Remote control cars are in a unique category that appeals to a broad range of people. From small kids just learning to drive to hobbyists who race, upgrade and repair their cars, there's an option for everyone. The trick to choosing the best RC car is figuring out what you or the person you're buying for intends to do with the vehicle.
Experienced RC enthusiasts typically prefer cars and trucks with high top speeds, precise handling and advanced, performance-oriented features. These things, however, make driving and maintaining your vehicle considerably more complicated. While these features sound beneficial across the board, small children will simply have a difficult time controlling them.
When buying for small kids and toddlers, ease of use, safety and durability features, like a waterproof chassis, should instead be your primary concerns. While these cars may not have the most impressive spec sheets, they can meet your needs better and give your kids a safe, beginner-friendly platform on which to hone their abilities.
Once you decide the grade of vehicle you're after, you'll also want to consider whether you want an on-road vehicle or the more versatile off-road variety. Buying a car specifically for the road means you'll have unmatched handling on smooth surfaces. RC drift cars also allow you to slide around corners with style.
On the other hand you have off-road cars, which, despite the name, are perfectly capable of driving on and off the concrete. While you have more versatility and more options for jumps and stunts, you give up the handling performance of a road-specific vehicle.
The best RC cars also include rechargeable batteries. Having a battery that you can recharge after each use will end up saving you a lot of time and money in the long run. Battery life is the Achilles' heel of remote control cars, as the battery life tends to be short-lived. For this reason, it's important to consider run time, or perhaps more importantly, charge time. Many RC enthusiasts make use of multiple batteries to increase run times.
Lastly, you should consider the remote control that comes with your vehicle of choice. Some are very basic and offer only limited control of your vehicle. Others, particularly the 2.4GHz pistol-grip variety, offer improved ergonomics as well as precision controls. If you're driving near other users, you'll also want to check out the number of channels your remote offers. Running two cars on the same channel can cause interference between the two. For more helpful information, check out our other .
Looking for the best RC cars on the market? Here are 7 of the best remote controlled cars on the market today, including cars from Traxxas, HPI Racing and more.
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.
We tested speed in this category by fitting each vehicle with a GPS and running it on a smooth, straight course. We then ran each of the vehicles through the course a number of times. After this, we recorded the fastest speed each car was able to reach. RC vehicles tend to gain three or four miles per hour as they continue to break in, so we made some adjustments to account for that. The speeds quoted by the manufacturer are included for reference.
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. For this reason, we set up separate test courses for off-road and on-road vehicles. We then ran each of the vehicles through the courses repeatedly and analyzed the handling. It's worth noting that off-road vehicles are generally more versatile and handle more reliably, regardless of terrain.
Over the years Fifth Gear has performed some of the most impressive and devastating crash tests. In this one Tiff and Quentin control two rather large remote controlled cars.