By Joe Rich
Table of Contents
There are plenty of hobbies out there.
There is one, however, that has been around for decades and has a focus on both speed and control, precision and power.
The RC car hobby is unlike any other hobby out there. So here are 9 things you need to know before buying your first RC Car.
RC car enthusiasts range across all ages and income levels.
This is because there is a shared desire for speed, precision, control, and all the other aspects of RC cars that make them so interesting to hobby enthusiasts around the world.
There are more than a few things that make RC cars such a cool and unique hobby option.
More importantly, these are nine things that you need to consider before making your next RC car purchase to get the most out of your car that is in your budget range.
1. Who to Buy an RC Car for?
A great thing about buying an RC car for someone is that it is appropriate for all ages.
They definitely have different intended uses based on who you are buying it for, but there is no age range on RC cars because they are simply that versatile.
Buying for kids means getting them something cool that they can race around the house, the yard, or on a custom track that you can build with or for them.
Best of all is that they are so easy to use that a kid can take it out of the box and start going in no time, meaning maximum fun in minimum time.
Or perhaps you have a hobbyist in your life.
There are few hobbies out there quite as popular as RC cars.
This is because there are so many possibilities out there, not to mention the max speeds that can be achieved by these cool cars.
No matter who you are shopping for, an RC car can fit right in for them.
That kind of versatility in a gift can be difficult to match and makes RC cars a great gift for just about anyone.
2. What Is Your Budget?
Much like the range of appropriate ages that an RC car is suitable for, there is also a huge range of pricing available as well to fit any and all budgets.
For instance, if you were buying for a younger enthusiast, you might not want to shell out the money for a higher-end RC car. Thankfully, there are a ton of different pricing options available so that you can get the right RC car at the right price.
For the younger enthusiasts out there, there are RC car options for as low as $25.
That means you can get them a sleek, cool car that will zoom around any kind of course or terrain, keeping them entertained for hours on end.
Those serious enthusiasts can certainly ramp the costs up by a substantial amount.
The average quality hobby RC car can run in the $200 range, but they certainly can cost a lot more.
Some of the more expensive options out there can run into the $1000 range depending on what kind of car and options that you get.
A higher-end car can almost be seen as an investment and isn’t used quite so flippantly as the lower-end models may be.
Take that into consideration when making your purchase as well.
3. Toy or Hobby Grade?
Many people out there may not even be aware that there are differences between toy grade RC cars and hobby grade RC cars.
They may all look quite similar, but there are substantial differences between the two grades that can make for vastly different experiences.
The quality of a hobby grade RC car is vastly superior to that of a toy grade.
This is because the toy grade cars are made from less expensive materials so that they can be purchased for less and played with more often and aggressively.
The hobby grade cars are made of more authentic, durable materials despite the fact that they aren’t meant to take nearly the amount of abuse.
The biggest difference is in the parts. In a hobby grade car, the parts are able to be replaced much the same as they would on a real car.
With toy cars, breaking a part means breaking a part.
It is often inexpensive enough to just buy a new car, making replacement parts something that makes no sense.
Lastly, the cost is the biggest factor between the two.
As covered in the budget section, there is a massive difference between hobby grade and toy grade.
Toy grade tends to be much more affordable whereas their hobby counterparts can run up a substantial price tag.
4. RTR or Kit?
This may be the most diverse and different section concerning RC cars.
RTR stands for ready-to-run.
That means that when you get an RTR car, it is ready to go the second you take it out of the box.
Kits, meanwhile, involve individual parts and require time, skill, and patience to assemble in the car itself.
RTR cars are perfect for kids and beginners.
For those demographics, there is more of a focus on enjoying what the car can do rather than on the details of the car itself.
It allows for getting used to the controls of the car, how it runs, and how it manoeuvres.
Kits, meanwhile, are better suited for serious hobbyists who like to take apart the cars and have a serious knowledge and experience in doing so.
These assembly kits have smaller components that take time and experience to properly install.
The choice between kits and RTR cars depends on the age and experience of the user.
More experienced hobbyists might want the gritty details of a kit whereas a kid or someone new to the hobby would want an RTR so that they can get right to enjoying the car and the controls instead of tinkering with what is inside.
5. Which Make?
Just like in any industry out there, certain manufacturers manage to stand above the rest for a variety of reasons.
