Last updated: July 2023
What Are the Best RC Cars?
You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for the best RC cars currently available. If you simply want to browse different models, click through the categories on homepage. We have a growing library of articles and videos. Also, there’s a list of our best-of-category picks further down in this article.
This is a long one, but if you have the time to read along, we have a few goals to help you in your journey:
- To help you get a feel for what’s current in the hobby.
- To help you work out what you want from RC.
- To give you some direction on making a shortlist and making a choice.
Whatever you’re into, there’s never been a better time to get into RC cars. Choice and variety are abundant – how exciting! We’re looking to set you on the right path from the start. Want to find the best RC car for you? Let’s get to it!
Trust & Marketing
First, a quick note about us: RC-TNT is a hobbyist content creator with a focus on fun. We love the tech specs and the comparisons as much as you do, but having fun is the number one priority! We’re not a shopping site. We do have some sales affiliate links in this article, primarily with our favourite international hobby store, AsiaTees.com (aka. ATees). We’ve been buying from them for years, long before RC-TNT ever existed.
It’s a thrill to be able to partner with ATees now for some great picks, though we’ll also have vehicles from other places below. However, as with all our articles and videos, any affiliate links or marketing does not and will never influence our recommendations to you. Integrity matters and you’ll find that here. We don’t do cheap, mass-produced click-bait articles with long lists of Amazon marketing links. Everything here is written and filmed by hobbyists, for hobbyists – just the way it should be!
State of the Art
You may be pleasantly surprised at the price to performance of RC models these days, especially if you have never investigated the world of RC before. Electronics are small, reliable, and often waterproof. Detailed plastic manufacturing is now very good, as is the quality and availability of CNC aluminum parts. Gears are wonderfully strong, and axles don’t break often. Even on cheaper models, parts are tougher and smoother than ever before.
Then there’s power: motors are incredibly good these days. Brushed motors (the old electric style) are still cheap and plentiful, but newer brushless motors are making their way into cheaper models. Brushless is high-efficiency and big on power output and it’s a wonderous thing.
The loud engines that used to be common in RC models (that’s nitro) is still a thing, but it’s become niche. If nitro is what you like, there’s still plenty of choice. However, brushless power is where the ultimate performance is found.
Batteries are a whole new thing these days, also. We recently reviewed a great all-rounder battery that would suit many RC cars, the Ovonic 2S 100C LiPO (Lithium-Polymer; see our article for more on batteries). There’s choice for days, whether you’re into RC trucks, heavy machinery (including real hydraulics!), RC crawlers, drift cars, high-speed racers, off-road buggies, epic stunt trucks, large scale bashers and sand blasting Baja rigs.
The older NiMH rechargeable batteries are still common, while NiCAD has been made largely obsolete by LiPO. Many RTR (Ready To Run) models come with a basic NiMH battery and charger, whilst performance and runtime gains are usually found in switching to LiPO. Our article here is a decent primer on modern batteries.
What Do YOU Want?
So, there’s choice galore. But where to start? Having walked this path, my advice is to begin with considering what you want to experience from the hobby. Many vehicles can scratch an itch, whether its conquering rock problems with a crawler or setting high-speed, straight-line drag records. But many find they value the feeling that comes from these pursuits. It’s what people end up chasing and where personal satisfaction and fulfillment can be found. Then, sharing it with others often focuses and enhances that satisfaction, leading to a deeper appreciation of the hobby. Sound enticing?
Some things to consider with location and experience:
- Do you know of tracks or other promising local areas that may inform your choice of model?
- Are you looking for plain old fun wherever you can find it, blasting something around a bumpy bike track, on gravel and over home-made jumps?
- Do you want to run something at high speed, on or off-road? Are there areas nearby for that?
Some like the idea of competition and working to make a name for themselves. If you’re into scale realism or getting epic air at the skate park, again, there are niches in RC that will be perfect for you. (Side note, watch this recent video for feel of driving on bitumen, dirt, jumps, trails, water and rocks. It’s worth a watch as a primer to RC, different terrain and modern batteries).
One last important consideration is the social element: who else runs RCs near you? Are there clubs you want to check out? Do you have a friend or two who socially drive regularly that you want to join? The social element of RC is a huge draw, and we recommend social drives and events as a benefit to your mental health and general wellbeing. Find more on that topic and RC crawling in particular in this article.
