Hobbyists have a tough decision to make when choosing the ideal RC car. RC cars come in various models, shapes, and sizes for either on-road or off-road driving. Many RC cars are replicas and scaled-down versions of real-life vehicles. If you are a serious motorhead or adrenaline junky, driving an RC car could be as thrilling as driving the life-sized version that you might otherwise never get to drive.
As a whole, each style of RC car has its pros and cons. Electric RC cars are suitable for beginners but in general not as fast as Nitro RC cars and battery packs can be expensive. Nitro RC cars are more realistic and more of a thrill to drive but they are very noisy and only suited for real enthusiasts that like to customise their vehicle. Brushed motors are cheap but not very durable whereas brushless motors are faster and easier to maintain but you may have to upgrade parts on your RC car so it can handle the extra power. There are pros and cons in every area of RC, from 2WD to 4wd and RTR to kits.
When deciding which RC car to purchase, you should consider your needs and how and when you will drive it. If you are an avid RC car hobbyist, you might need a better equipped, sturdier car than if you are simply driving it around your back garden with your son or daughter. If you are a newcomer or a novice to the RC hobby world and are unsure which RC Car is suitable for you, we will discuss the pros and cons of each type of car, which will give you a better understanding of which RC car will suit your needs.
Pros And Cons Of Electric RC Cars
RC cars have differently powered engines, each with its own benefits. Electric-powered RC cars derive their power from an electrical charge supplied by a battery pack.
The battery pack used for the RC car controller is different from that of a standard battery pack. Some battery packs are rechargeable, while others use fresh batteries once the old ones wear out.
The Pros Of Electric RC Cars:
- For the novice hobbyist, an electric-powered RC car is easier to operate and maintain. You don’t have to be an RC expert or mechanically minded to sort out minor problems with the RC car.
- Battery power offers a higher operation efficiency and excellent acceleration performance.
- Electric RC cars are quiet and do not make much noise.
- They can be driven indoors and outdoors, either with or without a track.
- All electric RC cars have reverse gear, making the car easier to operate.
- Electric motors are eco-friendly engines as there is no fuel to burn.
- Electric RC cars are cheaper than nitro RC cars.
- Some electric RC cars are waterproof and will still work well even if they are driven through puddles or in the rain.
The Cons Of Electric RC Cars:
- Once the battery time is depleted, you either have to replace the battery pack in the car or re-charge the existing one. Either way, your drive time is limited to the capacity of the battery pack.
- Battery packs are expensive. You will need to buy more than one battery pack to prolong your drive time.
- The initial upfront setup costs are more for an electric than a nitro RC car.
- Electric RC cars are not as fast as nitro RC cars. If you want to match the speed of a nitro motor, you would have to purchase a stronger motor and engine.
- Because electric RC cars are easy to use and maintain, they could be too simple for more advanced RC car drivers.
Brushed Vs. Brushless Electric Motors
The electric motors in RC cars can be brushed or brushless. The brush motor contains a small contact brush that conducts current between moving parts and stationary windings. Basically, brushes are what allows the motor to rotate.
Brushless motors use electronics in lieu of brushes to control the rotation of the motor. It is essential when choosing an electric RC car to understand the differences between brushed and brushless electric motors to ensure you get the RC car you are looking for.
Brushed Electric Motors
Brushed electric motors are generally only used in toy-grade cars and hobby-level models. Available in fixed and non-fixed models, the fixed type cannot be modified, while the non-fixed type can be adjusted to a certain degree.
The Pros Of Brushed Electric Motors:
- RC cars powered with a brushed electric motor are more affordable than brushless electric-powered RC cars.
- Brushed RC car motors are less complex and only need two wires to power them.
- A rugged and robust motor, able to withstand rough environments.
The Cons Of Brushed Electric Motors:
- Brushed electric-powered RC cars are slower than brushless electric-powered RC cars.
- High maintenance costs as brushes wear out quicker than brushless electric motors.
- The motors have vent holes that expose them to damage from water and debris.
