From the first RC car in the 1960’s to the high powered cars today, RC cars have seen their share of fun over the last 50 years.
Men, women, adults, and children from all over have experienced what it’s like to drive an RC vehicle.
I still remember waking up Christmas morning and seeing that big box hidden in the corner. That box would contain a toy that would bring me memories upon memories to come.
That box contained my first RC car. While you may have already experienced what it’s like to drive an RC car, many others haven’t.
Now it’s their turn.
This article is going to cover what to look for when purchasing an RC vehicle.
It’s going to include what kind of vehicles you can buy. It’s also going to cover the many uses of RC vehicles today.
Remote control cars come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and vehicle types. This article will help to distinguish them all.
Everything you need to know to get started with the RC Hobby will be in this piece.
So sit back, pull up a chair, and let’s dive right in.
You’ll learn a little a lot about RC cars and see our picks for the best RC cars for any occasion.
And for those of you who know all about RC cars and want to see the Best RC cars, keep on reading.
Things to Consider Before Buying an RC Car
There are many things to consider before deciding which RC car to buy.
What do you want to do with the car? How much do you want to spend? What kind of power source do you want?
I will answer all these questions and more below.
Types of RC Vehicles
What’s a better place to start, then to share a little about each kind of radio controlled vehicle?
Pretty much any vehicle powered by a motor exists in a radio controlled version as well.
Cars, trucks, planes, you name it, and there is most likely an RC version of it.
A good place to start when making a purchasing decision is to decide what kind of RC vehicle you want.
Here are some of the most common radio controlled vehicles you’ll come across.
The term “RC Car” is usually an all-encompassing word for both cars and trucks, but there are RC cars that are actual cars.
There are radio controlled sports cars, drift cars, rally cars, buggies, toy cars, and more.
Some of the fastest RC vehicles are cars, especially the buggies and drift cars.
Typically RC cars are battery powered, but there are also gas powered cars as well.
When I think of RC Trucks, I picture the brushless and gas-powered beasts that cost a fortune.
Trucks like the Traxxas X-Maxx and the Team Losi 5IVE-T are every kid’s dream.
While these trucks cost a fortune, don’t get discouraged. There are many other trucks out there that are affordable and still a blast!
RC trucks come in all shapes and sizes. Pickup trucks, monster trucks, and truggys (Truck + Buggy) are some of the most popular. But, there are also semi trucks, rock crawlers, and even trucks for kids.
RC Quadcopters (Drones)
One RC vehicle that has gained quite a bit of popularity recently is the RC Quadcopter, also known as the drone.
RC quadcopters have been around for a while, but have gained popularity in recent years.
Drones use four propellers to propel themselves into the sky. Each propeller moves at the same speed to keep the quadcopter steady.
They are usually used for aerial photography and imagery but can also be flown in a negative way for spying.
Drones are very fun to control, but make sure you know what you are doing first. I’ve seen plenty get too far out of range, only to get stuck in a tree and lost forever.
RC helicopters have a lot in common with quadcopters, but they are also very different.
The key difference is in the propellers.
These rotors are what makes the helicopter fly.
One major difference you’ll notice when flying a helicopter compared to a drone is the ease of flying.
Drones are very stable when compared to helicopters. This reason alone is why you’ll never see a go pro on the bottom of an RC helicopter.
RC airplanes are in a league of their own.
It seems like most of the time, the people that fly RC planes are dedicated to only flying planes.
Just like all the other RC vehicles, RC airplanes come in many shapes and sizes. A lot of times the planes are scale models of real airplanes that exist today or existed at some point in the past.
One thing that is interesting about is that many people build RC planes.
If you Google “RC scale airplanes” you’ll see all kinds of pictures with people standing next to their airplanes.
Last but not least, are the RC Boats.
If you want to get yourself an RC boat, you’ll find all kinds of different ones to choose from.
Speedboats are very popular, but sailboats are also common.
You can already imagine the difference between driving an RC speed boat and an RC sailboat.
Let’s just say, one is a lot more relaxing than the other.
RC boats are especially popular in the summertime when people go to the nearby lakes and rivers.
There are also tanks, tractors, battleships, submarines, motorcycles, and several more.
Although there are many kinds of RC vehicles, we are only going to cover the ones that you can drive in this article.
RC Car Brands
There are tons of brands out there that produce RC cars. Some are very well known, and some are not as known.
As with anything, you get what you pay for. Especially when it comes to radio controlled cars.
The following four brands are some of the best-known brands that produce the best quality RC cars, trucks, and more.
All 4 of these companies are known as major pioneers of the hobby. They have made a name for themselves with both the hobbyists and professionals.
One of the most well known RC car brands is Traxxas. Since they were first established in the 1980’s, they have managed to dominate the market.