Sorting Through It All
At this point you may have a few ideas of what you want to try. We haven’t discussed budget yet, but some vehicles cost vastly more than others. As a quick primer, ‘cheap’ RC cars that are still somewhat hobby-grade will be obtainable for $50 to $130 (all prices in this article are in USD). Various things will influence the price, from level of preparation required to run the model, to its performance, complexity, and size. High-end, larger-scale vehicles can cost up to around $1,000.
Specialist, niche models can get quite expensive, even up to many thousands of dollars. There are nearly endless ways to niche-down on a vehicle type, but big money is definitely not a pre-requisite for enjoying RC cars. Broadly speaking, quality hobby-grade 1/10 and 1/8 RC vehicles will cost roughly $200 to $600. There are many exceptions, this is just a general idea.
If you know that you just want to have some fun, we suggest you get something that can run off-road and take a tumble. We’ll call this the ‘Yard & Park Fun’ category, and you can find this at the top of the shortlist, further down this page.
But what if you’ve followed along so far but are still completely unsure what you want? If you still have questions beyond simply, “What’s fun?”, then read on! We’ll help you work it out!
Budgets Aren’t Just For Money
So far, we’ve considered where and how you might run an RC car. Off-road, on-road, drift, gravel, jumps, stunts, yard and parks, skate park, rocks, and rivers. You’ve thought about what you want to get out of the hobby and perhaps you have a setting in mind. Great start!
However, there are a few other factors to consider before we’re ready to make a shortlist – you want to get this right, after all! And you can always come back and do it again for the next vehicle if you don’t end up stopping with just one. Below are some other factors for which you may want to budget.
Time and Space
Will you have hours to put into running this thing here and there, or will it be more an opportunistic 20 minutes here and half an hour there? Will you have daylight hours to enjoy your RC car or is it likely to be in the evenings, after school or work? Is build and maintenance time something you want to enjoy as part of the hobby, or do you want to be able to just grab and go?
If you have a few locations or types of spaces in mind, are they nearby? Are they huge, or small? (This may influence the scale of what you get. Some cars get nearly as big as the back seat of your car, whilst others could fit in a cargo pants pocket, for example). If running noisy models, can you do it somewhere you’re not disturbing other people? Do you have a safe place to run the really fast stuff without endangering yourself, traffic, other people or animals?
Preparation and Mechanical Requirements
Are you ready to do the setup and post-run maintenance of a more involved nitro model? Do you have the tools and the mindset to tune and adjust things yourself and to find answers to problems that may crop up in such cars? Do you want it to ‘just work’ with minimal hassle and fuss? Consider electric vs nitro here.
Electric stuff is clean, easy to run, and has minimal maintenance requirements. That is, unless you get into fine dust, mud or water – everything needs a little love after that kind of treatment! Also, electric systems don’t require periodic tuning and rebuilds like nitro engines.
We’ve got a few huge models here, such as the Traxxas X-Maxx 8S and the Axial SCX6. Nose to tail, these two will barely fit in the back seat of a car. You need somewhere for such monsters to live when they’re not being driven!
Batteries come under this heading, too – both these vehicles go best with a pair of hefty lithium-polymer batteries, which need a decent charger and safe storage place themselves. Keep that in mind as you think through your options!
Most RC vehicles will need the odd bit of tinkering, as well as basic hobby supplies for the odd repair, upgrade or maintenance. Nicer hand tools make life easier, but this all costs money. Many RTR (Ready To Run) models do come with their own tools, but some cars really need knowledge and tools that aren’t included with the car at all.
For example, we recently tested the HPI Vorza 4.6 Big Block nitro truck (video here). To get going, we also needed to buy fuel, an engine starter, a receiver battery (we made our own) and basic tools for tuning and adjustment. There were also the little things you don’t think of until you need them. For the Vorza, we needed some old rags, iR thermometer and heat gun for running-in, space and a couple of bricks to sit the model off the ground for running-in, and so on. This all needs to be on-hand when you need it, so keep in mind the need to ask “what else do I need” when you are looking at your final choices.
Best RC Cars Shortlist
Ok, this is it. You’ve got an idea of what you want from RC. Your shortlist of models will be different to that of others, so our job at this point is to nudge you in the right direction. We’ll give some examples typical of each category below, and then you’ll be on your way to finding other potential machines on your own. Let’s get to it!
