RC Cars Guide for Beginners

Best RC Cars for Beginners

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 Toy Grade vs Hobby Grade 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 Competition Social Hand Eye Co-ordination Family Bonding

It’s Fun

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. They lost a race or two before buying an even faster car. 


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.

Family Bonding

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.  

There are hundreds of different types of radio controlled cars from buggy’s to trucks, on road and off, there is even an array of different sizes. What many newbies to the hobby do not know though is there are Toy Grade Cars and Hobby Grade Cars – but what is the difference?

The simplest and most obvious way to tell these apart it to look at the names. Toys are toys and should be played with by kids while hobby grade cars are for those who are looking for a little bit more.

That is all well and good but what is the difference? How can you tell them apart? Well read on to learn about the four main differences between toy grade RC cars and hobby grade RC Cars.

If you are new to RC Cars then you may be a little overwhelmed by the complex terminology. One issue could be around the use of ‘remote’ and ‘radio’. They may seem to be used interchangeably but are they actually the same thing?

What is the difference?

To understand the difference lets quickly look at each one.

Remote Control: To be called remote the control needs to be separate (or remote) from the car itself via either a cable or radio transmission.

Radio Control: To be radio control car the car needs to be controlled via a radio transmitter.

This means that all radio controlled cars are also remote controlled but not all remote controlled cars are radio controlled.

Does it matter?

These days because of the cost of materials the majority of cars come without cables. Go back 30 years to when I was a child most remote control cars were controlled via a cable. It meant that you had to follow it around which was easy until you drove under the dining room table.

That is probably the reason so many cars are now radio controlled. Kids cars aside the more expensive, fast, more powerful models such as Nitro and Petrol RC Cars are without a doubt controlled via a radio transmitters.


A perfect example of how most cars are now radio controlled is the JOYIN Toy Cartoon RC Race Car Radio Remote Control available from Amazon. This is a cheap little RC Car perfect for a 2 year old (Toddler). Even though it is cheap and for child it is still cable less.

End Result

The end result is don’t worry to much about the exact wording. Unless you are talking about a remote controlled car for a child then it is going to also be a radio controlled car and as the above example shows even a child’s car is most likely to be radio controlled – the true remote control car is pretty much a thing of the past.


Differences: Toy vs Hobby


The first and probably the simplest way to look for the difference is to check out the cost. This is easy method and is good indicator if you are looking for a new car but is less accurate than the other difference shown below. It is easy enough when comparing a £20 RC car for a 3 year old from Amazon with a £500 petrol RC truck from Nitrotek of Als Hobbies that can go as fast as a real car but as the prices difference get smaller it becomes harder to go by price alone.


One of the key difference is durability. A hobby grade car will be able to go outside in the grass, mud and who knows what else and survive far greater impacts than a toy model. This is reflected in the price.

Toy cars are known for being less durable and in the hands of a child may only last a limited amount of time. Hopefully if you buy one as a present for Christmas it will make it to New Year. Once at a certain age a hobby grade car will be far more appropriate.


A very obvious difference in types of car is that hobby grade can have individual parts replaced. This helps keep it running far longer than a toy.

Once a toy car has a part broken it is done where as a hobby grade car will simply need that part replaced – assuming you know how.


Overall a hobby grade is of a far higher standard. If you are interested in a radio controlled car then a hobby grade is always going to be a better option although a toy grade model may be a good place to start for some.

With a variety of upgrades and replacement parts it is going to be the best bet for the long term and is a far better investment.

Why have Toy Grade and Hobby Grade?

The question is then if hobby grade cars are so much better why have the toy grade at all?

Well that is simple. If you want to learn how they go together perhaps building one from scratch or taking one apart and putting it back together then a hobby car is definitely for you. Perhaps you want to drive a car a amazing speeds round dirt tracks chasing your friends latest purchase – then a hobby grade is for you.

If you want to give one to a child as a present then you are much better off with a toy car. A toy car costs much less for a start. Why spend a fortune on a present you aren’t sure the child will like. There is plenty of time for that when they show an interest.

Buying an RC Car: What to Consider

Price & Budget Electric, Nitro or Petrol Size On Road or Off Road 2 or 4 Wheel Drive Brand Self-Build or RTR Motor Battery

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. 

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. On the other hand 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.

Self Build or Ready to Run (RTR)

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. 


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. 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….

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