RC Cars 101: Choosing the Best Car to Fit Your Needs

by Josh | Last Updated:   5 months ago
As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and other similar affiliate programs.

When you enter the world of RC cars it can be quite intimidating at first to figure out which car to buy. To many newcomers, all the various types of RC cars and all the associated technical mumbo jumbo may seem pretty confusing, but it’s natural.

I was in your shoes when I began fiddling around with RC cars as well. So, to help newcomers such as yourself, in this article I will provide every bit of information around what are the different types of RC cars.

When researching I found that there is five primary types of RC cars that you can purchase in the RC community. These are racing (touring) cars, dirt buggies, short course trucks, monster trucks, and RC tanks or crawlers. Each have distinct terrain and conditions that they will operate best in.

For many starting a 4WD electric car is probably the best choice for learning the ropes and this will be regardless of the user’s experience levels.

The choice of cars varies from person to person and their budget, but for many 4WD car is going to fit the needs of every beginner or pro RC car enthusiast.

Now, that is just my opinion. So, if you want to make a more informed decision while choosing your first RC car then I’d recommend that you read the entire article.

Here, I’ve talked about all the various types of RC cars to give you a basic idea of the different types. So, please keep on reading.  

Different Types of RC Car

As a newbie, you will hear a lot about the sizes of RC cars. It’s important to know about the size of an RC Car before choosing the best RC car to fit your needs.

A few common sizes of RC cars are 1:6, 1:8, 1:10, and 1:12. Yes, these sizes come in ratios because they are directly compared to real cars. However, small sizes like 1:28 and 1:64 are also available if you want a gift item.

Mainly, there are four types of RC cars available on the market. They are touring cars, buggies, trucks, and crawlers. These types are described below:

RC Racing or “Touring” Car

If you want a car for running on carpet, concrete, or asphalt, you must be looking for an on-road touring car. These cars are generally four-wheeled as original on-road cars have four wheels too. Touring cars include independent suspension with a lower arm and an upper control arm. 

They also include a lower deck and an upper deck that helps the chassis avoid flexing. Generally, a lot of hobbyists prefer rubber tires, which is common in touring cars. However, you can choose foam tires if you like that one. Most of the touring cars come on the scale of 1:10.

The 4WD system of the RC touring cars helps the car to do some drift without damaging the internals. These cars are preferred for flat surfaces and not for off-road terrain. As an on-road car, its chassis is designed for straightforward acceleration. Therefore, do not try to run it on grass, gravel, or sand dunes.

RC Buggy

Unlike the touring cars, the buggies are able to run off-road. If you already started hating the touring cars because they can’t run off-road, consider getting an RC buggy.

The RC Buggy has a long shock absorber and the tires of this car are narrower than the monster truck, making it an ideal choice for off-road terrains.  

RC Trucks

Fond of challenging? The remote-controlled trucks are made just for you. Primarily, there are two types of RC Trucks. They are short course trucks and monster trucks.

RC Short Course Truck

These cars have shorter shock absorbers than buggy cars and have four wheels. The wheels are protected by bumpers and the shell of the car.

These trucks are able to handle almost all off-road situations, not to mention you can run these on road too. 

The short course trucks are also a great choice for customization. Therefore if you are looking for an off-road truck that provides customization options, you can consider these cars.

RC Monster Truck

Now I am going to talk about the most popular cars in the RC series. The remote-controlled monster trucks are heavy-duty, durable, and pack a great punch in them.

As these cars need high-power, they usually come with li-polymer batteries which include a high-energy density and high-discharge rate. 

The wheels of these trucks are bigger than anything and the tires of these cars are out of bumpers. You can do the awesome stunts you always wanted to do if you have these RC cars.

Want to do some dirt jumping? Or maybe a standing backflip? A monster truck is able to handle all of your stunts. 

RC Crawler

The remote-controlled crawlers are just another variant of off-road vehicles available. These cars are slower than other RC cars but they are able to handle the worst situations found off-road.

They are able to handle uneven surfaces, mountains, gravels, and rugged terrains no one will think of using an RC car on. 

