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Cheap vs Expensive Sim Racing Wheels: Which Ones To Choose

Choosing between cheap and expensive sim racing wheels can be a daunting process, as there are so many options in various different pricing brackets. But it becomes a much easier decision to make when you’re aware of the differences between cheap and expensive sim racing wheels.

Cheap sim racing wheels don’t usually offer as much immersion or as much of a competitive edge as more expensive, high-quality wheels do. In terms of overall features, longevity and quality, sim racing wheels on the more expensive side of the price spectrum are the best choice.

Below, we’ll go into the differences between cheap and expensive wheels in more detail to help you understand why it’s usually best to spend a little more. We’ll also discuss a few of our favorite sim racing wheel brands to check out.

Why Are Sim Racing Wheels So Expensive?

Sim racing wheels are expensive as they are usually made out of high-quality materials using complex manufacturing processes, and they offer a high level of immersion too. They are an integral part of any sim racing rig, and the quality can vary a lot between brands.

The bulk of your sim racing rig will be built around your wheel, and so it’s important you make the right choice. With so many options on the market, it can be tempting to just go for one of the cheaper options to be safe. But in sim racing, it’s always worth opting for the best quality you can afford – nowhere is that more important than with your wheel.

You’re Paying For Immersion

Cheaper sim racing wheels still do the job, but they feel smaller and are usually made of cheaper, lower quality components. Not only will these wheels tend not to last as long as a high-quality sim racing wheel, but they’ll also just not feel as satisfying or as immersive to use.

More expensive wheels benefit from high-quality wheel rim coverings like real leather or Alcantara, which are used on many wheels on real race cars. This, and their overall higher build quality will help offer a higher level of immersion. They usually also have more features, like extra buttons and switches, clutch paddles, and direct drive force feedback if they come with a base.

The Features That Separate Cheap & Expensive Wheels

High-Quality Materials

Expensive sim racing wheels tend to be made of higher quality materials than cheaper options, and this boosts durability as well as immersion. The better the materials, the longer it’ll last, but also the more realistic it will feel. Cheap, plastic wheels will be fine for absolute beginners on a tight budget, but you’ll quickly want more.

Immersion

The level of immersion you get from your wheel will be influenced by more than just the price. However, more expensive wheels do tend to offer more immersive features, like better force feedback (this depends on the wheel base of course) and more realistic designs. For example, some wheels might be more rectangular like those found on F1 cars, while others may be large and round to simulate those found in rally racing.

Large Range Of Rotation

While range of rotation isn’t that important when you’re talking about mid-range or more premium sim racing wheels, it will be a differentiating factor when comparing the cheapest ones to the more expensive ones. The absolute cheapest wheels might only offer 270-360 degrees of rotation, but you’ll need at least 900 if you want it to feel like a real steering wheel.

Good Selection Of Buttons

You’ve probably seen sim racing wheels with a lot of buttons and switches, and this offers lots of room for customization. It’s not always a case of more is better, but cheaper wheels do tend to lack some of the buttons and switches that are common on more expensive wheels. This means they also lack the option to map various buttons to different functions in-game.

Reputable Brands

Part of the expense when buying a sim racing wheel on the pricier side comes with brand recognition. Well-known brands tend to offer long warranties on their expensive wheels as they have confidence that their products will last.

KEY POINTS

• More expensive sim racing wheels tend to last longer and offer more features than cheaper ones

• They usually provide more immersion and have more mappable buttons and switches

• You should always pick a sim racing wheel from a reputable brand

The Notable Benefits Of An Expensive Sim Racing Wheel

Improved Immersion

Everything from the looks to the feel of using one, a truly great sim racing wheel is designed to replicate the feeling of being in a real race car’s cockpit. While cheaper sim racing wheels might offer more immersion than a controller, it’s only high-quality wheels that will provide true, lasting realism.

Better Value

Although the initial spend is considerably greater than for cheap sim racing wheels, buying a more expensive sim racing wheel will usually guarantee you more years of lasting value. As long as you opt for a wheel from a reputable brand that offers a decent warranty policy, you can expect years of immersive fun from a more expensive sim racing wheel.

Competitive Streak

A high-quality sim racing wheel won’t immediately make you faster, but better force feedback, more mappable buttons and switches, and a more enjoyable racing experience can make it easier for you to improve your lap times. It’s part of the reason you’ll normally see professional sim racers using wheels from the likes of Fanatec.

Seamless Compatibility

No matter what your medium for sim racing is, whether it be console or PC, more expensive hardware will tend to offer the best connection options for painless setup. Cheaper sim racing wheels can suffer from limited connectivity options, and you may need to purchase additional adapters. However, regardless of wheel price, many are designed for PC use and not for console. This is worth bearing in mind!

The Best Expensive Sim Racing Wheel Brands To Look Out For

The best sim racing wheel manufacturers include:

  • Fanatec
  • Simucube
  • Ascher Racing
  • Thrustmaster
  • Precision Sim Engineering
  • SimXperience
  • SimSteering

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 wheels, or generally produce high-end sim racing hardware for your whole rig.

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

Final Thoughts

It’s always best to choose the highest quality that you can afford when buying sim racing products, and this rule applies to sim racing wheels especially. They’re such an important part of your rig, so it’s wise to understand what you can actually get when you spend a little extra cash!