Question: What are the best RC car brands on the market?
I’ve been involved in the radio controlled car and truck hobby for a long time. I thought I would list some of the good brands I’ve bashed and trashed, and fixed and raced around the backyard and racetrack.
The point is not to pit one brand against another. Rather, it’s an opinionated list, with manufacturers I have experience with and would recommend.
How to qualify as the best RC car brand?
We’ve all played with toy RC vehicles — the kind at local box stores.
If a part breaks, the vehicle generally can’t be repaired. They are disposable. That’s not the kind of vehicle we want. We want something that a company stands behind.
Repairable: Hobby-grade vehicles are not disposable. These cars and trucks can be repaired and upgraded, which is important.
If you drive these vehicles at their limits, they will eventually break. And you will need extra parts.
Company commitment to their product: Being able to repair the vehicle is important — whether that be 1 year after you purchase or a couple years after purchase.
A few companies (Traxxas, for example) have keep their flagship models (and extra parts) available for years.
Upgradeable: Often, you’ll break specific parts, which become a weak point in the vehicle.
At that point, it makes sense to upgrade the part to something beefier. Good aftermarket support is necessary.
Niche specific: Hobby-grade cars and trucks are also niche specific.
You can purchase 50+ mile per hour electric trucks to 5 mile per hour rock-climbing trucks.
This makes it easy to find a vehicle that suits your exact needs, especially when upgrades or downgrades can be done to the vehicle.
Example: Say you have a 5-year-old who wants and RC car. You could buy a cheap box store one, which he will outgrow quick. Or, spend a little extra money and get a hobby-grade unit which can be slowed down with a different motor until he/she progress with the vehicle.
What do I think are the best brands?
Traxxas: Traxxas is an awesome brand. I bought a Stampede when it first came out in 1994.
It was bashed with a 15-turn motor. I crashed it at full-speed into trees. Jumped it off the roof and at the skate park.
Sure, parts broke. They were placed under heavy stress, which may not be what Traxxas had in mind when they build the truck.
Keep in mind: This is before the current batch of brushless Stampedes, which are really built for (ab)use nowadays.
It’s a quality vehicle, from a quality company. Example: Traxxas has made parts available (and even kept the truck around) for more than 20 years.
The design of the truck and the company’s commitment to longevity of its product make Traxxas one of my favorite companies — especially for backyard bashers.
Caveat: I’ve never raced with their products. I’ve always raced Team Associated radio controlled cars.
2. Team Associated
Team Associated: My first buggy was a well-used (really, beat-to-snot) electric RC-10. It was one of the first designs, with the gold tub chassis.
Everything went wrong with it, from the transmission to the shocks to the electronics.
Despite everything going haywire, Team Associated had parts for it years after its introduction. They still even offer the RC10 — more than 30 years after its introduction in 1984.
After mine was upgraded with newer parts, I never broke a part on it — even after bashing it at the skate park with a 12-turn motor. It was a blast and super fast.
To me, Team Associated is a great company — despite my early misgivings with their products.
Also, I liked the versatility. During the winter, I lowered it and raced it on an indoor track with foam tires, different body, and a stock motor. It could, also, have been converted into the RC10T — the truck version of the buggy.
3. HPI Racing
HPI Racing: I bought a Wheely King a few years back. It’s a fun truck to just bash around. It, also, has the framework to be a good rock crawler.
I like the versatility. But, the transmission does not have the gusto to handle brushless motors for extreme speed.
This truck makes a good, fun vehicle for families, who want their kids to have a little speed but not so much as to take out the dog if they hit it at full speed.
As for durability with HPI, I’ve never broken one of their parts. The truck does not have a brushless motor — or fast one at that! It’s a crawler.
But, HPI has not discontinued support, and parts are still available. They even released an upgrade rock crawler kit if you want to convert the Wheely King to a crawler, which I’ve done.
I’ve never needed to contact their customer service.
There are way more good brands out there. I’ve just listed what I like and know.
When I started in RC cars, Tamiya was a big name brand. They had the market cornered for a long time, with the Blackfoot, Clodbuster, Lunchbox, Grasshopper.
These were good vehicles for light duty fun — i.e., stock 540 motors.
For my good 15 to 17-turn motors, Tamiya never lasted for me. It was always broken parts and melted transmission gears.
The expectation: a highly modified Clodbuster is almost indestructible. But, they did not provide a good bang for the buck.
And getting the best RC car brand for the money is important when you are just getting started in the hobby and don’t have a lot to spend.
I’ve also used Team Losi trucks, which are excellent. The availability of parts is excellent, as well.
I just gravitated more towards Team Associated racing because at the track that’s what everybody was using. I never broke that mold.
Losi is a good brand; I just don’t have as much experience with them as other companies.
Other manufacturers like Kyosho and Duratrax make great stuff, too.