Seats are one of the most overlooked aspects of modifying a performance vehicle. Most of us enthusiasts are too focused on go-fast-bits to realize that a fast car is only as good as the experience that we have while driving it. You might have the fastest and best handling car in the world, but if you get thrown around in the cabin, the benefits of performance suspension and a high-performance engine are for nothing.
That’s where racing seats come into play. There’s a reason that rally and DTM cars have aggressive bolstering and neck support, it’s to keep the driver’s body facing the right way! While most of us aren’t on the track every day, a solid racing seat can add enjoyability to both backroad adventures on the weekend and during the occasional track day.
Racing seats often have the stigma of sacrificing comfort for performance, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are options out there that strike a solid middle ground between both. In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the best racing seat options for both a daily driver and a dedicated track monster.
Racing seats can vary dramatically in price, depending on the manufacturer. For that reason, we’ll cover seats in multiple price ranges, beginning with promising entry-level options and working our way up to the premium stuff.
Best Racing Seats Considerations
As with most car performance parts, there are a few considerations that you’ll need to take into account before pulling the trigger on a racing seat. They’re pretty straightforward. It essentially boils down to proper sizing, price, and build quality. A good racing seat needs to meet all of those requisites.
Proper Sizing and Comfort:
Above all else, the best racing seat is the one that is the most comfortable. There are a few areas that you should focus on in the comfort and sizing department. Most quality racing seats’ skeletons are constructed from steel, fiberglass, or carbon fiber. While that makes them extremely strong, it can also make them uncomfortable if they lack sufficient padding or are an improper size for your body.
Proper sizing is another extremely important consideration that you’ll need to take into account, both from a safety and comfort standpoint. Choosing the right size seat can be difficult for someone that hasn’t purchased a seat before or doesn’t have the ability to sit in the seat before buying it.
In addition to making sure that the seat is the right size for your body, it is also important to make sure that your chosen seat will also fit in your car. The front width of the seat is typically the most troublesome part that prevents a seat from fitting into a car. Some larger seats with a high hip width might not fit into a smaller vehicle.
How to Measure Yourself for a Racing Seat:
In general, there are three key measurements that you’ll need to take into account when determining which seat is best for you. These include the distance between your hips, the distance between your bottom and shoulders, and the distance between your shoulders.
The best way to take these measurements is to sit on a flat surface with your back against a wall. First, use a tape measure to take the distance between your left and right hip. This measurement is important to get right, as you want your ideal seat to be snug in this area. A snug fit in the hips will prevent you from sliding around through corners and allow you to focus more on your driving.
Next, take the measurement from the floor to the top of your shoulders. This measurement will help you determine the ideal height for your seat.
Finally, you’ll need to measure the distance between your left and right shoulder. Seats can vary dramatically in terms of their shoulder width, and it is important to fit snugly in the shoulder area to prevent side-to-side movement.
Fitment in a seat is one of the most important aspects of comfort and safety. Almost all seat manufacturers provide detailed sizing guides for their products, and it is extremely important to measure and verify fitment before moving forward with your purchase.
Other Sizing Considerations:
If you intend on using a racing harness or modified seatbelts, you’ll need to pay attention to the position of the seat’s harness hole passthroughs. Most quality racing seats will feature cutouts above the shoulder area that allow a racing harness or standard seatbelt to pass through the seat and over your shoulders. You’ll need to make sure that the passthroughs clear your shoulders comfortably.
Bolstering style is another important factor in overall seat comfort and safety. Choosing a seat with the right amount of bolstering for your application is very important, especially if you intend to do any kind of performance driving.
Some models have aggressive side and head bolstering, oftentimes called ‘halos’ in the racing community. Seats equipped with halo head bolsters are designed to hold your head in place while wearing a racing helmet. If comfort is of top priority when searching for a seat and you don’t intend to do any competitive racing, a standard, non-halo seat is your best bet. Seats with head bolstering are typically best reserved for dedicated track cars.
Racing seats can vary in price from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. There are also plenty of options in between. If you are purchasing your first racing seat, it’s a good idea to start with the most premium option that you can afford, especially if you plan on taking your car to the track.
While cheaper racing seats often lack some of the more premium elements found on nicer seats, they will give you an idea of what it is like to live with one for an extended period. You can always upgrade to something nicer in the future!
