Keep On RC Truckin’ With The Best Radio Controlled Trucks
Get full-sized thrills and real mechanical skills from scaled-down off-road racers
Whether you’re an avid hobbyist or are looking for a great gift for your child or grandchild, there are a wide array of rugged and surprisingly fast remote control (RC) trucks on the market that will fit the bill. Kids and adults alike love tearing up tough terrain with a durable and rugged RC truck. It’s a great excuse to get outside and enjoy some fresh air, either with friends or on your own.
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.
I get it, you’re jealous of your neighbor’s new Ford Raptor. It’s literally a giant toy; like a 12-year-old found a genie in a bottle and said, “Woah, make me like, totally grown-up and turn my super-rad BMX bike into my sick truck, genie-dude.” But, do you really think it’s the awesomest thing in the world trying to negotiate that thing in grocery store parking lots? What about driving in traffic with a vehicle with blind spots the size of beer pong tables? Or, have you seen grown-bros crying at gas stations lately? Some have had to cut out their six Monster Energy-a-day drinking habit so they can fill up.
What if you want all that same off-roadie jumping and roaster-tail throwing action but for the price of a couple of those gas station torture sessions? Radio-controlled (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 you won’t be dropping $70,000 on a Raptor or TRX.
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 Truck Reviews & Recommendations
Best OverallTraxxas Rustler VXL
- Kit Type: Ready to run, requires battery pack and charger
- Size: 17.5 x 12.25 x 7 inches
- Skill Level: Intermediate/Advanced
- Drive it anywhere from yards to tracks to skate parks
- Seriously fast, but stability management and driving modes make it new-driver friendly
- Magnum gearbox uses all metal gears and alloy motor plate
- All-around performer that races and bashes better than most
- Form follows function, not reality
- All in, this is some real money
Best ValueTraxxas Slash 2WD RTR
- Kit Type: Ready to run, everything included
- Size: 22.4 x 11.7 x 8.4 inches
- Skill Level: Beginner/intermediate
- Everything in one box
- Realistic looks and performance
- Great for beginners but upgradable to racing performance
- Suspension setup is infinitely tunable out of the box
- Short course trucks aren’t as tough as stadium trucks
- Battery charger is good, but DC-powered only
Honorable MentionTamiya Blackfoot Re-Release
- Kit Type: Unassembled kit, requires controller, battery, and charger
- Size: 17.3 x 11.4 x 10.6 inches
- Skill Level: Beginner
- An updated truck originally released in 1986 drips nostalgia
- Build-it-yourself kit is a great learning experience
- Molded hard ABS plastic body looks great
- Same legendary chassis as The Frog
- Requires buyer to supply all electronics
- 1986 nostalgia with 1986 performance
Best RC Rock CrawlerCross RC AT4 EMO 4x4
- Kit Type: Ready to run, includes everything but AA batteries for the controller
- Size: 22 x 13 x 13 inches
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Remotely locking front and rear differentials
- Two-speed transmission and transfer case
- Weighted aluminum wheels add realism
- Great looking Bronco/Blazer-ish body
- One-trick pony
- Parts aren’t as widely available as some competitors
Best RC Truck Price No ObjectLosi Super Baja Rey 2.0
- Kit Type: Ready to run, requires battery packs and charger
- Size: 35 x 15.6 x 12 inches
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Huge in size, speed, and thrills
- Engineered more like a real desert truck than smaller scales
- Built tough and relatively easy to repair
- Might serve dual purpose as a lawn tractor
- Weighing 25 pounds at 50+mph, it’s literally a weapon
- At three feet long, you might need a real truck to transport it
Our Verdict on Best RC Truck
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. We’ve selected the Traxxas Rustler VXL as Best Overall RC Truck because we like the ruggedness and go-anywhere abilities. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.