The 9 Best RC Cars
This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in March of 2015. It's hard to categorize these remote control cars as toys when some can fly at over 60 miles per hour (which is faster than your granddad ever goes in his full-size vehicle). So if you find yourself feeling the need for speed, these RC models will help you get your fix without having to worry about getting pulled over. We have also included some options for beginners and youngsters, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 30, 2021:
As is usual with products like RC cars and drones, even the best models are refreshed from time to time, so most of our best suggestions are new or significantly upgraded. This includes the Arrma Granite V3, which offers excellent value for bashing, and the Losi Mini-T 2.0, which is relatively small and a ton of fun to zip around parking lots and mild off-road terrain. The Arrma Typhoon V3 Mega and Traxxas Rustler are a touch more expensive, and if you really want to bash with the best, the Arrma Notorious is difficult to beat.
If you're buying for a novice, we recommend the Hosim 9156 as an entry-level hobby-grade model. Alternatively, young children will love the Orrente 360-Degree, which has a bit of a learning curve but is a lot of fun and also hard to break. The Midea Tech Lamborghini Sesto Elemento is another small and inexpensive option that can occupy the kids for a while, although it's not suitable for any kind of off-roading.
January 04, 2020:
Revisiting this list after our last update two years ago, we learned that many of our previous recommendations were no longer available. We also decided to completely revamp our selections to focus mostly on hobby-grade models, since we feel anyone looking for the best RC cars will want something a bit better than what you can find at your local Wal-Mart. However, just to be sure there is at least something to suit every need, we did still include the Midea Tech Lamborghini Sesto Elemento and Hosim All-Terrain Buggy, which are both reasonably priced, and, while not hobby-grade, slightly better than the average toy-grade model.
If speed is what you are after, there is no better option than the Traxxas XO-1. Touted as being the fastest production RC car, it can cruise at speeds in excess of 60 MPH right out of the box, and with the addition of 3s LiPo batteries, it can get up to 100 MPH in less than five seconds. If you can't quite stomach the high price tag though, the Traxxas Slash 4x4 Platinum Edition and Arrma Typhoon 3S BLX should satisfy most speed demons for a considerably more palatable price. These two models also have the added benefit of being able to take on some rougher terrain than the XO-1. Of course, if you really want to tackle rugged off-road trails, you are better off with a rock crawler or RC truck.
If drifting around turns is how you get your kicks, you'll want to look to the Redcat Racing EPX, Traxxas LaTrax Rally, and Exceed DriftStar 350 Carbon Red, all of which come with slick tires specifically for that purpose.
Of all the models on our list, the Kyosho Inferno GT2 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is the largest, built to 1/8 scale. Right out of the box it runs at about 35 MPH, but can reach well over that after some modifications. It is nitro-powered too, so you'll never have to worry about running out of juice while on the track and having to wait hours to recharge the battery.
Off To The Races
The sous chef sees her action, and he, too, emits the same pattern of mu waves, even though his hands are empty.
We satisfy our need for speed in a number of ways. Running satisfies it to some extent, but it requires a transcendence above the limited means of the human body and an exploitation of our mind's ability to use tools and create machines to give us the rush we've come to desire. From the bicycle at is simplest to the 2,193.2 mph-record-holding SR-71 Blackbird, humans search high and low for our fast fix.
One of the great things about the experience of speed is that we can empathize with it. How does that work? Well, if a chef were to pick up a pepper, her brain would, among many other things, emit specific mu waves associated with voluntary motion. The sous chef sees her action, and he, too, emits the same pattern of mu waves, even though his hands are empty.
This is a measurable human sympathetic response, and the same thing occurs when we see a NASCAR race or watch a NASA rocket launch. In the case of these RC cars, our pleasure is only exacerbated by our control over their speed and their handling. Our brains actually experience the cars as though we're driving them.
The RC itself stands for Radio Controlled, and each of these vehicles comes with a unique radio controller that emits a 2.4 GHz frequency signal across which you convey your intentions to a receiver in the car that's connected both to the engine and the steering system.
Form And Function Both Go Fast
The range in price is so broad in this category, that it's liable to be the first thing that places you in a certain bracket. What I'd like to do, however, is to talk about these cars as though money were no object, which will give you the most honest appraisal of each racer's appeal.
Disregarding cost for a moment, you can ask yourself what it is you'd really like to do with your RC car. If you're looking to race competitively, even in a friendly fashion, you'll want to figure out the balance between speed and handling that suits your racing style the best.
Ask yourself if you actually want to take this thing out of the box and use it, and, if you do, over what kind of terrain you want to take it.
I remember, playing racing video games growing up in the arcade, I could always beat a kid who raced with the fastest car on the selection screen if I chose a slightly slower model that had much better handling. Even with a straightaway at the end of the course, I'd have gained enough ground on him to box him out completely in the final leg.
There's the potential to treat these cars as collectables, as well, especially the models that are scale replicas of cars you'd see out in the real world. They're often well-equipped for racing on track and terrain, but their manufacturers derive some of their pricing policy from the potential for resale down the line, should you keep it in mint condition.
Ask yourself if you actually want to take this thing out of the box and use it, and, if you do, over what kind of terrain you want to take it. Are you track racing? Are you running a miniature version of a rally race? Once you get a handle on your intention, you can look back over the price options among what's left to you, and make an informed and exciting decision.
A Race Against Time
Although RC boats and other vehicles have been around since Nikola Tesla first demonstrated radio control in 1898, it wasn't until the 1960s that the nuances of radio control would be articulate enough to control an RC car. The problem was that radio signals before then were more or less binary, limiting operators to forward, reverse, left, right, stop, and go, with no touch between anything.
They were 1:12 scale replicas of the Ferrari 250LM, and by December of that year, they were available as far off as the UK.
The development of what's called proportional radio control gave manufacturers the last tool they needed to create an RC car that could actually provide its user with a driving experience.
With this new technology in hand, the earliest RC cars on the market came from an Italian company back in 1966. They were 1:12 scale replicas of the Ferrari 250LM, and by December of that year, they were available as far off as the UK. The company followed the success of their first Ferrari replica with a 1:10 scale version of Ferrari's P4.
The 1970s saw an enormous growth in RC car associations, both for the purposes of racing the cars and of building them from scratch or modifying existing models. Those organizations persist today, even if the popularity of the cars hasn't been able to regain the heights it once reached.