Choosing the right radio-controlled vehicle for you.
As a newcomer to the r/c car hobby, I spent a good amount of time researching landscape of the remote-controlled world before purchasing my first vehicle. I knew I wanted to get into this hobby and I knew I wanted something with four wheels (and that was fast). Beyond that, my options were wide open. Looking to get into the r/c hobby as well? Here are some tips I found helpful.
Google is your friend.
Up until late last year, I wasn't very familiar with the major brands that exist in the r/c world. I turned to the best resource I could think of: Google. If you have questions, even the most basic ones, great place to start is on a search engine (or "decision engine" for you Bing fans). You can do a great deal of research in as little or as much time as you want to invest. I was able to quickly find a list of manufacturers, read reviews about the models I was interested in, and focused my search down to a handful of vehicles.
Support your local hobby shop.
After spending more time than I care to admit researching brands and vehicle categories, I made a list of local hobby shops in my area. Sadly, I found that there had been more here at one time, but a few have closed their doors in the past few years. The few that remain were close enoungh for me to drive to and check out inventory and ask questions in a face-to-face setting (thanks to Glenn at Hiawatha Hobbies!). If you've done your research, you should be well-equipt to deal with any, um, "factual discrepancies" that may arise when at your LHS, but I found my local stores to be run by some great people that are eager to help and answer any questions I threw at them.
After you've narrowed-down your options, check out manufacturer websites for basic information about the model(s) that interest you. There's no better place to get specifics and technical information than straight from the source. You might also find extra resources there in the form of message boards, dealer locators, and downloadable manuals. Here's a list of the big names in r/c cars and trucks to help get you started:
All the reading in the world won't give you the real sense of how the vehicle you're looking to buy will actually perform. Search YouTube for videos showcasing the r/c car/truck/buggy/plane helicopter/etc that you're interested in and see what pops up. Again, more time was spent than I care to admit to watching videos (of varying quality), but I did get a great picture for the speed and performance of the specific model I was looking into. You'll also find great ideas for shooting your own videos, camera-mounting positions, and shooting techniques, so you can get quite a bit of information out of a few videos. The comments can be useful too...some of the time.
I could go on for hours about how much of an impact social networks such as Twitter and Facebook have had on my life, but since I have to keep this post on-topic, I'll just say that you should leave no stone unturned when researching. On a few separate occasions I found people that are involved in or at the very least interested in the hobby of remote-controlled cars, and they gave me some great ideas for LHS, brands, and vehicle categories. In a roundabout way, it led me to discover a friend's past history with r/c and opened up a whole new set of topics for us to talk about.
Forums and online communities
After setting my sights on Traxxas as my brand of choice, I took to their site and was happy to discover their online community. Forums are a great resource, no matter what stage you're in. If you're just looking to get info on a specific model, there are people there that can help. If you're a seasoned pro, you can get setup advice as well as share your knowledge with the community. These things help make the hobby more enjoyable and inviting for others, which is one thing that drew me to it in the first place.
Good luck and happy driving!