One of the first decisions for the newcomer to the world of radio controlled cars is whether to buy an electrically powered or a nitro powered car.
As a general rule, electric radio controlled cars and trucks are the best choice for the beginner since they tend to be simpler, quieter, cleaner and easier to operate. The trade-off for this simplicity and ease of operation comes in the form of cars that do not have the realism and the power brought to radio controlled cars by nitro engines, but it is undoubtedly a wise decision to cut your teeth with an electric model before tackling the complexities of nitro power.
Electric radio controlled cars use battery packs to power both the motor and steering and these are normally recharged using either a 12-volt car battery or a mains powered charging unit. Batteries run for between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the type of engine in the car, and re-charging usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you buy at least two, if not three, battery packs to allow for more or less continuous running.
At first glance, electric radio controlled cars can appear to be much less expensive, but the cost of such things as additional battery packs, a battery charger and other accessories, will often bring the final cost of an electric car close to that of a nitro powered car. Naturally, the long-term cost also depends on the model of car that you purchase and the type and quality of battery pack that it requires, as well as how often you run the car.
The main difference between electric and nitro powered radio controlled cars is seen when it comes to maintenance. Though the cost of battery packs can be high, their care and maintenance is relatively easy when compared to the work involved with changing air filters, tuning, fueling and attending to a variety of engine parts on a nitro powered car.
As mentioned earlier, electric radio controlled cars are not as powerful as their nitro powered cousins but, nonetheless, modern electric cars are still more than capable of holding their own on the racing circuit. Perhaps more importantly however for the beginner, they provide a quick and easy answer to getting up and running and to learning the ins and outs of model car racing, without the steep learning curve, and often frequent frustration for the newcomer, provided by the complex modern nitro engine.
Many beginners are tempted into buying a nitro powered car because, in addition to simply running and racing the car, they also want to build their own car and mistakenly believe that this is only possible if they purchase a nitro powered vehicle. This is not the case.
Both nitro and electric powered cars come in kit form with complete instructions so that you can build your car from scratch. Admittedly, electric car kits are less complex and an electric car is easier to build, but this is still not an easy undertaking for the beginner and is certainly a challenge.
At the end of the day the choice is of course yours but, as with many other hobbies, if you rush in and try and achieve too much too quickly you often meet a host of obstacles and frustration and end up walking away feeling that it was perhaps not all it was cracked up to be. Radio controlled car racing is an exciting and rewarding hobby, but it will take time to master, so choose the simple route in and enjoy the speed and fun of racing your electric car before moving on to the added thrill and excitement that comes from nitro power.