Driving one of the best remote control cars, whether you're a kid or an adult, is a thrilling experience. RC cars are perfect for almost any kind of space, and you can use them in your own back yard, or in a communal space like a local park or quiet road. With summer bringing better weather, it's the perfect time to get outside with a remote control car, even if you're looking to keep a bit of distance from other people.
Choosing the best remote control car for you or your kids really comes down to a handful of factors. Budget is obviously a concern - you'll need to know how much you want to spend and try to stick to that, as RC cars run from around $20 all the way to $100s for the top of the range models. Obviously, if you're an enthusiast, you'll already have a decent budget to commit to your cars, and you will be looking to get something customizable and versatile. For kids, you'll spend less on remote control vehicles, but you should also consider things like safety, toughness, and ease of use.
The type of RC car is important too. If you're mostly using it on flat surfaces like roads or well maintained paths, then you'll get more out of an on-road car. These handle more responsively, and can often be quicker, but they struggle on uneven surfaces and can be more easily damaged. For those looking to get into the dirt or on uneven surfaces, an off-road car is the best pick. These are tough vehicles that perform on most surfaces, and they can reach decent speeds too. Of the two, we prefer the off-road variety.
Finally, consider how you're going to control and care for your remote control car. They all require batteries, but some are rechargeable, while others require a constant flow of regular batteries (which can get expensive). And if you're buying an RC car for a kid, keep in mind that many have complex 2.4GHz pistol grip controllers, which can be confusing for younger drivers. Look for something simpler if your driver is younger. Of course, if you'd rather stay in, we also have a guide to the best video game consoles.
1. Traxxas Rustler: Best overall
The Traxxas Rustler is quick, easy-to-use and a lot of fun. It's powered by a 7-cell NiMH battery that sees the Traxxas Rustler reach speeds of 35mph, and thanks to the high ground clearance it's also easy to navigate rough terrain and rocks. Traxxas has also sealed the electronics, allowing the Rustler to drive through water, mud, snow, and other wet-running conditions (we wouldn't recommend submerging it).
The built-in rechargeable battery pack means you don't have to waste time taking the car apart and installing batteries, and the design overall is compact and durable. You can expect to get roughly 15 minutes of good battery power out of the car before it starts to slow down.
The remote has a hand grip with a steering wheel you can use to turn the wheels one way or the other. It's a two-wheel drive car, so turns are easy, and the tires are large and ribbed for traction. Available in various colors and aside from having a high price point, this car really checks all the boxes.
2. Kid Galaxy Morphibians Gator: Best for small kids
The Kid Galaxy Morphibians Gator is a waterproof RC car your kid can use on rocky, wet terrain. It doesn't move very quickly but, with four-wheel drive, this car can get over most grass and gravel, though the low-riding base does occasionally get stuck on rocky, uneven ground.
If you take this car near a body of water and it happens to get away from you, it will float, so you don't have to worry about losing it to the depths. The transmitter remote has two buttons and is simple enough for young children to operate. The left button powers the two left tires and the right powers the right side of the car, so it does take a little getting used to. It does, however, make for easy steering in water. Kid Galaxy Morphibians Gator requires three AA batteries and as well as the Gator, comes in various styles, including Shark, Stingray and Rover. This car is also incredibly affordable, especially compared to expensive hobby cars.
3. Redcat Racing Lightning EPX Drift: Best for drifting
If you're looking to have some fun drifting, then the Lightning EPX Drift from Redcat Racing is a fantastic choice. As the name suggests, the Lightning EPX Drift has been designed specifically for those looking to slide their remote control car sideways through the bends.
Thanks to the design, four-wheel drive system and low-grip rear wheels, it's incredibly easy to drift. It might only have a top speed of 15mph, but even at these speeds its easy to steer into a bend and drift the car.
Battery life is a bit of downer though at only around 15 minutes, while you do need to drive it over a smooth surface to get the best out of it. Those negatives aside, if you're looking for a quick blast of fun, you won't be disappointed with the Lightning EPX Drift.