Their vehicles look great, drive great, and are all top quality. They have a broad range of products that serve the entire industry as a whole.
One thing that Traxxas is well known for is their popularization of the ready-to-run RC car. This means that once you get the box, you can plug in the battery and you’re out the door and ready to drive it away.
While their cars are stock, to begin with, they provide what you need to change and customize them as well.
That allows Traxxas to cater to even the most advanced drivers who enjoy upgrading their cars to the max.
Thanks to their quality and diversity, Traxxas has and will always remain a top brand in the RC industry.
Team Associated is yet another familiar name in the RC industry. Known for their quality, versatility, and options, they make some of the best cars out there.
Their tagline says it all “World Champion Radio Controlled Cars.”
They have certainly managed to create some of the most impressive cars out there.
Team Associated makes a variety of vehicles, with both on and off-road options. While they are primarily known for their trucks and buggies, they also make touring cars, GT, and F1 cars as well.
When it comes to pricing, they offer a more affordable price point for people entering the hobby. In this case, price doesn’t determine the quality.
Associated’s vehicles are built to stand the test of time.
One last and huge benefit when it comes to Team Associated is their aftermarket support. If you have a question, they are happy to answer.
Another notable company in the RC market is HPI Racing. Ever since they started in the 1980’s, HPI has been changing the game.
HPI is mainly known for their engineering and design capabilities.
One thing that makes HPI racing a favorite by many is their ability to create scale models of real cars. Hobbyists go nuts for this because it allows them to drive a car that they wouldn’t buy in real life.
Another strength of HPI is their ability to build insane nitro cars. They make incredible cars for racing, bashing, and having a blast with.
One of my all-time favorite HPI cars is the Vorza Flux. I’ve had many good memories with that beast.
Not only does HPI produce advanced cars, but they also make RTR ones that are exceptional for anyone.
Last but certainly not least is Team Losi. Another company straight out of the 1980’s, Losi is considered one of the best brands.
Thanks to their easy to drive cars, a wide selection of aftermarket parts, and top quality, Losi will keep you having fun for years.
One thing that sets Losi apart from the others is the ability to tune and customize their cars to the max. Their goal is to make it as easy as possible for customizations.
The availability of their aftermarket parts and accessories are endless. Not to mention the fact that their cars are already insane, to begin with.
It’s no secret that Losi is one of the preferred brands by the racing professionals in the RC industry.
Their 1/8 scale cars and trucks will dominate just about any RC vehicle that rolls on four wheels. Combined with the aftermarket parts, there is no competition.
I may be biased, but the Losi 5IVE-T is a friggin beast that needs to be let out of its cage.
As mentioned before, there are many other brands out there.
I understand that you may not be looking to fork over hundreds of dollars for your first RC car. That’s what you’ll be looking at if you want to drive any of the Traxxas, Losi, HPI, or Associated cars.
But don’t fret! There are many other options out there!
I even put together a detailed article covering the best RC cars under $100 if that is more up your alley (Link in the sidebar).
Brands like Arrma, Redcat Racing, and Kyosho are great quality, but affordable at the same time.
Power Source: Nitro or Electric?
If you’re starting out in the hobby, you’ll quickly find out that there are a lot of factors to consider. It can be as confusing as you make it out to be.
The hobby can become very technical if you want it to be, but if you’re here to have fun, then don’t even worry.
One of the primary factors for your first radio controlled vehicle is the power source.
You may not have noticed yet, but the majority of the RC cars come as either electric powered, or nitro powered.
What’s the difference?
Well, to make it simple, one runs on battery power, and one runs on nitro fuel.
Nitro fuel is a mix of three main components: methanol, nitromethane, and oil. It can also contain other additives like anti-corrosion agents or degumming agents.
Nitro cars run on a glow engine which functions similarly to a car engine. This glow engine is a small internal combustion engine.
Electric cars are a little more complicated in the way they function. An electric RC car runs on a motor that uses an electromagnetic field to spin the shaft which allows the wheels to rotate.
There are two types of electric motors: brushed and brushless.
Brushed motors are what you would see in a standard DC motor where an armature spins between two magnets.
The armature contains an electromagnet that creates a field when the battery power runs to it. This field attracts and repels with the magnets around it, causing it to spin continuously. The brushes help to change the polarity to keep it spinning.
If that’s not confusing enough, then take what you learned and turn it inside out. That’s a brushless motor.
Now enough science jargon.
Simply put, brushed motors are cheaper to produce, which means they don’t last as long.
They are also slower because they have a max speed capacity.
Brushed RC cars are excellent for beginners and people who want to drive slower.
If you’re looking for speed and reliability, then you want a brushless RC car.
Which one should you get?
Picking a nitro or an electric RC car all depends on user preference and what you are going to be using it for.
Nitro cars are ideal for advanced users who enjoy working on their vehicles as if they were real cars.
