After a few months of using RC cars, most people come to a conclusion: the stock transmitter and receiver that comes with the average RC car tends to suck! At least this was the case with the first RC car that I bought: an Exceed Forza. While at first, I didn’t know better and though my transmitter was awesome, I soon realized that wasn’t the case when it stopped transmitting inputs after 2 weeks of buying the car.
So buying a new transmitter was technically the first upgrade that I ever did to an RC car. Over the years, I have bought and sold several transmitters, some trash and some pretty awesome, and because of that I have a good understanding of which products are worth your hard-earned cash and which ones do not. So, I made this guide in order to help people find the best transmitter for their RC car. The products found on this list are the very best and you can’t go wrong with them!
Things To Look For In An RC Car Transmitter
Before continuing, I think it’s important to really point out what actually makes a good transmitter. Over the years, I have noticed several things that you should look out for, such as:
Price: The first thing that we must talk about is pricing. And when it comes to this, let me tell you that more expensive does NOT mean better. I have bought $100+ transmitters with really crappy build quality and likewise I have acquired $40 transmitters that were built like tanks and never failed me. Based on my experience, you are going to find the best bang for your buck in the 40-70 dollar range. Just try to make sure you avoid those really cheap $15 knockoff transmitters that will probably only work properly for a few days.
Range: As a rule of thumb, you want a transmitter with a decent amount of range for several reasons. The first one is because of safety reasons. You don’t want to lose control of your car at high speeds or else you might wreck your car against a wall. Also, range might be especially important if you are thinking of racing on an RC car track. I would personally recommend that you get a transmitter with at least 600 feet of range, and more than that might be warranted if you have a drag racer.
Ergonomics: Nobody wants a transmitter that feels uncomfortable when holding, and so the best ones will have rubberized surfaces, they will not be too heavy or too light, and the throttle and steering trim will be easy to access and tune. Personally, I prefer smaller transmitters because they are easier to hold, they are easier to store plus they look cooler in my opinion. This is just a matter of taste though. There are many bulkier transmitters that feel good in the hand too.
Telemetrics: Transmitters with telemetrics are awesome if you really care about your RC’s performance, and I really recommend them for people with more high-end buggies. However, even though they might be really useful, they aren’t for everybody honestly. Depending on the transmitter in question, they might be pretty hard to use. Also, a transmitter with telemetrics will drain its batteries really quickly. Just something to keep in mind when choosing a transmitter. Anyways, these are the best RC car transmitters available on the market:
Futaba 3PRKA 3-Channel 2.4GHz Transmitter & Receiver – Best Transmitter Ever!
Out of all the transmitters that I have used on my RC cars, this stands out as the very best of them. In fact, This might be the best mid-range transmitter on the market currently. And this is because of several reasons. The combination of rock-solid build quality, 3 channel setup, amazing range, and precise inputs makes this a winner in all fronts. If you came into this article looking for the best transmitter overall, then this is the one!
Futaba has really cemented a reputation for making reliable and accurate transmitters and receivers, and this one is no exception. I personally have 3 years already with this transmitter, and one of the things that I most appreciate about it is the fact that the inputs are so accurate. Expect your RC car to steer more sharply after starting to use this baby. The throttle input is very precise and sensitive, and I would recommend this in a heartbeat to anybody looking to get into serious RC car racing.
Which brings me to my next point: the range on this transmitter is incredible! anybody who uses a drag racer really needs to take a look at this transmitter in general. There are no official numbers when it comes to the range of this model, but I have used this radio at 800+ ft without issues. Many other enthusiasts have reported using their cars at ranges even higher than that, making this the ultimate transmitter for long-range operation!
Now, while I love this model and recommend it to everybody shopping for a radio, it has its disadvantages, just like everything in life. One of them is the fact that it could use another channel. This model comes standard with 3 channels, good enough for my buggy, but many enthusiasts have buggies with more complex features and so more channels might be needed. If you have an RC excavator or use a buggy with lights or other features, it might be wise to look for something that has more channels.
