Beginner’s Guide to RC Cars – RC Car Categories

Beginners Guide to RC - Types of RC Cars

RC Car Categories

RC Cars come in many different shapes and sizes. Let’s start off this Beginner’s Guide by looking into the categories RC Cars are divided into:

Onroad RC Cars

Most radio controlled onroad kits resemble full-size touring cars, similar to the ones you see on TV (BTCC, German Touring Car, etc). They are typically 1/10 scale and 4WD (however there are 2WD/FWD kits available), have real working independent suspension systems that are completely tuneable, realistic slick or treaded tires (in a variaty of different compounds) and contain parts made from high-end materials – carbon fiber, aluminum and titanium. Most Onroad Cars can also be upgraded to better durability and speed.

On the down side, these cars are made for flat asphalt, concrete or carpet surfaces and not so great for jumping off curbs, running over speed bumps or driving through grass and dirt – the suspensions are just not set up to handle this. But, if you have a large street, a vacant (paved) lot or even a good sized driveway, onroad cars can be the way to go.

Here are examples of Onroad Cars:

Touring Cars
Beginners Guide to RC - Touring Car
Low, sleek and fast, the Touring Car (TC) is designed for maximum performance and speed. High end rides can be built with carbon fiber, aluminum and titanium with low-profile chassis drivetrains. The bodies car range from a well-known Ford or Chevy to a super slippery generic car, making them an attractive option if you want to learn precision driving.

• Best suited for flat, smooth surfaces
• Can mimic your full-size ride
• Best acceleration and top speeds (in most conditions)
• Shouldn’t be used in any offroad situation

Drift Cars
Beginners Guide to RC - Drift Car
Similar to Touring Cars, the Drift Car is more about combining scale appearance with technical driving. The Drift Car can have all the same build materials as the TC but uses a specialized tire to reduce traction and enhance sliding. These follow the same rules as full-size drifting and run on scale courses that can be amazing to witness.

• Best suited for flat, smooth surfaces
• Not fast, but specifically built for sliding
• Great for smaller spaces
• Shouldn’t be used in any offroad situation

Rally Cars
Beginners Guide to RC - Rally Car
Rally is another great option, combining offroad actiona with the Touring Car design. These cars use the same basics as standard TCs, in some cases using more robust suspension parts. Slightly longer shocks are used as are knobby tires, however Rally Cars can be fitted with treaded tires for ‘tarmac stages’. There are also plenty of scale bodies available from every Rally manufacturer – Toyota, Subaru, Mitsubishi, VW and Lancia

• Best suited for both flat, smooth surfaces and mild offroad conditions
• Great acceleration with moderate top speeds
• Can power slide around corners like their full-size counterparts
• Can be tricked out with all kinds of scale accessories

Formula 1
Beginners Guide to RC - Formula 1 Car
If you’re looking for something that has scale looks and real-life performance, check out Formula 1 cars! These cars mimic their full-size cousins – RWD performance, tire diameters (smaller fronts/larger rears), wing sets and even drivers! Plus, there are a ton of both past and current liveries available – Ferrari, Mercedes, RedBull, Alfa, Marlboro, Lotus, Renault – you name it, I’m pretty sure it’s available!

• Best suited for both flat, smooth surfaces
• Great acceleration and top speeds
• Can be somewhat easy to drive but more difficult to master
• Shouldn’t be used in any offroad situation

Beginners Guide to RC - Types of Cars

Check out this list of currently available Touring, Drift, Rally and F1 cars:

Offroad RC Cars

Offroad RC Cars are designed for more rugged terrain. Because of this, they typically come with larger offroad tires, beefier shocks and longer suspension components. Popular models come in both 1/10 and 1/8 scale and are available in either 2WD or 4WD variants. They can go just about anywhere, including grass, dirt, off curbs, over speed bumps, up driveways and over big jumps! They can also run in the street but, because of their overall bulkiness, don’t have the same performance as the Onroad RC Cars.

Here are examples of Offroad Cars:

Beginners Guide to RC - Offroad Buggy
Offroad Buggies are the speedier versions of this category. They are available in either 2WD or 4WD, run everything from mild to super hot motors, are designed with all the best materials (carbon fiber, aluminum and titanium) and have a variety of tire compounds to match the track conditions. These are typically the best RC Cars to start off with as they don’t limit your terrain options or offer crazy speeds that are difficult to control.

• Best suited for any terrain that isn’t flat
• Great starter vehicle for beginners
• Can be upgraded from mild to wild
• Limited on body designs

Trucks and Truggies
Beginners Guide to RC - Offroad Truggy
Very similar in design to Offroad Buggies, Offroad Trucks and Truggies have longer suspension arms and slightly bigger wheels and tires. This makes them a bit more desireable for beginners since they can tackle harsher terrain than their buggy counterparts. They also have a larger selection of bodies that can resemble full-size trucks.

• Best suited for any terrain that isn’t flat
• Great starter vehicle for beginners
• Can be upgraded from mild to wild
• Larger selection of body designs

Monster Trucks
Beginners Guide to RC - Monster Truck
Another popular Offroad RC option is the Monster Truck. Based on real-life trucks, these can have tubular-style chassis, large, oversized tires and a massive amount of ground clearance to blast over anything! The realistic bodies are also super cool, with liveries from Max-D, Gravedigger, Monster Mutt and the rest of the gang available – just choose the one you love most! They can also handle quite a bit of power – some using 2 motors, other using one large one!

• Best suited for any terrain that isn’t flat
• Fun vehicle for beginners
• Attactive real-life Monster Truck liveries
• Scale performance

Rock Crawlers
Beginners Guide to RC - Rock Crawler
Rock Crawlers are the creepers of the Offroad RC world. They are slow and precise, with high-turn motors that provide more torque than speed. They are designed to navigate tricky situations with their extreme suspension systems. They are also super popular to extreme scale modifications – realistic tires and wheels, bodies, drivers, roll cages, accessories, lighting kits – you name it, the Rock Crawling category has it! This is why this category is lovingly named the ‘doll house’ segment of the industry!

• Best suited for tricky offroad terrain
• Not fast, rock crawlers are all about the torque
• Lends itself well to scale modifications
• These vehicles are never ‘done’

Rock Racers
Beginners Guide to RC - Rock Racer
Another avenue to check out is Rock Racers. These rides are similar to King of the Hammers rides complete with tubular frames, large soft tires, massive power and go-anywhere performance. They can be brutally quick and designed to take a ton of abuse, making them a favorite for those that live in rocky or hilly locations.

• Best suited for rough and rocky terrain
• Faster than rock crawlers
• Scale rock racer looks
• Capable of LOTS of power

Beginners Guide to RC - Types of Cars

Check out this list of currently available Offroad Buggies, Trucks and Truggies, Monster Trucks, Rock Crawlers and Rock Racers:

Other Beginner’s Guide to RC Articles
RC Car Categories
Build Types: Kit, RTR, ARTR
Electric or Nitro
RC Scale
Buying Your First RC Car
RC Car Anatomy Files
Before Your First Drive
The Basics of Driving
RC Car Glossary

About Tony Phalen

Tony Phalen - As an avid RC enthusiast, Tony has been building, bashing and racing RC Cars for over 30 years. He has participated in every kind of surface racing events - 1/18 scale trucks, 1/10 scale TC, Rock Racers, Rally - if it had wheels, he's raced it! He's also worked on both sides of the industry fence; collaborating with many major manufacturers (as well as being a sponsored driver) to working for a high-profile industry magazine. During this time he has learned many tricks, tips and techniques and is sharing that knowledge on CompetitionX - the most informative RC website on the internet!

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