Racing games are one of the oldest and most venerable gaming genres in existence. Everyone has at least one memory of playing a really great racing game in an arcade, where you got to sit in a racing seat and work an actual wheel and pedals. Racing games on console and PC took a long time to offer the same sort of experience. We had to make do with non-analog controls at first, and then when analog sticks and triggers became commonplace, racing games took advantage of those.

Still, there is no better way to play a racing game than actually using a wheel and pedals. The world of gaming wheels has become incredibly sophisticated and there are plenty of hardcore setups out there if you have the money and inclination. The rise of VR for the home has also made the experience of driving a virtual car that much more visceral.

Now you can actually sit in a virtual cockpit, so it would be weird if you were holding a gamepad instead of a wheel. Even if you aren’t rolling with VR, your widescreen, curved, multi-monitor setups are also becoming more common. The bottom line is that if you love racing games, you should do yourself the favor of getting a decent racing wheel setup.

What to Look for in a Racing Wheel

Racing wheels are designed for different use cases. You get pretty affordable wheels that give you paddle shifters, two pedals, and enough turns on the wheel to comfortably play arcade racers and most mainstream sims. Think Gran Turismo or Forza. Then you have high-end, ultra-realistic wheels designed for use with truly hardcore racing sims, like iRacing – a game most people haven’t heard of, but one with an insanely dedicated community.

So what you want from a racing wheel depends on the sort of racer you are. If you want to quickly attach a wheel to your desk for the off bout of racing, then many sub-$100 wheels are going to be oodles of fun. If you drink gas and breathe burning rubber fumes for fun, then you’ll probably want a realistic set that can bolt onto a dedicated racing stand.

The wheel you should get can also be dictated by what game you want to play. Special features such as a clutch pedal and gated shifter need to work with the sim you like. Also, make sure that the wheel in question will work on your platform. Most wheels work fine on Windows systems, but if they also work with consoles it will usually be one or the other. So double check that too.

The most important thing is, of course, budget. You can spend less than a hundred bucks on a wheel or more than a thousand. So before doing anything else, decide how much you are willing to spend and go from there. I’ve tried to pick out a good selection of popular wheels here at various price points.

Thrustmaster TMX PRO Racing Wheel

Thrustmaster is one of the oldest and most respected names in fancy game peripherals such as flight sticks and racing wheels. This TMX Pro racing wheel is a great example of what the company can do. It’s priced very reasonably, given its features, and gives you just about everything you need for an experience that goes beyond the entry level but doesn’t quite touch the elite tier.

This wheel and pedal set is compatible with both Windows and Xbox One. Given that we now have Game Pass, where you get some games on both platforms for one price, that might be a killer feature.

Three pedals means this has clutch support; although this doesn’t come with a gated shifter, it will work with the Thrustmaster TH8A shifter if you don’t like paddle shifters.

This is a proper sim wheel with a rotation angle from 270 degrees to 900 degrees. That matches how a steering wheel in a real car acts and opens up a whole new world of precision driving. Even better, this isn’t a passive wheel, but a force feedback number. This means the virtual wheels will feed back into the real steering wheel. You’ll feel directly both the road and every bit of fight the car is giving you.

This wheel occupies an absolute sweetspot in the middle between insanely expensive sim wheels and entry level wheels. If you’re even a little serious about racing, but have a limited budget, you can’t go wrong here.

Thrustmaster T80 Ferrari 488 GTB Edition Racing Wheel PS4

This is essentially the PS4 version of the Ferrari Experience wheel I myself used to own for the PS3. It’s priced very competitively at less than a hundred bucks, but what do you get for this meager sum?

Well, the wheel itself is gorgeous. Yes, it’s made from rather cheap-looking plastic upon closer inspection, but the licenced Ferrari wheel mold looks awesome. It has all those cool control buttons from the real car too. Like most people, I am never going to drive a real Ferrari (I probably wouldn’t fit anyway), so this is the next best thing.

The wheel isn’t exactly the right size though, being 8:10 scale. It’s an official PS4 product, so it has all the same buttons as your DS4 controller.

At this price you aren’t going to get a force feedback system, but Thrustmaster has done some pretty clever mechanical resistance tricks to give some form of passive feedback. The pedals, for example, use a bungee system to re-center and provide the feeling of pushing down on a mechanical linkage.