Lastly, this model is a little bit more expensive than I would like. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a hell of a transmitter, but some folks might shy away from this because of the price tag. This, in my opinion, is a serious mistake given the fact that this transmitter can last you years without giving you any headaches. If you are going to buy a radio, its wise to spend a little bit more money for something that will really stand the test of time.
- Excellent Range
- Very Precise Inputs
- Very Reliable With Rock Solid Build Quality
Radiolink RC4GS 2.4G 4CH RC Transmitter and Receiver – For Tech Lovers Only!
Another solid transmitter from a reputable company, I used this transmitter for about 6 months on a Kyosho Inferno and a Traxxas Slash I used to own. And let me tell you, if you are looking for a do-it-all transmitter that can be used on several RC cars, then this can be a great choice. This is a more advanced option for the RC enthusiast who owns more than 1 model and wants telemetrics on his transmitter of choice.
The distinguishing feature of this transmitter is the fact that it’s one of the most affordable ways to get a transmitter with a decent telemetrics system. There are cheaper transmitters with telemetrics out there, but they do not come even close to the level of sophistication of this one though. The system is very technologically advanced, and sometimes I felt a little bit overwhelmed with the sheer amounts of functions. If you are tech-savvy, then you are going to love this one.
Also, this transmitter is perfect for people who have more than 1 RC car. It features a system that allows you to save different configurations, allowing you to control a different RC car in a matter of seconds, something super useful if you are a racer and like using more than 1 model. It will also control other things like for example RC boats and airplanes!
Now when it comes to the bad things, one of the most annoying things about this transmitter is the fact that it drains its batteries really quickly. Now, this is something pretty common with radios with telemetrics but in this transmitter’s case its extreme. I used to strap 6 AA batteries on this and they didn’t last more than a week of moderate use, which is pretty ridiculous if you ask me. If you are interested in this transmitter, then getting rechargeable batteries is a must!
Also, this transmitter is on the heavier side. No wonder given the fact that this takes 6 AA batteries, plus the screen adds weight too. This transmitter gives you the option of using a LiPo pack as a battery, which will make it even heavier if you decide to add it.
- Affordable Way To Get Telemetrics In A Transmitter
- Perfect For Folks With More Than 1 RC Car
- Transmitter Is A Little Bit Heavier Than What I Would Like
- Transmitter Drains Its Batteries Very Quickly
PCtech FS GT3C Remote Control Transmitter And Receiver – Affordable Telemetrics
If you are on a budget but still want a transmitter with telemetrics and more than 2 channels, then this might be for you! This transmitter really caught my attention when I first saw it because of its bright orange color and myriad of functions. And the truth is that it’s a quality product given its price point, but I also felt that it was pretty hard to use properly. Also, the build quality isn’t up to par, especially when compared to the 2 transmitters above. Still, its a quality product given the price.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know this company very well before I got this product. I did some research on them and it seems that they have been in the RC game for quite a while now. This seems to be one of their entry-level products, and its a good one at that. The inputs are pretty accurate and the range was better than what I expected. This could make a good first transmitter for a new RC enthusiast.
This is also one of the few transmitters that uses a built-in rechargeable battery, which is great for several reasons. First of all, this makes the transmitter lighter and less bulky. Also, it’s great for people who are tired of spending money on new batteries. The transmitter comes with a USB cable that allows you to charge up the battery, and while the battery itself drains rather quickly, it’s still better than having to buy AA batteries every so often.
When it comes to the cons, the build quality doesn’t compare to the Futaba and Radiolink products above. And that is to be expected given the price of this transmitter. The transmitter feels pretty cheap and light, something that I really hated. I appreciated the bright orange color since it matches with one of my RC cars, but the fact that this felt so flimsy kind of turned me off this radio.
