PC steering wheel purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What Youe Need to Know
  • A PC steering wheel provides a realistic driving experience in racing games.
  • PC steering wheels range from a simple steering wheel to a complete cockpit with racing seat and pedals.
  • Make sure that the PC steering wheel is compatible with the end device or operating system.
  • The force feedback function provides haptic impulses such as shaking and vibrations to make the driving experience as realistic as possible.
  • With a rotation angle of 900 or even 1,080 degrees, steering wheels offer far more precise control than keyboards or controllers.

Get to grips with driving or really let off steam

For younger generations, the first driving experience often takes place digitally – in the form of a computer game. Young people can hardly wait to get behind the wheel themselves. For many, this desire emerges before they are old enough to get a driving licence. A PC steering wheel is the next best alternative to the real steering wheel. With it, future drivers can get a feel for the driving experience. Some steering wheels and games are even so realistic that the experience is comparable.

Adults who have a driving licence also have fun with such a steering wheel. Whether it’s to drive in a way they don’t dare on the motorway or because driving time on the racetrack is too expensive, with a PC steering wheel they can really let off steam. In the game, they don’t have to drive according to the law. After all, many of us have already spent several hours trying to escape from the police in Need for Speed.

Man plays racing game with steering wheel

Anyone who wants a realistic driving experience from their computer game is in good hands with a PC steering wheel. In principle, it is not much more than a controller used in racing games to increase the fun factor and driving control.

The structure of a PC steering wheel

A PC steering wheel basically works like a car steering wheel, but the movement is not transmitted mechanically or with power steering, but electronically – usually via USB connection. The scope of delivery has a considerable influence on the realism of the driving experience. However, the more extensive the equipment of the PC steering wheel, the more expensive it is.

steering wheel base

Steering wheel base

The steering wheel base – the English term “base” is often used – is a device on which the steering wheel is mounted. The steering wheel and the base are usually already connected to each other when purchased. The USB cable, which establishes the connection between the PC steering wheel and the console or computer, is also plugged into the base. In addition, the component is equipped with a holder with which the steering wheel is attached to the desk. These are either suction cups or clamps. With some models it is even possible to replace the steering wheel.

steering wheel

Steering wheel

The steering wheel itself has the greatest influence on the driving experience. It is mostly made of plastic. The rim of the steering wheel is often made of a non-slip material such as leather for a more pleasant feel. Certain switches are sometimes made of metal. Most steering wheels are round. For Formula 1 fans, however, there are also oval or rectangular models that are based on the shape of Formula 1 steering wheels. Since the entire control, including the operation of the user interface, takes place on the steering wheels, they are also equipped with configurable buttons and switches.



The simplest PC steering wheels come without pedals. However, most models come with a gas pedal and a brake pedal to ensure a realistic driving experience. Some models are even equipped with a clutch. Shifting gears, however, is usually done using paddles on the steering wheel. The resistance of the pedals is generated either by spring or cylinder. High-quality spring pedals are progressive. This means that the resistance increases the more pressure they exert. High-quality pedals are made of metal such as stainless steel and are so robust that they can withstand even heavy pressure.



If you really want to feel like you’re in a racing car and are prepared to dig a little deeper into your pocket for it, you can buy a complete racing set-up. In addition to a steering wheel with accelerator, brake and clutch pedals, you can also buy a gear lever, for example. For drift enthusiasts, even hand brakes are available. Steering wheel, pedals and all the remaining elements are mounted on the racing seat if necessary. Then you have a complete cockpit at home and can really step on the gas.

Connection and compatibility

Before choosing a PC steering wheel, make sure it is compatible with the device you want to connect it to. Often, it’s not just for PCs, but also for gaming consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox. Some even work on Mac.

Device and game compatibility

Most steering wheels can be installed on a PC. However, they are not compatible with every operating system. If your Windows is too old, you use iOS or Linux, you should read the product description of the steering wheel carefully. Especially the latter two operating systems are often unsuitable, as most games are not compatible with them. The same applies to hardware such as PC steering wheels.

Many steering wheels are also used for console gaming. As a rule, they are suitable either for PC and PlayStation or for PC and Xbox. Some models work on all three devices. Rarely are there versions that are only intended for one console. The manufacturers indicate the compatibility. So after a short online search, you will know immediately whether your desired steering wheel and device are compatible with each other. If you are a console owner, you should also consider the console generation. A steering wheel for the PS3, for example, is not necessarily compatible with the PS5.

Not only the end device, but also the game or programme for which you want to use the steering wheel must enable its use. A steering wheel is of no use to you if your favourite game does not allow steering wheel control. However, this is very unlikely nowadays, as PC steering wheels are very popular with racing game gamers.

Man holds CD and thumbs up

With cable or wireless?

Most steering wheels are connected to the end device via USB. Some models also work wirelessly. These can be set up more flexibly, but you have to keep an eye on the battery level and recharge the battery if necessary, which in the worst case interrupts the game. Battery-powered models also sometimes have weaker force feedback than models with a USB cable.

Regardless of whether they are mains- or battery-powered, PC steering wheels sometimes have to contend with a certain latency – also known as input lag. In this case, the transmission from the steering wheel to the racing game takes place somewhat delayed. The latency can have different causes. In some cases, the graphics processor is not powerful enough. Often the input lag is also due to the display. You will undoubtedly experience the lowest input lag if your entire setup is on the latest technical level. In any case, the latency is usually low enough that you will hardly notice it after some time playing.

