Direct drive sim racing wheel bases offer the most realistic sim racing experience on the market. They can also cost a pretty penny and for those not familiar with direct drive wheels, it can be a risky investment. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable direct drive wheels on offer.
The 4 cheapest direct drive sim racing wheels are:
- Fanatec CSL DD WRC
- Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro
- SimXperience AccuForce Pro V2 Steering System
- Fanatec Podium Racing Wheel Formula
The 4 cheapest direct drive sim racing wheel bases for sim racing are:
The Fanatec CSL DD is by far the cheapest way to get into direct drive racing, but the choice between a bundle with a wheel and the wheel base on its own is an important one to make. Read on to see our alternative picks and some information to consider when purchasing a direct drive wheel.
What Is A Direct Drive Sim Racing Wheel?
A direct drive sim racing wheel is a wheel that is mounted directly onto an electric motor. With the wheel mounted in this way, the force feedback you receive feels more raw and realistic than other types of mechanisms. A traditional wheel delivers force feedback through a gear or belt system.
This traditional force feedback delivery system is usually enough for most sim racing enthusiasts, but a direct drive sim racing wheel is the next level in realistic sim racing. Belt and gear-driven force feedback delivery systems simply cannot offer the same forces as a direct drive delivery system.
A direct drive sim racing wheel’s mechanism also has fewer parts, which means fewer things can go wrong and are usually of much higher quality. The parts themselves are often sturdier and are made of much higher quality materials. Because of this, prices can often range in the thousands.
Is There A Competitive Advantage?
Direct drive sim racing wheels are also far better at conveying the roads and terrain on which you are driving. Terrain such as gravel and dirt roads or even small rocks and pebbles on the track are far easier for the motor to simulate as precise movements require little effort from the electric motor to produce when the wheel is mounted directly onto it.
This precision can also be attributed to the fact that higher frequency details are not being absorbed by any belts or gears. All of the motor’s power is going directly to the wheel.
This also offers a competitive advantage as you can feel when the grip of your tires is giving out while cornering, you can feel the curb, you can feel the difference in terrain when you go slightly off track, and you can get control of your vehicle far easier as a result. Using a direct drive sim racing wheel is a better performing, precise, and realistic way to experience sim racing.
How To Choose A Direct Drive Sim Racing Wheel
Choosing a direct drive wheel involves many different factors, but the most important when looking for a budget option is whether you opt for a standalone wheel base or a bundle with a wheel rim/pedals. Below, we will go through both of these options, starting with the cheaper bundle option. This is by far the cheapest way to get into the world of direct drive sim racing.
There aren’t many direct drive bundles out there, and this is largely because direct drive wheel bases are designed to be compatible with many different wheel rims within a given ecosystem. This allows you to create your own ideal setup, rather than buying a wheel base with a built-in rim for example. The bases are also just already very expensive. However, there are some great sim racing bundles out there.
Bundles Are Usually Cheaper
If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest option, it’s best to go for a bundle in most cases. However, this isn’t always the case if you want to go with a specific manufacturer, or if you have very specific requirements from your direct drive wheel base. You may also already have a direct drive compatible wheel rim, and so you might only need the base.
Regardless of whether you want a bundle or a standalone direct drive wheel base, we have lists of the cheapest options for both below. We’ll go through the wheel bundles first as they’re cheaper, but they all feature the wheel bases we’ll discuss in the section after that. But first, let’s find out if a direct drive wheel is even worth it for you.
Is A Direct Drive Wheel Worth It?
A direct drive wheel is worth it if you’re someone who prefers the enhanced immersion into your racing sims and you can afford it. It can help to simulate even the minute details of pebbles on the road, as well as the steering forces you would feel driving the real car.
If you can afford it, it’s absolutely worth it! If you are seeking realism then it really is next level with regard to immersion. As I previously mentioned, a direct drive wheel can simulate every little bump or even pebbles on the track. It allows you to feel a difference in terrain with a level of precision that traditional belt or gear force feedback delivery systems simply cannot match.
