“What car should I get?” There are literally hundreds of great cars and trucks you can get started with, but we’re betting most of you are looking to keep as much money in your pocket as you can. And so we’re (mostly) sticking with a cap of $200. These are far from the only quality models you can get for less than two bills, but they are some of the best choices. Which one do you want?
1/10 RTR 2WD Monster Truck 〉〉 $200
The Traxxas Stampede might be the best-selling RC truck of all time, and when it’s dressed as the mighty Bigfoot, who can resist? The proven 2WD platform is known for rugged and fast fun (top speed of 30mph), and Traxxas includes a 7-cell battery and charger—all you need to add are AAs for the transmitter. The lifted chassis gives extra clearance for off-road obstacles, and deeply dished satin-chrome wheels wear realistic, carved-look chevron rubber. Beneath the Bigfoot body you’ll find a “brushless ready” steel-gear transmission, Titan 55 power, and oil-filled shocks for a cushy ride. Lots of truck here for $200.
Tamiya Aqroshot & Neo Fighter
1/10 2WD Kit 〉〉 $125
Choose your flavor: sleek single-seater or futuristic fantasy truck. Either way, you’re getting a quick-building kit that’s fun to assemble and a durable performer when you’re done. The Aqroshot truck and Neo Fighter buggy are both built on the DT-03 platform, which features a clever clamshell chassis and independent suspension. Oil shocks smooth the ride, and Tamiya supplies a “Torque Tuned” 540 motor and quality speed control to trim a few items off your shopping list. You choose the radio system, steering servo, and battery.
1/10 RTR 2WD Buggy 〉〉 $196
Is the Traxxas Bandit RC’s most popular RTR buggy? Gotta be. The sleek machine hits the dirt with chrome wheels, oil-filled Ultra Shocks, and the steel-gear Magnum 272 “Brushless Ready” transmission with Torque Control slipper clutch and telescoping universal-joint driveshafts. Electronics are waterproof, and Titan 550 power with included 7-cell 3000mAh iD battery means you’re looking at top speeds over 30mph. Traxxas even throws in a 4-amp DC charger, so you don’t have to rush out and get a fast-charger.
HPI E10 Drift
1/10 RTR 4WD Drift Car 〉〉 $200
This version of HPI’s E10 sedan chassis is topped off with racing champion Dai Yoshihara’s Formula Drift Nissan body. The base is an injection-molded plastic chassis that comes out of the box configured for maximum grip and with rubber tires, but it can be altered for drifting. Shaft-driven 4WD is used to put the power of the included 27-turn brushed motor to the ground, and the electronics are waterproof, so there’s no need to worry when it comes to driving in the wet. HPI helps get you going by including a NiMH battery, wall charger, and AA batteries for the radio. There’s a long list of option parts available for those who are looking to make it their own.
Arrma Fazon & Granite Voltage
1/10 2WD RTR Truck 〉〉 $140
Arrma’s new Voltage RTR trucks include the stadium-style Fazon and monsterized Granite, and both tick off some nice specs for their down-low asking price of $140. Full ball bearings, waterproof electronics, and oil-filled shocks are standard, and the installed 20-turn motor delivers a top speed of 25mph. Arrma really gets creative in the battery department. Two Li-Ion cells are included and slot into the chassis like AAs, only bigger. You can add extra cells to boost run time or install a conventional NiMH or LiPo battery. Pretty trick! An AC charger is included for the Li-Ion cells, so all you need to hit the dirt is four AAs for the radio.
1/10 RTR 2WD Monster Truck 〉〉 $190
ECX offers the Ruckus two ways: with 4WD and brushless power for $350, or 2WD and brushed power for $190, as shown here. Oil-filled shocks and flexy plastics let this monster absorb hellacious hits, and with a 15-turn motor onboard, it’s got plenty of scoot. And long run time, too; ECX has upgraded the truck to LiPo power with a Dynamite Reaction pack and AC balance charger. You also get AA batteries for the radio, so there’s nothing else to buy. When ECX says “ready to run,” it means READY.
