Cheap vs. Expensive Sim Racing Pedals: Which Ones To Choose

In the realms of sim racing, price comparisons start to crop up when more and more gear becomes available. And with the introduction of full rigs available for set-up at home, sim racing pedals especially are starting to see large price differentials.

So, should you choose cheap or expensive sim racing pedals? In terms of overall features, longevity and quality, sim racing pedals on the more expensive side of the price spectrum are the best choice.

And yet, with so much to consider beyond the price alone, it’s important that I go in-depth about why I have reached the above conclusion. Keep reading!

How Expensive Sim Racing Pedals Became Popular

Everything has an origin or a reason for why a certain thing happened, and to know why expensive sets of pedals became so widespread and highly demanded, it’s important to understand the very roots of it.

Back when sim racing was in its formative years in terms of providing hardware for the experience, everything produced was expensive and unwieldly. Yet for that time, it made use of amazing technological innovation to make a little box with plastic pedal contraptions to control a car in-game, as if in real life!

The typical practice back then, as it is today, was to bundle together racing wheels and pedals because there wasn’t much use in one without the other. Unless a wheel had controls for acceleration and braking on the wheel face, it was very counter-intuitive to expect consumers to buy separate products when the market was still barely formed.

To begin with, consumers weren’t too focused on the functionality of their pedals as long as they worked and allowed them to control their car in a racing sim. However, as time went on and more hardware started being released across all platforms, this started to change rapidly.

Over time, prices dropped and different products were offered for different levels of sim racing enthusiasts to enjoy. In the same fell swoop, more and more pedals were developed that became very expensive indeed yet boasted cutting-edge technology to best replicate the feeling we’re all looking for:

Realism.

All sim racers want to enjoy the feeling of being in a racing car’s cockpit without actually spending the thousands upon thousands of dollars required to enter the real racing scene.

The biggest step towards that and a common factor in all expensive pedal sets today was a realistic resistance-based system which made pushing on pedals feel closer to real life. This started small with simple bits of rubber or plastic pushed behind the pedal arms, and has evolved into all kinds of amazing tech; even utilizing real hydraulic braking systems that you can connect to a PC!

Compared to yesteryear, we have so much choice now when it comes to purchasing good sim racing pedals that it’s almost impossible to choose! So many features with a huge range of technology led to a trend of people leaning on the side of expense to guarantee that reliability for years to come.

But what truly propelled the popularity of expensive sim racing pedals was the introduction of eSports, and most notably, people using various media to broadcast their sim racing.

YouTubers and Twitch streamers were able to show their gameplay for something that they were pretty good at, and they could get paid by fans to do it. Their popularity led to sponsorships from bigger and better companies, and it showcased a whole new side of the luxury end of sim racing pedal sets that could guarantee amazing quality.

In order to continue earning a livelihood, these influencers and eSports competitors constantly looked for new pedals and a whole new market quickly emerged to satisfy that requirement.

Their videos inspired others to buy the same expensive products that they were using. New companies started to come out of the woodwork to join the sim racing giants such as ThrustMaster and Fanatec; specifically offering the cutting-edge levels of tech that everybody started to crave.

With the more spotlight that fell on sim racing, the more was learned about what makes a sim racing pedal set truly worth its salt. Professional drivers started to move into streaming eSports in their spare time as training (Lando NorrisMax Verstappen). And all of a sudden, the industry had evolved into something positively expansive!

The simple truth of this focus on sim racing was: a sim pedal set really cements the true racing car experience, literally pushing it forward and driving the power (or stopping power) of a rig. It has to be pretty amazing.

Your Pedals Are Essential!

It goes without saying that all parts of your sim racing rig are pretty crucial, considering how everything works together to provide a realistic driving experience, but without the pedals you’ll really be missing a key part of that.

Having a set of pedals in general is a considerable improvement if you’ve simply been using a controller, even if they aren’t the best and all you’ve got is two pedals for acceleration and braking. So, imagine how much better it will feel to have a clutch pedal, opening up the opportunity for an external stick shift; let alone all the other benefits that come with a more expensive pedal set.

You’ll be able to look at your set-up, squint slightly and really feel as if it matches the cockpit of a real car. It does wonders for immersion and actually making you a more competitive driver, as you’ll have more responsive pedals for all inputs and greater room for growth.

