Best Radio Controlled Trucks Buyer’s Guide: From Bashers To Crawlers We Tested The Best

Get full-sized thrills and real mechanical skills from scaled-down RC off-road racers

Best Overall

Laegendary Thunder Brushless 1/10 Truck

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Best Value

Bezgar 161S

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Premium Choice

Traxxas Slash 4x4 u0022Ultimateu0022 VXL Brushless

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The radio controlled truck world has changed dramatically over the last few years. At one point, you needed to be ready to spend hundreds of dollars and seek out specialty shops to get true hobby quality equipment. Online retailers and an influx of brands have brought prices down while also offering vehicles equipped with higher performance parts which you traditionally had to buy from the aftermarket.

If you’re in the market for a new RC truck, you might be shocked to see the plethora of options on the market. Not to worry—we have you covered and will give you plenty of clarity with our well-equipped buying guide and top product reviews. We’ll have you tearing up the turf in no time with a fast and beastly RC truck that won’t leave you stranded.

If you want all that same off-roadie jumping and rooster-tail throwing action as a real truck, but for the price of a couple trips to the gas station? RC trucks offer the same thrills but in an affordable package. Not to mention, you can park them on a shelf inside your house. So let’s get into which ones are the best and make your bank account breathe a sigh of relief since you won’t be dropping $70,000 on a Raptor or TRX.

Summary List

Our Methodology

This guide has been assembled using the knowledge gained from decades of experience as an automotive enthusiast; both real cars and radio-controlled. While RC vehicles are still a considerable investment in terms of time and money, a radio-controlled car is very much a discretionary purchase. While we take this as seriously as the purchase of an actual car, the attributes leading to a judgment of “best” are far more ethereal.

We first looked at a few more quantitative data points for judging; is it repairable, are parts easily sourced, and is it appropriately priced? Then, we looked at things from a more qualitative standpoint; is this truck fun, will performance match expectations, is it a good value? You aren’t buying a new microwave, you’re buying an expensive toy, it better provide a thrill worthy of the bill.

Best RC Trucks: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Laegendary Thunder Brushless 1/10 Scale Stadium Truck

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I am a long-time RC enthusiast. I started young in the golden era of RC, first with Tamiya and then moving into cars like the Team Associated RC10. Yes, mine came with a gold chassis and resistor speed controller. I am all for supporting your local hobby shop, but some of the cars from companies known as “Amazon brands” are building really good cars these days; I know, because I have been testing them.

The Laegendary Thunder is a 1/10 scale basher that comes with metal gears, full bearings, brushless electronics, a 2S LiPo battery and charger, some spare suspension pieces and even a second body. All of this comes in at less than 150 bucks — for reference, a comparable Traxxas Rustler 4×4 BL-2 is about $330. The downside to the Thunder is a controller that’s size will remind you more of driving slotcars than RC cars. Also, while it’s easy enough to order spare parts online, you’re not going to find brand specific pieces at your local hobby shop.

Best Value: BEZGAR HP161S 1:16 4WD Brushless

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If what you’re looking for is big jumps, wheelies, and bashing on a budget, this is your best option. Like everything else in the world, YouTube videos and social media have given people expectations of extreme action in everything they do. This 1/16th scale brushless truck delivers the extreme with power to spare, literally. If you give it full throttle from a stop, it will wheelie so fast it literally flips on its top. There is a beginner mode which limits you to part throttle. It is a little too tame and there is no in between. But, you quickly learn respect for the amount of power delivered by the brushless motor and LiPo battery. The truck does includes a wheelie bar if you choose to install it.

Everything you need comes in the box. The tires are so huge compared to the size of the body it looks like a slammed monster truck, but that’s a good thing. Every aspect the truck is about toughness, even after several bashing sessions, I have yet to break anything. The all metal drivetrain and thick plastic parts are to thank for that. If and when it does finally break, most of the suspension parts and bulkheads which are most likely to snap first, are available on Amazon.

The included controller is smaller than those you find included in hobby shop RTR (Ready To Run) cars, but halfway through the first run it feels natural in your hand. The battery pack looks like it would be proprietary, but it has a Dean’s type connector. I will need to figure out how to make the battery strap fit a different style pack, but that doesn’t seem like much of a challenge. For the price of this Bezgar, nothing comes close to the performance. I will admit to being suspicious about a “non-hobby shop” brand when I started out, but the seas are changing quickly. I don’t know what cars like this will mean for the industry in the long run, but good cars at lower prices aren’t a bad thing for consumers.

Premium Choice: Traxxas Slash 4×4 “Ultimate” VXL Brushless

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Traxxas may not have invented the short course truck, but the Slash was the truck that really brought them to mass market RC hobbyists. Although stadium trucks are by far the most popular with bashers, a significant amount of people love the realism of short course. When you see one of these pounding through the dirt, they look like the real thing.

The Slash 4×4 Ultimate, although certainly not cheap at nearly $500 does represent a bit of a bargain. The brushless motor and Velineon speed control will handle either 2S or 3S LiPo batteries and will hit speeds over 60mph. It includes a number of aluminum performance parts, including hub carriers, uprights, shock bodies, driveshaft, and more.

