How to Choose Your First Ready-to-Run RC Car?

Embarking on the exciting journey of owning your first ready-to-run (RTR) RC car is thrilling but can also be a bit overwhelming given the variety of options available. This guide aims to simplify the process, helping you make an informed decision by addressing the key factors you should consider.

What Type of Car Do I Want?

The first question to answer is what type of RC car you want. This might seem straightforward, but RC cars come in various types, classes, scales, and more.

On-Road or Off-Road?

The simplest distinction is between on-road and off-road cars.

On-Road RC Cars On-road RC cars are designed for smooth surfaces like tarmac. They often feature low ground clearance, sleek designs, and tires optimized for grip on pavement. These cars are perfect for those who have access to smooth, paved areas like parking lots or dedicated RC tracks. They excel in races and can achieve high speeds, providing an exhilarating experience.

Off-Road RC Cars Off-road RC cars, including buggies, trucks, and monster trucks, are designed to tackle rough terrains. They come with larger wheels, robust suspension systems, and higher ground clearance, making them ideal for grass, gravel, dirt, and even mud. Off-road cars offer more versatility in where you can drive them, which is why they are often recommended for beginners who may not have easy access to paved surfaces.

How Big? (What Scale?)

Once you’ve decided between on-road and off-road, the next step is to consider the scale of the car. Scale refers to the size of the RC car in comparison to a real car. Common scales include 1/10, 1/8, and 1/16, with 1/10 being the most balanced starting point. 

Don’t forget about ⅕ scale, ⅙ scale, those scales in RTR are extremely popular.

Popular Scales

  • 1/10 Scale: The most common and versatile scale. These cars are large enough to handle various terrains and have enough space to house powerful motors and batteries.
  • 1/8 Scale: Larger and often more durable than 1/10 scale cars. They offer better performance on rough terrains but can be more expensive.
  • 1/16 Scale: Smaller and more affordable, but can be limited in power and versatility. They are good for indoor use or small outdoor areas.

Electric or Nitro?

Another critical decision is choosing between electric and nitro-powered RC cars.

Electric RC Cars Electric RC cars are powered by rechargeable batteries and are known for being faster, easier to maintain, and more user-friendly. Advances in battery technology have significantly improved their performance. Many RTR electric cars come with a wall charger that takes several hours to charge, but investing in a fast charger can reduce this time to around an hour. Electric cars are ideal if you prefer a plug-and-play experience.

Benefits of Electric RC Cars

  • Ease of Use: Simply charge the battery and go. No need for fuel or complex starting procedures.
  • Low Maintenance: Fewer moving parts mean less that can go wrong. Electric motors require less upkeep than nitro engines.
  • Quieter Operation: Suitable for use in more environments without disturbing others.
  • Speed: Modern electric RC cars can reach impressive speeds, sometimes even outperforming nitro cars.

Nitro RC Cars Nitro RC cars, powered by a mixture of nitromethane and oil, appeal to enthusiasts who enjoy the noise, smoke, and power. However, they require a break-in period, regular tuning, and more maintenance. Nitro cars can be messy as unburnt fuel leaves residue, and they are not as socially accepted due to their noise. If you enjoy hands-on tinkering and are okay with the extra upkeep, nitro cars can be a rewarding choice.

Benefits of Nitro RC Cars

  • Realistic Experience: The sound and smell of a nitro engine provide a more lifelike driving experience.
  • Power: Nitro engines can deliver consistent power for extended periods.
  • Longer Run Times: With fuel refills, nitro cars can run longer than electric cars without the need for recharging.

Choosing Batteries for Your First RC Car

When buying a ready-to-run RC car, ensure you understand its battery requirements. Some RTR cars come with a battery and charger, while others do not. Always check the description for what is included in the box.

NiMH vs. LiPo Batteries

You may have the option of using nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, which are economical. However, lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries are much more popular due to their ability to hold more energy in a smaller, lighter package. For beginners, it’s recommended to buy an RC car that comes with a battery to avoid the complexities of choosing and managing different battery types initially.

NiMH Batteries

  • Cost-Effective: Generally cheaper than LiPo batteries.
  • Durable: Less sensitive to overcharging and mishandling.
  • Easier to Handle: Less risk of fire or explosion compared to LiPo batteries.

LiPo Batteries

  • Higher Performance: Can deliver more power, which translates to better speed and acceleration.
  • Lighter: Less weight improves overall performance and handling.
  • Compact: Holds more energy in a smaller package, allowing for longer run times.

Recommended Tools for First RC Car Maintenance

Most RTR RC cars come with essential tools for final assembly, tuning, and maintenance. However, as you gain experience, you might need more specialized tools. Here’s a list of recommended tools to consider:

  • Hex Drivers: Most RC cars use metric hardware. A set of 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0mm hex drivers will handle most screws and bolts.
  • Nut Drivers: Although some cars come with a 4-way wrench, having nut drivers for the most common sizes (7mm and 5.5mm) can be more convenient.
  • Pliers: Slip-joint and needle-nose pliers are essential for handling small parts.
  • Curved Lexan Scissors: Ideal for trimming RC car bodies and cutting decals.
  • Hobby Knife: Useful for cutting and cleaning tight areas.
  • Body Reamer: Makes it easy to create mounting holes in new body shells.

Tips for Maintaining Your First RC Car

Proper maintenance is crucial for keeping your RC car in good condition and ensuring its longevity. Here are some tips to help you maintain your first RC car:

Regular Cleaning

  • After Every Run: Clean your car after every run to remove dirt, dust, and debris. Use a soft brush and compressed air for hard-to-reach areas.
  • Deep Cleaning: Periodically, give your car a thorough cleaning. Disassemble parts as necessary to clean them individually.

Check and Tighten Screws

  • Before and After Runs: Regularly check and tighten all screws and bolts to prevent them from loosening due to vibrations.

Inspect and Replace Worn Parts

  • Routine Inspections: Inspect your car regularly for worn or damaged parts. Replace any parts showing significant wear to prevent further damage.


  • Moving Parts: Lubricate all moving parts, including bearings, gears, and joints, to ensure smooth operation.

Battery Care

  • Proper Charging: Always use the correct charger for your batteries and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Storage: Store batteries in a cool, dry place and avoid storing them fully charged or fully depleted.

Final Considerations

When choosing your first RC car, consider your budget, the type of terrain you’ll be driving on, and the amount of time you’re willing to invest in maintenance. Off-road cars in the 1/10 scale with electric power are generally the most beginner-friendly choice. Ensure your RC car comes with everything you need to get started, and gradually build your toolkit as you become more experienced.


Choosing your first ready-to-run RC car is an exciting venture. By considering factors such as car type, scale, power source, and necessary tools, you can make an informed decision that matches your interests and budget. Whether you opt for the simplicity and speed of electric cars or the raw power and complexity of nitro cars, the world of RC cars offers endless fun and learning opportunities. Happy driving! 🚗💨