Driving a remote control car combines the thrill of video game racing with a real-world environment. From track cars and drift missiles to monster trucks and off-roaders, there’s something for everyone. And like real racing, it’s easy to get hooked. Before you know it, you’re going down the rabbit hole of part upgrades and searching for more powerful batteries, better tires, or even a new car.
Fortunately, RC cars cost a small fraction of what you’d pay for a real race car or even a high-end computer gaming setup. But like with a real race car, performance costs money, and it can be hard to know where to start. There are plenty of RC cars to choose from, but the selection and range of prices can be overwhelming. That’s why in this guide we’ll cover what to consider when buying an RC car and recommendations for the best remote control cars to help you get in on the fun.
— Best Overall: Traxxas Rustler XL-5
— Best for Kids: Orrente Stunt RC Car
— Best Budget: Bezgar 17 RC
— Best Drift Car: Redcat Racing Lightning EPX Drift
— Best Off-Road: Redcat Racing Volcano EPX
— Best Built-for-Speed: Traxxas Rustler 4x4 VXL
How We Picked These Products
To select the RC cars on this list, we researched the leading brands and compared the specs on specific models. Experience also factors into this mix, as well as an evaluation of each model based on four things:
Performance: Speed is important, but so are handling and battery power. Handling covers how well the car responds to inputs as well as how well the controller works in terms of range and accuracy. Battery power includes output and, more importantly, how long you can go on a charge.
Durability: Will the car hold up to abuse? Is it well made, and can it be repaired? The answers to those questions will determine if an RC car is worth repairing or a disposable toy.
Scale: RC cars are built to scale or a fraction of what a full-sized version of the car would be. For example, an RC car built to 1/10 scale is one tenth the size of a full-sized car, or 10 times smaller than what a full-sized car would be. The most common sizes for RC cars are 1/8 or 1/10 scale.
Value: We compared the features and quality of the cars against their cost. RC cars with equal or better features at a lower cost scored better than cars with the same level of features that cost more money. For the more expensive cars, we included upgradability in our evaluation.
Best Remote Control Cars: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Traxxas Rustler XL-5
Why It Made The Cut: Offering speed and all-around capability at a good price, the Traxxas Rustler XL-5 is the best remote control car for most people, making it the top pick.
— Scale: 1/10
— Top Speed: 35 mph
— Car Battery: 8.4V 3000mAh
— Versatile with all-terrain performance
— Easy setup and use
— Sealed electrics
— Limited battery performance
Occupying the top spot on the list is the Traxxas Rustler XL-5. It offers an ideal combination of features at a reasonable price. With hallmarks of more expensive models like sealed electronics and thermal shutdown protection, it makes a great mid-level car. Best of all, it’s reasonably fast and fun to operate, and it offers a good mix of on and off-road performance.
The Rustler XL-5 comes almost fully assembled and is easy to set up right out of the box. Equipped with a NiMH rechargeable battery, it’s capable of reaching speeds of 35 mph but lasts only 15 minutes per charge. Fortunately, the battery is easy to upgrade, as are a variety of other features on the car, with parts available from Traxxas. And the vehicle is tough, with good ground clearance to power through obstacles.
Combining a steering wheel and trigger throttle, the Rustler XL-5 offers precision control. The throttle has three settings, allowing a novice the opportunity to get comfortable with the setup. The large tires offer great traction and make it easy to pop wheelies. As RC cars go, it doesn’t stand out in any one category, but it’s a great all-around option that will provide enough performance for most people.
Best for Kids: Orrente Stunt RC Car
Why It Made The Cut: The Orrente Stunt car is ideal for kids ages 6–12 or kids at heart who want a durable stunt car that can do tricks and handle indoor and outdoor terrain.
— Scale: 1/24
— Top Speed: 4 mph
— Car Battery: 3.7V 500 mAh
— Fun to use
— Easy to operate controls
— Good for indoor and outdoor use
— Limited battery performance
— Not upgradable
Kids are hard on toys and lose interest in them quickly. For these reasons, spending several hundred dollars on an RC car is usually a bad idea. Fortunately, Orrente provides a great choice for kids or anyone who wants a car that does stunts. Not only does this car cost a fraction of an entry-level RC car, but its big tires offer great protection for the car and anything it crashes into.