There is also a competitive advantage to be aware of. While cornering the feedback, your wheel does a great job letting you know when you’re about to slide, as you can feel the grip of the tires giving out. Direct drive wheels are also far easier to maintain, as there are fewer parts needing repairs or replacing.
Traditional Wheel vs Direct Drive Wheel
If we think of the belts or gears in a traditional sim racing wheel as a buffer to the input given to the machine, a direct drive wheel cuts out the middleman and allows the motor to directly and immediately deliver force feedback. This can provide a more responsive experience, reducing input latency by a significant margin and heightening our immersion while offering a competitive advantage.
While the price of a direct drive wheel often ranges in the thousands, there are still many affordable options out there on the market.
Most sim racing enthusiasts will be perfectly happy with a consumer-grade sim racing wheel that uses a traditional belt or gear force feedback delivery system, but for those looking for the most immersive sim racing experience, a direct drive wheel can be a very enticing option regardless of the price.
While someone who uses a traditional consumer-grade sim racing wheel would technically be at a competitive disadvantage compared to a direct drive wheel user, one could argue that the advantages are slight.
A skilled racer could absolutely outmaneuver and outplay a direct drive wheel user as long as they know their machine, are used to the slight delay in force feedback and have tuned the wheel to their optimal configuration.
But regardless, the lower input latency from having the wheel directly affected by the motor, acute awareness of the terrain, and information you can get from the precise force feedback certainly does provide a competitive advantage.
What To Consider
While the above stand true for direct drive wheel bases, there are lots of different options out there. One of the main differentiating factors is the peak torque offered by the wheel base.
This is an indication of the ‘power’ of the force feedback, measured in Nm, and while a gear or belt driven sim racing wheel might offer up to 2 or 3 Nm of peak torque, some direct drive wheels are capable of 20+ Nm. This means they offer much stronger – and much more realistic – force feedback than a gear or belt driven wheel.
As an absolute beginner, anything more than 5 Nm or so is usually enough to provide a substantial upgrade over belt driven wheels and provide a good introduction into the world of direct drive. However, if you’re looking for a very realistic and powerful sim racing experience, those with 10+ Nm might be more what you need.
The 4 Cheapest Direct Drive Wheels For Sim Racing
1. Fanatec CSL DD WRC
Peak Torque: 8 Nm | Compatibility: PC/Xbox | Also Included: 8 Nm Boost Kit
Our first direct drive sim racing wheel is from Fanatec, and it utilizes their newest wheel base – one of the cheapest direct drive wheel bases out there – the CSL DD. This produces 5 Nm of torque as standard, but with the boost kit included in this bundle you get up to 8 Nm of peak torque at your fingertips.
We’ll go into more detail about this specific wheel base in more detail in the next section, and for now we’ll focus on the wheel itself. It’s a 300 mm WRC-licensed steering wheel used in official esports competitions for WRC events. Its brushed aluminum spokes and Alcantara grip make this a truly wonderful looking wheel that also feels like sheer quality as well.
Shifters, Lights & Buttons
You get some nice tactile paddle shifters, along with a strip of LEDs at the top to show revs and other useful information within your chosen game. You can also use this small screen to access the tuning menu of the wheel base. This allows you to have more control over the force feedback offered by the CSL DD base.
You get a total of 12 buttons (not including the paddle shifters) and a 4-way directional pad with a push button. These can be applied to things like your windshield wipers and headlights within your favorite rally games, but they’re also usable in most other racing titles as well.
Combining all of this with the reasonably priced but fairly powerful CSL DD wheel base makes it the perfect direct drive option for rally fans, but it’s also a cheap way for any sim racer to get into the more advanced territory that direct drive has to offer. As with most of Fanatec’s products, you can swap out the rim for others at any time, making it a versatile bundle.
