Why Choose Nitro RC Cars [ Complete Newbie Guide ]

By Josh •  Updated: 03/06/21 •  14 min read

RC cars themselves are cool enough but now imagine them being closer to the real deal. The many awesome and enjoyable factors that solely exist to make you choose them over other traditional RC cars are immeasurable. They have their unique driving system and provide a different experience making them stand out and left to be discussed alone entirely. So, what are nitro RC cars?

Nitro RC cars use a methanol-based fuel instead of conventional battery power, The use of this fuel allows for much greater run times, allowing for more play and less charging. The term “Nitro” is short for nitromethane and is similar to diesel in that there is no spark required.

Unlike usual electric-powered RC cars, nitro RC cars have their combustion engine that’s fueled by nitromethane. These bad boys are not classified as toys as they pack immense power and provide a realistic experience in terms of performance and maintenance.

Traditional RC battery and electric motor cars and Nitro RC cars are entirely different in their aspects. They might have a similar outlook and size but in terms of their engine and performance, they are light years apart

Hence, I’ll be exclusively emphasizing their core differences and how Nitro RC cars are a better option as long you’re ready for the challenge.

What to Know About Nitro RC Cars?

Nitro RC cars are not like your typical average RC cars that we’ve been known to play with as kids. It’s undeniable how much they resemble just about any battery or electric-powered RC cars in terms of their outer look and shell.

However, keeping aside the uncanny resemblance, let’s focus on the core thing that makes them unique, their sophisticated engine.

Nitro RC cars have engines that pretty much work like in real life diesel engines in real cars. This might arise the question, what fuel do nitro RC cars use?

However, they have their very own two-stroke engine with pistons and an internal engine that works by using actual fuel. The Nitro in here is the acronym for Nitromethane fuel used in these cars.

They house a different throttle response when controlled, produce unique realistic engine noises, and have a longer runtime. Having a seriously packing engine comes with its prices however.

A nitro car is pretty much a hobby as they call for basic maintenance and come with their very own responsibilities according to specific routines. 

Nitro RC cars Vs. Electric RC Cars – What Makes RC Nitro Cars Better? 

An important stand-off between these two rivals will clear off their said differences in terms of performance and maintenance a lot more clearly. If you’re a newbie hobbyist who is just deciding to buy an RC car to get started, you would at first need to know about the two main types of RC cars that exist. 

This will help you better realize why Nitro RC cars can be better for your RC as long as they have the qualities you’re looking for. 

Nitro RC and Electric RC cars have clear visual distinctions as you might expect. However, their appearance isn’t their biggest takeaway in terms of setting them apart.

We have discussed above how Nitro RC cars have different engines running within their respective bounds. However, they still have a lot of differences lurking in their technicality and maintenance.

Since this is a guide for new hobbyists, my core focus will lie on hobby-grade Electric and Motor RCs. So, if you fall within this pack, be sure to keep your eyes on this section as it’ll help you make better decisions that’ll prevent you from having regrets later on.

Running System

The core difference between these two types of RCs is what makes them run on the road. Electric RC cars are run by batteries as their motors are electrically powered. On the other hand, Nitro RCs use methanol-based fuel as mentioned previously called nitromethane.

The engines in Nitro RCs usually have two strokes, whereas Electric RC motors can come in 2 types, either brushless or brushed.

Nitro engines are a bit more complicated than electrical motors as the engines pretty much resemble actual vehicle engines. Nitro engines have clutches, glow plugs, pistons, flywheels, carburetors, crank-shafts, fuel-tank and an exhaust.

Nitro RCs even have a heatsink responsible to get rid of all the heat that accumulates and prevents overheating.

One advantage of having these additional parts in the Nitro RC engine is that you can control the temperature of it by regulating the fuel/air mixture in the carburetors. This is something that you cannot do in Electric motors to prevent them from overheating.


In terms of what their respective engines require to make the RC cars go, one important factor in their maintenance are cost expenses. Fuels used in nitro RCs are cheaper, as a gallon of them only costs about $25 whereas a battery pack costs as much as $32.

