Through the course of this article, I’m going to assess the different price points of gear stick shifters on the market right now so that you, the reader, can make a better assessment of how much you should be spending. For the full run-down, read on!
So, what is the average cost of sim racing gear stick shifters? Most sim racing gear stick shifters cost between $50 and $200. However, depending on the features and quality you are looking for, you can find some gear stick shifters that fall outside of this price range.
Knowing what you’re looking for in a product to go with your sim racing rig is super important, and this article is designed to help clarify what kind of shifter will fit best with you. With all of that said and done, let’s get into it!
Budget Sim Racing Shifters
Weight: 0.5kg to 1kg
Size: Small, compact
The best way to describe the lower priced shifters out there is: cheap and cheerful!
If you’re simply looking to get into sim racing and don’t want to be forking out your life savings, budget options are a great introduction to enjoy.
You do often run the risk of the ‘cheap’ aspect coming back to haunt you if ample research isn’t done beforehand, of course, but if you make sure to read reviews of products before you buy, these issues will hopefully just remain a distant nightmare.
Price ranges for budget shifters will be between $20 and $80, with the latter price being a very high estimate indeed. You can browse Amazon and find a lot of shifters at the lower end of that bracket easily enough. If you really think about it, investing such a small amount into having a cool, immersive part of a sim racing rig is definitely worth it.
The main reason why people want gear stick shifters as opposed to using the paddles on the back of steering wheels is down to immersion, and the untold satisfaction that comes from driving stick.
Sure, it might not be as fast, but it feels pretty fantastic!
One of the main things to look out for with budget options is to see how they connect to either your console or PC. A lot of shifters you can find on eBay, for example, will ship from China and they might not have the connection method you expect.
The last thing you want is to have gotten a price-steal for your rig that you can’t even use, so make sure to read all of the technical specifications in detail before buying.
Now, as for material, it goes without saying that you’ll be buying a plastic gear stick shifter if you’re spending within the budget region. In some cases, that can be a negative if you feel like the material is low-grade and nearly cracks every time you change gears (trust me, I had a friend who suffered from a purchase like this).
If you pay attention to website reviews and generally try to pick good brands, however, the material will hardly be an issue.
One of the best examples of this is one of my favorite ‘cheap n’ cheerful’ brands, Logitech. If you’re an avid gaming fan or are generally into technology, you’ll know that Logitech is far from a budget option in terms of quality when they manufacture products.
They offer affordable pieces of tech that are built to last without breaking your bank account. So, you can imagine my excitement when I found out that they have a hand in the sim racing world. I bought their G Gaming Driving Force Shifter with my first rig for less than $50 and I still have it, neatly packed in its box for if I have any problems with my current shifter.
Sure, the whole thing is made of plastic, but honestly? If you’re not looking for a carbon copy realism from race-car cockpits or other top-end cars, this shifter is pretty darn amazing. It’s fun and easy to use with a super simple set-up for PlayStation or PC.
It goes without saying that ‘budget’ doesn’t have to be a bad thing! If you buy purely based on the cheapest shifter you can find, you’ll probably run into problems with quality and how long the shifter will last.
And if you’re looking for a more intensive realism with your sim racing, this bracket of products probably isn’t for you. Buying budget means buying for fun, casual experience-building, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for somebody who wants to be racing competitively or generally improving for competitions.
Between the somewhat flimsy weight of budget options due to their plastic materials and the tendency for breakages after minimal usage, they aren’t optimal for absolute immersion. That’s when you want to cross more into the mid-range and premium shifters to get a weighty, realistic reaction when you change gears.
Mid-Range Sim Racing Shifters
Weight: 1.5kg to 2.5kg
Material: Metal & high-grade plastic
Size: Medium, approx. size of gear stick shifters in real cars
This middling area of price and quality is where shifters start becoming more competitive and realistic. Most people who get into sim racing will likely fall into this bracket after they reach the limits of their first rig, and the majority will stay within this bracket.
It’s the ideal price point for those of us who want to be competitive and keep seeing improvement without spending the price of a cheap car on a single piece of equipment!
The price range of these shifters is often within the realms of $80 and $300; quite the wide bracket. However, most gear stick shifters you can find on manufacturer websites and in general fit into this bracket.
Anything more expensive than this is what will fall into the premium, professional level for people who earn money by sim racing.
The biggest difference between budget shifters and mid-range is definitely the quality of material used as standard. You’ll notice that the primary build material is a variety of metal, and hardened plastic will be used as accents or decoration; if it’s even there at all.
This metal composition serves multiple purposes, as you can probably imagine. First and foremost, a metal stick shifter will last far longer than its full plastic counterparts. Not only will the mechanisms be more reliable and less prone to seizing, but the exterior will stay looking great whereas plastic will start becoming worn with a lot of usage.
Another huge advantage of metal gear shifters and why a lot of sim racers choose this mid-range is down to the ‘weightier’ feel, adding to the overall realism of their rig. You’ll feel a lot more pronounced ‘clunks’ and ‘clacks’ as you change through gears, something seen in race cars around the world. In short, it’s freaking awesome!
Even though you’re looking to spend more money on this piece of equipment, that doesn’t always guarantee its quality or ease of operation. Spend time reading the technical specifications to see if the shifter will work with your console or PC, first and foremost, and check the reviews.
There’s no worse feeling than spending a large chunk of money on something that doesn’t work as intended, or just isn’t what the website page advertised. The tried and tested brands I’ve found are ThrustMaster and Fanatec, both of whom offer gear stick shifters in this mid-range bracket.
