Choosing between a cheap and an expensive sim racing can be tough if you don’t know what to look for. Cheaper seats can be more attractive to those just getting into the hobby, but should you opt for a more expensive sim racing seat instead?
Cheaper sim racing seats tend to be best for beginners, but more expensive sim racing seats are generally better in the long run. In terms of overall features, longevity and quality, sim racing seats on the more expensive side of the price spectrum are the best choice.
Below, we take a closer look at all the differences between cheap and expensive sim racing seats so that you can decide which one is best for you. We’ll also mention a few of our favorites in both brackets.
Why Are Sim Racing Seats So Expensive?
Sim racing seats are so expensive because they’re made with high-quality materials and are designed to emulate the experience of driving a real car. Some come with additional features like lumbar support and improved breathability, which drive the cost up further.
As good sim racing seats are fastened into the sim racing cockpit for stability, and are made from high-quality materials, they generally cost a fair amount of money. This is because they’re designed to offer a high level of immersion and to last a long time.
Humans aren’t really designed to sit for long periods of time. Over time, of course, we’ve been doing a lot of sitting down as many jobs and hobbies require it. This means it’s almost an unnatural thing to sit for long periods of time (such as when you’re sim racing) and so sim racing seat manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure you remain comfortable.
Being uncomfortable really diminishes your ability to concentrate. Concentration is key for fast-paced sim racing, so the last thing you want is to be stuck in a chair that makes you want to get out of it! There are some good desk chairs for sim racing, but generally a purpose-built sim racing chair will be best.
They Fit Into Cockpits
Many high-quality sim racing seats will fit right into your dedicated sim racing rig, and this means they are built to be versatile but also function well with other pieces of sim racing equipment. This requires knowledge and expertise within the industry, and manufacturers will charge a premium for this insight – but it pays off as you get an easily-integrated part of your new setup!
Should You Buy A Cheap Or Expensive Sim Racing Seat?
A more expensive, high-quality sim racing seat is more cost effective in the long-run. Buying a cheap, low-quality sim racing seat might make financial sense at the time, but a more expensive choice from a reputable sim racing manufacturer will usually ensure you get more value for your money.
Note: For the sake of this article, assume 'expensive' means 'high-quality,' as clearly there will be pricey options out there that are no good! But they're not what we're talking about here.
Features That Separate Cheap & Expensive Sim Racing Seats
Whether it’s made of leather or fabric, an expensive sim racing seat will usually be made of high-quality materials that offer comfort and durability. All of the cushioning and padding will feel comfortable rather than obtrusive, and the whole seat will feel somewhat weighty to reflect the superior materials used to put it together.
A lot of cheap sim racing seats and office chairs claim to have lumbar support, but only the high-quality, generally more expensive ones will have a system that truly works and does the job it’s supposed to. The cushioning in many cheaper seats will be lacking, and there’s no way it’ll provide your back with the comfort it needs.
A large part of buying a sim racing seat is to feel as if you’re inside a real race car’s cockpit, so a lot of expensive seats are modelled after real race car seats. This is the total immersion you should be looking for and probably the reason you want to upgrade from a rickety, wheel-bound office chair! Cheaper ones will generally just not offer the same level of immersion.
High-quality racing chairs will be made with breathable materials to ensure you don’t get uncomfortably warm during long racing sessions. Cheaper plastic-based seats might be usable for an hour or so, but without proper breathability, it can become overly sweaty and very uncomfortable pretty quickly.
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 your research before buying to find the ones that will fit with your specific rig.
Note: There are of course all-in-one cockpits out there too with built-in seats, but for the sake of this article we're mostly just talking about standalone seats that you would add to your existing cockpit.
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 tend to offer longer warranties on their expensive seats for a reason. They’re telling you that their sim racing seat will last a long time and be worth the price. Branded seats are usually always worth that extra spend if you do your research and find one that suits your particular setup.
KEY POINTS• Sim racing seats are expensive as they’re tailor-made for realism
• Cheaper seats don’t tend to last as long or offer the same high-quality experience as pricier ones
• You want a seat that offers immersion, comfort and durability
The 5 Benefits Of An Expensive Sim Racing Seat
1. Good Posture
An expensive sim racing seat is ergonomically designed to seat you in the most comfortable position for the optimum racing experience. Cheaper seats pay less attention to your posture, which can make them uncomfortable during longer racing sessions.
2. Better Health
Circulation to the lower body is something neglected by cheaper sim racing seats and many chairs in general, but seats worth their salt will encourage proper blood-flow. This helps prevent potential health issues after prolonged periods of sitting.
3. Total Comfort
A seat properly designed for use in a sim racing cockpit has comfort baked into its design. They are designed to be a comfortable seat with good cushioning for your whole body in a position best suited for racing.
4. Absolute Immersion
These seats are made to mimic those found in real race cars, and they feel like the real deal too. Given sim racing is all about immersion, having a high-quality seat is one of the best ways to achieve that goal.
5. Lasting Value
Expensive sim racing seats might have a larger initial outlay, but over time they will provide value for money above what a cheaper seat can. Longer warranties are generally offered by the top manufacturers, but good seats will tend to outlast these by a few years.
Are Expensive Sim Racing Seats Always Better?
Expensive sim racing seats are not always better, as there are some on the market that are actually poor quality at a high price. Aside from this potential issue, some expensive sim racing seats just won’t be worth it for beginners, or for those with incompatible sim racing rigs.
Do Your Research
You want to make sure you’re getting the best product for your money, so doing your own research is key. Learning about what other sim racers think about specific seats will always help you separate good brands from needlessly expensive ones, so be sure to browse product reviews and sim racing forums.
You also want to make sure whatever product you’re considering buying will actually be compatible with your setup. Can you mount the seat to your rig? Will it even fit in your sim racing space? It may be of high quality, but if it won’t fit, it’s not going to be worth buying!
The Best Sim Racing Seat Brands To Look Out For
Good sim racing seat brands to check include:
- Next Level Racing
- GT Omega
- GTR Simulator
The Playseat challenge is one of the most popular cheap sim racing seats that doubles up as a dedicated cockpit. This is a great choice if you’re a beginner sim racer, as it offers a high-quality construction paired with comfort and an ergonomic seating position, all at a fairly low price.
Next Level Racing ES1
The ES1 from Next Level Racing is a pricier choice, and it’s a standalone seat compared to the Playseat Challenge’s all-in-one cockpit design. However, it’s made from high-quality materials, offers a comfortable seating position, and is compatible with many popular sim racing rigs.
The Sparco Grid-Q is definitely an expensive choice, but this is one of the best sim racing seats on the market. It’ll slot into most rigs with ease, and it offers plenty of comfort thanks to its customizable pads all over the seat. This is a great choice for those with the budget for total immersion.
It’s normally always best to opt for a more expensive sim racing seat over a cheaper one, as they tend to be made from higher quality materials and they offer more immersion too. However, what constitutes cheap and expensive will vary for different people, but we recommend always going for the best seat that you can comfortably afford.
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