Also, the telemetrics system was pretty hard to use. I’m pretty good at working the electronics of my cars and transmitters, but this one was inexplicably really hard to set up and get going. I tried to thoroughly read the manual but the English inside it wasn’t very understandable.
This would be a great choice for somebody on a budget who needs a transmitter that can control more than 1 RC car. But if it were you, I would just spend a little bit more money for something more durable and with more range. Just my 2 cents.
- Ideal For Folks New In The RC Car World
- Stylish And Edgy Design
- Telemetrics Are Pretty Hard To Use Properly
- Build Quality Leaves A Lot To Be Desired
AUSTAR AX5 3CH 2.4G Transmitter And Receiver – Excellent Ergonomics, Excellent Precision!
Those looking for a simple transmitter with excellent ergonomics and precise inputs should take a look at this transmitter from K&A Company. My friend owns this transmitter and so far he has been really pleased by it. The first thing that I noticed when I started to use it is the fact that it fits your hand so well. Ergonomics are usually overlooked on the transmitter which is a big mistake. The makers of this radio in particular really focused on the feel of it, creating a simple but effective transmitter that won’t break the bank either.
This transmitter is excellent for short-range riding. The inputs are very precise, and steering the RC car was a blast with this radio. The price doesn’t suggest it but this is actually a very well made transmitter and I never noticed any funny inputs when using it.
Also, one thing that I really liked about this transmitter is the fact that it looks really good. It has a more edgy, modern style, which will suit some RC cars a lot! The steering wheel resembles the wheel of a real-life sports car, with painted caliper and everything, which is a very nice touch. I know many people overlook the look of a transmitter but I personally prefer my transmitters to be a little bit more flashy and showy.
However, there’s one bad thing about this transmitter: the range. This is why I only recommend it for short and mid-range RC car riding because the range is limited to only about 200m. This is enough for 99% of people, but not for me though. People that are going to be riding on a track will not like this product, and this combined with the fact that this doesn’t have any telemetrics make this a better choice for bashers and short course racers.
- Excellent Ergonomics
- Very Precise Inputs Make This Transmitter Great For Short Ranges
- Short Range
DUMBORC X4 4CH RC Radio System Transmitter and Receiver – Godly Range At An Affordable Price
Those looking for a budget transmitter should really take a look at this one. I originally bought this transmitter for an RC car that I had got from goodwill. The RC didn’t come with a transmitter, so I had to shop around for a new one. And my choice was this transmitter from DumboRC. This radio would make a great transmitter for somebody looking for a transmitter/receiver combo that provides a lot of range. It also is a good choice if you have a very limited budget.
The first thing that I got from this transmitter is the fact that It provides a very good amount of range for the price. This transmitter is cheaper than 50 dollars and it provides more range than many transmitters worth $80+, excellent for people that have drag racers or people that need something to ride in tracks.
Also, as I said above, this transmitter is ideal for people on a budget or not willing to spend much money on a transmitter. Many folks have found this transmitter under 30 bucks, super affordable when it comes to this type of equipment. The company that manufactures this transmitter puts it on sale for even cheaper than that sometimes.
However, the bad thing about this transmitter is the fact that the build quality simply isn’t up to par when compared to the first 2 transmitters above. The plastic casing feels very flimsy and it feels like it could be broken easily. This is to be expected of a transmitter on this price point, so keep in mind if you are thinking of buying this radio that it might not last you as much as you would like.
- Very Affordable
- Provides Great Range For The Price
- A Little Bit Cumbersome To Use
- Crappy Build Quality
TURBO 91803G 2.4GHz 3CH 3 Channel Radio System Transmitter And Receiver – Simple And Effective
Last but not least, this transmitter is my last recommendation on this list. Who should be using this transmitter? anybody looking for a reliable transmitter/receiver setup that isn’t very flashy and is very easy to use. Forget about complex telemetrics and hard to install receivers with this product. This was made to be a no-nonsense radio for people that need something that won’t fail them.
