LAST UPDATED: October 23, 2019
Best Racing Wheels: Enjoy the Thrill of Speed
A quality racing wheel makes racing games easy to control and realistic
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON October 23, 2019
Do you know you can enjoy the thrill and the adrenaline of racing without getting into an actual car? This is possible thanks to modern technology. All you need is a racing wheel to immerse yourself in a racing game. The real challenge, however, is choosing the right racing wheel, since there are so many available. In the buying guide below, we have compiled the best three to help you make an informed buying decision.
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Benefits of Racing Wheels
- More realistic, immersive experience. Racing wheels provide positive feedback during operation. They simulate the same real-world experiences you would expect from a real steering wheel when you’re actually driving a car.
- Precision control. Compared to using a joystick or a keyboard, a racing wheel offers more precise game play control within a racing simulator.
- Competitive gaming. If you’re playing in a racing game tournament, a racing wheel is one of the best tools you can use to get a competitive edge.
Types of Racing Wheels
One of the biggest differentiators between racing wheels has to do with the “Force Feedback” system (FFB) that they use. FFB refers to how effectively a racing wheel can simulate that “real world” feeling of driving a car since you aren’t actually in a car. There are three main types of force feedback systems.
This is the oldest FFB option on the market and is a motor that’s connected to the steering wheel’s shaft by way of gears. These models tend to be the noisiest and often are not very precise. Compared to the other FFB systems available, this type is viewed by the gaming industry as the least ideal option.
Compared to gear drive racing wheels, belt drive force feedback racing wheels rely on a belt to simulate a racing experience. These models are quieter and are far more precise than gear drive racing wheels. However, because this style typically relies on a rubber belt, with extended use the belt can stretch or wear out easily. And often the belt can absorb the force, creating a loss in accuracy.
This is considered the best option, especially for competitive gaming racers. The steering wheel is directly mounted on to the motor, reducing any risk of losing force or creating inaccuracies in communication. However, these higher-end models are also the priciest, often starting at $1,000, so you may not have the budget to buy one.
Founded in 1984, Thrustmaster is a U.S.-based brand that focuses almost exclusively on creating accessories for the interactive entertainment market. It specifically creates aftermarket accessories for PC and gaming consoles. In addition to our Best Value Thrustmaster T80 Racing Wheel and Honorable Mention Thrustmaster TMX racing wheel choices, Thrustmaster also creates a range of popular PC flight sticks.
Logitech is a multinational firm that began in Switzerland in 1981. But thanks to cross-border collaboration, the brand has expanded into the Silicon Valley to focus on innovation. Logitech is a robust computer accessories brand that also creates solid gaming accessories. Along with our Best Overall choice, the Logitech G920 Racing Wheel, Logitech is best known for traditional computer accessories like wireless mice and keyboards.
Racing Wheels Pricing
- Up to $100: Within this budget, you’ll find entry-level gear-driven racing wheels with realistic resistance, 180-degree steering rotation, and the ability to auto-adjust vibration levels.
- $101 to $400: In this median range, you’ll easily find belt-driven force feedback racing wheels that are designed with the ability to swap out steering rims.
- $401 and up: At this high-end range, these models are also belt-driven force feedback racing wheels but with better quality components.
Size is an important consideration because it can impact game play. While a smaller wheel can be ideal for use in a smaller space, these options might be made from inferior materials. For example, if the wheel is made from plastic, it can feel more like a toy instead of giving you the realistic experience you were hoping to feel.
Next, focus on how much customization you can control with your racing wheel. A quality racing wheel will give you the freedom to independently program all of the face buttons as well as the pedals. And it will feature a wheel where you can customize the degrees of rotation between 180 and 270 degrees. This is important as some games offer a better experience, depending on the degree rotation you select.
Your pedals are important as they’ll help to create that immersive experience you need for more authentic gameplay. Good pedals should offer resistance, but you should also focus on racing wheels featuring triggers that act like paddles on racing cars to help you brake or accelerate.
If you’re attempting to create the most authentic racing experience, your racing wheel should come with leather grips. Just like with a real steering wheel, leather grips help you hold the wheel more securely. As for gaming, this added feature—as opposed to rubber grips—helps to make the entire experience feel more realistic as opposed to simply using a basic plastic racing wheel.
- LED Indicators: Some racing wheel models come with LED indicators at the top of the wheel’s central column. These lights help to signal when you should shift gears and can be helpful when playing harder racing games or if you’re just starting out in this gaming genre.
