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Best RC Boats

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 54 Models Considered
  • 5 Models Tested
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 574 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best RC boats

    Last Updated October 2018

    If you love boats but don't have the budget, inclination, or lake for a full-sized vessel, an RC boat might be just the thing to provide hours of fun.

    You'll find a huge range of makes and models on the market, though, so it can be tough to pick the best RC boat for your fun on the water. Sailboat or scale boat? Fuel or battery? Monohull or hydroplane? The choices can seem overwhelming, especially to those new to the hobby.

    If you're ready to sail away, read on for our full guide to RC boats.

    Some RC boats are easier to handle than others. A boat with poor handling can affect your enjoyment of the hobby.

    Types of RC boats

    RC sailboats

    RC sailboats have sails and rudders, just like real sailboats. They're not powered by batteries or fuel. Instead, they have a simple receiver, which allows you to turn the sails and rudder using your remote control. So, essentially, these boats are powered by the wind. The great thing about sailboats is that they're low maintenance, as there's no engine, batteries, or fuel to worry about. They're quite different to drive compared to other types of RC boats, and you may find it tricky at first, but many people enjoy driving RC sailboats, especially those who have experience sailing full-sized boats.

    RC power boats

    RC power boats are a bit like remote control speed boats. They're streamlined, speedy, and one of the most popular types of RC boats. You'll find two subtypes of RC power boats: racing boats and sport boats. Racing boats are extremely fast and can be difficult to maneuver, especially when you're starting out. Sport boats are a little slower, so they're better for beginners, or for recreational users who care about more than just speed. Most RC power boats are battery-powered, but some run on gas or nitro.

    Scale RC boats

    Scale RC boats are for the history fanatic or ship enthusiast. Essentially, they're remote controlled, scale models of real ships. They're not designed to be the fastest RC boats on the water – instead they're more about appearance and how realistic they look.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you take your RC boat out in salty water, always clean it afterward, using fresh water and a neutral base soap. This helps stop corrosion from saline water.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Before taking your RC boat out on the water for the first time, make sure there are no holes or other openings through which water could get into the boat.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Self-righting RC boats are able to set themselves the right way up again should they tip over. This can be very helpful in avoiding having to wade into the water to right the boat.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Considerations for selecting an RC boat

    Power options

    Apart from sailboats, which are wind-powered, most RC boats run on either batteries, nitro, or gas. But what's the difference, and which power option should you choose?

    Battery pros:

    • RC boats that run on batteries are easy to operate and maintain.

    • With batteries, there's no need to keep spare fuel and refill a fuel tank, which can be inconvenient and messy.

    • Battery-powered RC boats are very quiet.

    • You can use battery-powered RC boats indoors as well as outdoors.
       

    Battery cons:

    • Battery-powered RC boats can't run for long periods of time before you have to recharge.

    • Most people who use battery-powered RC boats choose to carry extra batteries with them, which can be expensive to purchase.
       

    Nitro pros:

    • RC boats powered by nitro are extremely quick and responsive.

    • It's easier to fine-tune the performance of RC boats that run on nitro.

    • As long as you have more fuel, you can run your nitro-powered RC boat for as long as you like.

    • Nitro-powered RC boats are faster than comparable gas and battery-powered models.
       

    Nitro cons:

    • RC boats that run on nitro are probably the hardest to maintain.

    • Due to fumes, you can't run nitro-powered RC boats indoors.

    • Nitro fuel is fairly expensive to purchase.

    • Nitro-powered RC boats are fairly noisy.
       

    Gas pros:

    • If you like scale boats, you might be interestested to know that gas-powered RC boats are often available in slightly larger scales than other models.

    • Gas is a relatively inexpensive fuel to buy.

    • RC boats powered by gas are generally easier to maintain than nitro-powered vehicles.
       

    Gas cons:

    • Gas-powered RC boats tend to be slower than comparable nitro and battery-powered options.

    • RC boats powered by gas can be expensive to purchase.

    • You can only use gas-powered RC boats outdoors.

