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Whoa! This Hobby is Expensive! … or is it?

I had an interesting scenerio unfold this year. A friend of a friend (easiest way to describe it) wanted to get his son a hobby-grade RC vehicle as a birthday present. They were starting from scratch, so they needed everything. With my friend acting as a mediator or middleman, I quizzed the father to find out what would suit them best. An RTR was a no brainer, but I wanted to know if the lucky recipient would be most thrilled by a monster truck or something like a short course truck. I won’t bore you with all the details of the back and forth, but as I learned more about what they wanted in an RC, the clear choice was the Axial Wraith–looked scale but could still go fast. As it turned out, the RTR Wraith was a hot seller and we couldn’t find one on short notice. That led to more talk and the possibility of maybe getting a kit and building it as a father and son team. That idea was a hit and that got me even more evolved. I got enlisted to hand pick the vehicle and the components and that led to an epithany of sorts.

So, armed with someone else’s credit card (I behaved) and a tight deadline, I went shopping. I’ll cut right to the chase. As it all added up, it didn’t take long for me to get some serious sticker shock. The cost of the kit didn’t get me, and individually, all of the components were all fairly priced. And, it’s not that I’m in the dark about what certain items cost, it’s just I have done this excerise–so to speak–of buying it all at once in years. What’s shocking is how much it adds up when the consumer has nothing in their RC arsenal. I had to buy a kit, a radio system with servo, a speed control and motor, a battery and a charger. I picked good gear–not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive–and it added up.

When I got started in RC there were no RTR RC cars–none. You had to piece it all together. Now, when someone gets started in RC, they go RTR. And yet, there are still people who champion kits over RTRs, and the main reason they spew is you’ll learn by building. While you will learn, I’ve never bought into that philosophy as a selling point and have even thought the argument was a little ridiculous. If that was really such a valid point, everything in life would arrive as a kit, so you could learn how it works for when you need to work on it. You have fun with that kit toaster oven or kit 51″ plasma TV.

This isn’t about kit vs. RTR. That argument is officially over. RTRs have to be here to stay and every manufacturer should have them. Heck, I’d like to see every model offered as a kit and RTR. The reason is RTRs are such a great value–that’s the whole point here. I was convinced of RTRs’ amazing value when I bought everything needed to complete a kit. New enthusiasts simply have to go with the RTR option; they simply have to start with a RTR or they are going to go to a toy store and buy a $100 1/10-scale kinda-sorta made to look like hobby-grade model (the worse RC purchase you can make).


I’ve said many times this hobby isn’t cheap, but people who aren’t familiar with the variety of the hobby can easily get the wrong idea and think it’s unaffordable or too expensive. In contrast, RTR models make RC a great value. You simply get a lot for your money when you start with a RTR.

Bottom line? This hobby is expensive, or it can be if we let it. RC is also a great value. RTRs aren’t expensive and when you choose wisely, it’s amazing how much you get for your money.

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  1. Wow, could’nt agree more, I remember my first car back in the 80’s, it was a huge commitment just to get something running. Then the battery, charger, and radio was a good chunk of change,plus it took me a few months to get the cash together. Nowadays everything is in one box! And it’s good stuff! You can be out ripping it up in less than an hour. (providing time to charge the battery)
    A decent charger will probably be the next thing you’ll see come with a RTR.
    As far as sticker shock, this is no surprise to most of us, but this is a pretty “serious” hobby with a certain degree of financial commitment. Just as skiing, bicycling, auto sports, and even bowling. (although R.C. can be way cheaper than alot of these.)

  2. RTRs have their place, and you’ve nailed what that is. But then I never thought RTRs shouldn’t exist, or that building a kit was essential for having any knowledge about the car – I just prefer building, and feel that if I buy an RTR car, I’m losing out on part of the fun. A box full of parts and an instruction book represents several hours of fun before the truck is even up and running!

  3. I just wish that more manufacturers gave me the option to build it myself. Tamiya seems to be the only one left who still offers everything in kit form. I’d love to see kit versions that include everything I need to run in the box. If I could buy a kit without having to buy all the extra stuff, (excluding battery and charger) that would be awesome.

  4. When I was a little younger and when I got back into the Hobby I was looking at nothing but RTRs…now I enjoy building but would still buy an RTR depending on what it actually was.. I agree with Matt that most, if not all RC vehicles should be offered as a kit or RTR. Its easier to get someone involved in RC with RTRs, especially kids. Im still waiting on a new Solid Axle Monster Truck Kit or RTR from Axial or Traxxas….

    1. Thanks for commenting. The good news is RTRs are here to stay. A year or so ago I wouldn’t think it was possible, but my instincts tell me that we shouldn’t be too surprised if a solid axle truck is released somewhat soon

  5. RC is a great value, but it is expensive. That’s why most of the people at the track are in the 20’s and 30’s and up. It’s hard to describe to people because you get a lot for your money and there are great entry-level vehicles that cost less than or around $200.

  6. yes it can be expensive, but you have to know your budget and stay with in it , TACO[ my scx10 truck of the week july2012] was a RTR,and was an absolute BLAST to run, fast forward not even a year later, i have traded, and worked over time to up grade what research [RCTruckstop, Facebook,RC Crawler,Scale4x4,ETC] and trial and error has shown me to be “weak” spots.Savox 251MG,Tekin FXR,Axial Dingo link kit{made it fit my honcho} MaxAmps 5k nimh and my own Trinity D3.5 SS brushed motor[ paradox arm in a mod can] i now can run the trails for over an hour smiling all the way.and has set up my next upgrades a Spektrum Dx3and another Savox 251mg for 4ws.
    Boils down to what makes you happy…and what its worth to you.. you could spend 800 for a great day at a NHRA or NASCAR event or drop that on a R/C and Have FUN the Whole YEAR!

  7. why do the 1/10 short course trophy or rally or dirt track trucks so expensive is this because they are sponsered traxxas? it seems all of the different manufactures are the same though expensive for this truck can you tell me whay this is??????????????????

    1. Interesting question, Anthony. What do you consider expensive for a ready-to-run 1/10-scale short course truck? There are some great deals out there that are just as affordable as any of the other segments in RC. I would, however, beware of some on non-namebrand models. They are often cheaply made and have no where near the customer service or parts support as the more mainstream companies.

      1. On a serious note, the fact you can get a car like the Traxxas Telluride these days, ready to roll, only for $315 – pretty impressive.

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