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Every Tip To Know When Selecting Your First RC Car: Budget, Skill Level, Terrain, and More

Every Tip To Know When Selecting Your First RC Car: Budget, Skill Level, Terrain, and More

Have you ever dreamed of getting behind the wheel of a scaled-down high-speed racer, tearing up the backyard or a nearby park? 

Does the thrill of guiding a precisely engineered RC vehicle over jumps and around corners appeal to you? 

If so, you're ready to join the ranks of RC enthusiasts with your very first remote control car!

That said, selecting that ideal starter RC car may initially seem daunting. How do you decide where to begin with so many options across various skill levels and terrains? 

Don't worry; we've got you covered. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the key factors when choosing your first RC car.

We'll cover setting a realistic budget, evaluating your current skill level, where and how you plan to drive, whether to prioritize speed or control, gas vs. electric models, body styles and scales, trusted brands to look for, and much more. 

By the end, you'll know exactly what features and capabilities to look for in an RC that matches your needs and excitement level.

Let's dive in.

#1 - Determine Your Budget

The first and most important step is to set a realistic budget for your inaugural RC vehicle. 

As fun as it is to drool over those $1,000 highly customizable models, you'll want to start small until you really know this is a hobby you'll stick with.

A general rule of thumb is to keep the budget for your first RC car under $200. You can easily find ready-to-run (RTR) models between $100 to $200 that are high quality and specifically designed for beginners. 

These affordable starter RC cars will help you get a feel for operating and controlling an RC without breaking the bank.

Consider leaving room in your budget for any necessary startup costs beyond just the car itself, too. You should factor in a few extra rechargeable batteries, a battery charger, and basic tools.

While some RTR models come fully equipped and ready to drive out of the box, you'll likely need a few supplemental items, so allocate $50 or so beyond the cost of the vehicle itself.

That said, if you want to go cheaper, have financial restrictions, or want to just try driving first, then you can! The goal is to find an entry-level RC car with great value that keeps initial investment low but still offers versatility to grow your skills. 

Don't get sucked into overspending on your first RC only to realize you hardly use it! Starting small, learning the ropes, and slowly upgrading over time is part of the rewarding journey into radio-controlled cars.

#2 - Assess Your Skill Level

Once you've set your budget, it's time to objectively assess your current skill level. The style and capabilities of your first RC should align with where you're at experience-wise. Be honest with yourself here.

If you're an absolute beginner who's never operated any kind of RC vehicle before, look for ready-to-run (RTR) models labeled as "novice," "newbie" or "starter." These come pre-assembled with everything set up out of the box. 

They're designed for simplicity and easy handling. Features like slower top speeds, training modes that limit acceleration and steering, and automatic stability controls are ideal for first-timers.

On the other hand, RC enthusiasts with experience flying drones or driving more advanced model cars have some transferable skills. You'll want a car with fully proportional controls for throttle, steering, and braking. 

Look for customization options, but avoid ultra-complex RCs at this intermediate stage. Scale back needless add-ons and focus on getting comfortable with core driving mechanics.

The key is not overestimating your abilities as a beginner. 

Hold off on advanced customizable trucks until you really know what you're doing. Learn to walk before you try to run at 60 mph! Selecting an RC precisely matched to your current skill level ensures a more enjoyable and rewarding entry into the hobby.

#3 - Think About Where You'll Drive

One factor many first-timers overlook is thinking about where and how they plan to drive their new RC car. The performance and capabilities of your model should match the surfaces and conditions where you'll be taking it for a spin.

For indoor use only on flat, smooth floors, a small micro or mini RC car is perfect. These lighter, slower indoor cars have soft tires and suspension that grip well on tile, wood, or low-pile carpeting. Driving them outside would be rough on their delicate parts.

On the other end, powerful short-course trucks or buggies engineered for off-road trails require grippy tread tires and rugged waterproof shocks. Their size and speed make them ill-suited for indoor spaces. Consider the terrain you'll tackle before buying.

If you plan to split time between indoor play and venturing outdoors, look for all-around RC cars labeled as "backyard bashers." These versatile, durable RCs can transition smoothly between surfaces while handling bumps and light off-roading.

