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Best RC Cars: Realize Your Need for Speed

Release your inner Michael Schumacher from the comfort of your own driveway.

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BY/ LAST UPDATED ON February 15, 2022

Whether you’re hoping to play out your unrealized racing career, looking for a fun outdoor activity to do with your kids, or looking for a unique and active gift, grabbing a good-quality, speedy RC car can be a great option. Better yet, you can live out your favorite Fast and Furious scenes without the risk of prison time.


RC cars come in such a varied and wide selection with tons of performance-enhancing accessories and after-market add-ons just like real race cars do. Also just like real cars, this plethora of choices can make choosing your ideal car a tough decision. That’s why our crack team has put together an informative buyer’s guide and assembled a comprehensive list of our top picks. We’ve got your back just like Cal Naughton, Jr. took care of Ricky Bobby. Shake N’ Bake!

Best Overall

Axial SCX24 Jeep JT Gladiator 4WD

Summary

This 1/24 scale version of the 2020 North American Truck of the Year is an awesome beginner level RC car that won’t break the bank.

Pros
  • Everything you need in to get racing pronto
  • Rugged and durable construction
  • Can power over larger obstacles
Cons
  • Front end gets reports of being a little loose and sloppy
  • Short runtime
Best Value

DeeRC 9300 Remote Control Car

Summary

This compact truck is a 1:18 scale replica that features high shock absorption and some serious oversized rubber tires that are designed to easily tear through terrain.

Pros
  • Affordable, yet still performs well
  • Long runtime
  • Can be remotely operated from up to 263 feet away
Cons
  • Not as fast and high-tech as some other options
  • Warranty is only 90 days
Honorable Mention

Arrma 1/8 Vendetta All-Road Speed Bash Racer

Summary

It’s a ready-to-run, 1/8 scale, intermediate skill level offering with a top speed of over 70 mph that’s ideal for indoor racing or light off-road conditions.

Pros
  • Super fast top speed
  • Features multi-adjustable body mounts
  • Two-year limited warranty
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Low clearance allows it to get hung up on obstacles more easily than elevated cars
Best RC Cars: Realize Your Need for Speed

Our Methodology

Since the market is so saturated with RC car choices, we had our work cut out for us when selecting the cream of the crop. To narrow the field, we focused our choices on a diverse range of prices to suit any budget. We also wanted to offer a well-rounded selection of cars for different terrains and purposes. 

Next, we considered how easy it is to access replacement parts online or at your local hobby shop. Lastly, we relied on brand reputation, choosing only manufacturers with a solid track record when it comes to offering reliable, high-performance options. To read more about our process and standards, click here.

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Best RC Car Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Axial
  • Model: Jeep JT Gladiator 4WD
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Kit Type: Ready to run

Pros

  • Comes with everything you need to get racing pronto
  • Rugged and durable construction
  • Can power over larger obstacles

Cons

  • Front end gets reports of being a little loose and sloppy
  • Short runtime

The ready-to-run, officially-licensed Axial SCX24 Jeep JT Gladiator 4WD snags the top spot on our list. It combines serious power, accurate detailing, rugged construction, and a reasonable price point to earn it the title of best overall pick. This 1/24 scale version of the 2020 North American Truck of the Year is an awesome beginner-level RC car that won’t break the bank. It’s easy to get replacement parts and accessories for it.


The 88T brushed motor and Tuff Stuff Overland scale accessory package allows this rugged RC car to go just about anywhere you want. True full-time 4WD adds to its overall authenticity and driveability. A 3-link front and 4-link rear suspension and water-resistant components make this an ideal outdoor crawler, but it’s great for indoor use also. Worm gears on the axles and large Nitto Trail Grappler M/T tires give this Jeep plenty of clearance to get over some big obstacles.


The only gripe about this RC car is that the front end seems a little loose and sloppy at times, which is real-life accurate (Ed. Note. Haha, this is true). The runtime is also a little too short before needing a recharge.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: DeeRC
  • Model: 9300
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Kit Type: Ready to run

Pros

  • Affordable, yet still performs well
  • Long runtime
  • Can be remotely operated from up to 263 feet away

Cons

  • Not as fast and high-tech as some other options
  • Warranty is only 90 days

If you’re looking for a great gift for a friend or child, or if you want to try RC racing without committing to a major investment, the DeeRC 9300 Remote Control Car might be just what you’re looking for. This compact truck is a 1:18 scale replica that features high shock absorption and some serious climbing capacity. The oversized rubber tires are designed to quickly and easily tear through uneven or rugged terrain, even sand.


Its four-wheel drive capability and powerful motor let you pull off some pretty cool stunts, and it comes equipped with a full-function pro-steering remote and a 2.4 GHZ radio control system that can be operated for up to 40 minutes. With a top speed of over 25 mph, this definitely isn’t the quickest car on the list, but it’s no slouch, either.


