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Best remote control cars 2021: RC cars for kids and adults

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Best remote control cars 2021: RC cars for kids and adults
(Image credit: Traxxas)

If you love high-octane thrills, then the best remote control cars are guaranteed to bring you hours of joy. Whether you want to challenge your friends to a race, churn up some dirt around an off-road track, or pull a few death-defying stunts in the back garden, you'll find a miniature machine that's up to the task.

To help you choose the right remote control car for your needs and budget, we've put together our pick of the toughest, most exhilarating examples available today. Covering all the top manufacturers, including Traxxas, ARRMA and Redcat Racing, our list reveals the best buys for speed, drifting and off-road driving, as well as the most suitable models for children. 

Buying a remote control car can be fairly expensive, so it's important you know what you're looking for when making a purchase. For this reason, we've compiled some buying advice at the bottom of the page, in which we take a closer look at the aforementioned brands, examine things like handling and durability, and explain the difference between the various types of remote control. Before you know it, you'll be burning rubber like a true pro. 

Looking for more top toy-buying tips in the run-up to Christmas? Read our guides to the best electric train sets and the most enticing cheap Nerf gun deals.


1. Traxxas Rustler XL-5: Best remote control car overall

Traxxas Rustler XL-5: Best remote control car overall

(Image credit: Traxxas Rustler)

Traxxas Rustler XL-5

Offering speed and good value, this is the best remote control car for most people

Scale: 1/10 | Dimensions: 12.2 x 17.5 x 7 inches | Battery: 7-cell NiMH | Warranty: 12 months

Sealed electronics
Easy to control
Can be upgraded
High price point

Quick, easy-to-use and a lot of fun, the Traxxas Rustler is our top pick. It's powered by a 7-cell NiMH battery that allows it to 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. Redcat Racing Lightning EPX Drift: Best remote control car for drifting

Redcat Racing Lightning EPX Drift: Best remote control car for drift

(Image credit: Redcat)

Redcat Racing Lightning EPX Drift

The perfect drift car for the price

Scale: N/A | Dimensions: 14.2 x 8 x 4.5 inches | Battery: 7.2v 2000mAh | Warranty: 90 days

Easy to drift
Great fun for the price
Only around 15 minutes battery life
8 AA batteries needed for the radio

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. 


3. ORRENTE Stunt RC Car: Best remote control car for kids

Orrente RC car Best Remote Control Car for Kids

(Image credit: Orrente)

ORRENTE Stunt RC Car

A great budget stunt car, aimed at kids of all ages

Inexpensive
Fun to use, and simple controls
Sturdy enough for outdoor use
Batteries don't last long

If you're looking for a car that does more than simply drive around, the Orrente Stunt Car is ideal. It's aimed at kids between the ages of about 6-12, and won't be complex enough to satisfy most teenagers, but it's cheap, well made, and does some very cool stunts. The thing that sets it apart from normal RC cars is the fact that it can drive separately on each side, so you can make it flip over, rotate, and drive over almost any terrain.

If you're brave enough to allow it, this car can be driven inside and outside, and it even has a headlight that lets you drive it in low-light. The color is loud enough for you to see it clearly, too, so there's little chance of losing it in either darkness or dense areas of undergrowth.

It's easy enough to control too, with a simple two-stick 2.4Ghz controller. This means you can race several cars at the same time, without interference between the two remote controls. The only downside is that this car chews through the rechargeable batteries fast, so you'll have to remember to recharge it in between play sessions.


4. Laegendary Off-road Monster Truck: Best remote control car for bigger kids

Laegendary Off-Road RC truck Best Remote Control Car for Older Kids

(Image credit: Laegendary)

Laegendary Off-Road RC truck

A perfect RC truck for older kids

Good value
Very sturdy
Can get good speeds
A little complex for younger kids

This is one hell of an off-road truck, and it's perfect for older kids and adults. While too complex for younger children, and too simple for dedicated RC car collectors, it offers fantastic performance for what you pay. It's sturdy enough to survive getting bashed about, and it can hit some serious speeds on both dirt and regular roads. You'll get up to about 20mph on this particular model.