Think through when and where you'll likely be driving, and choose an RC car explicitly designed for those conditions. This ensures it will perform at its best on the surfaces you'll encounter rather than being held back by the wrong setup.

#4 - Prioritize Speed vs. Control

One of the most common beginner mistakes is prioritizing speed and power over control in a first RC. It's tempting to show off with the fastest model you can find, but speed without the skill to handle it will only lead to crashes and damage.

As a general rule, limit top speeds to 10-15 mph for your inaugural RC car. At this more manageable velocity, you can master throttle and steering control safely before graduating to higher speeds. 

Look for limited speed modes and adjustable speed governors to restrict acceleration until you gain experience.

Stability and maneuverability should take precedence over sheer speed, at least initially. Focus on finding an RC with a balanced chassis, low center of gravity, traction-boosting features like four-wheel drive or differential gearing, and shock absorbers that handle minor bumps with ease.

Once you've become confident operating your first RC car, you can look into slowly upgrading parts like the motor, gears, and battery to increase speed capabilities over time.

#5 - Gas vs. Electric Models

You'll primarily choose between electric or nitro/gas models when powering your first RC car. Each has pros and cons to weigh based on your needs and experience level.

Electric RC cars are the most popular for beginners since they're easier to use and maintain. Batteries provide instant power with no tricky tuning needed. Just charge up and drive. However, sound and realism are limited without a real combustion engine.

Nitro or gas RC cars run on special fuel to power real miniature engines that roar and smoke just like the full-sized versions. They deliver a much more realistic experience but require more maintenance and tuning skill.

For your first RC, electric is strongly recommended. There's no worrying about tricky pull-starts, idle adjustments, or messy exhaust. Rechargeable battery packs offer convenience and cost savings, too. 

As your experience grows, you can always add a nitro RC with more complex engine components later on.

#6 - Scale/Style of the Body 

When browsing the body styles of different RC cars, you'll notice some are modeled after real-life vehicles while others have a more stylized or whimsical appearance. Consider which design aesthetics appeal most as you make your choice.

For realism, scale RC bodies like 1/10, 1/8, or 1/5-sized replica cars and trucks are popular. The detailing on these makes them look impressively close to the life-sized versions. Larger scales like 1/5 can feel more realistic to drive but are more expensive and lose maneuverability.

For a more playful look, hobby-grade RC cars often have vivid graphics and colors applied to unique body shells. These imaginative designs forgo realism in favor of delivering eye-catching flair.

While buying the best-looking RC is tempting, remember that smaller scales provide better handling and control for beginners. Save giant 1/5 replicas for when you've mastered driving dynamics on smaller 1/10 or 1/8 scale bodies.

No matter if you love realistic scale bodies or expressive stylized designs, choose one that matches your skill level. You can always change up the visuals later after you've gotten the hang of driving your new ride.

#7 - Brands and Reviews

With so many RC car brands out there, it helps to focus on well-known names with a reputation for quality and parts availability. Traxxas, Bezgar, Team Associated, Arrma, Redcat, ECX, and HPI Racing are all solid choices for hobby-grade beginner vehicles.

Once you've narrowed down brands, dig into verified customer reviews and RC forums to gather consensus. Look for red flags about poor reliability, lack of parts support, or complicated assembly. You want a model with proven ease of use and durability.

Check what electronics come installed too. Beginner-friendly RCs should have a basic 2-channel transmitter, battery, and charger included rather than lower-grade generic components. Carefully read the included features to avoid surprises.

While tempted by flashy ads for obscure brands, sticking with trusted industry names increases your chances of enjoying the hobby long-term. Their widespread parts availability also makes repairs and upgrades smoother when you're ready.

Wrapping Up

Choosing your first RC car is an exciting milestone! Follow this guide to select the ideal starter model based on your budget, skill level, interests, and intended driving environment. 

Consider control vs. speed, gas vs. electric, scale, and styles. Research top brands and read reviews. 

Be patient as you learn - start slowly and upgrade over time. RC cars provide endless enjoyment for driving enthusiasts. With these expert tips, browse options and find the perfect beginner RC for you. 

Shop with us today here at Bezgar and find your first favorite RC car that opens the door to this thrilling world!

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