The fuel is one of the important reasons why RC nitro cars radiate fumes and give off a greasy smell, whereas electric motors are pretty much clean and have little to no fumes given to be worried about.

However, as long as you’re driving outdoors, the fumes won’t be as big of a problem as you might expect. In the long run, nitro cars will definitely save you some money in your pockets. 


Nitro RC cars have a longer run-time thanks to their quick refueling capability, higher power providing capacity. A tank full of fuel can make your Nitro RC run for about 20-25 minutes depending on how large your tank is and how you drive it. Once your car stops due to an empty fuel tank, simply refill in less than a minute to hop back into action.

Electric RC cars usually have batteries that can keep the car on the road for about 10-15 minutes per battery. On top of that, these rechargeable batteries need to be recharged on their own after use for about an hour. You will be expected to recharge several batteries before-hand for you to enjoy a reasonable session of RC experience.

This stands as a bummer as you will constantly be expected to recharge depleted batteries frequently. Hence in terms of being more convenient when you’re out in the field, nitro cars win for sure.


Most Electric RC cars have lightweight chassis made out of plastic or carbon-fiber. This makes the overall weight of Electric RC cars smaller compared to Nitro RC cars.

Nitro RC cars use solid metal chassis, usually made out of aluminum for their light-weight and heat-absorbing capabilities. Metal Chassis is required for Nitro RCs because of the high heat they produce in the engines which could otherwise melt any plastic components. The metal chassis keeps the car cooler however adds to its overall weight on the process as well.


Nitro cars are faster in terms of the highest achieving speed, you can reach as fast as about 35-40 mph. However, electric RC cars can reach faster speeds if they have brushless motors. Brushed Electric motored RC cars are usually way slower in terms of speed and response.

Not only are brushless electric RC cars reach faster speeds but they also have a faster response time. This, however, depends on the mechanisms involved within hobby-grade RC electric motors.

Nitro RC cars pack real power and can reach speeds as high as 40 mph. They pack enough power to at times keep up with real cars in the streets. Nitro motors are powerful but they also require proper maintenance and tweaking as you might expect.


Upkeeping Electric and Nitro RCs pretty much go hand-in-hand, as you’ll be expected to execute after-run maintenance. On top, you’ll also be expected to clean them frequently and make it into a habit.

The main difference that comes within their maintenance is the need for the replacement of certain parts. Nitro RC cars also require additional care before and after runs, as many different ways exist to start and stop Nitro Cars.

There are extra measures and considerations required for Nitro cars when it comes to starting rather than a simple on-off switch that exists for RC cars.

Electric RC cars will require you to change the brushed or brushless motors quite frequently. However, in Nitro RC cars it’s the glow plug that will need replacing from time to time. You will also be expected to clean fuel tanks by draining and oiling them for use before runs in Nitro RC cars.


Nitro cars wear out faster than most electric cars, the component that wears out most frequently are glow plugs and bearings. The warm engine and exhaust pipe damage both the glow plugs and bearings.

The vibration of the engine when running also amplifies the wearing of bearings. Even the transmission bearings are not any safer from wearing out.

Nitro cars being able to run longer and use burning fuel contributes to the mechanical wearing of components faster. The increased weight and speed also lead to stronger collisions which causes noticeable damage in Nitro RC cars.


Nitro cars are still faster than most electric cars generally, setting aside brushless motor electric RC cars. Thus, Nitro-powered cars require more skills and experience to be controlled. You will need more understanding of how the engine and its mechanics work.

Nitro cars in general do not come with a reverse gear so are not just as flexible as your Electric powered cars in terms of maneuvering. 

Considerations Before Buying an RC Nitro Car

Nitro RC cars are no toys. They are serious pieces of machinery that need proper handling. So, before you decide on buying a Nitro RC car, here are some things that you should consider: 

Safety Concerns

I’ve mentioned previously how they might not be like your usual RC battery cars; well, they even stay true to that in terms of safety. Nitro RC cars use an internal combustion engine which is pretty much what most real-life cars use nowadays. However, this calls for some safety measures to come into play as well. 