We also like that the batteries are rechargeable in the car itself, meaning you won't need to keep replacing them. Because it comes with a pair of batteries you will get full performance from the Laegendary Off-Road truck for longer periods of time, but you'll still only be able to use it for 40 minutes at a time. The batteries aren't quick to recharge either, but most RC cars have this kind of run-time.

The wheels here are chunky, and combined with generous metal shock suspension, can clear some sizeable obstacles in any terrain. The addition of headlights is a nice touch, although don't expect them to give you much light on dark evenings. The pistol grip remote is responsive and gives you a great sense of control. It has a decent range too, and the only slight downside is that it'll be too complex for smaller kids to use. Overall, this Off-Road Truck is superb value for money, and gives great performance for most ages.


5.  Arrma Typhon 6S V4 4WD BLX Buggy: Best remote control car for speed

Arrma Typhon Buggy: Best remote control car for speed

(Image credit: Arrma)

Arrma Typhon 6S V4 4WD BLX Buggy

A seriously speedy RC car

Scale: 1/8 | Dimensions: 26 x 14.2 x 10.75 inches | Battery: Varies | Warranty: Two years

 Top speed of 70+mph 
 Durable build 
Likely need spare tires

Arrma builds resilient RC cars that are capable of hitting some super high speeds - once you’ve installed a 6S LiPo battery in this buggy, it can actually hit over 70 miles per hour. At such high velocity, you’re likely to shred through the standard tires though, so it’s a good idea to have some spares on standby. You’ll also need to install a battery, so this model isn’t ideal for anyone who’s looking to just pick up and play.

That aside, it’s a lot of fun to control, with a 2050Kv brushless motor and a durable front brace that’s designed for bashing into things. In fact, Arrma positively encourages you to go out and play rough with your friends who also have EXB (extreme bashing) cars. It comes with a lightweight Spektrum SLT3 radio, which doesn’t feel heavy in the hands, and a Spektrum S652 metal-geared digital servo. It’s a big beast, measuring 26 inches across – but at that size it should be able to take a few tumbles.


6. Redcat Racing Volcano EPX: Best off-road RC car

Redcat Racing Volcano EPX Best Remote Control Car for Off-Road

(Image credit: Redcat Racing)

Redcat Racing Volcano EPX

4WD monster truck ready for any terrain

Scale: N/A | Dimensions: 15.8 x 12.2 x 7.5 inches | Battery: 7.2v 2000mAh | Warranty: 90 days

Stable and fast on uneven terrain
Durable
Waterproof
Not the fastest RC

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. 


7. Traxxas Ford GT Race Car: Best on road RC car

Traxxas Ford GT: Best remote control car for on-road experience

(Image credit: Traxxas)

Traxxas Ford GT

Ford's GT supercar recreated at 1/10 scale

Scale: 1/10 | Dimensions: 22.5 x 7.4 x 9.3 inches | Battery: Varies | Warranty: 12 months

Great detail
Brilliant handling
Speeds over 30 mph
Battery and charger not included

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.


8. Traxxas Rustler 4X4 VXL: Best remote control car for all out performance

Traxxas Rustler 4X4 VXL Best Remote Control Car for Performance

(Image credit: Traxxas)

Traxxas Rustler 4X4 VXL

A real beast of a car

Scale: 1/10 | Dimensions: 13.5 x 22.7 x 7.7 inches | Battery: Varies | Warranty: 12 months

Really fast
Great for wheelies 
Self-righting feature
Battery and charger not included

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.  


