You might think buying a remote control (RC) car as a gift is easy. But our tests show that, when it comes to remote control cars, there are plenty of pitfalls you can easily fall into.
Too slow, too easy to break, too boring for our panel of children and too difficult to change the batteries – all common problems we found when we tested 12 remote control cars.
These RC cars cost between £30 and £99, but we can recommend some brilliant options for all ages from £55. Find out what we learned after testing these popular toys.
Go straight to our reviews to reveal the best remote control cars for less than £100.
1. Don’t shop in toy shops
You might think this is a rather backwards way of thinking, but some of the remote control cars we bought from major toy retailers, including Hamleys, Argos, and Smyths, toys were a little underwhelming and expensive.
In contrast, the remote control cars from more specialist RC car sites and model shops were cheaper and proved more popular with all ages of our testing panel.
2. Don’t overspend
Happily, our testing reveals that you don’t have to break the bank to get a fantastic remote control car.
We set out to find the best RC car for less than £100, but the cheapest car we recommend as a brilliant gift costs only a little over £50.
And there are several cars in the £50-£80 bracket that excelled in our tests.
3. Look for an adjustable speed dial
Fast is fun. There’s no getting around this, but that makes picking a car for a young child quite tricky.
Our testing panel, which included children aged three, five and six, became bored of the slower cars surprisingly quickly. And while the three-year-old struggled, the five and six-year-old kids got to grips with the handling of some of the faster cars surprisingly quickly. Needless to say, the adults favoured the faster cars as well.
But some of the cars are far too fast (more than 30mph) for younger children to play with and could pose a safety risk.
One fantastic feature to look out for is an adjustable speed dial on the controller, which some of the RC cars in our test have. This allows a parent or carer to adjust the speed of the car down to a suitable level while the child is getting comfortable with the handling.
As the child gets older or more experienced you can increase the speed to ramp up the fun.
We still wouldn’t recommend a really fast car for anyone under 12 though. You can see the cars we recommend, and which age we think they’re suitable for, in our RC car reviews.
4. Don’t take it to the beach
Broken toys are an all too common occurrence. So you’ll want to make sure that the remote control car you buy can handle what life will throw at it.
In our tests we drove each car ten times, at its top speed into a kerb, and some of them are surprisingly robust, although others didn’t like this rough treatment.
But the fastest way to kill your car? Take it to the beach. If the sand is dry it will get everywhere, including inside the wheels and even in the motors. Salt water will quickly start to corrode any metal screws, too.
5. Don’t drive it inside
The cars we recommend all have a pretty swift top speed (more than 15mph).
But you’ll need to find a reasonably open space to give yourself the best chance of having a great time with your remote control car.
So to save your skirting boards and soft furnishings, the living room and kitchen are out of bounds for our recommended cars.
You should take your RC car to the back garden, a park, the woods, or a quiet cul-de-sac if you want to get the most enjoyment and the biggest squeals of delight from the lucky person you’ve bought it for.