Aftermarket wheels are one of the go-to first modifications for a lot of enthusiasts.
While they’re primarily an aesthetic upgrade, they do offer the benefit of weight reduction where it matters — by decreasing unsprung mass which invariably results in better handling.
The aftermarket rims business has evolved to a point where there’s a paralyzing amount of options to choose from. Different criteria of selection include pricing, manufacturing process, and application.
Forged wheels, cast wheels, monoblock wheels, you name it. There is one type of wheel that sits at the very top of the aftermarket rims pyramid, and that’s 3-piece wheels.
They arguably look the coolest, thanks to their “deep dish” appearance, but there’s a price to pay for that.
That price is, well, the price, because 3-piece wheels are notorious for carrying a significant premium over monoblocks and so on.
In this article, we’ll be exploring and explaining why 3-piece wheels are so expensive, and whether or not they’re worth splashing the cash for.
An Overview of 3-Piece Wheels
What are 3-piece wheels? The name is pretty self-explanatory: 3-piece wheels are composed of three components, including the outer lip or outer barrel, the inner lip, and the disc.
The center disc is typically constructed using forged aluminum, while both of the lips are spun. These three components are then fused to create a 3-piece wheel.
Due to them being forged, they also weigh less than cast wheels, which means they carry the benefit of lower unsprung mass.
What makes 3-piece wheels different from 2-piece wheels? Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to it.
The main difference between 2-piece vs 3-piece wheels is the extra inner barrel, which 2-piece wheels do not have. The other notable difference between these two types is pricing, but we’ll return to that a little later.
Why Are 3-Piece Wheels So Expensive?
As mentioned previously, 3-piece wheels tend to be priced a lot higher than your typical cast or forged wheels.
As well as the forged manufacturing process being more costly on average, one of the biggest selling points of 3-piece wheels is their customizability.
Just about every brand that manufactures 3-piece wheels makes them to order, with endless options for sizing, offset, colors, coating, and so on.
If you want your car to truly stand out, then 3-piece wheels are a great way to capture the attention of everyone.
Because they’re almost always made to order, you can choose just about any size and width under the sun, which means that your car’s fitment won’t have to suffer.
It can look exactly how you envision it, and it can work with other characteristics of your car such as the ground clearance and ride height or the presence of a body kit or flared fenders. This means you likely won’t have to roll your fenders.
While a regular set of forged wheels from a reputable aftermarket wheel brand could set you back around $2,000 or so; a good set of 3-piece wheels go for way more than that, depending on who makes them.
For instance, something like a set of Work Meister S1s, one of the most iconic JDM wheels with a 3-piece design, could set you back well over $3,000.
If you wanna go the high-end route, a set of HREs could go for over $8,000.
Do 3-Piece Wheels Have Any Real Benefits?
The aesthetics are the most obvious benefit of 3-piece wheels, which is why you’ll often see them installed on stance cars. However, they do have some surprising benefits for the car’s performance that are worth discussing.
3-piece wheels have the highest durability rating of any type of aftermarket wheels.
That’s one of the main reasons why 3-piece wheels were only ever seen on race cars until a couple of decades ago.
The materials are very tough and resistant to any sort of damage. Surprisingly, repairing a set of 3-piece wheels is not as expensive as you might think.
As there are multiple pieces, you can repair or replace only the damaged piece and reassemble the unit with the help of some tools and sealant, without having to buy an entirely new rim.
Low rotational inertia is another notable benefit of 3-piece wheels, as well as the customizability. Manufacturers offer dozens of colors and finishes, as well as various sizes.
This means the wheel offset and general fitment can be dialed in just right, ensuring that your build looks the best that it can, and exactly how you envisioned it.
However, it’s not all sunshine and daisies since 3-piece rims do have some significant downsides worth considering.
Being that they’re made of three separate components, they’re a fair bit heavier than 1-piece or even 2-piece wheels.
Due to the complex manufacturing process and their customizability and repairability, once again, 3-piece wheels are significantly more expensive than 1-piece and 2-piece rims.
You might even run into a situation where a set of 3-piece wheels costs more than what you paid for your project car, including some of the aftermarket car parts and mods.
Who Makes the Best 3-Piece Wheels?
There are dozens of options on the market for 3-piece wheels, but only a few stand out above the rest, owing to both quality and clout.
With that in mind, here are some of our favorite 3-piece wheel brands that you should consider for your project car.
Work Wheels is one of the best-known and most proven manufacturers of 3-piece wheels, and they’re very popular on Japanese street racing cars and custom builds.
Possibly the company’s most well-known design is the iconic Meister S1 3P. There are a few other wheels in the Meister family, but the S1 3P is the most common choice for a lot of people, and with good reason.
As well as being a super high quality, well-made product, Meister S1 3Ps look good on just about everything, from Supras to old Porsches with crazy wide body kits.