When it comes to the pros, the range is pretty decent on this transmitter. Expect to use your RC car at up to 400m, pretty good for the price point. The inputs felt a little bit more erratic than what I would like, something that I didn’t appreciate, but it seems that only happened at longer ranges. Also, this transmitter will not drain your batteries very much, something very important to me given the fact that I don’t use rechargeables.
Some people will also dig the subdued or muted appearance of this transmitter. I know many people who prefer this transmitter style because they have had their gear stolen before. A less flashy, more subdued product will not attract as much attention as a more stylish design. If you like muted designs, then taking a look at this transmitter might be warranted.
Overall this is a pretty decent transmitter. The only thing that I do not like about it is the fact that its a little bit more expensive than I would like. I would only recommend this when on sale because the normal price feels a little bit too steep for me at least.
- Provides Decent Range With Okay Input Precision
- A Bit Too Expensive For What You Get
- No Telemetrics
How Do RC Car Transmitters Work?
In an article about the best RC transmitters, I’m pretty sure that people are going to be asking this question, so let me give you a thorough answer:
An RC Transmitter is simply a device that creates radio waves, which will be received by a receiver, which is an electronic device that “catches” radio waves. Both the transmitter and the receiver must be at the correct frequency for the radio waves to be received. The combination of the transmitter and receiver is called a transceiver.
In other words, a transmitter works by generating electricity, which is transmitted to the antenna. This antenna amplifies the signal and makes it travel through the air via radio waves. The receiver (which should have the correct tuning to receive the radio signal) catches the radio wave, generates electricity inside, which in turn makes something happen. In our case, it moves the wheels of our cars and it applies the throttle and the brakes.
How To Install A Receiver Into An RC Car
If you are reading this article, chances are that you are on the lookout for a new transmitter. Also, there’s a chance that you do not know how to install a receiver into your RC car. If that’s the case, then I created a step-by-step guide on how to do so! this guide will apply for 99% of RC cars out there.
Step #1 – Familiarize Yourself With The RC Car Components
The first step is getting yourself familiarized with the receiver and where does it go. As I said in the above paragraph, the receiver location will be different for all RC cars. After you have found where the receiver is stored, its time to open up the covering, which will usually be held down by a few screws.
After you open it up, its time to examine the old receiver. As you can see in the picture below, there are a few connectors attached to the receiver. These are the servos, which control the throttle and steering inputs. Also, notice how the receiver has several markings on the left side. Most receivers will have 4 channels: channel 1 will be for the steering connector, and channel 2 will be for the throttle connector.
Channel 3 and channel 4 will only be used for RC cars that have more functions (an RC with deployable lights or an RC excavator) There’s also a B/C (Battery Connector) which will only be used for nitro RC cars to connect the batteries.
The ideal thing to do would be to remember the order that the connectors are attached to the receiver. Remember: channel 1 is for the steering connector, channel 2 is for the throttle connector, and B/C or B is for the battery connector if you have a nitro RC car.
Step #2 – Remove The Old Receiver From The RC Car
After you know where everything is located, its time to disconnect the cables from the old receiver. Simply pull the connectors from the receiver in a gentle but firm way. The connectors should easily disattach from the receiver. After this, its important that you do not forget which is the steering connector and which is the throttle connector.
Step #3 – Insert The Pins On The New Receiver The Correct Way
After you remove the old receiver, it’s time to connect the pins to the new one. You are going to take the steering connector and plug it in the correct way on channel 1. After this, connect the throttle connector into channel 2. If you have a nitro car, then connect the battery connector into B or B/C.
Generally, most connectors will have a ridge that won’t allow you to attach it to a receiver backwards, but not all of them though. If this isn’t the case though, it’s important to really make sure you are inserting the connectors the correct way.
Step #4 – Make Sure Everything Is Working
After this, everything should be working properly. Turn on your new transmitter and then the receiver and start hitting the throttle and start steering. That’s all!