So, you're shopping for an exhaust system or considering fabbing a custom exhaust for your car and you're debating between stainless steel or titanium.
But, what truly is the difference between the two materials? Is it just appearance?
Or is there truly a quantifiable difference in performance per dollar between the two materials?
(Agency Power's beautiful Titanium exhaust for a Ferrari)
First of all, titanium is beautiful. There's no denying that. But it comes with a hefty price increase over your typical stainless system.
Stainless isn't ugly by any means, but you'll notice an incredible range of color from bronze/gold to blue and purple in titanium depending on the quality of construction and welding.
(Corsa's Stainless kit for a Camaro ZL1)
Stainless typically comes either high polished or in a dull silvery finish. It is not uncommon to see color in the welding and construction, but it's not as flashy as titanium in appearance in regards to quantity of color.
(Agency Power's beautiful work on a BMW muffler system)
As for performance and sound difference, the first thing to note is the difference in weight.
Titanium exhaust systems are approximately 40% lighter in weight than stainless due to the fact that titanium is much stronger and requires less thickness in the material for comparable strength.
This weight savings when the ENTIRE exhaust is made up of titanium can add up to a good bit of weight. This is why you'll see race cars with titanium when every bit of weight counts.
Not to mention, there's a distinct tone difference. The thinner walls needed in titanium exhaust make for a very aggressive, raspy and metallic exhaust note.
(Injen's work on stainless for an import header-back system)
There is a big cost difference between the two materials.
For two feet of two inch (2") diameter titanium pipe with a .039 wall thickness, it is $72.00.
For two feet of two inch (2") diameter 304 stainless steel with a .065 wall thickness, it is $28.00.
(Prices are pulled from Ticon Industries and Stainless Works at the time of publication)
How deep are your pockets and how much with 40% less weight benefit your project?
(Agency Power's Ferrari exhaust system)
So here's the point, and this is our humble opinion....
If you're building a purpose build race car that would benefit from the weight difference of an entire system built of titanium or a super detailed project that you can justify the price for the look. Titanium is all for you.
If you're building a budget street car, just looking for a cat back for your ride or if your race car won't see much benefit from the weight difference, stick to stainless.
Outside of that, it's your ride and you should go with what will make you stoked, regardless of what we, or anyone else for that matter, says about it.