- Less efficient than brushless electric motors as power is wasted due to friction on the brushes causing the motor to overheat.
- Lower run time and less durable than brushless electric motors.
Related post: How To Clean And Maintain A Brushed RC Motor
Brushless Electric Motors
Brushless electric motors do not have the brushes that you find in a standard electric motor. Instead, the rotor is turned by a computerized Electronic Speed Control, which regulates the power drawn from the battery based on how much speed and torque is required.
The Pros Of Brushless Electric Motors:
- Brushless electric-powered RC cars are faster than brushed electric-powered RC cars and can match the speeds of RC cars powered by nitro fuel.
- Brushless motors are quieter than brushed motors.
- Fewer maintenance costs as brushes and bearings last a long time.
- Higher efficiency leads to longer battery life.
- Brushless electric motors have an overall longer lifespan than brushed motors.
- The motor is sealed, which protects it from water and debris.
- More power and extended driving times due to higher efficiency of the motor, which drains the battery less.
The Cons Of Brushless Electric Motors:
- Brushless electric motor-powered RC cars are challenging to drive due to their speed. They are suited for more experienced RC car drivers or for novice RC car drivers who enjoy speed.
- Brushless powered RC cars are more expensive than brushed powered RC cars because of the additional expense of the long-lasting batteries required for the car.
- Brushless electric motors have complex electronics requiring additional, expensive maintenance.
Related post: What Causes A Brushless RC Motor To Fail
Pros And Cons Of Nitro RC Cars
A nitro-powered RC car is fueled by a methanol-based fuel that contains nitromethane. The RC car can be re-fuelled with nitro when the fuel in the tank runs out. Most experienced RC car owners use nitro-powered cars to experience the rush of excitement and enjoyment they would get if they had to drive a full-scale model.
The Pros Of Nitro RC Cars:
- Nitro RC cars can be customized to the owner’s specifications. The engine and the body can be altered and customized, making a Nitro RC car a mechanics’ dream.
- Nitro-powered motors are faster than most electric powered-motors.
- RC cars powered by nitro motors have a longer running time than electric-powered motors, and the fuel can simply be topped up once the fuel tank is empty.
- Nitro-powered RC cars are water-resistant. They will survive if water splashes on them, but excessive water can cause the motor to stall, and it can be difficult to restart.
- RC cars powered by nitro motors are more realistic and more of a thrill to drive as they emit smoke and are noisier than electric-powered RC cars allowing the owner a realistic racing experience without investing in a full-scale model.
The Cons Of Nitro RC Cars:
- For the novice hobbyist, a nitro-powered RC car is harder to operate and will take longer to learn than an electric-powered RC car.
- A nitro-powered motor is noisier than electric-powered motors. Some RC car tracks may not allow nitro-powered RC cars on their tracks due to the noise.
- Nitro-powered motors require more time to tune and maintain, but once you get accustomed to this, they are a lot more fun to drive.
- Most nitro-powered RC cars are not completely waterproof, so they should not be driven in the rain or through big puddles.
- Nitro RC cars have higher operating costs due to the fuel prices, maintenance, modification, and replacement part costs.
- Most Nitro-powered RC cars do not have reverse gear making them trickier to operate.
- Nitro cannot be purchased everywhere and could be difficult to source.
- RC cars powered by nitro cannot be driven indoors due to the fumes released by the nitro.
Related post: Too Noisy? How To Make Your RC Nitro Car Quieter
Pros And Cons Of RC Kit Cars
An RC kit car is a good idea if you are mechanically minded and enjoy building things. An assembly or RC car kit does not supply everything that the hobbyist needs to build an RC car, so you should have some experience running an RC car before you take on the task of building a new one from scratch.
The Pros Of RC Kit Cars
- RC Kits are suitable for experienced drivers interested in building a quality customized car to certain specifications.
- Allows for the upgrading of components to the driver’s requirements.
- Easy to follow manufacturers’ instructions allow for an easy build.
