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Electric RC Cars Beginners Guide

Electric RC Cars for BeginnersHello, I'm here to help you choose and buy an electric powered remote control car. 

"I still remember the day my parents bought me my first rc car. The joy and excitement I felt going into the hobby shop, picking out the kit, radio controller and battery pack. That was one of the happiest days of my life."

That's me in the photo, a beginner with my first r/c car taken around 1979. A long time ago, but for me still seems like only yesterday. So please join me as we learn more about electric rc cars.

Electric RC Cars for Beginners

Let's start by imagining we are both walking into an rc car shop. We see in the store so many great kits in their boxes. On the counter, we see batteries, motors, radio controllers and other accessories. And hanging on the wall are various rc car parts.

So look around and choose the model that you like. It could be an on-road touring car or an off-road rc truck. Important is that you like it. Next would be to find out, is it a kit or ready-to-run (RTR)?

A kit is wherein when you open the box, the rc car is unassembled. You will need to build it yourself. To complete the set you need to buy:

  • Radio controller
  • Battery pack suitable for your model
  • Peak detection charger suitable for the battery pack
  • Polycarbonate paint (for clear lexan bodies)
  • Electric motor if the kit does not include one
  • Electronic speed control if the kit does not include one

A ready-to-run (RTR) electric rc car is usually 80% - 100% assembled out of the box. Most come with everything you need to get running.

RC Car Parts Description Brands
Kit This is the radio control car or truck. Kits will need assembly while read to run (rtr) are already assembled. Tamiya, Associated, Losi, Kyosho, HPI
Radio Control System Consists of the radio controller and steering servo. Futaba, Airtronics / Sanwa, KO Propo
Electronic Speed Control A small electronic device that controls the power and speed of the electric rc car. Hobbywing, Tamiya, Novak, Tekin
Electric Motor Popular are 540 size motors. Two types, brushed and brushless motors. Mabuchi, Johnson, Speedpassion, LRP, Orion
Battery Standard is a 7.2v battery pack. Older technology is the NiCad and NiMH. New technology is LIPO batteries. These are lighter and more durable. Orion, Reedy, Tamiya
Charger Each battery type requires a charge specifically designed for it. For example, you cannot use a NiCad charger to charge a LIPO battery. LRP

Electric RC Cars Off RoadChoosing the Electric R/C Car Kit

Let's do an example. The most popular size is 1/10 scale. A good electric rc car for beginners would be an on-road touring car such as the Tamiya TT01.

But an off-road rc car like the 1/10 Tamiya Stadium Blitzer might be better. These pickup trucks can do jumps and run on dirt, the fun stuff.

Opening the box, we see a lot of plastic parts. Included is the 540 Mabuchi electric rc motor and an electronic speed control (esc). 

Notice the body is made of clear polycarbonate / lexan plastic. These are painted on the inside.

 

Best Cheap Radio ControllerChoosing a Radio Controller

Next would be to buy a good radio controller. I highly recommend you buy the best you can afford. A good radio control unit is one of the best hop-ups or upgrades.

Here I love the Airtronics / Sanwa MT-4. It is very lightweight and fits very well with small hands. Perfect for kids. And this is one of the best value and fastest response controller you can buy. Even serious racers use this.

Next would be to buy a suitable battery pack. Here are some common choices:

 - 7.2v NiCad packs (old technology but still good and safe for bashing)

 - 7.2v NiMH packs (also old technology but good for playing around with longer run times)

 - 6.6v LiFe packs (new technology, safe to use, very durable)

 - 7.4v LiPo packs (new technology, usually for racing)

For beginners and kids I would recommend to avoid LiPo batteries as these require more attention. Wrong charging or discharging might result in flames or a permanently damaged pack. I like LiFe.

RC Battery Chargers Peak DetectionChoosing a Peak Detection Battery Charger

Best would be to look for a battery charger that can charge NiCad, NiMH, LiFe and LiPo. Personally I use the IMAX B6 and the LRP.

Peak detection means the charger will automatically stop charging once the battery is fully charged.

