No matter whether you’re eight or forty, if you love cars, races and tinkering with things, RC cars can provide you with many hours of fun, excitement and challenges to overcome.
RC cars have come a long way, and now there are models that can reach speeds of 80 km/h and are fitted with suspension systems that can be tuned just like on a real car! But the most exciting part is the huge range of RC vehicles. You can drive a monster truck on dirt tracks, RC race cars on smooth surfaces, or even fly an RC plane!
However, as exciting as it may be, the sheer amount of brands, specs and varieties of RC vehicles can make it confusing as to what model to buy. In fact, buying your first RC car requires a fair amount of research, evaluation of your needs, and price comparison. Even though all RCs feature the same components – a receiver, transmitter, motor and power source – these components can greatly vary in type, size and level of difficulty.
The first step to buying RC race cars is deciding whether you want a nitro or electric-powered model. Nitro cars are faster and more powerful, but their engines require more tuning and plenty of maintenance. Electric-powered cars, on the other hand, aren’t as fast and powerful, but they run much quieter and are easier for beginners.
Then, you’ll have to decide whether you want an RC race car that’s ready to run right out the box, or if you want to build one from scratch. Ready to run cars are best for beginners who just want to join in on the fun as soon as possible, while build-your-own kits are for those who want to understand how RC cars work since you’ll be building it from scratch.
Electric vs Nitro Race Cars
As briefly aforementioned, nitro cars are faster, but require more maintenance and tuning, whereas electric cars are simpler and easier to run. Electric cars run cleaner and quieter, allowing you to use them wherever you want. Although not as powerful as nitro cars, electric cars are pretty close, thanks to the recent advancements in RC batteries and motor technology. They use rechargeable battery packs that can be recharged from a wall socket or 12V car battery. Depending on the motor of the car, the batteries can run for about 10 minutes, and recharging the battery requires about 15-30 minutes. For that reason, it’s recommended you always have an extra battery pack or two at hand so that you can keep the fun going.
Electric cars are more affordable initially, but the accessories like a battery charger, extra battery pack and other accessories can quickly add up. Of course, all these costs depend on what type of car you end up buying and what type of batteries it requires. And even though electric cars require a fair amount of maintenance, it’s still significantly less than having to care for the air filters, fuel and tuning that are required for maintaining a nitro car.
Nitro cars are named after the special type of fuel that powers them. And although they’re not the typical choice for beginners, they’re the best choice if you want power and speed. Besides the superior speed, they also offer a lot of realism in terms of sight (smoke), sound (tuned pipes), and smell (exhaust gases).
Over the past few years, the quality of nitros has also seen a significant improvement, making them safer and more reliable than they were in the past. You’re still going to need a battery pack for the car’s transmitter and receiver. There are two types of nitro motors – 2-stroke and 4-stroke motors. 2-stroke engines are those found in chain saws, motocross bikes and weed whackers, and they don’t have a separate oil reservoir, so the oil that lubricates the engine is included in the fuel mix. 4-stroke engines, on the other hand, come with an oil reservoir, so they depend less on the oil/gasoline fuel mixture for lubrication. When using a nitro RC car for racing, you’ll have to refill the fuel tank every 5-10 minutes.
Ready-to-Run vs Building Your Own
Ready-to-run models are ideal for people who want to jump in on the fun as soon as they buy the RC vehicle. Building your own kit can be complex and time-consuming, but nothing beats knowing the ins and outs of your RC vehicle if you’ve built it from scratch. Building your own kit can also save you money.
The time it takes to build your own kit will depend on your experience, the type of car, and the manufacturer. Some cars come with more parts than others. Electric RC cars come with fewer parts than nitro cars, but regardless, you should be patient, and look up videos and instructions on how to properly do build one from the ground up. It’s strongly recommended that you get a ready-to-run model first and get familiar with how it runs before you try to build one from scratch.