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What is a Remote Control Car?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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You may have heard a remote control car referred to as an RC car. In fact, RC is used to describe other remote control toys and hobby items too, including remote control trucks, airplanes, helicopters and more. However, RC is also used to describe radio controlled cars, and there is a difference. The most striking difference is that remote control cars use wires between the remote and the vehicle, while radio controlled cars do not. Both are fun to use and as with anything else, both have pros and cons.

A RC car allows the user to control the car’s speed and movement through the use of a hand-held device just like a radio controlled care does. While it may not offer the same maneuverability, it also doesn’t require differentiation between frequencies in order to use more than one remote control toy. In other words, you can race two of the same remote control cars, but in order to do so with radio controlled cars, you’d need two with different frequencies.

Obviously, one of the most important aspects of the RC car is hand held control or the transmitter. A remote control car generally requires a battery, much like any other remote control. And, like other remote controls, pushing buttons is the method used for powering and controlling the device linked to it, in this case the car.

A single function design basically makes the remote control car go. Depressing a button causes the car to go forward, while releasing it engages reverse. To make the car stop completely, generally the device must be turned off.

Other options may allow a RC car to make more precise turns and to be stopped without shutting it down. Full function options are generally equipped with at least six to seven different actions, which include forward, reverse, forward left and right, and reverse left and right. The seventh action would be the ability to stop the remote control car by simply not pressing any buttons. The car will stop until another button is pushed, telling it what to do next.

Highly advanced models may incorporate one or more joysticks as well as many buttons. These advanced systems allow for optimum control of the RC car or toy. They also cost a good deal more than less advanced options but are preferred by serious enthusiasts and those who compete in remote control car races.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon263981 — On Apr 26, 2012

I want to make my own remote control car. I want to know what all devices have to be used to make one.

By Izzy78 — On Sep 16, 2011

I like tinkering with electronics projects. Is there any way you could convert a remote control car to a radio control car? I'm sure there's got to be some way to do it. I'm just wondering about the difficulty.

I'm not sure where you would buy a radio transmitter for it. I guess I might be able to buy a cheap radio control car and take the receiver out of that. If anyone has any suggestions about how you could do this, I'd love to hear them.

By cardsfan27 — On Sep 15, 2011

@Fify - I agree, the terminology is kind of misleading. I used to have a ton of different remote controlled and radio controlled cars when I was younger, but I just called them all remote controlled. I don't think most kids are concerned about the technicalities.

The thing I always hated about remote controlled cars was the cord itself. On most cars I had, the cord was only 7 or 8 feet at the most. Whenever you are driving the car, you have to keep walking with it, and if you make it go full speed you have to run to keep up sometimes. Some of the cords are so short, they are almost too short to stand up and use if you are an adult.

By LisaLou — On Sep 15, 2011

My nephews have a couple of mini remote control cars that they have a blast with. I am surprised they have lasted as long as they have because they are constantly crashing in to each other with them.

They like to set up obstacle courses and have races with these cars. These cars will keep them entertained for a few hours at a time, and it is fun to see all the different courses and obstacles they come up with for them.

By Mykol — On Sep 14, 2011

I remember having a cheap remote controlled car when I was a kid. I didn't play with it nearly as much as I thought I would.

It was not very expensive, and had a cord attached to it so it really couldn't go very far. This seemed to take a lot of the fun out of it.

I could only imagine all the cool tricks I could do if I had a remote control car that wasn't limited with an attached cord!

By fify — On Sep 14, 2011

I've been confused for the longest time about what the difference between remote controlled and radio controlled is. When I think about the term "remote controlled" literally, then it seems like radio controlled devices and toys are also remote controlled, because you are still controlling it remotely, from far away. But it's never the other way around, all remote controlled devices are not also radio controlled.

And of course, remote control requires wiring to send signals to and from the device and the remote controller and radio control doesn't. One requires wire signals and the other requires radio waves.

By ddljohn — On Sep 13, 2011

@burcidi-- Yea, kids and adults love these toys! I agree that there are so many options.

Have you seen the remote control car that can go on water? It's completely waterproof and can drive both on pavement and water without sinking or being damaged!

I'm definitely going to get one of these. I'm sure my kids will love it too, if they get a chance from me to play with it!

By burcidi — On Sep 13, 2011

I have two nephews and they love playing with remote control cars. I asked them the other day what they want Santa to bring them this year and they both said remote control cars! My older nephew wants a four-by-four truck and the younger wants a race car!

I didn't even know that there were different kinds like that. I've looked at several large toy stores and was surprised with the choices. The isle was full of remote control cars. I think I like the rechargeable ones the best. I can imagine that they're going to be playing with these night and day when they get them (if their parents allow) and I don't want the batteries to keep running out.

The chargeable ones have a rechargeable battery and come with a charger that you just plug into the outlet to recharge. It looks really convenient and I found both types of cars they want. They are going to be so happy!

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