Beginners Guide To Sim Racing: Which Racing Wheel is Best For Beginners?

Finding the best beginner racing wheel can be tricky. Balancing performance, comaptibility and the best value are all important. This guide looks at which entry-level wheels fit those criteria.

Simucube Tahko GT-21 Steering Wheel Mounted To Simucube Wheel Base

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The goal of this beginner’s guide to sim racing is to look at which racing wheels are perfect for beginners. This series of articles focuses on getting started with sim racing for the first time. Below are links to other guides in this series that look at specific elements of sim racing.

You can quickly read our previous guides using the quick links below. We have looked at whether using a controller or a racing wheel is the best route for sim racing along with which racing games to get started with. This is the third guide in the series, however, you can read them in any order.

In this beginner’s guide, I’m going to look at the best options when choosing your first racing wheel. I’ll compare various wheels to see which is best in various scenarios, and I’ll also look at more advanced racing wheels that offer better performance. Sometimes, investing in a more expensive racing wheel can save money in the long run, as long as you know you’ll get a lot of use out of it.

What makes the perfect beginner racing wheel?

If you are jumping into the world of sim racing for the first time, looking at all of the different racing wheels available can be quite daunting. There is a lot of terminology to learn, and a lot of different types of racing wheels.

The main elements to look for when it comes to racing wheels and the performance they offer are force feedback and force feedback technology. These elements dictate how good a racing wheel can be. Then of course there is both price and compatibility to consider as well.

A good beginner racing wheel will ideally consist of the following;

  • Good force feedback performance between 2-5Nm of peak torque
  • Priced under £/$300-400
  • Compatible with consoles as well as PC

What Is Force Feedback?

Force feedback is the name given to the forces which you feel through the wheel itself. And it is without a doubt the best element of racing with a wheel.

The stronger the force feedback the more the wheel will vibrate and the heavier the forces in the wheel will be. This allows you as a driver to feel the car on the road, and get an idea for how the car is behaving.

Another element of force feedback to be paired with strength is the detail. If the force feedback is detailed it lets you differentiate between small forces and large, and if you have a really good wheel, you can even feel the difference in small track surface changes.

What’s the difference between gear, belt and direct drive technology?

When it comes to producing the force feedback that you feel in the wheel, there are a few different ways to do this.

Gear-driven force feedback, which is typically the worse way of producing forces. This method utilises a series of gears which connect a motor to the wheel shaft. Generally, the forces produced are a little rougher than other methods due to being able to feel the physical gears.

Belt-driven force feedback can be an improvement over gear driven. This method utilises a belt to connect the motor to the wheel shaft. The bonus of using a belt means you won’t get the telltale gear grinding that is present in gear-driven wheels. Overall this method produces a much smoother force feedback, sometimes with a reduction in clarity and detail.

Direct drive force feedback is the best of the best. This style of racing wheel utilises a much larger motor and removes gears and belts. Instead, it connects the motor directly to the wheel shaft (hence direct drive). This gives the driver a true 1 to 1 feel with the motor, allowing for much stronger and more detailed force feedback.

Discover the differences between direct drive and gear and belt driven force feedback in our detailed guide.

Racing wheel compatibility explained

Aside from the headline force feedback figures and technology, there are a couple of other things to look for when buying a racing wheel. The first and most important is compatibility.

Compatibility is crucial when it comes to racing wheels, just like it is with a lot of peripherals. However, it can be a confusing part of buying a racing wheel.

Often, companies will manufacture the same racing wheel but have a specific version for specific consoles. And other times companies will offer completely different models for each platform. So try to keep an eye on compatibility when deciding on a racing wheel.

Build quality matters when buying a racing wheel

The other thing to look for, like many products, is quality. There are a lot of wheels to choose from, and many are better constructed than others. I’ll highlight this in our wheel recommendations below.

Best budget racing wheels for beginners

Many sim racers, when they first start their journey, will be looking for a reasonably budget friendly racing wheel. This helps drivers get a taster for this style of racing, and acclimatise themselves with sim racing, before spending big bucks on a premium racing wheel.

You can pick up a budget racing wheel from £199/$199 which isn’t a huge cost, (compared to other racing wheels on this list). And as you would have read in our previous controller vs racing wheel guide, we would highly recommend picking up one of these wheels, as it can transform your racing experience.