I have a Slash 2wd and as I’ve started to upgrade it, I am wishing I would have bought the 4×4. As I look at the prices I’m paying for performance parts, I’m also starting to realize that the Ultimate is probably a bargain in the end. If you know you are going to buy a truck and immediately start buying parts, the Slash 4×4 Ultimate might actually be a better choice than starting with the versions that will only seem cheaper in the beginning.

Best Rock Crawler: LAEGENDARY Grando 1:10 Rock Crawler

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This is another truck from Laegndary that is primarily available through online retailers. Unlike some of its other cars, the Grando shares components with the more popular Axial SCX10, which means many of the spare and aftermarket parts will also fit. This is a far better deal than the Axial however. It comes with a 2-speed transmission which operates via a switch on the controller. It also has an operable winch in the front bumper, along with lights, both operated on the controller.

This is a very realistic crawler. The metal ladder frame supports the front and rear four link suspension. The suspension and steering links are aluminum and the axles use metal gears. Both the front and rear diffs are locked, which means it doesn’t handle particularly well in normal driving. The controller is far better than the tiny unit included with the Thunder. It still isn’t fantastic, but is definitely usable. The motor is a brushed 550 silver can and the battery is a 6-cell Nimh pack. Some drivers will want to upgrade to LiPo, but really this powertrain is more than enough given the low gearing.

Rock crawlers are very much one-trick ponies. If you are looking for an RC truck to take and drive in a parking lot and do donuts, this probably isn’t for you. But, if you want to get out and enjoy an activity, get some fresh air, get a little hike in, then I would encourage you to consider the Grando.

Best Premium: Losi Super Baja Rey 2.0

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If you want the ultimate RC truck experience and your budget would almost buy you a high-mileage real truck, you want to think big. The Losi Super Baja Rey 2.0 is a 1/6 scale vehicle; at roughly three feet in length, it is one-sixth the size of a real desert racing truck. But, with a top speed of over 50 miles per hour, it has much more than a sixth of the real thing’s performance.

We like the Losi Super Baja because of the realistic looks and performance afforded by using four-link suspension on the rear axle. It uses a full roll cage under the trophy truck body to augment the aluminum chassis’ stiffness. The threaded body coilover shocks are even made by actual racing supplier King Off-Road. The body is finished off with three LED light bars and realistic details like a jack, radiator fans, and fire extinguishers. It even includes two spare tires mounted in the bed.

The electronics are all built and sized for duty on a truck of this size, as well as being waterproof. You will need to supply two 14.8-volt lithium-ion battery packs, a compatible charger, and AA batteries for the included Spektrum controller, other than that, it comes built and ready to go. But, on top of the price, you also have to be realistic about where you can drive a truck this big and how you will transport it, it’s huge and hugely fast after all.

Our Verdict on Best RC Trucks

Choosing a definitively best anything is nearly impossible. Every user has different needs and expectations for products. Any one of our best RC truck categories could be broken down into subcategories and probably divided again. I’ve selected the Laegendary Thunder Brushless 1/10 Scale Stadium Truck as Best Overall RC Truck because I like that this delivers the performance of hobby quality trucks at an extremely affordable price. The BEZGAR HP161S 1:16 4WD Brushless is another excellent alternative that offers great value, but also in a more compact size. If you have experience with RC trucks or even just an interest, we’d be interested in hearing your opinions in the comments. List what you expect an RC truck to do, maybe give an idea of what you consider a realistic budget, and let everyone know if you have an opinion of which truck is the best pick.

Consider Secondhand

When we start shopping for tools and products, we never overlook the secondhand market. In fact, it’s usually the first place we look. Whether you’re scrolling through Amazon’s Renewed section, eBay for car parts or tools, or flipping through the pages of Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, you have hundreds of thousands of used tools, parts, and gear ready to be shipped to your doorstep. Refurbished to like-new status, they’ll be willing to give you many more years of faithful service all while saving you money. It also has the benefit of you not having to cut open an Amazon box inside an Amazon box with bubble wrapped around the part.

If those options above don’t have what you need, your local salvage yard is great for car parts, while swap meets are a great resource you should absolutely tap. Just Google either and head on down.  

Secondhand Tips

To make your secondhand search easier, here are two tips for finding the best deals and making sure your new-to-you stuff wasn’t destroyed by the previous owner.

  • Buying a box of parts that “just needs assembly” is a gamble; get a complete parts list from the seller.
  • Older models can be just as enjoyable as brand new, but check parts availability before buying.

What to Consider When Buying A RC Truck

The best RC truck for me may not be the best for you. There’s such a huge variety of trucks out there, you need to ask yourself some questions before you start shopping. Where will I drive it most often? What is my current skill level in driving and mechanically (be realistic)? What is my budget for buying everything I need to get a running and driving truck and how much do I need to budget for maintenance and repairs? If I’m buying it for a child, am I really buying it for a child, or am I buying it myself and the kid may get to drive it every once in a while, and I should just be honest with myself/everyone and make sure I have the budget for two, or me and the kid will both be unhappy? With that totally hypothetical situation out of the way, let’s consider some different types of trucks and key features you will need to decide between.

