Why Are RC Cars So Expensive?

If you’re like me, you probably got sticker shock the first time you checked the price of an RC car.

The cheapest Arma RC car is the 2WD Granite Voltage at $120, with most of their line well over $200. The cheapest Traxxas is the 2WD Rustler at almost $200. Even Traxxas’ entry-level LaTrax lineup starts at $130, and cars from Losi or Team Associated begin at around $250. 

You can walk into your local Walmart and buy dozens of RC cars for between $20 to $50 RC. 

So what makes hobby-grade RC cars so much more expensive?

RC cars are so expensive because they are complicated to make. Every RC car must be lightweight enough to move efficiently yet powerful enough to achieve enthusiasts’ performance figures. This requires modern high-tech materials and engineering that are very expensive. 

RC cars can be costly, especially when buying cars of a high quality that are designed and built for specific purposes or terrains. Modern radio-controlled vehicles range from affordable to absurdly expensive, but what makes modern RC cars so pricey?

Let’s examine the modern range of RC cars and find out why they cost as much as they do. 

What Makes Radio-Controlled Cars So Expensive?

The truth is that every RC car worth buying will be expensive compared to toy-grade cars. 

You could easily buy several toy-grade RC cars for the price of an entry-level hobby-grade car. 

However, those toys don’t offer the performance figures that many RC enthusiasts are looking for. 

Take a look under the hood of a modern radio-controlled car, and it’s easy to see where the money goes. Most parts are built from aircraft-grade aluminum or titanium for durability. Even the plastic parts are thicker and built to withstand higher stresses and impacts. 

This durability just isn’t possible at budget prices. 

It takes years of trial & error, research, and development to bring out a new RC car design. Custom parts need to be designed and constructed. New motors need to be more powerful, efficient, and lightweight than their predecessors.

Then, once the car is built, it goes through extensive testing to ensure we don’t break it on its first bashing session. 

This research, development, and testing are done in an industry with very low demand. Let’s be honest. There aren’t many RC enthusiasts out there, yet all of this work goes into developing the best RC vehicles possible. 

With that in mind, let’s examine some of the factors that make modern RC cars as expensive as they are. 

The Cost Of Designing Components

Every component in a modern RC car has been through a complicated and rigorous design process. The pieces in modern RC cars must be lightweight, tough, durable, and made from sustainable materials. They must function well within a miniaturized vehicle and still perform well. 

It is very complicated to take the components of life-size vehicles and make them smaller for RC cars, especially those powered by internal combustion engines. This has often resulted in new types of fuels and engines being developed for RC cars, with examples such as nitro engines. 

The cost of designing these components and finding a way to work well in RC cars is enormous, which is a significant component in the high price of high-end RC cars. 

The Cost Of Manufacturing Components

One of the significant factors that make RC cars so expensive is manufacturing the individual components that make a modern RC car. 

Every component on an RC car must be incredibly lightweight yet also very tough and able to withstand heavy use. This often means manufacturing components out of aluminum and carbon fiber, which can be challenging to work with. 

Manufacturing small components for RC cars out of such materials requires complicated and specialized machinery, which costs a lot to build and use. 

The materials used and how the components have to be manufactured make the price of component manufacturing very expensive for radio-controlled cars. 

RC Car Motors And Engines

Some of the most expensive components in RC cars are the engines and motors that drive the vehicles. These components are challenging to build well with cost-effective components at the small scale that RC cars are built-in while drawing as much performance as possible without causing an explosion. 

Not everyone realizes how complicated small gasoline or nitro-powered engines are and how difficult they are to build and make efficient. 

Similarly, electric motors are costly when they are built with minimal components, designed to be lightweight, and produce a lot of power for the vehicle. These tiny, complicated power sources are a significant source of the high price of RC cars. 

Assembly Costs

Ready-to-Run RC cars have to be assembled before you buy them. The cost of assembling RC cars means that the person building them must be paid, which drives the vehicle’s price. 

All high-end RC cars are assembled by hand, and the assembly process is very complicated, which ultimately warrants and requires a higher price tag. 

The Size Of The RC Vehicle

The size of modern RC vehicles also plays a role in how expensive they are. Modern high-end RC cars are very large, and their size requires more power and hardier components to be effective on the dirt or on the RC track

This, in turn, means that they require bigger, more powerful engines and components that are more expensive to manufacture, increasing the overall cost of the vehicle significantly. Larger RC cars also cost more to ship because they are heavier and take up more space in transit, increasing their on-shelf price. 

Wrapping It Up

These factors significantly affect the price of RC cars and contribute to why these cars are so expensive. In the end, modern RC cars are so expensive because they are so well-made and so complicated. These machines are extraordinary for what they are. 

Unfortunately, RC cars at the high-end of the spectrum are very expensive. Still, the high prices are for a good reason, and they are worthwhile paying when all things are considered!

Tim Wells

Tim Wells is the creator and driving force behind ClutchRC.com. His passion for RC cars began when he caught a glimpse of a Kyosho Optima while on a family trip to Japan. Although he couldn't afford it then, the seed of his RC car hobby had been planted, and he knew he had to have one. Fast forward a few years, and he could finally dive head-first into the hobby as an adult. He found a ton of websites and YouTubers doing crazy stunts with their expensive RC cars but very few resources for the average person who just wants to go out and have fun. That's when he launched his RC car website: ClutchRC.

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