There is nothing more enjoyable than whipping your RC Car around a dirt track at high speed. But for the hobbyist, it is difficult to find the right one among the massive number of products on the market.

That’s exactly what my friends Ted and Nate were going through. They both love RC and hit the local track at every opportunity.

But we are always bugging Nate as he doesn’t do his research on new purchases. He just buys what looks cool or cheap at his local hobby shop. However, Ted looks into every purchase online and only buys the best. 

When they hit the trail or track, the difference is clear – Ted owns it everytime.

His cars are faster, stronger and better than Nates. While Ted has his trucks climbing rocks and whipping up dirt, Nate’s doing repairs on the tailgate of his truck. While Nate waits at the charger, Ted is still out on the trail. These situations make for some laughs at the track but at the end of the day it reminds us not all equipment is created equal.

We want to help you be more like Ted and less like Nate. Having the right gear will help you enjoy your hobby and push the limits. Buy the wrong gear though and you will get frustrated, just like my buddy Nate.

By the end of this article you’ll be able to go and buy a new off road RC that fits exactly what you need – confident that you’ll be getting the best available.

Our team of  enthusiasts have spent hours putting the popular brands through their paces. Now, they are ready to share the results with you.

It can be tempting to rush out and buy the first thing you see right away, especially when a new model is released they fly off the shelves.

Do yourself a favour though and read our expert reviews first. This guide will have you make the right choice first time around, but most importantly, we will direct you to places with the best prices.

Before looking at the best RC cars for sale, let’s go over the features we search for when creating our reviews.

Finding the Number One 4×4 RC Car

Narrowing down all the options to a top three is tough. There are a lot of competing products and many points to consider.

What is it that makes some of these products better than others? This is the question that our team has set out to answer.

Our expert reviewers looked at a range of 4×4 RC vehicles.

We found that the best models share some common features:

  • Highly durable.
  • Powerful motors that give high top speeds.
  • Long lasting batteries that charge fast.
  • Strong rubber wheels with good grip.
  • Water resistance.

We have tested countless models looking for the above features and more. Then, we put them through their paces to narrow the field down to a clear top three.

If a manufacturer makes a claim, we make sure to push the product to that limit and beyond.

Our team did the hard work so you don’t have to take chances with your hard earned cash. We know the pain of spending big on a new toy only to have it disappoint once you get it out on the dirt. If you are going to buy an RC truck this year, make sure it is one of the models from our list below.

You could trust the advice of your friends, or even local club members, but it is unlikely they have tested dozens of makes and models. We are enthusiasts like you and know exactly what to test.

You can rest assured that we don’t recommend products that we wouldn’t use ourselves.

We were particularly impressed with the Traxxas XMaxx that came out on top in this category. Priced a little higher than most, but it is one of the best RC vehicles we have had the pleasure of testing.

Now, let’s get down to business and look at the top three models we found after our exhaustive testing and research.

The Top 3 RC Cars For Sale

During the review process, our experts tried dozens of different models. Not all of them were great – in fact there were a few complete flops.

But we know you are not interested in those. You are here for the best!

So here’s the three best off road rc cars we tested. Each comes in at a different price point and serves a different purpose. There had to be a winner though, and when you read about it, you will understand why it took the number one spot.

  • XMaxx
    Traxxas
  • POSITIVES
    •Large 20" wheelbase with massive 8" Tall wheels
    •Extreme 30 volt 8S power
    •Longarm suspension with exceptional ground clearence
    •Blazing speeds 50+ MPH
    •Durable all-steel drivetrain
    •Waterproof electronics. Snow, mud, no problem
  • NEGITIVES
    •This truck is RTR but you will need LiPo batteries and a charger adding to the already premium price tag
    •Being a Traxxas plan on upgrading the steering servo
    •4S 6700 LiPo Batteries can add up quick as you purchase a few spares
    •Truck takes a beating but is not bullet proof
  • BOTTOMLINE
    This thing really is a beast! It's amazing size and long travel suspension just eats up any terrain. Jumping is a blast with the built in self leveling tech. When we want to grab a truck for some fun weekend bashing the Xmaxx is our number one choice.
  • Volcano
    RedCat Racing
  • POSITIVES
    •Awesome performance and value
    •Dual shocks (2 shocks per wheel)
    •Chassis, electronic and transmission protection
    •4x4 for superior off road traction
    •Includes battery and charger for a true RTR package
  • NEGITIVES
    •Brushed moter but cooled with a heatsink
    •Included battery and charger is a nice gesture but do not perform that well
    •Like many budget RC trucks you will have parts break over time
    •Some parts are not as easy to replace as they should be
  • BOTTOMLINE
    The RedCat Volcano is a great truck to get started with. It's a true RTR with included battery and charger. The truck has good off road performance for the price. But, for a budget truck you can't expect longterm durability either. The included charger is cheap, takes way too long to charge a battery. You will want to invest in a better charger and battery pack. All in all, for the price this truck is totally worth it!
  • 9125
    Hoism
  • POSITIVES
    •One of the best budget trucks we have tried
    •Surprisingly fast
    •2.4GhZ pistol grip radio with anti-jamming tech found on highr priced RC
    •2 Motors for powerful 4x4 offroad performance
  • NEGITIVES
    •Short run time of under 10min
    •Small 1600mah battery
    •Very few aftermarket parts
    •Lowvoltage and overload protection seemed to kick in early on warm days
    •It is a budget truck so may not be as durable as a higher priced hobby grade truck
  • BOTTOMLINE
    For the price this truck is really hard to beat! Sure it's not the most durable RC truck out there but what can one expect for the price. Has a great line of features you would not expect to see in a value RC. If you want an affordable, fun, fast RC Truck, order the Hosim 9125.