4. Redcat Racing Volcano EPX: Best off-road car
The Redcat Racing Volcano EPX sits high up off the ground thanks to its massive monster truck wheels, making it perfect for off-road adventures.
The Volcano EPX can climb almost any barrier, like rocks or tall grass, making this a fun car to take on a hiking trail or simply the backyard. Despite having a high center of gravity it took a lot to knock this truck over. It slowly but surely makes its way over rough terrain. It topped out at 19 mph in our tests, which isn't particularly fast, but what this car lacks in speed it makes up for in power.
This monster truck handled every terrain we tested it on with well-balanced suspension and 4-wheel drive. It runs off a rechargeable 7.2v 2000mAh NiMH battery that is protected in the casing of the car. Most wear and tear happens on the wheels and suspension of the truck, so you don't have to worry about the electronics inside. A great off road monster truck that's available in a range of color combinations.
5. Traxxas Ford GT: Best on road
Traxxas has replicated Ford's stunning GT for the RC market, and it's done a brilliant job. The detail is exquisite and includes injection moulded exhaust tips and tail lights, while there's also replica wheels and aggressive tread pattern for the tires. There's also the choice for three iconic colors as well - Liquid Blue, Liquid Red and Liquid Grey.
The car comes ready to race, but you will need to invest an a battery and charger that are sold separately. Once charged up though, the Ford GT can hit speeds above 30mph, while the TQiTM 2.4GHz Radio System delivers precise control and comfort. If you're looking for a street racer, this is a great RC car.
6. Traxxas Rustler 4X4 VXL: Best for all out performance
The Rustler 4X4 VXL from Traxxas is a true monster of a remote control car. Featuring an advanced 4-wheel drive system, the Rustler 4X4 VXL has stunning levels of grip, especially with the extra-large Talon EXT wheels. Twist the throttle and it's possible to do some great wheelies, while the Rustler 4X4 VXL uses Traxxas’ clever Self-Righting feature should it flip upside down. All you need to do is simply press a button on the TQi transmitter and, in most circumstances, the Rustler 4X4 VXL will be back on its wheels in just seconds.
It's not ready to go straight out of the box as you need to purchase a battery and charger separately, but this does have its advantages as you can select the battery to suit your skill level. Opt for 7-cell NiHM battery and it'll be easy to handle with a top speed of 35mph, but it can hit speeds over 65mph if you opt for one of the more powerful LiPo batteries.
7. Maisto Baja Beast: Best RC car on a budget
Maisto Baja Beast is speedy, rugged and handles well for the price. The durable design comes in several color variations and body designs, and the wheels are large and ribbed for good handling and traction.
The pistol-grip transmitter steers the car with a wheel on the side, and while we noticed it was a little laggy in our tests, it's generally easy to use and still fun. The transmitter also has three channels, so you can drive the Baja Beast or other vehicles with the same remote. The outer shell of this car is removable and the suspension is made mostly of plastic, making it a little fragile. That being said, the height of this car means you can take it over rough terrain, like gravel and rocks, we just don't recommend dropping it off a cliff. It requires three AA batteries to run and while it maxes out at 12mph, it's got some muscle.
8. Bugatti Veyron remote control car: Replica supercar on a budget
If you're looking for a great gift that won't break the bank, this replica of Bugatti's 267mph supercar is definitely worth considering. A fun little RC car, it features a tough diecast body that's available in a range of color combinations, while it comes with xenon headlights and working rear lights. With an easy to use controller and modest max speed, this is a great option for kids like to get to grips with their first remote control car.
The best RC cars: Performance or safety?
For most RC enthusiasts, performance is the most important aspect of a vehicle. In many ways, the performance of your car or truck determines just how much fun you can have with it. The main performance features are top speed, handling and primary use.
