The Ultimate Tool: Get the Most Horsepower Per Dollar

red coupe drifting on asphalt road

Everyone loves a bargain, especially when car shopping. Horsepower is a big selling point for a lot of car companies these days, but who really is giving you the most horsepower per dollar spent?

To figure this out I decided to look at the most popular cars on sale to see what you’re really getting in terms of dollars and ponies. Beyond that I created a calculator specifically for you Automotivists to do your own research. 

This tool allows you to calculate the horsepower per dollar of any car you may purchase.

It will allow you to figure out, new or used, if you’re really getting a good deal. 

On top of that you’ll even be able to calculate how much power per dollar your aftermarket mods add as well. You’ll be surprised how much horsepower actually costs!

Horsepower Per Dollar Calculator

Most Horsepower Per Dollar In 2021

Figuring out which cars give you the most horsepower per dollar in the 2021 model year was a doozy. With so many high performance and high power cars out there it’s tough to know what’s actually giving you the most value.

Rather than just throwing another list of cars at you, I wanted to explain something notable I found in my search.

But if you absolutely must have a list, here’s one from Donut Media about cars from 2020.

Donut Media List of the Most Horsepower Per Dollar in 2020

I analyzed the most popular cars in almost all categories. Crossovers, sports cars, trucks, and luxury vehicles.

I used the base price and base horsepower numbers, to make things simple. The only options I tested were engine upgrade options, because a lot of times they offered a lot more power for not a lot of money.

So what are the results?

USA: The Place To Get The Most Horsepower Per Dollar

With all the manufacturers in the world, you would think that the division of horsepower to value would be more diffused internationally. Realistically it’s not, it’s as condensed to one location as it’s ever been.

America wins hands down in the horsepower for money segment. I know most of us assumed this with muscle cars and pickup trucks, but it’s actually true when you do the math. 

The big American manufacturers really give you more oomph for your money. Every time you hear a European car reviewer complain about the interior of an American manufacturer you know why they had to be that way. 

They’re able to provide this much power by slightly sacrificing in other areas, like interior materials and sound deadening.

Luckily those chasing horsepower are happy to give these minor luxuries up.

Which New Cars Give You The Most Ponies For The Money?

Chevrolet Camaro Lt1 2021 the car with the most horsepower per dollar
2021 Chevrolet Camaro

Now let’s cut to the chase. The big winner in the horsepower per dollar war is the 2021 Chevrolet Camaro in the LT1 trim with a 6 speed manual. 

Only one vehicle edged it out in value and that was a pickup truck. It blew away the rest of the competition in all other classes.

At $35,195 and 455 horsepower it comes in at mere $77.35 per pony! How’s that for affordable?

If you’re wondering about its competitors the Ford Mustang GT and Dodge Challenger R/T Scat-pack they weren’t far off either.

For 2021, the Mustang GT just missed it with $78.88 per horsepower, with the Challenger R/T Scat-pack at a measly $85.86 per horsepower. Interestingly a Hellcat Challenger is actually better value than a Scat-pack at just $84.75 per pony.

Now for the undisputed king of value and the most horsepower per dollar you can get right now. It’s a Ram 1500 Classic tradesman 4×2 with a Hemi. 

ram 1500 classic the most horsepower per dollar in 2021
2021 Ram 1500 Classic

With a build price of just $30,500 and a 395 horsepower V8 this beast comes in at just $77.22 per horse! That’s right; cheaper than a muscle car, it’s a muscle truck.

How about its rivals? The Ford F150 standard 4×2 V8 came in at $82.45 per horsepower and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4×2 V8 came in at $91.10 per horsepower. Not bad numbers, but the Ram just blows everything out of the way.

I guess we really are obsessed with power in the states.

New cars are great, but what’s an easy way to get even more bang for your buck?

Going to the used market.

Best Horsepower Per Dollar Used Car

First I have to say, it would be impossible for me to give a list of cars in the used segment that have the most horsepower per dollar. The variables are too great.

Price, condition, upgrades, maintenance all affect the value. Used cars however, have an inherent advantage over new cars in the value department.

When you buy used you are automatically cutting your investment while the horsepower number generally stays the same. This is going to bring that horsepower per dollar number way down.

The lower the purchase price the greater the value.

Now you can see why Automotivists love used cars, not only are they easier on our wallets initially, but those of us that love horsepower are getting more for our money. 

It’s like going to your favorite bar and everything is half price. It’ll get you to your happy place for a lot less money!

You can even go further with the value train in the aftermarket. Not all power adders are worth the money, but some add a lot of value per dollar. 

Check out this post on the things you shouldn’t do when buying a car. It’s useful information for new and used car purchases alike.

When you mix used car purchase price with power adders, that’s where things really get interesting.

Best Horsepower Per Dollar Upgrades

Nissan engine bay getting ready for modifications to increase the most horsepower per dollar
Engine Bay Of A Nissan Ready For More Horsepower

Upgrades and modifications are another variable too wide and too great for me to answer. Depending on your vehicle, the aftermarket could be small or large, expensive or affordable, it really is a case by case situation.

However, generally I find bigger modifications like superchargers and turbo kits give you the most bang for your buck. 

If your car already has forced induction, it’s even more efficient to increase the power numbers. The value becomes astronomical because things like ECU tunes offer so much return for so little cost.

The least effective modifications in terms of value in my opinion would be little things like air intakes, exhausts, and headers. Generally, in terms of the most horsepower per dollar, these modifications fall short.

Remember everything in the aftermarket land is unique and individual to your situation and your car. Some little modifications like intakes and exhausts could offer you tremendous gains, while big mods like superchargers offer little. 

It’s all highly dependent on your particular situation and what you want to achieve. What I listed here is just anecdotal observations compiled from a long time of searching and tinkering.

I highly suggest you use the horsepower per dollar calculator above to see what gives you the most value. Play with the numbers and be sure to use it every time you think about modifying your car, and when purchasing one.

Finding the best value is a big task, arm yourself with the right tools!

In sum

For those seeking power from their vehicles, value is a key component. It can make a good deal better, and a great deal amazing. 

Knowing how to determine which vehicles or parts give you the most horsepower per dollar is the key. It will allow you to see the value in what you’re buying, by cutting out the noise. 

Use the tools and knowledge to leverage yourself into a fantastic purchase you’ll enjoy. Never second guess whether the power was worth it, because you’ll finally know!

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