The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best 4x4 RC Truck for Off-Road Adventure
The options can feel endless when shopping for an RC truck, so how do you choose the best one for you? In this ultimate guide to choosing the best 4x4 RC truck, we’ll cover what to look for when it comes to features and capabilities in an RC truck to help you find the best 4x4 RC truck for you.
Start with Your Purpose in RC Driving and Terrain
RC trucks are available for a variety of applications, from Stadium Trucks and Short Course Trucks for racing to Monster Trucks for stunts. To start your search for the best RC truck 4x4, you’ll want to identify your driving purpose. Most 4x4 RC trucks are built for rock crawling and off-road adventures, but some add the element of 4WD for better control in all-road conditions. Ask yourself if you’re looking for a 4x4 RC truck to give you an advantage in racing, bashing, or crawling? Also think about the terrain you’ll be on the most, like grass, pavement, dirt, clay, or rocks. An RC truck with 4x4 functionality will have different features if it is built for pavement than one built for crawling over rocky terrain.
RC 4x4 Features
Once you know the terrain you’ll be driving on and how you want your RC truck to perform, it’s time to look at the features of a 4x4 RC truck to help guide you in selecting the best 4x4 RC truck for you.
The completion level of an RC truck will tell you how much work you’ll need to put into building your vehicle and if additional parts will be needed. If you’re just getting started in RC driving, look for the Ready-to-Run (also known as RTR) completion level. RTR 4x4 RC trucks will come with everything, or nearly everything, you’ll need to start driving right out of the box. Some RTR vehicles include the batteries for the transmitter (remote control), a rechargeable battery for the RC truck, and a charger. But not every RTR will include all of these three items, so be sure to check the description carefully on what’s included in the box with your RTR 4x4 RC truck.
For intermediate and experienced RC drivers who already have a transmitter, Bind-N-Drive (BND) RC trucks have all their electronics (minus batteries and charger) and are ready to pair with your Spektrum® transmitter. Almost Ready-to-Run RC trucks are not a common completion level, but you’ll find these RC trucks are ready to pair to a compatible transmitter and will need other electronics installed before driving, like a steering servo. Add your batteries, and you’ll be ready to drive.
For the ultimate RC 4x4 truck experience, kits are available for hobbyists who want more control over what’s inside their vehicle. Kits provide many of the chassis components pre-assembled but will need electronics including the radio system, servos, ESC, motor/engine, and batteries. Expect to spend more time on selecting your components based on their features and setting up your RC truck than with a Ready-to-Run vehicle.
Scale sizes in the context of 4x4 RC trucks refer to the proportional size of the RC vehicle in relation to its real-life counterpart. Different scales offer varying levels of detail and performance in RC trucks. Choose a size that suits your preferences, whether it's smaller for indoor driving or larger for outdoor adventures.
1:10 scale is the most popular scale size for RC trucks. A 1:10 scale RC truck is approximately one-tenth the size of the actual vehicle it represents. These trucks strike a balance between size, performance, and affordability. They are versatile and can handle various terrains, both indoors and outdoors. They have the most aftermarket parts available of all the scales.
A 1:8 scale RC truck is larger and more detailed than a 1:10 scale model. These trucks offer enhanced performance and are often preferred by enthusiasts who want more power, speed, and realism. Due to their larger size, they are better suited for outdoor driving. 1:6 scale RC trucks are even bigger and make excellent 4x4 RC trucks for off-road adventures.
Look for trucks with sufficient power to handle the terrain you'll be driving on. You can find RC 4x4 trucks in electric power, nitro, or gas systems. Electric motors are the most common power system in a 4x4 RC truck, and you’ll find two options in an electric power system: brushed and brushless. Brushless motors offer higher performance and a longer lifespan compared to brushed motors, but brushed motors are more affordable, and many beginners start with brushed with plans to upgrade later.
A good suspension system is crucial for a 4x4 RC truck to handle rough terrain and maintain stability. Look for RC trucks with adjustable shocks for fine-tuning and independent suspension systems that give better wheel articulation and can provide better control with better traction. This articulation can keep your tires in contact with the ground over uneven surfaces.
Ground clearance is an important feature for an RC 4x4 truck looking for an off-road adventure. A good suspension system provides adequate ground clearance and allows the truck to navigate over obstacles without getting stuck or scraping the chassis.
Look for an RC truck with a sturdy construction and durable materials that can withstand the rigors of off-road driving. High-quality components, such as strong chassis, robust suspension systems, and impact-resistant bodies, are essential for longevity and resistance to damage. If you want an RC truck for stunts and bashing, durability should be the first feature you look at when choosing a 4x4 RC truck for your off-road adventures. Look for materials such as aluminum or composite plastics known for their strength and durability.
Transmitter (Remote Control)
Pay attention to the features of the transmitter, such as range, responsiveness, and additional functions like adjustable settings and programmability. A reliable and user-friendly radio enhances the overall experience while driving RC. You’ll see transmitters with a varying number of channels available for surface vehicles. If you want to do more with your RC truck on your off-road adventures, like operate lights and/or a winch, you’ll need extra channels to operate these. Spektrum also has several surface RC transmitters available that are Smart Technology compatible. If you plan to use a Smart ecosystem, you’ll want to look for one of these. Learn more about Smart Technology and what makes a Smart Ecosystem here.
Availability of Parts and Upgrades
Check the availability of spare parts and aftermarket upgrades for the RC truck you're interested in. Being able to easily replace components or enhance the truck's performance with upgrades can extend its lifespan and add versatility. The ability to replace and upgrade parts is a primary difference between a hobby-grade RC truck and a toy. Hobby-grade RC trucks with 4x4 drivetrains will be more expensive but last a lot longer and can grow and evolve with your skills in the hobby.
Select the 4x4 RC Truck That’s Best for You
This guide has covered a lot of different features available in the world of 4x4 RC trucks. Ultimately, what will make an RC truck the best comes down to what’s going to be right for you as you enjoy the hobby. Taking an RC truck off-road for a 4WD adventure is not only fun, but good exercise and an opportunity to connect with others who have a similar interest in RC and the great outdoors. You can find great, hobby-grade 4x4 RC trucks here at Horizon Hobby by browsing through our menu by type of truck or by completion level. We’ve also hand-picked a few of our favorites from Axial®, an RC off-road adventuring brand, which you can view below.