The 10 Best RC Rock Crawlers
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in January of 2017. Let no rough terrain stand in the way of your fun. When you are at the controls of one of these RC beasts, you will be ready for off-road adventures in all weather conditions and without worrying about damage caused by crashes or roll-overs. These rock crawlers are designed to climb across the toughest trails and can withstand any abuse. Some are almost fast enough to double as racers, too. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 03, 2020:
Though it may seem easy to onlookers, we know that trying to navigate crawlers over rugged terrain is actually quite difficult and requires a lot of both strategy and skill. Of course, having the best vehicle around doesn't hurt either, which is exactly what you will find here.
We had to remove the Vaterra Ascender K10 during this update because Horizon Hobby has decided to discontinue the entire Vaterra line. This is rather unfortunate, as it was a beast of a machine and could tackle just about any kind of crazy terrain you could find. Luckily, Axial also falls under the Horizon Hobby umbrella, and we feel the Axial Wraith Spawn and Axial SCX10 II Deadbolt don't lag behind the Ascender K10 in any aspect. While we would give the win to the Axial SCX10 II Deadbolt in the looks department, it can't compare with the power and torque of the Wraith Spawn. Also, while the former is generally only going to be suitable for slow climbing, the latter is fast enough that it is also fun to just rip around some dirt courses. However, neither is as fast as the budget-friendly Altair Power Pro, which tops out at 30 MPH, but can't compete with the Axial models in the rugged boulder climbing capacity. In that regard though, those who really like speed and don't expect to do any serious climbing, may be better off with an RC nitro car.
If you prefer something that is a recognizable replica of a once-popular vehicle, you should consider the Traxxas TRX-4 K5 Blazer. This model isn't just about fancy looks though. With plenty of ground clearance, extremely durable metal components everywhere it counts, premium waterproof electronics, and a ton of torque, it can climb over pretty much anything.
Those looking to get kids involved in the hobby will probably want to consider the SZJJX Monster or Danchee RidgeRock. While not super durable, the SZJJX Monster is incredibly budget friendly and offers better performance than you would usually get from something in its price range. Alternatively, the Danchee RidgeRock is more expensive, though not overly so, and allows you to tune the suspension just like the premium models. Plus, being relatively slow, it is easy for kids to control.
October 30, 2019:
If you don't have the money or live in an area where it would be feasible to drive a full-sized rock crawler, navigating one these RC rock crawlers is the next best thing. Most are built to scale, so their balance and capabilities are similar to real kitted-out vehicles, just in a miniature format.
During this update, we removed a number of models that made the list last year. Some examples include the Vaterra Twin Hammers, which has been discontinued by the manufacturer, and the DeXop F01, which tends to begin experiencing charging issues over time. We also eliminated the Ecogear EC-V101, which, while affordable, didn't have enough power to tackle many obstacles people encountered.
Some new additions include the Exceed MadTorque, a six-wheel drive model that has enough torque to handle the steepest of inclines. It does travel a bit slow though, so if speed is more your style you'll want to look at the Altair Power Pro, which tops out around 30 MPH. It also comes ready to run, making it a good choice for beginners who don't want to deal with the hassle of assembling their vehicle.
The Traxxas Summit has a 70:1 gear ratio, so you can rest easy it will also have all the torque you need. You can even equip it with the company's Link Wireless Module, allowing you to fine tune the vehicle from your smartphone.
We have included the Vaterra Ascender and Axial SCX10 II Deadbolt for people who prefer crawlers with a more realistic look, but if these models don't suit your fancy, you can find a few more options on the RC trucks list.
Traction Hobby Cragsman C Ford Raptor F150 Built to 1/8th scale, the officially licensed Traction Hobby Cragsman C Ford Raptor F150 is a massive machine that is best in the hands of experienced users. Its chassis is created from 1.2-millimeter thick steel rails and is fitted with metal alloy front and rear straight axles. Additional features include remote locking differentials; adjustable, oil-filled hydraulic shock absorbers; and more than three inches of ground clearance. tractionhobby.com
Vanquish VS4-10 Pro The Vanquish VS4-10 Pro has a half-cab design with a tough polycarbonate body that offers retro styling paired with some modern flair. The motor is placed low and towards the front to give it a good center of gravity and extra traction on the front tires to help with climbing, and that is paired with offset pumpkin-style axles for ground clearance. vanquishproducts.com
A Brief History Of RC Cars
In the 1970s, a few small American slot car companies started developing their own nitro-powered RC vehicles.
Along with the first computer game and the compact disc, the 1960s gave us another iconic invention — the radio-controlled car, the first of such being a 1/12-scale, nitro-powered Ferrari 250LM created by Italian electronics company Elettronica Giocattoli in 1966.