Kyosho Mini-Z MB-010S Optima
1/27 RTR 2WD Classic Buggy 〉〉 $190
Kyosho’s hugely popular Mini-Z lineup includes detailed models of rally cars, street machines, trucks, and even F1 racers. But our fave is the Optima, Kyosho’s classic 4WD track ride brought back as a micro masterpiece. The styling is spot-on, and it’s 4WD just like the 1/10-scale original. You’ll need to add eight AA batteries (four for the car, four for the radio), but otherwise the little off-roader is ready to rip.
RC4WD Gelande 2
1/18 RTR Micro Trail Truck 〉〉 $200
This 5-inch-long trail rig tops out at our $200 limit, and you’ll see that it’s worth the money when you get a close look. The Gelande 2 shown here is the 1/18-scale version of its popular 1/10 brother, and metal construction makes it the most durable vehicle out of the bunch. It’s also the most realistic. Features include an aluminum ladder-frame chassis, a 4-link suspension, a metal-gear micro servo, 40mm shocks, and cast Yota axles. Topping it off is a well-detailed injection-molded body, and it’s mated with stamped steel wheels and scale tires.
1/12 RTR Trail Truck 〉〉 $190
The Barrage is officially 1/12 scale but barely smaller than 1/10 rides and highly capable on the trail. Replica Falken tires, linked suspension, and solid axles on a steel ladder chassis give the Barrage off-road bona fides, and there’s even LED headlights and taillights to keep you rolling after sundown. Some surprise specs include steel universal joints, aluminum C-hubs, and CV-style front shafts. Nice stuff! A Speedpack NiMH battery, charger, and transmitter AAs are all in the box—just charge up and hit the trail.
Tamiya TT-01 E MAN TGS
1/14 4WD Semi Truck Kit 〉〉 $135
This rad racing rig is technically 1/14 scale since the full-size MAN TGS is so large, but the TT-01 chassis beneath the multipiece Lexan bodywork is Tamiya’s popular TT-01 shaft-drive 4WD tourer. It’s a simple and fun build with gear differentials and friction shocks, and the finished model is an entertaining ride that’s becoming a popular spec racer. Tamiya supplies a motor and speed control to get you rolling; you provide a radio system, battery, and servo.
HPI Q32 Series
1/32 RTR 2WD Indoor 〉〉 $55
HPI’s palm-size Q32 machines are simple, durable, and fun for indoor action. They may not have all of the adjustments that you typically find in a larger vehicle, but they do offer proportional throttle and steering to give them smooth control. Buggy, truggy, and even F1 styles are offered on the same platform, and all include a built-in battery. To charge, just plug the Q32 into the radio. Perfect for beginners but fun for anyone.
1/18 6X6 Monster Truck Kit 〉〉 $170
The Konghead is one of the latest vehicles from Tamiya and also one of the most unique. The G6-01 chassis is basically one long gearbox, and all six wheels are powered. You can even set it up to steer the rear tires as well as the fronts if you add an extra servo. Friction shocks simplify the build, and even first-time wrenchers will have no trouble thanks to clear instructions and Tamiya precision. Set aside extra lawn-mowing money for a radio system, speed control, servo, and battery since the Konghead is a kit.
ECX Barrage 1/24
1/24 RTR Micro Trail Truck 〉〉 $99
Wow, this is a pretty rad little ride. ECX’s micro machine is built on an aluminum ladder chassis with full-time 4WD via front and rear solid axles just like 1/10 trail trucks, but it measures just 9 inches long. The RTR rig includes LED lights for after-dark adventure, included AA transmitter batteries, and a USB charger for the supplied NiMH pack. There’s even a functional spare tire on the cab-and-cage body! ✇
What About Nitro Power?
If you’re wondering why all our picks are electric models, it’s because RTR nitro- (engine-) powered cars start at about $280, and if you’re just getting started in RC with a nitro car, you’re gonna want an RTR. In addition to the price jump, you’ll have to add an extra $30 or so for fuel (and potentially other accessories) before you fire up your machine, so the entry price for nitro power is more like $330. Still all in for fuel power? Check out the Traxxas Nitro Sport. This electric-start nitro burner includes a fuel bottle and battery for the starting system, so you’re a jug of fuel and eight AA batteries (for the radio gear) away from real fuel-burning engine power.