Reviews and advice: Everything you need to find the best nitro RC cars and trucks!
Here's the deal: Gas powered nitro RC cars are fast, powerful, and crazy fun! But with so many products and options, it can be tricky to find the right one. That's what this guide is for: We've tested over 50 different nitro RC models and selected the 10 best. All winners are fun, fast, and offer great value. Ready to take your driving skills to the next level? Let's go:The Best Gas Powered Cars and TrucksGas Powered Cars and Trucks BasicsTips and Tricks
Here are the most important specs you need to know to pick the perfect nitro RC car:
RC cars are modeled after real cars. The scale shows you how much smaller the model is.
Here's the fun part: This is the top speed your nitro RC car or truck can hit (in MPH).
This shows you if the nitro RC car has a two wheel drive or a four wheel drive.
Nitro fuels range from 10-40% nitromethane content. Always double-check the manual!
You guessed it: This shows you how big your gas powered RC car or truck is (in inches).
Another self-explanatory but useful measurement: The total weight in pounds.
Shows you the GHz band of the radio transmitter. Useful when switching controls.
Shows if the nitro RC car requires assembly or if it comes ready to drive.
Broom, broom, broom! We absolutely love this beast of a nitro RC buggy. If you want a short answer for "What is the best nitro RC product out there?" we'd say "Try this one!"
Not only does the HPI Racing Trophy's streamlined design look cool, but this product can also back it up with a sensational performance. It's slightly bigger and heavier than some other trucks and buggies but those oversized specs make this bad boy much more fun to drive. For lack of better words - it feels powerful, agile, and badass. Rallycross buggies are one of the biggest racing classes around the world and the 1:8 scale factor is one of the most popular categories, growing rapidly.
HPI includes everything you need to get started and use this buggy long term, and then some! You get a very durable aluminum chassis, high-end braces and shock towers, and an almost too powerful but still race-legal Nitro Star F3.5 (.21 cubic inch) HPI engine. All that is topped off with HB Proto design racing tires, oil-filled shocks, and lots of tuning adjustment possibilities. You get a lot of bang for your buck here!
These excellent specs make the buggy a great choice for both beginners looking for long-term value and experienced racers who appreciate quality. Either way, you'll have a ton of fun racing the HBI RT. Just to be sure: This car is not a toy, it's very powerful and meant for people serious about RC racing. For your money, you get one of the very best RC buggy experiences we've tested. If you're interested in a high-end, 1:8 scale buggy that's fast, powerful, and easy to use - this is it!
If you're looking for a nitro gas powered monster truck, get the Traxxas T-Maxx 4WD. It's the best RC truck we've reviewed and it offers a lot of features and value for the money.
Powered by Traxxas's proven and reliable TRX 2.5 racing engine and a new, fast electric starting system, the T-Maxx sets the bar for all other RC monster trucks. Traxxas is one of the industry's leaders and offers consistently high quality, a great warranty, and excellent customer service. It's a big plus because you'll know that your purchase will offer high value and good reliability.
This brand new edition of the bestselling T-Maxx 4WD RC truck has updated body graphics and new 3.8" Chevron tires with mirror-chrome split-spoke wheels. It looks great and performs even better. The low-profile tire design delivers agile handling and nonstop forward bite, even in rough and steep terrain. We tested it in dirt and sand and on grass and slippery surfaces. The T-Maxx just kept going! This truck is rugged and reliable and its performance was all-around great, even on difficulty surfaces.
We love the design and look of this RC truck. It's subjective, of course, but the perfect blend of powerful truck design and modern, giant tires is really awesome to look at. Your friends will be jealous, that's for sure! Another great feature is that the truck's components are 100% compatible with all current and previous T-Maxx models, so it's cheap and easy to find replacement parts or upgrade your truck later on. If you're looking for the perfect nitro monster truck, you've just found it! The T-Maxx is a smart choice and offers excellent value.
We had a LOT of fun testing this nitro RC stadium truck! Here's short version: The Traxxas Nitro Rustler is freaking awesome and one of the best RC trucks we've reviewed! This RC super truck easily hit 50 miles per hour and more in our tests! In fact, it was so fast that it became limited only by the racetrack we had chosen, which is amazing. You get a lot of racing performance here, which is very surprising for a heavy-duty truck. The Nitro Rustler also comes fully assembled, so all you need to start racing are some batteries and 20% nitro fuel.
Let's talk details, shall we? Traxxas is known for high-performance vehicles, and this product is no exception. The body is lightweight for its size and very low profile. These smart design choices, paired with the powerful TRX 2.5 engine allow the truck to accelerate rapidly. Traxxas has wisely chosen Alias tires measuring about 2.8" inches with foam inserts and shiny, twin-spoke wheels. The tires provide excellent traction even during sharp turns, which is essential for a nitro RC truck that can hit these kinds of speeds.
