How Much Does it Actually Cost to Race a $500 Car?

News flash; racing is expensive. Most people can afford to take their car to a local track day and do a few hours of lapping without breaking the bank, but when you make the leap to proper wheel-to-wheel racing, costs increase exponentially. If you’re bold enough to enter the world of cheap endurance racing, Chumpcar and LeMons are two popular options. Both are racing series’ that operate around a simple idea; endurance racing where your car cannot be worth more than $500. That absurd limit makes them extraordinarily tempting. The reality, however, is harsher.

Tires, fuel, brake pads; regardless of what you paid for the car, you are going to end up burning through them, not to mention that when endurance racing a $500 car, things will break. But exactly how expensive is this sort of budget racing?

Now unfortunately, DriverMod doesn’t have the budget to literally build a racecar, take it racing, all to report back to you, the reader, with the cost (yet). We did however do a boatload of research in hopes of coming up with an idea of what it would cost to do a season of budget racing. Since LeMons sadly doesn’t come to Canada, we focused on Chumpcar.

Source: Speed Academy
Source: Speed Academy

1) Buying the Car

The first thing we learned, was that you can basically forget about the “$500 car” rule. Because it’s so difficult to prove that a car is worth $500. To help, has a list of preapproved vehicles.

But what about mods?

Here’s how it works; you’re given 500 points to play with. The number of points you start with depends on the car you buy. Our rapid Kijiji searching found this gem.

That’s right. This miserable pile of early-2000s Chrysler might yet bring someone joy in the final days of its life. Yours for the low, low price of $600. It’s also rated at 200 ‘points’, meaning it can receive 300 ‘points’ of modifications. Going with the “how cheap can you build a racecar” theme, we won’t get into mods, but you can find the ‘points’ value of each modification here.

2) Safety

The difference between wheel-to-wheel racing and lapping, is that when racing, there’s a 99.7% chance that you’ll crash into something. Because of that, there’s a ton of things you need to keep yourself safe. Everything mentioned below is the bare minimum you will need according to Chumpcar. As per common sense, you probably want more than the ‘bare minimum’.

You'll need lexan side and rear windows, with 1" x 1/8th" aluminum straps. Source.
You’ll need lexan side and rear windows, with 1″ x 1/8th” aluminum straps. Source.

Total Safety Cost: $3000.46

3) Consumables

The Hankook RS3 v2 seems to be the Chumpcar tire considering it is low cost, high grip, and tolerance for heat. It looks like our Neon comes with factory 16″ wheels from a 2002 Neon R/T, so we’ll be going with 205/45ZR16 RS3s at $112.45/tire.

Tires – $449.80 US per event.

Our research tells us that brake pads and rotors will need to be replaced every event; it’s worth mentioning that an event is two 8 hour races. We’re also going to account for a brake fluid flush, oil change, and transmission fluid change.

  • Pads:
    • Hawk Blue 9012, (Front) – $175.92 US
    • Hawk HP Plus, (Rear) – $102.87 US
  • Rotors:
    • Front (blank OE spec) – $35 US/ea.
    • Front (blank OE spec) – $31 US/ea.
  • Brake Fluid:
    • Motul 660 Brake Fluid – $50.38 US for two 500ml bottles.
  • Oil Change – $50/even
  • Transmission Fluid – $40.59 US for 5 liters
    • 2.5 qts for a flush = $20.30 US/event.
  • Fuel – $1000*/event

*Rough estimate based on a B20 Civic Chumpcar’s consumption.

Parts Allowance

With 16 hours of racing in a weekend,  there’s a good chance that something will fail catastrophically. For that reason, we’re giving ourselves a $300 parts budget per event for spare wheel bearings, gaskets, radiators, etc.

Total Consumables Cost: $1927.27 US/event.

4) Lodging, Trailer, Towing

This can be done a million different ways depending on your tolerance for pain. Somehow, you need a way to get your racecar around, and you need a place to stay at each race event. A quick Kijiji search found a two-wheel car dolly for $1200. Depending on if you need to buy a tow vehicle, and/or choose to stay in a hotel instead of camping out, things could get pricey.

5) Fees

Chumpcar is a massive event that takes serious money to run. Fees vary from $1300-$1500 depending on the venue and how many drivers you choose to bring, so we’ll use an average of $1400 CA per event for our math.

So, if you build a Chumpcar, attend one event, and you have to deal with terrible Canadian/US exchange rates like we do, it will cost you:

$8274.03 CA

Every additional event will cost you:

$4596.04 CA

It goes without saying that a stock Neon isn’t going to get you on the podium at Chump, so modifying your car to be competitive is something you’ll need to consider. The point of this piece isn’t to discourage you from doing an event like Chump. You should however know what you’re getting into before you start racking up credit cards.

Cover image source.

A huge thanks to the Val and Ken at Junction Autosport for putting up with my neverending questions about their kickass B20 Civic Chump Car.