Comparison Between 2WD and 4WD RC Cars 

If you are here by searching “Should I get a 2WD or 4WD RC Car”, start reading this portion of the article carefully. I will explain 2WD and 4WD cars in short but with valuable information in this section, so be attentive.

2WD RC Cars 

The 2WD cars are simple cheap cars that move from drive to either back or front wheels. That means the other set of wheels have no drive at all.

If you are hearing the 2WD term first, you might think that these cars have only two wheels. That’s wrong, 2WD does not have two wheels only. Instead, they are steered by two wheels. 

Pros of 2WD Cars

Simple Design 

2WD cars are the simplest remote-controlled cars ever. If you are not an expert on remote-controlled cars and want something that needs less learning and more fun, go for these cars. 

For a newbie, 2WD cars are the best choice as these help the user to learn and do not stress them out with a lot of complexity.

More Affordable 

One of the major advantages of the 2WD RC car is its affordability. If you want a cheap RC car for a gift or learning to drive, a 2WD car is a great option for you.

Driving two wheels requires fewer components and cost. Remember, its affordability does not mean that it has low-quality hardware. These cars are cheap because they do not require a lot of parts.

Therefore, if you are an RC car enthusiast and want a cheaper car for your collection, never hesitate to buy a 2WD RC car.

Better Speed 

You might be surprised but 2WD cars win the comparison when it comes to speed. As I mentioned earlier, 2WD cars are popular among newbies.

New RC car fans get excited when they see a car that has better speed than others. Although speed excites all kinds of drivers, newbies are a fan of speed as they care less about other things you can do with an RC car.

However, there is something you should remember before buying a 2WD car, especially if you are focused to speed.

You must run these cars on paved or tarmac surfaces, else you won’t get the speed you were expecting. If you can ensure that, buy a 2WD car and get ready for racing.

Cons of 2WD Cars

Hard to Maneuver 

As these cars cannot use four wheels at the same time, you will often find them difficult to maneuver. It can be quite frustrating as a newbie and even as an expert.

If you are looking for speed which is a great advantage of these cars, probably you are running them on a paved surface. You need to be extremely careful if you do so.

I have seen many newbies crashing their 2WD cars because they are simply hard to maneuver. An experienced racer with knowledge of car control should not have a problem with these cars, but as a newbie, you should take extra care of your car. 

Not A Choice for Off-Road

I can’t remember the last time I saw someone buying a 2WD car for driving on off-road terrain. Remember these cars cannot use four wheels at the same time? That’s why it is so difficult to control when you are not running it on-road. 

2WD cars simply don’t have the grip to handle while in an off-road situation. If you want a car to drive on mud or heavy snow, please do not get a 2WD car, it’s not for you.

In the worst situations, it may develop some internal issues, even if you consider the crashes it will face. So these cars are not for off-road driving.

4WD RC Cars 

The 4WD cars are the opposite of 2WD. These cars are able to move all of the wheels at the same time. Therefore, the front and rear wheels of 4WD move from drive alongside. 

Pros of 4WD Cars

Choice of Beginners

Though I told you before those 2WD cars are a good choice for newbies, I also mentioned that they are hard to control. 4WD cars remove those limitations as these cars are extremely easy to control. 

If you want to know everything about the controls of an RC car, get a 4WD, it will cooperate with you by its various control options.

Can Be Driven Off-Road

4WD cars are your only choice if your target is to drive the car off-road. 4WD cars have a variety of choices for you if you want to drive your car on off-road terrain. 

If you are fond of stunts off-road, 4WD cars are going to help you in that too. It’s truly a choice for RC car hobbyists. 

Better Control

Control is probably the most acclaimed advantage of 4WD cars. For people like me who do not want to crash every now and then and have a tighter space to drive their cars, 4WD is the best choice for them. 

4WD cars never lose their grip, even at most challenging corners and tightest tracks. This superior handalability is also why I recommend newbies 4WD RC cars.  

Cons Of 4WD Cars

Expensive

4WD cars are more expensive than 2WD cars. They have a lot of components installed which increases the build cost. 

