RC Cars vs RC Trucks


RC Trucks
Sitewide Home Page.

RC Nitro Trucks
A look at differences between electric and nitro.

RC Nitro Engines
Info on the incredible nitro engines.

RC Nitro Fuel
A look at the special fuel used in nitro powered vehicles.

RC Monster Trucks
More info on one of the most popular type of models.

Traxxas T-Maxx
The monster that started it all! 

Traxxas Revo
A very popular monster truck.

HPI Savage Trucks
Some of the most popular rc nitro monsters.

Associated Monster GT
Another example of a popular model.

Team Losi LST
Losi Super Truck is a another popular choice.

HPI Baja 5B
BIG 1/5th scale RC buggy.

Cen Genesis
A BIG .46 powered truck.

Tamiya TNX
Another popular choice.

RC Related Site Map
Directory of RC related pages.

Sitewide Site Map
Directory showing all the pages on the entire website.


How do RC Cars compare to RC Trucks?

Sometimes people use the general term "RC CARS" as a way to refer to both RC cars and RC trucks.  In reality, an RC car is quite a bit different.  As a simple generalization, it can be said that RC cars are designed to be driven on road (on flat, smooth, paved type surfaces) while most RC trucks are designed to be driven off road (on dirt, sand, gravel, grass, & similar surfaces).  Early on, most RC cars were electric and many were like kid's toys.  Times have changed, and now RC cars and trucks come in electric and nitro powered versions.  The electric versions can sometimes be had with powerful brushless motors that give exciting performance.  The nitro powered RC trucks and cars offer another level of excitement with a screaming, high RPM nitro engine that can propel some of these RC models to speeds of 50-70mph!

Sample of RC Cars

Example of an RC Car

Sample of RC Trucks

Example of an RC Truck

RC Cars vs RC Trucks - Some Specific Differences

GROUND CLEARANCE:  RC cars are usually very low slung and only have a small amount of ground clearance, since they are designed to drive on smooth flat surfaces.  On the other hand, RC trucks typically have a large amount of ground clearance so they have room underneath to clear obstructions such as rocks or other debris that might be present during off road driving.   

SUSPENSION:  RC cars normally come with a suspension that has very little travel.  The wheels do not move up or down much.  That is because RC cars are designed for smooth surfaces and they are NOT intended to handle large bumps or obstructions that would require more suspension travel.  RC cars normally come with very short shock absorbers.  In addition, RC cars typically come with stiff suspension springs that also limit wheel travel.  Stiffer springs can help with on road handling such as cornering stability.  On the other hand, RC trucks typically have a LARGE amount of suspension travel, larger (and longer) shocks, and softer shock springs designed to soak up big bumps and jumps that are encountered off road.  Jumping RC trucks and getting lots of air is a popular activity for many, but jumping is NOT something that you can safely do with an RC car! 

WHEELS & TIRES:  RC cars will normally come with small diameter and narrow width tires that have low rolling resistance.  Tread on RC cars will often be very insignificant and some RC cars just use slicks that do not have any tread at all.  This is because RC cars are intended to drive on smooth surfaces where tread is not needed for traction.  On the other hand, RC trucks will typically come with very large tires that have aggressive off road tread designs.  They need to be able to handle dirt, sand, mud, and other conditions that require more aggressive and deeper tread patterns.  

GEARING:  RC cars are usually geared for higher top speeds, while RC trucks are typically geared lower to handle climbing and other lower speed maneuvers that can be encountered off road.  RC trucks are typically geared so they have good low end acceleration and power.  As a result, higher geared RC cars will usually have a higher top speed than RC trucks.  An exception to this general rule are RC trucks that have multi-speed transmissions.  Many RC trucks come with 2 speed automatic transmission and some even come with 3 speeds!  This allows both good low end power and acceleration, and also white knuckle high speed driving!

DRIVELINE:  RC cars can come with a belt drive system that transmits the power from the engine to the wheels.  RC trucks will most often come equipped with shaft drive systems that transmit the power from the engine to the wheels.  This is because belt drive systems are not very well suited to off road conditions where small rocks or debris can become lodged between the belt and the pulleys.  There are exceptions to this general rule and having an off road RC truck with a belt drive system is possible if the drive system is enclosed and therefore shielded from debris; however, that is not very common.  In addition, there are also some shaft drive RC cars, but in most cases you will see belt drive systems on RC cars and shaft drive on the trucks.  

SIZE:  In general, a lot of RC cars come in 1/10th scale size, while RC trucks (especially monster trucks) often come in larger 1/8th scale size.  There are exceptions to this, but the general rule is that RC trucks are typically bigger.  Even when RC cars and trucks are the same scale size, the trucks will usually still be larger in overall size.

WEIGHT:  For a comparable scale size, RC cars are normally much lighter than RC trucks.  This lighter weight gives RC cars powerful on-road acceleration.  RC trucks are usually heavier, because they are built tougher to withstand the abuse they endure in off road conditions.  In addition, the larger wheels and tires can also add quite a bit of weight to an RC truck.  You'd be surprised at how heavy an oversized set of monster truck tires can be! 

ENGINES:  In many cases, the larger RC trucks come equipped with larger nitro engines known as big blocks (usually .21 cubic inches and larger).  This makes sense since an RC truck usually needs to pull a lot more weight around, and also have the power to overcome the extra rolling resistance in off road conditions.  On the other hand, many RC cars come equipped with smaller nitro engines known as small block engines (usually .18 cubic inches and smaller).   These smaller engines are suited very well to the typically smaller size and lighter weight of RC cars.  Even with the smaller engines, RC cars are often faster in acceleration and top speed as compared to RC trucks.  These smaller nitro engines can still work very well on-road with RC cars.  It's the power-to-weight ratio that often determines the performance you will see.

COST:  In general, because of their increased complexity and heavier duty construction, RC trucks are usually more expensive to purchase than RC cars.

A Closer Look At What's Underneath...


Layout of a Typical RC Car

Sample layout of RC car (belt drive)



Layout of a Typical RC Truck

Sample layout of RC truck

Which is better?

The answer to that all depends on where you plan to drive your RC vehicle.  If you have large areas of pavement accessible to you like big open parking lots, then RC cars may be a better choice for you.  The powerful acceleration and higher top speeds of RC cars can offer a lot of fun in these on road conditions.  On the other hand, if you have areas of dirt, sand, or gravel (even grass) available to you, then an RC truck might be the better choice.  It can be a real blast to drive off road, throw around the dirt, and get air while jumping. 

So, the choice is up to you and should be made based on the conditions where you have to drive.  Don't try to drive an RC car off road.  You will probably get stuck anyway because of lack of traction or too little ground clearance.  Worse yet, you might break something that will require a costly repair.  On the other hand, it is possible to drive an RC truck not only off road, but also on pavement.  Just be aware that RC trucks have a higher center of gravity and they can have a tendency to roll over with the high traction conditions found on most pavement.