For example, the type of steel matters. Is it aluminized steel or stainless steel? The material can affect the quality of the overall system.

  • You’ll find that an aluminum exhaust system is a little bit lighter than stainless steel, which also makes it more cost-effective. 
  • On the other hand, going with a stainless steel exhaust system means it will be covered with various metals like chromium, nickel and manganese. This is going to serve to create a resistance alloy. You’ll pay more for a stainless steel exhaust system, but you should find that it lasts longer than the alternatives. 

Which is the Better Exhaust System, Turbo Back or Cat Back? 

  • Which system performs better? It depends on what type of performance you’re looking for. A Turbo Back is going to grant you more power, but a Cat Back is going to give you more sound. Is power more important to you than sound?
  • How are the different systems used? Typically, the Turbo Back Exhaust system ends up replacing and adding to the Cat Back system. So, the Turbo Back can almost be considered similar to the Cat Back, but with more power. 
  • What are the pros and cons of each system? A Turbo Back system is generally more difficult to install than a Cat Back system. On the flip side, you won’t see much of a performance improvement with a Cat Back, whereas a Turbo Back exhaust system can get you a lot more Horsepower! If you’re looking for more sound, you would choose the Cat Back over the Turbo Back. 
  • Which system is generally preferable? It really comes down to personal preference. Do you want to spend a little more time and money installing a Turbo Back so you can have more power? Or, is something a little easier to install that will generate more sound and noise the way you want to go?

Will Each Exhaust System Pass State Emissions Testing?

Is your decision between Turbo Back and Cat Back exhaust system dependent on what state you live in? Yes. Well, it should. If you don’t need to get Emissions testing done on your car, then this isn’t a factor.

If your car needs to pass an Emissions test, you’ll want to stick with a Cat Back exhaust system. If you remove your Cat Back system to install a Turbo Back system, you will fail your emissions test. You would have to install it and reinstall it every year just to support your state’s safety inspection!

  • In some states, it is illegal to remove your catalytic converter, making it illegal to remove your Cat Back system. Make sure you check the rules and regulations where you live, as you won’t want to risk getting in trouble with the law just to add a few horsepower to your vehicle.  

How much do these Systems Cost?

If it came down to cost, which system would you choose? There’s no doubt about it, a Turbo Back exhaust system is the much more expensive of the two. A Cat back exhaust system is already on your car, whereas a Turbo Back system is aftermarket, meaning you are funding the entire installation by yourself. 

Does the type of your Vehicle Matter?

The short answer is: it depends. Are you driving a diesel pickup truck? Or, are you trying to upgrade on a sports car like a Mustang. It matters. While you might be looking for muscle and horsepower in your truck, you might be looking for sound, and fun off the line in a drag race with your Mustang.

In general, it seems that sports car owners prefer a Cat Back exhaust system, whereas truck owners lean towards the Turbo Back option. That doesn’t mean you can’t do the opposite, but just remember to take a look at what reasons are driving your decision to select an exhaust system. 

Turbo Back versus Cat Back Exhaust Systems 

What is your priority when choosing an exhaust system? A Turbo Back system is going to upgrade upon your Cat Back system, and give you more power, but it won’t be as loud as the Cat Back system and it’s harder to install. 

The Cat Back is an exhaust system that contains the catalytic converter, whereas, installing a Turbo Back Exhaust system will include also installing the downpipe that connects everything together. 

It comes down to your personal preference. If you have a few extra dollars to spend, and want to prioritize adding horse power over sound, then go with the Turbo Back Exhaust system. 

Your decision could be affected by whether or not you need to pass a state Emissions test with your vehicle. If you do, you’ll want to choose a Cat Back Exhaust system instead of a Turbo Back exhaust system.

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