The truck is also easy to mod and work with. We added some parts, changed wheels, and switched gears from 70 to 82 tooth. The Traxxas Nitro Rustler makes modding easy and fun. With some modifications, this bad boy can even hit speeds of 60 MPH and more (at your own risk). It's an amazing product and we highly recommend checking it out. Happy racing!
The Lightning STR Nitro from Redcat Racing shows why the company is one of the market leaders for nitro RC cars. Its build to last, offers superior performance with blazing-fast speeds, and still manages to be a very affordable kit.
The engine's VX-16 power is transferred through a modern, centrifugally shifted two-speed transmission to all four wheels for quick acceleration. The two wheel drive system allows for amazing traction and speed: We could easily push the STR to 45 miles per hour and more, which is absolutely amazing and makes it one of the fastest nitro RC cars we've reviewed.
The STR is solidly build from high quality materials: It has a light weight, beefy aluminum chassis that reduces weight for better performance. Aluminum capped disk brakes and high-end, oil filled shocks ensure crisp handling throughout. All this means that the car will drive faster, perform better, and last longer! The car comes fully factory-assembled. All you need to start racing is 20% nitro fuel, four AA batteries, and a glow-plug igniter. We also recommend getting this cheap and complete nitro RC starter kit that includes everything but the batteries.
Overall, the STR is an amazing nitro RC car that's fast, solidly build, cheap, and a lot of fun. We especially recommend it for RC beginners and people looking for a convenient product, since it's fully assembled and ready to go the moment you get it.
What's a truggy you ask? Is it a truck or a buggy? Well, it's both. It's a specialized four wheel drive, off-road vehicle that's rugged and ready for any terrain. This versatility and high-end performance is why the Redcat Monsoon XTR Nitro Truggy made it to this top 10 list.
The Monsoon XTR is packed with high-end technology: It has a powerful .28 SH P3 engine that pushed the car to 40 miles per hour and more at the push of a button. We also really loved the aluminum, oil filled shocks, the tuned exhaust, and the modern pivot ball suspension. There's a lot to like here!
The car performed very well in all of our tests. Unlike most RC cars which are 1:10 scale, the XTR is 1:8 scale so it's a little closer to the real car it's modeled after. The increased weight and size make for great handling and performance off-road. Driving this truggy feels a lot like the handling of a real 4WD truck. You can easily race over bumps and other obstacles without even noticing them. The car comes factory assembled, all you need are 12 AA batteries (four for the car and eight for the remote control) and of course high-quality 20% nitro fuel.
All in all, the Monsoon XTR is an amazing off-road vehicle and the best truggy we've tested. If you're looking for a fun RC car that can handle any terrain, this would be our recommendation. It's big, it's heavy, and it's really fun! It's a beast to be reckoned with, both on and off the track. You'll love it!
This awesome new 1:10 scale stadium truck is available in red, black, and blue. It requires no assembly and is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to get started with nitro RC racing.
The Traxxas Nitro Sport, like almost all Traxxas products, is fully pre-assembled right down to the engine. All you have to do is unbox it, and you're ready to race in about three minutes. The Nitro Sport offers excellent design and quality for the price.
The company's "EZ-Start" system automatically heats the glow plug and cranks the engine with the push of a button so that you don't need to manually adjust anything to turn on your car. The truck features the popular TRX Pro 15 engine which delivers a great balance of power and reliability, and also includes an excellent two-needle carburetor for top-notch precision.
The wheels are unique on this truck, featuring a streamlined front grid and a ripped stadium grip on the back. This provides you with a great balance of smooth acceleration and sturdy turns for all kinds of terrain. The Traxxas Nitro Sport's very wide tuning latitude makes the TRX Pro engine forgiving to use initially as you learn how to perfect each turn and optimize the performance of your truck. The product includes a standard TQ 2.4GHz radio design with an internal antenna to reduce potential damage from accidents and bumps. All in all, this is an excellent RC car, especially for people with a limited budget and for nitro RC beginners looking for a streamlined experience.
Check out this gas powered truck! It doesn't just look amazing, but it's a beast to drive as well. There's a reason why Redcat Racing is one of the market leaders in nitro RC trucks: They build high quality, affordable performance machines that are low maintenance and just a ton of fun to drive!
The Redcat Nitro Volcano S30 truck is equipped with a new 3.0cc SH engine that's ready to cause trouble in your neighborhood. Its screaming exhaust erupts from the performance header and the new tuned pipe (so much fun). One thing is sure, this truck will draw a lot of jealous looks from others watching you!
