Best Sim Racing Setup Under $1000
If you have been sim racing for a while, you may well be at the stage where you are looking to upgrade your budget sim racing setup.
When upgrading your sim racing setup, or buying one for the first time, there has to be a lot of questions asked. Questions such as; how much space do you have, how much budget do you have, and how good do you want your setup to be?
The answer to the last question is nearly always, “as good as I can afford”. And for less than $1000 you can afford a pretty decent sim racing rig, including a direct drive racing wheel and pedals.
In this sim rig guide, I’ll run through a sim racing rig setup which you can buy for under $1000. This is what I call the medium to high-end racing rig build.
The sim racing products that make up this rig build
This racing rig build consists of a direct drive wheelbase, something that would normally have cost you around $1000 alone. It’ll also include a BMW licensed steering wheel, and a set of the latest sim racing pedals. And it includes a full cockpit with a seat.
Many of the items I’ve just spoken about sound like they should carry a large price tag. However, by purchasing smartly, we can afford all of these semi-premium sim racing products for under $1000.
|Product||Price||Where To Buy|
|Fanatec CSL DD||$349.95||Buy here|
|Fanatec CSL BMW Wheel||$139.95||Buy here|
|Fanatec CSL Pedals||$79.95||Buy here|
|GT Omega ART Cockpit||$450||Buy here|
Why choose this under $1000 sim racing rig build?
I’ve designed this rig for those who want performance from their sim racing set-up, all for a reasonable budget. Sim racing equipment can be expensive. As an example of this, our Fanatec sim racing rig build comes in at over $2000. You can view that rig build here if you are interested.
So to be able to put together a decent quality sim racing set-up for under $1000 can be tricky. The products that I’ve combined into this rig build are of extremely good quality, but they all have one eye on their price tag.
If you want to build a racing rig set-up on a tighter budget, check out our $500 sim racing rig build here.
This build does consist of a direct drive wheelbase. Direct drive is the name for the technology which drives the force feedback. Essentially a direct drive wheelbase links the steering wheel directly to the motor, meaning there is little to no loss in force feedback strength or fidelity. Simply put, this technology is the creme de la creme.
I’ve also ensured that I’ve included a complete sim racing cockpit. To be able to run a direct drive wheel, you need a stable platform, and a full cockpit is essential to providing the stability needed.
If you are a little tight on space, and would rather have a sim rig build that you can fold away and store. You can always replace this sim rig with a wheel stand and a separate gaming chair. For one of the best wheel stands, check out our GT Omega Apex Wheel Stand review.
Fanatec CSL DD
Let’s jump into the first, and possibly most crucial piece of hardware in this build, the wheelbase. The wheelbase is the part of your sim racing set-up that will ultimately determine a lot of other decisions. It is the part of your set-up which generates the force feedback, and it will dictate what steering wheels you can run, and which cockpit is needed to handle the power.
I would always recommend starting any sim racing rig build by choosing a wheelbase first. Ensuring you make the right decision here is critical. It will often be the most expensive part of your build so you should allow a large portion of your budget for this.
The Fanatec CSL DD wheelbase which I have chosen for this build is one of the best modern wheelbases on the market. It was released in 2021 as the cheapest direct drive wheelbase for sale. And it quickly became a favourite with sim racers around the world.
In fact, demand is still so high for this wheelbase that at the time of writing, certain variations of this product are still on backorder with reasonably long wait times.
The CSL DD comes with a motor that can generate 5Nm of torque. This is sent directly to the steering wheel via a carbon fibre composite motor shaft allowing you to feel the full force of the motor.
For a full in-depth review of this wheelbase, read our Fanatec CSL DD review.
The wheelbase is sold separately from any steering wheels and features a quick-release system allowing you to attach any compatible steering wheel you choose. This gives the product great versatility moving forward, allowing you to customise it to your own preferences.
There is also an optional Boost Kit available for the CSL DD which increases the torque output even further to 8Nm. While I do really recommend this addition in my Fanatec CSL DD review, it isn’t crucial if you are shopping on a budget.
The boost kit costs around $150 when purchased separately, so does have to be a considered purchase. It is slightly cheaper if you buy the CSL DD 8Nm bundle, but this bundle is still over $100 more expensive than the 5Nm product I’ve included in this rig build.
CSL DD Compatibility
The Fanatec CSL DD is only compatible with PC and Xbox consoles. However, Fanatec has just released their PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 compatible GT DD Pro.
The GT DD Pro, (which you can find here on Fanatec) is almost identical to the Xbox compatible CSL DD. The main differences are the slightly tweaked design and the PlayStation compatibility.
You can buy the GT DD Pro individually in its 8Nm form, or you can opt for a bundle which includes a Gran Turismo licensed steering wheel.
Important note for PlayStation Sim Racers
The cost of the GT DD Pro 8Nm is $599.95. This makes it more costly than my choice of wheelbase. This is due to the added compatibility with both PlayStation and Xbox. However, if you are racing on a PlayStation console, you will need the GT DD Pro for this racing rig set-up to be compatible.
The Steering Wheel
Fanatec CSL Steering Wheel BMW
Because I have chosen the powerful Fanatec CSL DD wheelbase, it means that we should look at compatible Fanatec steering wheels. Steering wheels from Fanatec aren’t always the cheapest however, they do come with some great features and fantastic build quality.
