We here at Roadshow love cars, which I hope would be obvious by now, but for most of us, our love of cars predates our ability to actually drive them. So how did we get our automotive kicks as kids? Many of us were hooked on radio-controlled cars, and some of us have never stopped loving them.
There are a wide variety of remote-controlled cars on the market today. There are many remote control cars that can be raced on the road. These include gas-powered and battery-electric, two-wheel drive monster trucks and buggies, monster trucks and drift cars, and rock crawlers with portal axles and locking differentials. For those who are more artistic and imaginative, Tamiya offers a wide range of wild creations. This is before we even get to the vehicle’s scale and size.
It can be daunting to get into remote control cars, but we are here to help. So strap in, charge your radios, and get ready for these radio-controlled cars. There are a variety of picks, from a fast toy car to a rugged terrain rock crawler.
Kind of like real cars, RC cars are specialized. On-road touring vehicles are low and fast, while rock crawlers can climb almost any height. The Traxxas Maxix is somewhere in between these extremes. The Traxxas Maxx is a monster truck that has large tires and shock absorbers for off-road driving. It also has tons more power than other monster trucks and is lower to the ground, making it more fun off-road.
The Maxx, like all Traxxas radio control toy vehicles is sold ready for you to drive. The Maxx comes fully assembled, with everything you need to get it started. This is a great all-around RC vehicle. While you won’t win any races with it you will have plenty to jump it over. That’s even more fun.
Like our first place truck, the Team Losi Mini B RC buggy comes ready to run and focuses on fun rather than on outright performance, but unlike the Maxx, the Mini B does it in a small, portable remote-controlled car package.
The Mini B is also ready to go, with a battery included, and costs only $160. It can be easily packed in a backpack and taken to the park or backyard of a friend to enjoy speed and style without worrying about damaging a more expensive battery-powered RC vehicle.
Remote control cars are often thought of as being for kids, but with as much as some of these things cost, I’d be nervous about handing the controller over to an eight-year-old. Feiyue FY-15 1/20-scale RC truck is a great solution.
It’s a bargain at just $100. You can also buy it ready-to-run, so you only need to charge the battery pack and get on your way. It’s also not super fast, with speeds topping out around 7 mph, and all-wheel drive means it should be easier to control even for kids unused to driving radio-controlled vehicles. It should be fun off-road as well as on, just like many of our other remote-controlled car picks.
Like the FY-15, the Traxxas Rustler should prove a perfect first or second RC car for kids. This battery-powered, toy buggy is made from tough reinforced plastic so it shouldn’t break. Traxxas provides spare parts to repair it if it does break. It is 1/10 scale, so it looks more like the expensive remote control cars. The electric car is also ready to run.
You can choose from either a two-wheel or four wheel drive Rustler. This makes it easy for your child to jump from a Rustler into a more advanced stadium truck if they decide to take up off-road RC racing.
Sometimes you want to get a remote control car that you can drive anywhere — even in the house — and you don’t want to go crazy spending tons of money on it. You have the Kyosho mini Z. These battery-powered, tiny dudes come pre-run and have some of most impressive, detailed and robust bodies. There is also a wide range of other vehicles, including race cars, 4×4 trucks, and everything in between.
The Mini Z is, like you might expect it, very small (1/27 scale), which makes it easy and fun to set up indoor tracks, and race against other people even in bad weather. The batteries last a very long time, and unlike other RC car batteries which use lithium-ion battery, the Mini Z uses AAA batteries. I challenge you to have more fun with RC cars for as low as $200
A lot of the RC cars and trucks on our list are geared towards maximum fun, rather than outright speed. The Mugen Seiki MTX7, however, is a different kind of car. It’s powered with a tiny combustion engine that makes it not only super-fast, but also sounds great. The MTX7 chassis is made of exotic materials like carbon fibre and has been designed to accelerate on pavement.
All this excellence comes at a cost. In this instance, the price is just shy $1,000. Roadshow staff have all owned full-size cars for less than $1,000, but none of them performed as well as the MTX7. The Mugen Seiki nitro car will require you to purchase your own radio, servos and receivers. This is unlike most of the other battery cars.
