Low-buck Is Better Than Ever
SECOND ONLY TO DOING FUN, CREATIVE WORK with fun, creative people, the greatest perk of working at RC Car Action is the opportunity to experience and review the latest cars, trucks, and gear. From the most basic beginner RTRS to the most exotic competition machines, there are very few RC cars and trucks that I can say I haven’t driven in some shape or form in my nearly 20 years of writing about the radio control hobby. The Force RC Hammerjaw and brushed-version Traxxas Slash 4X4 in this issue are the latest rides I’ve driven in the low-buck end of the spectrum, and I gotta say, today’s cheap stuff is better than ever. And by “cheap,” I mean “affordable,” of course. When I look at the $200-ish and under offerings from big brands like Traxxas, Tamiya, Kyosho, HPI, ECX, and Arrma (among others), it’s hard not to be impressed with the value you get. No, they’re not carbon fiber and brushless-powered or loaded with machined-aluminum parts, but when you look at performance, fun, and durability for the dollar, it’s hard not to conclude that these are great days for RC fans who need to keep the budget tight.
For perspective, let’s take a look at a Tower Hobbies ad from 20 years ago. A first-gen Traxxas Rustler RTR, with a clear body, no battery, and (if I remember correctly) a mechanical speed control is on sale for $155. Or you can get the “Ultimate Combo” to add a battery, charger, and paint for an even $200. That was a great deal! Today’s RTR Rustler is much faster, includes a battery and charger, and is way, waaay better equipped. It still only costs $200. But it gets better; let’s plug $200 into an inflation calculator and, beep-boop, that 1998 Rustler combo would be $312 in today’s dollars. That’s with plastic gears instead of metal, fixed camber links, AM radio, and no ball bearings. And you have to paint it!
That’s just one example, but across the board, you get way more for way less today compared to yesteryear. And you get it with customer support and replacement parts’ availability—can’t forget that. If you’re tempted by impossibly low-priced, supposedly hobby-quality, no-brand RC vehicles that pop up in your social feeds or in Google-placed ads, be aware that those low prices are made possible by low quality and zero investment in customer support or parts availability. Those cars aren’t “cheap,” as in “affordable.” They’re cheap as in CHEAP. Stick with the good stuff you see in your hobby store...and in RC Car Action.