Best Racing Wheel Under £500 – But Should You Buy It?
In this guide we plan to show you the absolute best racing wheel under £500. This racing wheel will be the using all of your £500 budget, and is the best on the market for this price range.
We’ll look at other racing wheels available for under £500. And we will then talk about whether you need to spend up to £500 on a racing wheel, and if budget racing wheels are just as good.
Best racing wheel under £500
Let’s start by looking at the best racing wheel under £500. This racing wheel is so good, it would be our recommendation to anybody looking to start sim racing, or looking to upgrade their budget racing wheel. It is the Fanatec CSL Elite racing wheel.
Lets take a look at this brilliant racing wheel, why we recommend that you buy it, and how much it is.
If you haven’t heard of Fanatec, they are one of the best sim racing wheel manufacturers around. They produce fantastic (no pun intended) racing wheels, with most of their products falling in to a premium price bracket.
As a general rule of thumb, the sim racing wheel pecking order goes;
Logitech – Budget racing wheels -> Thrustmaster – Budget to mid level racing wheels -> Fanatec – mid level to premium racing wheels
This is a very crude look at the three biggest players in the racing wheel peripheral market. Essentially, if you are looking for the best racing wheel you can buy, Fanatec is the way to go.
So what makes the Fanatec CSL Elite the best racing wheel under £500?
The Fanatec CSL Elite is the most budget oriented racing wheel that the German manufacturer produce. It utilises technology from the more expensive ClubSport racing wheel, and packages it in to a smaller form. The CSL racing wheel range uses smooth belt driven motors to produce force feedback that is a world above other racing wheels.
The motor inside the CSL Elite produces a mighty amount of torque, at 6Nm. That is triple the amount of force feedback strength that the Logitech G29 offers, and over double the amount of an equivalently priced Thrustmaster wheel.
If you have ever raced with a Logitech or Thrustmaster racing wheel, then stepping up to a Fanatec CSL Elite would feel vastly different. Where wheels from Logitech really do feel like a plastic toy peripheral, the CSL Elite emulates a real world race car much closer.
The quality in force feedback is a world apart, allowing you to feel every small detail, which isn’t possible with other wheels. You will start to feel the bumps in the track and be able to tell when your car is at the edge of its grip much better.
The Fanatec Ecosystem
Another great perk with purchasing a Fanatec wheel, is that you get access to the wide Fanatec ecosystem of products. Just like the quality of their racing wheels, this ecosystem includes the best shifters, pedals and peripherals on the market. This also includes a wide range of steering wheel rims.
When purchasing a CSL Elite wheel base or product bundle, you can purchase other wheel rims and attach them to your CSL Elite wheel base. This includes steering wheels from Fanatec’s other product ranges. All ClubSport wheel rims are also compatible with the CSL Elite wheel base. This opens up your options to a wide variety of racing wheels, such as F1 style wheel rims to rally and drift wheel rims.
How to buy a Fanatec CSL Elite for under £500
If you look to buy a Fanatec CSL Elite wheel base, wheel rim and pedal all separately you will quickly break your £500 budget. However, Fanatec sell product bundles which come with everything you need to start racing included.
At the time of writing Fanatec are selling a CSL Elite wheel and pedal bundle for £499. This bundle includes a CSL Elite wheel base, a PS4 and PC compatible racing wheel and the CSL Elite pedals.
Just a note, this comes with a PS4 racing wheel, however the wheel base is still compatible with Xbox consoles. All you need to do is purchase an Xbox compatible steering wheel in the future. If you do want to buy an Xbox compatible Fanatec bundle it does cost a little more at £550. This is because you aren’t taking advantage of the PS4 bundle discount which Fanatec offer.
To view this product bundle on Fanatec’s official store – Buy here.
What other wheels can you buy for under £500
Before committing to buying a racing wheel, especially when you’re looking to spend £500, it is always good to look at all of the options. For some reason you may not like Fanatec, or you have an affinity to another product. So let’s look at the other options.
Buy the Logitech G923 wheel from your region below;
The Logitech G29 / G920 / G923 is built with one goal in mind, dominating the budget racing wheel market. It is marketed to those who are looking to make their first steps in to sim racing. Because of this, it is often the first racing wheel many sim racers buy. Even my first racing wheel was the older Logitech G27!
Because of Logitech’s targetting towards a budget market, you can pick up an older G29 / G920 for as little as £270. That is half the price of the CSL Elite that we are recommending.
Or you can pick up the newer Logitech G923 for around £100 more. However there are a few big drawbacks for going down this budget route which we’ll look at now.
Due to the budget restrictions, Logitech have made the decision to go with a cheaper force feedback technology, which is gear driven. This differs from the belt technology found in other racing wheels, by using solely gears to upscale the motors strength. This does however, produce rather mechanical and clunky force feedback.
You will often experience the gears slipping and jumping as you go over particularly harsh track surfaces. For this reason it is sometimes hard to decipher the exact feedback you are experiencing. This technology truly feels like a budget option when you compare it to the belt technology in Fanatec’s and other wheels.
The strength of the force feedback in the G29 / G920 / G923 is only a third as strong as the CSL Elite. This is one of the most noticeable differences between the Logitech and Fanatec wheels. The Logitech simply can’t produce strong enough force feedback to emulate a real car. This is truly a toy peripheral.
