How to Get Started in Sim Racing

The world of sim racing has seen a significant rise in popularity over the last few years. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many real-world motorsport events were unable to run, so drivers turned to sim racing to keep their race craft sharp (and for enjoyment of course).

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How to Get Started in Sim Racing
Written by the teams at & Driver61

It’s no secret that every Formula 1 team relies on dedicated simulators to hone and improve both driver performance and vehicle set-ups, albeit on much more advanced systems than we have available in our homes. That being said, the sophistication of consumer-grade sim rigs has increased exponentially in recent times, thanks to a high rate of development.

Now that you have seen the popularity of sim racing grow, you’ve perhaps decided you want a piece of the action. Unfortunately, getting started in sim racing can seem like a daunting prospect.

With literally thousands of possible setups, platforms and championships to take part in, where do you start?

In this article, we offer tips on how to get started in sim racing, with advice on where you should be investing your time and money and how to take those first steps to virtual success.

Starting In Sim Racing Is Confusing and Not Easy

Unless you have been following sim racing for a long time and know a thing or two about PC setups, it is more than likely you’ll find sim racing quite confusing.

Do I start on console or PC? Which game do I begin with? Which wheel should I choose and do I even need one?

These are questions we hear a lot from motorsport enthusiasts wanting to get into sim racing. When it comes to the crunch, there are some serious questions you need to ask yourself before taking the plunge, and these are:

How Seriously Am I Going to Take This?  

If you’re keen to get started in sim racing but want to treat it purely as a hobby, then this will make a difference to which route you take. If you’re thinking about making this a serious endeavor, then again, you may want to consider more expensive purchases to suit your long-term goals.

How Much Money Will I Have to Spend?

Sim racing is expensive. In the world of online gaming, it is the mot expensive subcategory next to flight simulators. It requires some serious investment if you do choose to take it seriously. Later in this article, we will detail some of those expected costs.

Do I Really Understand the Finer Details?

There is so much more to sim racing than just turning on a game and pressing go. Understanding vehicle set-up, driving techniques, steering wheel settings, monitor settings, game dynamics, etc., will all play an important part in your overall driving experience. Again, going back to the first question, if you want to take sim racing seriously, knowing these details are crucial to your driving experience.    

Console vs. PC

For sim racing, there are two main systems on which you can play racing games. Consoles, such as PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S; or PC (including gaming laptops). Each has its pros and cons and both are perfectly suitable solutions. In most cases, sim racers start on console and transition to PC as they begin to learn the nuances of online gaming.

Which Do You Go For?

Let’s start by saying console provides a quicker, cheaper and easier way into sim racing over PC options.

Both PlayStation and Xbox consoles offer several racing games and are compatible with a number of different steering wheel setups.

Console sim racing is much more ‘plug and play’, with fewer settings, configurations and available options to confuse the user. Furthermore, some very popular racing games, such as Gran Turismo 7 and Forza Motorsport, are extremely user-friendly.

PCs can also be expensive and time-consuming to build, with research into prospective components adding to the time and complexity of getting set up and driving.

The rewards for doing this, however, can be huge. PC gaming offers better graphical performance, more customisation and greater diversity. PCs offer the largest range of games, meaning whatever genre of racing you are into, there is almost certainly a simulator dedicated to it.

Be prepared, however, to invest your time as well as your finances. If you are new to PC setups, understanding the difference between a CPU and a graphics card can come in handy. That being said, for the not-so-tech-minded person, ready-built systems can provide an excellent starting point (more below).

It is also worth mentioning that screens and monitors can play a big part in your overall racing experience. Consoles currently support single monitors and virtual reality, whereas PCs can run single monitors, triple screens and VR.

The argument of which is best has been ongoing for some time in sim racing forums. Triple monitors vs. virtual reality can be more personal preference than definitive. Both options have varying prices and are another consideration to make when choosing your setup.

You can read more on sim racing-specific PC setups here.

