Electric vs Gas RC Cars: What is the Better Choice?

RChobby Lab Profile Picture Ted Dulles
Reviewed by Daniel Henderson
Updated on
Reviewed by Daniel Henderson
Blog cover: electric vs gas RC cars: how to choose?

When they walk into an RC hobby shop, many people want the coolest, fastest thing that the shop has.

So, I will go over the differences between electric and gas cars. You’re really going to have to choose what’s best for you. I hope this post helps you make a decision.

What is an Electric RC Car?

An electric RC car is a type of remote-controlled vehicle that uses an electric motor for propulsion. It is powered by rechargeable batteries, typically lithium polymer (LiPo) or nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) cells.

ARRMA all road street RC truck RTR

And electric RC cars typically come as ready-to-run models.

You get a car like this: it’s all built, the body’s painted, the wheels are on, and it usually comes with all the electronics, including the radio, speed controller, and motor.

What is a Gas RC Car?

A gas RC car is a type of radio-controlled (RC) vehicle that runs on a gasoline-powered engine instead of an electric or nitro engine.

These cars use a mixture of gasoline and oil, similar to the fuel used in lawn equipment and other small gas-powered engines.

Losi 1/5 5IVE-T 2.0 V2 4WD SCT Gas Car

Electric vs Gas RC Cars: What Are the Main Differences?

Here is a simple table to help you quickly understand the differences between electric and gas RC cars.

Moving forward, let’s delve into each point in detail.

Comparison: Cost

The cost is the first difference because everyone’s budget is limited, and you can’t buy all the RC cars on the market.

When I first got into the RC car hobby, nitro/gas RC cars used to be the king of the field.

They tend to be expensive, mainly because of the following:

  1. Engine and components: Gas RC cars typically use small-scale, two-stroke, or four-stroke internal combustion engines that can be more complex and costly to produce than electric motors. The engines are often made from high-quality materials and require additional components such as carburetors, exhaust systems, and air filters, adding to the overall cost.
  2. Fuel systems: Gas-powered RC cars require fuel tanks, fuel lines, and fuel filters. These components add to the cost and complexity of the vehicle.
  3. Maintenance: Gas RC cars generally require more maintenance than electric RC cars, as their engines have more moving parts and require regular cleaning, tuning, and lubrication. This can lead to higher costs for spare parts, tools, and maintenance supplies, which can be reflected in the initial purchase price.
  4. Licensing and patents: Some gas RC car manufacturers may hold exclusive licenses or patents for specific technologies or designs. These licensing agreements or intellectual property rights can increase the cost of production and ultimately affect the retail price of the vehicles.

Now, electric RC cars have replaced them.

If you buy from the online store, you’ll find it when you filter the options. Electric vehicles reached 96.42%, nitro cars came 2.74%, while gas cars accounted for only 0.84%.

horizonhobby RC cars screenshot

electric vs gas RC cars horizonhobby chart

Technological innovation means lower costs; now you can get an entry-level electric RC car for less than $300. I am really grateful to these model makers and technical research experts.

However, it’s important to note that the price difference between electric and gas RC cars can vary depending on the brand, model, and specific features. Some electric RC cars can be more expensive than gas-powered models, especially when upgrading engines or batteries.

👍 Winner: Electric RC Cars

Comparison: Appearance

For those who love the sound and feel of a real engine, gas RC cars offer an exhilarating experience.

Remember that gas cars are louder than their electric counterparts, which might not be ideal if you live in a densely populated area.

Losi 1/5 5IVE-T 2.0 V2 4WD SCT Gas RC cars

For those who appreciate scale realism, electric RCs have a distinct advantage. Without the need for a large cylinder head, fuel lines, or an oil-splattering exhaust pipe, electric models like this Arrma Big Rock boast a cleaner, more authentic appearance.

ARRMA 1/10 big roc brushless monster truck, black

This advantage extends to drift cars, drag cars, and crawlers, where RC scale enthusiasts can achieve the look and strong performance of a real 1:10 scale vehicle.

👍 Winner: No

Comparison: Speed & Power

Electric and gas RC cars differ in speed and power due to their distinct power sources and mechanisms.

Speed: Electric RC cars, particularly those with brushless motors, can achieve impressive speeds due to their high torque and rapid acceleration capabilities. High-performance electric RC cars can reach speeds of 60-100+ mph (96-160+ km/h).

Using nitro fuel or gasoline, gas RC cars can also reach high speeds, but they typically have slower acceleration than their electric counterparts. Top-tier gas RC cars can achieve speeds ranging from 40-70+ mph (64-112+ km/h).

Power: Electric RC cars deliver consistent power throughout their runtime, thanks to the constant voltage provided by their batteries. This results in a more predictable performance and instant torque delivery.