That causes the total cost and final price to increase when it comes to the consumer’s hand. It’s really not an option for you if you are on a tight budget. 

Easy chance of breaking down

In spite of its being costly, these cars break down really fast. I have mentioned a lot of times that 4WD cars include many components inside. 

These moving parts are the cause of the easy breakdown of the cars. Unfortunately, if you want to buy a 4WD car, you need to consider this con.

Electric or Nitro RC Cars – Which Is Better?

Another cause of confusion of the newbie RC car buyers are the nitro and the electric RC car variations. Honestly, both of the cars have their own advantages over the others, so you need to know everything before you can choose one. Let’s begin.

Electric Cars – Pros and Cons 

Electric cars are cheap, rechargeable battery-powered cars that run with almost no maintenance cost. They do not need engine tuning, run well if you want something indoors, quiet and silent.

These cars can be very fast with upgrades if you want to push them beyond their stock limits. 

Generally, electric cars come with plastic parts but you can upgrade with metal parts later that are high-performers and more durable.

You do not need to think about the costs as most of the parts are one-time investments and will last a long time. Achieving 60+mph with a custom upgraded electric car is a piece of cake.

Let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons of electric cars.

Pros of Electric Cars

  1. Cheap
  2. Clean
  3. Better for indoor use
  4. Requires less maintenance 
  5. Accelerates very fast
  6. Limited run times
  7. Quiet operation

Cons of Electric Cars

  1. Need to wait a long time for recharging the batteries
  2. Expensive brushless motors
  3. Requires a significant amount of upgrades for stableness

Nitro Cars – Pros and Cons 

These powerful remote-controlled cars are powered by fuel. Yes, you heard it right, they use fuel to run. If you are a competitive racer, the smell of fuel and the sound of an engine awakens you, nitro cars are the choice of yours.

However, these are also the cons of nitro cars, as you can’t run them inside. Who likes the smoke of fuel inside a house anyways?

Rechargeable batteries were a con of electric cars as they require a lot of time to recharge. Luckily nitro cars run using fuel, so you can just refuel them in less than a minute and get your favorite cars running.

Nevertheless, fuel cars need high maintenance, so do these nitro cars. Also, get ready to spend some bucks hiring a pit person to refuel your cars mid-race.

Don’t mind checking the pros and cons of nitro cars in a quick look.

Pros of Nitro Cars

  1. Sound of a real car
  2. Longer runtime
  3. Fast out of the box
  4. Smells good to some people

Cons of Nitro Cars

  1. Expensive
  2. Complex Build
  3. Requires high maintenance 
  4. Noisy
  5. Only for outdoors

How to Choose the Best RC Car for Yourself?

Now you know almost everything about a remote control car, it’s time to choose one. Let me help you a bit more on this topic.

I know you already made a choice in your mind if you came with me this long, some suggestions from me won’t hurt, will they?

Although it depends on the choice of the buyer, there are some common choices and recommendations for everyone.

If you are on a tight budget but want something to start, get a 2WD remote-controlled car. They are also perfect as a gift, so if you want an RC car for someone else, you can buy a 2WD car.

In case you are a heavy racer and want to explore every potential of a remote-controlled vehicle, buy a 4WD car.

A Nitro car is a choice for someone who is used to driving real cars. If your budget is high and you want high speed out of the box, get a nitro car.

Nevertheless, if you do not want to spend much at the starting point and want to upgrade later, electric cars are the best choice for you. Just make sure you actually make the upgrades you always wanted to do.

Beware of poor quality RC cars if you are on a budget. There are a lot of cars that are “on-sale” and cost less than 50$. Do not fall for them, they are toys and not for hobbyists.

If you want something good, you must expend the minimum. Remember to get the best one from the market that fits your budget and choice.

Final Verdict: Car and Electric For Me

Choosing the right RC car as your first one can be the deciding factor of whether or not you’ll be able to get into this hobby.

That’s why it’s important to know what are the different types of RC cars before making your choice. 

I hope that this detailed article was able to make you learn everything about RC cars so that you can choose the best car to fit your needs. Wish you very good luck.

Hobby Grade RC Car Options Available on Amazon

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: