Cheap vs Expensive Sim Racing Shifters: Which To Choose?

Choosing between cheap and expensive sim racing shifters can seem like a daunting choice when you’re just starting out with the hobby. However, it becomes an easier decision to make once you understand the differences between cheap and expensive sim racing shifters.

Cheap sim racing shifters don’t tend to last as long as more expensive ones, as they’re generally made with more plastic than metal, and they offer less immersion too. In terms of features, longevity and quality, sim racing shifters on the expensive side of the price spectrum are the best choice.

Below, we’ll discuss why sim racing shifters are so expensive and whether you should buy one for your rig. We’ll then discuss the key benefits of spending a bit of extra cash on a sim racing shifter.

Logitech Driving Force sim racing gear shifter mounted to a wooden table, Cheap vs Expensive Sim Racing Shifters

Why Are Sim Racing Shifters So Expensive?

Sim racing shifters are expensive because they’re made out of high-quality materials and are designed to offer high levels of immersion. While there are some cheap, non-brand shifters available, the best options tend to cost at least $100, with some costing $500+.

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 shifter you’ll really be missing a key part of that realism.

Do You Need One?

But there’s quite a lot of debate about how necessary a separate stick shift really is, but if you play any sim racing games that involve manual shifting (be it sequential or H-pattern), you’ll know the value of an external shifter. No matter how responsive and high-quality your paddle shifters might be, there really isn’t a comparison in terms of replicating a manual gearbox.

Note: Whether you need a sim racing shifter will largely depend on the games you play. If you play a lot of the F1 games for example, you'll find less use for one than someone that loves to play a lot of rally sims.

High-Tech Shifters

Stick shifters for sim racing rigs have multiple features that help to realistically replicate the resistance you’d feel with a real car’s manual shifter. Many shifters have a ball and spring resistance system in order to replicate an early peak force, after which the resistance drops. This will feel just like engaging the next gear in a real car’s cockpit!

The Features That Separate Cheap & Expensive Shifters

High-Grade Materials

The more expensive shifters out there utilize high-quality materials and usually a lot of metal 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, adding to the immersion.

Immersion

Paddle shifting is fine for many games (including F1 and GT racing), but if you’re racing in cars that have a manual gearbox in real life, you’re going to be lacking in the immersion department without a shifter. H-pattern shifters might not be the fastest, but they can add a new layer of immersion and fun to your sim racing experience.

Big Brands

Part of the expense when buying sim racing shifters on the pricier side comes with brand recognition. Well-known brands usually offer long warranties on their expensive shifters because they trust that the product will do the job and last a long time. Cheaper products from non-sim racing manufacturers usually just don’t last as long or offer the same quality of experience.

Ultimate Adjustability

More expensive sim racing shifters will also offer far more adjustability than cheaper options. The main feature you’ll come across on the mid-range choices like the Fanatec SQ v1.5 or Thrustmaster TH8A is the ability to switch between H-pattern and sequential modes. However, you’ll also find resistance adjustability on expensive shifters, and even interchangeable parts.

KEY POINTS

• Sim racing shifters are expensive as they’re designed for realism and they’re made with high-quality materials

• Cheaper ones don’t tend to last as long or offer as much immersion

• The best sim racing shifters also offer lots of adjustability

The Benefits Of An Expensive Sim Racing Shifter

Absolute Immersion

Everything from the looks to the feel of using one, a truly great sim racing shifter is designed to replicate the feeling of being in a real race car’s cockpit. Whether it’s to drive a classic manual F1 car around Monaco or to traverse through a rally course with a sequential shifter and handbrake combination, paddle shifters just won’t compete with the immersion a proper shifter can offer.

Lasting Value

Although the initial spend is considerably greater than for cheap sim racing shifters, you’re guaranteed better value for money in the long run. The materials will be of higher quality and last longer, and features such as a ball-spring resistance system will continue to deliver realistic resistance over time.

The Best Sim Racing Shifter Brands To Look Out For

The best sim racing shifter brands include:

  • Pro Sim
  • Heusinkveld
  • Fanatec
  • Thrustmaster
  • Aiologs
  • SHH Shifter

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

Final Thoughts

Cheaper sim racing shifters don’t usually last as long as more expensive, higher quality options. They don’t offer as much immersion or come with as much adjustability either. As long as you buy from a reputable, dedicated sim racing brand, you can really boost the realism of your rig with a good sim racing shifter.

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