How to Choose the Right RC Vehicle for You: A Buyer's Guide
When it comes to picking out the right remote control car for yourself or for a gift, the choices can be really overwhelming. Do you want electric or nitro, big or small - car, truck or truggy, etc. Ultimately what you pick will depend on what you want, and your level of expertise. To help you find the car to best suit you, we've compiled a buyer’s guide to give you some tips to find what you're looking for.
Which Grade – Hobby or Toy?
To start off with, you'll want to choose the grade of RC you'd like. There are only two types of RC grades: toy grade and hobby grade. Toy grade might be the right choice for young children but keep in mind that the inexpensive plastic models found at toy stores will be junk after the first few crashes.
If you or the person you're buying for is planning on getting a lot of use out of the car, you'll want a more expensive hobby-grade car. The benefit of going with a hobby-grade vehicle is that they’re constructed by professional manufacturers, offering nothing but the best quality, durability, performance and speed.
Ready-To-Run or Kit?
When shopping around, you’ll often see the term ‘RTR’. RTR stands for Ready-To-Run, which simply means that the RC vehicle is already pre-assembled, and ready to go right out of the box. A remote control car kit is an RC vehicle that hasn’t been assembled yet, so you get all the parts and instructions on how to build it delivered to your door. So sometimes you may see ‘HPI Savage X RTR’ and ‘HPI Savage X SS Kit’ – if you’re a newcomer, make sure the vehicle you’re getting is ‘RTR’. You'll save yourself the hassle of putting it together... unless you're really looking for a challenge.
Which Type? Sedan, Truck or Truggy
Next, if you've chosen to buy a hobby-grade car, you'll want to decide whether you want a car, truck or truggy. An RC car, commonly referred to as ‘Sedans’, are great for on-road operation – ripping around the cul-de-sac or on the track.
An RC truck or truggy are great for off-road operation. A Truggy is a mix between a buggy and a truck – having qualities of both types of vehicles. If you’re looking to race off-road, then think about going with a truggy or truck. Truggies generally offer better handling off-road, can handle huge jumps and bumpy terrain, as well as reach high speeds while doing so. RC trucks on the other hand can go just as fast, or faster than any truggy on the market - but also take harder beatings, and conquer even tougher and more rigid terrains.
Electric or Nitro?
If you're a more serious RC enthusiast, maybe interested in racing, you'll likely want to choose a nitro-powered vehicle, as they generally outperform electric vehicles in terms of speed. In addition, electric vehicles require down time for the battery to charge, so you’ll always want two or three spare batteries if you want a good solid day of racing (as well as a good quality battery charger). With nitro, you simply have to refill the tank, and one gallon of fuel equals hours of race time.
But, if you're new to the scene and don't want too much to handle, an electric will probably be a better bet. Motors for electric vehicles are generally cheaper, and with a good battery charger, you can be back on the track in no time.
A Look At Today’s Best Models
To further help you pick the best of the best, we've made a list of some of the top products from the top companies to give you some options. We'll keep it to RC cars and trucks, as they're the best type of vehicles to get for a beginner.
First off, we'll start with trucks, both nitro-powered and electric.
A nitro-powered monster truck with attitude, the Revo has a lower center of gravity – making it have great handling and perform extremely well in races (it has top speeds of about 55 mph). The Revo is now equipped with the new TRX 3.3 engine, creating a 60% increase in peak horsepower! Its durability also makes it a fun truck to bash and get big air with. It’s definitely recommended for a first time buyer since it comes equipped with an instructional DVD (and full-color manual) to help you break-in, tune, clean and maintain it. It's not cheap though, and rings in at almost $500 retail, but a great long-term investment.
Well known in the RC world for its extreme durability, this is the best model for you if you're interested in investing in something that can take a lot of beatings. The Savage X can run on pretty much any terrain and reach top speeds of 45mph, faster than you would drive a normal vehicle. The Savage X can take huge jumps and crush its competition with little repairs – there’s a lot of power behind it! It’s a ton of fun and definitely recommended for beginner bashers. The Savage X is nitro-powered, so it's a bit higher maintenance in terms of buying fuel, but comes with many different upgrades as well as instructions to help you with everything you need.
When it comes to electric trucks, the Rustler is great for newcomers to the RC scene, as are most electric-powered vehicles. Because they're lower maintenance, it's easier for newbies to get used to handling them without having to worry about fuel mixtures, etc. The Rustler is great at taking jumps, and is also durable enough to withstand the landings. However, the Rustler is slower than nitro-powered trucks, and has top speeds of 20-25 mph, which is about half of some of the top speeds of nitro-trucks. If you prefer, the Rustler is also available in nitro.
The RS4 is a great car, and is a fierce competitor on the track. It’s very customizable, as you can get different bodies (Dodge Viper, BMW, etc.) and great aftermarket parts/hop ups to make this sedan reach a level you never thought possible. It’s a definite ‘must have’ if you’re interested into getting into the RC hobby. However the RS4 is a more difficult car to learn to drive. If you're looking for a learning experience, and to become a talented RC racer, this will likely be a great choice for you. Another great customizable car like the RS4 is theTeam Associated Nitro TC3, both vehicles are great race winners.
One of the best nitro RTR cars out there, the Traxxas Nitro 4-Tec 3.3 is a great sedan and a top seller. Reaching speeds of 75mph right out of the box, the 4-Tec is better for the newer RC driver, as it is simpler to handle. It also has a far less expensive array of aftermarket parts to confuse and astound the buyer. It comes with an instructional DVD just like the Traxxas Revo, and is perfect for racing on the streets or at the track. You can also drift and do cool stunts with the nitro 4-tec, which is a great way to impress your friends.
If you're looking for a more low-maintenance car, the HPI Sprint 2 may be for you. It comes with the choice of 4 sleek bodies. It comes RTR so you won't have to put much effort into getting it out and having fun with it. It also comes with rubber bearings, which are preferred over metal or plastic bushings because they provide lower friction and faster speeds. All in all the Sprint 2 is a great electric car for a beginner.
So now that you have a better idea of some of the choices that are out there,and hopefully you are one step closer to picking the perfect RC vehicle to suit your style. If I were to recommend you a truck or car, I would suggest going with the Traxxas Revo 3.3 and the Traxxas Nitro 4-Tec 3.3 for newcomers. The above models are great, but they are also not the be and end all of choices out there. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, you should shop around a bit, and take your time, because hopefully this car or truck will be your introduction to a fun and exciting hobby.