Choosing The Perfect LS Engine For Any Budget

Transplanting an LS engine in a hotrod, classic, or even a modern vehicle is a popular choice for various reasons. The engines are extremely reliable, easily swapped, and come in a variety of variations. Another bonus is the fact that there’s an LS engine for just about any budget, from an inexpensive 4.8-liter to the extreme LS9 and everything in between. In the video above, Auto Guild does an excellent job breaking down these engines and their price ranges, and here’s a recap. 

The Cheapest Of The Cheap

The cheapest engine on the list is the 4.8-liter, the smallest cubic-inch combination, making it the least desirable. These engines (LR4, Ly2, L20) are rated at 275 horsepower from the factory and can be picked up from local salvage yards in the $200-$400 price range. 

Inexpensive

The next engine up is the 5.3-liter which consists of the iron block LM7 and LMF rated at 300 horsepower. These engines are a little more desirable than the 4.8 since they offer more cubic inches and a few more ponies. One thing that keeps the cost down on these is the number of engines produced. And while Auto Guild states that they can be bought in the $800-$2,000 range, we have picked them up for as little as $400 with all accessories. Of course, these prices will depend on the availability in your area.

 

Moderate Price

As the horsepower and cubic inches start to creep up, so do the prices. The LMG and LY5 are both Gen IV 5.3-liter engines. The Gen IV engines are known for stronger internals, making them more desirable. However, the Gen III LQ4 and LQ9 6.0-liters will typically cost you more than the more modern 5.3’s since they are more difficult to find. The price ranges on these engines vary from $1,500-$2,500, which is still a fair price for any of these powerplants. 

Still Affordable

Now we’re starting to get into the more desirable engines that will cost you $2,500-$4,500. The LS1 and LS6 used in the F-body and Corvettes offered 350 cubic inches and were built with aluminum blocks. While they used Gen III internals, they are pretty hard to find due to limited production numbers and often command a hefty price. The LS2 is also another engine that is super popular with Gen IV internals and 6.0-liters. The L92, in our opinion, is the most popular engine in this category because of its Gen IV design and 6.2-liters of displacement.

Big Budget

The LS3 L99 6.2-liter powerplants were available in the 2010-2015 Camaro SS. These engines use an aluminum block, Gen IV internals, and were rated at 400 horsepower 410 lb-feet of torque. According to Auto Guild, these engines can be purchased from $4,200 to $6,200 for a used unit. However, if you’re looking to buy a new one from GM, prices jump to $7,500-$9,200. 

Best of the Best

The last category we will touch on includes the most expensive and exotic engines available in the LS platform. We consider these powerplants the who’s who of the LS world, and any of these engines would be awesome in virtually any project if you have $8,000 to $14,000 to spend. 

LS7

The LS7 is one of the most popular engines in Chevrolet’s lineup. This mill made its mark in the C6 Corvette Z06 and offed 427 cubic inches, 505 horsepower, and 470 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant was also available in the fifth-gen Camaro Z/28. Offered initially with a dry-sump oiling system, GM now offers it as a crate engine with a wet sump for easier swap ability in classic cars. A new wet sump LS427 crate engine will set you back about $12,500.

LSA

The next engine on the list is none other than the supercharged LSA. This 6.2-liter aluminum engine was utilized in the CTS-V and the Camaro ZL1 from 2009-’15 in the Cadillac and 2012-’25 on the Camaro Zl1. These supercharged mills make around 580 horsepower and 556 lb-ft of torque and remain a popular choice for enthusiasts. You can expect to pay a cool $13,000 for a new crate engine. 

LS9

The LS9 is the last engine on the list and one of our favorites. Who wouldn’t want the same supercharged engine that powered the ZR1 Corvette hanging out under the hood of your hotrod? With 638 horsepower and 604 lb-ft of torque, this powerplant is sure to command the attention of any car enthusiast. The only problem is the price. While Auto Guild states you might be able to locate a used one for $14,000, an LS9 crate engine from Chevrolet was $21,403 but has been discontinued.

The good news is, if you have a project and need an LS engine, there are plenty of affordable options on the table. And if money’s no object, you can get some best LS engines as a crate engine straight from Chevrolet.

About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
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