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

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

So, should you choose cheap or expensive sim racing seats? In terms of overall features, longevity and quality, sim racing seats 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.

How Expensive Sim Racing Seats Became Popular

Before sim racing cockpits became more widely available for even casual fans to use at home, seats used for sim racing were overall pretty cheap; especially since most people opted for gaming office chairs.

However, the introduction of sim racing cockpits on a wide scale seemed to immediately jump-start the high demand for expensive, higher-quality seats that attached to the cockpit itself. All of a sudden, most sim racing enthusiasts weren’t satisfied with an office-styled chair that could move and was overall more of a liability.

The benefits of a sim racing cockpit were immense for those within the e-sport; no matter their level of experience or expertise behind the wheel.

For one, it was a static set-up which promised far more stability for the various components that made a full rig. All of a sudden, desks with wobbly clamps became obsolete, with far more people demanding something which promised more than just practicality.

A sim racing cockpit gave the racer a true feeling of immersion.

And what completed that immersive, exciting feel? A proper racing-styled seat, of course.

As these seats are fastened into the sim racing cockpit for stability, and are made from high-quality materials, a huge spike in popularity for these more expensive seats began to grow and grow.

It was after this initial innovation for sim racing enthusiasts to possess a more realistic home-racing experience that people started to look more at the seat specifically, as opposed to the whole rig.

Demand shifted as people wanted to spend more time racing, and the expense of a sim racing seat suddenly needed to include a whole host of worthwhile features. Lumbar support, high-quality materials that could handle some wear and tear, a longer warranty and overall longer lifespan

Sim racers started to look at sim racing more and more like PC or console gaming which had seen a boom in expensive lumbar-supported gaming seats years earlier.

It was a two-pronged sort of affair, then, which truly catapulted more expensive sim racing seats into the spotlight and a coveted place on every sim racer’s wish-list.

Between the introduction of sim racing cockpits which required a properly secured, immersive racing seat, and the desire to race for longer periods of time per session, expensive sim racing seats quickly became a necessity for a lot of reasons.

Your Seat is Essential!

 If you discard the known necessity of needing a good sim racing wheel and pedal set due to it being the base of your whole rig, the next most important thing for a proper sim racing set-up rests in the seat you’ll be using.

In order to properly explain this aspect, I always refer back to my personal background spent in general gaming. Long before I was a sim racing lover, I was a competitive gamer on both PC and PS4 (and still am!). A lot of the reasons for spending more money on a high-quality sim racing chair align with why it’s good to pay similarly for a purpose-made gaming/desk chair.

Science class was good for me in hammering home one thing, and it’s the fact that humans aren’t really designed to sit for long periods of time. Or at all. Resting way back when was done in the fashion of lying down or sleeping.

Over time, of course, we’ve been doing a lot of sitting down as jobs and hobbies evolve which require this action!

Purpose-made gaming or sim racing seats encourage the correct posture for that activity. Both types of chair encourage good posture and support the back area, a common place where discomfort arises when sitting in regular office chairs and the like. And both also encourage healthy blood-flow in the lower body; something which is absolutely essential for sim racing.

These factors open up your avenues for development!

Think about it; being uncomfortable really diminishes your ability to concentrate. You can only think about how you want to move, get comfortable and otherwise try to get out of the uncomfortable situation (in this case, a bad chair).

Not only is a good, purpose-made seat for sim racing good for your health, but it also unclouds your mind to allow you the focus required to just… well, race!

Beyond the absolutely winning aspects of personal wellbeing and ability expanding, a good sim racing seat is also more cost effective in the long-run. Buying a cheap, imported sim racing seat from the web might make your wallet happy at the time, but you can guarantee that the seat just won’t live up to your expectations.

First off, it probably won’t even be a purpose-made sim racing seat. Add that to the fact that it likely won’t have been made with the best materials or quality standards, and you’ll be replacing it before long.

