Different Types of RC Cars: Everything You Need to Know

RChobby Lab Profile Picture Ted Dulles
Reviewed by Kristen Ward
Reviewed by Kristen Ward
many types of rc cars

Imagine zipping around a racetrack, your fingers deftly maneuvering the controls as your miniature car executes a perfect drift around a tight corner. This isn’t just child’s play; it’s the exhilarating world of RC (radio-controlled) cars.

Whether it’s the roar of a nitro-fueled engine or the whir of an electric motor, there’s an RC car that fits your preference for power, terrain, and complexity.

Let’s begin our first lesson in the world of RC cars.

Types of RC Cars By Power Source

In the realm of radio-controlled vehicles, the power source is a defining characteristic that determines speed, handling, and maintenance. Let’s explore the different types of RC cars according to what keeps them running.

Electric RC Cars

Electric RC cars are favored for their ease of use and clean operation. They are powered by rechargeable batteries, typically NiMH or LiPo, which provide a convenient and cost-efficient source of energy.

Electric cars are known for their quick acceleration and quieter running, making them suitable for both indoor and outdoor environments.

Nitro RC Cars

Nitro RC cars run on a mixture of nitromethane, methanol, and oil. The nitro engine offers a more authentic driving experience with engine noise and exhaust smoke.

These cars require a bit more maintenance but reward the user with a more realistic performance and a longer run time compared to their electric counterparts.

Gas RC Cars

Own a slice of the action with Gas RC cars, which are powered by regular gasoline mixed with oil. They are larger in size and offer a prolonged running time, perfect for an extended outdoor session.

Gas cars demand a higher initial investment, but the fuel cost over time can be lower than nitro models, making them a robust choice for the dedicated hobbyist.

Types of RC Cars By Terrain

The RC car world is as diverse as the terrain they are designed for. Whether you’re tackling the rugged outdoors or racing across a smooth track, there’s an RC car built to handle it.

Off-Road RC Cars

Off-Road RC Cars flourish on rough surfaces. They have sturdy suspensions and are equipped with knobby tires for superior grip on unpredictable terrains like dirt, mud, and gravel.

RC Monster Trucks

With their oversized tires and high ground clearance, RC Monster Trucks are the giants of the RC world, able to conquer almost any terrain with raw power and stability.

RC Rock Crawlers

Designed for precision and control, RC Rock Crawlers navigate through the most challenging rocky terrains, simulating the rock-crawling experience of their full-sized counterparts.

RC Rock Racers

RC Rock Racers combine the agility of rock crawlers with the speed of race cars, making them adept at racing on tough terrains while overcoming obstacles.

RC Stadium Trucks

With a design suited for dirt tracks and jumps, RC Stadium Trucks offer a blend of speed and performance, perfect for the race track enthusiast.

RC Short Course Trucks

These trucks mimic full-size short course race trucks and are built to handle jumps, sharp turns, and high speeds. RC Short Course Trucks are thrilling for competitive racing and casual backyard bashing.

RC Buggies

RC Buggies are versatile and can perform well on both dirt and paved surfaces, featuring a design that balances speed and agility.

RC Truggies

RC Truggies are a hybrid of buggies and trucks, offering the best of both worlds – the speed and sleekness of buggies with the ruggedness of trucks.

On-Road RC Cars

On smooth asphalt or concrete, On-Road RC Cars shine with their sleek design and high speeds, ideal for racing or touring.

RC Drift Cars

Famous for their ability to slide gracefully around corners, RC Drift Cars offer an exciting driving experience focused on control and style.

RC Formula 1

Replicating the pinnacle of racing, RC Formula 1 cars are built for incredible speeds and agile handling on racetracks, making them a challenging and rewarding choice for serious racers.

Types of RC Cars By Build

Choosing the right type of RC car to match your interest and skill level is essential. From hands-on building to immediate racing, there are various build types available to cater to all kinds of enthusiasts.


Ready to Run (RTR) RC cars are perfect if you’re eager to start racing without delay. These fully assembled models come with all the essentials installed. For electric models, just charge the battery, and you’re set to go.

Nitro versions require a bit of prep with batteries and fuel, but they too promise quick action. Although they limit customization, RTRs are ideal for newcomers or those looking for a quick start into the hobby.

RC Car Kits

RC Car Kits are for those who relish the process of building their machines from scratch. These kits come as a collection of parts, requiring you to assemble everything, offering a deeper understanding of the mechanics.

Though more time-consuming and requiring additional purchases like electronics, the reward is a fully customized vehicle, built to your specs.


Almost Ready to Run (ARTR) vehicles strike a balance, offering a pre-built chassis with the freedom to select and install your own electronics.

This option saves you time on assembly while still allowing for personalization of key components. It’s an intermediate choice, suiting those who wish to tailor their RC experience without starting from zero.

RC Toy Cars

Finally, RC Toy Cars are the simplest form of RC vehicles, typically aimed at younger audiences or casual users. These are often more affordable, very user-friendly, and come with everything needed to get moving right out of the box.