For a RC truck that checks all the boxes, you should seriously consider the Traxxas XMaxx

Traxxas products are a love hate for many RC enthusiasts, but we can all agree the XMaxx is something out of the ordinary. Our editors all agree there is no other RC Truck on the market that offers the same level of experience we get with our XMaxx. This thing is a beast that gives us hours and hours of monster bashing, racing and jumping fun.

Traxxas Xmaxx

Monster / Basher    9.5

Top Pick
BUY NOW!

This is our number one choice from all the models we tried. The Traxxas Xmaxx eats up any terrain you throw at it and jumping it is a blast.

Traxxas is one of the rare companies that keeps surprising us with each of their new models. Also, we love the fact that they decided to make a new addition to the Maxx family. And, we have to say, this model definitely lives up to the name.

Straight out of the box you will have to notice the size of this monster. It is 30.67 inches long and 21.26 inches wide, and it weighs in at 19.1 pounds. To support all of the action you might want to get going on, it comes riding on Mammoth 8-inch tires.

The X-Maxx comes with the superbly powerful Velineon 1200XL brushless motor and a single speed transmission. Now, we have to tell you that it is not the fastest truck we have tested so far, but it just feels so incredibly powerful on rough terrain.

The top speed it develops with the pinion gear and two batteries is slightly above 50MPH. And the excellent super-plush GTX shocks are there to keep it from breaking or flipping.

The steering servo of X-Naxx comes with heat sinks and is capable of producing almost 23 pounds of torque by redirecting the huge front wheels.

Furthermore, this 4WD truck comes with several ingenious features. First of all, we want to at least mention the self-righting ability as our favorite feature. After all, we love going wild with our RC trucks. Other than that, it comes with a waterproof body, clipless mounting fully modular design, and many other features.

If you take a little time to see what the Xmaxx can do, you will want to buy it. With a bit of modding, it can drive on water, jump incredibly high, and even pull a real car.

Of course, we simply had to replicate most of the things we saw online. Believe us, you will love playing with this beast. We were capable of replicating the car-pull and the driving on water. But, sadly, our setup was not good enough to repeat some of the insane jumps we saw online.

All in all, this is an excellent truck that is an amazing purchase for anyone who is serious about RC vehicle driving.

RedCat Racing Volcano

General Use   9

Best Value
BUY NOW!

We decided on the RedCat Racing Volcano as our second choice. This is an excellent, inexpensive option for beginners. But if you want to “up your game” and start doing some trickier stuff, you might want to upgrade.

Are you a big fan of monster truck shows?

Well, in that case, this is possibly the best RC 4×4 for you.

It is powerful, it is rough, and it is great when you get to rough terrain.

The Volcano is just shy of 16 inches long, 12.2 inches wide, and it weighs in at 8.6 pounds. But, that is not what you are here for. Instead, what you want to know is how good this car handles and other nitpicky information.

So, let’s start off by checking out the motor.

The Redcat Racing Volcano comes with a brushed 27T 540 motor that is powerful enough to give it a top speed of 20mph. Having a brushless motor would make it faster, but the brushed motor makes it a lot cheaper.

With that in mind, we would definitely recommend this inexpensive RC 4×4 to beginners.

The Volcano is also rather durable. However, there are several weak points too. Namely, the front suspension is not as durable as we would like it to be. The front bumper offers some protection, but, it’s not enough when it comes to direct collisions.

We would advise some caution while jumping around with this monster truck. Or, if you don’t want to slow down your ride, you can always get a hop up kit and outfit it with metal parts.

When it comes to handling, we have to say: it handles quite nicely.

Uneven terrain doesn’t even bother the stability of this vehicle.

The wheels are large and offer a lot of grip, and the high clearance means that it can pretty much drive on any terrain. Furthermore, all of the crucial parts are waterproof to a degree so you won’t have to worry about puddles.

The truck itself comes ready to run, and you can start using it straight out of the box.

So, in the end, it seems like this is an excellent inexpensive truck for beginners to use.

Hosim 9125

General Use   8.5

Budget Pick
BUY NOW!

Our 3rd choice, the Hoism 9125 offers top value for money. It is our third choice, because although impressive, it is still a budget pick. The biggest shortcomings are a short 10 min run time and a lack of aftermarket parts.

If you have always wanted your own monster truck, this Hosim model will be all you desired and more.

With huge tires and more than a decent speed, this shockingly affordable RC monster will run over almost anything.

As soon as you unpack this bad boy, you’ll notice how durable it is. It weighs in at 5.82 pounds, it is 15 inches long, 12.6 inches wide, and 7.9 inches tall.

