What’s the difference between toy- and hobby-grade radio controlled vehicles?

Radio controlled vehicles are a lot of fun. Many people don’t know that the RC vehicles in a toy store, discount store, or retail store are not the same quality as RC vehicles from a hobby store. Let’s understand why.


Toy RC vehicles are don’t perform at the same level as a hobby-grade unit. For example, many toy units feature coil-over shocks while hobby units feature oil dampened coil-over shocks.

The oil and springs can be changed and tweaked to driving conditions and how one wants a hobby RC vehicle to perform.

These vehicles also allow upgrades and replacement parts for just about anything you break or want to strengthen.

Another good example is electronics. They are not customizable on toys, but they are on hobby-grade RCs.

Hobby-grade electronics can be swapped out for better (or worse) equipment. Example: Motors can be changed from brushed to brushless. Radios usually have more range with hobby units, too.


Durability is important. There’s nothing more fun than jumping your RC off a ramp, but they don’t always land right-side up when this happens. That’s where durability reigns.

Off-road trucks and buggies from brand names like Losi, Traxxas, HPI, Team Associated, among others are designed for these repeated stresses.

Manufacturers like those listed above test, test, and test their products in the lab and racetrack.

Compare that with a toy RC. The products don’t have the same durability. They are not tested on the track and most are treated as disposable, with no way to replace broken parts.

Parts, upgrading as skills increase

Parts availability is essential. Everything gets broke — sooner or later. Hobby-grade cars will have replacement parts available through the hobby shop or online.

It makes the most sense to spend a little more on a vehicle that has the ability to grow as your skills grow. That brings us to cost.


It’s true that hobby products will cost more than department store / retail store RCs.

The higher cost is generally offset by the durability, upgrade capacities, and parts availability — not to mention the speed and run time that a good RC will have.

Thinking of buying a 1/8 scale RC truck

I started this site because a lot of people think the big box stores offer good radio controlled cars. That’s not the case.

Hobby-grade equipment is so much better and a good hobby shop is the place to buy a good radio controlled vehicle and offer help when things break.

I have owned 1/10 and 1/12 scale cars and trucks but am thinking about buying a 1/8 vehicle or 1/5 scale truck.

Traxxas has this new X-Maxx that looks sick. According to their stats, it weights 19.1 lbs, is 29.84 inches long and 22.26 inches wide.

It is amazing how good monster trucks have progressed through the years. Back in the day, 1/12 scale trucks like the Big Bear or 1/10 scale trucks like the Blackfoot and Clodbuster were kings but now trucks have changed so much.

Take the motor for instance. We used to get a 540-style 27-turn stock motor in most trucks. These motors were super slow and sucked. They’d go 15-20 mph with good batteries.

The current batch of trucks come with fast motors. The brushed Stampede has a 12-turn 550 sized motor, which is fast. But, most monster trucks are coming with awesome brushless motors that have speeds in excess of 30 mph out of the box. When the batteries are changed to LiPos, speed and power improve.

LiPos do have drawbacks. They require much more care than NiMh because LiPo do have the potential to explode when they are punctured, overcharged, wet, or in any way damaged.

I have never seen one explode in person. There are a lot of YouTube videos that show explosions but it is always tough to know what kind of abuse that person put the equipment through to get it to do what it did.

Another thing I like about current vehicles is the suspension and drivetrains. Drivetrains and suspensions are built to handle the power of brushless motors. The benefit is cars can be driven harder and may not be as prone to breaking, I think.

I owned an RC10 for awhile. It was one of the early models, with the gold-tub chassis.

That RC10 broke a lot but handled a lot of abuse. In all fairness, it was abused by me when I was a kid. I jumped it off the roof, I burned the tires bald. I drove it into trees and concrete buildings.

These are all things that it was not designed to do. It broke, but just about any new vehicle would break under those situations. What makes the reliability of newer vehicles better is the drivetrains.

I put 10-turn and 15-turn motors in an original RC10. It did not have the Stealth transmission when I bought it. I over-geared it; I under-geared it. I was learning.

Eventually, I grenade the original tranny. I put a Stealth-trans in it then. It handled the abuse better.

With metal gears available for most trucks now, we can put those crazy fast brushless motors in them and not worry about blowing the trans up.

If you are not into speed, there are always crawler rigs. A radio controlled rock crawler is modeled after trucks that crawl up almost-vertical rock walls. These vehicles have massive amounts of torque but little speed.

Crawlers focus on driving skill and picking the right line to get up the wall. Where bashers just hammer their way over obstacles. Both are cool in their own way.

Having owned a crawler, I like them but want to move into a different monster truck.

As I mentioned, I have been looking at the X-Maxx. I saw a comparison of its size to 1/10 trucks and also seen a few YouTube videos with size comparisons. Here’s one: