What will an 8020 sim racing rig cost me?
Originally posted in November, 2020 by Martin Ellingham
The corny answer is “your marriage”, but knowing the costs going into it will certainly help smooth things over with your spouse, partner, parents, whomever.
Aluminium extrusion profile, or “8020” sim racing rigs come in all shapes and sizes and there are many factors that affect the cost. In this article, we will try and explain the overall cost of buying an 8020 sim rig and what factors affect the cost.
A PRO SIMRIG PSR1
What is “8020” or “Aluminium Profile”?
Aluminium extrusion rigs are often called “8020 rigs”. 8020 refers to a particular size of aluminium profile. However, 8020 is not the profile size used in most rigs today. It is however still the common name given to most rigs of this type so we will run with it for this article. It is a bit like how every vacuum cleaner is seemingly a Hoover, or hot tubs are almost exclusively called Jacuzzis. In this article we will use the names “aluminium extrusion rig”, “aluminium profile rig” and “8020 rig” interchangeably.
Want a primer on the benefits and drawbacks of an 8020 sim racing rig? Check out our pros and cons article here.
Now we have that out of the way, what does one of these rigs cost?
The answer you probably did not want to hear is “it depends”, but it really does depend on a wide range of factors. To give you a rough range, it can be between £600/€660/$780 – up to around - £2100/€2310/$2730 to get out fitted with the basics; the rig, a seat and a way to mount your monitor(s). Below, we will get into the specifics of what varies the cost and why.
In this article we focus on three key components for a sim rig setup. Here are the typical prices that we see in the market today:
- The sim racing rig itself £400/€440/$520 to £1200/€1320/$1560
- A sim racing monitor stand £100/€110/$130 to £300/€330/$390
- A sim racing seat £100/€110/$130 to £600/€660/$780
We will assume that you are also budgeting for everything else you will need to complete your dream setup, but we will not consider them for the purpose of this article:
- Sim rig add-ons or accessories
- a PC or Console
- the relevant PC or Console accessories, mouse, keyboard, cables etc.
- a Monitor or set of monitors
- a Steering Wheel Base and Wheel/Rim
- a set of Pedals
Fanatec BMW GT2 Wheel
An 8020 rig will typically consist of multiple aluminium profile sections, standard fixtures and brackets, as well as custom fixtures and brackets all laid out in a design that at first glance can leave many of them looking very similar. So why do the various products and brands all vary in price?
Aluminium profile size
As described in the intro, “8020” refers to a size no longer commonly used for sim racing rigs. 80 would be the height of the profile in millimetres and 20 is the width in millimetres (or vice versa)
Today, it is far more common to find the main profile sizes for sim racing rigs to be either:
You can typically tell what size profiles are in use by looking at the rig photos carefully and counting the number of lines or “channels” along the profile. 1 channel = 40x40, 2 channels = 40x80, 3 = 40x120 and finally 4 channels will be found on 40x160 sections.
Naturally, the bigger profiles cost more than the smaller profiles. That does not mean you should discount 40x40 straight away. There is a time and a place to use all these sizes (and others) in sim rig designs. However, it is typical to find rigs on the cheaper end of the price range we talked about earlier being primarily manufactured out of 40x40 or 40x80 to keep the raw material cost lower. On the flip side, rigs that make use of 40x120 or 40x160 will be more expensive.
Quantity of material used
Another critical raw material cost is how many aluminium profiles go into its construction. The material itself is a premium construction material, and so not cheap to get hold of in the first place. If there is more material in the base design of a rig, then the overall raw material cost is likely to be higher. This is fundamental economics and is virtually impossible to avoid for any manufacturer.
Additionally, to get the strength and rigidity needed, an overlap of the profiles is often desired in the design. Particularly when the sections are wider, this overlap will give an immediate rigidity boost. Conversely, a design which has the profiles ‘sit on top’ of others with no overlap will sometimes struggle for rigidity. This of course is a balance between cost and rigidity and will matter more depending on where in the design this decision needs to be made (i.e. more important in the steering section, than other areas)
You may now be thinking “so does more material mean a higher price is justified?”, maybe, maybe not. A good design is important. A design that fully utilises all the material that is part of the design can make a big difference to how effective that material is at meeting its primary goal: giving a solid base to throw countless hours of sim racing at it. Just because there is a lot of material does not necessarily mean that it is being used effectively and may be adding to the price unnecessarily. It is certainly possible to ‘overdo it’ when it comes to designing an 8020 aluminium rig, and one way to increase the cost of a rig unnecessarily is by overengineering the product.
Quality of material used
The quality of the finished product that ends up in your hands is affected by several things.
The source of the product. Most major suppliers do not get this wrong. The material is usually very well made, and defect rates are low.
The cutting of the product. Aluminium profiles are “extruded” and the “cutting” can happen either at the source during the extrusion process or in a process later on. Both have their own pros and cons, but generally, if you are looking for a clean finish it is often the more expensive route to take. Cutting metal is never going to be a fault free business, but there are ways of increasing how clean the finished product is. Again, this is a balance of time, cost and quality that can only be understood by seeking feedback from those that have used the products themselves.
Amount of material bought by the manufacturer / purchasing power
Like most things, the more you buy the less you pay per unit. The same is true for the materials that go into an aluminium extrusion rig. Suppliers can reduce the cost they pass on to the consumer by buying in bulk. Buying in bulk comes with its own challenges, but often has the positive effect of bringing the price down for the customer.