Its Li-ion battery that has 1600mAH guarantees a decent runtime and the charging time isn’t too bad either. You’ll only have to wait 2.5 hours for this Hosim model to recharge.

Now that we got the basics out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun stuff. This model comes with two motors that can provide an amazing maximum speed of 30mph. You can choose the first or the second gear, and this truck will simply jump to life.

The sturdy grip tires on 9125 have an aggressive tread, so you can go both on and off-road. Highly durable rubber tires are there so you don’t worry about that when you’re playing with this model. These wheels are heavy duty and anti-skid, therefore you can expect a premium performance and even climb slopes without a hitch.

The four-wheel drive, combined with the four-direction control will make racing in any direction a breeze. When Hosim designed this little beast, they had enthusiasts in mind.

Once you start testing this bad boy, you’ll notice that it’s sealed and that its ball bearings are perfect for rugged roads. Doesn’t matter how rough you get with the 9125, its shockproof system and a steel chassis shaft structure will be able to take it.

Surprisingly silent and easy to steer, this truck is also waterproof, which is almost unbelievable for this price range. We checked how waterproof it is by simply driving through puddles, and nothing happened.

Then we drove it through really deep mud puddles, to see if it would get stuck or stop because of overwhelming amounts of water. However, nothing happened; 9125 simply breezed through, like it was nothing.

Whether you’re looking to drift, turn, or flip, 9125 has it all covered, and for an incredibly low price.

Axial Yeti

Rock Basher    9

Top Rock Racer
BUY NOW!

A few years back people were queuing up in hundreds waiting to get this model. In fact, the Yeti’s release was one of the most hyped events in the RC world ever. And, the machine lives up to the expectations.

This 1/10th scale RC vehicle is around 20 inches long and 12.5 inches wide with a ground clearance of 2 inches. Furthermore, it only weighs in at around nine pounds.

If you look at the chassis of the Yeti, you can notice that it is somewhere between a truggy mix and a tub chassis. The tub part covers a bit more than half to provide the rigidity and support while the overall design allows you to maintain the vehicle easily.

And, when it comes to durability, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Sure, we didn’t have a good rocky terrain near us, but, even our dirt field offers ample opportunities to destroy a car. And, believe us, we tried. The Yeti simply took all of the punishment we had for it and kept going without a single issue. 

If you consider yourself to be handy, you will love this car. You can adjust the front suspension to fine-tune the vehicle for various trail conditions. Additionally, the oil-filled shocks in combination with the four-link suspension make for a smooth ride. In fact, it was made to run on rocky terrain, and that is where it is most satisfying to test it.

The Axial 4-pole 3150kv motor gives this car a lot of power. It accelerates almost instantly and reaches the top speed of 32 miles per hour.

Some people dislike the fact that the top speed is not really impressive. However, to be fair, you wouldn’t want your truck racing at 60 miles per hour over rocks. That would easily destroy pretty much any vehicle, RC or not. Not to mention that 32 mph is nothing to sneeze at.

The acceleration it offers makes it so that you can get incredible air time with the Yeti. But, bear in mind that it takes a lot of skill to pull it off properly. After all, you don’t want to keep taking nosedives.

Traxxas TRX-4

Trail / Rock Crawler    9

Trail Beast
BUY NOW!

When it comes to rock crawlers, we really thought we have already seen it all. However, this miniature version of Land Rover Defender took us by surprise. Before we get into any of the other information, we have to mention the portal axle set. Namely, this RC truck uses a feature you would usually see on off-road cars and trucks that are full scale. This technology allows Traxxas to place the axle above the middle of the wheel. In turn, that increases the ground clearance of the truck, without increasing the wheel size.

Another benefit that comes from using portal axles is that they dramatically reduce the torque twist. And that means that the Titan 550 motor gets to translate the torque directly into powerful forward motion.

But, back to the basics. This truck is 23.07 inches long, 9.78 inches wide and it has a ground clearance of 3.14 inches. It is also relatively lightweight for the size as it weighs in at only 7.43 pounds.

The GTS aluminum shocks will help you ride around on rough terrain and give you excellent articulation. Furthermore, the heavy-duty rigid steel frame will provide a robust backbone for your suspension. In fact, if you were using an inferior model, you might have to take a while to accustom yourself to the new technology that prevents any and all chassis twists we all had to learn to live with. But, once you do, you will definitely appreciate the accuracy of the controls on this machine.

The remote control is accurate and comfortable. That is something we already knew to expect from Traxxas. But, it also comes with cruise control you will love.

The last thing we want to mention here is the design. As you can see, this is a very accurate Land Rover Defender body representation. Even the smallest of details are there to give you that bit of extra excitement. It comes with a fully functional spare tire, off-road jack, and spare fuel canisters.

The details don’t even end there. If you flip it over, you will see very accurate inner-fender details. And these details are incredibly useful if you plan on roughing this truck up.

Exceed Infinitive EP

General Use    8.5

BUY NOW!

If you’re looking for a high-quality, sturdy RC truck that can take any challenge you throw in front of it, you should definitely check out this Exceed model.

Off-road smashing action with a bunch of features – that’s what you get when this monster truck comes out of the box. 15.8 inches long, 12.2 inches wide, and 7.3 inches tall, this 2-pound truck might seem small. However, when it comes to its features, there’s nothing small about it. First of all, it’s not for anyone under 14 years of age. Yup, this is a toy for serious enthusiasts.

The 2.4Ghz transmitter-receiver system offers excellent control and range, so the vehicle behaves just the way you want it to. The controller also has dual-rate steering and throttle adjustments, which means you can fine-tune power delivery and steering control.

The reinforced powertrain is there to make sure Infinitive EP can handle even the roughest of terrain. When it comes to power distribution, in charge of that are metal geared differentials driven by an aluminum center driveshaft. If that’s not enough for you to like this truck, we know what will be.  The power department handled by a brushed 540 motor. What powers the engine is a 7.2V 1800Ni-Mh battery that can run for quite a while without slowing down a peg.

What most people think is the best about this truck is the fact that it’s adjustable. You can adjust camber and toe settings to the terrain you’ll be using your truck on with turnbuckle linkages.

The wheels and tires are large, knobby, sturdy, and paired with high ground clearance. This truck was made to smash through almost any tough obstacle. Heck, you can even run into things with the Infinitive EP – it’s not a problem thanks to its reinforced bumpers.

When you take it out of the box, this truck can go 30-40mph. You have to admit that is pretty good all on its own. However, if you want more speed, a longer run time, or more power, you can easily upgrade it to become a monster it has the potential to be. Perfect for advanced RC trucks enthusiasts who know how to modify their vehicles.

Traxxas Slash

General Use    8.5

BUY NOW!

If you are looking for an excellent beginner truck that is for adults and kids alike, look no further. After all, Traxxas is a company that never fails to amaze us with their RCs. The 1/10 scale model (because, let’s face it, that is the one you want to buy anyway) is 22.36 inches long and 11.65 inches wide. Furthermore, the ground clearance is 2.83 inches, and it weighs in at 5.8 pounds.

You probably want to know more about the specs and the features of this RC vehicle.

So, let’s start out with the motor. Namely, the Traxxas Slash uses a Velineon 3500 electric motor and the VXL-3s speed control. That gives it the top speed of just over 60 miles per hour (with a 3S LiPo battery and optional gearing). Without the additions, it should be able to hit 30 mph in good conditions. And, you have to admit, that is pretty good for an inexpensive RC car.

In fact, when it first came out, it brought about a whole new category of RC cars – the short-course race trucks. Since then, the design of this car didn’t change a lot. Unfortunately, that means it can no longer truly compete with modern designs.

In order to take the abuse which is undoubtedly coming its way, the Slash is made out of durable plastic and metal gears. And, not only that, but it is also fully waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about running into puddles.

The remote control is very comfortable with the classic pistol-grip design. Also, both the trigger and the steering are proportional, which is a must if you want to control your car properly. If you’re going to let your child play with the Slash, you can always activate the training mode. That mode will cut in half the speed of the Slash and make it a lot easier for kids to practice.

You can even use Traxxas telemetry system for this vehicle. That system will let you attach your iPhone to the remote so you can keep track of the car’s status. That includes checking the current speed and engine temperature.

The only drawback we saw is that the center of gravity is just a bit higher than we would like it to be. Other than that, this is definitely one of the all-time champions of the RC world.

Thunder Tiger MT4-GT

General Use    8

BUY NOW!

If you are looking for an excellent beginner truck that is for adults and kids alike, look no further. After all, Traxxas is a company that never fails to amaze us with their RCs. The 1/10 scale model (because, let’s face it, that is the one you want to buy anyway) is 22.36 inches long and 11.65 inches wide. Furthermore, the ground clearance is 2.83 inches, and it weighs in at 5.8 pounds.

You probably want to know more about the specs and the features of this RC vehicle.

So, let’s start out with the motor. Namely, the Traxxas Slash uses a Velineon 3500 electric motor and the VXL-3s speed control. That gives it the top speed of just over 60 miles per hour (with a 3S LiPo battery and optional gearing). Without the additions, it should be able to hit 30 mph in good conditions. And, you have to admit, that is pretty good for an inexpensive RC car.

In fact, when it first came out, it brought about a whole new category of RC cars – the short-course race trucks. Since then, the design of this car didn’t change a lot. Unfortunately, that means it can no longer truly compete with modern designs.

In order to take the abuse which is undoubtedly coming its way, the Slash is made out of durable plastic and metal gears. And, not only that, but it is also fully waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about running into puddles.

The remote control is very comfortable with the classic pistol-grip design. Also, both the trigger and the steering are proportional, which is a must if you want to control your car properly. If you’re going to let your child play with the Slash, you can always activate the training mode. That mode will cut in half the speed of the Slash and make it a lot easier for kids to practice.

You can even use Traxxas telemetry system for this vehicle. That system will let you attach your iPhone to the remote so you can keep track of the car’s status. That includes checking the current speed and engine temperature.

The only drawback we saw is that the center of gravity is just a bit higher than we would like it to be. Other than that, this is definitely one of the all-time champions of the RC world.

The Complete Starter’s Guide to R/C Trucks

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “remote controlled car”? If a kid’s remote controlled car is the first picture that pops up in your mind, then you’re probably not an enthusiast of remote controlled vehicles yet. But, it doesn’t have to stay that way forever!

