There are as many - probably more - varieties of remote controlled car as there are of the gas-guzzling variety, and finding one to suit you can feel like a never-ending search. There are top brands like Traxxas, ARRMA or Redcat Racing, but also a huge number of other makers who may be more like a lucky dip in terms of quality control. Finding the best remote control car can be tricky.
And while price is a leading factor, there are other things to consider too. Consider the type of racing you want to take part in - will it be all about straight-line speed, or is staying in control in the corners - or even drifting - involved? Do you want to do stunts? Roll over the top of everyone else in a monster truck? You could try to have one car that can be modified to fit different situations, or have specialized vehicles you choose between depending on the course conditions. As a beginner, you’re likely to crash a lot, so look out for a rugged build, and the ability to make running repairs.
Then there's power. Battery capability has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade, but you’re still reliant on the number of cells you can pack into one chassis. Consider different types of battery, and whether the car you’re considering comes with one bundled in the package, or whether you need to source it separately.
And when it comes to control, are you going to rely on the controller that comes with the car, or use something customized to your needs. Is a twist controller enough, or do you need twin sticks? Would you even consider using a smartphone app as a controller?
1. Traxxas Rustler XL-5: Best remote control car overall
The Traxxas Rustler XL-5 takes the top spot on our list of the best remote control cars because of a near perfect blend of features. These are also topped off with a price tag that seems impossible for a car at this level. As such this is the car that will suit most people.
It's easy to setup and use. The 7-cell NiMH rechargeable battery pushes the Rustler up to 35mph making this lots of fun. That is limited to 15-minutes per charge, though you can upgrade this. There's good ground clearance to avoid knocks and bumps plus sealed electrics so this works in water, snow and mud, making this good even for beginners.
The remote is steering wheel controlled allowing you to drive the two-wheel drive car with precision using that wheel and a trigger. Thanks to the large traction heavy tires this will take on most terrain with ease. The price is relatively low but note that battery and charger are often sold separately.
2. Redcat Racing Lightning EPX Drift: Best remote control car for drifting
Drift car fans, this is what you've been looking for. The Lightning EPX is lots of fun as it's been designed for sideways racing specifically. This is thanks to a four-wheel drive system which features low-grip rear tyres. So even though this tops out at 15mph it's more about the way you drive this rather than how fast.
You get 15 minutes of sliding fun before the 7.2v 2000mAh battery will start to give in. And that's based on your driving on a smooth surface – which is ideal to get the most drift.
You will need a whopping eight AA batteries for the controller so be sure to buy these - and spares - when you spend on the car itself. It'll be worth it for all the fun this drift car creates.
3. ORRENTE Stunt RC Car: Best remote control car for kids
The Orrente Stunt car is a great choice for anyone that loves to do tricks and is especially well suited for kids. It means not only driving a remote control car but one that can flip and contort in ways mom and dad's car could only dream of.
Aimed at ages 6-12, this affordable stunt car is able to drive each side separately. That means the controller uses two sticks which can be mastered for all kinds of fun tricks. This is easy to use but takes some time to master.
This multi-terrain RC car will do flips, it'll rotate and drive in tight circles using that two-stick 2.4Ghz controller – meaning multiple can be raced without worry of interference. Just expect batteries to get used up fast – thankfully it works with rechargeable ones so boosting back to full doesn't have to be expensive.
4. Laegendary Off-road Monster Truck: Best remote control car for bigger kids
No that's not a typo, Laegendary is the brand and monster trucks is what it's good at making. As such this off-road truck is every bit as all-terrain as it looks with those chunky tires and that high suspension setup.
This is built rugged so it can take a knock or three, even when tearing about at that 20mph top speed. With a 40-minute battery life this is ideal for going out in nature without having to worry about plugging in to recharge. Sure they take a while to recharge but since they come built-in they're easy to use and it makes this an affordable all-in-one option.
The shock absorption system is metal and is set up to clear rocks, branches and anything else that offroading might throw at you. This even has headlights so you can keep going in darker times, which looks super cool too. There's little worry about obstacles as the pistol grip remote is super sensitive so you can control the car very accurately. As such it's aimed at older users mostly.
5. Arrma Typhon 6S V4 4WD BLX Buggy: Best remote control car for speed
For all out speed this is the car to go for. With the right battery this can hit a mind-bending 70mph. Yup, that does mean this will burn through tires fast but it'll be worth it for the blisteringly fast fun.
If that speed sounds worrying, fret not, the company is all about rugged building. In fact it encourages racers to play with friends at speed and to push the limits, even to the point of risking crashing. The plastic is super flexible and the front basher plate is made to take head-on collisions. The backing of a two-year warranty helps to support this claim of toughness. And frankly, at this price, you'd expect that.
The 2050Kv brushless motor is what gets you all the power from the trigger wheel remote. This Spectrum SLT3 radio is light and comfortable with responsive controls and easily adjustable tracking. Arrma has built a speed demon that's good to race, jump and even get out in the wet and muck. When the tires wear down you can even drift. This does it all very well.
6. Redcat Racing Volcano EPX: Best off-road RC car
Look at that 4WD truck and you'll immediately realize this is built for off-roading. Chunky tires, high suspension, a rugged front basher plate all scream tough. This is made for off-road fun.
The Volcano EPX has such a high ride height it'll take care of rocks, high grass and anything besides. Should it hit a bump that suspension is super tuned to make sure the overall ride remains smooth, even when hitting the 19mph top-end speeds.
The 7.2v 2000mAh NiMH battery powers that four-wheel drive system and is rechargeable for when it's time to boost up. Expect the wheels and suspension to take the brunt of the off-road driving beatings, leaving the car intact and ready to race another day.
7. Traxxas Ford GT Race Car: Best on road RC car
This is a 1/10 scale version of the famous Ford GT, an already low to the ground car. As such this is built to look great, to go fast and to eat up roads. Best kept to smooth surfaces this remote control car can top out at an impressive 30mph. And using the TQiTM 2.4GHz radio system you have instant control precision that's good for racing against other cars.
Even when stood still this is fun with that accurate reproduction of the real car, right down to the injection moulded exhaust tips, replica wheels and aggressive tire tread pattern. You can pick your color with Liquid Blue, Liquid Red and Liquid Grey options – but we all know a real Ford GT is best in blue.
8. Traxxas Rustler 4X4 VXL: Best remote control car for all out performance
This four-wheel drive remote control car is a powerful monster. The Rustler comes with huge Talon EXT wheels which offer lots of grip for all terrain types, allowing you to take full advantage of that AWD system.
Go for the 7-cell NiMH battery and you can get 35mph out of this racer. Or for real speed lovers, upgrade that battery to LiPo and this will hit a face-melting 65mph. Either way, should you flip this you won't have to move a finger thanks to a self-righting feature. Press a button on the TQi remote and the Rustler will jump back upright ready for more. So no need to fear when blasting out wheelies using this beast of a car.
9. BEZGAR X RASTAR Lamborghini Aventador SVJ: Best replica supercar on a budget
As replica cars go this is a stunner, looking just like the gorgeous Lamborghini Aventador, only at a 1:24 scale. Despite being modelled on such a premium machine, this is super affordable to buy. The catch? It will require 24 AA batteries, so either have rechargeable ones ready or a whole load of spares.
That said it won't chew through battery fast as this is limited to 4mph. Ideal for younger drivers then. That said it has been known to drift too, so there is still plenty of fun to be had with this car. And with a 2.4GHz controller it can go up to 80 feet away before losing signal.
You even get to pick the Lamborghini color with suitably loud orange and yellow options available.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.