Looking for a new hobby? You should definitely consider sim racing, especially if you're a racing enthusiast or simply enjoy competition.
I won't make the call on whether Sim Racing is a good or bad hobby – that's entirely up to you. I've come across people who find sim racing to be mundane "driving around", while others eagerly anticipate returning home from work each day to immerse themselves in a virtual cockpit.
We're all unique, and that's perfectly normal. Therefore, the decision is yours to make. To help you along, I'll share the most significant advantages and disadvantages of sim racing that I've gleaned over my 7 years of experience.
Pros of Sim Racing
Sim Racing doesn't demand excessive time.
Many of us assume that games require substantial time commitments. Drawing from my time as a former MMORPG player, I concede that point. But fortunately, sim racing operates a bit differently.
Most sim racing titles don't compel daily logins or monotonous point-grinding. Here, raw skill reigns supreme.
Unless you're part of a professional team, you're free to take two months off whenever you want or just indulge in an hour of play per week when your schedule is tight. There's no obligation to be continuously active. The choice is yours.
In today's world, sim racing has gained such popularity that you don't need to be good to have fun. Games like iRacing offer opportunities to compete against rivals of comparable skill levels, making it enjoyable even for novices.
Sim Racing is relatively cost-effective and safe.
Let's address safety first. Those acquainted with sim racing can probably relate to instances involving Direct Drive Wheels that spin so rapidly during accidents that they nearly strain the player's wrists. You've made a valid point. Direct Drive wheels are somewhat pricey, so novices, who lack a firm grasp of safe usage, rarely buy them.
That aside, Sim Racing is undeniably safe and budget-friendly, particularly when compared to real racing. Over my seven years of playing, I've sustained nothing more severe than minor hand abrasions.
Throughout that journey, I've spent less than a thousand dollars on sim racing. I'm not counting the computer and monitors, as those would've been acquired for work purposes anyway. Admittedly, my sim racing setup doubles as my workspace setup – a scenario necessitating compromises, but better than nothing.
A thousand dollars may seem like a lot for something many consider a mere game. However, it's provided me with over a thousand hours of racing – a substantial return. With that amount of money, I could complete few laps on a real track. It's nothing compared to thousands here.
Sim Racing is awesome for those who love progress. Lap times never lie.
I love progress. It somehow fulfills me and I need it in my life.
Folks like me thrive on self-improvement and competition. But very few activities mirror progress as clearly as racing – or, in this instance, sim racing. Okay, sometimes you may lose a race through someone else’s fault, but this doesn’t happen all the time. At the end of the day, lap times will always tell you whether you improved or not.
If you're naturally competitive and aspire to outdo not only others but also yourself, sim racing will almost certainly appeal to you. Within this realm, we're forever battling for fractional improvements, mere hundredths of a second. This is AWESOME, especially to perfectionists like myself.
Sim Racing helps you improve a lot of skills.
Sim Racing allows us to learn and develop many skills that can be useful in real life.
The practice sharpens reaction times and can even enhance real-world driving abilities. Thanks to advanced sim racing physics, many sim racers can translate acquired skills onto actual tracks. As you may know, there are instances of Sim Racers transitioning into professional race car drivers. Well done, guys!
For instance. I've never raced professionally in real life, but when I was driving with friends on a karting track, I was clearly the best. This is something you are not born with, I am sure I owe it to sim racing.
What's more, the first time I ever got behind the wheel of a semi-trailer truck, I was able to handle backing up and driving out of a pretty tight spot in reverse. My dad, who just wanted to test me, was impressed that I had learned how to do that from a game. I had never driven a vehicle like that in real life before, but I had spent a few hundred hours playing Euro Truck Simulator 2, which taught me some basics. Speaking of ETS 2, I have a few friends who, thanks to this game, became interested in the work of a trucker, obtained their driving licenses, and secured jobs in this field in real life. That's awesome.
I’m not saying that Sim Racing will make you a second Ayrton Senna or Max Verstappen. Yet, it undoubtedly fosters skill improvement. It's not a coincidence that numerous professional race drivers possess sim racing rigs and engage in the same games as us.
Cons of Sim Racing
I’ve written plenty of sim racing advantages, so let’s move into sim racing disadvantages.
Are there any? There are always some.
Sim Racing may be expensive.
In the pros, I wrote about how Sim Racing is a relatively cheap hobby.
Indeed, relatively, that is, compared to real racing, which is, as you may know, incredibly expensive.
However, compared to hobbies like drawing or walking, sim racing can actually be quite expensive. It will be hard to buy good gear for $200 or so.
Sim Racing is a low-activity hobby where we sit in front of a screen.
I value active outdoor hobbies that allow me to be fit and get away from the computer I work in front of every day.
Unfortunately, during sim racing, you sit for the whole time, and you are doing it in front of a screen.
For this reason, I would advise against making sim racing your only hobby. It has many advantages, but to me, the activity of just moving the wheel and pedals is not enough in terms of keeping a good shape.
Sim Racing requires a lot of free space.
Many of us combine our rig with a computer.