That said, the 90-day warranty could also stand to be a little better. That’s not a lot of time to see if anything breaks.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Arrma
  • Model: Vendetta
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate
  • Kit Type: Ready to run

Pros

  • Super fast top speed
  • Features multi-adjustable body mounts
  • Two-year limited warranty

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Low clearance allows it to get hung up on obstacles more easily than elevated cars

It’s tough not to get more than a little worked over the super sleek and classic styling, and insane top speed, of the Arrma 1/8 Vendetta All-Road Speed Bash Racer. Able to rip at over 70 mph, we doubt this somewhat pricey RC car will disappoint in terms of performance. It’s a ready-to-run, 1/8 scale, intermediate skill level offering that’s ideal for indoor racing or light off-road conditions. We also like the two-year limited warranty that a lot of other RC cars lack.


A strong composite chassis, oil-filled shocks with silicone O-rings, double wishbone suspension, and metal-geared differentials set this car apart from a lot of its competition. It’s just made right. The detailing and color are eye-catching and easy to see in a crowd. Replacement parts and upgrades are also easy to come by when you need them.


The drawback? This car’s low ground clearance really limits the type of terrain it can tackle, but watching it tear up the competition on an indoor track definitely makes up for it.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Traxxas
  • Model: Unlimited Desert Racer
  • Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Kit Type: Assembly required

Pros

  • Can achieve speeds of 50 mph or greater
  • Plenty of accessories for modification and personalization
  • Wicked suspension with authentic driving dynamics

Cons

  • Sphincter-tightening price tag—yikes!
  • Takes a loooooong time to assemble

If money is no object and your RC car racing addiction is serious, the Traxxas Unlimited Desert Racer is the therapy you need. While it costs about the same amount as actual therapy, what you get is pretty killer. This tough desert truck can achieve top speeds of over 50 mph, making it a serious contender in any race. Its huge clearance and beefy off-road tires allow it to tear up indoor and challenging outdoor terrain with ease.


A rugged waterproof LED lighting system even lets you confidently run this truck at night. All the components on this RC car are top-of-the-line, from the chassis to the eight GTR shocks, cantilever sway bars, an ultra-rugged drivetrain, and so much more.


The massive drawback has to be the gut-punching price tag. For this much cash, you’re probably not going to want to let your 4-year-old nephew run this truck around the yard.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: HPI
  • Model: RS4 Sport 3 Dai Yoshihara Subaru BRZ
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Kit Type: Ready to run

Pros

  • Ready to roll right out of the box
  • Classic design and detailing
  • User-friendly operation is ideal for beginners

Cons

  • Not many options for upgrading or modifications
  • Ultra-low clearance lets it get hung up on obstacles easily

Drifting with your RC car is a different animal than just the usual RC racing. It requires a specific set-up and vehicle design, which the HPI RS4 Sport 3 Drift Dai Yoshihara Subaru BRZ epitomizes ideally. This ready-to-run Subaru model is a somewhat pricey, but highly functional and easy-to-master model for beginners. Even intermediate users appreciate the generous 1/10 scaling and 4WD capabilities. And, if you know anything about Formula Drift racing at all, you know that Dai Yoshihara is a modern-day legend, so who wouldn’t want a scale replica of his ride?


Even the R.M.K Design R5 Forged Wheels are an accurate depiction, holding high-performance Falken Azenis RT615 tires that hug the track and provide tight cornering when you want it. This model also features a smart, easy-to-access design that’s great for working on the drivetrain and differentials. It also works with a variety of different batteries for added versatility.


The rub? This car definitely isn’t breaking any speed records and its low clearance can be a pain on anything other than a perfect indoor track.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Traxxas
  • Model: Rustler 4X4 Stadium Truck
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner
  • Kit Type: Ready to run

Pros

  • Rugged and durable design is great for beginners
  • Great for indoor or outdoor terrain
  • Lightning fast charger with the included DC charger

Cons

  • Doesn’t include an AC charging option
  • Responsiveness and performance aren’t as tight as many other options

If you’re looking for a rugged, fun-to-drive, great performance beginner RC car, check out the Traxxas 1/10 Rustler 4X4 Stadium Truck. It combines speed and agility with a higher clearance that makes it great for indoor or outdoor use. Waterproof electronics add to this truck’s overall versatility. It also features a 3,000mAh 8.4V rechargeable battery with a quick-charging DC charger included. Be warned, though, that you’ll have to buy an AC charger separately, adding to the somewhat hefty cost of this unit.


The large Talon EXT tires give good grip and with the Titan 12-turn 550 modified motor, this truck can easily tackle some aggressive terrain, making it a really fun to drive experience for newer users. The pre-painted clipless body is mounted on an easy-to-disassemble modular composite frame.


One thing that’s slightly disappointing about this RC car is its somewhat low top speed of only 30 mph. It’s not going to smoke the competition like some other choices on this list.

Our Verdict on RC Cars

If you want an RC car that’s an ideal combination of serious power, accurate detailing, rugged construction, and a reasonable price point, our top pick is the Axial SCX24 Jeep JT Gladiator 4WD. This 1/24 scale version of the 2020 North American Truck of the Year is an awesome beginner level RC car that won’t break the bank.