- Cheapest direct drive bundle available
- Great for rally fans
- Wheel may not suit other racing disciplines
- Weaker torque than some other options
2. Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro
Peak Torque: 5 Nm (8 Nm with boost kit) | Compatibility: PlayStation/PC/Xbox| Also Included: Fanatec CSL 2-Pedal Set
For around the same price as the WRC 8 Nm bundle, you can get a 5 Nm DD Pro wheel base with a Gran Turismo wheel rim, along with a CSL 2-pedal set. This makes this option arguably the perfect budget option for sim racers looking to get into direct drive racing, especially for those on console, as this wheel works with PC, Xbox and PlayStation.
You can upgrade to the 8 Nm version, but it also increases the price significantly and, as you’ll see below, if this is something you’re considering you may be better to opt for the CSL DD with a boost kit instead as it’s cheaper (if you’re not playing on PlayStation of course). But for the price, this is a good option for those that want a simple setup with pedals included.
The pedals are Fanatec’s CSL line, which while decent don’t really keep up with the quality of experience offered by the DD Pro wheel base underneath the GT rim (more on that in a moment). You can upgrade these pedals to a 3-pedal set and there is a load cell kit available for the brake pedal, but this combination at this price point really sets this bundle up as one for beginner sim racers only.
Now, the wheel included in this bundle is a Gran Turismo styled wheel, fully equipped with four multi-directional toggles that can be mapped to things like traction control and brake bias in Gran Turismo 7 (or GT Sport etc). It’s a smaller wheel than the WRC option at 280 mm, but it also has a rev stripe and an OLED screen that you can use for tuning the force feedback.
Along with the four 5-directional sticks there is a menu navigation stick that also moves in 5 directions, alongside 11 other buttons and two paddle shifters at the back. These paddles, along with the overall rubberized feel of the wheel, can make it feel a little cheap for some, but for an entry level console-compatible direct drive bundle, this is hard to beat.
Perfect For Beginners
Like the WRC wheel this wheel and wheel base is compatible with many of Fanatec’s other products, and you’ll be able to use compatible shifters, handbrakes, and other peripherals, along with exchanging the rim out for another if you have one. This is an excellent choice for beginner sim racers looking to see what direct drive has to offer.
- Perfect bundle for beginners
- Ideal direct drive option for PlayStation users
- Highly functional wheel
- Only comes with 5 Nm peak torque as standard
- Wheel might feel a bit cheap
3. SimXperience AccuForce Pro V2 Steering System
Peak Torque: 13 Nm | Compatibility: PC | Also Included: Button Box, Force Feedback Controller
SimXperience’s AccuForce Pro V2 steering system is the only bundle on this list not from Fanatec, and it is a truly unique offering. You get the excellent AccuForce V2 direct drive wheel base, capable of outputting a massive 13 Nm of torque, along with a stunning Alcantara-wrapped 320 mm steering wheel. You even get an additional button box with paddle shifters too.
This is all alongside everything else you need to set up your AccuForce wheel for success, like the force feedback controller and all the various cables and mounting screws. It’s designed to be ready to play, and it’s an excellent choice for those that need a bit more power from a direct drive wheel.
This wheel (and its associated wheel base) is only compatible with PC, and it’s quite an upgrade over the cheaper DD and DD Pro wheels discussed above. The wheel base is extremely powerful and packed with advanced technology for rapid response times and incredible precision. All of this is highly customizable with the included software too.
You get an excellent button box, which has a carbon fiber finish and several push buttons, rotary switches, toggle switches, and aluminum shifters on the back. It offers up to 400 hours of battery life and is easily charged up. All of this combines to make a very sleek but highly functional sim racing setup, offering amazing feel with the direct drive wheel base.
- Excellent peak torque
- Great value bundle
- High-quality materials
- Only compatible with PC
4. Fanatec Podium Racing Wheel Formula
Peak Torque: 8 Nm | Compatibility: PC/Xbox | Also Included: Advanced Paddle Module
The last bundle on our list is the Podium Formula racing wheel from Fanatec. This makes use of the DD1 wheel base (see below), and it’s designed with Formula racing in mind. This wheel base is capable of outputting up to 20 Nm of torque, which is far more than most beginners and even intermediate level sim racers will ever need.
