Fans of any motorsport dream of being able to jump in the car and head out on track and fight for wins at the top. However, some people do build their own race cars and take them out to track days. For rally fans, this involves building a car that is fit for a stage, but this comes at a cost.
A rally car can cost upwards of $15,000 to build from scratch. This is how much it would cost to build a car that is fit for a rally stage, but the rally cars used in competitions like WRC cost more, with the cost of a 2020 WRC car being around $1 million.
But these numbers are very dependent on a multitude of different factors. In this article, we will go through the main components of a rally car and the kind of things you need to consider when trying to build one yourself that you could take to a rally event and compete.
Why Are You Building A Rally Car?
Building a rally car takes a lot of time and consideration. First, you need to think about what you are building your rally car for, namely at what competitive level you are looking to drive it. If you are just building one for fun, and plan to take it to the rally equivalent of track days, there will still be regulations to meet, but there are far more for rally cars built for competitive racing.
Safety Is Key
These regulations tend to surround safety features, and we will thus include them in our analysis of building a rally car below. While the costs of each material will vary depending on where you are located, and what brand or quality you choose, we will give some rough estimates so you at least know what kind of price range you can expect to be looking at for each component.
Again, some components will be optional, and some will be necessary depending on how you plan to use it. But with that out of the way, let’s get into the costs of building a rally car.
The Cost Of Building A Rally Car
Buying A Car
The first question you need to ask when you are starting a rally car build is whether or not you are going to buy a new car or use one you already have. If you are buying a new one, then this will obviously drive the cost up considerably, and variably depending on which car you choose. For this reason, we are not going to include the price of buying the actual car here.
The next thing you need to consider when you are looking to build a rally car is the safety equipment. All modern racing series have strict safety requirements for cars entered into competitions, and rally racing is no different. Safety is the main area of the car that will not change much in terms of what is required when you look at the different levels of competition.
Safety on a rally car is vital, and there are some things that you just cannot go without no matter how you plan to use the car. A roll cage is the first thing you want to think about. Strictly speaking a Roll Over Protection System (ROPS), the roll cage is what will protect you and your potential codriver if you were to roll the car.
These come in various different forms, but you can look to spend at least a few thousand dollars on a good roll cage, with the average setup probably coming in at around $4000. Aside from the roll cage, the next purely safety component you will need is at least one fire extinguisher, and often 2, which will set you back between $50-100.
Seats And Fittings
While not just a piece of safety equipment, your seats will also need to meet a certain standard, and they will need to be light for your own good in order to save weight. You will need to fix them to the car using proper rails, and all in this can cost between $1500 and $2000 for two seats, the rails and the necessary fixings.
Next up, you need to get some rally-worthy harnesses. A simple seatbelt won’t do, and in some cases you will also need a head and neck restraint system too. These, along with once again the right fixings, will probably cost you around $750 per set. So, with all of the interior safety features, we are already above $7000.
Wheels And Tires
While other aspects of the car undoubtedly add some aspect of safety to the car as a sort of byproduct of their existence, those discussed above are the ones included solely for the reason of outright safety. Let’s now consider some of the components on the outside of the car, starting off with the wheels and tires.
Rally stages require specific types of tire depending on the surface, such as gravel, sand or snow. However, we won’t get into the specifics of each type here and will instead just say you will need to get special tires of some sort depending on where you plan to use your car. But not only will you need specific tires, but you will also need specific wheels.
These wheels will need to be of a certain diameter, usually 15 inches, and so this can be another cost to consider if you need to change your current wheels. All in, the wheels and tires can cost between $800 and $1000. This will vary depending on your current wheels, and for what surface you need the tires, but this is still a decent estimate.
Next up you will need a sump guard. This is a component that goes underneath the car and protects the important parts like the engine and exhaust from the abundance of dirt and gravel that will be kicked up when you are driving. These vary in price quite a lot, but you are looking at around $300 for a decent sump guard.
Mudflaps And Lights
You will also need some mudflaps to help with damage limitation from the dirt and gravel, and these are around $100 for a set. You will also need to consider extra lights if you want to take on night stages, which can cost upwards of $100, but this is not going to be necessary for everyone.
Now let’s take a look at the internals, starting with the engine. We will assume you already have an engine in the car that will suit your specific rallying needs, as buying a new engine can cost thousands of dollars and the prices vary greatly between manufacturers, and for various sizes and power outputs, so we will not be considering that in our total cost here.