The steering wheel I have chosen for this sub $1000 sim rig build is the Fanatec CSL Steering Wheel BMW. Much like the CSL DD wheelbase above, this BMW steering wheel is one of the latest wheels that Fanatec have released. It first popped up for sale on Black Friday 2021 as the entry-level BMW licensed steering wheel.
The design of this steering wheel is based on the popular Fanatec P1 steering wheel and features BMW branding plus a rather striking orange pattern.
The wheel itself is 300mm in diameter which is the perfect size for a circular steering wheel. It features a wide range of push buttons on the wheel face along with a telemetry display at the top of the wheel.
And this is a wheel which will last a long while as it is built to last. The grips themselves are made of rubber giving you great versatility and durability over time. The wheel also comes equipped with metallic copper-coloured shifters which are snap-dome assisted meaning they provide positive feedback when engaged.
Fanatec CSL Pedals
For the pedals, I have included the most budget-friendly pedals from Fanatec, the CSL Pedals. These pedals come as a two-pedal set as standard but can be upgraded over time to a full three-pedal set.
These sim racing pedals are an upgraded version of the older CSL Elite Pedals and feature a fresher design and sturdier construction. They are the new entry-level sim racing pedals from Fanatec.
I have run a set of these pedals for a while as both the two-pedal and three-pedal variants, and they’re both excellent.
Both pedals in this set use magnetic high-precision Hall-effect sensors. This means that both pedals are contactless ensuring that over time the performance won’t deteriorate.
Over time, if you wanted to upgrade these pedals, you can do so easily. There is a separate load-cell brake pedal available from Fanatec which attaches directly to this two-pedal set.
This upgrade provides much better and more realistic braking performance due to its load cell. And your original brake pedal simply moves over to become your clutch pedal.
GT Omega ART Cockpit
To be able to correctly support the CSL DD wheelbase you’ll need a sturdy cockpit. Without this, you could find the CSL DD causing your wheel stand or desk to flex and move under heavy load.
The GT Omega ART Cockpit is a full cockpit featuring a wheel mount, pedal plate and racing chair. You can pick up this cockpit with or without a chair, and there are a few different chairs you can choose from.
The cockpit itself is built from a steel framework that will certainly be able to handle the direct-drive torque from the CSL DD. Once you construct the ART, you can instantly tell that it has been well manufactured. The whole cockpit is extremely heavy and sturdy.
The ART cockpit is highly adjustable, featuring an adjustable pedal plate, height-adjustable steering wheel deck, variable cockpit length, and multiple seat mounting positions. In fact, it would be very hard to not find a comfy driving position with the ART.
I raced with the ART cockpit for around a year or so and it was extremely comfy throughout that time. Once I found my perfect driving position I was set to race, and I’m pleased to say that the cockpit was extremely durable during my time with it.
Read my full review of the GT Omega ART Cockpit here.
Which GT Omega chair to choose
You have a few options when it comes to chairs. You could always purchase and mount your own chair, although you’ll need to ensure the chair fixing match those on the ART cockpit. Also, to stay within the price constraint of $1000 you will struggle to find a decent racing chair elsewhere.
GT Omega sells three chairs which can all be used with the ART cockpit. There is the RS6, the RS9 and the XL RS.
Both the RS6 and RS9 are very similar with slightly different designs. The XL RS seat is an upgrade over both the RS6 and RS9. It features a wider seat, which is suitable for larger sim racers. And the material and finishing is slightly better quality than the RS6 and RS9.
My choice would be the XL RS, however, that will add £20/$20 onto our overall cost which is already edging slightly over our $1000 budget. So to save a little bit, I have included the RS6 seat into this sim racing rig build.
All three chairs from GT Omega are of good quality, so it is much more down to personal preference to which one you choose.
Top tip if you need extra storage space
If you don’t quite have enough room for a permanent cockpit, you can always opt for the wheel stand route. I reviewed and tested the GT Omega APEX Wheel Stand with both belt-driven and direct drive wheels. And I’m confident that the APEX can handle the CSL DD.
The APEX Wheel Stand allows you to fold it up and move it out of the way when not in use. If you are tight on space, this is a solid alternative to a permanent cockpit. The GT Omega APEX Wheel Stand costs just $149.95 so is also more cost-effective than the ART full cockpit.
How well does this sim rig perform?
So I’ve covered each item individually, but how does this sim racing rig setup for under $1000 perform?
To start with, the GT Omega ART Cockpit has mounting holes which line right up to the Fanatec CSL DD and the CSL Pedals. This makes construction and mounting a breeze.
The wheel deck on the cockpit was sturdy enough to prevent the CSL DD from moving overly. There is a slight bit of up-down motion if you hold the steering wheel and rock it backwards and forwards. But this isn’t how the wheel behaves during use so is a little unfair.
The thick metal frame on the ART prevents any flex or movement during racing. And due to the rear mountings on the pedal plate, there is relatively little movement from the pedals during use either.
The BMW Fanatec steering wheel is a strong steering wheel on this relatively tight $1000 budget. It feels nice to race with, the LED telemetry read-out is nice to glance at while hotlapping and the overall look is great.
The real beauty of this Fanatec-based sim racing wheel setup is the upgradability moving forwards. The quick release in the CSL DD allows you to interchange steering wheels in a flash, allowing you to add new peripherals over time.
Overall, this rig build is fantastic. It provides a premium direct-drive sim racing experience, with a full cockpit, and options to expand and upgrade in time. This really is the best mid-range $1000 sim racing rig build.