    Monohull RC boats are also referred to as "Deep-Vs" by hobbyists.

    Hull type

    The hull type of your RC boat is one of the main factors that affects its performance, so it's important to pick the right one for your boating conditions.

    • Monohulls are boats with single, V-shaped hulls. Monohulls are quick, maneuverable, and retain stability in rough water. This is by far the most popular hull type.

    • Catamarans have a larger hull footprint than other types of boat. This is due to the two sponsons, one attached to each side of the hull. This gives them increased stability in average conditions, though they don't stand up well to rough waters. They're also slower than monohulls, due to increased drag.

    • Hydroplanes have hulls that look like a two-pronged fork. They're designed for oval racing, which means that they're not great at turning left, so they're not good multipurpose RC boats.

    Ease of use

    You don't want to buy an RC boat only to realize that it's near-impossible to control. As such, you should look for a model with a simple, intuitive remote control that's easy to operate. If you're just starting out, don't run before you can walk – look for an RC boat that's geared toward beginners. There's plenty of time to upgrade once you've learned the ropes.

    Speed

    Think about how important speed is to you in an RC boat. You can find boats with top speeds of anywhere between 5 and 50 mph, or even faster. Even if you've got a true need for speed, we wouldn't recommend too fast an RC boat if this is your first time driving one. The faster your boat is, the more difficult it will be to control. Beginners should probably stick to boats with a maximum speed of no more than 20 mph.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The transmitter is what's in your remote control. It is the transmitter that sends signals to the receiver in your RC boat. The receiver, in turn, interprets the electrical signals from the transmitter and interprets them into directions to control the boat.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Your RC boat will either contain a brushed motor or a brushless motor. Brushless models are considered superior, as they're more efficient. Also, they can handle more power and higher speeds compared to brushed motors.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you operate your RC boat on the same frequency as someone else in the vicinity, your boat may respond to their commands and vice-versa. As such, it's good etiquette to ask any other RC boaters in the area what frequency they're using before you get started.

    RC boat prices

    • Basic

    You can find basic RC boats starting around $15 to $30. However, they don't tend to be of the greatest quality, and they’re more like toys than serious RC vehicles.

    • Mid-range

    Mid-range RC boats usually cost between $30 and $100. You can find some excellent boats in this price range, especially at the higher end.

    • High-end

    Expect to pay from $100 to anywhere up to $2,000 for a high-end RC boat. The most expensive models are professional racing quality. Those at the bottom end of the price range are more than enough for most hobbyists.

    You'll find two main varieties of batteries available for battery-operated RC boats: lithium polymer (LiPo) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH). NiMH batteries are more affordable, but LiPo batteries are generally considered superior.

    Tips

    • Check whether your chosen RC boat requires assembly or adjustments. If you see the term "RTR" in the product description, that means “ready to run.” I.e., the boat doesn't require any assembly.

    • Find out whether spare parts are easily available. You may need to repair your RC boat at some point, but if you can't find spares, you'll need to replace the whole boat.

    • Look at the range of your chosen RC boat. This is how far away it can travel from the remote control while still receiving its signal.
    We recommend against a very inexpensive RC boat if you're serious about the hobby. However, a cheap model can be ideal for learning the ropes on, before upgrading after a few months.

    FAQ

    Q. Can children use RC boats?

    A. Most RC boats have a recommended age range, and those designed for adults aren't generally recommended for children under 14. This can vary, however, so check the age limit on your chosen RC boat. That said, you can also find RC boats designed for use by children. These tend to be slightly slower and easier to control.

    Q. How do I recharge by RC boat's batteries?

    A. With most battery-powered RC boats, you have to remove the battery to recharge it. However, you can find a handful of models that let you leave the battery in place and charge it using a USB cable that goes straight into the boat.

    Q. How should I store my RC boat when it's not in use?

    A. When it's not in use, keep your RC boat somewhere dry, where it's not exceptionally hot or cold. If you won't be using it again soon, take the battery out and store it separately to avoid leaks.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Erica
      Erica
      Writer
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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