Best value for money beginner wheel: Logitech G923

The Logitech G923 is possibly our pick of the bunch when it comes to a budget racing wheel. It offers a great overall sim racing experience in an affordable package, and contains everything you need to start sim racing.

One of the most impressive elements of the Logitech G923 is the build quality. Logitech have been producing racing wheel for years now, in fact my first racing wheel was an old Logitech wheel.

Every element from the wheel’s design, through to its longevity oozes quality. There have been very few problems reported with this wheel, far fewer than other sim racing companies. So if you want a wheel to last years, this is a good bet.

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And then there is the design quality. The wheel itself features a combination of leather and metal, with a metal faceplate, and leather wheel trim. This makes the whole wheel feel like a well built product, and it’s enjoyable to race with.

The G923 is an upgraded version of an older wheel, the G29. And it features a few improvements, such as rev lights and a rotary dial across both the PlayStation and Xbox versions. Upgrades have also been made under the hood, introducing a new Trueforce feature, which helps improve the overall feedback through the wheel.

Despite all of this praise, the G923 does have one minor downside. It is the only wheel on this list to utilise gear driven force feedback. This results in a few moments while racing where you will feel the gears grinding. Although this isn’t as much of as a problem as it could be.

Overall the force feedback is good in both strength and detail, and is more than good enough to quantify its price point. If you fancy a little more info on the G923, watch our unboxing and review video here.

Racing Wheel – Logitech G923
Compatibility – PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox Series X|S
Price – £379/$399
Where to buyBuy Logitech G923 UK/EU / Buy Logitech G923 US

Fanatec CSL DD

If you are looking for a slightly more premium racing wheel than the Logitech G923, the Fanatec CSL DD has to be considered. Fanatec has become one of the most well-known racing wheel manufacturers in sim racing, and they sponsor a huge amount of events, including Esports and Formula 1.

The CSL DD is the cheapest racing wheel that Fanatec offer and a complete CSL DD bundle can be purchased for just under double the price of the Logitech G923. This may be a large jump in cost, however, the bonuses that a Fanatec wheel offers vastly outweigh that cost increase in my opinion.

You get a huge amount of customisation with any Fanatec wheel, allowing you to choose which steering wheel you want from a wide selection, along with a variety of sim racing pedals to choose from.

To go along with this customisation comes a huge improvement in force feedback quality over the G923. The CSL DD is a direct drive racing wheel, which means much-improved force feedback detail and peak performance compared to the gear-driven Logitech wheel.

I have compared the Logitech G923 and Fanatec CSL DD in our budget racing wheel guide, so check that out for a more detailed head-to-head comparison.

Racing Wheel – Fanatec CSL DD
Compatibility – PC, Xbox Series X|S
Price – From €/$349.95
Where to buyBuy from Fanatec EU / Buy from Fanatec US

Best F1 racing wheel and pedal setup

At Sim Racing Setups, we have a passion for Formula 1, as you can probably tell from the hundreds of F1 car setups on our website. The Drive To Survive series in particular has been a huge catalyst for getting more people watching Formula 1, and that has fed into sim racing.

It is only natural that any sim racer, beginner or long-term, would like to replicate the style of setup that Verstappen, Norris and others race with. Creating the best F1 wheel and pedal setup is a dream for many sim racers. However, finding good F1 racing wheel and pedals doesn’t have to be reserved for professional sim racers.

There are a good number of relatively affordable F1 steering wheels available. Pairing an F1 wheel with a good beginner wheel base and pedal set can result in a good F1 wheel and pedal setup without spending too much money.

Our recommended F1 wheel & pedal setup

When it comes to creating an F1 wheel and pedal setup for beginners, one of the main priorities is to avoid spending too much money. However, using a beginner racing wheel like the Logitech G923 above might not provide the best level of immersion for an F1 sim racing setup. The only way to really achieve this immersion is to add a Formula-style steering wheel.

Fanatec Ready2Race F1 Esports Bundle

Below is the setup that we would recommend purchasing.

We would recommend one of the best budget direct drive wheel bases as the foundation, the Fanatec CSL DD. I have just spoken about this wheel base in more detail above, so I won’t reiterate its good points too much. The main thing to know about why I would recommend this for a Formula-style setup is that it is widely compatible with a range of Formula-style steering wheels.