- Kit RC Cars are cheaper to build than RTR RC cars as you can choose the parts you need to suit your budget, but they can become more expensive if you choose upmarket upgrade parts.
- Parts manufactured for RC car kit builds are of higher quality than parts manufactured for RTR RC cars.
- RC kit cars are available for different skill build levels, from beginner to expert.
The Cons Of RC Kit Cars
- Assembly kits are not complete. They generally only include the body, chassis, and rims. All other components have to be purchased separately.
- Some kits have parts that the driver may not require, causing unnecessary expenses for unwanted parts.
- Assembly kits can be more expensive than RTR RC cars if expensive upgrade parts are selected.
- If the RC car is not assembled correctly, there could be long-term problems.
- Building a customized RC car is time-consuming. You will have to wait for the final result before driving the car.
- Specialized tools and equipment are required to build the RC car.
For more on kit RC cars, please check out my article: Is It Cheaper To Build An RC Car?
Pros And Cons Of RTR Cars
RTR RC cars are better for beginners or new hobbyists. RTR RC cars are fully built and equipped RC cars. They are entirely ready to run. Standard components include a battery charger, controller, electronics, and a fully painted and finished body.
The Pros Of RTR Cars
- Ready To Run RC cars can be used once the batteries are charged and installed, or the tank is fuelled up. No waiting for the RC car to be built.
- The RC car is assembled correctly and should not have any long-term problems.
- Established manufacturers supply quality products with an excellent after-market service.
- No specialized tools are required for the RC car.
The Cons Of RTR Cars
- RTR RC Cars are generally more expensive than RC kit cars.
- Parts manufactured for RTR kit cars can be of more inferior quality than those manufactured for RC kit cars.
- RTR RC cars may include electronics that the driver does not want, adding to the costs of the RC car.
- Modifications are more limited to RTR RC cars, so be careful when choosing the correct model for your needs.
Pros And Cons Of 2WD RC Cars
A 2WD drive RC car is a good choice for the hobbyist who enjoys a simple, easy-to-use RC car. A 2WD RC car is powered by either the back wheels or the front wheels, which will provide the driving force for the car.
The Pros Of 2WD RC Cars
- Fewer components than a 4WD RC car, making this a cheaper option for beginners.
- A 2WD RC car can achieve better speeds than a 4WD RC car when racing on a paved or tarmac surface.
- The best RC car for racing at top speeds, providing great enjoyment for the driver.
The Cons Of 2WD RC Cars
- A 2WD RC car is not easy to maneuver, causing beginners to crash and damage the car.
- A 2WD RC car does not have the grip to handle off-road surfaces and could slip on tight corners.
- Inferior brands are not built to last long.
Pros And Cons Of 4WD RC Cars
A 4WD RC car is an excellent choice for beginners as they are easy to control when racing. A 4WD RC car actively drives both the front and the rear wheels forward at the same time.
The Pros Of 4WD RC Cars
- 4WD RC cars can race on different road surfaces.
- The best RC car for off-road racing.
- 4WD RC cars don’t lose their grip when racing around sharp corners.
The Cons Of 4WD RC Cars
- 4wd RC cars contain more expensive components than a 2WD RC car, making them pricier.
- A 4WD RC car is not as speedy as a 2WD RC car.
- Due to the amount of moving components, a 4WD RC car is more likely to break than a 2WD RC car.
Please see my detailed article on whether you should choose a 2WD or 4WD RC car
Deciding which type of RC car to get depends entirely on the needs and budget of the hobbyist. There are so many different types available on the market, each with its own specific pros and cons.
Before deciding on the correct type of RC car for you, do your research to see what is available in your area. There are dedicated RC hobby stores in most cities, so visit your nearest store to find out what is available.
RC cars can provide hours of enjoyment for the hobbyist, but knowing how to maintain and repair them can be challenging if you don’t know what you are doing. By joining your local RC club, you will have the advantage of drawing on the wealth of knowledge of RC car experts who will advise you on what to buy according to your needs.