Budget Sim Racing Setup Under $500
Sim racing is big business right now. It is everywhere due to all of the Esports events and celebrity drivers. The likes of Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Max Verstappen and whole host of other drivers and celebrities have introduced sim racing to a much wider audience.
This has led to a lot of gamers wanting to try out sim racing, and invest in a budget friendly sim rig. I mean, if you are going to try something out for the first time. You don’t go and buy the Lamborghini of sim racing wheels just to find out its not your thing!
That is why we have put together our most budget friendly sim racing rig build guide. This guide will show you how to assemble a whole sim racing rig for under $500.
When we say we have assembled a whole rig, we mean it. This includes the wheel and pedals of course. But also somewhere to mount it to. And we aren’t just going to recommend a table or desk mount and be done with it. No, we’re showing you a proper stand alone wheel stand. And to finish it off, we have also worked room in to the $500 budget for a gaming chair.
Of course, if you already have a gaming chair, you can remove this from the build, and it becomes a $300 sim racing rig. Even better right!
The sim racing products that make up this rig
Let’s get started by showing you all of the equipment that will go into this budget sim racing rig. Then I’ll delve in deeper to each part of it, and explain why we’ve chosen the pieces of gear that we have.
Remember, just because this is a budget build, doesn’t mean we will be recommending rubbish products. All of the products that are in this sim rig build are quality products, that would fit well in to any serious racing rig.
Wheel and pedal bundle
- Thrustmaster TMX – Roughly $170
- GT Omega Wheel Stand Pro – Roughly $150
- Respawn Skull Trooper-V Gaming Chair – Roughly $170
- WellGo Office Chair Wheel Stoppers – $10
Total – $500
The reasoning behind this sim racing rig
This sim racing rig has been designed for gamers who are either new to racing games, or those looking to trial a sim racing wheel. The racing wheel itself is a good quality, entry level wheel, with good force feedback. This will allow you to experience what it is like to drive with a racing wheel. This wheel is even good enough for you to keep for years as you start to improve your rig.
We favored the idea of including a separate wheel stand and gaming chair instead of a full rig for this budget build. We figured that if you are trialing a sim racing rig, you may want to be able to put it away somewhere when not in use.
The wheel stand can be folded down and stored, and when in use is strong enough to support good quality racing wheels. Then the chair itself can become your office chair, or regular gaming chair when not in use as a sim rig.
This really is the best starter sim rig you can put together. Well, we think so anyway.
The Racing Wheel
Thrustmaster TMX / T150
Racing wheels come in a variety of styles, and different wheels use a few different ways to send force feedback to your steering wheel. The majority of racing wheels, including the high end professional wheels, utilize belt driven force feedback.
This essentially attaches a motor to your steering wheel via an internal belt. Think of it like a fan belt for a car. It is attached to a small motor, which is generating the force feedback, then sent via the belt to your steering wheel. That is the technology that the Thrustmaster TMX and T150 use.
Lower end wheels either don’t include force feedback at all. Which we would absolutely not recommend going near. I mean, how do you even feel the car or track!! Or they use gears to do the same job the belt does. This isn’t as good as a belt as it feels much clunkier and can lose some of the force feedback.
How good is the force feedback from the Thrustmaster wheel?
But lets focus on the belt driven Thrustmaster TMX / T150. The reason I keep referencing two wheels, is that Thrustmaster make two versions of this entry level racing wheel. This is to cater for both the Xbox One and PS4, as both console have different internal architecture.
The Thrustmaster T150 is the PlayStation version of the wheel. While the TMX is the Xbox One compatible version. This is a little annoying if you want to buy a racing wheel which is compatible with both Xbox and PlayStation. But this is the norm for most wheels. Other comparable products such as the Logitech G29 / G920 do the same thing, with two products to cater for the two consoles.
The good news is that both the T150 and the TMX are essentially the same wheel. So you don’t have to worry about getting a worse version because you have one console over the other. All you have to do is ensure you buy the right Thrustmaster product depending on the console you own.
From there, it is 100% plug and play, with a simple single USB cable going from the wheel base itself to your console.
The TMX and T150 both deliver good quality and responsive force feedback. It is strong enough to allow you to feel both your car and the road, or gravel if you’re finding the road a little hard to stick to!
How good are the Thrustmaster pedals?
The main downside of this Thrustmaster wheel over slightly more expensive products are actually its pedals. The pedals that come with the T150 and TMX as standard are a little lackluster. For a start there are only two of them, meaning no clutch pedal. There is of course paddle shifters so you can still change gear.
