A beginner's guide to buying your first sim racing wheel
If I can do it, literally everyone else can
I think Coronavirus is finally getting to me.
You might think I'd be struggling to get to sleep at night, anxious about the future, thinking about building a seven acre underground bunker like some sort of beta Batman villain.
But no, I'm missing the outside so much that I've decided to spend a load of money replicating what it's like to drive outside. It beats making a Tik Tok account, that's for sure.
We're all going to be stuck inside for the foreseeable future, so there's really no better time to take the plunge and get yourself a sim racing rig. This could be the best impulse purchase you make over quarantine, I mean it has to beat that workout gear that has barely moved out of its box.
Choose a wheel that's right for you
Gear in sim racing can vary wildly in quality, but if you don't fancy taking out a mortgage just to go racing, price is probably going to be a pretty important thing to think about.
Firstly, with any wheel you get, you're going to want to get one that has something called 'force feedback'. Force feedback is the thing that really puts the sim in sim racing, as it simulates how a real steering wheel would act. Without this, the wheel is pretty much an xbox controller with delusions of grandeur. Luckily, there's plenty of options out there that'll fit pretty much anyone's budget.
Driving Force GT
If you've just been put on furlough, this wheel might be for you.
The Driving Force GT is probably the cheapest option that's worth getting. Its got force feedback and 900° of rotation, so it has everything you need to get started. On amazon it's being sold for £125, but because it's nearly 15 years old, I've seen it being sold for as low as £30 on Ebay and Facebook Marketplace.
However, if you've got the cash to splash, there's probably better options out there. The GT has awkward plastic buttons instead of proper paddle shifters and generally the build quality isn't amazing. It's also only compatible for the PS2/3/4 and PC, so if you're an Xbox fanboy, you'll have to look elsewhere.
The Logitech G27
Logitech know what they're doing when it comes to sim setups. You can't really go wrong with any of their wheels, even older ones like the G27.
It has all the usual bells and whistles, proper rotation and really slick force feedback, but a lot of the components are good quality metal which makes you feel a little less like you're playing with a Fisher Price toy – although my Mum would beg to differ.
It even comes with a nifty H-shifter which means you can simulate a time when people actually wanted to shift gears manually. 900° of rotation, force feedback and the ability to travel through time? Sign me up.
Unfortunately, yet again, if you're an Xbox user this isn't for you. For some reason Xbox are really restrictive on what wheels they allow you to use.
I'm writing to Bill Gates an angry letter to complain.
Thrustmaster TMX / 150
This Thrustmaster setup comes in two flavours; the TMX, which is the Xbox variant, or the 150, which is the PS4 version. If you're a PC user you could pick whichever one you think has the cooler name (obviously the TMX), or flip a coin because you just love to live life on the edge.
In all seriousness both of these wheels are cracking choices for a first wheel. The force feedback is excellent and the build quality is top notch and you buy them new from pretty much anywhere for around £170. It's certainly a bit pricier than some of the previous models, but it's definitely an upgrade that's worth it.
The one obvious drawback to anyone who isn't American is that it only comes with two pedals and no H-shifter.
The Logitech G29 is like having a girlfriend. It might be expensive, but most of the time it's absolutely worth it.
If you've got a spare £250 lying around, get this wheel and you'll be as happy as I am that my girlfriend doesn't read my articles.
The force feedback in unbeatable at this price range, it's the most modern of all the other choices, meaning the build quality and features are all top notch. This is especially true when it comes to the pedals, which are weighted really nicely to make it really feel like you're actually braking and accelerating, instead of being sat in your parents' basement.
The only drawback with the G29 it's pricey, and if you want an H-shifter that's going to cost you extra. So you could be looking at a £300 set up which is a real turn-off for beginners not wanting to punt half their savings into racing fake cars.
Ultimately, you can't go wrong with any of these cars, but you get what you pay for.
Where to buy it
If you've made it this far, you might have pulled off a miracle and figured out what wheel sounds best to you. Now it's time to stop daydreaming about it and cough up the cash.
As easy as that sounds, there's a few options really worth looking into before you throw your credit card at your computer screen.
Firstly, if you want your wheel to be new, there's no better option than Amazon. As much as I don't want Jeff Bezos to get so powerful that he buys the UK and uses it as one giant storage lot, the price and convenience are unbeatable. Besides, an Amazon box is probably comfier than my actual bed, so it's win win right?
Next, if you're not concerned about something being new, checking out the used market is a must. You're bound to save a load of cash if you put a bit of time into it.
Ebay is always a great choice for used gear and that's no exception when it comes to racing wheels. However, I noticed that Facebook Marketplace was really the place to go if your serious about saving. It might take a bit more time to wade through the ads that look like they've been put up by a confused 5-year-old, but it's certainly worth it.
But honestly, no matter what you decide to buy and where you buy it, you're going to have a laugh. Outside be dammed, it's time to bring the racetrack in the house.