Drifting is huge. It’s thrilling to watch, but it’s difficult to do well. What was once a sport made up of cheap and disposable cars has become prohibitively expensive. The RC community has stepped up to the rescue by offering purpose-built RC cars such as the RMX 2.0 S from MST.
The RC drift cars have hard plastic tires, a wide steering angle, and can be rear- or all-wheel driven. The best thing about RC drift cars is that you don’t have have to worry about replacing bumpers or quarter panels if you lose control. Even if your RC car has to be replaced, it won’t cost a lot. It’s a win-win situation.
RC rock crawling, like RC drifting, has gained popularity in recent years and we’re at a point now where crazy capable and realistic-looking remote control rock crawlers are available ready-to-run from companies like Traxxas.
The TRX-4 remote control crawler has the most advanced features and is among the most popular. It has a locking front, rear differentials, and robust portal axles that look just like a GWagen. There are many cool-looking options for the chassis. We are particularly fond of the Land Rover Defender. The TRX-4 is a very popular model. There’s a lot of aftermarket so you can customize your truck to fit your needs.
Team Associated has been around for decades and its RC10 series of remote control off-road racing vehicles have become legendary over that time for being super fast and robust. A healthy aftermarket of hop up parts makes this a dirt-jumping and race-winning battery-electric truck.
This is a serious RC truck, but it’s not expensive. The basic RC10T6 can be purchased in kit form for $350. You will then need to add your own radio or electronics. These RC10T6s are a popular choice at your local RC track. They work.
Back in the early aughts, Traxxas came out with the original T-Maxx nitro-powered RC monster truck. It was huge with a massive drivetrain, large tires, and a plush suspension. It was also very fast and a lot of fun to use in parks and backyards. The T-Maxx is still made by Traxxas in 2021, but it has seen many revisions over the years.
The T-Maxx 3.3 can be run without fuel, which is amazing. It’s also highly-tech, as you can download the Traxxas application and the truck’s electronics with your device will communicate wirelessly with it. You can view telemetry and fine tune a lot of parameters. The T-Maxx-3.3 has a two-speed, forward-only transmission and metal gears. It should take a lot of abuse, as well as the truck’s drivetrain.
Tamiya is arguably the best-known name in remote control toys and while its products span the range from kids toys to detailed working models of tanks and semi-trucks, it also produces some seriously competitive touring cars. The TA07RR is a perfect example of such a vehicle.
Although the TA07RR is only available as a kit it offers some serious performance benefits such as carbon fiber construction, belt driven four-wheel drive, and metal shocks. Although you will need to bring your electronics and body to the party as with most kits, you will be rewarded by a 1/10-scale RC race car that is comparable to full-size vehicles.
Comparison of the best RC cars for 2021
ModelPowerRTR or kitPriceBest RC car overallTraxxas MaxxElectricReady to run$647Best RC car overall runner-upTeam Losi Mini B 1/16 scale buggyElectricReady to run$160Best RC car for kidsFeiyue FY-15ElectricReady to run$107Best RC car for kids runner-upTraxxas Rustler 2WDElectricReady to run$230Best cheap RC carKyosho Mini-ZElectricReady to run$210Best RC car if money is no objectMugen Seiki MTX7NitroKit$950Best RC car for driftingMST RMX 2.0 SElectricKit$225Best RC car for rock crawlingTraxxas TRX-4ElectricReady to run$589Best off-road RC carTeam Associated RC10T6ElectricKit$360Best RC monster truckTraxxas T-Maxx 3.3NitroReady to run$569Best RC car for speedTamiya TA07RR touring carElectricKit$523
Living the RC car life
Radio-controlled cars is one of those hobbies that can take you from a cheap and fun car like the Kyosho Mini Z all the way to bank-breaking, high-speed, competitive racing with plenty of stops in-between. It’s fun for kids and adults and it’s a great way of teaching kids some of the technical aspects of working on cars. RC cars are a great alternative for watching too many British police procedurals on TV, given how much time we have been spending at home.
Find your local hobby shop if you are interested in RC cars. These shops are usually staffed with people who have been involved in this hobby for many years and will be happy to share their knowledge with anyone just starting out. The next step is to find the hobby that interests you and then dive in. You can’t go wrong if you don’t want to do this.
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