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Buying an RC Car for the First Time – FAQ

The RC hobby is a gateway for millions of people from all over the world and one of the main reasons for that is because it includes a large range of vehicles to choose from. From RC race cars to off road remote car models, RC aeroplanes and boats, there’s something for everyone. If remote control cars have piqued your interest, or if you’re planning for the perfect gift for your kids, there are a couple of important questions you need to ask yourself to make sure you make the right choice. The first experience with an RC vehicle can make or break your interest in them, so it only makes sense that you want to get the right model.

Question #1 – Nitro or Electric Engine?

electric-powered RC car

You can choose between a nitro and electric powered RC vehicle. I recommend getting an electric-powered RC car or truck, for a couple of reasons: they’re quieter, more affordable, and require less maintenance than nitro-powered RC vehicles. However, if you want to get the authentic RC experience, then get a nitro vehicle. Nitro RC vehicles are the most popular choice amongst experienced hobbyists, and there are models that are aimed towards newer drivers. However, keep in mind that you can’t drive a nitro-powered RC vehicle in a poorly-ventilated area, as they release fumes that can be harmful. Plus, electric powered motors have significantly advanced in the past few years so the gap between nitro and electric RC vehicles is much closer.

Question #2 – Ready-to-Run or Kit?

Rc off road cars

This mostly comes down to personal preference. If you’re looking for an RC vehicle for yourself, and you’re handy with tools and just enjoy building things, you should get a kit. There are kits made specifically for beginners, and it can be quite rewarding knowing your RC vehicle works inside out. But if you just want a simple plug-and-play solution, then ready-to-run kits are the better choice. All you have to do is put in the batteries and you’re good to go. However, if you want a nitro powered RC vehicle, then you only have one option really – ready-to-run kits.

Question #3 – Off-Road or On-Road?

Off Road Car

Again, it comes down to personal preference. An off road remote car can be used both on and off the road, but they’re mainly designed for use on terrain that isn’t paved and smooth. But if you want a high-performing vehicle for the road, RC vehicles designed for smooth surfaces are the way to go. But while they’re faster, if you don’t use them how they’re meant to be used, you may damage them.

Narrowing Down Your Options

If you found the answer to the three questions above, you probably have a general idea of which direction you have to go. Still, there are many choices within each category, so you have to consider a couple of important factors.

For starters, always know how much you’re willing to spend. There are more expenses down the road than just buying the car. You might have to buy replacement parts every now and then, or you might decide you want to upgrade something. For most ready-to-run models, you may only need a few batteries and fuel. However, if you’re buying a kit, you’ll also need an entire radio system, battery, fuel, paint, a charger and other things depending on the kit you’re buying.


Next, consider what your local hobby shop sells. If you plan on buying online, you should know that every time you need to get a new part, you’ll have to wait a couple of days before it arrives. On top of this, you may find it beneficial talking to someone who knows their way around RC vehicles should you need help.

Then, you have to consider the scale of the model. RC vehicles are measured as a fraction relative to the real thing. So, for instance, a 1/8 RC vehicle is one-eight the length, height and width of the real truck or car it’s based on. The most popular scales are 1/8, 1/10 and 1/16. Keep in mind, the larger the model is, the more expensive it will be. Also, buying a more common scale usually means you’ll have access to more spare parts. This can be important if you’re planning on upgrading your RC vehicle.

And last but not least, if you plan on joining an RC hobby club, or if you plan on making this an activity with your friends, make sure you all get the same type of RC vehicle. If everyone has an off road RC truck, and you got an RC race car, you just won’t be able to have fun together. You might even want to consider getting similar models, so you all have vehicles of similar performance, so you get to make things more interesting.