Cat-Back Vs. Axle-Back Exhaust Systems: What's the Difference?

An effective vehicle modification that can provide both aesthetic and performance improvements is an aftermarket exhaust system. Generally, bolt-on kits can be installed by the novice to skilled DIYer and come in two popular configurations: axle-back and cat-back. But how do you know which one is right for you? Traditionally, people that are looking for more sound than their stock parts produce turn to the axle-back option, which will increase overall volume and produce a more aggressive sound. For those looking to not only increase sound and volume but performance as well, the cat-back is the best option. Read along below as we breakdown the features and benefits of both options and discover which one is right for you.

What are Axle-Back Exhaust Systems?

An axle-back exhaust system includes the parts after the rear axle of a vehicle, which usually consists of the muffler, tailpipe and tips. (Axle-back and cat-back configurations are vehicle dependent, and sometimes only one is available for a particular make/model.) Axle-backs are a great choice for a number of reasons


  • Focuses on modifying sound quality

  • Provides aggressive tone compared to stock system

  • Easy bolt-on installation

  • Less impact on your wallet due to lower cost

 What Are Cat-Back Exhaust Systems?

Cat-back exhaust systems refer to all of the components that exhaust gasses flow through after exiting the vehicle’s catalytic converter. Typically, that includes a mid-pipe, muffler, tailpipe and tips. Cat-backs generally yield increases in performance, due to the more efficient flow of exhaust through upgraded parts like larger diameter tubing and better flowing mufflers, as well as improved sound and reduced weight.


  • Focuses on modifying sound quality and increasing exhaust system performance
  • Creates a more aggressive exterior tone
  • Easy bolt-on installation
  • Improves exhaust flows
  • Replaces exhaust system from the catalytic converters back to the mufflers
  • Reduces the overall weight of the vehicle


Because these types of exhaust systems are installed after the emissions monitoring systems of a vehicle, they won’t impede its ability to measure emissions. However, you must be aware of your local noise regulations and adhere to them. With relatively short install times when using a high-quality system from MagnaFlow, exhaust modifications can yield the instant gratification of your ride sounding as fast as it looks.

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