Which RC crawlers are best?

If your preference leans more toward off-roading on rugged terrain than a need for speed, then an RC crawler will be right up your alley. These tough RC vehicles feature high-performance suspension systems, durable components and a high ground clearance that enables them to easily climb over boulders, up steep inclines and through rough trails. 

Hobby-grade RC crawlers like the Traxxas TRX-4 Ford Bronco are ideal for serious enthusiasts who want something that can handle basically any obstacle. 

What to know before you buy an RC crawler

Speed

Before purchasing a crawler it is important to understand how they differ from off-road racers and other styles of RC vehicles. The most notable distinction is that they are not designed for speed. Instead, they are designed with a focus on torque and traction, which makes them ideal for climbing over large obstacles that other styles of RC vehicles can’t handle. The trade-off is that most don’t offer a very fast top speed. It is not uncommon for RC crawlers to top out between 7-14 miles per hour. This is in comparison to RC trucks, racers and buggies, which can sometimes exceed 50 mph.

RTR vs. kit

RC crawlers come in both RTR and kit models. RTR stands for ready-to-run and is the best choice for general consumers who just want to take their crawler out of the box, charge the battery and start driving. Kit models require you to assemble the crawler, which can be time-consuming and requires some skill. The benefit of kit models is that they are easier to upgrade and can almost always be repaired if something breaks. 

Scale

If you are in the market for an RC crawler, you will notice the term scale in many product listings. This refers to its size in comparison to a full-size vehicle of the same or similar type. It will either be written as a fraction or with a colon, such as 1/10 or 1:8. The lower the second number, the larger the crawler is. The most popular scales for RC crawlers are 1/8, 1/10 and 1/12 scale.

Features to look for in a quality RC crawler

Suspension

RC crawlers will either have an independent suspension system or solid axles. They both have their pros and cons, and there is much debate in the RC community over which is better. Independent suspension systems allow each wheel to move up and down independently of one another. This allows for better articulation but also means that sticks and grass can get stuck between the half shafts. It also provides an entry point for dirt and dust that can eventually affect performance. Solid axles offer improved traction over large rocks and bumps and can provide more torque to the wheels, but they require more technique to conquer challenging obstacles.

Locking differentials

Locking differentials are important in any off-roading vehicle, be it a full-size truck or an RC crawler. In crawlers with a locking differential, the wheels on either side are fixed so they always spin together. This helps to improve traction and makes a crawler more capable. Depending on the model in question, it may have permanently locked differentials, manual locking differentials or remote locking differentials. 

Waterproof electronics

If you plan on driving your crawler through mud or puddles, then waterproof electronics are a must. Crawlers with waterproof electronics feature sealed connections and component boxes to ensure they don’t short out just because you decided to run through a small stream.

Control range

Every RC vehicle has a maximum control range that dictates how far away you can drive the vehicle. On the budget end of the spectrum, you may have a control range of just 100 feet. As you progress into better models, control ranges can increase to 1,000 feet or more.

Battery life

Many hobby-grade RC crawlers do not include a battery, so you may need to purchase one separately. Most of these can accept either NiMH or LiPo batteries, with the latter type being better because they boast a better weight-to-power ratio. On the other hand, toy-grade models will usually come with both a battery and charger. Whether your RC crawler comes with a battery or not, you can expect it to get between 10-20 minutes of run time depending on the model.

How much you can expect to spend on an RC crawler

For any decent RC crawler, you should expect to spend at least $75. For hobby-grade models, you can easily spend anywhere from $200-$800.

RC crawler FAQ

Do RC cars require a lot of maintenance?

A. Most toy-grade RC crawlers don’t require much maintenance other than keeping the various components clean. Conversely, the maintenance on hobby-grade models can be much more demanding. It includes lubricating various components, replacing drive pins and center couplings and more.

Can I use a regular RC truck for crawling?

A. There is nothing that says you can’t use a regular RC truck for crawling over obstacles. However, just be aware that it won’t be able to conquer the same type of rugged terrain as a dedicated crawler.

What is the best RC crawler to buy?

Top RC crawler

Traxxas TRX 4 Ford Bronco

Traxxas TRX-4 Ford Bronco

What you need to know: The TRX-4 comes from one of the most respected names in the RC car industry and is a beast of a crawler that can tackle almost any terrain.

What you’ll love: It boasts a highly-detailed body with chrome detailing and even side mirrors that make it look like a near-perfect replica of the classic 1979 Ford Bronco. 

What you should consider: Its high price tag means it may only appeal to serious hobbyists. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top RC crawler for the money

Axial SCX24 1967 Chevrolet C10

Axial SCX24 1967 Chevrolet C10

What you need to know: Offering the right balance of performance and price, this capable crawler is a good choice for those looking for something a step above toy-grade crawlers but not willing to empty their wallet on a hobby-grade model just yet.

What you’ll love: Its components are very durable, so it can handle some rough driving from beginners that might damage other models.

What you should consider: There are some buyer reports of the included charger failing within a few months.

Where to buy: Sold by Walmart

Worth checking out

Laegendary Offroad Crawler

Laegendary 4×4 Offroad Crawler

What you need to know: This 1/10 scale crawler offers a 500-foot control range and comes with both a battery and charger. 

What you’ll love: It is equipped with an LED light rack and even features a working winch on the front to pull itself out of jams.

What you should consider: It can be difficult to find replacement parts for it if things break.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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