9. BEZGAR X RASTAR Lamborghini Aventador SVJ: Best replica supercar on a budget

bezgAR X RASTAR Lamborghini Aventador SVJ: Best remote control car budget replica

(Image credit: Rastar)

BEZGAR X RASTAR Lamborghini Aventador SVJ

A fun replica of Lamborghini's awesome Aventador SVJ supercar makes a great gift

Scale: 1/24 | Dimensions: 7.3 x 3.6 x 1.9 inches | Battery: 25 x AA Batteries (included) | Warranty: N/A

Less than $40
Choice of color combinations
Easy to use
Limited battery life
Top speed of 5mph

Based in China, Rastar makes excellent little 1:24 scale models of famous cars that you can often buy for less than $40. It’s true that the cars in this series don’t reach fast speeds (this model can stretch to 4mph) but at this price, you wouldn’t expect them to. It runs on AA batteries, rather than lithium cells, so there’s much less power packed into this model. 

The 2.4Ghz controller allows you to steer it from up to 80ft away, while its smooth finish and design means that it shouldn’t nick your ankles when it races by. Users report that the car is actually capable of drifting too, which is a nice stylish touch - and a fairly impressive feature, given the cost of this model. Available in orange or yellow, this Lamborghini design is great for both racing and display purposes. 


What are the best remote control car brands? 

There are a few well-respected names in the industry. Traxxas, Arrma and Laegendary cars are all well regarded by hobbyists and amateurs alike. These brands build durable, fast, and powerful cars, with models that can handle rough off-road terrain and racing tracks alike. We like Redcat Racing too, as they create super affordable models that look pretty slick. Sure, they might not have the power of one of those Traxxas monster trucks, but when you want something that looks great on your shelves as well as on the racing track, Redcat Racing is an excellent choice. 

How much do remote control cars cost? 

A good model, capable of handling 30+mph, will usually cost around $300 - $400. These types of models usually come with a year-long warranty, to protect that initial investment. You can buy models that hit about 15mph for a lot less than this if you don’t need those top speeds. These tend to cost $100 or less, but watch out for the shorter warranties, which will only last for around 90 days. 

How fast are remote control cars? 

In general, the top speed you’ll be able to achieve with a remote control model will be 70mph. These kinds of speeds are only really attainable if you buy one of the top-tier models that are built for race tracks, though. If you’re thinking of buying one of the all-terrain, off-road models, these tend to max out at around 20mph. But their sturdy bodies and sealed electronic systems mean that you can still have plenty of fun. Cheaper models tend to be slower, reaching speeds of around 15mph max. 


How do I choose a remote control car?

People choose remote control cars for all sorts of reasons, but the main one is their performance. RC vehicles are built for racing, so you’ll want one that’s built to go fast over the type of terrain you will be racing over, and which won’t run out of power halfway around. Also look out for the sturdiness of construction, as unexpected pit stops can really ruin those lap times.

Speed
Of course you want it to go fast, but make sure it can handle the speed, and remain controllable as the needle rises. Increased speed means trickier cornering, but also more impressive jumps and skids, so generally you’re going to want any extra power that’s available. Unless, of course, you’re buying one for a younger child, when something that crosses the carpet at a more sedate pace might be required.

Handling
Check out the size of the wheels and the tires on them - you’re going to want bigger, wider ones for better grip. This not only helps get the power down without spinning, but means you’re less likely to lose the back end as you corner - unless drifting is what you’re into, of course. Match the tires to your intended racing surface - slicks or semis for hard, flat tarmac, off-road tires for just about everything else. 

Durability
Crashes happen, and can be some of the most exciting parts of an RC race. There’s nothing more heartbreaking, however, than being left with a pile of broken plastic parts where your prized racing car used to be. A car that you can easily repair, whether by snapping parts back on with your hands or using simple tools, is going to get you back in the race more quickly. Off-road vehicles can take knocks from curbs and walls on their larger tires, but road racing cars may need careful nursing around sharp bends to avoid scratches to headlights and paintwork.


Different types of remote

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.

2.4GHz pistol-grip style
The most advanced type of remote, 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.

Bluetooth connection
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.

Two-button controllers
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.

Ruth Gaukrodger

Ruth has worked across both print and online media for five years, contributing to national newspaper titles and popular tech sites. She has held a number of journalist roles alongside more senior editorial positions, and is now the Digital Learning and Hobbies editor at Top Ten Reviews.