They might be a little more expensive, but they’re worth the money.
We think that the rest of the Meister family deserves some love, too. As well as the 2 piece Meister S1s, there are also the L1s, the CR01s and the M1s.
These all do aesthetics a little differently, to suit your taste and the appearance you’re going for.
Another highly respected manufacturer of 3-piece wheels is HRE Wheels. Based in California, HRE Wheels are a go-to choice for daily-driven supercars as well as exotic hypercars.
However, HRE makes everything to order, and their wheels are so customizable, you can put them on just about everything, and make them look exactly how you want to.
A go-to HRE wheel for a lot of people is the P101 and S101, which come in every configuration you can think of, including a stunning 3-piece design.
These also look good on just about everything, including JDM cars, but they do come at a price. That price is around $3,000… per wheel.
Another great manufacturer of 3-piece wheels is Advan. Built by Japanese tire manufacturer Yokohama, Advan wheels are one of the most recognizable and well-known in the world of Japanese cars.
Some of their most iconic designs are the RGIII, the T5, and the GT.
Advan wheels have established themselves as quality products in the world of aftermarket wheels, and they perform especially well on drift cars, as we’ve seen in D1 championships.
Most of the lineup only includes 1 piece forged wheels, but they do have some 3-piece offerings as well, including the Oni 2.
The Oni 2 is the spiritual successor to the iconic Super Advan 2, adopting the same three-spoke design but dropping the twin spokes of the latter.
While these look very cool, they do have a few small things worth noting. They’re only available in 14″ and 15″ sizes, and they’re not exactly the most customizable. Also, they’re currently the only 3-piece wheel sold by Advan.
We also can’t talk about 3-piece aftermarket wheels without mentioning BBS wheels.
This German giant has been making wheels since 1970 and is easily one of the absolute best names in the business, not just for aftermarket wheels, but for proper race car wheels and as an OEM supplier.
Along with their countless monoblock offerings and legitimate race car wheels with center-lock mechanisms, BBS also offers a great lineup of multi-piece wheels, but there is one design that towers above the rest: the RS, known nowadays as Super RS.
Along with being the go-to for just about every older Euro build on the face of the planet, the RS wheels use a unique manufacturing process called die forging, which makes them some of the most durable wheels on the market.
While the present-day Super RS is technically a 2 piece design, it looks identical to the older 3-piece RS. If you want the original RS, you’ll likely have to look at the used market.
They may be a little more expensive, but the BBS RS is one of the most popular aftermarket wheels of all time for good reason.
Don’t let the Euro folk sway you either, these can look good on just about every car, new or old.
If you don’t want to sell any vital organs to pick up a set of 3-piece wheels, then Rotiform is a fantastic option.
Their 3-piece wheels are forged, and a lot of their designs perfectly fit with the aesthetic of specific vehicle models.
They’re also endlessly customizable, with just about every finish, color, sizing, and dish option that you can think of.
Despite all of that, their pricing is way lower than you might think, floating around $2,000 per wheel.
Should You Spend Money on 3-Piece Wheels?
Now that you’re familiar with 3-piece wheels, you’re probably on the fence about picking up a set for your build. There are a few reasons why you might want to, and a few reasons why you might not need to.
3-piece wheels are an excellent choice if you have a specific idea for the fitment and the way you want your car to look by the time you install the new rims.
They’re also good if you want a deeper dish, and wider wheels, which is pretty much a requirement if your car has fender flares or a full wide-body kit.
3-piece wheels are also a good idea if you have a specific color theme on your build, as you can order them with unique colors and finishes right from the get-go, instead of hassling with costly repainting, powder coating, or hydro-dipping processes.
Finally, you should pick up a set of 3-piece wheels only if your budget allows it.
As we’ve outlined here, 3-piece wheels are far more expensive than a comparable set of forged or cast items.
It just doesn’t make any financial sense to spend the same money, or possibly more that you spent on your car for just a set of wheels.
If you just want a good quality set of custom 3-piece wheels and you aren’t too bothered about custom finishes or deep dishes, a set of forged rims will do the job perfectly fine.
Aftermarket rims are one of the easiest ways to tidy up a car’s appearance, as they can truly transform the look of even the most stock-looking of cars.
While forged and cast wheels are a huge chunk of the aftermarket, some people want something more extravagant that fits with a color theme, as well as something that allows more flexibility when it comes to fitment.
For that, 3-piece wheels are the best option. They also carry real benefits when it comes to the car’s performance, and are by far the most visually impressive of all the different kinds of aftermarket rims.
While there are plenty of options out there, for the price-to-performance ratio, and not to mention their appearance, we’d have to recommend either Work Wheels or Rotiform.
What’s your favorite aftermarket wheel brand? Let us know by leaving a comment below.