Last, but certainly not least, is the importance of considering the build quality of the race seat that you are interested in. Not all race seats are created equal. That’s especially important to remember if you are looking for budget options. There’s a good balance that should be met between price and quality when picking your seat.
As stated earlier, race seats on the cheaper end tend to be made of steel, while the more expensive and premium options tend to be made of fiberglass or carbon fiber. Racing seat build materials are important to consider from a longevity and safety perspective. While it is unlikely that a cheaper steel-made seat will ever completely fall apart, cheap upholstery might tear with age. If you intend on doing some performance driving, your seat is your second line of defense in the result of a crash. For that reason, it is vital that your seat is structurally rigid enough to withstand an impact.
A good quality racing seat will last for years and years without any issue. If you are considering dropping a significant chunk of change on one, it is important to make sure that it’ll last.
The FIA is one of the largest motorsport governing organizations in the world that oversees countless racing events. They also set the benchmark for racing part safety requirements. To become FIA certified, racing parts must undergo rigorous safety and build quality tests to pass. If a component is FIA certified, it is a good indication that it is of the highest quality from a safety standpoint.
With that being said, it is extremely difficult and expensive for a parts manufacturer to construct components that live up to FIA standards, which is typically reflected in their sale price. Not all of the seats listed below are FIA certified. Some racing events require that you have an FIA-certified seat to even take part. For others, It is left up to the driver to determine if they need an FIA-certified seat.
If you only plan on doing cone-in-parking-lot type driving, a non-FIA certified seat might cut it. For more intensive events, like time attack racing, added safety should be a high priority.
Best Racing Seats: Our Top Picks
In this list, we have compiled some of the best racing seat options for sale right now. The seats listed here should work with almost any vehicle, but it is important to consider how your vehicle’s factory seats are mounted. In most cases, aftermarket performance seats require an adapter to mount them in a particular vehicle.
We used the metrics listed above to come to our conclusions about the seats.
1) Sparco R100 Racing Seat
Purchase Here: Sparcousa.com
Build Quality: 4.5/5
Sparco has been responsible for some of the most important safety advances in the history of motorsports and has always been a brand synonymous with quality auto parts.
The Sparco R100 is one of the company’s best intro racing seats for streetcar use. While the R100 is less focused on providing a truly comfortable experience, it compensates in performance. The Sparco R100 is constructed on a steel frame. While steel construction is often seen as inferior, the R100’s rigidity is unparalleled. For that reason, it truly does hold you firmly through the corners. As an added feature, the R100 does recline allowing for more adjustment.
The R100 features included passthrough holes for a racing harness, but can also be used with stock seatbelts. In terms of fitment, most customers with a 6’ stature weighing under 225 lbs state that they are able to comfortably fit. The R100s are spacious around the hip area, which can sometimes allow smaller individuals to slide a bit.
As with most seats on this list, you’ll need vehicle-specific underside mounting hardware to make the R100 compatible with your vehicle. However, mounting the seats once you have the hardware is simple. Just bolt up the vehicle-specific hardware to the underside of the seat and bolt it to the factory seat rails.
2) Corbeau FX1 Pro Racing Seat
Purchase Here: Corbeau.com
Build Quality: 5/5
I’ll save all of the “great heritage and reputable company” commentary this time, but know that Corbeau is the real deal. Their FX1 Pro seat is one of the most comfortable options on this list, and you can’t beat the price point either.
The underlying shell is made from high-strength fiberglass for lightweight and strong build quality. To cover the shell, Corbeau opted to use a black gel coat under the removable padding for additional comfort. To increase durability, high-wear areas of the FX1 Pro are covered with a strong leatherette compound. Overall, the FX1 Pro’s build quality is stellar for a seat at this price point.
The FX1 Pro was designed with fitment in mind, meaning it will fit comfortably in almost any vehicle. That is an attribute that can’t be said for the larger and bulkier racing seats for sale today. Like most of the other options on this list, the FX1 Pro features a bottom mounting point that requires tailored brackets. It also has side-mounting points, as well as a rear mounting point for a roll cage.
In general, the FX1 Pro shines the most in the comfort department. With the added layer of gel cushioning, even long drives should be more than manageable. Unlike the Sparco seat listed above, the Corbeau, unfortunately, lacks the ability to recline. However, if you do not like the seating position, the cushion inserts can be removed and swapped for ones that can alter the factory position.