The controls will be easy to master for kids ages 6 and 12 and use two sticks to manage each side of the car. Once you get the hang of it, you can make the Orrente Stunt car spin, flip, and navigate all kinds of terrain.
Unfortunately, like many kids’ toys, the batteries wear out quickly, but they are rechargeable. The car is also not upgradable. But if you or your kids decide to stick with the RC hobby, you can always go for the Bezgar or another comparable car for not much more money.
Best Budget: Bezgar 17 RC
Why It Made The Cut: Whether you’re looking for a high-end toy or an entry point into the world of RC cars, the Bezgar 17 is a good choice for a great price.
— Scale: 1/14
— Top Speed: 12 mph
— Car Battery: 6V 800 mAh
— Great price
— Lots of details and features
— Durable aluminum body
— Low top speed
— Struggles with off-road terrain
It’s surprising how many features and details the Bezgar 17 has, considering its low price: working roll-bar headlights, a spare tire mounted on the back, and a solid aluminum body. It makes a nice upgrade from the Orrente Stunt car or a good option for an older child.
Battery power is decent, offering about 25 to 30 minutes on a charge, but the 12 mph top speed is a bit low compared with other cars. It also struggles with off-road terrain, getting bogged down either because of the low speed or two-wheel drive.
But it’s hard to argue with the price. For less than fifty dollars, the Bezgar 17 sits at a point where it’s either a great high-end toy or a good entry-level option into the world of more serious RC cars.
Best Drift Car: Redcat Racing Lightning EPX Drift
Why It Made The Cut: If drifting is your favorite part of driving an RC car, the Redcat Racing Lightning EPX will keep you thoroughly entertained and sliding sideways around any track.
— Scale: 1/10
— Top Speed: 15 mph
— Car Battery: 7.2V 2000 mAh
— Easy to drift and slide around
— Durable with good quality components
— Reasonable price
— Low top speed
— Short 15-minute battery life
If you love the sport of drifting or just want an RC car to slide around, the Redcat Racing Lightning EPX is the best choice. It was specifically designed for sliding and going sideways and comes with low-grip rear tires. You could spend hours practicing spins, slides, and drifting around a parking lot or playground.
Unfortunately, the fun lasts only 15 minutes before the batteries need to be recharged. It’s also slower than expected, with a top speed of 15 mph. Considering there are cars that top out at over 70 mph, I was expecting a bit more speed.
There’s a saying that “it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow,” which applies to a lot of cars I’ve driven over the years. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t apply to RC cars as well. It certainly does in the Lightning’s case.
Best Off-Road: Redcat Racing Volcano EPX
Why It Made The Cut: Combining serious off-road capability, upgradability, and a reasonable price, the Redcat Racing Volcano EPX is the top choice in RC off-roaders.
— Scale: 1/10
— Top Speed: 19 mph
— Car Battery: 7.2V 2000 mAh
— Fast and stable over uneven terrain
— Solid and durable with waterproof construction
— Great ground clearance
— Not that fast
— Battery life could be longer
The further you get into RC cars, the more you start to realize one car won’t cut it. You’ll want one car to tear around on the pavement and a separate car for off-roading. Looking at the Redcat Racing Volcano EPX, you’ll see why this is true. It’s one tough truck with serious ground clearance, chunky tires, and a steel front plate.
The wide track and steep approach angle give it the ability to climb obstacles and steep hills. Rocks, branches, high grass, and other impediments don’t stand a chance. The suspension is compliant and controlled to cover uneven terrain at full speed.
The rechargeable NiMH battery provides good power but could last longer. Some people have upgraded the battery pack with good results. Priced as an entry-level off-roader, Redcat offers a wide array of upgrades, making the Volcano EPX hard to beat.
Best Built-for-Speed: Traxxas Rustler 4x4 VXL
Why It Made The Cut: If you have a need for speed, the Traxxas Rustler delivers with a blazing-fast top speed over any kind of terrain.
— Scale: 1/10
— Top Speed: 65 mph
— Car Battery: Not included
— Blazingly fast on pavement
— Good off-road performance
— Rollover protection and self-righting feature
— Battery not included
If you’re looking for a speed demon, the Traxxas Rustler is a monster. Four-wheel drive and large Talon EXT wheels provide lots of grip for all types of terrain. It’s also got a wide track, making it extremely stable. And if it flips over, the controller has a self-righting feature to remotely flip the car upright.
