Why RC Is So Expensive [ Hobby Guide For Newbies ]

by Josh | Last Updated:   4 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.

I personally love RC cars, and this is an old hobby of mine. But there is a con of having RC cars as a hobby. That is, RC cars are so expensive. It’s a common question for hobbyists, why are RC cars so expensive?

When I was a newbie, trust me, I had the same question in my mind. So, based on my experience and some research I would love to share with you what I know.

To last a long time they use durable and sturdy parts, this conversely makes RC Cars more expensive due to these high-quality components. With these parts being made as small, light, and durable this manufacturing need increases overall creation costs.

However, an expensive RC car is going to be a luxury one which is only meant for pro-level enthusiasts. If you just want an RC car to get involved with the hobby then there are plenty of cheap options out there.

And in this article, I will extensively talk about how you can start off with this hobby on the cheap.  

How Much Does a Good RC Car Cost?

For a hobbyist, an RC car is not going to be a cheap one. An RC car’s price can range from $100 to more than $1000. A toy car can be less than $50, but that’s not a choice of hobbyists. People like me want quality cars, not a cheap toy for kids out there.

Most hobbyists would like to upgrade their car from time to time. You can drive a car for a few hundred bucks, but driving and modding are different.

What makes an RC car so special is its modding ability. You definitely don’t want an RC car just for driving, do you?

Come on, hobbies are expensive. To be honest, I have seen people buying RC cars that cost even more than their original big car. If you want a good RC car, you must be ready to spend some bucks for it.

However, in the end, it depends on the user and the car he/she wants. There are some models that cost less than others, and they aren’t that bad.

Therefore you must check different types of RC cars before buying one for yourself. 

Factors Influencing the Price of RC Cars

The price of an RC car depends on a lot of stuff. Have a look at the following factors that affect the cost of an RC Car.

Electric or Nitro

I hope you heard about the power sources of RC cars. There are two sources from where the RC cars get their power. They are fuel and electricity.

An electric car costs way less than nitro cars in the first place. I personally prefer these cars because they have a lot of upgrade options.

Initially, electric cars cost less; thus, it’s good for beginning with an electric car. You can always upgrade and expend a lot on your car later and make it an expensive one. 

As these cars run with a rechargeable battery, there are fewer moving parts inside the cars. Therefore, they require fewer components and cost less than nitro cars.

Nitro cars are closer to a real car, just like the one you drive. These cars use a fuel-powered engine and cost more than an electric car. As nitro cars need to convert the fuel power to energy, it requires many components to move at the same time. As a result, these cars are expensive.

However, nitro cars break easily and cannot be upgraded like the electric ones. So think before you buy one.

Kit or Ready To Run

The ready-to-run cars (often abbreviated as RTR) costs less than car kits. For an RC car expert, buying a kit is a more attractive choice than a ready-to-run car.

A DIY RTR car is so fun to make, and it’s fully customizable. You can attach the parts you want to use and ditch the ones you don’t like.

In addition to the cost of the kit, you need some tools for assembling the parts. However, they are long-term investments.

Once you buy the tools for assembling, you don’t need to buy them again. Here’s a list of the tools you’ll need for building an RC car using parts from a car kit.

  •  Electric screwdriver
  • Bits and bobs
  • Heat gun
  • Soldering iron
  • Hex wrench (with ball end)
  • Flush cutters
  • Bits for electric screwdriver
  • Body reamer
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • X-Acto Knife

In my very personal opinion, the DIY kits are better than ready-to-run cars. But if you are new to this hobby, these kits might not be your choice as it’s not easy to assemble a car without previous experience.

Costly Parts

For keeping an RC car up to date, you need to upgrade it regularly. As I said before, an electric car is very much upgradable, but the parts are costly. An RC car is not only expensive, but also the upgradable parts are costly too.

Some parts require to be upgraded as a part of the maintenance cost. Even for an actual car, you do some regular maintenance, right? To keep the car running, you need to spend on an RC car too.

Remember, no matter what kind of car you use, you need to buy the tools used for building a DIY car. Even if you want to upgrade your RTR car, those tools are required.