And the build quality of the base two pedal set is a little low. The pedals can be adjusted to allow you to race comfortably which is good. And handy if you are using a gaming chair, because you may want a slightly shallower angle. But the plastic construction isn’t great.
We would highly recommend upgrading them when you can to the all metal three pedal pro kit. These are far superior, and include a clutch pedal. Yay for stick shift!
The Wheel Stand
GT Omega Steering Wheel Stand Pro
GT Omega always make great sim racing rigs, fact. They produce some very solid full simulator rigs for hardcore sim racers, which is a great start. And they have also produced a range of modular sim rig parts. Including this solid wheel stand.
It consists of a folding set of metal frames, which when constructed are sturdy enough for much more powerful wheels than the TMX / T150. The bottom of the frame has a platform for your pedals, which you can bolt to the stand. The upper part of the wheel stand features the wheel mount, which again allows for hard mounting if you like your rig sturdy.
Then the side frames allow for a selection of modular components to be bolted on. You can mount a gear shifter from either the wheel mount, or coming up from the side of the frame. This lets you choose your configuration.
Whether you prefer your shifter up high like in a rally car, or lower to the ground like a road car. Every part of the wheel stand is adjustable. This level of adaptability is great to see. When you are running a separate wheel stand and chair, it can sometimes be hard to pair the two together and get your racing position just right.
That isn’t the case with the GT Omega wheel stand. You really can ensure you get the correct height, and sit the correct distance from the wheel and pedals.
When we play tested it we found the rig itself to be surprisingly solid. In fact it produced much less flex and shaking than the complete PlaySeat Evolution sim rig. That is impressive as the PlaySeat Evolution is a full all-in-one sim rig, so in theory should be sturdier. But the GT Omega held its own and even outshone the competition.
Once you are finished lapping the Monaco circuit, and achieve glory. You can easily fold the whole wheel stand away for storage. This is part of this whole budget sim rig build that is very important in our eyes. You want to be able to tuck this away in a cupboard and not have it taking up space in your room.
And if you do love sim racing and outgrow your Thrustmaster setup. This GT Omega can cater for much more powerful racing wheels, such as those from Fanatec.
Respawn Skull Trooper-V Gaming Chair
We thought the best route with this budget sim rig setup, was to incorporate separate chairs and wheel stands. This will allow you to trial your sim racing, then pack the majority of the rig away while you do other things. This Respawn gaming chair does just that, as it is also a super comfy office chair.
Respawn are a US based gaming chair designer who have the full weight of a large furniture company behind. This investment means that their gaming chairs do the fundamentals very well. They’re comfy, sturdy and adaptable.
The Skull Trooper gaming chair that we have chosen is actually a Fortnite branded product. We do love a bit of Fortnite here and there but that’s not why we chose it. We chose it because it is a sturdy yet comfy chair with fold-able arms.
You don’t realize how important it is to have collapsible arms on a chair until you crack your elbow trying to catch some power over-steer!
You may be thinking that we have chosen a gaming chair with wheels… Wouldn’t that make the chair move every time we stomp on the pedals? Well, we’ve covered that. The WellGo wheel stoppers that we have included in this build sit under each wheel caster. These essentially stop the chair from moving, allowing you to brake as aggressively as you fancy.
We’ve tested these wheel stoppers on our own gaming chair, and they work perfectly. It didn’t matter how hard we hit the brake pedal, we didn’t move an inch. This gives you full confidence to attack the track when you are in a sim racing session.
Of course, when you are done, simply lift the chair out of the stoppers, and it becomes a move-able chair once more. We really have thought of everything!
How well does this sim rig perform?
As a whole this rig provides a great platform for anyone starting their sim racing journey. The wheel itself offers decent force feedback for such a low price, and the pedals… Well, they work. But you should really look to upgrade them to the pro pedal set as soon as you can.
The GT Omega wheel stand is more than adequate for this rig, and is a rig you can continue to use, even if you upgrade to a more powerful wheel in the future. One of the most important parts of an entry level sim rig for us is the ability to store it away when not in use. This wheel stand does just that. When folded up and stored, your room is completely gone of all sim rig remnants. Nobody will ever know your training to become a sim racing alien!
Finally, the chair itself is comfortable, and when paired with the wheel stoppers, it becomes more than sturdy enough. All in all this is a great rig for any budget minded sim racer, or those who are looking to test the waters with sim racing.