It’s a great time to get into sim racing. Since 2020, the sport has blown up in a big way. You’ve no doubt seen expensive price tags and sim rigs that look like they belong in a laboratory. We’re hear to tell you that getting into sim racing doesn’t have to require an organ donation and a second mortgage.
Today we’ll explore how to get sim racing as cheap as possible: What gear you’ll need and which games are best suited.
Choosing a Sim Racing Wheel and Pedals
The wheel and pedals are the most important part of your sim racing setup. Sim racing games can be played on controller if you’re truly on an ultra-cheap budget, but buying a wheel takes the fun from 0 to 1. It’s such a drastic change from no wheel to wheel that we have to recommend grabbing a wheel to start your sim racing journey. An entry-level wheel could cost you anywhere from $150-$300, depending on sales and if you are willing to buy used.
Logitech G920 and G29
Our first sim racing wheel brand to consider is Logitech with their G920 and G29 wheel and pedal bundles. These wheels are about the same, with one version working on PC and Xbox (G920) and the other working on PC and Playstation (G29). They offer belt-driven force-feedback, a nice vinyl leather wheel and are an excellent place to get started. Also worth a mention is the Logitech G923, which is a slight upgrade from the G920/G29 pair and works on PC, Playstation and Xbox.
Thrustmaster is another large brand in the sim racing wheel market and they’ve got some budget options as well. Thrustmaster’s T128 and T248 are similar models, with the T248 being a bit of an upgrade. These options are good if you can find them used for cheap, but honestly, the construction is not great and the force feedback is very weak. We’d recommend avoiding these unless you can find them very cheap used or on sale.
Direct Drive is a Game Changer
We know this is an article on budget sim racing, but if you want to spend just a bit more, you can get a direct drive sim racing wheel bundle for around $400 or so. Be sure to check out our article on Direct Drive Racing Wheels to learn more about what makes direct drive so great. The short story is that they offer much more precision and force feedback for not a whole lot more money.
Moza R5 Bundle
This author personally has the Moza R5 bundle, which includes a wheelbase, wheel and pedals for around $450-$550. The construction is heavy metal and high-quality. The moza wheelbase offers tons of customization with the included software so you can get it tuned to just where you need it.
Fanatec also has some great direct drive wheel options at the entry or budget level. One bundle that would be great to start with is the Fanatec Ready2Race Bundle. At just $399, you get a 5 Nm wheelbase, wheel and pedals. If you decide later you want more power out of the wheelbase, you can get an upgraded PSU for around $80 that takes the wheelbase to 8 Nm. This bundle is selling out a lot right now, but is a great deal at just a little above the entry-level wheels we mentioned above.
Cammus C5 Bundle
One last direct drive option we’ll mention before shutting up about it is the Cammus C5. This wheel is unique because the wheel base is built into the steering wheel itself. Cammus sells a bundle with pedals for $299, but you’ll need to add on the clamp for about $29 to use it on a desk. Overall, the Cammus C5 bundle is a very affordable option if you’re looking to dive into the direct drive wheel game.
Sim Racing Shifter or No Shifter?
Sim racing shifters can add some realism and fun to the games you play. That said, they’re totally not necessary. Mot every sim racing wheel includes paddle shifters on the back and most race cars you drive will have the same. However, shifters are a lot of fun! If you went with the Logitech route and got the G920, G29 or G923, you’ve got a dedicated clutch pedal that the Logitech Shifter can utilize. No big deal if you want to save the shifter for later, you totally don’t need it in the beginning of your sim racing journey.
Choosing Your Cockpit
After you’ve chosen your sim racing wheel and pedals, you’ll need a place for them to live. If you’ve got the Logitech G920 or G29, you could simply stop there and mount the wheel directly to your desk in front of your monitor and be done with it. Your pedals will go under your desk and you’re off to the races. Literally!
However, it could get annoying moving your wheel on and off of your desk anytime you want to play other games or get some work done.
Stand Alone Wheel Stand
One step up from just mounting your wheel to your desk is a wheelstand. This option can be had on Amazon or from other manufacturer’s anywhere from $100-$200. Sim racing wheel stands provide a handy metal bracket to mount your wheel to along with a sturdy area to place your pedals. This route is a definite upgrade from just mounting to the desk and can remove some of the headache of constantly setting up and tearing down your setup. Sim racing wheelstands often fold down and can be put in a closet or moved into a corner until you’re ready to race.
Foldable Sim Racing Cockpit
Going another step up from the stand-alone wheel stand is a foldable sim racing cockpit. These options are like a lawn chair with a sim racing wheel mount included. They’re comfortable, pretty cheap at ~$150-$300 and allow for hours of sim racing. Our picks are the Next Level Racing GT Lite Foldable Sim Racing Cockpit or the Playseat Challenge. The GT Lite allows you to configure it for GT style racing or F1, which is more laid back. Both options allow sim racers to fold up the chair and stow it away while not in use. Both options also can mount a sim shifter, although you might need some extra accessories to do so.