They’re not built for competitive racing or heavy customization but are a great introduction to the world of RC cars.

Types of RC Cars By Motor

Choosing the right motor type for your RC car is crucial for performance and enjoyment. Motors primarily come in two types: brushed and brushless, each offering unique benefits to your racing experience.

Brushed RC Cars

Brushed RC cars are equipped with motors that use brushes to conduct electricity. These cars are often more affordable and are a great starting point for beginners.

Their simplicity makes them easier to maintain and repair, thus a popular choice for those new to the hobby. Brushed motors are well-suited for basic applications and can offer a satisfying experience without a steep learning curve.

Brushless RC Cars

On the other hand, brushless RC cars feature motors that are more efficient, powerful, and require less maintenance. They operate without brushes, leading to reduced friction and heat generation, which means they can run faster and longer than their brushed counterparts.

If you’re looking for top-notch performance and are willing to invest a bit more, brushless motors are the way to go. These are ideal for experienced hobbyists seeking speed and longevity in their RC vehicles.

Types of RC Cars By Scale

When you explore the world of remote-controlled cars, you’ll notice they come in a variety of scales, or sizes, which can greatly influence their usage and playability.

Each scale offers a unique experience, whether you prefer the compact convenience of mini RC cars or the impressive presence of larger scales.

Mini & Micro RC Cars

Mini and micro RC cars are the smallest scales, typically ranging from 1/36 to 1/24. They’re highly portable and perfect for indoor racing. Although small, they can be quite powerful and agile.

1/5 RC Cars

The 1/5 scale RC cars are among the largest and most impressive, providing a more realistic driving experience. Due to their size, they’re often equipped with more powerful engines, suitable for outdoor environments.

1/6 RC Cars

Just slightly smaller, 1/6 scale RC cars balance detail and size, providing a robust driving experience without the space demands of the 1/5 scale. They’re a great middle ground for enthusiasts looking for realism.

1/7 RC Cars

RC cars of 1/7 scale offer a unique size that’s not too common, serving as a niche for hobbyists seeking a specific type of car that combines detail with performance for both on-road and off-road adventures.

1/8 RC Cars

1/8 scale RC cars are highly popular, especially for off-road racing. They provide a great mix of maneuverability and durability, capable of handling various terrains while being easier to transport than their larger counterparts.

1/10 RC Cars

1/10 scale RC cars are arguably the most popular scale for both beginners and experienced racers. They offer a diverse range of models and are well-balanced in speed, handling, and detail, making them adaptable to many racing styles.

How to Shop for RC Cars?

When looking for an RC car, start by considering what type you want. From off-road buggies to sleek racers, there’s a range of models, each offering a different driving experience. If customization is your goal, look for hobby-grade models; these come with higher quality components that can be upgraded.

Budget is a key factor; RC cars vary significantly in price. Establish how much you’re willing to spend and keep an eye out for the best value within that range. Don’t forget to account for the cost of spare parts and maintenance, especially if you choose a more complex vehicle.

Where you’ll be driving your RC car matters. Plan to race on rough terrain? Consider a rock crawler. If you want speed on smooth surfaces, a drifting car may be your best bet. A good guide on this topic can provide further insights into choosing the right type of car for your needs.

Determine the power source that suits you best. Electric RC cars are quieter and easier to maintain, whereas nitro-powered cars offer a more authentic experience with engine noise and smoke, but require more upkeep.

Lastly, make use of user reviews and expert opinions from reputable sites before making your purchase. These can provide real-world insights into the durability and performance of the RC cars you’re considering.

  • Establish your budget
  • Consider type and intended use
  • Decide on electric or nitro power
  • Research reviews and expert opinions

Armed with this information, you’re ready to make an informed decision when shopping for your perfect RC car.

Conclusion: Which Type of RC Cars Should You Buy?

Choosing the ideal RC car depends on your interests and where you plan to use it. If you’re someone who enjoys off-road racing, monster trucks and rock crawlers are built for rough terrain and obstacles. They offer high ground clearance and rugged tires perfect for adventurous racing.

In contrast, if you’re into speed and racing on smooth surfaces, race cars or drift cars will satisfy your need for velocity with their sleek designs and fast acceleration. They are specifically designed for grip and speed on pavement.

For a balanced experience that can handle a variety of environments, consider buggies or truggies. These are versatile and can navigate both on and off-road conditions with ease, making them great all-rounders.

When making your choice, also consider:

  • Durability: A car that can withstand bumps and crashes.
  • Battery Life: For longer playtime.
  • Price: Consider your budget and what features are important to you.

Remember, your choice should be driven by the type of driving you find most enjoyable. The RC car world offers something for everyone, whether it’s the challenge of mastering a tough trail or the thrill of crossing the finish line first. Choose one that matches your passion and you won’t be disappointed. Happy driving!

Types of Radio-control Vehicles FAQ

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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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