Controller vs. Wheel

If you want to get into sim racing and you are reading this article, then we assume that you are going to be picking up a sim racing steering wheel.

It is worth mentioning though that many sim racers begin with using a controller or keyboard. Believe it or not, there are still players out there who thrive when using a controller, and your experience with sim racing on a controller can be just as fruitful.

Some racing platforms even offer controller-only championships and esports events. Many games today are initially designed to be played using a controller, such as Gran Turismo 7, F123 and Forza Motorsport, but all of these games offer wheel compatibility too.

Is there a performance advantage in using a wheel versus a controller? Not necessarily. Many of the top lap times found on console games have been set using a gamepad.

In terms of realism and feedback, however, steering wheel and pedal peripherals are better. Steering wheel technology, specifically in the virtual world, has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with companies such as Fanatec even going as far as to design and build steering wheels for actual race cars.

Today's available options for sim racing wheels are huge and can cause much confusion when picking what’s right for you.

There are a lot of moving parts that go into completing a sim wheel setup, so don’t be surprised when things like pedals, mounting brackets, gear shifters etc. are not included with the steering wheel itself.

Generally, the more money you spend, the better the experience.

How Much Does Sim Racing Cost?

For each of the following points, we will list entry-level, mid-level and high-level setups with their associated costs. Second-hand options will not be considered in this list and are generally not recommended when buying your rig due to their lack of warranty.

PC or Console

As mentioned in this article, console prices are cheaper, with a new PlayStation 5 costing around £400. An Xbox Series X is a little more affordable, retailing at around £360.

PC setups have much more variation, however, with fully customised PCs and gaming laptops available to order. You could even build your own.

Without going into too many PC setup specifics, if you’re someone who has a very general idea of computer builds, then a pre-built setup will be your best option. These are configurable PC’s that are built in the shop and shipped out to you.

Capable, pre-built gaming setups can range from £500 for an entry-level example, £800 for a medium-spec machine and £1500+for a top-level setup. It is recommended to start at a medium-level setup, as PC parts have varying shelf lives. A more expensive setup will usually last much longer before upgrades are required.

Custom PCs will vary in price massively depending on which components you opt for. They can be cheaper than pre-built designs, as you negate the cost of assembly. Be prepared that with this option, you will need to configure and assemble your entire PC at home.


Monitors or screens play a huge part in your sim racing experience. You essentially have three options for PC and two options for console.

PCs can use multiple monitors or VR. On consoles, you can have a single monitor or VR.

Monitors for PC, again, vary in price: for sim racing, wider is better. A wider screen will give you a better field of view and can enhance things like depth perception and blind spots.

16:9 monitors can cost anywhere between £100 to £800 depending on resolution and refresh rate. Ultra-wide monitors can be much more expensive; 32:9 and 24:9 screens can range from £600 to £3000.

More info can be found here.

All 16:9 PC monitors will be compatible with PlayStation or Xbox, so if you’re thinking about starting on console and then transitioning to PC, you might want to consider this for future builds.

VR headsets also vary in price. HTC Vive kits can cost upwards of £500, while the super popular Meta Quest 3 headset can cost £500-£600. The PlayStation-only PS VR2 set generally costs £529.99 but has a limited number of compatible racing games (Gran Turismo 7 being the most obvious choice).

Price comparisons for VR can be found here.


As you can imagine, buying the right sim wheel and pedals can be just as confusing as picking the right PC setup. There are literally thousands of available options from a range of suppliers.

Wheels are essentially broken down into four types. These types refer to the method in which the force feedback is given to the steering wheel. These are:

  1. Gear drive – Logitech G29, G920 and some Thrustmasters - £150 to £300
  2. Belt drive – Thrustmaster T300 - £300
  3. Hybrid drive (gears and belts) - Thrustmaster T128 and Thrustmaster T248 - £130-£250
  4. Direct drive – Fanatec Podium Wheel Base DD2, Simucube Sport, Logitech G PRO Racing, Thrustmaster T818 - £1,000 to £1,250

Some wheelbases do not come with pedals, mounting brackets, steering wheels etc. included, so be sure to check what you are buying before clicking purchase. Belt-driven wheels have become rather obsolete of late too, with entry-level direct-drive wheelbases from Fanatec and Moza largely taking up the slack at the mid-level.