Believe it or not, remote controlled (R/C) vehicles are a very serious hobby for a lot of us. The cars and trucks we play with aren’t kids’ toys, either. They’re usually extensively-detailed, scaled-down models of actual cars and trucks. They also typically have real, scaled-down versions of actual vehicle parts, such as a motor, a steering servo, a drivetrain, suspension, and other parts.

R/C hobbyists look for realism and performance over all else. We’re willing to pay a hefty price for those two things. But, don’t let the price tags on R/C vehicles scare you away! There are a lot of affordable options out there, as well as a few models specifically made (and priced) to appeal to folks who are new to R/C.

However, we’ll be the first ones to admit that R/C vehicles can be tough to get into at first. That’s especially true if you aren’t familiar with cars and car parts. Manufacturers like Traxxas and Axial (probably the two most well-known R/C brands out there) are quick to talk about portal axles, high-torque brushless motors and 4S LiPo power. While seasoned R/C hobbyists will know what all of those words mean, a newcomer will likely be at a loss.

That’s why we took the time to write this starter’s guide for those of you who are new to R/C, particularly R/C trucks. We will try to explain what types of R/C trucks there are, the differences between electric and nitro-powered trucks, the sizes and scales of R/C trucks and whether you should invest in a pre-built (“ready-to-run”) vehicle or buy a kit.

We will also cover what types of motors there are, the suspension, wheels, tires, and battery connectors and chargers.

True to its name, this starter’s guide is for complete newbies. Everything, even the very basic aspects of R/C vehicles, will be talked about here. Hopefully, this guide will kickstart your journey as an R/C vehicle hobbyist and help you invest your time and money when searching for the perfect RC Trucks for sale.

What type of R/C truck is best for you?

There are quite a few types of RC trucks for sale. That shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise, with how many types of trucks there are. After all, many R/C vehicles are just scaled-down models of the cars and trucks you see at auto dealerships and on the road.

With all that variety, it can be tough to choose one. Which is why we will try and elaborate on what types of R/C trucks there are, what each type is meant for, and other important bits.

Types of R/C trucks

What type of R/C truck you will want to look for depends on a few different things. Most of all, it depends on what it is you want to use your R/C truck for. Or, in other words, what surface you will mainly want to drive on. Are you planning to drive mostly indoors or on concrete? Or do you want to take your vehicle off the road, over rocky terrain and mud puddles?

All of that matters when it comes to choosing the perfect RC trucks for sale.

Monster truck

True to its name, the monster truck is the monster of R/C trucks. Just like normal-scale monster trucks, they’re characterized by a larger suspension/ride height and those iconic mammoth tires you see on trucks such as the Grave Digger.

Due to their enormous ground clearance, monster trucks usually make for great off-road vehicles. They aren’t typically very fast since they don’t handle as well as smaller trucks do at higher speeds, but that also plays into their amazing off-road performance.

If you want flashy and oversized in an off-road vehicle, a monster truck will serve you well. However, they tend to also be pricier, especially the premium models from Traxxas and Axial.

The Axial Yeti and Traxxas Maxx lines are examples of R/C monster trucks.

Rock crawler

As the name suggests, rock crawlers are meant to do one thing very well: drive over rocky terrain. They are, for all intents and purposes, modified monster trucks, designed so they can cross over very harsh terrain, where no other vehicles can.

Rock crawlers are usually outfitted with portal axles, locking differentials, tires designed for off-roading, and a high-torque motor. They’re also incredibly sturdy, usually equipped with a roll cage, rocker panels, and tube fenders.

Rock crawlers are slow, but being fast isn’t what they’re meant for. As far as off-roading and driving over rocky terrain go, nothing beats a rock crawler. If that’s what interests you, you can’t go wrong here.

Buggy

The buggy is the trimmed-down, lightweight cousin of monster trucks and rock crawlers. In other words, the exact opposite of the enormous wheels, tires and armored shells you get with those two vehicle types.

Buggies are open-wheeled, which just means their wheels are outside of the main body. Generally, the motor will also be exposed in the back. Buggies can either be roofed or roofless.

A characteristic of buggies is their low ride height and ground clearance. This allows them to be a lot faster than monster trucks, rock crawlers, and SUV models, but it also means they’re not very great for off-roads or grass. If you’re more of a racer than an off-roader, a buggy is a good choice.

Stadium truck

Stadium trucks are similar to buggies. It can be said they are to buggies what rock crawlers are to monster trucks, in a way. Stadium trucks usually have a larger suspension and are better tailored for the off-roads. However, they perform well on most surfaces, including dirt, gravel, and concrete.

Stadium trucks, or “truggies” as they’re often called, are great all-around vehicles and a good choice if you’re unsure about which surface you want to drive on, since they handle well on most of them.

Indy (F1)

As you may have guessed by the name, this type of R/C vehicle is modeled after the Formula 1 race car. It is characterized by its exposed wheels, spoilers and engine, as well as its aerodynamic design. These cars are more for looks than for high-performance racing, however. Also, they’re meant for concrete roads only, not for off-roading in any way.

