A year ago just before Christmas I set out to find the perfect gift for my six year old son. Like every other parent I wanted something that would make him happy not just for Christmas morning but for months to come. After much research I decided I would get him a radio controlled car. Now I just had to work out which one.
This article is for beginners to the RC Car world. Those who don’t know the difference between a 2WD and a 4WD, those who don’t know what 1:16 means or whether you should buy an on road or off. A year ago I researched the basics of RC Cars to get my son the best car ever. Within this beginners guide to RC Cars I share all that I learnt so that you can too.
How to choose an RC Car?
What makes choosing a radio controlled car so challenging is that there are just so many models out there. From a small battery powered car that can drive around your living room to a petrol powered monster truck that drives over rough terrain and crazy speeds. It is really hard to know what to buy.
Within this buyers guide I aim to address many of the questions that a beginner will have. You don’t have to be a parent looking for the perfect gift. You could be an adult looking to buy for yourself, a teenager or perhaps a ten year old looking to spend their birthday money. It doesn’t matter because the questions are the same. Let’s start with one of the most important question’s
Is RC cars an expensive hobby?
The RC car hobby can be expensive if buying high specification cars but it doesn’t have to be. There are many makes and models of radio control car with prices starting from as little as £20. The price you pay determines how expensive the hobby gets.
Are RC cars a waste of money?
RC Cars are most definitely not a waste of time unless you don’t end up using it. Anything that you spend money on that you don’t want or need will be a waste of money. If you buy a RC car and play with it for hours day after day then it is not a waste of money.
Whether you are buying for someone else or for yourself, I recommend that a beginner starts with a cheaper model to ensure that they do have a genuine interest.
Are RC cars still popular?
Benefits of Radio Controlled Cars
So it is not necessarily a expensive hobby (although it can be if you get serious) and it isn’t waste of money – the question is what are the reasons for buying an RC Car? What are the benefits? Below are some of the best.
There are a number of benefits to controlling radio controlled cars. The main benefits are that it will increase hand eye co-ordination, it is social, it can create an interest or hobby but most importantly it is fun.
Hand Eye Co-ordination
One of the top reasons for buying and playing with an RC car is that it can help to improve your hand eye co-ordination. If you are looking to buy for a child this is a major benefit and will help their overall development.
Even as an adult it can help you. I have always been lacking in co-ordination. I cannot dance, I find driving a car to be challenging with so many pedals and buttons to press. When I first got an RC car it was a challenge but as I got to practise on my sons car I got better. The brain actually re-wires itself like with anything in life. Practise makes perfect as the saying goes.
One thing we have all discovered in 2020 is that other people are important. It stands to reason then that having a interest that is shared by others is a good thing.
Radio controlled cars are popular with kids and adults alike. While kids will play with them in the street in and around their house teenagers and adults can go to dirt tracks to compete against each other.
This all leads to a hobby that allows you to be with other people with the same interest. Social interaction is good for health and the best form of interaction is with a similar interest like radio controlled cars.
Interest or Hobby
As mentioned above social interaction over a hobby is important. Hobby and interests in general give us down time. Whether that is collecting stamps, walking or racing your car around a dirt track at insane speeds, it gives us a chance to switch off from the pressures of life.
It is scientifically proven that having a hobby or interest can lower stress over the long term and lead to a healthier and happier life. Radio controlled cars, helicopters even tanks are a great way to do this. With lots to learn, skills to develop and always another model to sae up for it is limitless.
Skill is a great thing to have but it doesn’t just happen. With any skill in life it only happens with practise. Driving an RC car can teach us that when we practise anything we will get better. That could be your times table, squash or in this case driving a care and hopefully not crashing. Learn how to develop one skill and you can develop any skill. That’s an important lesson for any child to learn.
Last but not least it is fun. Actually this is probably the most important benefit because without it being fun none of the others would happen. If it is fun you will do it more and the more you do it the more skilful and co-ordinated you will get.
What is the Best RC Car for a Beginner?
The best RC Car for a beginner depends on a number of factors. These factors include the age of the beginners, their spending budget, their requirements and their level of interest. The best RC Car for a 5 year old will be very different to the best RC car for a 40 year old.
Let us look at each factor one at a time. Then you can narrow down the best car for your particular circumstances. It starts with the type of vehicle.
Types of RC Cars
Electric RC Cars
Electric RC Cars are cars that are powered with an electric (usually chargeable) battery. They are the easiest of all the types of cars to use because they can be charged in much the same way you would charge a shaver or mobile phone.
Electric RC Cars are ideal for any age as there are many different models from the £20 variety right up to those costing hundreds. Electric RC Cars are the ideal type of vehicle for a beginner to the hobby.