Yard & Park Fun
Known as ‘bashers’, this is the car you wanted as a kid. It’ll take off-road adventures and back yard fun. It’s a general fun category and is broad in scope. General purpose vehicles like this are easy to find, maintain and drive. Most 1/10 scale short course trucks (SCT), monster trucks (MT), truggies (truck + buggy design elements) and buggies will deliver on fun and durability. They will also serve to help familiarise newcomers to modern RC cars. We’d recommend one of the following for general fun:
- Off-Road: Arrma Senton BLX 3S (video review)
- Off-Road: Team Associated MT10 Rival (article; video)
- Off-Road: Traxxas Rustler, Slash or Bandit XL-5 (article; video)
- On-Road: Kyosho Fazer Mk II (video review)
There are many other great options, but these are a good start. Plus, we own and run all four, so this recommendation is from direct experience!
Parking Lot Fun
This category also covers bashers but tends toward the more classic scale models of the past couple of decades from the likes of Tamiya and Kyosho. This is where you’ll find the pretty car and truck models from Tamiya’s TT-01, TT-01e and TT-02 range of vehicles. These are all fairly slow cars in stock form.
We’ve recently built a TT-01e racing truck and a TT-02 saloon car. Both are designed for your driveway or local street, but we’ve been running ours on a local track. Faster but still brushed is the Kyosho Fazer Mk II range of cars. The Tamiya TT models are considerably cheaper to buy but there’s a LOT of work in the body in particular. They’re a great first car if you want to learn to build your first RC model, but performance is limited, even with hop-up parts.
We’ve got a video of our Fazers on the local track – in the wet, which is not generally the done thing. There’s some maintenance to consider with wet running, but water plus RC is seriously quite fun, whether its on or off road. Check out our little video here for a taste of that.
We recently (July 2023) looked at the MJX RC Hyper Go, a 1/14 4WD brushless road car that delivers bigly on value – it’s under $200, fast and quite durable. Article here for that one!
And for something different, the MST MTX-1 4WD Monster Truck Kit is an interesting option. You’ll need to build it yourself and supply the electronics, but as a project on a budget, it could be a rewarding experience. For older kids, this could be a memorable first hobby-grade project car. Check it out here.
Best RC Drift Car
Drift is a category that is unique from the others. It is also one of two categories where RC-TNT cannot give you deeper advice based on direct experience, as it’s a category we’ve yet to really delve into. The next best thing we can recommend is some knowledge and technique pages to help you get a grasp of this category:
- Start with a solid beginner’s guide for drifting. Super-G R/C Drift Arena is probably worth a look (their beginner’s guide is here).
- We also found a sweet technique and practice guide on DriftMission.com (guide is here).
- We recently reviewed the MJX RC Hyper Go, a pocket rocket that has 4WD and a gyro! Video here.
- Lastly AsiaTees has an impressive catalogue of MST, Himoto and HRC Arena vehicles and many parts for drift, listed here.
Best RC Car for Rock & Trail
This category is all about RC crawlers, the bread and butter of RC-TNT. We’re all about crawling and we have an article written to take you through getting the best RC crawler for your needs. Find that article right here on the site: What Is The Best RC Rock Crawler?
Gravel and Dirt
Who doesn’t love hooking up the tires and ripping giant rooster tails in the softer stuff? You’re well catered for in this category if gravel and dirt running are your thing. If you’re reading this guide, we’ll want to look at more entry-level machines to start with and add some more premium choices further down:
- Traxxas Bandit XL-5 1/10 Buggy (article; video). It’s not a pure race machine, but for the price you can expect a solid starting point if you want to build a budget buggy for local comp meets. For a basher, it’s a light to moderate duty fun machine that will benefit from mechanical sympathy and regular maintenance. The Bandit is a stalwart of the RC off-road hobby and its value proposition for a fun and simple dirt blaster is hard to beat.
- Rlaarlo XDKJ-005 1/14 Truggy (article; video). This thing is fun. It’s fast for its size and its well-made. The 005 gives you predictable handling, linear steering response, less-than-expected heat after hard running and it looks great. It’s a smaller size than the 1/10 models we’re covering on this page, but it’s cheaper and takes a brushless upgrade well (which you can see at the end of this video about another excellent option, the AM-X12).
