There are a lot of different factors which go into determining the cost of a turbocharging a car – everything from the type of vehicle to the size of its engine to how much boost you want to generate. Installing a turbo is rarely a cut-and-dry experience, meaning that you may discover that your costs could vary greatly from someone else installing the exact same turbocharger on a different car.
First off, the cost of turbocharging a car is going to be a lot less if your vehicle has already had a turbo on it. Maybe you’re upgrading to a more powerful model, or perhaps you’re simply just replacing a worn and faulty part – either way, you’re likely to find the installation process much less costly and time-consuming if you’re just upgrading an existing forced induction engine.
For the majority of budding auto enthusiasts, however, trying to determine the cost of turbocharging a car typically means that they’re thinking of adding a turbocharger to their naturally aspirated engine. While this can be one of the most effective ways to generate horsepower for the price, you’ll be hard-pressed to do so without spending at least a few thousand dollars.
In most cases, a low-end brand new turbocharger is going to cost anywhere from $500 – $2,000. If you shop around for used turbos for sale, you can probably cut that expense in half.
Where the real cost usually comes from isn’t the turbocharger itself though – if you’re trying to add a forced induction system to a naturally aspirated vehicle, you’re going to want to purchase a turbo adapter kit. Short of any custom parts of a turbo you would need to fabricate for your engine, a kit is going to come complete with the right exhaust manifold, downpipe, and intercooler needed to get your new turbo installed and functional.
After installing a turbocharger on a NA vehicle (or for that matter, upgrading an existing turbo to a high-performance model), you’re going to need to have the engine tuned by a professional dyno tuner who is able to perfectly calibrate the fuel injectors to match the newly increased air flow. While some experienced home tuners do this themselves, the average enthusiasts is much better off paying a professional a few hundred dollars to have it done for them. That’s because even the slightest mistake can not only decrease performance and put all of the money you just invested to waste, but because it can also add extra strain to your other engine parts, leading to failure, faster.
And while we’re talking about the other parts of your engine, it’s important to understand that adding a turbocharger means putting more strain on the rest of your vehicle. With some top-of-the-line turbochargers, this is simply too much added power for a stock engine to handle. Installing the most high-end turbos can increase the cost of turbocharging a car greatly, as they require you to upgrade numerous other parts of the drivetrain as well in order to handle the pressure.
In short, the cost of turbocharging a car is going to run you anywhere from around $500 if your just replacing the existing turbo on your vehicle, up to as much as $5,000 – or more – if you’re starting from scratch and adding a high-end turbocharger to your naturally aspirated engine. For car owners with a faulty stock turbo, replacing it is a no-brainer. For those simply looking to get better performance from their NA vehicles, it’s important to sit down and decide if the increase in power is worth all of the headaches and expenses that adding a turbocharger is inevitably going to come with. Ask any true tuning enthusiast, however, and they’ll tell you they wouldn’t have it any other way.