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

The Features That Separate Cheap And Expensive Seats

 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 seat. The following features are pretty essential to compare and contrast different products, after all, and to make sure that you’re getting the best seat possible!

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

  • High-grade materials: Whether it’s made of leather, leather-derived products or fabric, an expensive sim racing seat will have the best of the best making it. Not just the cladding, either; all of the cushioning and padding will feel good, and the whole seat will feel somewhat weighty to reflect the superior materials used to put it together.
  • Lumbar-support that WORKS! A lot of cheap sim racing seats and office chairs claim to have lumbar-support, but only the expensive ones will have a lumbar system that truly works and does the job it’s supposed to. The cushioning in cheaper seats will be lacking and there’s no way it’ll provide your back the comfort it needs.
  • True Immersion: A large part of buying a sim racing seat is to feel as if you’re folded inside a real race car’s cockpit, after all, so a lot of expensive seats are modelled after real cars’ racing seats. This is the total immersion you should be looking for and probably the reason why you want to upgrade from a rickety, wheelie office chair.
  • Breathability: To build from the high-quality materials used in expensive sim racing seats, another important feature of the best ones out there is a material used which is breathable; adding to your comfort as a driver. Who wants to get sweaty in their own home? The answer is nobody, of course, and the best seats out there will have features ready to keep you cool even under competitive conditions.
  • Purpose-made fittings: The last thing you want is to buy an unbranded, cheap sim racing seat only to find that it won’t fit the mounts for your cockpit. Expensive seats will have a host of mounting systems and fittings, so make sure to do research before buying to find the ones that will fit with your specific rig. But you can guarantee a reliable, secure fit when buying one of these seats, that’s for sure.
  • Reputable Branding: Part of the expense when buying a sim racing seat on the pricier side comes with brand recognition, and a sort of unspoken agreement between the seat maker and buyer that the product is reputable due to their name being emblazoned upon it. Well-known brands offer long warranties on their expensive seats for a reason; they’re telling you that the seat will be worth the price and then some! Branded seats are always worth that extra spend if you do your research and find the best of the best.

The Notable Benefits Of An Expensive Sim Racing Seat

I covered this in a general sense earlier when discussing why an expensive seat 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 seat, here’s a quick list of the benefits attached to an expensive sim racing seat:

  1. Good Posture – Who wants back pain when they’re sim racing and having a great time? Nobody, that’s who! An expensive sim racing seat is ergonomically designed to seat you in the most comfortable position for optimum racing.
  2. Better Health – Circulation to the lower body is something neglected by cheaper sim racing seats and chairs in general, but seats worth their salt will encourage proper blood-flow which in turn is better for the seated individual as it will negate potentially lasting, painful issues (deep vein thrombosis, clots, etc.)
  3. Total Comfort – A seat properly designed for usage in a sim racing cockpit has comfort written into its very fabric (pun intended)! It’s not only a comfortable seat with good cushioning for your whole seated body in a position best suited for racing, but an expensive seat will make you never want to get out of it.
  4. Absolute Immersion – These seats are designed for sim racing for a reason! They’re made to mimic real racing car’s cockpit seats and they feel like the real deal, too. What is sim racing about if not to replicate the driving of a real race car without all the cost and difficulty?
  5. Lasting Value – Sure, an expensive sim racing seat will set you back in the initial spend, but making sure to guarantee the best product at the point of purchase will give you a long-lasting, high-quality seat.

How To Tell Expensive And Cheap Seats Apart

 You might think that it’s as easy as spending more money to get an expensive, high-quality sim racing seat. 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 brand names to cheap, imported seats/chairs 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 gear or seats 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 key thing to look at in furniture in general is the overall finish. For this specific tip, you’ll have to be in-person to get a true knack for it, but before long, you’ll be able to eye up pictures online and compare it to product descriptions to see if the finish is truly worth its salt.

In this case, you want to make sure that seams and designs are all symmetrical on the upholstery. It’s the small details that point to a product’s true quality, after all.

