Are Fanatec Wheels Worth The Premium Price?
Fanatec are known as a premium sim racing brand, however they do have some more budget-friendly products. I take a look at whether Fanatec racing wheels are worth the premium price tag.
For many years, Fanatec has been looked at as one of the market leaders in sim racing gear. And typically they are also seen as a premium sim racing brand. This is due to Fanatec racing wheels, pedals and other peripherals historically being priced higher than their competition.
We’re now in 2023, and in recent years Fanatec led the way in ushering in a new wave of smaller, cheaper racing wheels in the form of the CSL DD and GT DD Pro.
So it leads to a few questions, are Fanatec products still considered expensive? And if they are, are they worth the price tag? In this guide, I’ll look to answer both of those questions, while offering comparisons with other sim racing brands.
Are Fanatec racing wheels actually expensive?
The first part of that question is, are Fanatec wheels considered expensive in 2023? Let’s start by going back in time a little bit.
Rewinding the clock ten years or so, the sim racing market looked a whole lot different. There were far fewer sim racing brands around, and that led to each brand occupying a much more defined space within the market.
Ten years ago, brands such as Logitech were seen as the masters of the budget racing wheel, Thrustmaster occupied a middle ground between budget and high-end, while Fanatec sat towards the higher end of the price scale.
Now, fast-forwarding back to 2023, the sim racing market is a lot more diverse. There are a myriad of new sim racing brands, meaning a lot more choices in the equipment that you use. This has led to established brands such as Fanatec having to diversify and compete harder with newer brands.
In 2023, Fanatec has a sim racing wheel lineup that spans from smaller direct drive wheels like the CSL DD, up to more performance-orientated direct drive wheels such as the DD1 and DD2.
What is the cheapest Fanatec racing wheel you can buy?
While Fanatec did lead the charge on making direct drive wheels much more affordable and accessible, it is worth noting that Fanatec’s cheapest racing wheel (CSL DD) still costs $349.95. And that price is just for the wheel base, with no steering wheel or pedals included.
Given that other sim racing brands offer decent budget racing wheels from around $200 (that do include steering wheels and pedals), it can be concluded that Fanatec is still a premium sim racing brand.
For the cheapest possible combination of a Fanatec wheel base, steering wheel and pedals, you’ll be looking at a cool $499.95. You can check out that bundle right here.
Does a premium price tag reflect in the build quality?
So now that we have established that Fanatec should still be a considered purchase due to their premium price tag, we should look to focus on whether a Fanatec wheel is worth it in 2023.
And this comes down to a few factors. First of all is the performance that Fanatec wheels offer, then the build quality, and finally how Fanatec stacks up against their competition.
Fanatec wheel performance
The performance of Fanatec wheels has generally been considered as fantastic and among the best within the sim racing market. Before 2020, Fanatec’s products were divided into two categories; high-end direct drive wheels, and cheaper belt-driven wheels.
As I mentioned, Fanatec paved the way for more accessible direct drive racing wheels with the introduction of the CSL DD. This led to the discontinuation of all Fanatec racing wheels that weren’t using direct drive technology.
Now, in 2023, the only Fanatec wheels you can buy (unless shopping second-hand) are direct drive wheels. And these are broken down into two categories; more accessible small-form-factor direct drive wheels, and larger, more expensive, high-performing wheels.
Fanatec currently offers the following wheel bases;
- Fanatec CSL DD & GT DD Pro: These two small direct drive wheel bases offer 5Nm of force feedback, with the option of upgrading to 8Nm using a boost pack. They both cost under $500 making them the most accessible wheels in Fanatec’s current lineup.
- Fanatec DD1 & DD2: Both the DD1 and DD2 offer much higher levels of performance with 20Nm and 25Nm respectively. Both wheel bases cost over $1000, firmly putting them in the high-end category.
While the CSL DD and GT DD Pro only offer up to 8Nm of peak torque, they both use cutting-edge technology to ensure the detail and fidelity of that force feedback is among the best around. Both of these wheels perform incredibly well and are among the best I’ve used within this price range.
The DD1 and DD2 wheel bases are a few years older than the smaller wheel bases, but the performance on offer is staggering. Both wheel bases are around double the physical size of the smaller CSL DD and GT DD Pro, but they offer well over double the performance.
At around the $1000-$1500 range, the performance on offer from the DD1 and DD2 is hard to beat.
Fanatec likes to ensure that its products can stand the test of time, after all, a wheel base from Fanatec should last well past its warranty and keep you going for many years.
While there have been some small issues reported with some Fanatec wheels, they offer a fairly good RMA process where any faulty product within warranty will be repaired or replaced.
The wheel bases themselves all use high-quality materials in their construction with all-metal external chassis, and heavy use of carbon fibre across many of Fanatec’s steering wheels. It’s safe to say that the build quality is excellent, and up there with the best of their competition.
Fanatec vs the competition
So now let’s look at our final category, and that is to compare Fanatec wheels to other brands that occupy a similar space within the sim racing market.
Fanatec vs MOZA Racing
One of Fanatec’s closest competitors has to be MOZA Racing. MOZA are a relative newcomer to sim racing, having released its first product just over a couple of years ago. But MOZA has observed just how Fanatec has gone about creating their products and replied with products that occupy the same space.