The driving performance of this truck is excellent. We really liked the independent suspension, the aluminum capped, oil-filled shocks, and most of all the soft compound monster truck tires that allow for great off-road driving. The truck is big and heavy enough to handle bumpy terrain and its high, 30mm ground clearance makes it so much fun to drive in nature. The 4x4 all-wheel drive handled perfectly on any surface or incline that we tested it on. It's an absolute beast! The S30 is also very durable: We flipped it over 20 times and it just kept going.
The Volcano S30 comes in four different colors (blue, silver, green, and red) - see the link below for details. Last but not least, we should point out the great polycarbonate, bash-resistant body design and the very good composite disc brakes.
Overall, we highly recommend the Volcano S30. It's definitely one of the best nitro RC trucks we've tested. It's big, fast, powerful, and very durable. You'll love it!
Personally, we think the Redcat Racing Earthquake is one of the coolest looking nitro RC trucks you can buy. You can get this streamlined design in all-black (shown here), as well as red, blue, and blue-black.
This new semi truck is part of Redcat's UltraLight performance series. It's designed to be fast - really fast. We easily surpassed 50 miles per hour (!) with this beast. It features 4x4 all-wheel drive with front and rear sealed differential, great composite disc brakes, and a responsive two-speed transmission. All this is topped off by Redcat's excellent 3.5 cc .21 SH big block engine that delivers snappy acceleration.
The best part? While this is one of the fastest and most powerful RC trucks you can buy, the set has great price point! We loved that this truck performs equally well on a racetrack and off-road in nature. No matter what situation you throw at it, this baby is ready for action!
Because this truck offers a bigger and more realistic 1:8 scale factor, you'll get a close to real life driving experience. It's 20 inches long and weighs 12.5 pounds, making for awesome driving in bumpy situations. It can take a lot of jamming!
We recommend this nitro RC semi truck if you're looking for a performance truck that can handle both races and off-road driving. The Redcat Racing Earthquake is really the perfect stadium truck: It's fast, it's durable, and it gets great traction with awesome run times. You'll love the sound of the powerful engine and the fair price point. A great truck to buy!
The Redcat Shockwave Nitro Buggy is hands down one of the best gas powered RC cars you can buy. It features a powerful 2.67cc Vertex engine, plus premium parts like aluminum capped shocks and composite disc brakes. All that comes at a very affordable price point, making it one of the top choices in this review.
The Shockwave comes ready to go, no assembly required. All you need to start using it are 12 AA batteries and a bottle of 20% nitro fuel. This RC buggy is an all-around excellent choice for both beginners and advanced drivers, because of its great build quality and high value. It will provide entertainment for years to come and can even be upgraded later if you want to keep modding it: You can easily upgrade the engine, shocks, aluminum parts, and many others to tune it even further. We tried to push the Shockwave to its limits and it consistently delivered top performance. Its four wheel offroad drive system handled turns and inclines very well and the car easily hit 35+ miles per hour.
In short, the Redcat Racing Shockwave Nitro Buggy is one of the top gas powered cars we've tested and also happens to come at a great price. There's a lot to like here and the Shockwave really managed wow us. We highly recommend it!
This nitro buggy works great and is very affordable, too. You get a powerful 3.0cc.18 SH nitro engine, a quality ball joint suspension, a useful two-speed transmission, a nice-sounding aluminum exhaust, Redcat's typical performance header, a very sturdy aluminum alloy chassis, and oil- filled aluminum bodied shocks. Sounds awesome? Yes, this buddy delivers a lot of quality and value for the money. In fact, it's among the cheaper products we have tested, leaving plenty of room in your wallet to buy nitro fuel and optional parts for modding and tuning.
Some people say Redcat's quality leaves room for improvement, but the products we have tested have always been reliable and quite sturdy. The engine's break-in process is easy, and the buggy comes fully assembled, so you can start racing almost immediately. It might not have the same high-end quality as the HPI Racing Trophy reviewed above, but it's also a lot more affordable. By the way, it's available in black and blue.
Nitro RC cars are all about trade-offs, and the Redcat Tornado S30 is meant specifically for budget buyers and beginners. If you fall into one or both of these categories, rest assured, this product is a fantastic choice. You get everything you need to start driving and a very fun RC experience, too.
All right, here's everything you need to now about nitro gas powered cars (explained in plain English).
First off, RC cars split into two general types: Electric and nitro. Electric RC cars are simpler and less powerful. Nitro RC cars are (in all honesty) a lot more fun, much more powerful, and still affordable. They're powered with nitro gas (usually with 20% nitromethane content).
There are three basic types of gas powered RC vehicles: Cars, buggies, and monster trucks. Here are three examples, click the photos for more details on each one:
Nitro cars are meant for street racing. They are low on the ground and feature smooth tires. Usually they offer high speeds and two wheel drive.
Nitro buggies are a hybrid between cars and trucks. They are usually fast but have more clearance and bumpy tires which allows for off-road driving.
