How Fast Do RC Cars Really Go?

Man with RC truck
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Question: How Fast Do RC Cars Really Go? There are two speeds associated with radio controlled vehicles: scale speed and actual speed. Some manufacturers, in a bid to capitalize on the perceived superiority of really fast cars, will list the scale speed rather than the actual speed of the RC. Such advertising is geared to make a normal car seem faster than it is.

Answer: Clocking a hobby-grade RC vehicle at top speed using a police radar gun will likely produce a speed range of 10 to 70 mph. Some dragsters and specially-modified RCs can top speeds in excess of 100 mph, but such RCs are the exception, not the rule.

Actual Speed

Actual speed is how fast the radio controlled vehicle really goes. Hobby-grade RCs are generally much faster than toy-grade RCs. Although the RC "hall of fame" speed records are held by electric RCs (usually highly modified for increased speed), nitro RCs are fastest overall.

Scale Speed

Scale speed is a measure of how fast the RC vehicle goes in relation to the full-size model. A simplified way of looking at it: a 1:10 scale RC would go about 1/10 the speed of the full-scale vehicle it's modeled after.

A 1:8 scale RC listed with a scale speed of 110 mph probably has an actual speed of around 13-14 mph. A 1:64 scale RC, such as Radio Shack Zip Zaps, with a scale speed of 110 mph has an actual speed of about 1.7 mph. There's a big difference between 1.7 and 14 mph even though both vehicles have a scale speed of 110.

Speed and Size

The relationship between the size or scale of an RC vehicle and its scale and actual speeds doesn't always hold true. RC toys, especially those for toddlers, are much slower. Some modified RC vehicles may have actual speeds much faster than you might expect for their scale size.