By 1968, a number of other manufacturers were already selling their own RC cars in both 1/12 and 1/8 scales, including WEN, Mardave, and Model Car Enterprises. Throughout the end of the 1960s, RC cars were only sold in Europe and the UK. In the 1970s, a few small American slot car companies started developing their own nitro-powered RC vehicles. This is also the decade that saw the emergence of on-road electric RC cars, the first being a 1/12-scale Porsche 934 by the Japanese company Tamiya in 1976. Tamiya is also responsible for producing the first off-road style models in 1979, which featured real suspensions systems and textured rubber tires.
In the 1980s, the RC car market received an overhaul when manufacturers went from focusing on simple scale models to high-performance models featuring larger and more powerful motors. Between the advent of 4WD off-road trucks and buggies, and high-performance racing models, the popularity of RC vehicles skyrocketed. Towards the very end of the 1980s, Kent Clausen set an impressive speed record of 57mph running the RC10L electric pan car. He would go on to break his own record in the 90s by driving that same model 70mph.
These staggering speed records were a precursor to what the 1990s held for RC cars — a focus on speed. This decade saw the emergence of high-performance racing trucks, as well as the onset of the touring car era. This is also a time when manufacturers began scaling their vehicles down from 1/8 and 1/12 all the way to 1/18, starting the mini and micro racing trends.
If the 90s was the decade of speed, the 2000s was the time of the crawlers. Manufactures began competing to see who could build the most rugged rock crawler. Models capable of tackling nearly any type of terrain hit the market. It is also the time when the standard radio control systems switched from AM/FM to 2.4GHz and serious hobbyists started purchasing more ready-to-run models than build kits.
How To Choose The Right RC Rock Crawler
RC rock crawlers are fun for the old and young alike. Most children get their first experience playing with an RC vehicle before the age of 10, and for many it becomes a lifelong passion. With a wide variety of models available, there is one for just about any need. It is easy enough to find basic, budget-friendly models that are simple for kids as young as five or six to control, as well as high-performance models that can climb over practically any obstacle and reach impressive speeds. While this is great, it does mean that when it comes time to buy you'll be spoiled for choice, making it difficult to pick the best one.
When browsing the various crawlers, there are two decisions that must be made before you can start comparing potential models.
When browsing the various crawlers, there are two decisions that must be made before you can start comparing potential models. First and foremost, you must decide if you want to buy a kit or ready-to-run model? More than likely if you are a beginner, it is best to go with an RTR model. Except for people who truly love to build models, and don't mind a few frustrations along the way, most beginners will find a kit too daunting. Experienced hobbyists will find a kit more satisfying though, especially the first time they fire it up on the track.
Next, you'll have to choose between a nitro and electric model. Each of these offers their own pros and cons. Nitro models require more maintenance, but allow you to fine tune the engine and other components for the maximum possible speed and power. This means they may be difficult for those who aren't mechanically inclined to keep in good working order. Electric models require almost no maintenance and start at the flip of a switch.
Nitro models also offer a lifelike motor sound and driving experience. They roar down the track, releasing exhaust as they go. The flip side of this is that you will definitely annoy your neighbors if constantly driving one in front of your house. Electric models are quiet and easier to drive, making them good for beginners, children, and those who just want to drive them around the neighborhood.
Finally, nitro-fueled models can get anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes on a single tank, and can then just be refilled to continue driving. Electric models often get 20 minutes or less of run time from a battery. Then, you'll need to wait for the battery to recharge before you can drive again.
Don't Want To Compromise On Speed?
Rock crawlers are great for some hobbyists, but may not be the ideal choice for others. If you love watching a truck scale seemingly impossible terrain, then you will no doubt love a crawler. On the other hand, if speed is what you are after, then a crawler would be a poor choice. Luckily, there is another type of RC vehicle to choose from that performs admirably off-road yet is designed for higher speeds than crawlers — the monster truck.
Monster trucks are the bad boys of the RC world. They feature massive, deeply-treaded tires and powerful motors, the combination of which is capable of propelling them up and across some seriously imposing terrains, from rock-studded inclines to muddy tracks and sandy dunes. While they may not have as much low-end torque as some crawlers, they make up for it with brute force. Since they are faster than crawlers, they can often use their momentum to scramble over rocks that crawlers meticulously climb over. This does make for a fare bit more crashes though.
Monster trucks are also more fun on flat surfaces than crawlers, since they are generally fast enough to keep people entertained on speed alone. This makes them a great choice for someone who enjoys off-roading, but doesn't live close enough to rugged terrain to go there every time they want to use their RC vehicle.