Nitro RC Cars
Nitro RC Cars are cars that are powered by Nitro fuel. Nitro fuel is a special type of fuel that works like petrol. It is purchased from hobby stores and requires a little more expertise to use.
These cars are generally more expensive than starter cars powered by chargeable battery and are for teenagers and adults only. I do not recommend these for beginners as they require more knowledge. They are also more expensive and it is better to start with a more affordable model until you know you enjoy RC cars.
Petrol RC Cars
For those with a real interest in radio control cars nothing beats a petrol powered vehicle. Perhaps not ideal for beginners some choose them because they want to experience the best that radio control cars offer. They are fast and powerful but require a higher level of responsibility.
A petrol powered RC car uses the same fuel your family car does. Used along side 2 stroke oil it will power a vehicle that can reach similar speeds.
These cars are always going to be outdoor vehicles ideally raced on a local track or somewhere large and pen like a park. This is because to get the best out of these vehicles you need space to see just how fast they can actually go.
Only adult beginners should go straight to a petrol car. Partly because of the level of responsibility required and partly because they cost several hundred pounds.
Commonly Asked Questions
Should I get a 2wd or 4wd RC Car?
It is most often best to buy a 4 wheel drive vehicle because they are going to perform better than a 2 wheel drive model. This is particularly the case if you are investing in an off road model.
How big an RC Car should I get?
The size of the care you buy depends on a number of things including your budget, your storage capabilities and why you are buying in the first place. An indoor battery powered RC car for a child is going to be smaller than a petrol powered monster truck for an adult.
Size is important in the radio control world. The size is marked by a scale which will typically be between 1:5 scale and 1:24. This is the ratio between the RC cars size and the real life equivalent. Generally speaking a 1:5 is larger than a 1:24 although it is best to check the exact measurements before buying.
Should I get an On-Road or Off-Road Car?
Unless there is a specific model you want like a replica sports car you should always go for an off road model. This is because an on road can only drive on the road while an off road can drive on almost any surface.
What is a Good RC Car to start with?
Simply Fun always recommend that beginners start with a modestly priced vehicle. This is because at the beginning of any hobby you do not know for sure whether you truly like it. It is best not to splash to much cash on any hobby until you do. If you find you do end up loving RC Cars then there are plenty more models to choose from.
A good place to start is a company called Nitrotek who sell a number of well priced models that are perfect for getting you started in the industry.
Best RC Cars for Beginners
Taking into account all the considerations mentioned above we have chosen two fantastic cars that we feel are great cars for a beginner. What do you think?
XSTR Electric Radio Control Buggy
The XSTR Electric RC Buggy is a great place for a beginner to start. This awesome little buggy is good looking, fast and affordable. It is perfect for anyone who wants to get into the hobby but is unsure where to begin.
As you can see from the picture this RC buggy is colourful but there is a lot more to it than just its looks. Looks are great but what you really want is performance and wow does it have it.
It comes with a Brushed RC 540 motor and a 7.2V 200mah battery. It is 400mm in length, 160mm in height and 250mm in width with a weight of 1300g. Just for the record it is a 1:10 scale buggy although scale cannot tell you everything about it’s size.
Available from Nitrotek this buggy is a perfect example of a beginners RC car. It offers a fantastic first step into the radio control world without overwhelming the buyer. It also won’t break the bank which is an important consideration.
- Brand: Hi Speed
- Build: RTR
- Drive: 4WD
- Terrain: Off-Road
- Type: Buggy
- Scale: 1:10
- Length: 400mm
- Height: 160mm
- Width: 250mm
- Weight: 1300g
- Motor: Brushed RC 540
- Battery: 7.2V 2000mah
Meteor 1:16 Scale Nitro RC Buggy
For those who want to begin with a nitro car there is the Meteor 1:16 Scale Nitro RC Buggy. This is another fantastic looking buggy similar to the last one. The difference is that this is powered by nitro fuel and is slightly smaller at 1:16 scale.
It is 289mm in length, 110mm in height and 191mm in width and comes with four wheel drive (4WD) and is designed to travel over any terrain. Like the previous example this buggy is build ready to run and comes with a free bottle of nitro fuel.
Available from Nitrotek this model offers the beginner the chance to really experience all that radio controlled cars have to offer without spending a fortune and on a model that is easy to set up and drive.
- Brand: Hi Speed
- Build: RTR
- Drive: 4WD
- Terrain: Off-Road
- Type: Buggy
- Scale: 1:16
- Length: 289mm
- Height: 110mm
- Width: 191mm
- Motor: .07 Nitro
Thank you for reading. We hope you found it informative and gave you a bit more understanding of what to look for when buying your first RC car. For other articles please check out the rest of Simply Fun or to buy an RC Car check out our recommended retailer Nitrotek.