Also check for compatibility, as not all wheels are compatible with all consoles and PC.

Rigs + Accessories

Once you have your PC and/or console and you have your wheel on order, the next part of the puzzle is finding some wherein your home to use it.

A lot of sim racing beginners do not realise the importance of this step. Your rig is equally as critical to your driving experience as the wheel itself.

As an absolute minimum, you need a solid, sturdy desk with a stable, planted chair. Wheelie chairs on a wooden floor simply will not work - as soon as you hit the brakes, you will fly backwards. Alongside this, you need to securely position the pedals to the floor without them moving or sliding when pressed.

Most wheel manufacturers will offer desk mounting options either in the form of clamps or grips. These are usually sufficient, but for high-torque wheels, a fixed, permanent mounting will be best.

Desk setups can work when done correctly!

You can also buy standalone rigs that have the option to mount monitors directly. These are perfect solutions for most applications but can be quite pricey.

Entry-level rigs – £280+ Playseat

Mid-level – £500+ Trak Racer, GT Omega

High-level – £1000+ Next Level Racing, Sparco, R Seat

Motion simulators are also an option, but the price of these can skyrocket and also require a powerful setup and a lot of setup and building time: £8000+

Which Sim Racing Game Should I Buy?

If you’re seriously considering sim racing as a hobby, then you’ll want close, competitive online racing. Most sims will offer this, however, some platforms do it better than others.

Having an interest in a particular group or class of racing can help determine your choices. If you’re only interested in open-wheel, F1-style racing, then obviously F1 23 is for you.

Furthermore, rally-style games also fall into their own subcategory. EA SPORTS WRC and modded versions of Richard Burns Rally are both excellent options for bobble-hat enthusiasts.

If you want to drive a range of cars on all different types of circuits with low-level competition and an emphasis on ‘fun’, then Assetto Corsa, Gran Turismo 7, Project Cars 2 and Forza Motorsport might be better options. These games also offer league racing and online competition.

Finally, if you’re thinking about getting more competitive and want to progress as a serious online racer, then the platforms we would recommend are iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione, rFactor2, Automobilist a 2, Race Room and F1 23.

League Racing, Competition, and Getting to the Top

If you have ever taken part in an online time trial, race or championship, you will undoubtedly discover how fast the top-rated drivers can be, achieving almost unreachable lap times.

It can be incredibly demoralising to set what you think is a perfect lap and then find yourself a couple of seconds off the best.

As racing drivers, we all have a competitive inner nature. That’s what makes racing so fun: great competition. And if you need a little extra help, can analyse your performances, suggest areas for improvement and offer live, on-track coaching so you can optimise your driving time.

One of sim racing’s best attributes is its user base. A huge array of drivers creates close, competitive online racing which we all strive for. The downside to this, however, is that it is incredibly difficult to make it into the top 1% of drivers in terms of pace.

Luckily for sim racing newbies, there are still ways for you to compete without being demolished by an esports pro who invests 12 hours a day into their driving.

Many third-party groups and communities have emerged in sim racing, creating motorsport leagues and championships for all ages and abilities. These groups really do make or break your sim racing experience.

Finding a group of like-minded drivers who can communicate and organise fun, skill-based events makes sim racing the enjoyable experience it should be!

There are hundreds of choices out there at the moment and plenty of ways to find groups. Facebook can be a great starting place, offering the ability to search easily for specific games, car classes, time zones etc., so you can find a group that suits your needs.

Last Updated
April 29, 2024
Sim Racing

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