For a fun and responsive budget-friendly choice, consider the DeeRC 9300 Remote Control Car. This compact truck is a 1:18 scale replica that features high shock absorption and some serious oversized rubber tires that are designed to easily tear through terrain.

Got any experience with any of our top picks? We’d love to hear your thoughts or comments. Hit us up below.

What to Consider When Buying An RC Car

With so much to choose from when buying an RC car, paralysis by analysis is a real struggle. Consider what your goals are with the car. Do you want to be an ultra-competitive RC racer, or is it just a fun way to get outside and tackle some challenging obstacles? What’s your budget? What’s your skill level? What else should you consider when picking the best RC car to suit your needs? We’ve got you covered.

Types of RC Cars

RC Cars

These are designed for those looking for more speed and excitement. Able to reach a variety of top speeds up to 70 mph or more, they’re the choice of most serious competitors, but also a great option for beginners. They can be drift, rally, or on-road cars, so you can pick the one that suits you the most. The drawback to this option is that with typically low ground clearance, they don't do well on rough terrain and are much more suited to indoor use.

RC Trucks

RC trucks are heavy-duty vehicles suitable for all kinds of terrains. The two most common types are monster trucks and stadium trucks. Monster trucks are ideal for off-road rides. They are designed to withstand daily abuse and prove to be quite powerful. You can use them for long outdoor courses and enjoy adventure rides. Stadium trucks are also heavy-duty but because they are two-wheel drive, they are more suitable for indoor use. These models typically offer a slower top speed than RC cars, but their durability makes them a great choice for beginners and kids.

RC Buggies

Built to look like a dune buggy, this is an excellent hybrid option that offers benefits of both RC cars and trucks. These are great on hard surfaces and can be quite speedy. Those who are experienced in driving RC vehicles will also find buggies ideal for off-road purposes. All in all, they can handle both flat and uneven surfaces and withstand daily use. They also come in a wide range of prices, so it’s easy to find something to fit any budget.

RC Car Key Features

Battery Life

Run-time is always a top concern for any RC car user. RC car batteries come in two forms: NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) and LiPo (Lithium Polymer). LiPo is the newer and more advanced battery technology and is lighter and smaller, but NiMH is more stable and budget-friendly. NiMH can be totally discharged without overly damaging the battery, while LiPo runs the risk of easily being damaged by over- or under-charging. That said, run times are very similar for most RC car batteries. Expect to get anywhere from 15-30 minutes of uninterrupted use on a single battery. It’s always a good idea to have a backup so the fun doesn’t have to end before you’re good and ready.

Chassis

Just like with a real car, the base of all RC cars is the chassis. Most RC cars rely on what’s called a bathtub-style chassis that offers solid protection for the inside components and a stiff, strong base. Higher performing RC cars utilize a pan-type chassis that is usually constructed from super lightweight carbon fiber or aluminum. This is not as durable as a bathtub chassis but gives you more in terms of responsiveness and performance. 

Motor 

Most newer RC cars use a brushless motor that controls polarity with a microchip. With no brushes to wear out and very efficient conversion of electricity into motion, this is the more common and better choice for an RC car motor. The other type is the old-school brushed motor. It uses a switch to change polarity and is far more archaic and less efficient than a brushless motor. They do offer small cost savings, however.

Top Speed 

Top speeds on RC cars can vary widely from 15 mph up to 70 or more. Speed and agility usually increase in direct correlation with the car’s price tag. Any serious RC car competitor and seasoned hobbyist is going to appreciate and need a higher top speed and is usually willing to spend a bit more to get it. If you’re a beginner or are looking for a good gift idea for a kid, you can get a lot of great options that top out at around 35 mph, which is pretty quick for those who are still getting their feet wet in the RC world. 

RC Car Pricing 

As with speed capabilities, RC cars vary wildly in price. You can get some fun ready-to-run cars or stunting cars for as little as $20. A good beginner RC car or truck can be had for $40-$100. These cars mainly offer fun, versus performance. The nuances between models are few and warranties are minimal. For $150-$350, you can get an RC car that offers modifiable components, increased speed and agility, and a respectable top speed. If you’re as serious as a heart attack about competitive RC racing and performance mods, you can spend upwards of $1,000.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: Do RC cars require special batteries?

A: Most RC cars and trucks require either AA or AAA batteries. Some newer models run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries of various sizes, and there are even a few cars that use 9-volt batteries (although this is much less common). The better RC cars come with rechargeable battery packs. We recommend having a spare on hand in order to increase your run time and have a backup.

Q: What scale are RC cars?

A: Most commonly, RC cars are set at a 1/8 or 1/10 scale size. However, a lot of RC cars can range from as low as 1/6 scale or as high as 1/28, so there’s really a size to suit every personal preference.

Q: What does “RTR” mean in RC cars?

A: “RTR” means that your RC car is ready to run. It’s ready to be used right out of the box with no assembly required. It usually includes the necessary controller, batteries, and charger. Other RC cars come as kits that have to be assembled prior to use. These are favorites of seasoned RC hobbyists who are looking to make performance-enhancing modifications to their RC cars.

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