This also involves looking at any and all joins on the seat. As an example, really look at where and how the back-support joins to the seat. Does it all look flush and proper? Poor workmanship is clear to see if you check these seams and joins, because things won’t quite line up as they should.

I’d also always recommend checking how a seat will be delivered, if you’re looking online. Mostly, seats designed for sim racing should come in one piece or in two, easily connecting pieces (the back and bottom). If the online description mentions more joins than just the two, steer well clear!

Joins are, in essence, weak points in something’s construction. They aren’t just a way for the item to be assembled! High-quality, expensive products benefit from this knowledge and everything will either be put together beforehand or there’ll only be minor assembly required.

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

If a seat 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 seat will be rather pared-back with sleek designs and colors reminiscent of race seats in car cockpits.

The Best Expensive Sim Racing Seat Brands To Look Out For

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

I’ve spent a large portion of time researching this specific area due to needing a replacement seat for myself soon, so here’s a list of sim racing seat brands that offer high-quality seats:

  • Playseat
  • OpenWheeler
  • Next Level Racing
  • Momo
  • GT Omega
  • Sparco
  • RSEAT
  • DXRacer
  • GTR Simulator

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 seats, or in the case of a brand like Sparco, very passionate about creating competitive products in all things racing.

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

If you don’t have a cockpit already, it’ll be way more cost effective to buy a full cockpit with a seat included. That way, you’ll also guarantee that your high-quality seat will fit within the cockpit on specific mounts.

Cheap Or Expensive: Which Sim Racing Seat 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 seat is the way to go.

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

GTR Simulator have recently created a new sim racing cockpit with an award-winning seat included, the GTA Pro Simulator. This will cost between $580 and $900 depending on the extras you decide to purchase, such as extra monitor stands or a keyboard/mouse tray.

This is pretty staggering to consider, but it’s important to break that price down. Compare it to a company like Momo, whose seats alone are in that sort of price range, and you’ll get an entire, professional sim racing cockpit for the same price.

The seats are hugely important, of course, but it’s pretty rare to simply buy a stand-alone seat unless you’re after something very specific.

So, you’ll have a pro-level cockpit that replicates a racing car’s interior, with a high-quality seat that comes loaded with comfort and longevity, plus a blank canvas for any and all of your sim racing rig to be fitted to it.

Quickly browsing online, a typical gaming chair imported from China (you won’t find sim racing seats specifically) might fetch around $150 or less; a more attractive option than even the cheapest version of the GTR Pro Cockpit.

But then, if you break down the materials of that chair and the fact that it’ll come in pieces that need to be built, you will be replacing that chair within the year. Say, for example, you buy the same chair again. Your total is now $300 in a single year, and this next chair will have the same issues as your last one.

Unless you get very lucky in your budget purchasing, you can easily break or ruin three gaming-styled chairs in two years or so (costing you $450). Their materials just aren’t up to snuff, nor are they designed to last beyond a year’s worth of usage.

Pit this budget option up against the GTR Pro Cockpit, and you can expect that bit of kit to last you at least five years (if GTR Simulator’s warranty is anything to go by). It’s purposely built to cope with higher usage frequencies, and it’s made to last the user a long time.

Investing all of that cash off the bat into a seat or cockpit might seem daunting, but I’d always implore you to consider the long-lasting effects that the decision will have. Not only will a budget option not be properly designed as a sim racing seat, it just won’t stand up to a reputable brand’s love and care for its products.

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 Playseat, they offer the Playseat Challenge (which comes with a good ‘cockpit’ set-up for casual sim racers) which is fairly priced on Amazon. Compare that to a general gaming seat and the cost becomes a lot more worth it, wouldn’t you say?

Cheaper seats from great brands are always better than a straight-up import or typical gaming chair. 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 cockpit which can really intimidate some people.

Overall, the choice is simple: always look for more expensive sim racing seats. 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 thinking about an aching back!