I would pair this wheel base with the Fanatec CSL Pedals. These are the most budget-friendly sim racing pedals that Fanatec currently sells, and they are compatible with the CSL DD and consoles. You can purchase the two-pedal set, which is all you will need for racing F1 cars as they do not utilise a clutch.

Finally, the steering wheel I would recommend is the Fanatec F1 Esports V2. This is one of the cheaper steering wheels that Fanatec sells and is officially licensed by Formula 1, even including the F1 logo on the front.

This setup as a whole is one of the cheapest complete bundles you can buy from Fanatec. It offers the best cheap direct drive wheel base, paired with an official F1 branded steering wheel.

Read our recommednations for the best F1 wheel & pedal setup across a range of budgets.

Best premium racing wheel

Fanatec ClubSport DD

Stepping up a gear from the previous racing wheel suggestions, the ClubSport DD wheel base marks the entry point into more serious sim racing. This is a wheel base which sits above the CSL DD in Fanatec’s product lineup and is one of the newest and most powerful wheel bases Fanatec currently sell. It boasts improved force feedback technology for some of the best FFB available from any wheel base on the market.

For many sim racers, this is one of the best premium wheel bases. The ClubSport is one of the newest direct drive racing wheels available, and this results in some of the best force feedback detail possible. It’s a wheel that I’ve raced with a fair bit since it was launched at the end of 2023, and the step up from the CSL DD is certainly noticeable.

This difference comes in the peak strength increase, but also the detail. With the ClubSport DD wheel base, you will be presented with much more detail, including track detail as well as grip level detail.

Racing Wheel – Fanatec ClubSport DD
Compatibility – PC, Xbox Series X|S
Price – From €/$799.95
Where to buyBuy from Fanatec EU / Buy from Fanatec US

Things to avoid in a racing wheel

While there are a good number of items to look for in a racing wheel such as value, performance and compatibility, there are also some things you should look to avoid. There is such a thing as a bad racing wheel, and these are often the cheapest options that look good initially.

I spoke about the importance of force feedback earlier in this guide. However, some extremely budget racing wheels actually do not include force feedback. Instead, some wheels utilise a resistance band inside to provide some sense of weight and resistance when you rotate the steering wheel.

Generally, this style of racing wheel is incredibly well priced, often under £/$100 making it an enticing prospect. The problem with not using force feedback is that you get zero feedback from how your car is reacting in game.

If your car starts to lose grip, starts to slide or drives over a kerb, you won’t know from your racing wheel. Often these wheels are less informative than racing with a controller can be. This style of racing wheel really should be reserved for someone looking to race very casually, or maybe as a toy for a younger racing fan.

If you are thinking that sim racing could be a hobby in the long term, you will very quickly outgrow a non-force feedback racing wheel. The cost you spend on a wheel without force feedback could go a long way towards affording a more expensive, but much higher-performing racing wheel.

Read our other beginner sim racing guides

We have an entire series of sim racing guides designed for sim racing newcomers. Sim racing can be daunting and can be a costly hobby, however, it is incredibly rewarding and should be something all racing or motorsport fans are able to experience.

Our beginner’s guides to sim racing all look at specific areas of sim racing, with the goal of making each part more accessible and easy to digest. Feel free to read our other guides using the quick links below, or jump between the guides to learn about different elements of sim racing.

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Frequently asked questions

Which wheel is the best value-for-money beginner wheel?

The best value-for-money beginner racing wheel has to be either the Logitech G923 or Thrustmaster T128. Both of these wheels can be purchased for a relatively affordable price, and both offer good performance.

What realistic steering wheel is good to get as a beginner?

Wheels such as the Logitech G923 don’t have the most realistic steering wheels. For the best realistic steering wheel for a beginner, you should look at Fanatec. They offer great steering wheels like the McLaren GT3 V2 wheel which is a real-world replica.

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Article written by Mjolnir

Mjolnir is one of the main setup creators and content writers for SimRacingSetups. He has had years of experience in sim racing, both competitively and casually. After a decade of sim racing experience, he co-founded to share his passion and knowledge of sim racing and Formula 1 with other sim racers.
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