In contrast, gas RC cars rely on internal combustion engines, which often require higher RPMs to generate maximum power. Their power delivery can be less linear and more dependent on engine tuning and throttle response.

Which is Faster?

The exact numbers are mentioned in the RacenRCs’s article:

A typical RC car will reach top speeds ranging anywhere from 1 mile per hour up to as high as 70mph, depending on various factors. Premium enthusiast RC’s and DIY-modified cars will reach speeds of 100 mph and over!

The land speed record for a radio-controlled car currently sits at an impressive 202.02 miles per hour.

👍 Winner: Electric RC Cars

Comparison: Dependability & Convenience

Let’s talk about dependability first.

Electric RC cars are generally more dependable than gas RC cars because of their simpler design and fewer moving parts. The electric motor has fewer components than an internal combustion engine, meaning fewer things can go wrong or require maintenance.

Additionally, electric RC cars are less prone to mechanical issues related to fuel, carburetors, or exhaust systems.

Gas RC cars can be more prone to mechanical issues as they have more complex engines with many moving parts. They require regular tuning and maintenance to ensure proper performance, and their reliability can be affected by factors such as fuel quality, engine tuning, and weather conditions.

The greatest fun of RC cars is competing with friends in the field or on the track. This means we need to take RC cars out often.

Portability, as well as ease of starting is another point to consider.

RC car competition

If you’re the type that just wants to go home and turn something on and have it work, an Electric ready-to-run car is probably what you want to look for. All you need to do is charge the battery, insert double-A batteries into the radio system, and go outside and play.

Turning to the gas remote control car side, it can be a bit complicated.

When I used to work in a hobby shop, I would ask people if they were mechanically inclined and if they were okay with adjusting the engine because all gas engines require a break-in period.

You have to account for elevation and outdoor temperature. And as that motor heats up, the tune will need to be adjusted. It takes even half a tank or a tank of fuel to make it run properly.

So, a bit more work is involved in getting a nitro/gas car up and running. If you feel you can do it, nitro/gas can be a lot of fun. The sound is cool, the speed is impressive, and the smoke pouring out of the tuned pipe is pretty awesome.

👍 Winner: Electric RC Cars

Comparison: Repair & Maintenance

With a gas car, some oils are coming out of the engine, which tends to get all over the chassis and collect a lot of dirt. When you’re done running it at the end of the day, you should drain the fuel tank and ensure the engine is at the bottom dead center as good practice.

Electric cars tend to be a little easier to maintain. You can use a brush to wipe off any dirt, grass, or debris. If you get the truck muddy, cleaning is a bit more intensive, but overall, it’s simpler than maintaining a gas car.

👍 Winner: Electric RC Cars

Comparison: Scalability

If you need to DIY or modify and upgrade your RC car, congratulations, you have become a senior player.

Electric RC cars offer various scalability options, including upgrading motors, electronic speed controllers (ESCs), batteries, and gear. These upgrades can lead to improvements in speed, acceleration, and runtime.

Team Losi Racing TLR03022 RC car

The modularity of electric RC cars also allows for easier component replacement or repair, as many parts are plug-and-play or have standardized connectors.

Also, due to the popularity of electric RC cars, you can find many parts on the market that are not particularly expensive.

Team Losi Racing TLR03022 RC kit

Gas RC cars also offer scalability, but the options differ from those of electric RC cars. Gas RC car owners can upgrade engines, exhaust systems, carburetors, and air filters to improve performance, fuel efficiency, and power output.

Tuning and adjusting engine settings can also significantly impact performance, and skilled tuners can achieve impressive results with gas RC cars.

However, gas RC car upgrades can be more complex and time-consuming than electric RC car upgrades, as they involve working with mechanical systems and internal combustion engines.

👍 Winner: No

Comparison: Newbie Friendly?

It’s pretty obvious that electric RC cars are easier to start with than gas RC cars, but if you want to go deeper into it, I suggest you experience both once.

👍 Winner: Electric RC Cars

Final Words

In conclusion, while gas RCs hold a nostalgic place in the hearts of many remote control vehicle enthusiasts, electric RCs have come a long way in terms of performance, convenience, and scale realism.

If you haven’t tried an electric RC yet, now is the perfect time to experience the thrill of this rapidly advancing technology.

And remember, whether you prefer gas/nitro or electric, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the world of remote-controlled vehicles.

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Written By Ted Dulles

I'm Ted Dulles, an avid RC hobbyist extraordinaire! My passion for the world of remote-controlled (RC) models ignited in 2018. Just a year later, fueled by this passion, I took a bold step and opened my own RC shop in California. I have a deep fascination with all kinds of RC models – be it cars, planes, or boats. I'm always eager to take on new challenges and absolutely love the thrill and excitement that come with this hobby.

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