Last updated: September 6th, 2023
Nobody ever said sim racing was cheap; although by comparison to the eye-wateringly expensive real-life Motorsport it’s certainly far friendlier on the wallet.
I’ve written about budget high-end simulator builds built on a reasonable budget before, where I’ve tried to put the very highest quality gear that would approximate the feel of the most expensive simulators. Today, I’m looking lower down the price spectrum – identifying the cheapest racing simulator cockpit you can put together, perhaps even in time for Christmas.
A professional looking rig is achievable with some thought and careful shopping around, as a lot of the sim racing community can attest:
Can something close to the rig setup above be built? Let’s find out.
- The cheapest direct drive wheel
- Budget sim steering wheel
- Pedals: Clubsport V3 or CSL?
- Cheapest cockpit
- Monitors and stands
- Cheapest sim racing seat
- Cheapest sim racing PC
Firstly, some background. I don’t believe that it’s worth pursuing gear drive or belt drive steering wheelbases anymore. The Logitechs and Thrustmasters of this world have, for now, fallen behind the ever-dominant Fanatec. For a very small amount more than the price of a Thrustmaster VG T300RS wheelbase, you can own a direct drive wheelbase – the rather impressive Fanatec CSL DD.
So my approach here isn’t just to list a bunch of cheap sim racing gear; it’s to help you consider affordable equipment that can be taken seriously. Build a sim racing rig on a budget that will last and will need little in the way of upgrades throughout its life. All without any compromise on quality.
With a slight caveat that I haven’t included import taxes if you’re buying outside of the EU – I think the numbers below are pretty amazing for the gear you can get:
Total Build Budget: €3,861.86 / £3,303.08 / $4,435.91
If these numbers are a bit beyond where your budget is at the moment, don’t worry about it. You can make a few savings which I’ll mention in the equipment list below.
The cheapest direct drive wheel
The CSL DD starts at €349.95. As you might expect, I’ve chosen the Fanatec CSL DD with boost kit for an extra €149.95 to deliver the full 8Nm of torque. This is a super smooth and very impressive wheelbase for the money – and it is as I write this the cheapest direct drive wheel you can own (see more DD wheels here).
There is a huge difference between this wheel unit and the lower-priced non-direct-drive gear. And as the CSL DD will be supported with firmware updates for years to come, it’s likely only to improve.
I think it’s worth adding the boost kit is an optional extra and something you could add later. It’s really just a power supply and I’l already seen them on eBay for half this price (buyer beware!). So, take off the boost kit but still have 5Nm of torque available the first time you leave the pits.
If you did remove the boost kit, it might saves you a little bit on the wheel cost, which comes next
Budget sim steering wheel
The Mclaren GT3 V2 sim steering wheel (here’s the review) is a really inexpensive entry-level wheel from Fanatec priced at €199.95 that has all the features you need to work within iRacing or Assetto Corsa.
The QR (quick release hub) system is compatible out of the box with the lower torque CSL DD, but if you have the boost kit you’ll need to fit the higher torque QR1 Wheel Side hub for an additional €99.95. Fitting is a doddle (it’s 6 screws) and I’ve outlined that process in the review.
If you’ve got a higher budget in mind for the wheel then check out our guide to sim racing wheels here – but for the money, this McLaren wheel is really a fantastic deal indeed.
Pedals: Clubsport V3 or CSL?
The V3 Pedals are more expensive because of the higher-end componentry. They feature a custom-made 90KG load cell with revised electronics to make the load cell amplifier more precise than earlier Clubsport pedals. If you want to upgrade them to a hydraulic pedal set, there’s a kit for that too.
I keep a very up to date list of the best sim racing rigs available – if you check my guide you’ll see that the Sim Lab GT1 Evo or the RCP Cockpit Sport are both very near to the top of my list despite the low price levels. Both are alumium profile options and both are pre-drilled for the sim racing gear (pedals, wheelbase, various accessories) we’ve listed before. Thankfully, Aluminum profile rigs are getting cheaper and cheaper to the point where buying one straight away, instead of upgrading to one later, is economically the smartest move. Profile means almost no flex – a problem for cheaper square section or tube steel rigs.
So, we’ve got a bit of a choice here. The RCP Cockpit Sport comes with a sim racing seat included for $674.00. With the RCP (pictured below) you get a choice of seats and a few accessories, and an optional single or triple monitor mount.
With the Sim Lab GT1 Evo, you’ll have to buy the seat separately, and like RCP, SimLab has a range of monitor mounts to choose from too.
Monitors and stands
In an ideal world, you’d have a triple monitor or Ultrawide 49″ setup. But this article is about helping you get started with the right equipment and, at $317.51 per monitor, the AOC C32G2 32″ curved “frameless” gaming monitor is a very nice choice:
On the technical side, the AOC has a 1ms response at a 165Hz refresh rate. That will look good on its own – you can always add two more later down the road and update your single mount to a triple at the same time. But if you want to do some more research, monitors are a huge topic. Try this guide to get up to speed.
In terms of monitor stands, if you’ve bought the RCP cockpit, you’ll need to pick a monitor stand here:
Meanwhile, SimLab offers the same single or triple stands for their rigs too. Notably, the single monitor mount for the GT1 Evo cockpit is very inexpensive, priced at: £51. So you really can add the monitor and stand very cheaply if need be.
Cheapest sim racing seat
The least expensive way to get a racing seat is to buy the RCP cockpit I mentioned above. However – if you go the SimLab route, you’ll need to find a seat. The cheapest I could find is the OMP Racing TRS Steel Frame Seat in Black which retails at $239.28 / £175 / €206.73:
So far, that’s about everything (except an Internet connection and iRacing..). Next up, we need to look at the gaming PC you’ll be running your simulator software on:
Cheapest sim racing PC
As I hope you realize by now, there’s a guide for everything on this website. Including my brand new guide to sim racing PCs. So, take a look at that when you have a moment. But today we’re trying to get a really good deal for our first low-budget project.
The golden rule at the moment with pc Builds or Pre-builds is to buy for the GPU. As long as you’ve got a reasonably recent processor, motherboard, and a decent amount of ram (16GB or higher), your PC won’t run into any problems running platforms like iRacing. BUT – GPU is king in this world so when you’re buying, look out for an NVIDIA 30 series GPU.
Here’s my choice: a CyberpowerPC “Warrior Gaming PC”. It features an AMD Ryzen 7 5700G CPU, and an Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti 8GB with 16GB RAM. Critically it comes with Windows 10 pre-installed so once it arrives you can get on with the job of installing your sim software!.
Price-wise it’s super reasonable at £1,603.20 / € 1,891.94 / $2,188.01 and it’ll stay up to date for quite a few years. When it does come time to update, an NVIDIA 3080 RTX ti would make a nice choice.
This list really should build you a great rig for the money; I wish if I’d been starting out, I could tell myself to buy a good cockpit with no flex first, good wheelbase and pedals next and most importantly, get some seat time in and enjoy it. Hopefully, this list will get you going a little faster too.