MOZA offer small direct drive racing wheels such as the R5 and R9 which are both designed to compete directly with the CSL DD and GT DD Pro. They also offer the R21 wheel base which is a competitor for the Fanatec DD1.
All of these MOZA Racing products produce similar levels of performance and cost around the same as the Fanatec equivalent.
If you’re interested in just how closely both MOZA and Fanatec racing wheels compare, check out our direct comparison of the MOZA R9 and the Fanatec CSL DD. In that guide, we put both companies’ most popular wheel bases head to head across a range of categories.
Without spoiling the winner of that comparison, it is safe to say that it was incredibly close with both wheel bases performing very well.
To conclude this comparison, both MOZA Racing and Fanatec offer similar products, at similar price ranges. Fanatec does have the edge thanks to their experience, and a much wider ecosystem. In this comparison alone, Fanatec wheels do represent decent value, considering MOZA’s wheels are priced very similarly.
Fanatec vs Thrustmaster
Thrustmaster has been in the sim racing space a lot longer than MOZA Racing, and the comparison between Thrustmaster and Fanatec has been a long debate.
In previous years, it was a much closer debate with both companies offering belt-driven racing wheels, giving us a like-for-like comparison. However, Fanatec has seemingly outpaced Thrustmaster with their development of smaller, more accessible direct drive wheel bases.
While Fanatec has been selling the CSL DD for many years now, Thrustmaster has only recently launched its competitor, the T818. And currently, it is safe to say that the T818 doesn’t stack up as well as the Fanatec CSL DD in almost all areas.
While Fanatec opts for high-quality materials in its construction, Thrustmaster isn’t afraid to slash the cost of its products by using cheaper materials in the construction. This has allowed Thrustmaster to offer cheaper racing wheels than Fanatec.
When comparing both Thrustmaster and Fanatec in 2023, it is safe to say Fanatec can be viewed as a premium brand, with Thrustmaster opting for a more budget-conscious approach. If you do appreciate quality materials and higher levels of performance, Fanatec makes the better buy, but if budget is more of a factor, Thrustmaster has an edge.
Fanatec vs Simucube
Simucube is a sim racing brand that has been producing high-end wheel bases for years. The cheapest entry in the Simucube product lineup currently sits at around $1,199. That is the same price as one of Fanatec’s premium products.
The full Simucube lineup currently is occupied by the Sport, Pro and Ultimate wheel bases. The Simucube Sport competes with the DD1 with around 17Nm of peak torque. While the most powerful Ultimate wheel base offers a whopping 32Nm of torque at a cost of around $3000.
A direct comparison of the Simucube 2 Sport and the Fanatec DD1 shows that the DD1 can offer similar or better performance than higher-end wheel bases. The DD1 produces an extra 3Nm of torque compared to the Sport, while still offering the same price tag.
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In this comparison, Fanatec can be seen as the budget-friendly option.
Fanatec vs Logitech
Comparing Fanatec to Logitech doesn’t happen often, and this is due to both companies’ position in the sim racing market. While Fanatec focuses on direct drive performance, Logitech has long been known as the kings of budget racing wheels.
Logitech’s G923 racing wheel which costs under $300 for a full bundle of a wheel base, steering wheel and pedals is fantastic value. And it is a price point that Fanatec has never competed with.
The performance difference between the Logitech G923 and the Fanatec CSL DD is vast, but with the extra performance comes a higher price tag.
Recently, Logitech has released its own direct drive wheel base, the Logitech Pro Racing Wheel. This produces 11Nm of torque and costs $999. This price and performance put it in between the CSL DD and the DD1 that Fanatec offers, allowing it to act as a middle ground between Fanatec’s cheaper and more expensive products.
While the Logitech Pro Racing Wheel can be seen as expensive at $999, their G923 still offers incredible value that Fanatec doesn’t compete with. In a comparison between Fanatec and Logitech, Fanatec is seen as the expensive, but premium option.
Will a Fanatec wheel make you faster?
This is a question I get asked a lot, and it is a tricky one to answer. I would never recommend buying a more expensive wheel with the sole purpose of finding lap time. In fact, buying a more powerful racing wheel can even impact your lap time negatively.
Direct drive wheels offer a lot of performance, and the added power does require acclimatisation. The first time you go out on track with a more powerful wheel, you will almost certainly be slower as you focus more energy and strength on turning and controlling the wheel.
But as you progress with a direct drive wheel such as those that Fanatec sell, you will start to feel more intricate details that non-direct drive or budget racing wheels lack. These details can give you more information which can help your decision on how to drive your car.
Over time, you probably will find additional lap time with a direct drive Fanatec wheel, but it certainly isn’t guaranteed, and it won’t be a lot of lap time gain compared to time spent practising. If you are looking to increase your speed and ability to drive faster, time spent practising on track is the number one contributor.
Are Fanatec racing wheels worth buying?
With everything said and done, it can be said that Fanatec does focus on performance and quality over budget. Even though they have done a good job of introducing direct drive wheels at a more budget-friendly price point.
So is a Fanatec racing wheel worth buying? I would certainly say they are in certain circumstances. You know that you are buying into an incredibly well-established and fleshed-out ecosystem with Fanatec. You have a wide choice of branded steering wheels and multiple sim racing pedals.
If budget is more of a consideration, check out the Fanatec P1 bundle which is the cheapest way to buy into the Fanatec ecosystem. Outside of this, both Logitech and Thrustmaster have budget-friendly steering wheels.
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