The Different Types of RC Cars for Beginners

The Different Types of RC Cars for Beginners

By Joe Rich

The Different Types of RC Cars for Beginners

There are about 6 different types of RC car to choose from. To help you narrow down your choices, we have created a list of the most popular types of RC cars and what each type offers.

There are some hobbies that begin in adolescence and continue well into adulthood.

One of the most popular hobbies out there is collecting, building, and racing RC cars.

This is because there are so many different makes, models, and styles of RC cars that one could spend years upon years just learning about them, let alone collecting them.

Perhaps one of the best things about RC cars is that they offer unmatched customization.

With most RC nitro cars, you can find makes and models that are essentially the small version of the real cars that you have come to know and love.

Being able to buy those cars in RC form allows people to take them apart, customize them, and create their own unique vision for the car.

Best of all, they can do it for a fraction of the very expensive cost of buying the full-sized things.

There is a wide array of RC car types out there and each certainly has its own set of pros and cons in addition to individual driving styles.

Some drivers prefer high-speed races that take place on mostly flat roads while others prefer to drive their RC cars off-road and over rocks.

Before making the leap into choosing an RC car, which can be a fairly big purchase, it can be helpful to know about the main types out there.

Since they’re customizable and upgradable, you can certainly make your changes but the main differences in RC car type remain.

Since RC cars come in a wide array of sizes and shapes, that means that they can come in different styles as well.

Some are built for speed, some for power, while others are more tailored to handle stunt jumps and tricks.

Here are the main types of RC cars that you need to be aware of.

RC Cars

This is the one the vast majority of us are familiar with.

They can come in all kinds of designs, some that even mirror true-to-life vehicles, and usually have some kind of hybrid off-road tire and suspension.

Depending on the kind of RC that you get, they should be able to drive over dirt roads or pavement with little to no problem, though the wear and tear on the car will differ greatly.

These are the most customizable options as well.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to upgrading and replacing components in these cars that you can truly make something unique and all your own.

Because of its level of customization and the ability to purchase scale versions of classic vehicles, RC cars are arguably the most popular of the different kinds of RC cars out there.

There are even some gas-powered versions that can hit 50 to 60 mph regularly, providing real speed to these little vehicles.

Under this subsection, there are two other kinds of cars that are worth mentioning: drift cars and touring cars.

They are generally thought to be very similar to one another but there are definitely differences to be aware of.

The Different Types of RC Cars for Beginners
The Different Types of RC Cars for Beginners

Drift cars tend to be electric-powered and they are meant to provide more of a technical excitement.

Drift cars are also meant to look as scale as possible, giving them a more realistic feel than some of the other cars out there.

Touring cars, meanwhile, tend to ride as low to the ground as possible and can reach very fast speeds.

The difference between touring cars and drift cars is in the rear differentials, tires, and sometimes the chassis.

 A drift car tends to be easier to lock the rear differential while a touring car has to open the rear differential up.

Finally, most of your standard RC cars are meant to be for on-road use.

This means straightaways or pavement tracks where the terrain is much smoother.

It has less wear and tear on the parts of the RC car than it would on an off-road course.

Buggies and Truggies

There are subsections of this type of RC car as well.

Buggies are some of the most common as they are built specifically for off-road racing.

This is because they were based on the full-scale equivalents that are used commonly in desert racing.

Buggies are essentially a hybrid of a car and a truck: that is, they provide the speed of off-road racers with the look of a truck.

 There are also built-in roll cages, meaning fewer stoppages in order to flip your car back over when it takes a spill.

Of course, you can section these off even further by considering two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, which can be distinguished by the wheel size if you know what you are looking for.

Buggies can also hit higher speeds while still being able to pull off jumps, making them the most versatile of the RC cars out there.

The ability to drive on pavement or off-road depends on the suspension as well as the tires.

Other than that, RC cars are still fairly adaptable and can fit into most situations, making them the most common variation of car out there.

Buggies are a favourite of off-road racers because of their ability to maintain high speeds while traversing even the roughest of terrains.

