Radio-controlled (RC) cars are a fun and exciting hobby for people of all ages. From toy-grade models for kids to high-performance vehicles for serious hobbyists, RC cars allow you to race and perform stunts without ever leaving the driver’s seat. If you’re new to the world of RC cars, choosing the right model for your first purchase can seem daunting. With so many types, features and price points available, it’s hard to know where to start. This beginner’s guide will walk you through the key considerations when choosing your first RC car.

We’ll explore the major categories of RC cars, from basic on-road and off-road styles to specific types like touring cars and monster trucks. You’ll learn how to set your budget and identify the scale size and capabilities that match your needs. We’ll also cover important factors like brand reputation, parts support, and intended use so you can make an informed decision. By the end of this guide, you’ll have the knowledge to confidently select an ideal starter RC car that aligns with your experience level. You’ll avoid buyer’s remorse and have the right foundation to progress further in the hobby.

1. Types of RC Cars

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make when choosing your first RC car is what type of vehicle you want. There are several main categories and styles to consider.

On-road vs. Off-road

On-road cars are built for pavement and smooth surfaces like roads, parking lots and tracks. They have stiff suspensions and narrow tires. Off-road cars are made for rough terrain like dirt, grass and trails. They have softer suspension and chunky treaded tires.

Electric vs. Gas-Powered

Electric RC cars use rechargeable battery packs to power the motor. They are cleaner, quieter and usually preferred for beginner use. Gas RC cars use nitromethane fuel in a small combustion engine for longer run times but need more maintenance.

Ready-to-Run vs. Kit

Ready-to-Run (RTR) models come fully assembled and ready to drive out of the box. Kits require some assembly of the chassis, electronics and bodyshell. Kits allow for more customization but are better left to experienced hobbyists.

Touring Cars

Realistic scaled-down models of real performance cars designed for on-road racing and high speeds. Popular for intermediate to advanced drivers.

Monster Trucks

Feature oversized tires and rugged suspensions modeled after real monster trucks. Designed to traverse rough terrain and do stunts. Great for new drivers.


Lightweight and fast for racing off-road on dirt tracks and open spaces. Better for experienced RC drivers.

2. Scale and Size

When looking at RC cars, you’ll notice they come in various scales and sizes. The scale denotes the proportional size of the model compared to a real full-size vehicle. For first-time RC buyers, the 1/10 scale is most common, but there are other options.

1/10 Scale

  • By far the most popular scale for beginner to intermediate hobbyists
  • Models typically range from 8-12 inches in length
  • Provides a balanced mix of speed, handling and durability
  • Easier for new drivers to control and maneuver
  • Wide selection of vehicle types available in this scale

1/8 Scale

  • Larger models exceeding 12 inches in length up to 16 inches
  • Designed for high-speed running and off-road performance
  • Require more skill and experience to handle at full speed
  • Extra weight improves stability but makes jumps/stunts more difficult
  • Ideal for advanced drivers or larger racing/bashing areas

1/16, 1/18 and 1/24 Scales

  • Smaller micro or mini scales under 1/10 size
  • Restricted to slower speeds and smaller driving areas
  • Limited upgrade options due to tiny components
  • Mainly novelty toy-grade models, not performance hobby-grade

When choosing your first RC car, opt for the popular 1/10 scale for the right balance of size and capability. The larger 1/8 size is best left for more experienced drivers. Go smaller if driving space is confined.

List of the Best RC Cars for Beginners

3. Features and Capabilities

When selecting your first RC car, you’ll want to consider the set of features and capabilities that fit your needs as a beginner hobbyist. Some key things to look for include:

Speed and Power

Entry-level RC cars designed for new drivers will have slower speeds and less powerful motors. This makes them easier to control. Intermediate and advanced models will have much higher top speeds for more thrilling action.


Choose a durable, rugged design that can withstand crashes and bumps as you learn to drive. Prioritize solid construction over speed capabilities when starting out. Replaceable parts are also useful down the road.


Hobby-grade RC cars allow you to upgrade parts like the motor, battery and suspension over time. This helps extend the life of the vehicle as your skills improve. Avoid toy-grade cars with fixed parts.