3) Best Mid-Range Racing Seat – MOMO Daytona Racing Seat
Purchase Here: Momo.com
Build Quality: 5/5
MOMO is typically known for producing some of the best lightweight wheels for motorsport applications. However, they have since branched out into building other performance parts and have made an even bigger name for themselves by doing so. The MOMO Daytona racing seat has a few standout features that justify its price. A primary item of note is revolutionary seat aeration.
The MOMO Daytona uses a patented compound called Airnet to cover the fiberglass shell. Unlike most other racing seats, the padding on the Daytona breathes much better under stress. This means that you won’t get as hot and sweaty in race conditions as you would in a seat utilizing traditional foam. It also means that even when the seat gets damp, the material dries a lot faster than other compounds.
The Daytona is clearly more focused on providing a good experience on track over everything else. As such, it has a lot of racing-oriented features. For instance, the Daytona is made from fire retardant compounds. The neck bolstering is also quite aggressive, providing better support for drivers wearing a helmet. As with the Corbeau, the Daytona’s cushions are removable, allowing better clearance for taller drivers. The Daytona is also fully FIA certified, meaning that it is welcome for use in most motorsport events.
The Daytona is more difficult to install than a lot of the other seats on this list. MOMO requires that their seats are side-mounted, meaning that a specially crafted MOMO side mount bracket be installed on your vehicle. In general, side mounts are the more sturdy seat mounting option which reduces flex more than a bottom mounting solution.
4) Best High-End Racing Seat – Sparco QRT-K Carbon Kevlar Racing Seat
Purchase Here: Competitionmotorsport.com
Build Quality: 5/5
The Sparco QRT-K isn’t for the casual enthusiast with a light wallet. In fact, quite the opposite. The QRT-K is the cream of the crop as far as street-level racing seats are concerned. Immediately, the first thing that you’ll notice about the seat is its carbon fiber construction. The golden carbon-Kevlar weave construction is important for two reasons: It looks really cool, and it makes the QRT-K extremely light and strong. In total, the seat weighs 13.5 lbs. That’s equivalent to the weight of your space-saver jack.
In addition to lightening your vehicle’s curb weight by 50 lbs, the QRT-K also has an unparalleled strength to weight ratio. Its carbon construction makes it one of the safest places to be in the event of a crash. It’s a true performance seat. That sentiment is echoed by the FIA, as the QRT-K is fully certified. The Sparco features resting points for a five-point racing harness and is fire retardant.
In terms of overall comfort, this isn’t the choice for extended drives. While the QRT-K features plenty of removable padding, it is clear that long journeys are not the seat’s optimal setting. As with the MOMO listed above, the QRT-K needs a side mount bracket to be installed correctly. The side mount gives it the ability to slide while maintaining maximum rigidity. It is designed to fit into vehicles with a small chassis, so clearance shouldn’t be an issue. It is also designed to fit up to a size 36 waist comfortably due to its wide hip bolsters.
This truly is a performance seat, steer clear of it if you desire any kind of comfort in your daily driver.
Best Racing Seats Summary
Racing seats aren’t for everyone, but they truly add a level of security and planted-ness when pushing your car in the bends. You do, however, have to find the right seat for your own application. Luckily, there is a good variety of options at all price ranges.
When looking for a racing seat, it is imperative that you follow the manufacturer’s sizing guide. There’s nothing worse than ordering a nice seat only for it to be too small for you. Most quality manufacturers, and all of the ones on this list, provide detailed instructions on how to measure yourself to ensure proper fitment. If you fit correctly in a racing seat, it can be far more comfortable than even your vehicle’s stock seats.
If you are purchasing your first seat, quality and safety should be top priorities. There are a lot of inexpensive, but poor-quality seats out there that might be tempting. In the end, a quality seat will last longer and keep you safe. If you are looking for a seat that will dramatically reduce weight, you’re going to have to spend more. Seats made of either fiberglass or carbon are both incredibly strong and incredibly light. With that being said, they are more expensive than steel frame seats.
Unless you are intending on using the seat for track use exclusively, it is best to avoid seats with aggressive neck and head bolstering. They can get in the way of visibility during everyday use. Regardless of the application, a racing seat for your performance car is a good buy. Not only can they be safer in the result of a crash, but they also allow you to be more present in the driving experience.