Beyond an aesthetic aspect of reality is how important the actual feeling is, and this comes from something I previously mentioned: technology which replicates resistance that you would encounter from driving a real car.

In this area, investing the most amount of money possible is honestly a no-brainer else you’ll end up feeling disappointed. You could go to any arcade and race using the varied machines there, but I think you’ll agree that there’s something which draws away from the realism you want when you do this.

In this area, investing the most amount of money possible is honestly a no-brainer else you’ll end up feeling disappointed. If you’ve previously been into arcades to feel closer to being a racing driver on the sim machines there, you’ll know how disappointingly easy the pedals are to push in order to appeal to a wider audience.

Buying anything less than the best out there will always feel like a bad imitation.

Looking past features such as load cells or hydraulic brakes, the materials used in a set of pedals is also of paramount importance. This is both due to longevity (you know, how long it’ll actually last) and how it feels to race with.

The more expensive pedals out there benefit from the perfect blends of lightweight metal compounds and weighty steel to guarantee a longer product life without compromising on a competitive edge. This brings it that much closer to a real racing car’s kit, too.

Spending more at the time of purchase, having done your research for the best pedals you can buy, will guarantee a longer time spent using it. The materials and build quality will be considerably better, and you can check to make sure it will make the best rig possible for that perfect, personalized vibe.

If your sim racing pedal set gives out first in your rig, you’ll be in a really tight spot with hardware that likely won’t work with a different brand and all sorts of other problems to face. That’s why the extra spend is worth it for the better materials alone, and then when you add in the extra features that define an amazing drive, you’re onto a real winner!

The Features That Separate Cheap And Expensive Pedals

I’ve touched on this a bit already, but it will do you a world of good to get a full picture of the various features to check for when buying a sim racing pedal set. The following features are pretty essential to compare and contrast different products, after all, and to make sure that you’re getting the best pedals possible!

So, here’s a pretty comprehensive list of the features that put expensive pedals above cheap ones:

  • High-grade materials: Everything about an expensive pedal set will feel just as good as it looks! Part of what makes this hardware so effective is the material it’s made out of, because materials with more weight will carry more natural heft. Metal and lightweight metal compounds are a staple within expensive pedals for this factor, and also because they will last far longer than your average plastic pedal set you got with a plastic wheel.
  • Immersion: This really relates to not only the material matching the inside of a real race car cockpit (what car have you seen with plasticky pedals?), but primarily to the varied ways in which resistance can be replicated using different systems. As I mentioned before, hydraulics is a common feature in high-end pedal sets, but there are also load cells commonly seen here; especially on the accelerator and clutch pedals respectively. A lot of the best brands also boast pedal sets which come with sophisticated electronics that dictate resistance automatically based on initial pressure applied… some pretty intense stuff!
  • Reputable branding: Part of the expense when buying sim racing pedals on the pricier side comes with brand recognition, and a sort of unspoken agreement between the manufacturer and buyer that the product is reputable due to their name being emblazoned upon it. Well-known brands offer long warranties on their expensive pedals for a reason; they’re telling you that the product will be worth the price and then some! It also points to a company who care deeply about sim racing development and they’re more likely to introduce new technology for their products.
  • Expansive adjustability: This may seem like a somewhat trivial feature, but let me tell you that nothing beats being able to perfectly replicate the racing car cockpit feel of your dreams! A lot of basic pedal sets come with a box and they will only mount in one or maybe two different ways depending on how the box can be attached to a cockpit. Those of a higher-quality can be mounted on the ground, or suspended with the pedals directed down (GT-style), or even set-up with pinpoint accuracy due to each individual pedal being able to be mounted differently. You’ll be able to switch seating from an F1 setting to GT style and back with ease, and that sort of flexibility will really enhance your driving experience in a way that only expensive pedals can. And with the ability to adjust resistance per pedal, it truly does put the frosting on top of the cake called realistic sim racing!

The Notable Benefits Of Expensive Sim Racing Pedals

I covered this in a general sense earlier when discussing why an expensive pedal set is so important, but this needs its own section for it to be properly explored for the benefit of you, the reader!