The wheel itself is simply beautiful. It’s designed to replicate the look, functionality and feel of a Formula 1 steering wheel, and so it’s packed with buttons, toggle and rotary switches, and rev and flag lights that keep you up to date with what’s happening on the track. You also get the advanced paddle module too, giving you increased functionality for things like clutch paddles.
The Alcantara of the wheel grips make it feel excellent to use, and the carbon fiber finishings don’t just look great as they also make the wheel exceptionally light too. You get a total of 11 buttons, 2 rocker switches, an analogue joystick, a 7-way FunkySwitch, 2 thumb encoders, and two 12-way multi-position switches.
If you find yourself racing in the F1 games and other similar titles, this bundle could be ideal for you. If you rarely race those kinds of cars, the rim’s shape and size is likely not going to be suitable, and it may be best to try and get the wheel base by itself and add your own rim.
The Podium F1 Wheel
While the Podium Formula racing wheel is compatible with PC and Xbox, there is the slightly more expensive Podium F1 wheel for PlayStation users. This also comes with the DD1 wheel base (albeit a PlayStation specific one) and so most of the specs are the same, although the wheel does look a bit different.
- Great for fans of F1
- Highly functional wheel
- Very strong peak torque
- Wheel rim may be too small for some racing disciplines
- Quite expensive
The 4 Cheapest Direct Drive Wheel Bases For Sim Racing
1. Fanatec DD
Peak Torque: 5 Nm (8 Nm with boost kit) | Compatibility: PC/Xbox (PlayStation with the GT DD Pro)
The Fanatec DD is our number 1 pick, being the cheapest on the list without sacrificing too much in the way of price. The cheapest iteration of this wheel base is the CSL DD with 5 Nm of peak torque, while the most expensive standalone (no wheel or pedals) option is the GT DD Pro with 8 Nm of torque.
While the 5 Nm of torque may seem low, given that it’s only 3 Nm higher than the usual standard of 2 Nm on a traditional belt or gear driven wheel, it is still a direct drive system, meaning it will feel more responsive and far more powerful. A boost kit can be purchased separately, unlocking the full 8 Nm of power that it can deliver, or you can opt for the GT DD Pro version.
It also doesn’t need any active cooling as the aluminum chassis works as a passive heatsink keeping the motor nice and cool even at high sustained levels of torque. The passive cooling also means that you don’t have to deal with the annoying sound of a fan firing up to cool the unit down under high sustained torque.
The tuning menu has been simplified for ease of use and opens the door to beginner enthusiasts. The advanced tuning menu is still available for those who want to tinker around with it a bit more and who knows what they’re doing.
Settings such as the maximum steering angle, overall force feedback strength, natural damper, friction, inertia, and everything in between can be finely adjusted to your personal preference. Regardless of which DD option you choose, these wheel bases are compatible with the Podium, ClubSport, and CSL wheels, all Fanatec pedals, along with their shifters, handbrakes and RennSport cockpits.
Size And I/O
The DD is quite small, no matter if you choose the CSL DD or GT DD Pro, and you will be able to accommodate this into your setup with relative ease. It’s also a great option if you were looking to make a more minimalistic sim racing setup that you can easily pack away when not in use or for easy storage.
The wheelbase also acts as a hub, allowing you to input 1 set of pedals, 2 shifters, and a handbrake from the Fanatec ecosystem into the unit. This can be especially helpful for those who might not have enough inputs on their PC or console and don’t want to use a traditional USB hub.
Optional Boost Kit
I highly recommend getting the optional boost kit that unlocks the true potential of the unit. It is essentially a larger power supply that allows it to reach a peak torque of 8 Nm, which is a significant and noticeable boost in power. If you purchase the available bundle including the boost kit you can also usually save some money as opposed to buying the CSL DD and boost kit separately.
