Choosing your first sim racing setup can be a daunting experience. With endless accessories to choose from, all seeming to cost an arm and a leg, it can leave those new to the hobby wondering why sim racing is so expensive.
Sim racing is expensive due to the number of pieces of equipment needed to start, and the quality of the components is also a factor. Sim racing wheels, pedals and other accessories are often very technologically advanced and made using high quality materials. The games also factor into the cost.
Outside eyes may find it difficult to understand why sim racing is such an expensive hobby to get involved in. Below, we’ll discuss what makes sim racing so expensive, and how to navigate the prices that come with getting your sim racing rig up and running.
How Much Does It Cost To Start Sim Racing?
How much it costs to start sim racing is fully dependent on the buyer’s budget and requirements. Casual sim racers can expect to pay anywhere in between $100 to $500 for a decent sim racing setup. More experienced sim racers may spend upwards of $500, while some may even spend thousands of dollars.
Sim Racing Costs For Beginners
For beginners, a non-force feedback wheel might cost under $100, and you might be able to pick up some games on the cheap too. However, beginners that want a bit more realism will still find some sim racing wheels with force feedback for less than $500. These wheels are also often bundled with pedals.
More Experienced Sim Racers
The next step up may be to move from potentiometer to load cell pedals for example, which come with a higher price tag. Spending upwards of $500 also usually yields better force feedback, and you may wish to pick up some accessories like a decent stand or sim racing cockpit, and maybe even a shifter or a handbrake.
The Top End Of Sim Racing
As you become a more experienced sim racer, direct drive wheels and dedicated sim racing rigs may be what you’re looking for. These take the price tag into the four-figure range. For professional sim racers, the very best rigs can even cost upwards of $10,000.
What Do You Need To Start Sim Racing?
Before any of the main sim racing rig can be purchased, you will have to decide whether you want to set up on a console or a gaming PC. A console is often the cheaper option, with prices for brand new consoles usually under $500. Plus, you may already be a console gamer, in which case you don’t need to go and buy any new hardware other than your racing rig.
Consoles will offer you a decent introduction to the sim racing world, and you may choose to only ever play on consoles. However, gaming PCs are widely favored due to their higher frame rates and powerful graphics processors.
Buying A Gaming PC For Sim Racing
Gaming PCs are very much an investment though, both financially and in terms of the time it takes to get used to the technological intricacies that come with them. Prices can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands. This is a wide price range, and while spending towards the higher end of it isn’t necessarily essential, it is an early indicator of why sim racing is so expensive.
There are a variety of sim racing games to choose from, each offering different cars and tracks to race on. Games usually cost around $20-$40, although iRacing – largely viewed as the most realistic competitive sim racing game – operates on a monthly subscription system. So, the games you choose to play can have a large effect on the total cost of your sim racing setup.
Wheels And Pedals
Once you have decided on your console or PC and game(s) of choice, you will need to find a wheel, and as with most things to do with sim racing, there are a multitude of options to choose from. Cheaper alternatives are available, but if you are looking to take sim racing more seriously, a wheel with force feedback is essential.
Force feedback means your wheel will react to turns, bumps and other movements in a way that emulates real-life racing situations. Wheels with force feedback naturally cost more due to the higher quality of materials and programming required to give you a more immersive and true-to-life experience.
You’ll also want to get a set of pedals, and these come in many different forms. The basic type works using potentiometers, but load cell pedals off a more accurate braking experience for a bit of extra money. Hydraulic pedals are very pricey, and they’re definitely not necessary for beginners, although their quality is unmatched.
After purchasing your wheel, you’ll need a strong and sturdy base or stand to mount it on. While it may be tempting to cut costs and mount it on a desk, coffee table or even a home-made wooden chassis, they likely won’t offer you the stability required to hold the wheel without wobbling, thus detracting from your overall experience and performance.
Cheaper wheel mounts can cost around $100, but good quality rigs are often made of aluminum, which offers great strength but costs substantially more than plastic. Sim racing seats that also act as a mount for your wheel and pedals are another option, including those like the Playseat Challenge or F-GT Lite.
Are Extra Accessories Important?
Now for accessories. These are very much optional and can very easily double the price of the overall rig, but they can also greatly enhance the sim racing experience. These include things like gear shifters, handbrakes, button boxes and dashboard setups.
A triple screen setup or ultrawide monitor will enhance your peripheral visibility, adding to the realism of your experience. Bear in mind that these don’t come cheap, especially if you were to opt for a 4K resolution screen. Virtual reality headsets are also an option for those who want to become even more immersed in the action.
Why Is Sim Racing So Expensive?
Sim racing is so expensive simply because there are a lot of components involved. Some of these components, like wheels, pedals and racing chairs, need to be made with high-quality materials. This, along with the extra costs of games and other hardware, makes sim racing an expensive hobby.
Since Japanese games developer Namco introduced the world to ‘behind the car’ virtual racing with Pole Position in 1982, sim racing has evolved dramatically. It has become a huge business, even to the point where professional Formula One teams are using sim racing rigs for training purposes.
These advancements in technology have greatly added to the price of equipment. For example, the earliest racing wheels were powered by springs and largely made of plastic, meaning they didn’t cost a great deal to make. Over time, manufacturers implemented electric motors into the wheels, as well as using metals and carbon fiber as base materials, attributing to higher costs.
Demand for sim racing equipment has risen substantially as well, with real racing drivers, YouTubers and streamers all helping to drive the popularity of sim racing. This naturally makes the space more lucrative for manufacturers, and the rapid development of new products and technologies can bring about higher prices.
Is More Expensive Sim Racing Equipment Worth It?
More expensive sim racing equipment isn’t always worth it, but the quality is usually better. Ultimately, the choice of price and quality is dependent on the consumer’s budget and requirements, but for best performance and immersion, you do usually have to opt for the more expensive equipment.
The higher quality means these components will not only offer more immersion and realism, but they will likely also last significantly longer before they need to be replaced.
However, whether or not an expensive piece of sim racing equipment is worth it largely depends on your budget and experience level, as for absolute beginners, the more expensive options, like direct drive wheels, probably won’t be worth it.
Why You May Be Fine With Cheaper Equipment
As great as expensive gear is, racing with cheaper equipment doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy yourself. You can race on console with the cheapest wheel you can find and still have a great time. If you are only a very casual sim racer, you may not find you need force feedback or an insanely high-resolution screen to have fun. Sim racing is all about enjoyment, and that is possible on a lower budget.
Sim racing is an expensive hobby to take up because of the high number of individual parts involved. The exceptional build quality of the parts does increase the price, but it is also an investment into an immersive and entertaining virtual world of racing within the comfort of your home.
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