iRacing is a PC-based racing simulator that spans a multitude of various motorsports enterprises across the globe.
Dave Kaemmer, iRacing’s Chief Executive Officer, has been well-known in sim racing circles for over three decades and had a big part to play in highly rated titles such as Indianapolis 500: The Simulation and Grand Prix Legends, as well as a number of officially licensed NASCAR & IndyCar games throughout the nineties and early noughties. Kaemmer co-founded Papyrus Design Group in 1987 and had a major role in both developing and programming their racing sims.
iRacing was founded by Kaemmer and John Henry in September 2004. The online racing service was released to the public in the summer of 2008, and during the height of Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, iRacing boasted more than 160,000 active subscribers. Although the initial game code was based off Papyrus’ final release, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, iRacing has undergone continuous development since with regular physics and tire model updates.
One reason for iRacing’s success is its commitment to providing safe and close racing to its customers. It ensures that drivers of equal skill and experience are matched in races together, while also punishing drivers who crash too often by lowering their ‘iRating’. This makes it more difficult for careless drivers to progress to the upper echelons of the league structure, improving driving standards.
It’s clear that iRacing has a passionate following within the sim racing community, but how much does it really cost, and is it worth buying into?
How much is iRacing?
iRacing itself is free to download, but driver accounts operate on a subscription basis with additional costs for vehicles, race venues, and servers. Any single person could pay as little as $13/£10 to try it out with cars and tracks included, or as much as over $2,000/£1,400 for the full iRacing experience.
Do I have to pay per month for iRacing?
At its lowest upfront cost, iRacing can be as low as $13/£10 per month. Discounts are available for longer-term membership plans, such as three months for $33/£24 ($11/£8 per month), one year for $110/£78 ($9.17 per month) and two years for $199/£141 ($8.29 per month).
At certain points on the year, especially near holidays or Black Friday, discounts become available for both new and returning members. For example, there could bey 40 per cent off for new members, which means for less than $8 or £6 for the first month. If there’s a promotion on, iRacing can be quite inexpensive to try out the base package.
For those in the UK, iRacing only lists prices in dollars, so you may be charged an oversees transaction fee by your bank.
Can you gift someone iRacing membership?
Yes. Gift cards are available for purchase from iRacing.com, at $15/£11, $50/£35 and $110/£78 price points, and can be used to purchase cars, tracks, membership renewals and private hosted race sessions.
What content is included with an iRacing subscription?
There are 16 cars and 22 tracks available for free with an iRacing subscription, including enough vehicles and locations to get you into the four motorsport disciplines represented: oval, dirt ovals, dirt road (rallycross) and road course racing.
For British motorsport fans, it’s interesting to note that Oulton Park is one of the free circuits, although most of the free content is outdated and lacks the polish of newer products.
How much are cars within iRacing?
iRacing cars are normally $11.95/£9 each, excluding discounts. Older cars are $2.95. Bulk discounts are available however, so with three or more purchases the total cost is discounted 10%; six or more purchased items equates to a 15% discount. These discounts won’t be applied if already utilising the 20% off 40+ piece discount or 30% off 100% content club.
How much are tracks within iRacing?
iRacing tracks are $14.95/£11 each, or $11.95/£9 for older or shorter tracks such as the Norwegian rallycross track Hell. There are also a couple of older NASCAR tracks priced at $4.95 each.
iRacing also releases scanned “tech tracks” from time to time at a lower cost, where the track has been properly scanned and is useable, but the graphics department hasn’t quite finished all the details around the track. Currently, the only tech track available is New Jersey Motorsports Park, also listed at $4.95.
Are there any content bundles or packs for iRacing?
No. There are no content bundles or packs available in iRacing at present. However, if you purchase 40 or more pieces of content (tracks or cars), then you are entitled to a 20% discount on all future purchases within iRacing. If you own all the content, this rises to 30%. Bear in mind, these discounts only apply to items priced at $5 or more each.
Is there a cost for renting servers in iRacing?
Yes. The cost of renting a server in iRacing ranges from $0.50 for one hour, to $9 for 25 hours. This allows you to run online practise sessions for you and your friends, or host a league race with admin rights. You can set the session with practice, qualifying and a race, as well as choose the weather conditions and other factors.
It is free to play by yourself in a test session utilising any car and track combination you currently own.
Can I play iRacing content I’ve purchased if my membership lapses?
No, you can’t use any of the content you paid for without an active subscription, apart from one exception.
While it is impossible to use any of your purchased content without a valid iRacing membership through the website or iRacing UI, Testdrive.iRacing.com is a site that is used when iRacing goes down for maintenance. There you can use any content that’s been downloaded on to your computer if you still have the service installed. This site is only available when updates are being installed.
Is iRacing Worth It?
Although iRacing has found itself a loyal customer base of thousands of regular players, it still alienates many sim racers thanks to its subscription model, and generally speaking, the content is more expensive than its main rivals in the genre.
For example, to buy the BMW M4 GT4, McLaren 570s GT4 & Porsche Cayman GT4 in iRacing would cost $32.27, or £23.45. In Assetto Corsa Competizione, to purchase these cars plus several more GT4 vehicles, it costs only $19.99/£17.99 via Steam and a comparable price on consoles. When digital sales are in effect, you can even pick it up for as little as $15 or £12.
The physics in iRacing are also divisive, with many sim racers complaining of skittish on-the-limit handling, but this is something that will always be down to personal preference, and not immediately quantifiable. Another aspect of iRacing that irks many sim racers is that it stands alone in requiring a valid subscription to use the cars and tracks you’ve purchased.
Although there are a few downsides to iRacing, there’s no doubt that it offers a service that its customers love. With someone like Dave Kaemmer at the helm, it feels like iRacing has been designed by sim racers, for sim racers. Its events are well-organised, with a clear progression for the novice sim-racer, and although the prices seem a bit steep, it’s a cost most of its users are willing to pay.
You won’t be virtually climbing into the top-level vehicles with a base package, but at least you’ll get a feel for the fundamental physics and of the platform in general. From there can decide whether it’s worth investing into further. If you’ve already got a computer that can handle the minimum requirements as well as some type of controller to get you around the circuits, with heavily discounted subscriptions available to new customers, iRacing is definitely worth trying out.
*Prices correct 27/4/21. GBP prices are based up on the exchange rate at the time of writing and may be slightly rounded up or down. Please check your banking provider for oversees transaction fees.