What Does RTR Mean In RC Cars?

I was sitting down having lunch with my brother. He likes to bash RC cars and I spend more time racing. We got onto the subject of racing RC cars and he said why buy a kit when I could just by an RTR. I responded with why would you want a ready to run? He promptly stopped me and said no ready to race.

In the RC world the acronym RTR has bean around a long time. The most common meaning is “ready to run”. When you purchase a RTR RC car. All the parts you need for the car to function are included in the box.

Ready to run – not quite.

Entry level hobby grade RC cars come with everything you need included in the box. Well almost everything, you will still need batteries to go in the transmitter. You may also need to do some assembly like attach the wheels or bind your controller to the reciever. If you purchase a RTR nitro car you will also need to purchase fuel to get it running.

The RTR versions of RC cars are often the largest revenue stream for manufacturers. Even the cheapest hobby grade cars will have an extensive list of parts availability. This is the main difference between toy cars and hobby grade. Entry level cars are built to a price point.

Quality in the chassis, plastics and electronics are greatly reduced the cheaper you go. It takes time to assemble hobby grade cars. Most of the time these are manufactured by hand. They are mass produced car after car. This comes with negatives. I have purchased RTR cars in the past and sometimes parts fall of or screws drop out. It is worth your time going over the screws and fittings to check they are correctly fastened.

You will often find the manufacturers state in the instruction manual to tighten up any loose screws after use.

Beginner level – no previous experience necessary.

Ready to race – just not on a track.

These are cars which come with higher performance parts and electronics. They are tough can usually go faster and jump higher. Although they are given the title ready to race. They are not really designed for purpose built race tracks. That’s not to say you can’t take a ready to race RC car on the track, because you can (practice sessions mainly).

These are aimed more towards the intermediate to advanced RC enthusiast and less towards the racing scene. Race tracks have rules covering all areas height, width, power, tires etc. You will find a ready to race RC car is often overkill and breaks many rules. When you want to jump a RC car as high as possible or break the land speed record rules simply get in the way!

You will also find you need additional parts or steps for them to function properly items such as:

Intermediate – previous experience highly recommended.

Almost ready to run (ARTR).

Almost ready to run covers a wide area of RC cars. Some can be part assembled and others could be fully assembled but need electronics or engines. When your looking at ARTR cars you want to read carefully what is required to complete assembly. All retailers should supply you with this information and most will. Why? – because its a huge area for up selling. It’s in there interest just as much as yours to have all the parts in place to finish your car.

Before you walk into a shop or browse on-line with an open purse/wallet. It’s important to think about what you want to achieve with an ARTR model.

Intermediate/Advanced – previous experience recommended & final assembly required.

Race kits.

These require full assembly of the car, all the electrics and your chosen motor/engine. When you purchase a race kit you literally end up with a box of bits. Some manufacturers don’t include the wheels and tires. The body shell’s are almost always clear and will need cutting out and painting.

If you are seriously thinking about racing RC cars. At some point you will need to purchase a race kit. These are aimed specifically at the racing enthusiast. If you are interested to see how much it all costs. I wrote an article for electric and nitro racing.

From a racing point of view starting from scratch is a good thing. You get a huge amount of pride knowing your racing a car you built. Some shops offer a building service. They will build your kit for you at an additional cost. This is OK to get you going but you won’t understand how it goes together. When you need to make changes or repair a part it will be harder.

The other advantage to this is choice! You choose the engine/motor, the ESC, the radio system, the servos, the wheels & tires, the paint scheme & your batteries. I would not advise to purchase a race kit for having fun in the park. I would also advise you do not purchase a race kit before attending your local track.

It’s a big investment to fully kit out a race spec RC car. Have a go at a local track with something which don’t cost too much. Get a feel for driving a car round a race track. It is harder than you think, for some people you will just instantly get the bug. For others it may just not be for you. It’s a fine line because once you get better RTR & ARTR cars can hold you back. Just like full scale cars RC versions don’t hold the value very well second hand. Even if you have only taken it out once or twice.

Advanced – previous experience needed & full assembly required.


When you are looking to get into the RC car industry there are 4 main choices. RTR (ready to run), RTR (ready to race), ARTR (almost ready to run) and kits (require full assembly and electronics). Which ever you choose it’s important to check all fastenings and screws before you take it out.

It’s worth checking gear mesh and the drive-train parts too. You may need to do additional setup processes like “binding” the transmitter to the receiver, setting up your ESC or tuning your engine. Hobby grade RC cars are almost never plug and play even if the box says so. The beauty with all forms of hobby grade cars is the parts availability. If you or your kids damage something you can often repair/replace the broken part.

There are so many extras available on the market you can upgrade to faster motors, larger batteries and stronger parts. Your car improves as you do. No matter how you enjoy it race track or the local park.

Similar Posts:

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment