Are you looking to get into remote control cars but have no idea where to begin? Well you have come to the right place.
Not so long ago I was in your shoes. I wanted a RC Car but had no idea what was hot and what was not. I didn’t know the difference between a electric buggy and a petrol powered monster truck.
That all changed and now I have written this post to help others newbies to find the car of their dreams and to begin one of the best hobbies anyone can have.
Remote control cars can be enjoyed from anyone. From a five year old to an eighty five year old there really is something for everyone. Whether you want a car to race against your son, to drive around your local park or to compete with others at your local track it is all about fun…..and buying the best vehicle possible.
Within this guide there are three main categories.
- The Benefits of RC Cars
- Buying an RC Car: What to Consider
- Questions and Answers (for beginners?)
The radio control industry is a massive one that is growing all the time. This is simply because there are so many makes and models you cannot fail in finding one for you. In this guide I aim to help you get your foot in the door of a truly great hobby. Lets get started.
Benefits of RC Cars
- It’s Fun
- Hand Eye Co-ordination
- Family Bonding
The most important thing with a hobby is that it is fun, right? I mean why else would you do it if it wasn’t. I think these days with the world being such a troubled place it is more important than ever to just enjoy yourself.
What I find particularly great about driving a radio controlled car is that it is like therapy. It is fun because while you are racing round you forget your troubles.
Maybe you hate your job, maybe you are single and don’t want to be or maybe the scales didn’t show any weight loss this week. All can really get you down but when you are out there racing around the rest of the world just melts away – all you are left with is fun.
Fun is good and you can get plenty of that riding around on your driveway but what is even better is making it a little more competitive and going up against your neighbour, a friend or maybe just the big jerk at the track who thinks he is all that.
Adding competition adds that little bit extra. Suddenly the adrenaline is flowing a little faster as you pit your skills against someone else.
I’ve known people who loved their car until they went to a local man-made track. After losing several races they went out and bought an even more powerful truck with a monstrous kick – no it wasn’t me although I have lost many races.
The less competitive side of the competition is that racing can be social. It doesn’t always have to be a head to head winner takes all love you or hate you style competition.
W aren’t talking Roy Keane vs Patrick Vieira here. It can be a group of people with the same interest and a challenge to get better at driving their own car.
Hand Eye Co-ordination
When my son got his first RC Car he was less than co-ordinated. At the time I had no idea that he would be diagnosed with Dyspraxia. In the end radio control cars have turned out to be a blessing.
Dyspraxia is a condition where you have issues with co-ordination. There are different levels. Fortunately my son only had a mild form but he still needed help – RC Cars helped with this.
You do not need co-ordination issues to benefit from RC Cars though. Anything that requires the use of your hands and eyes together is going to help. It just happens that because of the speed these cars move at and because you are driving it from a distance it ends up being great for improving your co-ordination.
As I said above my son has benefited from driving cars. What has been particularly great about it though is that I have helped him. This is the reason I got into RC Cars in the first place.
It has given my son and I a common interest and this has helped with my bonding with him. I am looking forward to getting my daughter a car too when she is old enough. She is already showing an interest.
My point here is simple. Kids often like to do what their parents do. So if you drive a radio controlled car they will want to. Simply buy them a car so that they can benefit from skills you develop as well as giving you all family time together. It is a win win.
Buying an RC Car: What to Consider
- Price & Budget
- Electric, Nitro or Petrol
- On Road or Off Road
- 2 or 4 Wheel Drive
- Self-Build or RTR
Price & Budget
Probably the most important thing to consider when you are looking to buy anything is the price and your budget. There is no point in finding the ultimate RC Car only to find out that it is twice your budget.
RC Cars particularly petrol powered ones can be pricey. You could for example buy a Traxxas for close to £1000. There is little point even looking at cars like this if your budget is £400. It is however nice to dream.