Another down side of buying a Logitech wheel is the lack of upgrades. Logitech don’t offer any other wheel rims, or pedal upgrades. Once you have purchased a G29 / G920 / G923, you are limited to what you have. That is until you upgrade to a Fanatec wheel.
What is the difference between Logitech G29 vs G920?
You will find that racing wheel manufacturers have to produce two products, as the technology in both PlayStation and Xbox is different. Wheel manufacturers have to work around these differences and they do so by releasing the same product, but with console specific variants.
Logitech’s solution to this is to release two completely different wheel products. The Logitech G29 is compatible with PS4 and PC, whilst the Logitech G920 is compatible with Xbox and PC. Read an expert Logitech G29 review.
Fanatec get around this by making their compatibility driven by the wheel rim. This means that any Fanatec wheel base you buy is compatible with both consoles. You just need to attach the correct console specific wheel rim to enable that consoles compatibility. To us, this is a nicer alternative, as we would rather have two wheel rims and one wheel base.
Logitech G29 / G920 Pros
- Great value for the cost
- Reasonably high build quality for the price
Logitech G29 / G920 Cons
- Not great force feedback quality
- No options to upgrade
Thrustmaster have two products for sale within our £500 racing wheel budget. Both the Thrustmaster TX RW and the T300 RS. These two racing wheels are essentially the same, however the TX is compatible with Xbox, whilst the T300 is compatible with PlayStation.
So why would we consider a Thrustmaster wheel instead of Fanatec?
The Thrustmaster TX and T300 product range is the middle ground between Thrustmaster’s most budget options and their most premium.
This range of racing wheels offer great bang for your buck and is priced under the Fanatec CSL Elite, coming in at around £350 for a wheel base, wheel rim and pedal bundle. However, the pedals included in this bundle aren’t great, and we would recommend upgrading them if you were to purchase a TX or T300.
The force feedback, in comparison to the Fanatec CSL Elite, isn’t as good or as strong. The TX and T300 put out around 3.9Nm compared to the CSL Elite’s 6Nm. This is apparent when you drive both side by side, with the Thrustmaster wheel still feeling rather much like a toy.
The quality of the force feedback isn’t as good either. The belt doesn’t feel quite as smooth and a lot of the small track detail which is present through a CSL Elite, disappears completely with the Thrustmaster.
That isn’t to say the force feedback isn’t good, as it is. Because the Thrustmaster wheels use a belt driven motor, and not the gear driven motor that is in the Logitech wheel, the force feedback is still smooth. You can certainly drive with a TX or T300 and drive fast, as the force feedback that is present is smooth and generally very good. Just not quite to the standard of the CSL Elite.
When it comes to product quality, this is the main area where Thrustmaster and Fanatec differ. Fanatec offer superb build quality, with great wheel rims, often made out of carbon fibre, leather and alcantara. The wheel base and wheel rims from Thrustmaster are a much different affair. There is a lot of plastic on offer, and the wheel rims available aren’t any where near the same level of finish quality.
There are a few great wheel rims such as the Ferrari F1 wheel rim which is superb, so you can certainly upgrade your Thrustmaster to feel much better. But for our racing wheel budget of £500, Thrustmaster’s TX / T300 bundle isn’t as good.
Thrustmaster T300 RS Pros
- Good force feedback quality
- Improved gear shifters from previous generation
Thrustmaster T300 RS Cons
- Poor pedals included in the bundle
- Not as strong force feedback as the Fanatec wheel
Are the budget options just as good?
We have shown that you can pay a lot less than £500 for a racing wheel, and the Logitech G29 / G920 is a decent wheel to start with. We would consider the Logitech G29 racing wheel a good wheel. The build quality is high for the price, the quality of the wheel itself is decent.
Yes, there are a range of reasons why it isn’t as good of a purchase as the Fanatec CSL Elite, but for the price the Logitech G29 is a good buy.
Then there is the Thrustmaster TX / T300. Priced at around £350, this sits between the Fanatec and Logitech wheels in both price and quality. The force feedback is much better than the Logitech racing wheel, however we would say that the build quality and wheel rim quality isn’t as good as either the Logitech or Fanatec options.
For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend the Thrustmaster racing wheel for either budget sim racers or those looking to spend up to £500. For a little more investment you can buy in to a much more advanced and high quality ecosystem.
The Fanatec CSL Elite is far and away the best racing wheel under £500.
Should I spend £500 on a racing wheel?
Deciding whether to pay up to £500 for a racing wheel is a question of personal preference. As we have shown, you can buy a budget racing wheel for around half this price. But you have to ask how long will that budget wheel last, and is the sacrifice in force feedback worth it?
If you are planning on taking sim racing more seriously, it can be worth investing in some good hardware. The amount of fun that you are going to get out of sim racing is heavily influenced by the wheel that you are using. If your first experience of sim racing is with a budget wheel such as a Logitech, you may not get as much enjoyment or immersion compared to if you were using a much better quality wheel.
You also have to consider whether you plan to upgrade and add to your racing wheel setup over time. Do you plan to add a formula style racing wheel to your sim racing setup, or invest in an improved pedal over time? If so, the investment in to a good sim racing platform at the beginning can save a lot of money from having to reinvest in a new wheel base.
So should you spend £500 on a racing wheel? If you plan on taking sim racing more seriously in the future, then it is certainly worth considering investing in a good platform from the outset.
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