- HPI Jumpshot SC V2 (article; video). RWD Short Course Truck (SCT) that takes a brushless upgrade without needing to upgrade other parts. Only weak point is the steering arms, which can be replaced with more traditional links and ball ends for a few dollars. Fun, durable and a very pretty vehicle. Check it out!
- Arrma Senton BLX 3S 1/10 SCT (video review). This is a brushless vehicle and it is tough. Boy, is it tough! It costs more than the other two listed here, but it’s very, very good. You can turn the throttle down on the radio, too, so younger folks can have a go without destroying it or themselves in the process. Easy to recommend, the Senton is just tops.
- Arrma Kraton V3 6S 1/8 Truggy. This vehicle stars in our recent battery-review video here. We have an older version to the current V5, but being easy to upgrade and tune, ours is very close to what you get with the V5. For high performance on gravel and dirt, if you can afford it, the Kraton 6S is an easy recommendation. (We don’t have a Typhon, but that would also be worth looking into if gravel and dirt are your thing).
- HPI Vortex 4.6 Big Block 1/8 Nitro Truggy (video). Something different, this one is big, loud, and a bit more involved. There’s nothing quite like nitro, so if you have the space and the freedom to run something obnoxiously noisy, check out the video for more info.
Jumps & Stunts
SCT (Short Course Trucks) can handle big air, but this is where MT (Monster Trucks) truly excel. We have a few recommendations on this one, ordered from small and cheap to big and expensive. Keep in mind that there are HEAPS of options not listed here, but these are ones we’ve all tested and can recommend quite happily:
- Rlaarlo XDKJ-005 1/14 Truggy (article; video) and its faster brushless sibling, the XDKJ-006 1/14 Buggy (article; video). These are both built on the same platform, but the 006 has a carbon fibre chassis and a lightweight, brushless system. It’s very tough. Take a look at the abuse it took at a skate park (video) where we were intentionally trying to kill it in order to find its limits. Most impressive! Also, the AM-X12 was recently released and is worth checking out, but it won’t be as agile in the air with its longer wheelbase.
- Team Associated MT10 Rival 1/10 MT (article; video). If you’re considering a skate park bash session, make sure you give this video a watch. A truly impressive machine, this one.
- Arrma Senton BLX 3S 1/10 SCT (video review). We mentioned the Senton above, but make sure you check out our upgrade and skate park video as it really shows off its considerable durability.
- Arrma Kraton 6S 1/8 Truggy. We don’t have an article or video review for this one, but it’s totally worth including. We do have footage of this machine in a related video where you can learn about batteries at the same time – check that out here. We have the V3 and while the V5 is current, the Arrma vehicles are famously modular and easy to upgrade and tune. It won’t handle endless abuse like the next entry in this list, but for larger-scale fun on a moderate budget, the Kraton 6S is hard to beat.
- Traxxas X-Maxx 8S 1/5 MT. (article; video) we’ve been running and upgrading one for several months now. It’s a popular choice for all-out durability and big air. Handling isn’t great, given its high center of gravity, but it can really take a lot of abuse. There’s plastic throughout, granting it the flexibility to absorb bad landings in a way that vehicles with an aluminum chassis simply cannot match.
Straight Line Speed
This is the other of two categories where our experience is limited to only a few cars. For RC no-prep drag racing in particular, we don’t have enough knowledge to recommend a starting point, beyond knowing of a few options. Best thing to do is try a quick start guide (like this on Nankin Hobby) or to read this interesting interview and follow the links at the end of the article.
However, we do have some experience with building and running faster things and have a few useful suggestions to get you started.
We have been playing around with making slow cars go faster in 2022. This year we mainly were experimenting with suspension and tires on a few of the 1/14 buggies, such as the 144001, and fitting epic brushless systems and stabilization aids (aka. steering gyros) to help support the power. You might also be interested in reading about a recent speed run contest that Rlaarlo ran – they asked us to do a write-up for them, which you can find here. You won’t believe how fast these guys got the XDKJ-006, it was quite a contest
Halfway between small and large is the Rlaarlo AK-917, a 2023 release that hit some shipping delays for many, but as of July is now going out promptly for the foreseeable future. This is a 1/10 4WD brushed and brushless vehicle that has open diffs and comes in alloy and carbon fiber chassis variants. They even sell a few rollers (BYO electronics). Worth checking out (article; video).