As the fuel used, nitromethane is flammable, you will need to handle it with care and keep it away from hazardous conditions. Nitro RC cars are as easily prone to catching fire or exploding due to their usage of fuel. Hence, they simply cause severe health hazards to their users.

A nitro car also just like any other car can release fumes as they use fumes produced by the engine to run by. They also emit noise at a noticeable decibel enough to label them as a source of noise pollution.

Having smaller engines will mean there won’t be enough fumes being released for it to be considered as a serious health risk unlike fumes from real cars are. 

Nevertheless, the smell, fumes, and the sound produced may seem unpleasant to many people. Hence, constricting them to be used only in outdoors and possibly at remote and empty locations. 

Greater Challenge

Their greater speed and more difficult controlling system are what make them stand as a real challenge and provide a bit more realistic and enjoyable experience. They are also more prone to being damaged so mistakes are not to be repeated when using a Nitro RC regularly.

The challenge becomes even more difficult when controlling them from a long distance. The models that you might be willing to buy should have at least a 330 feet control range radius. The 40 Mph speed that these Nitro RC cars can pack will easily make them go out of range in a matter of ten seconds.

Starting Kits

You will be provided with manuals and the RC car tuning sets on how you can maintain their pressure, temperature, and humidity. Starting a nitro car to be ready to be used for runs is something else entirely on its own as well rather than a simple on/off switch process.

A Battery-powered glow-plug compartment needs to be used to heat the engine’s core glow plug. Once it’s hot enough, you can use one of the many RC cars starting methods such as pull-starter or electric shaft starter to make your Nitro RC ready to hit the road.

Electric shaft or battery powered Electric kits can be used to start your Nitro RC and make it fully functional to hit the road.

Different Fuel types

There are many types of fuel-grade classified RC cars that are available on the market depending on the percentage of Nitromethane they contain. 

Fuel grades for these Nitro cars usually exist between a range of 15-55%, with the fuel generating more power when burned according to the percentage of Nitromethane they contain.

How Much Do Nitro RCs Cost?

Nitro RC cars are a lot more expensive than traditional RC alternatives, in terms of both stock retail and maintenance costs. Daily, you will be required to replace the fuel, oils, other liquids, tires, glow plugs regularly.

As long as you’re ready to keep up with the cost that comes along and the responsibility in terms of maintenance then you probably will have no worries buying one. However, there are many different types of models, kits, and types available for you to select as well.

In general, Nitro RCs can come across as cheap as $300 to as high as $1000.  This depends on the specific model or type of Nitro RC you have your eyes on.

Off-road buggies, trucks are usually more expensive as you can easily cruise them in both plane and rough conditions. Off-road Nitro RCs cost more given that they pack a higher power and require a higher percentage of nitromethane in their tanks. These Nitro RCs are not bad for their high price as they will provide you a satisfying bang for your buck!

Off-road Nitro RC cars however will require you to clean them regularly to not hinder their performance and usually have extra cleaning costs. The kits and washing tools they require add up for some extra cost and time as well. Unless you’re trying to take your hobby to a more extreme level and test your machine in stronger forces, then this is the Nitro RC type for you.

On-road Nitro RC cars based on real-life model cars are comparatively cheaper and are most preferably best used under plain or even terrain. You shouldn’t use these RC cars in place they aren’t meant to be used. On-road cars usually have lower maintenance costs as you’ll be required to clean them less frequently.

Even though the price may overwhelm you, I suggest you buy according to how you’re planning to use these beasts out in the field. Whether you want an off-road or on-road companion with you is something that you’ll have to decide.

Now, whatever the price might be, the sheer joy you will receive from these RC cars is priceless. So, instead of worrying about how much they cost, think about what you can afford and how much fun it will provide you.

Final Thoughts on Nitro RC Cars

Well, I hope by now you know what are nitro RC cars and why you should choose them. A lot of the information here may make Nitro RC cars seem a bit more of a challenge rather than a convenient way of having fun but don’t let this worry you.

However, Nitro cars have a feeling of their when it comes to driving them. They have their unique takeaway which makes them so special and can promise you a much better experience. The challenge itself is part of that experience. 

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