Road (Drift)

A road (or “drift”) car is probably the most generic-seeming of the subclasses we have covered so far. Unlike monster trucks and rock crawlers, they aren’t meant for any sort of off-roading and are largely limited to concrete or asphalt roads.

They’re meant for racing, with a stiff suspension and slick tires that allow them to drift around corners like no other vehicle can.

All in all, not a bad a choice if you’re looking for a fast and stylish car on paved roads. They also tend to be a little more affordable than monster trucks or rock crawlers, but we always recommend picking quality over affordability.

Rally

Just like the normal-scale rally racers you’re familiar with, R/C rally cars are meant to be driven mainly on dirt, gravel, and paved roads. They’re usually outfitted with a compact, lightweight chassis and body. They’re rally racers, which means they’re made to be fast.

A good all-around vehicle for anyone new to R/C, since they handle well on a variety of different surfaces and aren’t too pricey, in most cases.

Electric vs. nitro-powered

Aside from the different types of electric motors available, R/C cars and trucks can also run on nitro. A nitro engine runs on a nitromethane-methanol fuel. Because nitromethane is highly flammable, it’s usually only used as a fuel in drag race cars and in R/C vehicles, since the fuel amount is very small in the latter case.

The most obvious difference between a nitro engine and an electric motor is that nitro engines run on fuel, while electric motors in R/C vehicles are powered by a battery, usually lithium polymer (LiPo) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMH).

Of the two, electric motors are the less expensive option, for a few reasons. Firstly, R/C vehicles that run on nitro engines tend to be on the pricier side. And secondly, nitro engines are costlier in the long run, since they require refueling, while LiPo/NiMH batteries can be recharged.

Electric motors are also “cleaner” than nitro engines, for obvious reasons (no exhaust fumes). As a result, electric R/C vehicles can be run indoors, whereas nitro-powered cars normally shouldn’t be. Nitro engines are noisier, which can be a problem if you plan on driving your R/C car or truck around the neighborhood.

Nitro engines used to be faster than electric motors, but brushless motors have largely surpassed them in that regard.

Unlike nitro engines, electric motors don’t need to be broken in or tuned. In general, nitro engines require a fair bit of maintenance work. That includes cleaning the engine and air filter after longer sessions, as well as draining the fuel tank.

Lastly, nitro fuel can be a hassle to buy, if you don’t have an R/C shop near you. Then again, in the age of Amazon, that probably isn’t as big of a problem anymore.

Nitro engines have a few key advantages over electric motors, however. Namely, nitro engines have longer run times. What’s more, you can just add more fuel to keep your R/C car or truck running, whereas with electric motors, you have to recharge/replace the battery. Recharge times aren’t as awful as they used to be, but they’re still on the longer side (typically 45 minutes to an hour). LiPo batteries aren’t very cheap either, but at least they’re rechargeable.

While the exhaust fumes can be a turn-off and the noisiness of nitro engines can get on your neighbor’s nerves, a lot of R/C hobbyists actually appreciate those things, as they give the vehicle a more realistic flair. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference.

Generally, we don’t recommend nitro-powered vehicles to beginner hobbyists. They require more maintenance, cost more in the long term and aren’t as versatile as electric R/C vehicles. Their biggest advantage – longer run times – isn’t all that important to newbies. That’s not to say you should avoid nitro engines completely, but if you’re just starting out, electric is an all-around safer choice.

Sizes and scales of R/C cars and trucks

It’s likely you’ve seen the word “scale” used more than once in R/C vehicle spec sheets. It’s a word that’s tossed around a lot in the R/C community. But, what exactly is the “scale” of an R/C vehicle?

Simply put, an R/C vehicle’s scale is its size relative to the vehicle it’s modeled after. A 1/10 scale Jeep Wrangler R/C model is 1/10th the size of an actual Jeep Wrangler. However, don’t expect draftsman levels of precision. A 1/10 scale model is rarely ever truly 1/10th the size of the vehicle it’s modeled after. But, hey, it looks about right.

The most common scale sizes are 1/6, 1/8, 1/10 and 1/12, but mini-models can be a lot tinier, in the range of 1/28 to 1/64.

Should you buy a kit or RTR (Ready-to-Run)?

With most R/C cars and trucks, you usually have two options: you can either buy a finished vehicle (“ready-to-run” or RTR), or you can buy a kit to assemble it yourself.

Of course, what you choose is entirely up to you. For many R/C hobbyists, assembling the vehicle is part of the experience. However, if you don’t trust yourself to assemble a vehicle correctly, or if that just doesn’t interest you, most R/C vehicles come in “ready-to-run” options.

At the end of the day, it boils down to personal preference.

Radios and electronics

The motor isn’t the only thing inside your R/C vehicle that’s responsible for making it tick. Aside from the motor/engine and batteries/fuel, there are a few other key components as well.

In this section, we will talk more specifically about the transmitter and receiver, the ESC (electronic speed control) and the steering servo, all of which are vital parts of your R/C car or truck.

Radios (transmitters and receivers)

Without a proper way to control your R/C vehicle, sitting on a shelf is all it would be good for. For that reason, the transmitter and receiver units are two of the most important parts of any R/C set.