For more info on Sim Racing Cockpits, check out our article What in the world is a Sim Racing Cockpit? which also covers some higher priced sim racing cockpits.
Choosing Which Sim Racing Games To Play
Choose a Sim Racing Platform
Now that you’ve got a sim racing wheel, pedals and cockpit, you’re ready to pick which games you’ll use them with!
Another consideration is which platform you’ll play on. PC will always be the best in terms of customization, mods available and selection of games. Of course choosing PC will come with an upfront cost if you need to buy or build one. That upfront cost could be spread out a few years as you get enjoyment from your racing sim. You can definitely go the console route, but you might decide to eventually switch to PC and end up spending much more! There’s nothing wrong with console gaming at all, just know what you’re getting into.
If you do go the console route, we recommend Playstation simply because it’s the only system you can play Gran Turismo on. Gran Turismo isn’t even on the PC! Gran Turismo tends to be more realistic of a sim racing experience compared to games you’d find on Xbox like Forza Motorsports.
A modern PC should run you somewhere around $600-$1200, while a console will be $350-$500.
Best Sim Racing PC Games to Get Started With
If you go the PC route, and we recommend you do, you have the world at your fingertips. We have another article covering the best PC Sim Racing Games for 2024 to check out, but we’ll dive in here with some other options.
Assetto Corsa is an older game from 2014 but it’s got to be one of, if not, the best sim racing games available. It frequently goes on sale for only $10 or so and includes tons and tons of cars, tracks and race types. You can choose to race f1, GT or even Go Karts if you’d like. On top of all that, Assetto Corsa has thousands mods and it’s community is bustling. Our favorite mod has to be the Shutoko Revival Project, which emulates driving around Tokyo late at night.
You simply can’t go wrong with Asssetto Corsa.
Richard Burns Rally
Richard Burns Rally is a sim racing game that’s considered abandonware. That means it’s free! It was originally released in 2004 but like Assetto Corsa offers tons of community and mod support. The game is a rally-style sim racer and offers realistic physics for drifting around in the great outdoors.
Richard Burns Rally definitely is one of our picks for budget sim racing.
Assetto Corsa Competizione
Assetto Corsa Competizione, or ACC, is an amazing game for the budget sim racer. This game focuses exclusively on GT3 and GT4 style racing and offers adrenaline-inducing thrills when played online. It’s highly realistic and has great graphics with plenty of mods.
BeamNG.Drive is more of a car driving simulator than a realistic race car driving sim. The game focuses on realistic physics and sandbox play where you’re encouraged to crash cars into walls, off mountains and free roam around. It’s also got a ton of mods and tracks to play with. BeamNG.Drive goes on sale on Steam often and will offer you hours of fun in your sim driving adventures.
Automobilista 2 is our last pick for buget sim racers looking to get into the hobby. This game, like the others, has great graphics, physics and realism. You’ll also find it on sale on Steam like the others.
Budget Sim Racing Breakdown
We decided to make a handy breakdown of what you can expect to pay for a budget sim racing rig. Our breakdown is just an estimate with the lowest cost we think a component would cost up to the highest cost you’d expect to pay. Maybe you find used components or maybe you buy our top recommendations new. Hopefully this breakdown helps you make an accurate and informed decision on how much of a commitment you’d like to make to sim racing.
|Steering Wheel and Pedals
|$150 – $450
|Don’t Purchase / $80
|Sim Racing Cockpit
|Free (mount to desk) – $300
|Console or PC
|You Own One Already or $300 – $1200
|Free / Own One – $300
|You Probably Own One – $150
|$10 (Buy Assetto Corsa on Sale) – $80 (Buy Lots of Games!)
|Total Estimated Sim Racing Budget
|$160 (You own a console/pc, desk and go bare bones) – $2560 (You go all out and buy a modern PC, cockpit and monitors, desk, etc)
Our budget breakdown is about $150 if you have most things like a console or PC and a monitor or TV to $2560 if you buy everything new and go all-out! However, there’s a lot of nuance there and our guess is that you can get into sim racing with a decent setup for a couple hundred bucks! We might be biased, but we think it’s totally worth it. 🤘
Budget Sim Racing Advice Conclusion
Discovering any new hobby is an exciting process. It’s also one that can be full of confusion and conflicting information. We hope if you’re just getting into sim racing and want to dip your toes into the hobby our budget sim racing guide was helpful. Be sure to do your research and make sure your gear is compatible. Check out Craigslist, Facebook marketplace or other places for deals and enjoy the sim racing ride!