Nitro cars are also a lot more thrilling to drive. They are super loud, can ride for a lot longer, and you don’t have to charge any batteries.
Nitro cars are perfect for the driver who wants to feel like they are driving a real car. They burn gas like a real car, are loud like a real car, and need maintenance like a real car.
On the flip-side, are electric cars.
Electric cars are much easier to maintain.
Brushless electric cars can reach similar speeds (Or even faster) as nitro cars, without the loud sound of an engine.
Electric cars are easier to drive and are also cheaper in the long run. They don’t need regular tuning and maintenance as a nitro RC car does.
Electric cars are also great for beginners who don’t want to deal with the mechanics of a combustion motor.
Most of the time you can just take them out of the box, plug in the battery, and you’re good to go.
The only downside is that they run on batteries. This means shorter run times, and more time spent charging.
With all that being said, I would take a brushless electric car over a nitro one any day of the week. But like I said, it’s all user preference.
Of course, how much you are willing to spend plays a huge role in picking out an RC car.
The price of an RC car can range anywhere from $20 or less, to $2,000 or more.
If that’s not enough, you’re looking at at least $100 to get a decent car that will stand the test of time. There are, however, many great options if you are looking for a decent RC car under $100.
Many factors play a part in the pricing of a car.
Quality is the biggest one, but you should also consider things like the motor type, brand, use, and more.
You also want to look at how much the car will cost you over time.
For example, a car with a nitro motor will cost you a lot to maintain and fill up over time.
Compare this to an electric car, where you could get away with minimal maintenance and a single battery forever.
With that being said, it’s important not to take the price at face value.
What do I mean by that?
Well, think about the electric car with its short battery life.
It may seem cheap in the beginning, but over time you will get sick of having to charge it every time you want to use it.
So you’ll buy an extra battery. And then another. And eventually, all the extra batteries and accessories add up.
All this extra dough spent on your electric car would over time even out with the cost to maintain a nitro vehicle.
My opinion when it comes to pricing is to come up with your top budget and work from there.
Do you want a car? A buggy? A truck? A truggy?
If you want a name brand, pick the brand as well.
Then narrow your options down.
Nitro or electric?
Narrow it down.
You get the idea.
There are plenty of websites to buy RC cars on, but my preference, of course, is Amazon.
Go to Amazon.com, search the brand name, and most likely you’ll see 50+ reviews for all that brand’s vehicles.
You can make an informed decision from there.
There are also many great RC forums that can help you out as well.
For example, if you are torn between two cars, just google “Car 1 vs Car 2” and almost always you’ll find something.
The Best RC Cars
Now that we have covered pretty much everything, you should be ready to go out and buy an RC car now!
But first, we’re going to talk about a few of our favorite RC cars now. These cars are all pretty affordable and will keep you having a blast till kingdom come.
The Best RC Car for Toddlers
The Holy Stone RC cartoon race car is the safest best for your child over 18 months. Get them started at a young age with this cute little RC car.
This car is the perfect RC car for your toddler. It’s bright, colorful, and surprisingly fast for what it is. The car can only go forward and reverse, so your little tot will be safe driving it around the house.
Press the button on the controller and the car will play music and honk with blinking headlights.
The driver is even removable so your child can take it out and play with it, then put it back in when they are ready to cruise around the house.
The RC car is 4 inches long, 3 inches wide, and 4 inches tall, and the remote is easy to control with two large buttons.
The fun of this remote controlled car will keep your little toddler entertained for hours.
The Best RC Car for Kids
Best Choice Products hit a home run with the Lamborghini Veneno. This hobby grade RC car is perfect for kids ages 6 and up. With the larger name brands only targeting older teenagers and adults, this RC car fills the void.
The Best Choice Products Lamborghini Veneno is the perfect excuse for any kid to get started in the RC hobby.
With a 30 minute constant run time, and a charge time of 4 hours, your little kid will have a blast cruising all over the house for weeks.
Think of all the things you could get done!
This RC car is perfect for use on any smooth surface, indoor or out. Using the control to move the vehicle in any direction is a breeze. With top speeds around 20 mph, it’s fast, but not fast enough to handle.
The best part is that the car comes with a bonus rechargeable battery and charger so you can double your driving time right away.
The car itself is built of sturdy plastic that can take a beating. It is a 1/24 scale version of the real Lamborghini Veneno! The engine roars and the lights even work too!
If you’re looking for a remote controlled car that your kid can enjoy, then look no further. This is the best of the electric RC cars for kids. Make sure they are six years or older first though.
The Best RC Car for Beginners
What can I say, the Traxxas Slash Pro 2WD Short-Course Truck is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does this beast go 30+ mph, but it’s also nearly indestructible as well.
