Should You Upgrade Your Cold Air Intake or Exhaust First?

CORSA Aftermarket Exhaust System

Cold air intakes and exhaust systems are the two best beginner performance mods for new car enthusiasts. But should you install a cold air intake or exhaust first?

Getting a brand new aftermarket cold air intake and exhaust system in your ride is an excellent starting point to gain more horsepower, give yourself a sound boost and help your engine reach its true potential. Unfortunately, the intake vs. exhaust argument doesn't have a clear answer in terms of which to install first. Both are excellent additions to any ride, so you'll have to make the decision yourself. But there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind that can help you decide easier. Keep reading to find out more.

Table of Contents

Aftermarket Cold Air Intake & Exhaust System Recap

> Cold Air Intake vs. Exhaust System First — Final Thoughts

> Reasons to Install an Aftermarket Cold Air Intake First

> Reasons to Install an Aftermarket Exhaust System First

2 cars with their hoods opened

Aftermarket Cold Air Intake & Exhaust System Recap

Before deciding whether you want to install a cold air intake or exhaust first, you should understand how they both work. If you're up to speed and understand what each aftermarket system does, feel free to skip this section.

  • Aftermarket Cold Air Intakes: A cold air intake system works by relocating your air intake away from the engine bay. Rather than hot air from under the hood, a cold air intake brings cooler, denser air to your combustion chamber. Cooler air contains more oxygen and can generate bigger combustions, giving your ride more power and performance.
  • Aftermarket Exhaust Systems: When you replace your exhaust system, you're swapping out a couple of components rather than just one. If you go with an axle-back exhaust system, you'll replace your tailpipe, muffler and exhaust tips. If you choose a cat-back exhaust system, you'll replace your mid-pipes, muffler, tailpipe and exhaust tips. In either case, your new aftermarket exhaust system will come with wider, mandrel-bent pipes to improve exhaust flow and a less restrictive muffler for a serious boost in performance capabilities.

Reasons to Install an Aftermarket Cold Air Intake First

First up in our cold air intake vs. exhaust system guide is the aftermarket cold air intake system. Here are some of the top reasons you may want to make a cold air intake your first performance mod.

1. A Cold Air Intake Costs Less (Way Less)

There's no way around it. An aftermarket exhaust system costs way more than any cold air intake on the market. Cold air intake costs are relatively inexpensive compared to exhaust systems – generally, you'll see prices start at just $300. We know this may seem like a lot, but a brand new exhaust system costs upwards of $1,500. Price is usually the most significant factor for beginner enthusiasts when deciding whether they want a cold air intake or exhaust first, and aftermarket cold air intake systems are the clear winner.

2. An Aftermarket Cold Air Intake Can Give Your Sound a Boost

While a cold air intake can give you a slight boost in performance, it really shines in the category of sound. When you install a cold air intake, you'll hear the sound of cold air rushing into your combustion chamber every time you accelerate. Trust us – it's unbelievably satisfying and makes every ride better than the last. Next thing you know, you'll be barreling down the open road with your foot on the gas just to hear it again. If you're looking to bring some extra excitement to your drives, a cold air intake is a great place to start.

Driving on an open road at sunset

3. Anyone Can Install Cold Air Intakes

Another big sticking point in the cold air intake vs. exhaust system debate is installation – especially if you don't know your way around a wrench. While both systems are generally touted as easy to install, cold air intakes will always be the easier of the two. If you hire a professional, exhaust system installation costs can range from $75 to $200. Cold air intake installation costs are generally only around $30 to $100 if you go to a mechanic, but you more than likely don't have to. It usually only takes about an hour to get your new air intake on by yourself thanks to simple bolt-on technology. And, all you need are basic tools to make it happen.

Look to CORSA for Top-Rated Aftermarket Cold Air Intakes & Exhaust Systems

If you're in the market for performance parts, CORSA PERFORMANCE is your number one destination to unlock the true potential of your ride. We've got an extensive selection of aftermarket exhaust systems and cold air intakes for cars, trucks and SUVs in many makes and models. Each performance part is engineered specifically for the vehicle it goes on, so you're sure to get the maximum benefits after installation. Don't settle for your stock parts. Choose CORSA for power and performance today.

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Reasons to Install an Aftermarket Exhaust System First

Now we come to the second contender when comparing cold air intake vs. exhaust systems. Here are a few reasons why you might want to install an aftermarket exhaust system first.

1. Aftermarket Exhaust Systems Provide Unmatched Sound

An aftermarket exhaust system comes with mandrel-bent, wide diameter pipes to open a clear path for exhaust gases to escape. Combined with a less restrictive muffler, this gives your ride an incredible sound boost. After you install your exhaust system, you'll immediately notice the difference in sound during startup and acceleration. While a cold air intake also gives you a boost in sound, it's nothing compared to what an exhaust system can do. Your exhaust notes will be loud, aggressive and powerful enough to catch anyone's attention while cruising the streets.

Here at CORSA, our aftermarket exhaust systems come standard with our patented no-drone, Reflective Sound Cancellation® (RSC®) technology to deliver a deep, aggressive growl under acceleration and a drone-free experience during cruise.

A Porsche with an aftermarket exhaust system

2. You'll Get a Bigger Performance Boost With an Aftermarket Exhaust System

Sure, a cold air intake will give you a few extra performance gains. But really, an exhaust system is the more powerful component. Thanks to their design, aftermarket exhaust systems alleviate some of the work your engine has to do to push out exhaust gases so it can focus on its job – providing serious power to your ride. When you install an exhaust system, you'll see an immediate boost in horsepower, increased torque and more speed while driving down the road. If performance is your number one goal, an aftermarket exhaust system is the way to go.

3. Aftermarket Exhaust Systems Will Make Your Ride Look Better

One of the best things about installing an exhaust system is that it will be immediately noticeable to onlookers. Louder, more aggressive exhaust notes are one thing, but your ride will also get a bold appearance with some brand new dual exhaust tips peeking out from your undercarriage.

Cold Air Intake vs. Exhaust System First — Final Thoughts

So now that you have the information, we can go back to our original question. Should you buy a cold air intake or exhaust first?

  • If you've got a tight budget and care more about providing cooler air to your engine so it can breathe easier, go with an aftermarket cold air intake first.
  • If your budget is less restrictive and you're more concerned with gaining extra power, aggressive sound and killer looks, install an exhaust system first.

But remember, just because you choose to purchase one before the other doesn't mean you can't have both. CORSA products are designed to work in tandem with one another to provide even more power to your ride. Ultimately, it doesn't matter which you choose first. You can always come back to CORSA to get the benefits of the other.

Shop CORSA for Performance Parts You Can Trust

When you shop at CORSA, everyone wins the intake vs. exhaust debate. Our products are trusted around the nation by dealers and customers alike to unlock true performance in your ride. As industry leaders for over 25 years, you can rest easy knowing you're giving your ride the power it deserves when you order from CORSA. Browse our entire selection of aftermarket exhaust systems and cold air intakes today.

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