If you survey a random group of sim racers, chances are most are not using a dedicated shifter. The paddle shifters that most sim racing wheels come with are fine, even when you are driving cars that have a manual gearbox in real life. But some drivers want the fun and realism of changing gears using a shifter.
If you drive a lot of manual gearbox cars, or just want to upgrade your rig with more gear, adding a shifter is a great option. In this article we are going to take a look at two of the best budget shifters for sim racing.
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Budget or high-end?
We recommend sticking with the entry-level budget sim racing shifters to start out with. While the $1000 shifters are more realistic, durable, and reliable, your performance returns are severely diminishing once you get past the level of shifters we will discuss in this article.
It makes more sense to try a $200 shifter and then upgrade if you decide you want to, versus investing a lot of money in your first shifter right off the bat. In this article we are going to focus on two entry-level shifters that support h-pattern and sequential setups – the Thrustmaster TH8A and the Fanatec Clubsport Shifter SQ V1.5.
#1 – Thrustmaster TH8A
Right off the bat, our pick for the best entry-level shifter is the Thrusmaster TH8A. The Fanatec Clubsport Shifter is a very close second, and worth the read in the next section. But for now, let’s take a detailed look at why we recommend the Thrustmaster:
Price – The TH8A comes in under $200, making it significantly cheaper than the Fanatec Clubsport Shifter. Value is where the TH8A shines, and the reason it is our recommendation. For the lower price, you get the same basic features as the Fanatec shifter with some cost saving measures we don’t think you’ll even notice
Features – H-pattern and sequential modes. 100% metal where it counts; gear mechanism, shaft, clamp. Easily desk mountable without extra accessories
Compatibility – If you are using the TH8A on PC, connect with USB and use with any other sim racing wheel or gear. For PS/XBOX, you will need a Thrustmaster wheel
Durability – In our research, we found that most T8HA owners get many years of reliable service out of their shifter. On the other hand, Fanatec shifter owners have experienced issues pretty consistently. We think you are better off with the TH8A over the Fanatec in terms of reliability and durability
Warranty – In the US, the Thrustmaster warranty is 1 year. For EU customers, 2 years
#2 – Fanatec Clubsport Shifter SQ V1.5
The Fanatec Clubsport Shifter SQ V1.5 is a close second place for our recommendation for best sim racing shifter. We picked the TH8A because of it’s value, but you should pick the Fanatec shifter if you have different priorities as we will detail below:
Price – The Fanatec is more expensive than the TH8A, but it is still a great value relative to the more higher end shifters on the market that can cost around $1000. It is of a higher construction quality than the Thrustmaster, so if that appeals to you, we think the extra money is worth it
Features – In terms of features, the Clubsport Shifter is similar to the TH8A in that it has h-pattern and sequential modes, is 100% metal, and has the ability to clamp to your desk or rig easily. The biggest difference is that the Fanatec has the ability to change between h-pattern and sequential with one easy switch press, vs the more complicated procedure to change modes on the TH8A
Compatibility – The Clubsport Shifter is compatible with PS/XBOX if you are using a Fanatec wheel base. For PC, you can use it with any other gear thanks to the USB interface
Durability – We found more reports of failures with the Fanatec unit compared to the Thrustmaster, but a lot of these problems are covered under warranty. The Fanatec unit is constructed of high quality materials and is built to last. If you buy directly from Fanatec or through a reputable retailer that backs up their products, we think you’ll be fine
Warranty – In the US, the Fanatec warranty is 1 year. For EU customers, 2 years
You can’t really go wrong with either shifter. The Thrustmaster TH8A is our pick because of it’s lower price and similar features. But if you prefer the look or 100% metal construction of the Fanatec Clubsport Shifter SQ V1.5, it can be a great option for a little more money. Either way, you’ll enjoy h-pattern and sequential modes which provides increased simulation and realism for your sim racing titles.