Traxxas is the best brand in the industry, hands down. And this truck is one of their most prized possessions. Not only is the price there with this truck, the quality, speed, and excitement are too.
The Traxxas Slash Pro is a 2WD short-course truck. It measures in at 24.8 x 9 x 11.9 inches and weighs around 9 pounds. And this thing can take a beating.
While I almost considered voting this the best RC car overall (Yes, it’s that good), I wanted to save it for the best RC car for beginners.
It’s a secret weapon that every beginner should have.
You can drive this beast just about anywhere that you could think of. Dirt, sand, grass, off-road, on-road, in the house (I wouldn’t recommend that), you name it.
Feel free to bash the hell out of this truck and not have a single worry in the world.
Some of the features of this truck include:
- Waterproof electronics box
- Professional 2.4 GH control
- Traxxas iD Battery and Fast Charger
- XL-5 Electronic Speed Control
- Titan 12-Turn 550 Modified Motor
- Brushless Transmission
- Ultra Shocks
- Front and Rear Bumpers
- Nerf Bars and Body Mounts
- Much, Much, More
In addition to all this, you also get some of the best customer service out there and a Traxxas Lifetime electronics warranty.
So if you’re a beginner and considering to take the leap into the RC hobby, then look no further. This truck was made for you.
The Best Off-Road RC Car
Welcome, the Traxxas X-Maxx.
The Traxxas X-Maxx is a four wheel drive, brushless, electric, ready to run remote control truck.
With its 8-inch tires, 4-inch clearance, 19-pound weight, and 29-inch length, this thing is the definition of a behemoth.
This truck takes remote control trucks to a whole new level.
It’s loaded with Traxxas-exclusive innovations. These innovations include things like stability management, a self-righting feature, clipless body mounting, and more.
The chassis is easy to work on and maintain, and the battery system is secure. With waterproof electronics, the X-Maxx is ready for all elements.
The X-Maxx comes with two 3s LiPo batteries, which get it over 35 mph easy.
The massive brushless motor will make you wet your pants the second you pull the trigger. And the huge shocks absorb just about anything.
Let’s just say if you showed up at your friend’s house, he would cry all the way back to his mommy.
The Best RC Car for the Money
The Redcat Racing Volcano EPX is a 1/10 scale, 4×4, electric RC truck that is built tough but won’t break the bank.
This truck comes with everything you would expect to see in a $400 RC car, but for less than half of the price.
The 2.4 GHz pistol grip radio has over a 100-yard range. The electronics are waterproof, and the truck runs on a rechargeable battery.
This truck is an RTR truck, which means you can plug in the battery and go. No need to buy extra parts or mess with installing components.
The battery lasts around 15-20 minutes of driving, but that’s going full speed ahead. And boy does this thing fly.
The best part is, the truck handles great and is built tough. It will for sure bring you countless hours of entertainment for an affordable price.
The Best RC Car Overall
You guessed it, the Traxxas 1/10 Slash 4X4 Brushless Short Course Truck is the best RC car overall.
This truck is like the Slash 2WD, but it’s insane big brother.
While the price tag might be a little steeper, it is worth every penny. This truck is the best RC car you’ll get for the money.
It’s the top choice for hobbyists, casual users, bashers, and racers. Even your grandpa wants a piece of this pie.
As I mentioned before, this truck is very similar to the Slash 2WD, but on steroids.
Measuring in at 22.36 x 7.60 x 11.65 inches, this baby can reach speeds of over 35 mph right out of the box. With additional gearing and upgraded batteries, it can go over 65 mph!
The 4×4 Slash is controlled by the TQi 2.4 GHz radio control that allows for supreme control and ease of driving. The seven cell battery that it comes with lasts anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes of straight driving.
All the electronics in the Slash are waterproof so that weather won’t bother this truck one bit. The truck also comes with stability management for slippery surfaces like gravel, ice, and snow.
The electronic speed control allows you to toggle between Sport, Race, and Training Mode. This combined with the brushless motor and 4WD transmission will have you screaming with excitement.
With its 2.2 in tires, race worth suspension, rigid chassis, optimal steering system, this RC car is, without a doubt, one of the best out there.
I hope this article gave you a little insight and guidance into making your first RC car purchase and entrance into the hobby.
As you can see, the possibilities and options are endless. What it really comes down to is what you are looking for in an RC car.
Price plays a role, but so does quality, branding, and many other factors.
If you’re still confused about what to buy at this point, my advice is to get online and look. Take the knowledge you learned here and apply it to your search.
If you have the money, you really can’t go wrong with any car by Traxxas, Losi, HPI, or Team Associated.
If you don’t have the money, then take a look at the reviews, and make an educated decision.
If you have any questions, enjoyed this article, want to share what car you got, or what car is your favorite, let me know in the comments below.
Otherwise, I’m heading out to go hit the roads.