Rookie’s Guide to RC Toy Vehicles

Dad and son playing with RC plane

This guide covers most kinds of RC toy vehicles – cars, trucks, boats, planes, and so on.

Let’s explain a few basic terms and answer some beginner questions to help get you on track in the “RC World”…

This isn’t a “how to get into the RC HOBBY” guide. You’ll get some of the very basics here, but a lot more would be left to be covered. if you’re interested in getting into the hobby more seriously, there are some great websites for that (Check out this guide >>)

Let’s start from the very basics…

Does “RC” Stand for Remote Control or Radio Control?

It’s not set in stone. “Remote Controlled” includes Radio Controlled, but may also refer to other types, such Infrared Control (like those who are controlled by hand gestures) or even wired (remember those?).

So for the most part it’s radio control, but let’s just call it RC 🙂

Size and Scale

Micro RC car and transmitter There is a vast variety of sizes of RC toys, from “micro” (usually around 1/64 scale) and all the way up to huge 1/5 vehicles and even bigger…

The most common and popular RC toys are in the 1/32 to 1/10 scale range.

In case you don’t know what those “scales” mean…

Very simply, a 1/10 scale means that it’s one-tenth the size of a similar real vehicle. A 1/32 model vehicle is 32 times smaller than it’s “original”. This means that a 1/10 scale pick-up truck, for example, would be about 16in (40cm) in length.

Man Holding a Huge RC Plane

From >>

Toy-grade vs Hobby-grade RC (vs Toby-grade…)

Hobbyist will usually tell you that the main difference is that hobby-grade RC vehicles are designed to be fixable and customizable, in other words, you can easily repair or replace their parts.

Also, a hobby-grade RC vehicle will always have proportional controls, meaning that you can control the amount of throttle and steering, while in RC toys it’s usually a kind-of “on/off” switch control. But that’s not all…

Hobby RC Car Repair

Hobby-grade RC vehicles are generally higher in performance, durability and of course – price ranges (more on that in a bit).

There’s also the middle-ground (which we tend to lean towards here on TransporToys) which some call “Toby-grade”

As you might guess these are somewhat higher-end RC toys. At the very least they have semi-proportional control and also are quite easy to upgrade by replacing a few parts.

This video covers these differences nicely:

How Fast are RC Toys?

For this we’ll focus on land vehicles only (let’s call them RC cars, ok?). Most RC cars go as fast as 10-30mph (15-50km/h), but some of the more expensive ones can go up to 100km/h (60mph).

When it comes to Hobby-grade RC cars, we should point out that not all of them are meant for speed. Some are designed for drifting, others for off-road capability and so on. The ones that are meant for high-speed usually range from 50-100mph (80-160km/h).

Fun fact: In 2014, a custom-made electric RC car reached 325km/h (200mph), setting a Guinness World Record. (Watch the video)

What’s the Price Range?

Obviously there is a very wide range here and there are many exceptions (like special deals, used items etc.), but let’s keep it simple shall we?

Good quality NEW RC toy vehicles are mostly in the $50-$150 range (Remember we’re talking about anything from motorcycles to airplanes).

When it comes to hobby-grade, prices usually start at the $150 mark and climbing (and we haven’t even mentioned “racing-grade”…)

Now for some technical terms…

Brushless vs Brushed Motor

rc motor

These are the 2 most common types of motors used in RC vehicles. Generally the brushless are considered more powerful and reliable.

RTR = Ready-to-Run

Meaning you can basically connect the batteries, switch it on and start playing. Different from kits, for example, where the vehicle actually comes in parts and you have to assemble it.

LiPo vs NiMH Batteries

RC battery

There are two main types of batteries used to power RC vehicles: Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium Polymer (LiPo). Each has its pros and cons.

Most likely your RTR RC toy will come with NiMH batteries, though some of the “toby-grade” ones come with LiPo batteries.

NiMH packs are cheaper and easier to maintain, but they’re heavier, and their power (voltage) goes down steadily while playing, meaning your toy will gradually go slower and slower until they run out.
LiPo batteries are lightweight, and they hold a steady voltage while playing, with a quick drop at the end. LiPos generally cost more and also demand a bit of special care. 

There’s plenty more to say about batteries, but TransporToys is more about fun and play than about the tech stuff (For more info about batteries you can visit RC hobby resources that do it well, like this article >> or this video >>).

How to Choose Which Type of RC Toy to Get?

There is a vast variety of RC toys out there, including obscure ones like tanks and submarines, but let’s try to focus on some of the most popular and beginner-friendly ones, ok?

So first you need to decide on the type of “vehicle” you want. Of course, there are land vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft (and also hybrids, like the drone/hovercraft – link coming soon). 

Each type of RC toy can be lots of fun, but as you can imagine, watercraft and aircraft may be slightly less beginner friendly and a bit more challenging in terms of location, timing, handling, etc.

On land, there are 3 main types of play:

  • Flat surface (“On-road”) vehicles
  • Off-road vehicles like monster trucks and buggies
  • Engineering vehicles (excavator, shuffle, etc.)

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. We’d love to get your feedback or questions!