Your gas powered RC car transmitter is pretty straight forward. Most are "pistol grip" shaped and use a throttle for speed and a wheel for steering. If yours has an extendable antenna, always extend it fully for better range. Receivers usually take AA batteries and use the 2.4GHz band for their transmitters which makes them often interchangeable.
All right, let's talk about the basics of driving and maintenance for RC gas cars:
After you unbox your brand new RC car and read the manual (no seriously, this is one of the few products where reading the manual actually helps), start by some nitro fuel into its tank. Next you put the glow plug igniter onto the glow plug itself and then pull the starter cable to start the engine. Only few RC cars come with a glow plug igniter, so we highly recommend getting this affordable and extremely useful nitro RC starting kit which includes everything you need!
How does the glow plug work? You light it once with the igniter and the nit heats up to get the engine going. After you ignite it once the engine's own compression keeps it running, igniting a mix of fuel and air. When you apply the throttle on your remote control, it opens up the car's carburetor letting in more fuel and air for faster speeds. Boom!
You can learn a lot more about the basics of gas powered cars in this excellent video. It covers a ton of useful information, including vehicle preparation, pull starter usage and replacement, nitro engine break in, nitro engine tuning, nitro RC maintenance and cleaning, and many RC driving tips.
Now that you know the basics of nitro RC cars, let's talk about some tips to help you get the most out of your purchase:
Always break in a new nitro engine before going full throttle:
This will prevent the engine to be damaged, so it's really important. In general, we recommend checking the manual first for the manufacturer's recommended way to break in the engine. Otherwise you can try the following: Leave off the body of the car (to maximize cooling) and use a smooth hard surface. Start your engine and drive the car slowly around to let the engine heat up. Ease the throttle on and off slowly, never accelerating too fast. Drive figure eight shapes with your car at 1/4 throttle for a while, then turn off the car and let it fully cool down.
Use a high quality fuel for maximum performance and to protect the engine:
This one is a no-brainer. You spend money to get a great gas powered car, so don't skimp on the fuel that makes it run. We recommend getting nitro fuel from quality companies like Traxxas or Redcat but you can also find many other cheap nitro fuel options on here. Most cars use 20% nitro, but always double check in the manual!
Make sure to have spare glow plugs:
They are cheap and don't last too long, so it's smart to stock up. Check out this list of great options.
Perform regular basic maintenance:
Regularly clean and oil your RC cars air filter and engine, clean the car's chassis (especially when you drive in a lot of dust or dirt), and don't forget to apply thread locking adhesive to all metal-to-metal connections. The last tip will prevent screws from backing out due to motor vibration.
Tune the needles
The needle is a little component (often gold or black) that sites right next to the air filter. There are two parts, the high-speed needle, and the idle needle. First, you may have to adjust the idle needle. Remove the air filter and engage the breaks. If the little hole (known as carb hole) inside the idle needle (usually about 1mm in size) doesn’t close fully, you are set. If it fully closes, simply adjust the idle needed slightly until it is minimally open. Refer to your car’s or truck’s manual before getting started. It will also explain the model-specific instructions for adjusting the high-speed needle.
If after you adjust the needles you hit trouble, here are a few tips. If after the engine is turned on the wheels move automatically, the idle needle may be set too high. To fix this issue, turn the idle to the left a little and try restarting. If your engine turns on but then shuts off, the idle needle may be set too low. Turn the idle to the right a small amount and test again. If you are new to RC cars, we recommend sticking with the factory setting initially.
Other Tips to Keep in Mind
Always double check your car’s or truck’s manual for the correct nitro percentage. Make sure to only use the recommended nitro RC fuel as the wrong nitro may harm the engine. We also recommend performing after-run maintenance (run the engine until it is fully empty to prevent rust, remove the glow-plug and add two drops of after run oil, keep the wheels clean, and remember that the transmitter always gets turned on first and off last). Last but not least, keep a few common sense tips in mind. This includes ensuring the safety of others, always maintaining control of your vehicle, and not inhaling nitro RC fumes (seriously it burns). Have fun and happy racing!
IMPORTANT WARNING AND DISCLAIMER
The products listed here may contain small parts that are choking hazards for children! Toys can pose a hazard to babies and young children – they can choke, suffocate, or otherwise harm the child. Young children explore their world by putting things in their mouths, but children under three years of age do not have a well-developed coughing reflex and will choke easily on small items. All children, regardless of age, need close supervision with any toys to help prevent accidents from happening. Adult supervision is required at all times!
Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for age appropriateness as shown on the product's official packaging. Only buy toys that are right for your child’s age! Should the product's packaging or other product information (especially in regards to recommended age) deviate from the information presented here, DO NOT give the product to your child! All information presented here is for entertainment purposes only. We do not assume any liability for the information presented here. It is your responsibility to ensure that products are age appropriate and safe to use for your child. Please always be careful, safety comes first.