If you are familiar with RC racing off-road circuits, there is little doubt that you have seen a good deal of buggies in your time.

They are easily the most versatile of vehicle types out there.

Short Course Trucks

One of the newer classes of racing in the RC car world, short course trucks are becoming more and more popular among RC car enthusiasts.

This is because it is universally seen to be one of the more fun and competitive classes of RC racing that there is.

Short course trucks also happen to be among the most realistic scales of off-road racing trucks.

If you have always dreamt of driving one of those big off-road racing trucks, you can get as close as possible to that experience through a short course truck.

Not only do they look just the same as the CORR 900 horsepower short course trucks that they are modelled after, they also handle like them too.

It brings short course truck racing down to a more affordable size, allowing hobbyists everywhere to get involved on a scale unlike ever before.

They also tend to be some of the most durable RC cars on the market as they can absorb contact from other vehicles far better than their traditional counterparts.

This means that there is less of a need to avoid contact when racing other vehicles.

 Being able to initiate contact in short course tracks only ups the tension and competition, making the race more exciting, interesting, and realistic to those partaking. 

And this is all without having to worry about replacing the vehicle every time that it comes near another car on the track.

In the same vein, short course trucks make for great bashing or racing vehicles.

Since their durability is great and they come with lots of hop-up options, they make for excellent competitive-style vehicles.

Plus, their tires tend to be much larger than truggies and buggies, meaning that they hold up better on even the roughest of terrains and can race on the larger tracks.

Even with all of these perks, short course trucks tend to be one of the most affordable classes of RC car out there.

 Getting a basic short course truck will run you around $200 to start and can go up based on customizations.

Lastly, short course trucks come in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive.

With the growing popularity of short course trucks, it just means that more and more manufacturers are joining in when it comes to their production.

This means that you can expect to see more models and options than ever before in the near future.

RC Monster Trucks

While speed certainly seems to be the name of the game for many of these different kinds of RC cars, there is nothing that beats the feeling of pure muscle.

 That is how having an RC monster truck feels: lots and lots of muscle.

These won’t win you many races but they aren’t really meant to do that. RC monster trucks can get a surprising amount of speed going but their main goal is to traverse off-road courses and the roughest of terrains.

Your typical RC monster truck will be able to comfortably go over top of some rocks, steps, and even other RC cars in the ultimate show of dominance.

And you can even get models that look just the same as the huge, professional monster trucks that run the circuit every year.

With a surprising amount of speed and handling, RC monster trucks are some of the more fun variations out there and meant for those who aren’t necessarily looking to race them competitively.

They are perfect for taking out on a rough terrain.

This way, you can climb over rocks and debris, crush a few cans, and generally rule the road.

For those hobbyists who don’t have a desire to get into the competitive RC racing circuit, the monster truck provides a huge amount of fun for a relatively affordable price.

Skip the stressful races where your car could get wrecked and lead to repairs and replacements when you can get a durable monster truck and lay waste to anything in the area that you see fit to run over.

The other choices on the market are probably better for more competitive RC car racers but the truck will likely bring you the most amount of fun thanks to its highly durable construction.

RC Rock Crawlers

Much the same as the RC monster truck, the rock crawler goes against the grain in that it is not meant for speed.

The latter seems to be the name of the game when it comes to RC cars, but the rock crawler comes at you with power and a bit of grace.

Rock crawlers are just as the name implies: they are meant to climb rocks and other rough terrain that normal RC cars can’t deal with.

Over the years, rock crawling has expanded to include other things than traversing rock piles.

Now it can include rock racers, technical rock crawlers, and trail rigs.

More technical rock crawling has a focus on getting your RC rock crawler over what seem to be impossible obstacles.

And, again, they are impossible to compare to traditional RC cars.

There can be a litany of aspects to rock racing but the general idea is that it combines the elements of ridiculously huge obstacles with the speed of off-road mixed with a little bit of mud and a whole lot of noise.

Trail rigs, meanwhile, are more of the slow and steady climber.

They are not meant to be competitive; instead, they are more about traversing truly rough terrain and cruising around with friends.