The TH8A by ThrustMaster looks like it was lifted straight from a car’s cockpit, and it offers a choice of shifter type; H-pattern or sequential. H-pattern is how a normal car shifts, with different positions having a different gear correlation. Sequential shifts up by moving the stick upwards, and shifts down by moving the stick backwards.
Having the choice is a nice addition, and part of the package when you choose a mid-range product. For $150 on Amazon, you’ll be getting a piece of equipment that lasts and will evolve with your rig as you improve your sim racing skills.
Similar to the Fanatec SQ V 1.5 shifter, these products are more of an investment. If you spend a lot of time racing, you’ll soon earn that money back as you see your skills sky-rocket.
The best way to sum up gear stick shifters in this price range is finding an amazing balance between realism and competitiveness. After all, you’ll be losing time by choosing to use a gear stick; it’s why a lot of steering wheels have paddle shifters to lessen that time taken.
But that’s when the all-important realistic element comes in, and there’s nothing cooler than nailing a gear change with your gear stick shifter. For enjoyment that can shift to something racier by utilizing the sequential shift, mid-range products are definitely worth that extra cash.
Premium Sim Racing Shifters
Weight: 2kg to 3kg
Size: Medium to large
Absolute realism and high-end performance really define the premium bracket of gear stick shifters. Due to the price of products in this range, they are only really purchased by professional racers for whom a price tag is no object when it comes to the pursuit of skill and the competitive edge.
It may seem excessive for those of us who are perhaps more casual in the sport, but when something is your profession and the way you earn money, you really need to be on the lookout for cutting edge tools to be your best.
A lot of the sim racers who choose premium-end stick shifters and other products often receive sponsorships also, which covers a lot of the cost and makes them more viable options.
Price-wise, you’ll be looking at $800 minimum all the way up to $2,000 at the highest end. Unlike in the two previous sections with budget and mid-range gear stick shifters, premium shifters are harder to come by and only select manufacturers produce these high-tech pieces of equipment.
Differences between premium-level shifters and the two other types is more to do with quality of materials and technology found within it. You will benefit from a long-lasting piece of equipment due to the all-metal composition, inside and out, and it will stay looking brand-new for a long time.
The mid-range shifters are where you start to gain a more realistic, immersive feel to driving, but premium shifters are a prime example of where this truly shines through. A lot of them feature this in the form of a shifting linkage, the actual piece of technology that’s present in road cars.
This makes the gear changing feel ‘hefty’ and satisfying beyond belief; making it possible to truly envisage yourself in a sports car from various sim racing games! Because of the market that these expensive shifters cater to, manufacturers often include something called a ‘chassis’, where the stick shifter sits at one end and a long panel extends away from it.
This can be slid into a sim racing rig with a proper mount, where PC gamers can put their keyboard and even have a cupholder for their drinks that won’t get in the way of their racing.
These premium pieces of equipment almost always need to be used in conjunction with PCs due to their higher processing power, so they aren’t exactly friendly for console gamers. The primary manufacturer for these specialized stick shifters is a UK-based engineering company who have previously designed and worked on cars, Quaife.
They branched into competitive sim racing manufacture in the past few years and it helped breed the Esports scene that sprung up at around the same time, which is pretty awesome to think about. Their R-Tech Professional series of products benefit from high-grade metals being used in their construction, and a specialized magnetic sensor will keep an accurate ‘feel’ to the gears without detriment.
It’s also customizable in the amount of resistance you want on the gear changes, so you can modify your experience considerably when compared to the budget and mid-range options. Even if you purchase the H-pattern gear shifter, it will come with the parts required to change it into sequential as standard, so you can switch from high realism to rally-style, slick gear changes with ease.
As a casual racer wanting to improve on their skills, mid-range shifters are an investment. And then from there, a further investment goes into changing from mid-range to premium.
It’s all about skill progression, time spent racing, and how seriously you take sim racing while balancing all of this with the amount of money you want to spend. It goes without saying, of course, that a premium stick shift is the pinnacle level of sim racing excellence, albeit very steep price-wise.
How to Find the Right Balance Between Price & Features
There’s a real sweet spot to be found when choosing whether to purchase budget, mid-range and premium. At the end of the day it’s all down to what your level of experience is and why you want to buy one in the first place, above all else!
But overall, if you put in some time to research different brands and manufacturers, you can find fantastic budget-level shifters and a real steal-price on premium-level ones.
A typical trend is that smaller brands will boast more features to their products to put them in competition with more expensive, larger brands, so it’s important to research a product’s review collection to see if the extra features are worth it, or if they’re just hot air.
As you probably know from generally buying things in day-to-day life, bigger brands can charge more for their products because of recognition for their name assuring a sort of quality.
Spending more money on something should, in theory, net the gains of something better quality overall. It isn’t always the case, and sometimes gambling on a small brand can pay off with a great value product that performs well. It’s just important to be informed before making those choices.
What is the Most Important Feature for a Sim Racing Stick Shifter?
For me personally, now that I’m wanting to spend more time racing and improving on my skills for fast lap times and skirmishes with my friends, I look for two distinct features in any stick shifter: affordability and material quality.
I prefer the weight behind metal-based stick shifters, and the gear changes feel far more satisfying. But by the same token, I personally wouldn’t spend the money on a premium one because I don’t spend enough time racing to justify the price.
I always want to strike a balance between paying a reasonable amount of money and getting the best quality that I can manage. Maybe it’s the budget go-kart racer in me that’s carried through into my adulthood, but I can’t resist a good bargain! Especially if the product is made of quality stuff.
With all of this said and done, it falls to you personally on how much you would spend on a stick shifter. By doing research on the different products on offer, you’ll quickly start finding the sorts of features you would value, and you’ll be upgrading your sim racing rig in no time at all!