GM Crate Engine VS West Coast Engines

by | Jan 1, 2021

What is the difference between a GM crate engine VS West Coast Engines custom crate engine?

We get asked often about the differences in price, quality, performance, and warranty between a crate engine from GM vs. West Coast Engines. There are numerous differences in the ways we each do business, and GM does serve a different audience than West Coast Engines. West Coast Engines is more of a premium brand for custom crate engines with many options and customizations included in your purchase. GM keeps things simple and they have engines sitting on the shelf ready to ship, with no options for customization.

So the question is: which company has a better value? When is it right to buy from GM, or from West Coast Engines? We’ll break down some of the key factors to consider and differences below, so you can see factually what you are getting for your money in each situation! And just as a disclaimer, GM is a massive company that is great at making cars and engines. They make a good product and this article is not to slam them but to show the value difference when buying a custom engine. There are major quality and detailed advantages when buying a custom crate engine!

Are GM Crate Engines Made in Mexico?

“Hencho En Mexico” is an infamous saying in the automotive aftermarket engine industry, and it’s often used in reference to GM crate engines because their manufacturing plant is established in Mexico. Small block Chevy engines from GM are built in Mexico. Not all engines, just the old-school small block (Chevy 350, 383 stroker, etc). This is great for their profit margins, but not always the best for the consumer. You will notice mixed reviews online about GM crate engines because they do experience inconsistencies in their quality control. Volkswagen ran into the same quality control issues in Mexico, and wound up having to pull some of their operations out of there because it was deteriorating their global reputation as all the issues were stacking up.

West Coast Engines are Made in USA

West Coast Engines is famous for our “Made in USA with Name Brand Parts” mantra. It’s been our battle cry for years, supporting the American worker and the small American business that are headquartered and manufacture in the US. The quality control process at WCE is very meticulous, so the wait for your engine is lengthy—sometimes up to 3 months. The hiring here is also top notch; we grab some of the most experienced personnel in the area, so you know our roster is loaded with committed team members who take pride in their work. The warranties here are so few that we don’t even have staff for the warranty department! You’ll work directly with our technical director, Larry, and he will take care of you personally.

Here’s some stats to back up the claims about our exceptional quality: Out of the 293 engines sold in 2020, 1 had to be sent back and 8 had minor manufacturer defects that were addressed with less than 3 hours worth of work, and all were fully covered under warranty protocol. That’s an exceptional warranty rate of 3.07%! Most crate engine builders are somewhere between 10%-30% and they are much larger issues. The difference is the testing and meticulous quality control that we implement from station-to-station.

Does GM Use Quality Parts?

General Motors likes to keep the cost of doing business as low as possible, being that they are a massive company with massive expenses. The internal parts they use, the wages paid to workers, their facility expenses, the outer accessories for the engines, the crates they ship in, the way they are distributed…all of these things are areas where corners can be cut in efforts to save money. The majority of their parts are made right there in Mexico or in Asia, which is one of the biggest ways that they keep their cost low. GM needs to keep the cost of parts low in order to increase their profit margins to cover all their expenses between the big buildings, TV commercials, executive salaries, and company cars! So where is your money really going? Unfortunately, it’s not going to improving quality and service. Are they bad parts? No. Are they the best parts? Probably not. 

Quality Name Brands at West Coast Engines

We are an official dealer for Holley Performance, Borla, and CVF Racing. They have confidence in us and that what we do here is superior. The names you’ll find on your engine are impressive: Scat, Holley, Edelbrock, Fel-Pro, Melling, Trick-Flow, COMP Cams, Racing Power Company, ProMaxx, Lunati, and Federal Mogul. We support other small American businesses in this industry to keep them going; they are the life blood of this American muscle industry. We don’t run to China or Mexico to find a crankshaft for $80 cheaper in order to create fat margins cutting out small American businesses. We go to Scat. We support companies like Scat because they build a superior product from their headquarters in Redondo Beach, California and we want to make sure they, and other companies like them, can put food on the table and take care of the hard working, honest employees that work there.

GM Performance Engines: 2 Year Warranty

They lay it out very specifically like this: You buy it from us, we install it, if there’s a problem you bring it back to us. GM essantially says if you’re installing this engine yourself or anyone other than one of our certified dealers then it’s tough to get manufacture defects covered. They want full control. So if you’re planning on taking it to your local mechanic, hot rod shop, or your a self-installer this is a major blow. These dealerships are not cheap by any means, and in some parts of the country their labor rates are $200/hour! GM performance crate engines have a 2 year warranty as long as it is installed by a certified dealer.

West Coast Engines: 5 Year Warranty

Our warranty is more suited for the everyday Joe who wants to install the engine himself, or have it done by a private mechanic (non GM owned). There’s less fine print and a more common sense approach since our engines are custom built, we are a smaller and more flexible business, and we have pro ASE certified mechanics answering the phones… not order takers. Our warranty is also more suited for guys who have offroad applications or might see the track now and then. We also give our clients a bigger window to install their engines, whereas GM wants you to have it running within 30 days. A big perk is also getting that extra 3 years over GM—that’s nice too!

GM Crate Engines are Good Engines, But Generic and Cookie-Cutter

GM is a big corporation. They are great at making cars and engines. They make a good product, this article is not to slam them but to show the value difference when buying a custom engine. These engines are =pre-built, sitting on the shelf, and usually ready to ship. There’s no customizations to the internals of the engine nor the externals. You get what you get and if it doesn’t fit, that’s not their problem! I think the worst part is sometimes you can get an engine that has been sitting on the shelf for quite some time. 

West Coast Engines is All About the Details

Fully customized engines here to make your installation EASY AS PIE and mighty good looking! Since the majority of our business is direct to consumer, and usually high-end hot rods, these babies need to slide in and fit perfectly. Everytime an engine needs to be worked on or moved, there’s a risk of damaging the paint or other aspects of the vehicle. So during the order process we ask you questions about your vehicle to make sure  everything is perfect: the distributor clears the firewall, the intake fits under your hood, the right flywheel or flex plate that mates to your transmission is selected, we get the right paint color to go with your theme, and much more. We would rather handle any variables up front than have you deal with them on your side. Our staff are not just order-takers, we are trained technicians that work on vehicles ourselves—you work with experts here. This is the most valuable service we deliver!

And the winner is…

A West Coast engine will usually cost a little more and take a little longer to receive, but it comes with a bigger warranty, better parts, better quality control, more testing, and it’s fully customized. If you are in a bind and need an engine immediately and you want a GM dealer to install it, then getting a crate engine from GM is definitely the way to go. West Coast Engines is more suitable for the guys that want to do it themselves or want a hot rod shop to build their dream project, whereas GM is for the generic guys who want something cheap and basic. In contrast to GM and similar companies like Blueprint who seek to find the cheapest way of doing things, West Coast Engines is more friendly toward the American economy, supports small businesses in this industry, and delivers a quality product done right the first time.