The clipless body provides easy, one-handed removal for easy access to the internal components. This makes upgrades and repairs a snap. Mechanically the Rustler is equipped with the Traxxas’s Velineon 3S power system, which delivers a potent combination of efficiency, speed, and run-time, along with refined control.
The Rustler does not come with a battery, which is a negative at this price point but that allows you to pick from different options. A 7-cell NiMH battery provides a top speed of 35 mph. However, if buy a lithium-ion polymer or LiPo battery, you’ll see speeds up to 65 mph out of this racer.
The difference between NiMH and LiPo batteries are their chemical makeup and energy density. LiPo batteries are more expensive but have a higher energy density which makes them more powerful and longer lasting than NiMH batteries. This article provides a more detailed explanation of the battery differences.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Remote Control Car
Experienced RC-car enthusiasts have their favorite brands and preferred setups. They know what they want and where to look. But if you’re just starting out or are looking to upgrade, it can be hard to tell what’s important. Here are some things to keep in mind:
It doesn’t matter if you’re racing on a road course or powering through an obstacle; speed is the one thing everyone wants. Most RC cars reach speeds of 10 to 20 miles per hour (mph), but some will exceed 30 mph or reach speeds as high as 60–70 mph. The main factors that determine speed are weight, battery output, motor power, and tires. On intermediate and top-level RC cars, upgrades can improve power, boost tire performance, and reduce weight. With entry-level and lower-end cars, your options tend to be more limited.
Handling is more important than outright speed. A better-handling car is easier to control and easier to drive fast without spinning out or rolling over. Like speed and power, handling can be upgraded on all but the most basic, entry-level cars. Tires play a big part in handling, but you can also upgrade your RC car’s suspension.
The RC controller also plays a critical role in handling. The range, speed, and accuracy of the controller determine how quickly and precisely your car responds to your inputs. You can also upgrade your controller, including the transmitter and receiver, on most good-quality cars.
RC cars take a beating. They perform jumps and wheelies, spin out and crash. Parts break, batteries wear out, etc. At some point, you’re going to be stuck with an inoperable car and a choice to repair it or buy a new one. Any car can be repaired, but if you paid less than $50 for it, it may not be worth the effort. Cars above $100 can be fixed and even upgraded, but you need to think about two things:
The first thing to consider is durability. More expensive RC cars are usually made of heavy-duty plastic and metal and are built to handle crashes, rollovers, and other abuse. That doesn’t mean they won’t break, but it does mean they will last longer.
The second thing to think about is how easy the car is to repair. A good RC car is made to be worked on, so you can swap out parts and even whole car bodies as needed.
Q: How much do remote control cars cost?
A kids’ toy RC car costs around $25. A good basic RC car for older kids and adults starts at around $50. Good entry-level RC cars for the hobbyist start at around $150 to $250, while higher-end cars range from $300 to $500.
Q: How do RC cars work?
RC cars use a radio transmitter for control. When you make inputs on the car’s controller, it transmits a radio signal to the car. The car has a built-in receiver that translates that signal into a specific action. Most controllers use a frequency in the 2.4 GHz range with unique transmitter IDs, so they don’t get jammed by other RC controllers, and have a range of about 200 feet.
Q: How fast can remote control cars go?
Most cars top out at under 20 mph, but higher-end cars can average speeds of 30 to 50 mph. Upgrading the battery, motor, and transmission can boost top speeds into the range of 70 mph or more.
Q: Can I control my RC car with my phone?
Some newer cars have the option of being controlled by an Android or iOS device. You can also retrofit this capability into an older car. The downside is most phones use Bluetooth instead of a radio frequency, which limits the range to 50 feet or less.
Any of the cars on this list of the best remote control cars will provide you with lots of enjoyment. It really comes down to how serious you are about RC cars and how much you want to spend. The Traxxas Rustler XL-5 is a great midlevel option if you want a car that offers good performance over a variety of terrain and can be readily upgraded. If you’re looking to dip your toe in the water or want a good car for an older child, it’s hard to beat the Bezgar 17 RC. Finally, if you’re looking for a car to fulfill a specific role, check out one of the others on our list, or the Traxxas Rustler 4x4 VXL which combines speed and all-terrain capability in one package.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.