Personally I charge at 4amps for almost all my batteries. But I do recommend you charge based on the battery manufacturers recommendation.

And finally, you will need polycarbonate paint (e.g. Tamiya PS paints). These are designed to stick to the polycarbonate lexan rc bodies.

Electric RC Cars and Trucks

Popular today are electric powered short course trucks, minis, scale trucks, monster truck and on-road drift rc cars.

Electric Radio Control Popular Brand and Model
Short Course RC Trucks Associated SC10, HPI Blitz
Mini R/C Cars Tamiya M-chassis, Losi Micro-T
Scale Trucks Tamiya Toyota HiLux
Drift R/C Cars Yokomo Drift Package
Monster Trucks Traxxas E-Maxx, E-Revo, HPI Savage Flux

And some of the best brands are Tamiya, Associated, Losi, HPI, Kyosho, Yokomo and Traxxas.

Cheap Electric R/C Cars

  1. Losi Micro T - $79
  2. Losi Mini T - $99
  3. Tamiya Wild Willy - $121
  4. HPI Toyota Trueno - $174
  5. Tamiya Lancer Evo X - $174

Full list of cheap electric rc cars.

Electric RC Car Reviews

No holds barred honest reviews. I call it as I see it. Just my personal opinion.

Tamiya TA05
Tamiya TA05 v2 IFS Mach GoGoGo
Alfa Romeo Mito RC Car
Tamiya M05 Alfa Romeo Mito
RC Controller Airtronics Sanwa MT4 Review
RC Controller Airtronics MT4
Ferrari 312T3 RC Car
Tamiya Ferrari 312T3
BMW Mini Cooper S RC Car
Tamiya BMW Mini Cooper S
Nanda NRX 18 Radio Control Car
Nanda NRX-18 Touring
RC Car HPI TCX
HPI TCX Touring

Update: Below cars were good, but are now discontinued by their manufacturers. Here is the latest list of new electric radio control cars.

Below are links to my reviews on electric cars that are good for first timers or those with some experience. Just click on the hyperlinks to read the full review. Also an electric rc cars comparison chart.

Picture of HPI Dash RTR HPI Dash RTR

The HPI Dash is a ready to run 1/10th scale electric rc car. This is a perfect beginner's car.

Discontinued.

Picture of electric rc car. Associated RTR TC3

This is the fast ready to run electric touring car from many times World Champion, Team Associated.

Discontinued. Lastest model is the TC5.

Picture of HPI Micro RS4 Nissan Skyline HPI Micro RS4 Nissan Skyline

The HPI Micro RS4 line of cars are 1/18th scale electric rc cars. Perfect for playing indoors, street, or garages.

Discontinued. 


1/10th Scale Off-Road RC Electric Trucks

electric powered rc truckProbably the most popular class, these cars (i.e. buggies, racing trucks, monster trucks) can be run on almost any type of surface. Dirt, dust, water, and jumps add to the fun.

These cars also make use of the standard 540 electric motor. The main difference to on-road is the suspension system. Long shock absorbers keep rc electric trucks stable over bumpy surfaces.

Tires are also bigger, have deeper threads or spikes, and are made of rubber. 2WD is still the most popular class for off-road, although there are plenty of 4WD cars to choose from.

* Picture of my favorite electric rc truck, the Tamiya Wild Willy 2.


1/12th Scale On-Road Electric

Early electric cars were 1/12th scale run on-road. Today’s cars are run indoors and outdoors, on asphalt or on smooth carpet.

These cars make use of 540 size electric motors, powered by 4 cell NiMH or 1s Lipo batteries. Pan chassis with direct drive transmission are the norm. Foam tires are used and lightweight Lexan bodies are used.

Because of its small size, 1/12th scale cars are lightweight, and have good power-to-weight ratio. 30+ mph speeds are achievable even with the basic Mabuchi stock motor.

Where to Buy

Visit your local hobby shop to buy electric rc cars. If there is non nearby, there are many online rc hobby stores that will ship kits and parts to your home. Visit the rc store page for a list of popular online shops.

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