We only connect the steering wheel when we start sim racing. It’s a nice compromise, but this approach has many disadvantages. It’s quite tiring, and what’s also important, sitting in a computer seat (especially with wheels) is much less comfortable than playing in a dedicated rig.
Probably every sim racer’s dream is to have a separate rig, which is a stand resembling a real racing car. Racing chair, three monitors or one huge one, VR, steering wheel, and other accessories.
It sounds beautiful and expensive, but in addition to these two things, keep in mind that it also requires a lot of free space in your room (especially if you want to have a triple monitor setup).
Sim Racing is a hobby that many people make fun of.
If you’re concerned about the others’ opinion, don’t tell them you’re a sim racer, or under any circumstances, don’t put it on your Tinder profile.
It really is a great hobby and those involved in racing will probably be impressed, but almost everyone else will probably think you are a little crazy.
To my family and some of my closest friends, I’m still a “kid who plays” even though I’m 25 and have a driver’s license.
Sim Racing is seen by many as just stupid games, rather than serious simulators that give a lot of fun and even skills.
Personally, I try to ignore all of that, but if you are concerned about what other people say, remember that they may laugh at you because of it.
But hey, it’s not a big deal. If you love sim racing, don’t worry about it at all. That’s true, a lot of kids play in Sim Racing, but it’s also loved by many adults, businessmen, or even professional racing drivers.
It’s a hobby like any other. It’s good, fun, satisfying, and pretty safe for anything other than your wallet.
Is Sim Racing an expensive hobby?
For some Sim Racing may be an expensive hobby while for others it may seem cheap.
In terms of real racing, sim racing is incredibly cheap. However, in reality, in comparison to other computer games, or many other hobbies, let’s face it, sim racing is quite expensive.
How much does Sim Racing cost?
It all depends on your expectations and needs.
On the one hand, you can have a lot of fun with equipment for a thousand dollars, and on the other hand, even in a rig for 100 thousand dollars (yes, there are such), there may still be something missing.
If you already have a computer and monitor that you would like to use, your costs may be less.
Below I will present estimated costs for two different setups:
Example Basic Setup Costs:
- $1000 – a decent gaming PC. It should handle iRacing and most sim racing games with one monitor.
- $300 – a decent steering wheel with pedals. Let’s say something like Logitech G29 or Thrustmaster T300 RS. Cool, but not the best.
- $100 – a basic wheel stand to prevent the pedals from slipping on the floor and the steering wheel not being properly attached to the desk.
- $100 – some games and DLCs.
- $500 – a decent, big curved monitor with a 144 Hz refresh rate.
Could be more or less, but it’s about $2000 in total, or $500 if you already have your PC and monitor.
Example Advanced Setup Costs:
- $4000 – a powerful computer with top-notch GPU to handle three monitors or VR in most sim racing games.
- $1500 – a Direct Drive steering wheel with Load Cell pedals.
- $1000 – a racing seat.
- $3000 – triple monitors (32") with decent resolution and refresh rate, and some modern VR device.
- $500 – some games and DLCs. Trust me, if you’re treating this seriously, some DLCs may cost a bit, especially in iRacing and RaceRoom Racing Experience.
Also, could be less or (way) more, but I didn’t include such things as, for example, a motion rig.
The truth is, most people don’t need or even want it.
However, it is still about $9000 in total, or $3000 if you already have your powerful PC, monitors, and VR, have you?
How to try Sim Racing without spending a ton of money on gear?
If you’re not a big racing fan, there’s a chance that despite all the advantages listed here, you just won’t like sim racing.
To avoid spending too much money on advance, here are three ways to find out if sim racing is something for you, almost for free.
After all, the minimum cost to get into sim racing is usually at least several hundred dollars, so it is worth considering it carefully.
1. Try karting.
There is a good chance that there is at least one karting track near you.
You can take an hour or two and see if you enjoy that feeling of “driving around”, or if it is a completely boring waste of your time.
2. Ask someone to try sim racing.
Sim Racing is probably more popular than you think.
Even if you don’t have any sim racer friends, you can, for example, find a steering wheel sale ad near you and ask the seller if you could pay him to test the equipment or even, if you would like to buy it, ask for a “test drive”.
3. Try sim racing games on a gamepad.
Some sim racing games, such as Assetto Corsa Competizione, are also quite playable on the gamepad.
While it’s not that immersive and accurate, a few hours of such gameplay can initially tell you whether you like it or not.
A true racing fan would probably feel great playing even though they would crash at almost every corner.
You don’t need to buy any game to try the sim racing either. You can try to take a trial or download a free simulator such as Raceroom Racing Experience. There are also some cheap sims on Steam. Look at Assetto Corsa, rFactor, or Automobilista, especially during the Steam Sale.
Is Sim Racing worth it?
Sim racing is definitely worth your money and attention as long as you find it fun.
I believe that if you like it, you will feel it from the very first hours. Especially since it's an easy to learn, but hard to master type of genre.
It’s a good, safe, and even relatively cheap hobby. Once you buy your accessories, there shouldn’t be many more expenses.
While I believe that Sim Racing is not a perfect fit for everyone (like any other hobby), it is definitely one to consider, especially if you are a racing fan, or you enjoy any form of good competition.