Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best remote control cars

When you were a kid, grabbing the controls of an RC car and racing about your home and yard was a great thrill. As an adult, the activity has become even more fun. The only limit to your excitement is the quality of your RC car. That is why you want the best.

It is important to purchase an RC car that is able to handle the terrain you intend to explore, otherwise, your vehicle might not last. Having sealed electronics, a good battery life, and a strong and reliable radio signal are all also top concerns. Whether you purchase a joystick or dual controllers is a matter of preference, but it's best to get what is most natural to you.

If you can't wait to begin your RC car adventures, you can be confident in choosing one of the selections we offer in this article. If you'd like to learn a little more about RC cars before making a purchase, read on.

Where will you drive?

Not every RC car can handle every kind of terrain. In fact, the environment in which you intend to drive greatly impacts which type of car you should buy.

Ask yourself the following questions before making a purchase.

Will you be driving on concrete or asphalt?

If you’ll be driving primarily on concrete and asphalt, chances are your tires and undercarriage won’t sustain a lot of damage.

What you will see in the long run, however, is a slow wear-down of the tire’s tread. In the same way that automobile tires smooth out and lose their grip after years of road use, so do RC car tires.

If you’ll be driving on this type of pavement, a smooth-surface car would be your best bet. 

Will I be driving on rugged terrain (grass, wood chips, rocks, etc.)?

If you live in a suburban home with a front and backyard, chances are your car will eventually find its way onto the lawn. Any wood chips, grass, rocks, or twigs on your lawn could potentially damage your car’s tires and frame. You'll likely want an RC car that can take on slightly denser terrain without many problems. Bear in mind, however, that when you start hitting thicker grass, you may lose traction. It’s best to limit your path to lawns that are regularly trimmed.

Will I be tackling various types of terrain with the RC car?

If you’re more of an explorer and don’t really care what’s in your path, consider an all-terrain RC car that can withstand anything you decide to drive it into. These cars are designed to take on whatever they may encounter, with the exception of anything that would be like driving a real car into a wall! This includes sand, snow, puddles, thick shrubbery, leaf piles, and so on. 

Of course, all-terrain RC cars aren’t impervious to everything. You couldn’t drive one through a river or up a tree log. “All-terrain” doesn’t mean “indestructible.”

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Expert Tip
If you want to land on your feet running, going for an RTR (Ready-To-Run) model might be a better choice than building a car from parts.


Modern video gaming is such that a five-year-old can operate a character with two joysticks and accomplish whatever the game’s mission may be. But playing a videogame and handling an RC car call for two very different control schemes. If you buy someone an RC car they can’t grasp right off the bat, they will likely become frustrated and lose interest in the car.


Most modern RC cars feature a trigger-operated joystick. You hold the remote with one hand and press the trigger button to power the back tires. You use your other hand to control the dial on top of the stick, which turns the front tires.

This simple configuration allows younger kids (who may not be used to a gamer-like system) to control the car with ease and enjoy their experience.

Dual controls

A dual joystick somewhat resembles the control system a gamer might use, but it’s a bit more complicated, and it works on a 2D plane as opposed to a 3D plane. As such, there is a backward learning curve that might frustrate some kids and adults.

One joystick controls forward and backward movement. (This is an advantage over a single joystick, which only moves forward.) The other controls the tires. The degree to which you push the first control determines your speed in either direction.

"Avoid road debris as much as possible. These obstacles, though small, could cause issues with your car’s functionality. Usually there’s a small section of information on the box that will tell you if you can take the car “off road” or not."


Over the years, we’ve come to expect that we can control everything via remote from a single location. But with RC cars, you must keep moving with the car if you decide to push it past a certain range. Few cars contain remote technology that would stretch beyond 300 feet. That might not seem like much, but bear in mind that you must always keep your eye on the car while driving.

Battery life

Modern RC cars that run on standard, store-bought batteries alone are few and far between. You’ll either have a charging station for both the car and remote, or you’ll have a remote that runs on AA batteries and a built-in car battery that charges in the wall.

A standard NiMH battery can last you a long time, but if used or allowed to sit in the sun for too long, the battery could die out. (Remember, they’re basically sitting in a black plastic case that attracts heat.)

These batteries are also susceptible to water damage. They can resist some water, but they're not waterproof. We advise users to remember this before driving an RC car through a giant puddle after a storm, tempting though it may be.

To make the most of your battery life, recharge the car until it’s full. During long periods of inactivity, the car should still be charged once per week.

Bells & whistles

Depending on the car you buy, the remote may add the ability to do extra things like honk a horn, light up, or even talk back to you. These might sound appealing, but don’t be fooled by simple “additions” that could drain the battery faster because they’re constantly on standby. In many cases, they’re marketing additions and nothing more.

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Did you know?
Generally, a 1/16 scale RC car handles dirt and trails well, while a 1/10 scale RC car is better on lawns or wet grass. Choose your car by what terrain you'll be driving it on.


Whenever you take your RC car out for a spin, you run the risk of a devastating crash. There’s no way around it: toys break sometimes. Most people want to buy the most durable RC car possible in order to minimize this chance.

The key to buying a hearty car is finding one with a sturdy chassis and durable body. Follow these tips.

  • Avoid RC cars with unnecessary plastic add-ons that contribute nothing. Having a spoiler may look cool, but does it actually help the car in any way?
  • The best RC car bodies are usually self-contained and wrap to the frame. They may still suffer from scraped paint and perhaps a dent or two, but they won’t look “wrecked” from wear and tear.
"The “look” of an RC car is an aesthetic and personal choice that ultimately matters only to the owner of the car. If you’re buying this as a gift, keep the recipient’s preferences in mind. Fortunately, many RC cars come in a variety of designs and hues."

RC car prices

When it comes to the price of an RC car, there really is no standard “middle ground” where everything you want will be covered at an adequate price. Either you shell out over $200 for a top-of-the-line vehicle, or you aim for a lower price and settle for a car that does the trick “to a certain degree.” You’re not getting cheated, per se; it’s simply a matter of getting what you pay for.

But that being said, the priciest RC cars aren’t always the best.

If all you want is a decent RC car that will give you or your kids hours of driving fun, anything between $40 and $80 should do fine. The only reason to go higher is if you want a deluxe car that does everything  including going anywhere you want it to go and having a horn that sounds like a ringtone.

If you are just getting started, choose a model that has a “brushed” electric motor, or a training mode to make the car go slower, till you get a hang of things. Also, make sure you have enough batteries, as well as a fast charger, for your car. That way, you won't run out of juice on a long run.

Preserving interest in the car

If you’re a parent who’s hoping to make an investment that will maintain your child's interest for months or years to come, we offer these tips.

  • Don’t buy an RC car as a Christmas present unless you live in an area with little to no snow. Kids are less likely to go outside and play with a summertime toy in the winter, even if you do spring for an all-terrain type.
  • Play with your child and his/her new car. Visit an open area and try out some tricks. Practice donuts and other fun maneuvers. If you’re interested in the car, your child will more likely be interested, too.
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