The same is true when it comes to RC cars.
There are certain manufacturers out there that have been doing it far better for far longer.
Traxxas has become the name in RC cars because they became the first manufacturer to offer fully assembled cars.
This changed the way that hobbyists see and interact with RC cars. Simply put Traxxas is the prime name in the industry.
There are other great manufacturers like HPI and Duratrax as well.
These manufacturers make fast, efficient, and durable RC cars that fit any price and age range.
Their cars have evolved to the point that they now feature specific items like 4WD, customizable brake systems, and so much more.
The best manufacturer is all subjective as there are many different brands out there that more than fit the optimal car type.
6. What Model Type?
Depending on what your intended use for the RC car is, the different kinds of models out there can vary greatly.
Obviously, the more serious enthusiasts will favour a more comprehensive car that has more options than the more basic types.
It should come as no surprise that Traxxas leads the way with some of the best individual cars out there.
There is even one model, the Traxxas X0-1 AWD Supercar that can hit a whopping 100 mph top speed.
That is insane to get out of an RC car.
There are models out there meant for pure speed, some that are meant for better control, and others that are meant to handle the toughest of terrains.
It really all depends on what you plan to use the car for.
Perhaps the best models out there are the ones that offer the most control and handling.
This allows for a better driving experience, allowing the driver to traverse even the toughest of courses with greater control than ever before.
Understanding what you plan to do with your RC car is the biggest and most important step toward getting the best RC car for your needs.
7. Electric or Nitro Powered?
There are two primary types of cars out there: electric/battery powered and gas/nitro powered.
Understanding what each can bring to the table is an important factor in choosing your next RC car.
When it comes to nitro gas-powered products, there is a certain aesthetic to the whole thing that makes it unique to hobbyists.
Nothing quite beats the smell of gas and the noise of a gas-powered engine while racing it around.
It’s like driving a muscle car, but for a fraction of the price and even less mass.
Of course, with nitro gas powered cars, there is the cost of the fuel to keep in mind.
Sure, you’re not powering a full-sized vehicle, but it is still money out of pocket to keep the car running whenever you want it to be running.
There is also the fact that gas-powered cars tend to be not only more customizable, but faster and more powerful as well.
There are certain things that you can do with a gas-powered RC car that simply can’t be achieved with an electric.
Electric cars, meanwhile, operate on batteries that can be charged whenever they are not in use.
This means no added expense for fueling the car, meaning you can race it around for as long as you want whenever you want.
It is also far more limited as far as power and top speed.
They are quieter than the gas-powered version, but that is because they aren’t matching the power available in their counterparts.
If power and noise are part of the selling point of an RC car, electric is not for you.
8. Are Upgrades Available?
Perhaps the coolest aspect of hobby grade RC cars is that they are customizable and have the ability to perform upgrades.
If there is an aspect of your car that isn’t meeting your needs, you can perform the necessary upgrades to get the results that you desire.
It is important to note that most electric RC cars do not have upgrades available because they are not meant to be taken apart and customized like their gas counterparts.
Electric cars are generally what you pay for; gas-powered cars offer a litany of different options for you to tweak along the way.
The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to upgrading and customizing your gas-powered RC car.
Things such as the gear ratio, reducing the weight, changing the tires, or upgrading the engine are just a few things that you can do to drastically change the way your RC car moves and operates.
That level of freedom and control is what makes the RC car hobby such a unique and interesting one and why more experienced hobbyists can do some truly unique things with their RC cars as well.
There are so many different kits out there that it would take years – decades, even – to cover all of them and see what they could do for your RC car.
9. The Final Decision
When it comes to purchasing an RC car – either your first one ever or the next one in your continuing hobby – there are many factors to take into consideration.
Not all RC cars are created equally, be it in power levels or price.
For the younger RC car enthusiasts out there, getting a car that has all the basics for a reasonable price is likely the best option.
Buying a hugely expensive hobby car for a kid is not worth the cost for the return that will likely ensue.
For older, more experienced RC enthusiasts, there are a ton of options available that make them so much fun to take apart, customize, and build.
That makes the RC car experience a unique and comprehensive one, a hobby that could take up all of your time without you noticing.
Think about all of these factors when making an RC car purchase so that you can get the right kind of RC car for your needs and budget.