So that expense is going to be added to the total budget here. I gave a list of the tools before, now here is a list of the parts that need to be upgraded on a regular basis.

  • Speed controls
  • Tires and wheels
  • Bodies
  • Motor
  • Radio systems
  • Spur gears
  • Batteries
  • Fuels
  • Exhaust pipes
  • Pinions
  • Servos
  • Glow plugs

For an RC car that runs using fuel (or nitro cars), the regular maintenance cost is higher. If you are using an electric car, regular maintenance is not going to be an issue for you, and you can easily focus on the upgrades.

The Size of a Car

Yes, size does matter, at least for an RC car. As the size of the RC cars is directly compared to the real car, their sizes come in ratios. The bigger the car, the more expensive the car becomes.

A larger car will take more space for shipping and storing, so the price makes sense. Bigger and better parts are required to produce a larger car. Therefore a 1:8 car being more expensive than a 1:16 model is not surprising.

As manufacturing a bigger car costs more than a smaller car, the final price for the consumer is increased too.

Additional Racing Cost

I know a lot of people will not count this in the total costs of an RC car. In my opinion, it’s important to include additional cost in the expensiveness of RC cars. 

When you are buying an RC car, you don’t want to keep it just for decoration, right? You want to race and see your cars on the track. To do that, you need to spend more than buying the car. Let’s see where your extra cost goes to.

Entry fees: Most of the renowned races of RC cars require an entry fee to participate. Even if you are racing in a club, you need to pay the admission fee of that club.

Travel expenses: This is not a cost for everyone, but if your racing track is not near your home, you need to expend more for traveling. Consider hotel accommodation fees too if you need to stay some days.

How to Get an RC Car Within Your Budget?

Now you know how much do RC cars cost, and why they are so expensive. But it is also possible to get one without breaking your bank.

In fact, you can definitely buy something decent under $200 if you are smart. Here are some tips to getting a good RC car within budget.

Get A Used Model

Probably the most common practice for saving money is buying a used model. As long as the car does not have any physical damage, it should be ok to get a used RC car for yourself.

You can go to the enthusiast forums online or eBay for used RC Cars. When I was a newbie, I bought one from eBay, and I don’t regret it.

So, don’t hesitate and get a used RC car; just make sure that it is not damaged.

Buy During A Holiday Season

You must have heard of Black Friday, right? During Black Friday and Christmas, most of the manufacturers of RC cars sell products at a lower price.

You can even get a Traxxas or maybe an ECX for incredible deals during this time. Therefore wait for a better deal and save your money. You will surely get a worthy product.

Get an RC Car That Utilizes A Brushed Electric Motor

There are two types of electric motors available in an electric car. The first one is brushed, and the other one is brushless.

Both have their own pros and cons, but the brushed ones are less expensive. Obviously, the brushless motors are faster, but they are expensive, and you are on a budget.

So you can buy an RC car with a brushed motor for now and get a better one later.

Best Affordable RC Cars for Beginners

Although most of the RC cars are expensive, there are some decent RC cars available for beginners. Let me introduce you with a few best RC cars available in the market.

Traxxas Slash

Generally, I don’t recommend many 4WD RC cars in my articles, but this is an exception. This car has a wonderful combination of durability, reliability, and performance that no one would want to miss.

For a beginner, this car is a fantastic choice with an affordable price tag. Here are the specifications of the Traxxas Slash.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 2.99 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 22.36 x 11.65 x 8.42 inches
  • Type: Short course truck
  • Radio: 2.4GHz

Features:

Durability: Getting a budget car with durability is rare. Thankfully the Traxxas Slash is able to provide the durability you will want in an off-road truck. Flip it, crash it, fly it from high, make an air jump and do stunts as much as you can. Your car will handle all of them.

Suspension: For the budget segment, this truck has one of the best suspensions available. It can handle bumps and impacts easily without affecting performance a bit. Traxxas is not known for the suspensions they provide with their car, but this car is really different.