In true punchy fashion, to deliver the necessary information you’ll need when buying a sim racing pedal set, here’s a quick list of the benefits attached to expensive pedals:

  1. Absolute Immersion: Everything from the looks to the feel of using one, a truly great sim racing pedal set is designed to replicate the feeling of being in a real race car’s cockpit. This is achieved in multiple ways that all combine for the ultimate immersive drive every time you get your feet on the pedals!
  2. Lasting Value: Although the initial spend is considerably greater than cheap sim racing pedals, you’re guaranteed better value for money when you weigh up all factors. The materials will be sourced for better quality and longevity, and features such as load cells will continue to deliver realistic resistance over time. Spending extra on an expensive pedal set is the perfect investment to improve yourself as a racer and it’s a gift that will continue giving even after years of use.
  3. Competitive Streak: Everything about expensive sim racing pedals are designed to give its owner a huge breadth of development opportunities in order to improve their lap times in-game and generally have huge scope for improvement. This is why professionals and the serious enthusiasts are so hot on these sim racing pedal sets specifically! No matter your level of experience, an expensive piece of hardware is the perfect choice if you’re looking to bolster your abilities.
  4. Total Comfort: Part of the positives of expensive, high-quality materials put into the making of sim racing pedals is how much better it becomes to race for prolonged periods of time. The last thing you want is slippery, poor-quality plastic to put your feet on and never find the right grip, after all!
  5. Seamless Compatibility: No matter what your medium for sim racing is, whether it be console or PC, expensive hardware will have the best connection options for painless and entirely personalized set-ups. Cheaper (generally imported) sim racing pedal sets suffer from poor or limited connectivity, but more expensive varieties are designed with wide compatibility as standard.

How To Tell Expensive And Cheap Pedals Apart

You might think that it’s as easy as spending more money to get an expensive, high-quality sim racing pedal set. But, as with a lot of things in life, simply spending more doesn’t immediately equal quality!

For one, some sellers on the worldwide web are pretty good at upselling their products when they simply aren’t up to par. They’re able to make a huge profit by attaching attractive, recognizable brand names to cheap, imported pedals and selling them at the same price as the real deal.

To guard yourself against such misrepresentation online, always make sure to do your research!

This comes as a general rule of thumb when buying anything for sim racing, because you want to make sure you’re getting the best product for your money. Learning about what other sim racers think about hardware or pedals or whatever it might be will always help you separate good brands from needlessly expensive ones, so keep your ear to the ground and stay up-to-date with places like Reddit.

Another golden rule of separating expensive products from cheap ones is this mantra: less is always more!

If a pedal set comes boasting with a list of features and crazy designs, you can typically dismiss it as a cheaper quality product. A large marketing point for people selling cheap products is to load it with features and an eye-catching design, but more often than not, it’s all hot air and more trouble than it’s worth.

A good, solid sim racing pedal set will be rather pared-back in appearance with sleek designs and colors reminiscent of race car cockpits. There’ll be some outliers and exceptions to this rule, however, but they will almost always be made by reputable hardware brands.

And speaking of brands…

The Best Expensive Sim Racing Pedal Brands To Look Out For

Having covered everything from the features of expensive, high-quality pedals all the way to separating them from cheaper products, it’s about time that I show you all some great examples of sim racing pedal brands that you should be checking out!

I’ve spent a large portion of time researching this specific area due to needing a replacement pedal set for myself soon, so here’s a list of sim racing pedal brands that offer high-quality sets (in no particular order):

  • Heusinkveld
  • ProtoSimTech
  • HPP Simulation
  • Simworx
  • Tilton
  • Racewerk
  • Fanatec
  • Simtag
  • ECCI 6000

All of the above manufacturers are especially reputable and the favorites of sim racers the world over! They’re either specifically dedicated to the production of sim racing pedals, or generally produce high-end sim racing hardware for your whole rig.

I implore you to check out their official websites and browse the amazing pedals they have available!

Make sure to consider the brands for more than just your sim racing pedal set; especially if you have yet to build a full rig and if you race on console. PC gamers have the benefit of a flexible system which allows you to build a rig consisting of differing hardware brands that mesh together, but console requires you to have the same brands for connectivity purposes.

Cheap Or Expensive: Which Sim Racing Pedals To Buy

As a person who used to race cars and karts through my teenage years, I know for sure how important budget can be. Especially in the case of sim racing; it’s a hobby first and foremost! While I’d recommend buying the best thing you can possibly afford for all of the benefits I’ve talked about, sometimes it just isn’t viable for a casual interest.

However, even weighing up my own background as a racer on a budget wrestling to get competitive gear for a reasonable price, I know in my heart of hearts that an expensive sim racing pedal set is the way to go.

Let’s look at an example to help illustrate my thoughts on the matter.

Heusinkveld create a wide variety of professional-tier sim racing hardware; everything from pedals to shifters, handbrakes and even whole cockpits. They have long been designing their products specifically for racing drivers to utilize during their free-time and in racing off-seasons in order to give them the next best thing.

They offer two different sets of pedals: the Ultimate and the Sprint. As you can likely guess, the Ultimate set is designed to be the absolute pinnacle of sim racing technology for professional rigs and professional drivers. And the Sprint set is still superb, but with a focus leaning towards serious sim racers or eSports enthusiasts.

Because most of us fall into the latter category, I’ll cover their Sim Pedals Sprint product to illustrate my example.

Let’s say these cost approximately $590. They’re at the cutting edge of electronic power and adaptability, with heavy customization and amazing, durable materials. The complete package, honestly and truly.

If you’ve looked on Amazon or other such sites online, you’ll probably be able to find a bundle of both a wheel and some pedals for far cheaper than that. A rough estimate on price varies between $100 and $250.

You decide to go for the cheaper option, as most people likely will, as it feels like better value for money. After all, you’ll be getting the starting point of a rig with both a wheel and pedal set, right? Let’s say for argument’s sake that you spend $160 on an imported wheel and pedal bundle, it arrives, and you start enjoying it.

For that price, the pedals are very likely to be either made entirely out of plastic, or a mix of plastic and some metal. I’ll assume that it’s of the mixed material, with metal pedal heads and a plastic mounting box inside which all the mechanisms are.

To start with, the pedals feel fine; not great, but definitely not the best either. Metal used on cheaper pedal sets is often very jagged and not finished properly, so you’ll have to wear shoes to operate them and there won’t be much resistance on the pedals to speak of.

You might receive some differently-sized rubber inserts that you can add to the pedal arms, but you’ll still start to tire of that lacking pressure.

After a while, that lack-luster feeling will persist and grow into a real annoyance. All it’ll take is one wrong foot movement between pedals and you can easily start a breakage on the pedal arms, and before you know it, bam! A pedal has broken, and now you’ve got a real problem.

Part of the issue with buying a bundle is the fact that you can rarely find any of the bundled products separately. So, when the wheel or pedal set breaks or stops working, you will have to buy the bundle again even if the other part of it is working fine.

That means spending another $160, likely within the same year of you buying the first bundle, and now you have two of the same sim racing wheels just so you could get a pedal set which will fit with the odd connection type of this imported hardware. That brings your total up to $320, and already you’re gaining on the price it would cost for the solid, dependable and high-quality pedals.

Essentially, this process will rinse and repeat for as long as you buy budget racing pedal sets. With lower quality standards than dedicated sim racing brands, imported hardware is churned out and isn’t designed to last beyond a year. Perfect for casual fans who will occasionally have a race or two, but for anybody else who wants to make a regular fixture of their racing?

It will become more of a liability than a bargain.

Compare this to Heusinkveld who offer a minimum 5-year-warranty on all their products, guaranteeing proper usage of the product for that length of time or your money back, and the Sim Pedal Sprint set seems all the more worth it.

If you’re still on the fence about the whole thing and just aren’t spending a lot of time sim racing, you will probably be better off looking at cheaper options to get you started.

But even then, if you check out a brand like ThrustMaster, they offer the ThrustMaster T150 Pro or ThrustMaster TMX Pro which isn’t too expensive. This, too, is a bundled product with both a good wheel and a good pedal set, so for that slightly extra spend compared to an import, it really isn’t that much of a jump in price.

Cheaper wheels from great brands are always better than a straight-up import or a typical arcade-style variety. You can guarantee a minimum level of good quality and something that’ll last you longer than a single year without committing to a whole rig which can really intimidate some people.

Overall, the choice is simple: always look for more expensive sim racing pedals. They’ll do you a world of good no matter your level of sim racing experience, and you can guarantee a huge improvement in your gameplay when you aren’t worrying about breaking your pedals!