Without the boost kit, the 5 Nm can leave you wanting more and the high-frequency details can sometimes be lost with the lower power 5 Nm version. I would strongly recommend that if you are going to purchase the CSL DD that you should budget for the 8 Nm boost kit.
CSL DD vs GT DD Pro
As we mentioned, there are various iterations to choose from:
There are options for both the CSL and Gran Turismo wheel bases that come with wheels, and one of the GT options allows you to buy the 5 Nm wheel base with a wheel (see our list above), even though you can’t seem to purchase the 5 Nm version of the GT DD Pro wheel base on its own (i.e. without the boost kit). This makes choosing between the options a little tricky at first glance.
The CSL DD and the GT DD Pro are both very similar, but the DD Pro is actually just under 2 kg lighter than the CSL DD (about 4.4 lbs). The CSL DD also has a Fanatec Data Port on the back, while this is absent from the DD Pro in all configurations. Other than these two differences, and subtle differences in the way they look, they’re pretty much the same.
GT DD Pro For PS4/PS5
The real key difference is that the Gran Turismo DD Pro is compatible with PC, Xbox and PlayStation, while the CSL DD only works with Xbox and PC. That will be the main differentiator if you’re a console player. The GT DD Pro is perfect for those who frequently hop between platforms or simply want to future-proof their wheel just in case they choose to purchase a PlayStation further down the line.
The Gran Turismo DD Pro is almost double the price of the 5 Nm CSL DD and that price increase is mainly due to the boost kit being included, making 8 Nm of torque possible, alongside the added PlayStation compatibility.
However, if you aren’t interested in using this in tandem with a PlayStation console it may be in your best interest to just get the CSL DD and purchase the boost kit separately. This is still about $100 cheaper than the GT DD Pro wheel base on its own with the same torque rating, making this the ideal option for most people.
- Cheapest direct drive unit available on the market
- Various iterations to choose from
- Noiseless passive cooling
- 5 Nm version without 8 Nm boost kit feels underwhelming
- Traditional table clamp may not be ideal for use with 8 Nm boost kit
- Compatible with PC and Xbox but not PlayStation
2. VRS DirectForce Pro
Peak Torque: 20 Nm | Compatibility: PC
VRS has always focused on both quality and little to no compromises as possible. The VRS DirectForce Pro is no exception, with the exceptional build quality and 20 Nm of torque available. 20 Nm is more than most people would even need to fully immerse themselves and provide the powerful and snappy response that direct drive wheels are known for delivering.
It comes with a VRS DirectForce Pro Controller, which is essentially an all-in-one motor and forces feedback USB controller. The controller is well ventilated and is powered by a 400W power supply. The power supply itself is huge and will take up a good chunk of space on your desk.
The electric motor has sensors built in that detect whether temperatures are at unsafe levels, where upon reaching these thermals, it will turn off the device, preventing potential fire hazards. While it’s unlikely that the motor will ever reach such temperatures, it’s a great feature to have nonetheless.
The Tuning Software
The DirectForce Pro software allows you to properly center the wheel and configure various settings such as the smoothness and the max force feedback. These, among other settings, can be finely adjusted using the software, meaning you can adjust this until it is perfect for you.
Separate profiles can be made for different games meaning dialing in someone else’s settings or switching between profiles when switching to a different sim racer is quick and easy.
Smooth And Refined
The first thing you notice while using the DirectForce Pro is how smooth the rotation is. Some traditional belt or gear-driven systems can feel clunky as if the wheel is rotating in notches. High-frequency details such as differences in terrain or driving over rumble strips are excellently highlighted, even when set to a more moderate 12 Nm of torque.
Its extremely powerful motor and affordable price make it a very enticing option for those looking to seriously up their game.
