Picking the best type of R/C vehicle for your style.

The R/C hobby is one of the most amazing hobbies in the world.  It combines the geekiness and technological savvy of electronics and engineering with a gear-head’s lust for speed, performance, and design (with many more aspects in-between).  The question is, what draws you to the hobby and where do you want to get started?  Here’s a quick run-down of the main areas and categories of surface radio-controlled vehicles.

This category is perfect for those that have a need for speed and want to showcase the performance of their r/c vehicle in competition.  On-road radio-controlled vehicles are typically cars, ranging from scale models of muscle cars, touring cars, and various forms of automobile racing.  If you have a track near you, this is a great class to get into and learn about.

If you want to go down the racing and competition path, you’ll want to find a track that features either an indoor carpet or outdoor paved surface.  The configuration of these tracks can range from a road course layout to an oval, so you should be able to find a track that suits your driving style or personal preference.  The key is finding a track that compliments both the driver and the car.

Think of these performance vehicles as just that, performance vehicles.  You wouldn’t take a Camaro or a Lamborghini to a motocross track and you wouldn’t do the same with a scale model.  Make sure you pick a vehicle that fits your driving style and comfort level to start with.  You can always add performance hop-ups and enhancements as you progress or upgrade your vehicle completely as you hone your skills.

While the performance and competition aspect of on-road r/c cars is great, it’s not a necessity.  If you have a large amount of flat, paved surface to drive on, you can always set up a skills course and challenge yourself and your abilities.

There are also on-road radio-controlled vehicles that are built for pure speed and more straight-line performance as opposed to oval or road course racing, and let’s not forget drifting.  Just keep in mind where and how you plan to drive your vehicle when you’re deciding on your purchase.

If you don’t have a track, a large parking lot, or a long driveway on which to run your r/c vehicle, may want to turn your attention to an off-road machine.  While there are many subcategories of off-road vehicles, they all share one common feature.  They can drive just about anywhere.  This opens up many options for you when you’re looking for a place to unwind and enjoy the hobby.  In no particular order, here are the main groups of off-road r/c vehicles:

  • Buggy – Think about a typical dune or brush buggy and you’ll get an idea of what a buggy looks like and what it can do, performance-wise.  Buggies are a poplar format for off-road r/c racing.
  • Truggy – A cross between a buggy and a monster truck, truggies are open-wheeled vehicles with the shell of a pickup truck mounted to their chassis.  They also sport a spoiler or wing on the back and, like buggies are popular racing vehicles.
  • Monster Truck – Big wheels, big power, and big fun, monster trucks can come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  From replica models of official Monster Jam trucks to open-wheel off-road racers, MTs (as they’re called) tend to have a wider stance and shorter length than a buggy or truggy.
  • Short Course Truck – Another category that’s popular with racers and bashes alike are short course trucks.  These are scale replicas of the racers you’ll see at off-road races throughout the world.
  • Rally – The popularity of this class is on the rise, especially since a few new models have been introduced by some of the top r/c manufacturers.  Rally cars are a blend of on-road and off-road vehicle and are surprisingly versatile.

Rock crawlers
While not built for speed, rock crawlers can definitely perform.  Perfect for rocky terrain and steep inclines, rock crawlers are perfect for those that enjoy the challenge of traversing rough environment with skill and precision.

You’ve got the look and the style, now for the power.

After you square away the style of r/c vehicle you want, you’ll need to decide what power source you’ll use.  The choices here seem simple, but give them some decent consideration.

This is fuel folks.  With fuel you get many things, the sound of an engine, exhaust, oil, and a bit of a mess to clean up each time you run.

Much cleaner to run than a nitro r/c, but it lacks that cool sound that you only get from an engine.  Still, today’s battery and motor technology can create amazing (and fast) results.

No matter what type of vehicle you choose, you’re bound to have a great time with it!

Photo credit: Scott Lasko