Wheels are typically the first piece of equipment that sim racers to invest in. It is important then to know what you need, what to look for and what to expect before you make any decisions on your new racing wheel so that you can get the right deal for you.
So, what is the average cost of a sim racing wheel? Generally, the cost of a sim racing wheel will be linked to its quality: for the entry level expect a price range between $50 and $150; for mid-range $150 to $300; anything above that would typically be premium quality.
For this article we are going to compare what to expect across the three price brackets. All have different options and are better suited to different players’ needs. Let’s get into it and try to give you a little more information on the confusing world of gaming accessories. Read on!
Entry-Level Sim Racing Wheels ($50-$150)
Typically, at this level prices sit around $50-$150. If you are unsure whether this is a hobby you really want to spend a lot of money on, or just want something simple to get started in sim racing, then this would be a perfect starting point. A great example to look at is the Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Spider wheel.
Here are the typical features of an entry-level wheel:
- Force feedback: often not included but force rumble is sometimes available
- Turning rotation: between 180 and 360 degrees
- Wheel size: small to average
- Material: typically, plastic with no cover or a PU leather cover.
- Pedals: 2-pedal set up, normally plastic and low quality
Almost all wheels nowadays come with a set of pedals included, as one is almost useless without the other. So, having to worry about budgeting for those isn’t particularly important. It’s always good to check though, as at the lowest prices there are times that pedals may not be bundled with the wheel.
Also, the look, feel and style, even for entry level, can be pretty good. With not so much money being spent on a lot of the motorized features on the wheel, companies often have more to spend on their styling budgets, so you can still expect some good-looking products at this price.
The shortfall comes when we talk about features and build quality. There are no wheels with force feedback currently available for under $100. Force rumble can be purchased at around $100 but force feedback is an extremely important feature to have should you want your racing to feel more realistic.
However, if you are just looking to get behind a wheel and play then this should not be much of an issue for you. At this price point, the wheels are often light and don’t connect well to surfaces either.
This is something that no player wants to deal with. A wheel that shifts around can be problematic when playing a game, so do some research and try to spend a little extra on something that is stronger in this aspect.
Finally, it’s almost universal that the additional pedals that come at these prices are poor. They tend to offer little resistance, and can feel unnatural when being used. If you will want to improve this in the future, try to look for a wheel that is expandable and will let you attach third party accessories to it.
Don’t expect too much at this price point. If a sturdy, good-looking wheel that can control your game comfortably is all that you’re after, expect to spend around $80-$100.
Mid-Range Sim Racing Wheels ($150-$300)
At around $150-$300 is where we can find the mid-range price bracket. A lot more features tend to be found at this range, and should you be into racing for a more realistic feel – rather than just for some fun – then you can be expecting to pay around or above $150.
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Here are the typical features of a mid-range wheel:
- Force feedback: Will be included but some are better than others
- Turning rotation: between 360 and 900 degrees
- Wheel size: small to average
- Material: plastic or metal, PU leather cover.
- Pedals: 2- or 3-pedal set up, with 2 pedals tending to be plastic and low quality but 3 pedals being higher end, and offering a much better feel
There are a lot of great options here from all over the price range. One of the more expensive but better models to look at are Logitech G29/G920 Driving Force. Also, another alternative is the TMX/ T150 from ThrustMaster.
For styling, expect something that looks pretty good at the higher end of the range. It does tend to fall short the less you pay as, in this price range, more money seems to go on the actual features of the wheel rather than how it looks.
Also, as with entry level, expect the pedals to be included. However, don’t expect the pedals to be of the same general quality: some are much better than others and offer a much better overall experience, so do a little research before spending your cash and check: are the wheels compatible with third party add-ons?
The features that will be available at this price level will be what one would expect for any basic sim racing set up. Force feedback, a good amount of turning rotation and a solid clamp to anchor the wheel to a surface. Turning rotation and the force feedback quality can differ a lot depending on how much you are willing to pay of course, so find which option is the best for you.
This is the price range where more interesting features start to become more prevalent, and where you can expect a lot of entry-level sim racers to be buying their equipment. Typically, you should look for a wheel with good force feedback and around 900 degrees of rotation, and you can expect to pay around $200 or just above for it.
Premium Sim Racing Wheels ($300+)
At this price level, as with anything, you can spend crazy amounts of money should you want to. I would say that around $350 would get you all the premium features and materials that any sim racer could ask for.
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Any more is purely to indulge in one’s own style, for that is all you will really be paying for, unless you are a professional who can get the most out of tiny differences in spec. Again, some really excellent options at this level especially the T300/TX from Thrustmaster. Offering everything you could ever need in a wheel for only $300.
Here are the typical features of a premium wheel:
- Force feedback: always included and good quality
- Turning rotation: between 900 and 1080 degrees
- Wheel size: average to large
- Material: plastic or metal, typically having a leather cover with a tactile grip.
- Pedals: 3-pedal set up, typically made of metal with good resistance for a realistic feel
Features are aplenty for this range. For great force feedback, top-of-the-line wheels offer a little more than those wheels at mid-range. The turning rotation often isn’t greatly improved but you can go up to 1080 degrees if you wish.
The materials and style of the wheel are also premium. Often hand stitched and comfortable to use, some are even designed alongside real race-car teams and drivers to give you the most authentic experience.
Pedals are all normally very high quality, offering good resistance and brushed steel finishes to really make them look the part. Most also include a clutch pedal, but not always a stick shifter, so if you are a driver that likes to use the clutch you may want to think about budgeting for the shifter as well.
Long-established sim racers will typically be confident in their abilities to find the best deals but remember, just because something is expensive and looks good, doesn’t mean that it is the best deal for you.
What To Look For When You’re Buying Your Wheel
Knowing exactly what you want is half the battle. Making sure you know how much you want to spend and what features you want to get for your money means that you will never be ripped off and you can get the best deal.
When it comes to sim racing wheels, it all depends on what you want your wheel for. For those that are just looking for a wheel for some fun, something to make their game more interesting or for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on a wheel, head straight for the entry level. Make sure your wheel comes with pedals, doesn’t move around when you’re playing your game and offers as much turning rotation as possible. Anything short of that really isn’t worth your time.
The next type of player is someone who wants to race on games because they want the real thrill of racing from the comfort of their own home. For this I would urge you to try and buy something that isn’t the cheapest but rather that will last and has a lot of features.
Force feedback is a must, and good force feedback is just as important. You want to feel the lumps and bumps of the track so get something that works well in this department.
Next, a good amount of turning rotation. Keep in mind that the more rotation you have, the more control you have on the car so bigger really is better. Pedals as well. Try and find a wheel that comes with good quality pedals that offer similar resistance to that which you might find in a real racing car. Anything around $220 will get you everything you need to race.
Following this guide, you can’t go wrong and you will be racing your favorite tracks behind your new wheel in no time!
Guides are all well and good, but only you know really what you want out of your wheel.
Think about how much you want to spend and what features are important to you, and you can find something that fits perfectly. With the amount of options available out there, and with the industry continuing to grow, expect more and more holes to be filled with better-and-better products.
Looking around at what is available now – with an eye on products due to be released soon is the best idea.