A good driving feel is the be-all and end-all

The main argument for a PC steering wheel is the driving experience. After all, a real steering wheel with haptic feedback provides a completely different driving experience than a controller or keyboard. It is therefore essential that the steering wheel feels comfortable when driving.


PC steering wheels are made of plastic. Some models have shift paddles or other parts that are made of metal. These add a certain amount of weight. However, it is mainly the sheathing of the steering wheel rim that is decisive for the driving experience, as this comes into contact with the driver’s hands. The material must not only feel pleasant. Above all, it is important that it is non-slip, so that you do not lose control even on sharp bends.

Hands can sweat quickly, especially during longer gaming sessions. The material should therefore have a certain resistance to sweat. Leather, imitation leather and rubber are well suited as grip surfaces. After a long playing session, regardless of the material, you should wipe the steering wheel rim with a cloth to prevent sweat from settling into the material and damaging it over time.

Cover the steering wheel with imitation leather

Fixed mount

In a Formula 1 race, you have to steer fast and hard. At the same time, the steering wheel must remain stable. The most important thing in this context is the mounting of the steering wheel base. Suction cups are flexible, but often not stable enough. Clamps that are firmly mounted to the desk are best, often even with metal screws. If your desk is stable enough, the clamped steering wheel will not wobble. It can also be height-adjustable. In this case, you can set it up so that it fits your height perfectly. Otherwise, you can adjust your office chair to ensure a natural and comfortable sitting position.

Force Feedback: Indispensable for Immersion

Force feedback is indispensable for driving realism. It is a feedback of the steering wheel to certain ingame impulses. For example, when you are driving against other cars or on uneven terrain, the steering wheel gives you information about this. This happens in the form of vibrations, shaking and resistance when steering. Similar to a controller, the effects are generated by small built-in motors. In this way, real driving is simulated as closely as possible. Those who feel disturbed by this function or think it affects their performance can usually adjust the intensity of the force feedback in the game or switch it off completely.

Large rotation angle for precise control

One of the biggest advantages of steering wheels compared to controllers or keyboards is that they have a much greater angle of rotation. This allows for more precise steering. The simplest models have a rotation angle of 180 degrees. This means that they can be turned in any direction from the neutral starting position, i.e. 90 degrees. More common, however, are steering wheels with a rotation angle of 900 degrees – like real car steering wheels. This allows a full rotation plus 90 degrees in each direction. If even that is not enough, you can buy a steering wheel with a 1,080-degree angle of rotation. However, such models are in the higher price segment.

Compared to PC steering wheels, the control precision of controllers and keyboards is poor. Keyboards are the least suitable for car racing games. After all, they only have keys through which players enter direction. Easy turning, acceleration or braking is not possible. Keyboard switches are either pressed or not. In the game, this results in a full turn, full throttle, full braking or simply no input.

Gaming accessories

Controllers allow more precise control than keyboards, but are less precise than steering wheels. Input can be a little more controlled with the joystick by having the player steer only slightly in one direction. The throttle and brake, which are often linked to the R2 and L2 buttons, can also be regulated by the buttons, which are reminiscent of a pistol trigger. However, controllers do not come close to the precision of the steering wheel and pedals in controlling racing games.

Other purchase criteria

Also relevant for the purchase decision are the steering wheel’s buttons, its aesthetics as well as its dimensions and weight. After all, a bulky steering wheel with an unsightly design will bring you little driving pleasure.

Size and weight

The size of the steering wheel plays an important role in handling. When making your choice, you can take into account your hand size and spatial conditions, among other things. Most PC steering wheels have a diameter of 25 to 35 centimetres. Large models are therefore very close to the diameter of real car steering wheels. Most often, however, you will find models with a diameter of 28 or 30 centimetres.

Since PC steering wheels are usually permanently installed on a table, weight is hardly an issue. After all, you don’t have to carry the steering wheel unless you want to transport it, which shouldn’t happen that often. The steering wheel itself does not weigh much, usually between one and two kilograms. At three to six kilograms, the base adds a little more weight. The pedal device is also heavier than the steering wheel. Since the pedals are often made of sturdy metal, it comes to a weight of four to eight kilograms.


The buttons built into the steering wheel can have a considerable influence on the racing game. As a rule, they are configurable, i.e. they can be linked to commands as desired. A steering wheel designed for the PlayStation or Xbox is often equipped with the same buttons that can be found on the respective controllers – in the case of variants for the PlayStation, for example, the “Share” function.

All buttons must be easily accessible without having to take your hands off the steering wheel rim. There should also be enough buttons to link all the necessary commands. How many buttons are needed depends largely on the user. Demanding racing game gamers sometimes purchase an additional button box. This is a small box-shaped object with configurable buttons. To provide access to several commands, it is installed within reach of the driver.

Man driving in the cockpit

Steering wheel display

Some models have a display on the steering wheel that provides information about the progress of the game. The simplest versions are equipped with a speed indicator that informs the driver of the current gear. After all, a race can get hectic, causing the driver to lose track of this information. Particularly expensive and sophisticated models also provide information about the timing of the last lap or the distance to the next race car in seconds.