By Joe Rich
Table of Contents
How Much Does It Cost To Start Racing RC Cars
There are a lot of cool hobbies out there, but realistically, how many of them can you make money off of?
Those who partake in a hobby that can make money are seemingly living their dream, doing something that they love and getting paid for it.
But the process is never that easy.
When it comes to RC cars, it is a hobby that has remained popular across the globe for decades.
There have been improvements made along the way that have really changed the way the hobby operates, and the detail of the cars has never been greater.
Perhaps you have been enjoying the hobby for a long time and feel like you are ready to make the leap into racing RC cars.
First, you have to know where to start. Just how much does it cost to start racing anyways?
This isn’t a black and white answer.
The cost can vary between the different types of racing and the various classes that are out there.
How Much Does It Cost To Start Racing RC Cars
At present, the most popular forms of RC racing are the off road 1/10th scale and the off road 1/8th scale.
This refers to the size of the model when it is compared to its full-sized counterpart. The 1/8th scale is the most common form of RC car racing that exists today.
This guide will break that down a little further to give you a better understanding of just what types of costs lay ahead if you are thinking about making the jump into RC racing “professionally” instead of as a hobby.
1/8th Scale Nitro Off Road Costs
This is arguably the most popular class of racing and it has a huge range of events globally.
This can mean club tournaments all the way up to world tournaments as well giving it a massive, broad reach.
This is also a very popular class of racing when it comes to beginners in competitive RC car racing.
In the United States, the track surface tends to be mostly dirt or clay. In most European countries, astro turf is the preferred track.
The commonality here is that both surfaces will have bumps, jumps, and ruts and each has definite positives and negatives.
Generally speaking, the initial outlay of funds is largely the same.
Where the differences in costs can come into play is in the cost of tires, servos, and the way that you wind up setting your car up before the initial race.
The costs for a 1/8th scale nitro car include:
- The Kit (Car) – $499 will get you a high spec racing kit that is meant to last you for several years at a time.
- Engine and Pipe – $190 is a good starting price for this combo and should last you around two years if properly maintained.
- Servos – $200 is about average, though spending less is a common decision. At this price range, your servos should outlast your car.
- Receiver Battery Pack – $15 can get you a quality battery pack, though the prices can certainly escalate for increased battery life.
- Transmitter and Receiver – $40 is a good place to start. You can find yourself spending $400 here, but only veterans will notice the minute changes that can result in true gains on their time. Don’t go all in to start.
- Wheels and Tires – $40 to start. This will likely be your most consistent cost. Tires on an astro turf track should last you a few events while dirt track racing can wear them before the first event is finished.
- Fuel – $40 is enough to fill up a normal-sized SUV and should be enough to last quite a while given that a gallon can last you three to four races.
- Nitro Starter Kit – For $20 you can get what includes the glow starter, the glow plug removal tool, a tuning screwdriver, and a bottle for fuel. Buying a kit is close to what the extras cost, but still comes out less expensive.
- Three Glow Plugs – $30 will cover you when you need a few spares. The glow plug in your kit should last you a few races, but it is always good to have a backup on hand. With nitro engines, it is not uncommon to go through a couple of plugs in one race.
- Flywheel and Clutch Kit – $20 for this kit will get you the flywheel, bearings, clutch springs, clutch shoes, and the clutch bell all in one convenient package.
- Start Box – At $60, this is worth the investment. Racing engines don’t come with starter boxes and you need it to get the car running.
- Start Box Battery – For $20 you can pick from a pretty wide range of batteries for those starter boxes. A 12v 7ah lead acid battery is usually the simplest and least expensive option.
- Paint – It’s hard to price this because you can spend as much as you want on the paint job of your car or even have it professionally painted. The vast majority of race kits come with a clear shell body, meaning you will likely want to spend a little bit to spruce it up.
That means your total cost of setup for a 1/8th scale nitro RC car is just a shade under $1,200 ($1,174 in this exact scenario).
Of course, this is just an estimate and you can certainly trim or add costs depending on your choices.
For a car put together with those exact specifications, your RC car should last through the first two years with little issues.
Of course, glow plugs, tires, and fuel are going to be your ongoing costs or general maintenance
1/8th Scale Electric Off Road Costs
While the nitro version of the 1/8th scale is far and away the most popular, electric is still a common option out there, though it does offer a few differences from the aforementioned nitro variation.