Type of Car
The type of car is an important thing to consider particularly when you are a kid or a beginner. There are three main types. Below is a short explanation of each one.
Electric RC Cars – These are cars that are powered by chargeable batteries (some cheaper models use standard batteries but these are for kids). These are typically smaller, cheaper and not as powerful but for beginners they can be an excellent choice. These can include everything from the cars that a 5 year old would drive around your living room on a Christmas morning to a car you may drive up and down pavements and driveways.
Nitro RC Cars – These are a step up from the electric models. They are fuelled by nitro fuel which can be obtained from your local model shop. They are generally (but not always) larger, faster and more expensive. While they are not often recommended for beginners they can be great for taking your interest to the next level. Anyone who is OK with putting fuel in a car and getting it started can start with a nitro car. These are not for young children.
Petrol RC Cars – These are for those who are getting really serious about the hobby. Petrol powered vehicles are fast, powerful and often pricey. You can get a more affordable model from somewhere like Nitrotek (up to £500) or for those who want out and out quality you can spend £1000 or more – check out Al’s Hobbies for some great models.
Petrol powered cars are for those with an obsession and the money to back it up. No hobby is cheap in the long run but if you enjoy it and it makes you happy then it is more of an investment than an outlay.
Size & Scale
Size and scale may seem like two words for the same thing but there are some important differences which I would like to explain.
In the RC Car world scale is simply a indication of how big the vehicle is in comparison to the actual ‘real life’ vehicle. So take the Subaru WRX Style Drift Car. This car to 1:10th scale. This means it is a tenth of the size of the original car.
When looking into buying a car i you want to know how big it is look at the actual dimensions. The Subaru is a 1:10 scale but that tells you very little unless you know its actual size – for the record its dimensions are – length 360 mm x Height 112 mm x Width 200 mm. The dimensions are far more useful
On Road vs Off Road
One interesting question to ask is where do you see yourself driving your vehicle. If you want to simply drive it across your driveway then on road is fine. If you want to drive it over your local park or on a dirt track then off road is definitely the way to go.
If you are unsure then I would recommend an off road model as they can cope with either terrain. Of course this is just one element. It could be that price and other factors make an on road car more attractive. All considerations must be made together before making any purchase.
Self Build or Ready to Run (RTR)
While this is a consideration it is usually recommended that you start with a ready to run (RTR) model. This is purely because there are so many parts involved that it is better to take one step at a time. We aren’t talking about some item of flat packed furniture. There are many parts.
Of course I am not here to tell you what to do but just to offer advice. If you are a mechanic, exceptional with instructions or you love getting stuck into to something challenging then go for it.
One important consideration is which brand of car you buy. This is not really any different to buying a normal car. Some people just prefer certain brands.
Obviously there are some brands that are better than others. It of course also depends on what you are looking for, your budget, expertise etc so again other considerations do come into play.
Getting a little more technical there is one element of a motor which I wanted to go into which is not to complex but can be important – is the motor brushed or brushless?
Brushed Motors are less efficient but are more affordable. They are generally found in cheaper models.
Brushless Motors are more expensive but are more efficient, have lower maintenance requirements and a longer lifespan.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t buy an RC Car with a brushed motor it is just something to be aware of.
Questions and Answers
Below are some common questions that people ask as well as an answer and links to other resources both on this site and on other sites around the web.
Where can I buy an RC Car?
There are a number of online retailers who sell radio controlled cars. There was once a day when every large town would have a model shop. I remember the one in my town which stocked cars as well as a large selection or Hornby Railway kits. It closed a few years ago.
These days your safest bet is to buy online. I know of several places you can go to buy some really fast attractive vehicles. The one to choose depends on what exactly you are looking for. Check out my guide called Where to Buy Radio Control Cars for more details.
Best RC Cars for Beginners
Best Electric RC Car
To be completed….
Best Nitro RC Car
To be completed….
Best Petrol RC Car (Adult Beginners Only)
To be completed….