Radio Controlled cars definitely bring lots of weekend fun and enjoyment. However, buying your first RC car can be quite tricky business. Generally speaking, no one wills to spend too heavily on something they are not sure of. Back in my day, I recall countless hours I spent glazing over catalogues and popular RC car magazines like RC Car Action and RC Driver.

Entry Level RC Electric Buggy

Entry Level RC Electric Buggy

If your consideration is largely price-influenced, the good news is that nowadays, through economies of scale, the prices of Nitro RC cars have come down so low that you can even purchase a Ready-to-Run Nitro RC Car for just US$159.99 – that’s barely more than the cheapest Hobby-Grade RTR Electric RC Car! So then, if was no longer a matter of cost, here are some points you may want to think about to help guide you to your decision:

Entry Level Nitro RC Road Car

Entry Level Nitro RC Road Car

Speed – If speed is important to you, a low-end Nitro RC car would definitely outrun an Electric RC car of similar price which comes with a 550-motor at best. But for a taller budget, i.e. US$300 or more, today’s Electric cars come with “Brushless Motors” that when mated with a powerful Lithium Polymer Battery, can rival or even out-do a Nitro car of the same class.

RC Engine Maintenance | RC Air Filter Maintenance

RC Engine Maintenance | RC Air Filter Maintenance

Ease of Maintenance – Nitro RC Cars require systematic engine break-in procedures, regular air filter and engine maintenance – just like a real car. Due to their averagely higher speed, you will also break more parts in unfortunate crashes, which require time and additional money to replace. Electric Cars on the other hand, are Charge, Plug & Play. Higher end ones may require you to do some form of motor break-in as well. Both require you to do routine suspension maintenance and dirt-removal.

Running Time – With an Electric Car, each battery lasts between 10-25 minutes. Your total running time is limited to the number of battery packs you have. Keep in mind though, that a single battery pack takes 1-8 hours to charge, depending on the specifications of the battery charger you have. Most RC enthusiasts purchase third-party batteries and chargers that offer faster charging, better running time, better performance, and functions that support charging of multiple battery packs simultaneously – of course these options do not come cheap. With a Nitro Car, each tankful of fuel lasts 15-30 minutes, depending on tank size, terrain, and your driving style. Your running time would be limited to the amount of fuel you have on tap.

Electric RC Lipo Battery Charger

Electric RC Lipo Battery Charger

Cost of Operation – In addition to a Nitro Car RTR, you will usually need to purchase a glow-starter, batteries for the radio transmitter, air filter oil, simple toolkit and of course, glow fuel. If you are planning on buying your Nitro Car RTR online, you will also need to find a local supplier for glow fuel first, as glow fuel is banned from air-freight. All these could add on a good US$50 to your order – a considerable added expense, still excluding first-timer part-breakage-replacements, if you are planning to get a low-end Nitro Car. Whereas, an Electric Car RTR usually includes a battery and charger. You will only need to purchase batteries for your radio transmitter, and a toolkit and you are all set. In the long term, you are likely to look for better performance, and Electric Cars require a different charger for each battery type, i.e. NiCd, NiMH, LIPO. If you are using brushless motors with LIPOs, you will suffer as much part-replacement costs as a Nitro Car. Hence, it’s usually said that Nitro Cars are costlier upfront, but cheaper in the long run, and Electric Cars the opposite.

Sound & Accoustics – Nothing beats an Nitro-engine-powered RC. Brushless Motors may come close. If you are out for sound and on-looker appeal, you are sure to attract attention with your Nitro RC Car. Electric Cars are generally not noise makers – but that’s a plus if you’d like to have some fun while others are sleep.

About the author: Julian Wong, aged 26, married and self-employed actively trades stocks and forex, and runs several internet marketing programs. His favorite outdoor past-time is off-road RC cars, and he is a proud owner of a Kyosho Inferno and a HPI Savage X 4.6 – both running on Nitro. If you are interested in RC modification, RC videos, and RC racing, or want to be informed of coupon promotions and RC special deals online, do check out his RC blog at

  1. Morizal says:

    Thanks for the info… I have been trying to figure out what should I buy and I think of buying an RC offroad. Maybe I opt for kyosho since they have a lot of tournament. I have some question. I read through Kyosho website and I do not understand what does EP(1/8 EP touring) or GP (1/8 GP Off-Road) means? Do you know any other website that is providing any tournament for RC? Thanks.

    • EP = Electric Power. GP= Gas Power. Touring = Touring Car. Off-road… that’s quite self-explanatory.

      When selecting a brand of car, generally you want to consider the availability and cost of spare parts. Kyosho cars don’t break very much, but when they do, their parts are one of the most expensive around.

      When it comes to tournaments, they are usually held by class… i.e. 1/10 buggy, 1/8 buggy, SC Truck, etc.. You don’t need to have a particular brand to compete.

      If you’re starting out with electric cars, two cars I highly recommend for offroad is the Traxxas Slash, and the Kyosho Ultima DB. They’re both very well-built, durable and come with good set of original equipment.

  2. Chris G says:

    “Hence, it’s usually said that Nitro Cars are costlier upfront, but cheaper in the long run, and Electric Cars the opposite.” – No I think the exact opposite is true.

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