In this case, the transmitter (usually abbreviated to Tx) is what you would probably call the “remote” or “radio”, while the receiver (Rx) is a tiny box with a thin dipole antenna attached to it, meant for receiving signals from the transmitter. The receiver is always housed inside the R/C model. The receiver’s job is to receive radio signals from the transmitter and to turn them into electrical signals. Those electrical signals are then sent to the ESC and servo.

In the past, the servo was usually bundled with the transmitter and receiver, but as servo types and sizes became more varied over the years, the choice of which servo to use was left up to the customer.

When you read about “channels” in R/C vehicle spec sheets, there is a quirk that can throw you off at first. In most cases, when we talk about R/C transmitters, “channels” refer to the number of controls the transmitter has, not radio channels/frequencies. For example, a two-channel transmitter for R/C cars or trucks has two controls, such as for throttle and steering. Most R/C transmitters (for cars and trucks, at least) are, in fact, two-channel ones.

Radio channels and frequencies were more of a concern back in the days when AM and FM radio systems were commonplace. Nowadays, most transmitters/receivers are on the 2.4GHz band and use what’s called “Digital Spread Spectrum” (DSS).

Don’t worry, we won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty, but the core of it is that every Tx and Rx pair are “synced” together. You don’t have to worry about interference, no matter how many people are driving near you. That’s why 2.4GHz radio systems are far superior and preferable to older MHz-type systems.

As far as transmitter types go, there are quite a few to choose from. With R/C cars/trucks, pistol-grip transmitters are the most common. That’s in contrast to airplane models and drones, which most often have a video game controller-type design.

Whichever design you prefer, buying an aftermarket transmitter is always an option. Usually, all you have to do is replace the stock receiver in your R/C vehicle, and you’re good to go.

ESCs (Electronic Speed Control)

An ESC is, to put it plainly, what allows you to control how fast your R/C vehicle is running. Electric motors, like the ones found in most R/C vehicles, can either be turned on or off. Without an ESC, your R/C car would either be still or running at full-throttle. That’s not very useful, is it?

ESCs are specific to the motor type. A brushed motor requires a brushed ESC, while a brushless motor requires a brushless ESC. We will talk in more detail about what brushed and brushless motors are below.

Steering servos

A car or truck that can only drive in a straight line isn’t any fun either. A steering servo (most of us just call it a “servo”) is what controls the steering. After it receives an electrical signal from the receiver, it adjusts the car’s steering arms accordingly.

Servos are very important components as they can make or break your R/C vehicle. An underpowered servo can be a major problem. Higher-torque servos (rated in ounces per inch) are generally a better option for larger models.

Brushed motors vs. brushless motors

As it is for normal-scale vehicles, the motor is one of the most important parts of any R/C vehicle. Virtually all R/C vehicles are powered either by a brushed or brushless DC (direct current) motor. (I have yet to see a commercially-sold R/C car or truck powered by an AC/induction motor).

Brushed and brushless motors are very similar. They both run on DC (direct current) power, but the key difference is the presence of “brushes” in the brushed motor vs. the lack of brushes in a brushless motor. Don’t worry, we won’t bother you with all of the nitty-gritty. That’s not what matters, after all. What matters is what effect all of that has on your R/C vehicle’s performance.

Brushed motors are a low-cost solution. They have very simple wiring, which means you can easily disassemble a brushed motor to replace the brushes once they’ve worn out. However, most R/C cars and trucks come with sealed motors, which means they must be replaced by the manufacturer. Lastly, brushed motors are less efficient than brushless motors.

Brushless motors are more efficient and will run for longer than brushed motors. They have a longer lifespan since they don’t have brushes which are prone to wear. That also means brushless motors require less maintenance (however, as most R/C vehicles have sealed motors anyway, that isn’t as important here). The trade-away with brushless motors is that, of course, they’re more expensive than brushed motors.

Brushed motors are graded by the number of turns (T). The lower the number of turns, the “faster” the motor runs. In other words, a 10T (10 turns) brushed motor will, if all else is equal, run faster than a 20T motor. “Performance” motors are usually in the 5 to 10T range.

Brushless motors, on the other hand, are rated in terms of kilovolts (kV). In this case, it’s the opposite of what the number of turns of brushed motors means. The higher the kV of a brushless motor, the higher the RPM and the faster the motor runs.

Also, there are two subcategories of brushless motors: sensored and sensorless.

Sensored vs. sensorless motors

Sensored motors are able to “detect” the rotor through the Hall Effect, which is named after American physicist Edwin Hall. It then sends that data to your R/C vehicle’s ESC through an additional wire. That allows the ESC to more precisely control the motor, which results in smoother handling, especially at lower speeds.

Again, the trade-away is the price. Sensored motors are more expensive than sensorless motors.

Faster isn’t always better

Given everything you have read above, it’s obvious that brushless motors are superior to brushed motors, if we look at them side-by-side.

However, a faster motor isn’t always automatically better. We talked about monster trucks and rock crawlers above and how they don’t handle well at high speeds. That’s still true, even if you have a sensored brushless motor in yours.

That said, it’s clear that a brushless motor with lower kV, but more torque will perform better than any brushed motor, even inside a monster truck. And, of course, a sensored brushless motor handles more smoothly at lower speeds, which is ideal for an off-road rock crawler.