Waterproof electronics let you drive worry-free through mud, rain and snow. 2.4GHz radios provide interference-free control at longer ranges. High-capacity battery packs extend runtimes.

4. Brand

There are many established RC car brands on the market covering entry-level to professional grades. Some top names to look for include Traxxas, ARRMA, Losi, and Redcat.

5. Maintenance

From charging batteries to replacing worn parts, RC cars require some periodic maintenance. Here are some upkeep tips for first timers:

  • Recharge car and transmitter batteries after each use as directed.
  • Inspect the chassis and shocks for dirt buildup and clean as needed.
  • Check for loose screws, damaged wires or any broken parts after heavy crashes.
  • Replace tires when tread is worn. Upgrade drivetrain parts if broken.
  • Refer to your user manual and online guides for optimal maintenance tips.

6. Frequently Asked Questions on How to Choose Your First RC Car

What are the different types of RC cars?

There are a few main types of RC cars to choose from as your first RC:

  • On-road RC cars: These are meant for driving on smooth, paved surfaces like roads, parking lots, etc. They have treadless tires and are lower to the ground. Popular on-road styles include touring cars, formula 1, and drift cars.
  • Off-road RC cars: Have large treaded tires and higher ground clearance for driving on rough terrain like dirt, grass, gravel. Popular off-road styles include short course trucks, stadium trucks, buggies, and rock crawlers.
  • Monster trucks: Big rugged trucks with giant suspension and tires for crushing over any obstacle.
  • Electric vs gas: Electric RC cars use rechargeable batteries while gas RC cars use fuel like nitro or petrol. Electric is easier for beginners while gas is faster/more powerful.

What features do I need as a beginner?

Look for an RC car with the following beginner-friendly features:

  • 2WD: 2 wheel drive is easier to control than 4WD. Go with 4WD when you have more experience.
  • Slower speed: 10-30 mph is a good range when starting out. Avoid super fast models over 50 mph.
  • Flexible parts: Look for rubber tires, plastic chassis, and shock absorbers to absorb impacts.
  • Basic electronics: Beginner models have simple controls and limited adjustability which is fine for learning.
  • RTR (Ready-to-Run): Choose an RTR model that comes fully assembled and ready to drive out of the box.

What maintenance does an RC car require?

  • Recharge batteries: For electric cars, recharge the battery pack after each use. Never let batteries fully drain.
  • Change batteries: Replace disposable AA batteries frequently if required. Rechargeable batteries work better.
  • Clean chassis: Wipe away dirt and dust from all parts after use to avoid damage. Clean wheels/tires too.
  • Check for damage: Inspect parts for cracks or breaks, replace if needed. Pay attention to bumpers, body shell, screws.
  • Replace worn parts: Tires, shocks, gears etc. will wear over time and need replacement. Keep spares handy.

Where are good places to use an RC car?

Beginners should run their RC car in safe areas like:

  • Empty parking lots and cul-de-sacs.
  • Basements and garages offer smooth indoor terrain.
  • Local parks, schoolyards or closed off streets.
  • Dirt fields, campsites and open off-road areas.

Avoid uneven terrain, crowded areas, streets, or bodies of water for beginners. Always be aware of surroundings.

How can I get started with RC car racing?

If interested in trying RC racing:

  • Find a local RC racing club and join to meet other enthusiasts. Attend races as a spectator first.
  • Get a basic racing model like an on-road touring car or off-road buggy. Have patience learning how to drive it properly.
  • Start competing in novice/beginner hobby grade races to get experience. Learn the rules and procedures.
  • Upgrade to faster models and move up to higher classes as your skills improve over time.

The most important thing is having fun, so don’t worry about winning right away! Learn at your own pace.

7. Final Thoughts

Owning and driving an RC car is a fun, hands-on activity that opens the door to an exciting lifelong pastime. Follow this guide’s recommendations and enjoy the journey as you get started in RC care racing, bashing, stunts and beyond!

Enjoyed this guide of how to choose your first RC car? Then be sure to check out our other RC guides.