Brackets, standard vs. custom
It is true that the bulk of the components in an 8020 rig are standard, but there are some that are not. Some 8020 rigs reduce the cost by using only what is available off the shelf, re-using components already on sale which may include standard brackets. Other manufacturers go the other way and invest in customised brackets for a variety of uses in their rig designs. Typical places where you will find customised brackets are; pedal section, steering section, monitor stand angles (for triple and quadruple monitor stands). The benefit of using customised brackets is that the design of the rig can be more intricate and often allows for a greater flexibility of setup.
The downside is that it will be more expensive to produce. Again, scale matters here. The more you buy the less you pay per unit, but there is a high initial start-up cost when going the custom route, which is why you will find many rig builders looking for off-the-shelf components instead.
Backup and support
Costs of products can vary wildly depending on the level of support offered by the manufacturer. Support is obviously just an insurance policy. Hopefully, the product never goes wrong or does not have a defect that needs resolving, but problems do eventually occur occasionally. Companies that provide higher levels of backup and support must pay for that somehow.
Seats typically range from £100/€110/$130 to £600/€660/$780.
A SPARCO SEAT CIRCUIT II QRT, a £450+ seat
Some rigs come with a seat, some do not. There are multiple ways of looking at seats that warrants its own article one day, but for now let’s keep it simple. Here are some major things that affect the cost of a seat, which in some cases can mean the seat is more expensive than the rig it is sitting on:
- Brand – there are go-to brands such as Sparco, Cobra, OMP that get your attention because you have seen them in real race cars. For some, that is an important part of the buying decision, to use a brand that the pros use. For others not so much. Like anything in life, a good brand is not a guarantee of a good product, but it will certainly affect the price.
- FIA Approval – Most bucket seats on the market got there because of real-world motorsport. And to compete in real-world motorsport, you often must use FIA (motorsport’s governing body) approved safety equipment, of which the seat is one. This approval adds to the cost of the seat, which for us as sim racers is unnecessary.
- Comfort – some seats are comfortable, some are not. This is not always directly related to the price of a seat, but it can have an impact if material choice is more towards the plush end
- Adjustability – sport seats, rather than bucket seats, often have adjustability (in the form of recline) that needs complicated mechanisms which adds to the cost. However, sport seats are typically not FIA approved and so are cheaper to begin with
- Seat brackets & seat sliders – one thing that often catches people out is the need to buy additional “stuff” to fit your seat to the rig. Bucket seats often require you to buy separate brackets. Some come bundled with brackets. If you want to move your seat back and forward easily, you will want a slider. Again, some come with sliders included and some do not.
Your colour choice has an impact on cost. Most aluminium profiles are produced in a shade of grey, nudging up towards silver. Black and other colours will be more costly as they are typically custom orders and not available to buy from a supplier’s stock.
Spare parts are sometimes included sometimes they are not. They are not free, so someone must pay for them.
Every company has a marketing budget, but again it must be paid for somehow. Famously some companies have been known to spend up to 50% of their total budget on marketing.
Packaging and shipping would make a very good (but very boring) article. It has a huge affect on price paid by the customer. Larger companies typically have better deals with shipping companies, they can buy packaging in bulk and tend to have better worldwide distribution. This allows them to cut cost from the finished product.
Conversely, having worldwide operations increases cost to maintain facilities, partnerships, staff, knowledge, spare parts inventory, etc.
Type of Monitor Stand
Monitor stands typically fall in the range of £100/€110/$130 to £300/€330/$390
SINGLE MONITOR STANDS CAN OFTEN BY CHANGED TO TRIPLES LATER ON
There are two primary ways of getting your monitors mounted. Aside from cost, there are other pros and cons to each which we will not go into here. It deserves its own article.
Firstly, there is the “integrated” style of monitor stand. This is where the monitor is directly connected to the rig. This is typically a cheaper method.
Secondly, there is the “free standing” style of monitor stand. This is where there is a separate frame assembly that is not directly connected to the rig. This is typically a more expensive method.
“So how can I reduce the amount I spend on an 8020 rig?”
New or used?
Want an 8020 rig but do not want to pay top dollar? Look at the used market. More people join this pastime than leave it, but that does not mean there are not rigs on the market. Due to the size and weight involved, you are often better off trying to find one locally as many people are reluctant to ship it to you.
Same goes for a seat. There are plenty of used seats on the marketplaces, many of them taken from track cars and looking sad for themselves as they’ve been used and abused. It is still possible to find the odd gem. Another source of inspiration is a breaker’s yard. There is no reason why you cannot fit a road car seat to a rig, and many have. Just be aware that car manufacturers often have proprietary mounting methods and so make sure you look at how the seat is mounted before you buy.
“Do it yourself” is another option. There are many sim rig designs shared in the community that allow someone with intermediate DIY skills to build something to their own wishes. It is sometimes possible to build a rig cheaper than you can buy off the shelf, but it very much depends on your access to the materials to build one. I have seen stories of people in certain parts of the world who just cannot buy the materials cheaply enough to make a DIY rig work financially. In other areas, I have seen great success going this route.
It is almost guaranteed that you do not need everything that can possibly go on a rig if you are on a budget. If money is no object, throw everything into your shopping cart… but if you are like most people, you may want to look for a rig design that allows you to upgrade in the future. There is no point paying for parts you will not use or cannot use to their full potential right now. We talked about alternatives to 8020 rigs in our article here.
What are your thoughts about the cost for aluminium extrusion / aluminium profile / 8020 rigs? What have we missed? Let us know and we will include it to help others like you make an informed decision.