What You Need To Know Before Buying A Cheap Engine

by | Aug 20, 2018

If you’re shopping for a crate engine upgrade or replacement, you’ve probably realized that there is a major price variance when it comes to buying a custom engine. For price conscious engine hunters, there may be a high temptation to buy a $2,000 engine over a $4,000 engine, because in the end, an engine is an engine right?

Well, not quite. In the engine industry, doing business with the wrong company can cost you tremendously in the long run.


On the contrary, doing business with the right company may cost a little more up front, but it will always lead to a path of easier installation, less maintenance, more reliability, and bigger performance. An engine can be a major investment, and it is important to know exactly what you’re buying before you make a purchase.

In this post, we will examine why “cheap” crate engines are as inexpensive as they are, and seek to answer the question – is buying a cheap engine really worth it?

The Difference Between Price and Value

Price and value are not synonymous, and this is especially true when buying a 350 crate engine. Just because one engine is cheaper in price does not mean that share equal value.In comparison with a well-built crate engine from the right company, here’s what you can expect from a cheap engine:
  • Lesser quality of partsIt’s easy to price an engine cheap when it’s built with low quality parts. Quality engines may cost more, but they are built with high-quality parts by trusted brands.
  • Incompleteness of product – There is no worse frustration than purchasing an engine, and finding out during installation that there are parts missing. However, this is a common issue for unscrupulous engine builders who are more worried about profit than customer satisfaction.
  • Lack of quality in machining and balancing – Engines must be built with the proper balance for specific vehicles. Lack of quality in this area can lead to major problems over the long term.
  • Lack of service – When you find out that your engine is unbalanced or lacking parts, you won’t be able to count on your cheap engine builder to help you out. Lack of customer service is common – for cheap engine builders, once the product is shipped, it’s your concern!
  • Lack of true customization – Cheap engines builders claim to build truly custom engines, but this often isn’t the case. A good engine may cost more upfront, but it will be built for your specific vehicle, ensuring that the engine will not have to be modified before, during or after installation.

Where Do Your Parts Come From?

Cheap engine builders lack transparency. When professional builders say that their engines are built with high quality parts, that’s what it means. Cheap engine builders also state this claim, but often what it usually means is that there are a few name brand parts used, along with many low-quality parts sourced from overseas.

Cheap and low quality parts from China are a dream to cheap engine builders, but a nightmare to the consumer that gets stuck with the engine in the end. By switching out parts with these lower priced components, cheap engine manufacturers are able to build their engines at a fraction of the cost.

For the purchaser, this means a lower price; but it also means that there is a much greater likelihood that you will experience major problems with your engine down the line.

What Does Turnkey and Custom Really Mean?

Cheap engine builders throw around the words “turnkey” and “custom” often, although their engines really don’t meet the definition of either. A custom engine is built specifically for the consumer’s vehicle. It’s built to the right specifications and with the right equipment – the right flywheel to match the transmission, the right oil pan for clearance, the right intake, the proper valve colors, the paint color and etc.Cheap engines aren’t really custom, and this can cause a major frustration for the consumer.

Customers expect that engine builders will meet their claims – a ready to go and turnkey engine. Instead, they find themselves having to replace parts to make the engine fit, or add parts that were supposed to be already included.

It costs more upfront to have a custom crate engine built by a highly-reputable company, but they will offer open transparency so that you know exactly what you will receive in the end. 


Skimp Now, Pay Later

If you decide to buy a crate engine from a low-quality provider just because it’s cheap, you are going to regret it tremendously later. Paying a little more to have your engine built by expert professionals will save you thousands over the course of several years (and in some cases, months or even weeks). 

Generally, an engine is a long-term investment, but will your cheap engine last that long? A properly-built engine with high quality parts will have a long life expectancy, and a strong warranty to match. Here’s the caveat – a low-quality provider may offer a warranty also, but getting them to honor it may prove to be impossible.

Sometimes, they’ll avoid your calls and refuse to address the situation altogether. Large factories offer warranties with extensive fine print that confuses the customer. Only when a major issue arises does the customer find out that their warranty really doesn’t cover much at all. Many smaller builders have such a small profit margin on their engines that they simply can’t afford to honor their warranties.

It is critical to know who is building your engine. Check their reviews and their BBB rating. Look for any complaints related to their product, service, or warranty coverage. A wrong decision can be a very costly one!

What Is Quality Worth?

As the old saying goes, often “you get what you pay for”. While an engine may seem “cheap” upfront, it will likely be more expensive on the backend; and still won’t perform as well or last as long.

Before you buy an engine, you must decide what’s most important for you – price or performance? Lower upfront costs or longer engine life? Pay more now or pay more later?


There are hundreds of “cheap engine” builders out there, and if that’s what you’re looking for, best of luck!

However, if you’re looking for a properly built custom crate engine, constructed with all-American parts and backed by a strong 50,000 mile warranty – contact West Coast Engines today at (888) 957-5454!

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