If you’re just getting into the R/C hobby or are looking at adding a few new vehicles to your garage, it’s good to know who’s- who and who makes what. While there numerous makes and models to choose from, I’ve highlighted a few of the “bigger” names in the small-scale radio-control universe.
With prices ranging from $35 to $250, these models are perfect as a budget-buy or an additional, use-anywhere vehicle.
Besides making a line of 1/8 and 1/10 scale R/C vehicles, ECX also makes some fun 1/18 and (soon-to-be-released) 1/36 scale machines. Owning one of their now-discontinued models, the Smash, I can speak from experience when I say ECX makes some tough trucks. While I have been fairly gentle with how I drive my small-scaler, my kids have put it through the paces on more than one occasion. After almost two years of use, I’ve only had to perform a motor replacement. Not bad for a budget-minded radio-controlled car.
The ECX lineup
One of the newer kids on the block, Dromida hit the scene in late 2013 with a number of small-scale offerings. With a lineup that features a short course truck, a monster truck, and a buggy, they’ve done a nice job covering their bases when it comes to affordable, well-built machines. Recent updates have added some fun, new options to select models as well.
The Dromida lineup
Spun off of the more well-known Traxxas brand in 2013, LaTrax has a focus on tough, affordable, 1/18 scale vehicles. Starting things off with a rally car, they have quickly added monster truck and a newly-announced SST stadium truck to their lineup. Using the same manufacturing techniques and materials as Traxxas, these cars and trucks are all built to take a beating.
The LaTrax lineup
- LaTrax Rally 4WD Rally Car – $129.95
- LaTrax Teton 4WD Monster Truck – $149.95
- LaTrax SST 4WD Stadium Truck – $159.95
While it may be a stretch to call the 1/16 scale vehicles from Traxxas “small-scale” they technically are smaller than the 1/10th-and-larger rigs that have become common among hobbyists. Traxxas didn’t set out to break any new ground with their smaller line of machines, but they did take a number of their popular 1/10 trucks and cars and shrink them down a bit.
The Traxxas lineup
- E-Revo Brushed – $224.95
- E-Revo VXL (brushless) – $319.95
- Slash 4×4 Brushed – $319.95
- Summit VXL – $349.95
Out of all of the “big-name/small-scale” brands mentioned, Losi is the only one that has a virtual fleet of mini and micro R/C vehicles. Rally cars, trail trucks, monster trucks…you name it, they have it.
- Losi Mini Desert Truck – $129.99
- Brushed Micro Short Course Truck – $111.59
- Brushless Micro Short Course Truck – $149.99
- Micro Truggy – $109.99
- Trail Trekker – $150.99
- Brushed Micro Rally – $109.99
- Brushless Micro Rally – $155.99
While they don’t have the instant brand recognition of some of the brands mentioned earlier, Redcat Racing knows how to build a good R/C car. Along with building the “big stuff”, they offer a nice array of smaller radio-controlled vehicles that are great for any age and any occasion.
The Redcat Racing lineup
Going from a name that’s a bit newer to a name that is instantly-associated with the R/C hobby, Kyosho blends both scale realism and precision into their micro and mini lineup. With a large volume of body styles to choose from, I’m listing out their sub-categories rather than their individual models. Trust me, you’d be scrolling forever if I listed everything.
The Kyosho lineup
- 2WD Formula – Various prices
- 2WD Truck – Various prices
I know XRay more for their 1/10 and 1/8 scale buggies more than their small-scale models, but they do produce a number of options for those looking to go fast indoors (and out).
The Xray lineup
- M18 4wd shaft-driven touring car – $135.50
- M18T 4wd shaft driven truggy – $135.50
- M18MT 4wd shaft driven monster truck – $130.75
Another brand that I think of more for their larger-scale models vs their smaller entries is Team Associated (hence their initial omission from this list). After giving them a second look, I’ve found they offer many (and I mean MANY) 1/18 vehicles in a number of configurations.
The Team Associated lineup
- RC18T2 Brushless RTR Truggy – $206.69
- RC18T2/B2 Truggy Team Off Road Kit – $129.56
- SC18 RTR Short Course Truck – $199.98
- Rival Mini Monster Truck – $195.99
- Apex Mini Touring Car – $144.99
While mainly popular outside of the United States, Carisma is a brand or R/C car that has begun to gain speed here in the U.S. With a well-rounded offering of both on-road and off-road vehicles in a variety of scales, you’ll find a little bit of everything with this make.
The Carisma Lineup
- VW Golf GTI RTR – $99.99
- Mini Cooper RTR – $189.99
- M14 EVO ARR Pan Car – $79.99
- GT14MK3 Touring Car – $99.99
- GT14B Sport RTR Buggy – $69.99
- GT14B Pro ARR Buggy – $99.99
- GTB Racing Chassis Kit – $139.99
- GT16MT Monster Truck – $269.99
- GT16MB VW Beetle Desert Edition – $279.99
Rounding out the list is HPI. Another one of the well-known brands, they make a variety of on and off-road vehicles in many scale classes. Their popular Micro RS4 model has seen some nice updates over the past year and features popular, contemporary body styles.
The HPI lineup
Another brand that I haven’t had much experience with is Helion. While their name may not carry the same recognition as some of the others on this list, but that doesn’t make the two smaller-scale offerings from this company any less impressive. With two sub-$100 1/18th scale vehicles in their lineup, they are worth a look if you’re looking for an affordable, entry-level R/C vehicle.
The Helion lineup
- Helion Animus 18SC 4-wheel drive Short Course Truck (SCT) – $99.99
- Helion Animus 18TR 4-wheel drive Mini Truggy – $99.99
- Added Redcat Racing’s newest 1/16 rock crawler, the Everest-16.
- Thanks to a comment by Chris Moore, I added entries for Team XRay, HPI, and Team Associated.
- Thanks to Tim Mohr and Chris Moore for the suggestion to add Carisma’s 1/14 & 1/16 models to the list.
- Added an overlooked brand in Helion and their two 1/18 vehicles.
Photo credit – LaTrax