Most radio controlled vehicle enthusiasts start out with toy-grade
RCs. These toy RCs may be all you ever want or need. However, at some point you may want to get serious about the RC hobby and switch to hobby-grade
RCs. But, before you commit to the RC hobby there are several factors to consider: cost, repair and maintenance, time-commitment, type of vehicle, driving and racing.
And if the RC isn't for you, should you buy your child a hobby-grade RC? How young is too young for a hobby-grade RC?
Cost of RC Hobby
While RC toys can be moderately expensive, hobby-grade RCs almost always cost a lot more to purchase and maintain. They are more complex and have more parts that may break and need replacing. For some, half the fun of the RC hobby is upgrading and customizing. Parts such as tires, rims, motors, and body kits can run up a serious tab. Even if all you want is a vehicle with better handling or a little more speed you'll still have the higher initial expense of the hobby-grade RC vehicles.
Repair and Maintenance of Vehicles in RC Hobby
After shelling out big bucks to get into the RC Hobby you'll want to keep your hobby-grade RC in top condition. You'll need to do at least some basic maintenance and minor repairs. With hobby-grade RCs you'll probably be tuning your motor, loosening or tightening the suspension, oiling the gears, realigning the chassis, and doing body work to repair cracks, dents, and scraped paint. There is an abundance of small parts associated with these vehicles. It's almost like taking care of a real car.
RC Hobby Requires Time
The RC hobby is a time-consuming passion that also requires patience. It takes time to read and understand the manuals and assemble and maintain the vehicle. Even when purchasing RCs that require little or no assembly, most hobby-grade RC vehicles are more complex to operate.
Buy or Build a Hobby-Grade RC
If you definitely want to be part of the RC hobby crowd the easiest route is to start with a Ready-to-Run (RTR) model. By buying a RTR vehicle you can experience the higher performance and quality of hobby-grade without the hassles of assembly. If model-building is in your blood, then the obvious choice is an unassembled kit that you put together from the ground up. If you're already an avid modeler, building your own RC may appeal to you.
Choose an Electric or Nitro Hobby-Grade RC
When you simply played with toy RCs, it was an all-electric world. But when you get into the RC hobby you'll have the choice of electric or nitro-powered vehicles. Hobby-grade electric RCs are not like toy RCs - they have much more speed and power. While some electrics can rival the performance of a nitro, owning a nitro-powered RC takes the RC hobby to a whole new level.
Learn to Drive or Fly a Hobby-Grade RC
Just because you can drive a car or you've driven dozens of toy-grade RCs doesn't mean you can immediately handle the speed and power of the hobby-grade RCs. Whether indoor or outdoors, messing around with friends or competing in professional RC races, you'll need to practice, practice, practice your RC driving skills to stay on the track, avoid spin-outs and crashes, and maintain your speed. And if you want to take to the air, that's a whole other skillset to master.
Racing in Professional RC Hobby Competitions
Unlike a friendly race in your backyard with a few friends, if you want to race professionally -- and have the opportunity to win prizes, trophies, and bragging rights -- you will need to invest in hobby-grade RCs. This is a serious sport with rules, regulations, and entry fees - and toy-grade vehicles won't cut it.
Specialization in the RC Hobby
Some in the RC hobby have just one or two vehicles they continually tweak, upgrade, and modify. Others specialize in certain types of RCs such as large scale, micro, vintage, just boats, or just touring cars that they buy ready-to-run or build themselves. Still others may have a wide-ranging collection of both toy-grade and hobby-grade RCs of all types and sizes. Your approach is your own based on time, money, and interests. There's no right or wrong approach to the RC hobby.