Top speed is important because the faster your remote control car goes, the more fun you're going to have tearing up a dirt track, launching off ramps or drifting around corners in your neighborhood. The only exception to this is if you're buying a vehicle for a toddler or small child. In that case, if you value your shins at all, it may be better to opt for a slower, more kid-friendly option.
Handling is a tricky thing to test in any category, but when comparing remote control cars with completely different intended uses, it becomes even trickier. It's worth noting that off-road vehicles are generally more versatile and handle more reliably, regardless of terrain.
RC cars and battery life
The reality of remote control cars is that you spend much more time charging your vehicle than actually driving it. That said, some cars have longer drive times than others. Fortunately, testing battery life is relatively easy and offers useful insights.
Safety should always come first, especially if you're shopping for a young child or toddler. These cars run on batteries which can be dangerous if ingested, so always supervise young children while they're using a remote control vehicle.
While top speeds, run times and features all vary within the world of remote control vehicles, there is one thing common to all RC cars, trucks and buggies: they all crash, usually with alarming regularity. For this reason, durability is often a primary concern. While on-road vehicles will often encounter curbs, walls and other obstacles, environmental factors like sand and grit often pose a much higher threat to the off-road variety. Indoor cars are less likely to encounter either.
Expert precision or kid friendly controls?
The remote control is your interface with the RC vehicle. For this reason, it's important to select a vehicle that comes with a remote suited to your skill level. In our review, there are just a few major remote types.
The most advanced remotes are the 2.4GHz pistol-grip style. These offer proportional control over steering and throttle, as well as increased ranged and customizability. While these features are all appealing to the advanced or adult user, young children will no doubt have a hard time with such sensitive controls.
The second type of remote is really not a remote at all. Many vehicles, yet just one in our review, make use of a Bluetooth connection for control. This allows you to use a phone or tablet with your vehicle and opens an entirely new world of possibilities. With this option, you can stream music, operate turn signals and even open the doors of your vehicle. However, you pay for these additional features with a decrease in range and increased difficulty in actual driving.
The third type of remote is what we call the two-button controllers. Pressing the button on the left causes your vehicle to veer to the right, while pressing the button on the right results in the vehicle turning to the left. When both buttons are pressed simultaneously, the vehicle travels straight ahead. While this doesn't offer much freedom or precise control, it is a great way of simplifying things for kids.
What else is important in selecting a remote control car?
You should also consider whether you'd like to modify or upgrade your vehicle. With all their crashes, jumps and stunts, RC cars can take quite a beating in their lifetime. To get any real mileage out of an RC vehicle, it’s a good idea to find one you can repair if something goes wrong.
In addition, buying a modification-ready vehicle means you can customize it to suit your driving style. On some models, you have the freedom to upgrade everything from the wheels and suspension to the battery and motor. While these upgrades may be too complicated for most children, they can make for hours of fun for adult enthusiasts.
Ryan Slynn lives in northern Utah and has been interested in RC vehicles since childhood, transitioning specifically to RC rock crawlers in 2010, which he takes on hiking trails. He said toy-grade vehicles usually break after a while, but if you’re willing to spend $300 to $400 on a hobby-grade vehicle, you can fix and customize it yourself.
“There are ones you put together and then buy the electronics for,” he said. “They’re more expensive but they’re more customizable.”
Whether it’s hyper-competitive speed racing or a low-key hike with an RC rock crawler, Slynn said the community is what has kept him interested in the hobby. Utah, for instance, is home to the 801 RCC club.
“Everybody is super friendly and willing to help and give pointers on how to tune trucks to perform better,” he said.
Hobby RC cars
Hobby-grade cars are customizable, which makes them a lot of fun. If you want more speed or a less bulky frame, you can simply tweak the vehicle yourself. You need small tools to do this and lots of concentration. There’s also the possibility of taking your car apart and not being able to get it working again, so make sure to consult the internet or experienced hobbyists before you start. You can add or remove battery power to increase your car’s speed as well as change out tires and other moving mechanisms for more control around curves. The possibilities are endless.