The cool thing about trial rigs is that they can be customized with lots of scale details and can be driven in places that would probably ruin traditional RC cars.

One thing to keep in mind about rock crawlers is that they tend to take a bit more maintenance than some of the other RC cars in order to keep them running smoothly.

So if RC rock crawlers are more your speed, just know that you will have to set aside a good amount of time to keep them running optimally.

Understanding RC Builds

When you have figured out the type of car that you want to get invested in, there is the matter of what kind of build you want to get.

RC cars come with pre-built options and customizable, self-built options.

It is recommended that you start out with pre-built options if you are new to the hobby.

The less options, the better until you have developed an understanding of controlling the vehicle optimally.

Pre-built cars are generally known as “ready to run” cars.

This is because they may not need anything other than some rechargeable batteries that the transmitter requires.

Pre-built vehicles are definitely capable of being customized and upgraded if you should feel more comfortable trying these things later on.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting out with a pre-built option.

Not everyone comes into a hobby with all of the knowledge in the world and a pre-built kit can allow you to get the kind of specifications that you want out of an RC car without having to run the risk of screwing something up along the way.

There are obviously huge benefits to going with a customizable option, though.

If you have some knowledge of the kits and what they can offer your car, you can tailor it to your exact specifications.

Maybe you like a little more speed while sacrificing some handling or vice versa.

Whatever your preferences, you can get just that when you go with the customizable option.

RC Kits

There are also kits out there that can be added later and are clearly labelled for assembly so even the earliest of beginners can take on an RC kit with confidence.

Going with an RC kit over a pre-built also offers the advantage of teaching you as you go. 

 If you wanted to learn more about RC cars but weren’t sure where to start, getting down and dirty on your own RC car is the best way to go.

Best of all, these kits are clearly labeled for assembly so that they are easy to use for even beginners.

Kits can also require various degrees of assembly.

This means that beginners can jump into kits without feeling overwhelmed by some of the more complex kits.

 That allows for learning at your own pace without feeling vastly overwhelmed.

The best kits are the ones that contain the necessary tools.

 Not only that, they will have pre-made designs so that you don’t have to spend the time and money to get a paint job on your car.

Of course, you can go with a custom paint job but just remember that everything has a cost that comes with it.

If you are working on your first RC car, take the time to build it properly.

 For beginners, you will get the kind of learning experience that is invaluable when it comes to RC cars, better preparing you to work with them more going forward.

For your first car, be thorough and do not be afraid to fix things when they break down.

Maintenance will save you money in the long run and will teach you invaluable lessons when it comes to repairing, maintaining, and customizing your vehicle either on that model or for future models.

That experience and education are valuable enough tools in their own right and will have you feeling a greater appreciation for RC cars than ever before.

We have an article Are Tamiya RC car kits any good if you would like to read it click here

Nitro Power

There are also variations to the aforementioned vehicles when it comes to their nitro-fuelled counterparts.

Nitro-fuelled cars may have some different components to them but the biggest factor here is that the speeds are vastly improved, capable of hitting 80 mph depending on the type of car and modifications that you implement.

The key difference between electric RC cars and their nitro counterparts, beside the obvious fact that the latter has fuel and the former does not, is that nitro-powered cars tend to be a lot louder and will require a lot more maintenance.

The latter is because the car is burning actual fuel versus the electric RC cars.

When this is the case, the engine in the RC nitro car is far more susceptible to getting debris and dirt in it, which can seriously hinder its performance capabilities.

Keeping it clean and providing regular maintenance is of the utmost importance for keeping your nitro car as healthy and efficient as possible.

Nitro-powered cars tend to go a little faster than the electric version but fuelling the car costs money and, depending on how much you race, it could cost quite a bit over time.

Granted, you will need to purchase extra batteries if you plan on partaking in extra-long sessions so there are costs on both sides of the spectrum.

The Verdict

For beginners, the key is to limit the amount of modifications and differences.

When just starting out with RC cars, the focus should be on learning how to efficiently control the RC

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