Conclusion

All in all, brushless motors are clearly the better of the two, but will set you back more as a result. A brushed motor works well enough and is low-cost, but it isn’t as efficient, powerful or as fast as a brushless motor. What you choose depends entirely on your budget and what you want from your R/C vehicle.

A heavier, bulkier truck designed for crossing over harsh terrain doesn’t need a lot of RPM, so a brushless motor with lower kV or a brushed motor with a higher number of turns works well. Of course, if you’re in the market for a race car, a sensored brushless motor with high kV will do the job like no other motor can. At the end of the day, it’s all personal preference.

Suspension, wheels and tires

Suspension

Your R/C vehicle’s suspension is what allows its wheels to move up and down independently of the body and chassis. If you aren’t a car person, you may wonder why it’s important for a vehicle’s wheels to be able to do that, but it actually serves a crucial function: to absorb bumps, jumps and other stress beneath the wheels.

Specifically, it’s the shocks that do that. Pricier R/C trucks have oil-filled shocks, which are usually better at withstanding stress than spring-mounted “friction shocks”.

Wheels and tires

If you’re used to toy R/C cars and trucks, it’s likely you’re in the mindset that wheels and tires are just four chunks of plastic meant to lightly resemble actual wheels and tires.

But, that isn’t the case with hobby-tier R/Cs. Their tires are usually made of rubber and fitted with a high-traction foam insert instead of being filled with air. Tires are glued to the rims of wheels with cyanoacrylate glue.

As far as tire types are concerned, the most common are:

Pins

These typically wear out very quickly on hard surfaces and have low traction.

Ribbed

Ribbed tires are usually only fitted on the front wheels of vehicles with two-wheel drives. They give great side-to-side traction and excel on the off-roads.

Grooved

These have medium-to-low wear on hard surfaces, but give good side-to-side traction.

Slicks

Slicks are usually made of rubber, but can also be made of foam. These give a lot of traction on hard surfaces and very little off-road.

Paddle

These wear out quickly on hard surfaces, but give superb traction on sand.

V-Groove

These are very similar to slicks, with slightly improved traction on wet surfaces.

X-Pin

These have medium-to-high wear on hard surfaces, but give off low traction.

Batteries

As mentioned above, R/C vehicles run on either lithium polymer (LiPo) or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. In the past, most R/C models ran on nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries instead, but NiCd has largely been phased out in favor of LiPo and NiMH.

As far as numbers go, the ones you should pay attention to are voltage (V), milliamp hours (mAh) and, for LiPo at least, the C-rating of the battery.

Voltage is a measure of electric potential difference or electric pressure. To put it plainly, a higher voltage means more power.

A battery’s capacity is measured in milliamp hours (mAh). The higher the number, the longer the battery’s charge will last.

Lastly, LiPo batteries have a C-rating. A C-rating is a measure of how much amperage the battery can supply. Most LiPo battery packs are in the 20 to 30c range, which is enough for almost any stock brushed motor out there. For a high kV/amperage brushless motor, you may need batteries in the 30 to 50c range.

As far as which type of battery is better, LiPo is generally more efficient and provides more charge than NiMH. However, LiPo batteries cost more and require careful handling. LiPo batteries must be stored and charged properly. That means you must use a charger specially designed for LiPo batteries and all of the battery’s cells must be charged evenly. Overcharging a LiPo battery or leaving it out in the heat can cause it to combust, so be careful!

If you feel like all of that’s a hassle, then try to avoid LiPo and go with a NiMH-supported vehicle instead. Certain vehicles also support both LiPo and NiMH.

Types of battery connectors and chargers

Unless your R/C vehicle is nitro-powered, you will have to pay close attention to your choice of battery connectors and chargers.

Battery connectors

Battery connectors are what the LiPo/NiMH batteries in your R/C model use to connect to the ESC and motor. Their job is to transfer power from the batteries to the parts of your R/C that need it, such as the motor, ESC, servo, and receiver.

There are quite a few brands to choose from, enough to warrant a separate article. Deans connectors are generally considered the highest-quality battery connectors on the market, but new and more affordable competition has sprung up as of late.

As you’re a beginner, it’s probably not a bad idea to just stick to the stock connectors in your R/C vehicle.

Battery chargers

As we talked about above, the battery type you use matters, since LiPo batteries require a charger specially designed for LiPo.

However, that’s not the only important bit about chargers. Buying a fast charger is a must if you don’t want to have to wait an hour or two for your R/C vehicle to charge.

As with battery connectors, there are quite a few different brands and models to choose from. Sifting through battery chargers can be a pain in the neck. Generally, you want to look for a 3A charge rate (at least) and a charger that can drain your NiMH batteries first, before charging them. That will help your NiMH batteries last longer. A charger that supports both NiMH and LiPo is a great investment since you won’t have to buy a new one if you ever want to use LiPo.

Final thoughts

If you’re still with us, then congratulations! You now have all of the knowledge necessary to dive headfirst into the world of R/C.

There is quite a lot more to talk about, however. Topics like suspension set-ups, differentials, and gear types deserve whole articles. What we covered here is only what’s most important for a beginner to know.