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A Beginner's Guide to Getting Started with Hobby Grade RC Cars Trucks & Buggies

Updated on April 25, 2013
Jumping the Traxxas Slash 2wd
Jumping the Traxxas Slash 2wd

What to know when buying a hobby grade RC car, truck, or buggy

Whether you are interesting in some competitive racing at your local RC track or just want a basher for the backyard, buying a radio controlled car or truck can become overwhelming for the newbie.

Toy-grade remote control cars may have a lower cost of entry into the hobby but can quickly end up costing you more money than an entry level hobby-grade car. Here are some key things to consider before buying to make sure you end up happy with your purchase.

Scale: This is the size of the car. In my opinion, the best value in a hobby grade car comes at the 1/10th scale. This is a pretty big car. For a smaller back-yard, a 1/16th or 1/18th scale would be my choice. Popular scales currently range from 1/5th (very large) to 1/24th. The bigger the car, the more obstacles it can conquer.

Features: Let’s face it, for the newbie, we want equal parts fun, speed, and durability… and we want it to be easy to run. The detailed list of features can include anything from the type of shocks, end caps, and gearing ratios, to voltage, motor turns, and servos. What’s the simple list? Easy. Is it tough? Is it durable? Is it easy to repair? Is it easy to run?

Types: Nitro vs. Electric. Again, this post is for beginners. So, go electric. It’s simple, safe, and quiet enough to not annoy your neighbors. Hobby grade electrics are also fast enough that you won't get bored anytime soon.

Off-Road Styles: Buggy, Truck, Truggy, & Monster Truck. If it’s for the backyard, pick your personal favorite. If you plan to try racing, be sure to check with your local track for the stock classes they run. (And don't worry, most tracks make sure beginners have a good time from the start.)

Durability: Aluminum vs. Plastic. The top brands offer plenty of durability in the plastic and composite frames.

Parts: Check online and your local hobby store for the brands they carry. I encourage you to support your local hobby store but sometimes the online deals are just too good to pass up. Remember, buy from a site you know.

Traxxas Slash Video Review

Help narrowing the choices

Where to buy: Local hobby shops don’t make much on cars. So, if they are close to the online price, give them the sale. They’ll be there to help you out on advice and on repairs. Otherwise, google search and search again for the model you’ve selected. Be sure to look at the details.

Tips on buying: Beginners should stick with RTR (ready-to-run) vehicles. RTRs are ready to go out of the box - outside of installing batteries and making a few minor adjustments. Kits have to be put together... which is also fun but very time consuming for the newbie. Also, make sure you know what's in the box. Some don't come with batteries or transmitters. That can be good if you want a particular model. Go for the digital receiver. Unless you know the ins and outs of fixing these things, stick with a new model to start with.

What did I buy and why? Easy answer.

It came down to the Duratrax Baja Bug (1/10) and the Traxxas Slash 2wd (1/10).

Both feature waterproof set-ups. Both come with above average transmitters. And both get excellent reviews for their toughness. The Duratrax has a terrific warranty on many parts. Both have readily available parts and easy upgrades. But, in the end, the price I found on the Traxxa Slash 5803 with 2.4 transmitter, battery, and charger was too great to pass up. The documentation is great and the built-in training mode means I won’t panic when my 9 year old wants to drive. Got everything for a few beers under $200. After going through four or five toy-grade models at $40 each, this is a steal.

The maiden voyage was awesome. Check one out today.

Other notable brands: Stick with brand names... and better yet, stick with brand names that your local hobby shop carries so you can pick up spare parts on a moment's notice.

Top brands include: Team Associated, Team Losi, and of course, Duratrax and Traxxas.

Remember, sometimes that extra $20 now saves you hundreds of dollars later.

RC Poll

What brand of RC vehicle did you start with?

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Great article

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Don't forget Tamiya....


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