- Price: While you might occasionally find an outlier that’s the exception to the rule, with gaming racing wheels you tend to get what you pay for. If you’re looking for a racing wheel that gives you the ultimate immersive experience and is extremely responsive, you should be prepared to pay more.
Best Racing Wheels Reviews & Recommendations 2020
We selected the Logitech G920 Racing Wheel as our Best Overall because it’s chock full of enhanced features for a superior gaming experience. If you prefer more realistic racing gameplay, then Logitech’s wheel delivers one of the most authentic driving experiences without being in an actual car. The leather-wrapped, 11-Inch wheel is comfortable and lends itself to extended gameplay.
You’ll like that this Logitech model offers steel pedals, which create a more precise acceleration and braking process. This model also features easy-to-use controls that include an on-the-wheel D-pad, console buttons, and paddle shifters. Best of all, this wheel is designed for long-term use thanks to its durable construction.
One of the biggest drawbacks with the Logitech racing wheel is that it features limited compatibility. This model won’t work with PS3 or PS4 gaming consoles. Other issues we discovered were that the pedal sets were hard to operate and it requires batteries to work.
Being budget-conscious doesn’t mean that you need to give up on functionality. The Thrustmaster T80 Racing Wheel is our Best Value choice because its modest price is combined with a realistic hand feel and driving experience. The advanced feedback and vibration technology makes you feel like you’re actually driving on a road.
One of the best features of the Thrustmaster T80 is it’s wallet-friendly price. But the build quality is a big deal as well, since you won’t need to replace this after only a few months of gaming. Another big feature is that the steering speed is unrestricted. But best of all, this budget racing wheel offers an impressive 900-degree wheel rotation that offers an extremely realistic experience.
However, we did discover a few drawbacks. The pedals sit close together, which can make them harder to use for people with larger feet. We also found that the cables were very short and that there were incompatibilities with select games. But the biggest issue we found was that this wheel is only rated for use with Playstation 4 consoles.
For median price point shoppers that are ready for something more than a simple budget option, we’ve selected the Thrustmaster TMX Racing Wheel as our Honorable Mention selection. We like the ergonomic design of the racing wheel and its ability to work seamlessly with both PC and Xbox One racing games. Other enhanced features like the 900-degree force feedback, larger pedals, and 11-inch steering wheel, create a better immersive racing experience. And finally, the Touch Sense technology expertly mimics real-world driving feedback.
We liked that this Thrustmaster TMX force feedback racing wheel arrives with preinstalled Thrustmaster drivers—which makes setup and installation easier. Plus, those drivers are compatible with Xbox Ones and numerous Microsoft-based PCs. You’ll like that you can adjust the pedal angles for more comfortable use. And best of all, this racing wheel model is compatible with other accessories from Thrustmaster.
A common issue we discovered was that the pedals are poorly made. In some cases, with extended use, they can break easily. Also, the plastic clamp can also break if a user is heavy-handed. And as is a common issue with multiple racing wheels, this Thrustmaster version is also incompatible with PS3 and PS4.
- When buying a racing wheel, the first thing to consider is the compatibility with your system. Whether you are using a PlayStation, PC, or Xbox, there is a wheel out there just for you. Some wheels are compatible with all three, while others may fit just one of them.
- For you to be a master with a racing wheel and in the games, you have to practice consistently. Try to learn the ins, outs, and controls of the game. Start with the basics, with low powered cars for example, before moving to more complex ones.
Q: How does racing wheel work?
A: A racing wheel is a device consisting of a physical steering wheel and pedals. This set connects to your PC or Xbox via an input, and it helps you to easily control the game so long as it is compatible with your device and its operating system.
Q: Is the Xbox racing wheel compatible with a PC?
A: Compatibility depends on the wheel make and the operating system of your devices. Some wheels are cross-compatible, while others are compatible with just one device. Ensure you buy a wheel that fits your device specifications.
Q: Can a racing wheel help improve my gaming skills?
A: A racing wheel is meant to make the game feel real while still ensuring you can control it easily. However, it does not necessarily improve your gaming skills. To be more skilled, you have to practice.
For a realistic racing feeling and experience, we recommend the Logitech G920 Racing Wheel. It is comfortable and features feedback technology for extreme racing realism. However, if you are on a budget, the Thrustmaster T80 Racing Wheel is the gadget for you. It still works great at bringing the experience of racing indoors.