Types of RC Trucks

Stadium or Basher Truck

This is currently the most popular style of radio controlled truck amongst enthusiasts and for good reason. A stadium truck is a good choice for just about any type of driving you’ll encounter. These are a direct descendent of the buggies and excel at jumping, drifting, and performing other various forms of bashery. Because of their toughness, they make great beginner vehicles, while at the same time, most off-road tracks have racing classes for them making stadium trucks a great choice for more experienced drivers also.

Short Course Trucks

Short course trucks will quite often share some components with stadium trucks, but offer a more realistic experience both in looks and driving. While still rugged, the smaller wheels which sit inside the body, along with a more realistic silhouette, make them a little less forgiving when landing huge jumps on anything but their tires. These are a great choice if you want to drive on the track or off-road, about the only thing they won’t do is Instagram-friendly skate park bashing.

Rock Crawler

The term rock crawling is a generic term that can easily be broken down into sub-categories like trail crawling, rock racing, etc. For the most part, the overall category is for vehicles that look realistic and are meant for driving slower than other trucks over far more technical terrain. These are specialized vehicles that excel in one discipline. While this is the fastest-growing niche in RC, keep in mind that purchasing one locks you into that one style of driving.

RC Truck Key Features  

Brushed vs. Brushless Motors

Two types of electric motors power radio controlled trucks; brushed and brushless. A brushed motor uses a mechanical rotary switch called a commutator to change the polarity of wound copper coils on the internal rotor, called the armature. The armature sits inside permanent magnets and as the directionality of the armature changes, it spins.

The newer technology is brushless motors which transfer the heavy windings to the outside and the magnets are on the rotor. While brushed motors are mechanical, brushless ones are controlled by a logic chip.

Brushless motors offer better efficiency, which equates to more power output. On top of that, brushed motors require maintenance, or in most instances, replacement when the brushes wear out. The advantage is that brushed motors are considerably cheaper. Brushless motors will continue to fall in price. Eventually, all kits will become brushless. 

Lithium vs. Nickel Batteries

When shopping for an electric RC vehicle, you’ll find two types of batteries.  The older and less expensive tech is NiMH (nickel-metal hydride). Normally, these battery packs are made of individual 1.2-volt cells connected in series. You can find these in anything from 6.0 up to 9.6 volts. Since they are in series, the mAh (milliamp hour) rating of the pack is the same as an individual cell. NiMH is very stable, is less expensive, can be completely discharged without damaging the battery, and can be stored at any state of charge.

LiPo is the newer chemistry. These are usually made of 3.7-volt battery cells. LiPo has greater energy density, meaning comparable voltage and milliamp-hour packs will be smaller and lighter than NiMH. LiPo delivers a more consistent voltage, so your truck will be faster for longer. The downside of LiPo packs is they are damaged by overcharging or over-discharging. Running LiPos requires speed controllers and chargers with built-in voltage detection. The cost of LiPos and electronics is considerably more than NiMh.

Selectable Driving Modes

Radio-controlled vehicle manufacturers, like Traxxas, offer its faster models with selectable driving modes. For beginners, Training Mode cuts full power down to fifty percent. Given the crazy performance of brushless motors and LiPo batteries, putting the controller in the hands of a first-time driver is similar to putting someone with no high-performance driver education in a Viper. Sport and Race Modes offer full throttle, with the latter eliminating reverse.

RC Truck Pricing

Like full-scale trucks, the price range of radio-controlled versions are offered in a wide variety of prices. Our pick for Best Value Radio Controlled Truck, the Traxxas Slash can be found for right around $250. There are less expensive trucks out there, and some are really good. If you want something smaller scale, 1:28 scale indoor racers start as low as $60. At the other end of the spectrum, large-scale trucks can run into the thousands of dollars, with gasoline-powered ones being the top of the heap. Spending a few hundred dollars will get you well on your way to enjoying the hobby.

Once you have your truck, you may want to upgrade some equipment. NiMH battery packs are in the $40 to $60 range while LiPo will set you back between $50 to $100 depending on voltage and capacity. Battery chargers start at about $60 and can go up into the $200 range. Many offer Bluetooth connectivity which allows more functionality when connected to an app on a smart device. Repair and maintenance parts are relatively inexpensive and generally scale with the original purchase price of the vehicle. Polycarbonate bodies in 1:10 scale range from $30 for unpainted up to $70 for original painted equipment. It is worth your time to browse the parts racks to check out pricing when shopping for your vehicle.

FAQs

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Are RC trucks for adults?

A: Yes, RC trucks are for everyone, children to adults, as long as you buy something age-appropriate. RC vehicles are one of the best hands-on engineering experiences for any age of enthusiast.

Q: Where is the best place to buy RC trucks?

A: Your local hobby shop is the best place to buy your truck and build a lasting relationship to get parts and technical help.

Q: Can cameras be used on RC trucks?

A: Installing a GoPro or similar camera on your RC truck is relatively easy and safe.

Q. How fast can an RC truck go?

A. That depends on the exact specs of the model selected. However, many of the higher-end RC trucks can hit speeds of 70mph.