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Choosing An RC Car

Updated on October 25, 2014

The Decision To Buy An RC Car

So, you’ve made the decision that you want to buy a hobby grade Radio Controlled car or truck, but don’t know what to get? There are many things to consider when choosing an RC car, like price range, type of car or truck, brand, model, whether you want an electric or gas vehicle, and more. This article will cover the important factors to consider when choosing an RC car.

RC Buggy
RC Buggy | Source
RC Buggy
RC Buggy | Source
RC Monster Truck
RC Monster Truck | Source
Two stadium trucks during a race
Two stadium trucks during a race | Source
RC truggy
RC truggy | Source
RC rock crawler
RC rock crawler | Source
RC touring car
RC touring car | Source

Decision #1: Type Of Vehicle

The first thing to decide is what kind of RC car or truck you would like to purchase. There are many types, all of which I will describe below. Keep in mind, these are generalized descriptions, these descriptions may not apply to all vehicles of the type being described.

Buggies: The classic RC car, buggies are two wheel drive (2wd) or four wheel drive (4wd). The tires are exposed and there is usually a large rear wing. These cars are good for most terrains except for very rough terrain. Buggies are also commonly raced on the professional level.

Monster Trucks: These are very common, they come in 2wd or 4wd, the suspension is higher and the tires are usually bigger. They are great on almost all terrain, and very fun trucks to drive around for fun.

Stadium Trucks: These are lower to the ground than monster trucks and usually 2wd. They are good on most terrains, but usually very rocky or rough terrain is where they will fail. They are also professionally raced at most tracks.

Truggies: These are basically the same as stadium trucks, but usually larger and usually nitro powered, but I'll get into that more later. They also usually have a larger rear wing, similar to buggies. Truggies are professionally raced.

Short Course Trucks: These have skinnier tires, bigger bodies that go over the wheels, and can be 2wd or 4wd. Short course trucks are good for most terrain except for rough and very rocky terrain as they don't have as much ground clearance as monster trucks or rock crawlers.

(Rock) Crawlers: These are usually smaller, skinnier trucks, with high suspension and a wide wheelbase. They have tall spongy tires for maximum traction, and they are not very fast at all. They are always 4wd. They are meant for extreme rough and rocky terrain.

Touring or Drifter Cars: These cars resemble real cars and are not suited for anything other than hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. They have the potential to be very fast. These cars are sometimes professionally raced.

There are a few more types of RC cars, but these are the main ones. Now, with these in mind, think of the terrain you'll mostly be driving on, and find the car or truck best suited for that environment. For a first RC car I would recommend a monster truck, stadium truck, short course truck, or buggy. Buggies, stadium trucks, and short course trucks are good for generally the same types of terrain, with monster trucks being able to handle a little bit rougher terrain. All of these types will work fine in the usual backyard.

RC short course truck
RC short course truck | Source

Decision #2: Power Source

There are two main types of power sources used in RC cars, electric, and nitro powered. I highly suggest getting electric for a first RC as nitro requires a long break in process and the engines are usually very unpredictable and finicky, my nitro buggy can be very, very frustrating at times. Nitro is a type of fuel, the engines operate similarly to a gasoline engine. Electric cars are usually (in this day and age) fully waterproof and easier to use. The process to driving an electric RC car usually consists of charging the battery, securing it in the car, turning on the car and transmitter, fastening the body to the car, and then it's good to go. Nitro cars take a lot longer to get up and running and require a lot more cleaning after they are done running. I would highly recommend an electric car when choosing your first RC car.

Decision #3: Size

The size of car you are interested in is something to consider. The regular size of hobby grade RC cars is 1/10th scale, 1/10th scale cars are roughly one and a half or one and a quarter feet long. Another common scale is 1/8th scale, these are slightly larger, and slightly rarer. There are also smaller and micro sized RC cars and very large RC cars, but I'm going to focus on the 1/10 and 1/8th scale sizes. Choosing a size is really a matter or personal preference and price range, larger is usually more expensive.

Decision #4: Price Range

Another factor that is very important is price range. Most 1/10th scale RC cars are $200 and up. For a top of the line RC car it ends up being around $700 and more. Hobby grade RC cars are also very customizable and upgradable, so you could buy a cheaper car and then upgrade it over time to eventually convert it to a top of the line RC car.

Decision #5: Final Decision

It's time for the final decision. At this point all I can do is provide a few recommendations and websites and then it's all up to you. For a $200-ish price range, a couple recommendations are:

Any Traxxas XL-5 Model: Includes the Stampede (monster truck), Rustler (stadium truck), Slash (short course truck), and Bandit (buggy). These are all electric vehicles using traxxas's XL-5 ESC (electronic speed control) and motor. Traxxas is a reliable brand with parts available online and in almost every hobby store out there. Traxxas carries many, many high quality RC vehicles, they have a great reputation and most of their vehicles are worth buying.

HPI Racing's E-Firestorm or Blitz: HPI is another reliable brand with good parts support, almost all parts are available online. The E-Firestorm is a stadium truck and the Blitz is a short course truck, they are both electric. HPI is also a very good company, I don't have as much experience with their products but from what I hear they are reliable.

ECX Vehicles: ECX RC makes RC's targeted at beginners, they are a bit cheaper than other options but still are upgradable, durable, and fast.

There are many many more RC cars to choose from than these. A few brands I suggest looking into would be Traxxas, ECX, Losi, and HPI Racing.

Final Thoughts

Those are the steps to follow when purchasing your first RC car! I would buy from a local hobby shop, the people that work there know what they are doing (most of the time) and will make sure you get what you want. Thanks for reading, and check out my other hubs for more RC info and articles!


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