Powerful Motor: The Traxxas Slash has a Titan 12 Turn 550 motor, which provides great value for money. This motor is easy to modify and tune and easily reaches the speed of 25KPH. That’s more than anything you can think of getting at this price.

Pros

  • Durable build
  • Upgradable parts
  • Powerful Motor
  • Enhanced Suspension
  • Waterproof body

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with metal gear steering servos
  • Takes long for full charge
Buy on Amazon

Redcat Blackout

I don’t know why this car is so underrated, but it’s really a good opponent for any other cheap products out there.

Although it is slower than the Traxxas Slash, it’s also a cheaper model. When you look at the price, you can’t really complain about this car’s speed.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 8 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 17.5 x 11 x 5.5 inches
  • Scale: 1:10
  • Radio: 2.4GHz

Features:

Durability: While talking about this car, there is something no one will question about. That is the durability, ruggedness, and reliability. The Redcat Blackout absorbs impacts and bumps very well, so your children can pressurize this model too.

High-power Battery: Do you really expect a 3000mAh battery at a budget segment? I guess not. But the Redcat Blackout is providing a 7.2v 3000mAh battery that is able to power up your car for more than 150 minutes. Although this model is a bit old, I was surprised to see that much battery power in a budget car.

Pros

  • Rugged body
  • Reinforced bumpers
  • Durable chassis
  • Powerful battery
  • Waterproof build

Cons

  • Slow charging
  • Slow speed
Buy on Amazon

ECX Circuit

Looking for a speedy RC car in your budget? I can’t but talk about the ECX Circuit. I have never seen such a powerful, fast RC car other than this one on a limited budget.

Although ECX is known for premium products, the ECX Circuit is a budget one with a lot of features.

Specifications:

  • Type: 2WD RC Truck
  • Dimension: 22.8 x 13.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Weight: 7.7 pounds
  • Scale: 1:10

Features:

Better Handling: The weakest part of a 2WD car is handling, which is why I do not recommend buying them. But I can’t tell the same about the ECX Circuit. Its handling is even better than a $500 truck and the best you can get at the budget point. 

Awesome build quality: Build quality matters even you are buying something in a budget segment. The build quality of ECX Circuit is better than most of the cheap Chinese products you will get in the market right now. Good value for the price; that’s all I can say about the build quality of ECX Circuit.

Pros:

  • Pinpoint handling
  • Good build quality
  • Value for money

Cons:

  • Not good for upgrading
  • A bit slow
  • Not mod friendly

Check the latest price here

Exceed Hyper Speed

Ever thought of getting a nitro car in the budget segment? I know you didn’t. But here is a budget hi-speed nitro car that I couldn’t resist myself from mentioning. It’s the Exceed Hyper Speed Nitro RC Car.

The hyper-speed is known for providing a solution to electric car users who want to move to the world of nitro. It’s fast and does not need any upgrades to provide the best experience to the user. Get ready to race with the smell of fuel.

Specifications:

  • Type: Nitro RTR RC Car
  • Power: 75 cc
  • Average speed: 55+mph
  • Scale: 1:10

Features:

Value for money: Are you seriously thinking that this is not a value-for-money car? No one else is providing a gas-driven RC car at the minimum budget. Personally, if I were in your shoes, I would definitely buy this one as my first nitro car. It is worth it.

Fully upgradable: The problem with most of the nitro cars is they cannot be upgraded easily. But with the Exceed hyper-speed, modding and upgrading are not an issue. It’s a well-known car for experienced modders for it’s extremely modding ability.

Pros:

  • Upgrade options
  • Gas-driven
  • High speed
  • Powerful engine

Cons:

  • A bit expensive
  • Older model
  • Requires some tools to set up
Buy on Amazon

Final Verdict on Why RC Cars Are so Expensive

Remote-controlled or radio-controlled cars are a favorite hobby for a lot of people, including myself. But the community often finds these cars too expensive to afford. 

However, after reading this article, you know why are RC cars so expensive and that expensive cars are not the only options available. You can get a decent car on a budget. And I hope that after reading this article you now know how to do that.