Out of the box, there are two big names that have high speed associated with them:
The first and older of the two is the Traxxas XO-1 1/7 Touring Car. We haven’t had this car so recommend you try YouTube for more info and drive demos. If you like the sound of 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds and 0-100 mph in under 5 seconds, this may be for you. Handling is apparently better on the newer version than it used to be.
What we can speak to is the Arrma Infraction 6S 1/6 Pickup (and its sibling, the Arrma Felony 6S 1/6 Muscle Car). Capable of 80mph+ out of the box, they’re an impressive option. We’ll have videos and an article coming soon for this thing and will update this post at that time. Meanwhile, we’ve been driving and modifying it as we get to know the vehicle and can recommend it for sheer power, stability and presence. It’s quite an experience to drive.
Also, Arrma make the Limitless 1/7 Roller, now in V2. This is a BYO electronics deal where you get the rolling chassis and add the power and radio system of your choice. If you want high speeds, Arrma is currently the popular, mainstream option.
This category tends to the more expensive and labor-intensive builds. There are some RTR trucks that give you decent quality and play so we’ll list them first, sorted by high to low price:
- HG-802 M983 8×8 Military Truck
- HG-P803A 8×8 with 5KG Tipper
- HG-P602 6×6 Military Truck
- HG-P408 4×4 Mil-Spec Hummer
- Team Raffee 1/14 Zetros 4×4 (our vid)
- Team Raffee 1/10 4WD Pickup
- HG-P410 F-350 4WD Pickup
Then there are the kits, which are many, varied and amazing. We’ve got a YT Playlist on 1/14 scale trucks that shows off everything in the below list and might be worth a browse if you’re curious. Here’s a list of great models to consider:
At the very cheapest end of such kits, the King Kong RC ZL-130 4×2 Tractor Truck is a fun little build. It’s available here. We’ve built one and combined it with a 20’ container trailer from Herc Hobby. The ZL-130 features in this fun little video we did last year.
You also may wish to look into models from Cross RC. Here’s their catalogue. We’ve built and run the BC8 Flagship, the HC-6 kit and the King Kong RC tractor truck. Cross RC US, as linked above, also sells the AT4 and JT4 – check out our article here for the EMO AT4, it’s a brilliant machine. Lastly, if you’re into towing and trailers, Cross RC sell a wide variety of them. Their biggest one, the T247, featured in a recent video, along with the BC8 and the JDM Zetros. We also use and love the T835 Logging Trailer (video here).
Large Scale RC
The big stuff! If you have a large-scale club nearby where you can visit to check out what 1/5 scale is all about, that’d be a great first move. There are nitro, petrol and electric options in this category. Electric is the fastest, cleanest and simplest, while the internal combustion powered vehicles have the drama and presence that electric can’t match. Here’s a list of the fast stuff to check out:
- Losi 1/5 5IVE-T 2.0 4WD Gas Short Course Truck
- Losi 1/5 DBXL 2.0 4WD Gas Buggy
- Losi 1/5 DBXL-E 2.0 4WD Brushless Buggy
- HPI Baja 5B Flux Kit (electric & petrol options)
- Traxxas X-Maxx 8S Monster Truck
- Traxxas XRT 1/8 Truggy
We’ve not even touched on flying, FPV/drones, boats or construction equipment – and there are big followings for all of these and more. But now you probably have some idea of what you’d like to start with. We’ll continue to publish regular videos on our YouTube channel, covering the above categories on a regular basis.
To find like-minded folks online, there are two great resources we can recommend:
Sign up to either or both of these and take advantage of the Search function on either site. If you have questions, chances are they’ve been asked before. There are many great discussions, projects and resources on each of these sites.
Thank you for reading our guide! It’s a big one and we hope the time you invested has paid for itself. Now go find the best RC car for you, get out there and have fun! We’ll catch you next time here on RC-TNT.
Craig has been into radio control since the 90s and into RC crawling since about 2010, when a Losi MRC started the obsession! Now it's all rocks this and crawl that and upgrade all the things! ...You know how it is, right? Welcome home 🙂