You will probably need a few extra bits and pieces for your engine however, such as a turbo restrictor, which will vary in both cost and form depending on the competition you want to enter. These come in at around $100. A new fuel pump is probably essential as well, mostly for reliability, and this will probably cost about $150.
Other upgrades should be in the form of brake and clutch lines, which will be around $200 to $300 total depending on which ones you buy, as well as upgraded hoses for the intercooler as well. This is one of the cheapest parts of the build, at about $50. Good brake pads, especially for the front, will be needed too, so you’re looking at another $200+ for those.
Finally, some good rally-ready suspension will be a must as well. You will be driving on some rough terrain, and your normal car suspension will not be able to handle this for very long without becoming unbalanced and damaged. The cost here varies considerably, from a few thousand all the way up to $20,000+. Going for somewhere in the low-middle range, let’s call it another $6000.
This will definitely be the biggest expense of the build, but it is absolutely important. Even just doing one stage could destroy your standard suspension, and chances are you want to get some decent use out of your custom rally build. So, with that out of the way, it’s time to look at our total so far.
The Grand Total
Without considering other more optional features, which we will get to in the next section, you are looking at around $15,000 to build a rally car. This figure will be lower if you use lower quality parts or already have some on hand, and it will be higher if you go for more optional components or upgrade your engine and suspension pretty heavily.
But these are really just the barebones essential components, and we are not taking into account any potential issues you might come across, repairs that need done and various other components that your specific needs will require. However, let’s take a look at just some of the extra costs that may be involved with building a rally car.
Other Things To Consider When Building A Rally Car
So, about $15,000 will get you going with a decent rally setup, but now it’s time to consider some of the more optional components and other things you might want to spend some money on. Most of these will depend on where and how often you want to use your rally car, and the rules of the specific competitions you plan to enter will have a big effect on your build.
However, if you don’t plan to race it in competitions and just want to use it for fun, then the rules side of things will be less important. With that said, some locations that offer the rally equivalent of track days will still have their own regulations, but these will usually only concern the kind of safety equipment that we discussed earlier.
While not attached to the car itself in terms of build cost, other safety equipment you will need to get is a good fireproof suit and helmet if you want to meet even the most basic of safety regulations. These can vary in cost a lot, but you’re probably looking at a minimum of $150 for this gear.
Value For Money
The big thing to consider with every component is value for money. If you have a big budget and don’t mind going to great lengths to build the ultimate rally machine, then you will probably be happy going all out. But if you just plan to use it as a hobby and don’t have too much spare cash, it is worth considering where best to put the biggest portions of your budget.
There will be other costs involved no matter which route you take, usually involving labor or shop costs if you are getting some extra help to build your rally car, and tools and equipment will also set you back some money as well. This is an area of the build that you don’t want to skimp on, as you want to make sure the car is built to a high standard in every possible way.
Other Optional Features
Now for the costs that are definitely on the optional side of things. You might want to add various aerodynamic components to your car. These can be quite cheap and simple, or they could be more complex and thus expensive. This is only really something to consider if you are looking to race in competitions or are just looking to build the very best rally car you can.
You might also need to get a rally computer for the car, which can be another couple of hundred dollars, and lights and additional safety gear for codrivers can add some extra costs into the equation. All in, these costs can take the total up substantially. However, this still comes nowhere near the cost of a professional rally car used in the top levels of the WRC.
The Cost Of A WRC Car
A professional WRC rally car can cost 100 times what you might pay to put your own together. That is because these cars are built to race at the highest level of rally competition, and every single tiny detail of the car has lots of time, effort and money put into it in order to try and gain an edge over the other teams.
An Expensive Machine
For a WRC car in 2020, the cost was around $1 million. In contrast, the cars used in WRC 2, the next level down in terms of competition, are capped at roughly $220,000. These cars are still miles above what you will be able to build yourself in your garage, but this just shows how expensive the top tiers of motorsport can be.
The cars are changing for the 2022 WRC season, with hybrid technology appearing in the sport, offering more power with an electric motor, but also higher costs. It is expected that the rally cars of the future will cost upwards of $1.2 million.
Selling Them On
Teams do try to sell their old rally cars in order to make some of the money back, as there are collectors and hobbyists with deep pockets out there. However, the difficulty lies in selling what is essentially intellectual property, and the number of potential buyers is quite small. Plus, many people just end up building their own rally cars instead, at a fraction of the cost!
Building your own rally car will probably set you back close to $15,000. The price will vary depending on the components used, but various safety features and overall performance enhancements make up the bulk of this cost. While the price is nothing compared to the millions it can cost to field a WRC car, it is still wise to do your research to get the best value for money when building a rally car.