The cost of RC racing will vary between classes and the type of racing you choose to do. The most popular racing at present is off road 1/10th scale and 1/8th scale. As an example you can expect to spend from $1,000 (£772) on the initial outlay and then $300 (£231) per year in maintenance costs.
All prices listed in this guide are based on the average club racer. Follow this guide as an example all prices listed are averages.
1/8th scale off road “nitro” setup costs:
This class of racing is very popular and has a huge range of events worldwide from club to world tournaments. It is very popular among beginners. The track surface in the USA is mainly dirt or clay and in European countries its mostly astro turf. Both surfaces have jumps, bumps and ruts each surface has positives and negatives. The initial outlay is largely the same the main differences will be in the cost of tires, servos and how you setup the car.
- Car (Kit) $499 – This is the cost of a high spec racing kit which will last you several years.
- Engine & Pipe $190 – A good starting price for an engine & pipe combo. This will last you 2 years well maintained.
- Servos $200 – You can spend a lot less on servos however at this price these should outlive your car.
- Receiver Battery Pack $15 – You won’t need to spend allot here the main difference in price is how long the battery will last a lion/lipo 1200mah will last an entire race day.
- Transmitter & Receiver $40 – You can easily spend $400 on a radio system. However you will not get the advantages of spending more until you start to notice changes that gain tenths of seconds.
- Wheels & Tires $40 – Through my experience tires for astro turf surfaces last approximately 3 events. Tires on dirt surfaces last half an event with that said I do have more fun racing on dirt.
- Fuel $40 – You will get through fuel faster than you think its better to buy a gallon than a half gallon. This should last you 3/4 race meetings.
- Nitro Starter Kit $20 – This will include glow starter, glow plug removal tool, tuning screwdriver and a fuel bottle. It works out cheaper to buy a kit than all the extras put together
- Glow Plug x3 $30 – A glow plug could last several races or half a race day. It’s better to have a few spare than to have none. when you are running in a nitro engine it’s not uncommon to go through a couple glow plugs.
- Flywheel & clutch kit $20 – This will include bearings, flywheel, clutch shoes, clutch springs and the clutch bell.
- Starter Box $60 – Racing engines do not come with starter boxes you will need a starter box to get your car running.
- Starter Box Battery $20 – You can use a wide range of batteries for starter boxes. The simplest and cheapest option I have found is a 12v 7ah lead acid battery.
- Paint $10 – 90% of race kits come with a clear body shell. You can spend as much as you wish or even have it professional painted. In the beginning your body shell will take a right beating on the track. Keep it simple and you won’t be upset when it splits.
Total setup cost for a nitro 1/8th scale is $1,184 (£914). You can start out spending less or spending more. The life expectancy of the above example should see you through your first 2 years no problem. Tires, glow plugs and fuel are the main ongoing costs.
1/8th scale off road “electric” setup costs:
- Car Kit $499 – Kits are around the same price as the nitro counter parts this will be the cost of a professional racing kit.
- Motor $50 – You don’t have to spend that much on a motor to be competitive. It will be hard to see the difference between a $50 and $300 motor when you start out. A $50 dollar motor can easily race with the more expensive motors it comes down to driver skill.
- Speed controller $99 – This should get you a waterproof speed controller. Similar to the motor you won’t need to spend a huge amount to be competitive.
- Batteries x2 sets $160 – You can make it through a race day with 2 sets of batteries. The more sets you have the better off you will be. Some tracks do not have mains electric supply. You may need to bring your own generator.
- Lipo charger $40 – The batteries you purchase for rc racing are lipo batteries. These require a special type of charger to safely charge them.
- Servo $100 – You will only need one servo for the steering. A servo in this price range is expected to last 4+ years.
- Transmitter and Receiver $40 – Cheap and cheerful you can spend more but you really wont need to when your starting out.
- Wheels & Tires $40 – This is the average cost for a set of wheels. Depending on your driving style and the type of surface you race on the life expectancy will vary. Just like with nitro cars I find a set of tires on dirt will last half a race day. Tires for astro turf tracks can last 3 race days.
- Mod 1 Pinion gear $15 – Some kits have these included. Its the gear which fits onto your motor to drive the car. It can be very annoying to have everything in place but your not able to race because of a tiny pinion gear.
- Paint $10 – Couple cans of spray paint and you can have a basic paint design. As with nitro cars 90% of the kits come with a clear body shell.
Total setup cost for 1/8th scale electric is $1,053 (£813) not a great deal of difference between nitro and electric. The ongoing maintenance costs will mainly be tires. A set of lipo batteries will last you 18 months of regular use.
Purchase guidance tips.
- Nitro engines – These come in all shapes and sizes. When you are looking to get into racing most venue rules state the size of the nitro engine to be no more than .21 size. Engines are often sold separately to the exhausts. When starting out it’s often cheaper to buy a engine and exhaust combo.
- Wheels and tires – You can purchase tires mounted on the rims this is the easy option. Wheels are composed of tires, inserts and the rims. These are all sold separately, if you purchase them separately you will need to fit the tires and glue them yourself.
- Brushless motors – These come in different shapes and sizes. It can be confusing when you start out for 1/8th scale you want a 1900kv or 2000kv motor. These will give you the right balance between torque and speed.
- Lipo batteries – Most venues restrict the total number of cells in 1/8th off road to 4. When looking for batteries you want something like a hard case 2s 6000mah 60c. Two of these together in series will make a 4s battery. Check the dimensions of the batteries and the dimensions of your car battery tray, to make sure they will fit.
- Lipo chargers – The Internet has a huge range of lipo chargers. Be wary of lipo chargers less than $40. I say this because lipo batteries need to be constantly monitored as they are charged. A cheap charger can overcharge a battery and if that happens they can catch fire.
- Servo – When your racing 1/8th scale good servo’s make a huge difference. You want a balance of torque and speed here. For the torque you want a servo no less than 210 oz-in/ 15kg. For the speed you want a servo that is at least 0.19 sec.
- ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) – 1/8th scale electric racing puts huge demands of current on speed controllers. While you can run with a 120a speed controller. Personally I would recommend 150a waterproof speed controllers.
- Pinion gears & clutch bells – When starting out in nitro or electric 1/8th scale racing a nice starting point is a 14 tooth gear for both. Gearing changes will affect the acceleration and top speed. A 14 teeth gear will provide you with a good starting point.
Maintenance and other costs.
Race fees are usually around the $15 mark for club level racing. Regional and national events will cost more and be over 2 or more days. You will need to factor in travel and accommodation costs. Maintenance largely depends on how often you race and how often you crash. Its good to have a backup of the common parts that wear or become damaged. The common parts which break or need replacing are:
- Drive shafts.
- Upper and lower suspension arms
- Clutch shoes
- Body shells
- Wheels & tires
- C hubs
- Pinion gears
- Shock oils
- Differential oils
- Fuel – (nitro cars only)
- Glow plugs – (nitro cars only)
I just want to highlight the fact this article is not to put anyone off the sport. It’s possible to spend thousands on any hobby such as golf, shooting, dirt biking, cycling etc. This is one of those subjects where its interesting to see how much it does cost. You will probably find this article after you have already purchased some items. RC racing is an amazing sport highly addictive but full of friendly and helpful people.