Guide to Buying First RC Cars

Cruise rocky terrains, traverse impossible mud roads, tear through thick snow – there is so much stuff that you can do with a decent remote-controlled (RC) car. Owning a high-grade RC car is an absolute dream come true for every young car enthusiast and adult too. 

Acquiring your very first RC car should be no trouble if you have the budget; at least, that’s what others like to think. But, purchasing one entails many things to mull over, especially because not all RC cars are the same. Each RC car excels in its own right – with its distinct asset coupled with its downsides. This post will be your guide in buying your first RC car.

1. Take a look at the scaling.

You are probably wondering what 1/5, 1/16, 1/10, 1/14, etc., means in the context of RC car scaling. Well, these numbers refer to the size of an RC car, that is, a fraction relative to the actual size of the vehicle it’s based on. For instance, 1/10 scale RC car is one-tenth of the reference vehicle’s dimensions (length, width, and height). Hence, the smaller the denominator, the bigger the RC car. Consequently, the bigger the RC car, the pricier it becomes. The most common RC car scale is 1/10, and since they are almost everywhere, they might make an excellent starter.

2. It’s not all about speed.

We are all guilty of thinking about RC cars mainly in terms of speed. But as you know, RC cars are not all about that. We have seen models who can top 50 to 60 km/h speed, and yes, we can easily find them from our local hobby shops and online shopping websites. Custom RC cars can also achieve such booming speeds, but they are more for private leisure and are not available publicly. Like in 2014, the Guinness World Records documented a custom RC car topping a mind-blowing 325km/h speed, which is pretty awesome for an RC car. But then again, RC cars are not only about speed, as there is a whole bunch of stuff that you can do with your toy. Moreover, the kind of surface your area can ultimately affect your RC car experience. What a downer it would be if you purchased a fast-running RC car, and you don’t have a nice, smooth surface to run it. 

3. Choose a power type.

a white RC car on a concrete surface with white linings

Batteries and nitro propulsions are the two primary power sources of standard RC cars. Nitro propulsion used to be these toys’ source of power, but electric power (batteries) became more prominent with the emergence of technology. 

Nitro propulsion. It involves mini internal combustion engines like those present in motorbikes and lawnmowers, only way tinier. The machines work to power up the miniature engine with a formula mixture of nitromethane, methanol, and oil. Additionally, nitro-propelled RC cars can produce noise that could become a disturbance to public places, a reason that some parks prohibit these types. But, if you don’t mind the noise, and let your hands get dirty with oil and stuff during engine maintenance, then nitro-powered RC cars are yours to get. 

Electric (batteries). Battery-powered RC cars may be more expensive than their counterparts, but they are more reliable and environment-friendly. You don’t have to run into a messy engine, and powering up the device can pose little to no trouble at all. Nickel-metal hydride (NiMh) is the most common RC car battery. Still, with the emergence of lighter and more energy-efficient lithium polymer batteries (LiPo), things are starting to get exciting for RC cars.

4. Select the RC car type.

a person holding his RC buggy

RC car types range from simple toy cars to more sophisticated and bulkier off-road trucks, drift cars, buggies, crawlers, monster trucks, among all others. This selection of RC car types has capabilities unique to themselves. As a beginner RC car operator, one of the first decisions is to decide which car type suits you and your environment – are more on-road or off-road?

Simply put, on-road cars are fantastic for a smooth and fast-paced play. If you want to achieve impressive speed records and drift through bends and corners, these are a perfect choice. But, if you tend to go rough and want to see some dramatic climbing and descending on unforgiving surfaces, then off-road cars will do justice.

5. Decide between 2WD and 4WD.

As the name suggests, two-wheel-drive (2WD) RC cars run on two wheels, either in front or at the rear. On the other hand, four-wheel drive (4WD) is powered by all four wheels. The difference between two-wheel drive 2WD and 4WD RC cars comes down to how easy you will control the toy vehicle. In terms of building speed, 4WD RC cars also proved to be more efficient than 2WD. To better understand this, you might want to try out the RC cars first and compare ‘the feel’ of controlling 2WD and 4WD RC cars. In the end, it’s the RC car that makes you feel more comfortable and happy that’s worth your dime.

6. Mind the availability of spare parts.

Tons of RC car kits are available in your local hobby shops and online shopping websites. Purchasing one would be as easy as one click. But what happens after you acquired one and accidentally damage it? Where do you go? 

Well, you would know certainly, if you have thought of it first before purchasing your RC car. Fortunately, most common RC cars have spare parts readily available in the same shop. If you bought a regular RC car, it shouldn’t be a hassle. But, finding spare parts and even tiny accessories for your more sophisticated RC car could be a challenge. If that happens, you can always check online for suggestions. YouTube is a vast content platform where you can find RC car enthusiasts like yourself who might have posted stuff related to your case. You can also check out some groups and comment threads on social media platforms like Facebook and Reddit. You will be delighted by how much insight you would get. Moreover, these people might give you clues as to which RC car brands are right for you.