The costs for a 1/8th scale electric car include: The costs for a 1/8th scale electric car include:
- The Kit (Car) – $499 is the price for these as well since the kits are about the same for professional electric and nitro racing kits.
- Motor – $50 is a good place to start because you really don’t need to spend that much on a motor to be competitive, especially if you are a skilled driver.
- Speed Controller – $99 should get you a waterproof speed controller. This is similar to the motor in that you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money to be competitive.
- Two Sets of Batteries – $160 may seem like a huge investment in batteries, but you will need two sets to get through the race day. The more sets you have, the better since some tracks don’t have a main electric supply available.
- Lipo Charger – $40 will get you the specialty charger (the lipo charger) that is necessary for charging RC racing batteries. Don’t get caught without one when you need it most.
- Servo – $100 will get you one servo and you need it for steering purposes. The good thing is that a servo in this price range should last you four years or more.
- Transmitter and Receiver – $40 is more than enough to get you a quality transmitter and receiver, especially when you are just starting out.
- Wheels and Tires – $40 will get you going. Gas or electric, tires are all the same. Depending on the surface that you race on and your style of racing, life expectancy can vary. This will be an ongoing cost of maintenance going forward.
- Mod 1 Pinion Gear – For $15 you can get a quality pinion gear, although some kits may have these included. This is the gear that fits onto your motor to drive the car. Don’t overlook it because, even if everything is in place, you can’t race without the pinion gear.
- Paint – $10 should get you going. As with nitro cars, the body of these kits will be clear shell in nature. The cost here is really dependent on your budget as well as the quality of the paint job that you are looking to incur.
The total initial cost for a 1/8th scale electric car really isn’t much different than its nitro counterpart ($1,053 total).
The main difference is that you won’t have to continuously pay for fuel like you would with a nitro vehicle and a set of lipo batteries should give you about 18 months of regular use or so.
General Maintenance and Other Costs
Once you have invested in getting your car built and ready to race, there are fees and maintenance costs to consider.
Race fees tend to be around $15 for club racing events, although the regional and national events can cost quite a bit more since they tend to be over several days.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there may be travel and accommodation costs to factor in if the races are far enough away. Travelling for events might be cool, but it certainly is not a free endeavour.
Maintenance isn’t clear cut because it depends on how often you are racing and how much you crash the car.
It is also a good practice to have backups of the more common parts that tend to wear quicker or become damaged.
Your list of common parts can include:
- Drive shafts
- Clutch shoes
- Upper and lower suspension arms
- Pinion gears
- Body shells
- Shock oils
- Wheels and tires
- Fuel (for nitro cars)
- Differential oils
- Glow plugs (for electric cars)
- C hubs
Competitive racing costs can get up there if you are racing frequently.
This is because parts will constantly need replacing due to general wear and tear.
Always round up those maintenance costs to assume the need for a few extras that could mean the difference between failing to finish a race and winning it.
Various Tips for Purchasing
The aforementioned guides are just that and don’t encompass every RC racing car and its needs.
Still, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing your RC car kit and all of the various parts that come with it.
For nitro engines, the general rule for most racing venues is that the engine can’t be more than .21 in size.
Engines and exhausts are sold separately, and it could save you a few bucks to go with a combo option instead.
When it comes to tires, you can certainly purchase tires that have been mounted on the rim to make for easier maintenance.
Of course, you can still buy the tires, rims, and inserts separately if that is your prerogative.
Just keep in mind that you need to fit the tires to the rim and glue them yourself.
For lip batteries and chargers, the variety is massive. Most racing venues will restrict the total number of cells in a 1/8th off road to four.
So, when you are looking for batteries, you will want something along the lines of a hard case 2s 6000mah 60c.
With two of these together, you can make a 4s battery, but be sure to check the dimensions of the batteries and your car’s battery tray to ensure that they will fit properly.
As you can see, putting together an RC car racing kit can be quite the endeavor, especially if you don’t have the experience or budget to undertake it.
When in doubt, go with kits and combos above individual parts.
The latter is meant for experienced professionals who have experience putting together RC cars on a regular basis.
If you plan to race competitively, it is safe to say that you should have an initial budget of around $2,000 to cover the setup of the car as well as general replacement parts that you will need when wear and tear sets in.
Keep an understanding that less expensive is not necessarily better as you could wind up replacing those parts far more often.
Paying for quality can save you those hassles and give extra life to your car.