Of course, since the DS4 is compatible with Windows, this wheel will also work there. So if you also like to race on PC, this is double the value. Of course, games that don’t work with the DS4 aren’t going to work with this. If you want a PC wheel specifically, it’s better to pick something else. If you are a core PS4 gamer, though, this is perfect for casual racing.

Thrustmaster T150 PRO Racing Wheel For PS4/PS3

At first glance the T150 looks like a very similar product to the TMX Pro. Both are a 3-pedal kit with a wheel offering a large rotation angle and force feedback. The T150 is, however, about 20% cheaper and is designed for use with the PS4 rather than the Xbox One. That limits its usability on PC. In fact, you can expect this to pretty much be useless for PC. On the plus side, it’s backwards compatible with the PS3, so if you still have some fave racing games on that system you only need this one wheel.

The rotation angle is actually larger than the TMX pro, at 1080 degrees, although in practice it’s not a huge difference. This is probably the best entry-level sim-grade wheel for the PS4 and I don’t really know why it’s cheaper than the Xbox equivalent. Let’s just be grateful as PS4 gamers and enjoy a much better racing experience than a DS4 can offer. It’s even better if you consider that the PS4 is the only VR-capable console, so here’s hoping for a PSVR driving sim that will make use of this wheel.

The Sim King: Logitech G27 Racing Wheel

Logitech knows its way around a gaming peripheral, and racing wheels are no different. I can’t remember any time when a Logitech wheel wasn’t among the top contemporary choices for racing fans.

The G27 is very pricey. People who are looking at this kit are not casual by any means. This is for serious sim-racing fans and it shows in every little detail. The first big clue as to what we have here comes from the material choices. While a sub-$100 wheel nets you a cheap plastic mold of a real wheel, the G27 uses metal and leather to make something that looks and feels like it was ripped out of a real car.

The pedals are metal and the six-speed shifter is all authentic. It’s astounding, really. The force feedback system is one of the strongest that money can buy, using a dual-motor system that can really fight you. With advanced haptics it can simulate the real feeling of losing grip, the car’s weight shifting, or the road surface changing.

The big problem is that finding a G27 is getting harder, since Logitech is getting out of the wheel business. The other issue is that this is a PS3-era wheel and it does work with that console. It does not, however, have PS4 support, so anyone looking for this wheel should know it’s PC-only. Still, if you can get your hands on one, it’s worth its weight in gold.

Logitech G29

The G29 might seem like it’s the successor to the G27, only with proper PS4 support. It’s not that cut and dried, however. The G29 is by all accounts an excellent wheel and is available for a much more reasonable price than its older brother. It’s got some minor improvements here and there, although there are complaints of the steering feeling less smooth than on the G27.

The biggest problem is, however, the lack of decent PC support. PC users who have this wheel have complained quite a bit. It’s more or less the same issue that PS4 controllers have on PC. Support is thin on the ground. If you race exclusively on PS4 then this is an excellent choice at a reasonable price. However, PC users should probably look elsewhere.

Fanatec CSL Elite Racing Wheel - PS4

While everybody knows Logitech, few people outside a select circle have heard of Fanatec. The company has an international presence and specializes in high-end peripherals. One of the things that makes its products so special is the ability to build your own bespoke racing system – down to the last component. If you visit their website you’ll find a configurator to help you build and spec almost anything for racing simulation. These guys are beyond hardcore.

Of course, most people aren’t going to do that. At least not at first. Instead, the best place to start is with Fanatec’s premade kits, like this CSL Elite wheel.

Now, this really is just a wheel and isn’t much use without a set of pedals. A shifter is optional since it has paddle shifters, but pedals aren’t optional.

This is PS4 certified, unlike the G27 from Logitech, and it is without a doubt a higher-end product than the G29. Fanatec has created a wheel with next-level realism and feel. It has support for custom button caps, analog handbrakes(!), and so much more. The best part is that you can modify and upgrade the wheel later with new components from Fanatec. That modularity makes repair and upgrades pretty easy. Yes, this is a very expensive wheel, but you can clearly see where the money is going.

If you’re very, very serious about sim racing, you can’t ignore the CSL Elite. It has some of the most realistic force feedback of any wheel and offers quite possibly the most realistic experience of any wheel on the market. If this is the wheel for you, you’ll know it for sure.