- Very high peak torque of 20 Nm
- Versatile software
- Exceptional build quality
- Most users will find 20 Nm uncomfortably and will lower the peak torque
- The controller, power supply, and device itself can take up a lot of space
- Not as affordable as other competitive options
3. SimXperience AccuForce Pro V2
Peak Torque: 13 Nm | Compatibility: PC
As one of the more expensive options on our list, the AccuForce Pro V2 delivers a more moderate 13 Nm of sustained torque. Out of the box, it provides strong and immersive feedback but it isn’t until you tune the device using the Sim Commander software that its potential truly reveals itself. Within the software, you can finely tune the wheel to your liking.
The software allows you to scan your system for games and then it will automatically gather game profiles ready for you to use. You can adjust these profiles to your preference but these profiles must be applied for the wheel to feel as smooth and responsive as it can be.
While the completely user-definable force feedback system may be more useful to an advanced user, the software’s ability to auto-optimize and pull up profiles for you based on the game you are playing is a very beginner-friendly addition that doesn’t go unnoticed. There is also an array of expansion ports available for additional buttons, pedals, displays, and rotary encoders.
High Quality Build Materials
The build quality is excellent, while the automotive-grade quick release system itself is made from machined aluminum and holds together really well with little to no play. This is a truly impressive direct drive wheel base, and is fairly affordable given the quality.
- Robust software included features automated game profiles
- Build materials of high quality
- Powerful low inertia motor capable of 13 Nm sustained torque
- Noisy fan can become annoying after a while
4. Fanatec Podium DD
Peak Torque: 20 Nm (DD1) or 25 Nm (DD2) | Compatibility: PC/Xbox (PlayStation with the F1 wheel)
The Fanatec Podium DD wheel base is truly a powerhouse, pushing a staggering 20 Nm of peak torque if you opt for the cheaper DD1, or 25 Nm with the DD2, far more than you will probably ever need. High-frequency details are at the forefront with zero compromises. The high torque also means having much heavier wheels attached won’t affect the motor acceleration or speed.
The build quality is fantastic. The DD1 features an all-aluminum housing with an automotive-grade quick release system, while the DD2 comes with a carbon fiber finish. The new Podium software allows you to fine-tune your wheel and how the motor behaves.It can also display useful telemetry data like your brake temperatures and lap times.
The wheelbase has an integrated OLED display that shows you real-time data such as the power output and force feedback clipping. If you opt for the more powerful (but more expensive) DD2, you’ll also get an emergency stop button to use if the 25 Nm of peak torque gets a little too much.
Size And Setup
The Fanatec Podium DD1 and DD2 are both the most expensive, most powerful, and the largest units on our list. It may be more difficult for some to accommodate one of these into their setup due to their sheer size, but mounting one is relatively pain-free and the instruction manual is straightforward and easy to follow. If you can afford one of the Fanatec Podium bases it is absolutely worth it.
The powerful motor, excellent build quality, and the integrated OLED display that can display telemetry data make the Podium DD series of the most enticing options on the list given the feature set. However, it is also the most expensive and is quite an investment.
- Integrated OLED display that offers telemetry data in real-time
- Very powerful 20 Nm motor
- Very high-quality build materials
- Far more expensive than other competitive options
- Setup can be awkward due to its sheer size
- Not compatible with PlayStation
What Is The Cheapest Direct Drive Wheel For Sim Racing?
The cheapest direct drive wheel is the Fanatec CSL DD, with the cheapest bundle being the 8 Nm WRC wheel for Xbox and PC. It doesn’t sacrifice too much for the sake of a lower price point and features a peak torque of 5 Nm (upgradeable to 8 Nm), and it doesn’t need any active cooling either.
The CSL DD is the newest in Fanatec’s range, and it’s designed to be an effective direct drive solution for those on a budget. You can use most of Fanatec’s range of steering wheels with this base, including the Podium series.
Getting a direct drive wheel doesn’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of affordable options out there on the market. I would recommend the CSL DD and that you purchase the boost kit if 5 Nm is underwhelming. If you can afford it, the Fanatec Podium DD1 offers the best feature set under the $1,500 mark.