7 Best Gas Powered RC Cars & Monster Trucks

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This guide looks at seven amazing gas-powered RC cars and trucks. These models differ significantly from the familiar electric powered RC vehicles. But why do people bother with nitro cars in the first place? After all, the electric-powered options are cheaper, cleaner, safer, and require less maintenance. Well, gas-powered models are faster, louder, more durable, and highly customizable — I could go on.

The table below shows the order my gas powered remote control cars appear in this guide. I’ve ordered them by best budget, best value, and top pick first. The four that follow are in price order, starting with the least expensive.

Budget
best-budget-gas-powered-rc-car
Redcat Shockwave Nitro Buggy
4.2/5.0
Scale: 1:10
Type: Nitro Buggy
Powerful 2.67cc nitro engine and adjustable suspension.
Check Amazon
Best Value
best-value-gas-powered-rc-car
Losi 8IGHT 4WD Nitro Buggy
4.8/5.0
Scale: 1:8
Type: Nitro Buggy
Metal-gear transmission & sealed differentials.
Check Amazon
Top Pick
top-pick-gas-powered-rc-car
Traxxas Revo 3.3 4WD
4.7/5.0
Scale: 1:10
Type: Nitro Monster Truck
Fast, durable, versatile and has a unique suspension design.
Check Amazon

About the Fuel

The fuel used to power these crazy RC vehicles is nitro gas. Some of the top racers can exceed 110mph with a premium fuel mix and the right setup. Now compare that to an average speed of 35+ mph with the faster electric alternatives. You can start to see the attraction, right. Nitro gas is a mix of nitromethane, methanol, and lubricating oil.

The engines run primarily on methanol. The added nitromethane acts as a performance enhancer. The part of nitromethane is usually between 10% and 40%. There’s more to it than that, of course. But I don’t want to get overly technical as this is a beginner’s introduction after all.

The Restrictions of Gas-Powered Cars

The bigger nitro-powered RC racing cars are not for the faint-hearted. Yes, they’re simple to drive, but no, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to race or control on the track. That brings me on to my next point. Unlike their electric-powered counterparts, there are lots of restrictions. You can’t just race larger gas-powered cars wherever you like. And the bigger the car, the tighter those restrictions become.

The bigger vehicles are impressive replicas of the real-world ones. They look identical in all but size. They have the same sounds, smells, performance, and use similar components. They may be smaller, but they’re not toys or even toy-like. And you have plenty of maintenance too, just like the real thing.

It’s advisable to let the motors of electric-powered RC vehicles cool down between battery swaps. It’s the same with gas-powered engines in that they should cool down between tanks.

About this Guide

I wouldn’t suggest anyone at the entry-level jumps in at the deep end. The natural progression to nitro RC cars follows experience at the electric RC level. It’s for serious radio-controlled aficionados. That means folks who want something more from their hobby, and these beasts deliver. They provide a much bigger kick and a more realistic driving experience. They’re also a tinkerers’ dream vehicle.

It’s not the purpose of this guide to teach you how to drive or maintain these vehicles. That’s something to learn from your fellow enthusiasts as you go along. This page is a review of some of the most amazing gas-powered RC vehicles around right now. I choose these seven based on personal thoughts, independent user reviews, and the opinions of experts.

Comparison Table of Gas Powered RC Cars & Monster Trucks

Make and ModelScaleTypePrice Check
Redcat Racing Shockwave Nitro Buggy1/10 ScaleNitro BuggyCheck Price
Team Losi 1/8 8IGHT 4WD Nitro Buggy RTR1/8 ScaleNitro BuggyCheck Price
Traxxas 53097 Revo 3.3 4WD Nitro-Powered1/10 ScaleNitro Monster TruckCheck Price
Redcat Racing Tornado S30 Buggy1/10 ScaleNitro BuggyCheck Price
Redcat Racing Earthquake 3.5 Monster Truck1/8 ScaleNitro Monster TruckCheck Price
Traxxas T-Maxx 4WD Monster Truck1/10 ScaleNitro Monster TruckCheck Price
HPI Racing 107012 Trophy 3.5 Buggy RTR1/8 ScaleRallycross BuggyCheck Price

#1 Redcat Racing Shockwave Nitro Buggy

Redcat Racing Shockwave Nitro BuggyView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.2/5.0

Meet the Redcat Racing Shockwave Nitro Buggy. It’s an affordable ready to run (RTR) introduction to the world of gas-powered racing cars. You can’t help but fall in love with the design of this puppy.

  • Best feature 1: Fully assembled Ready-To-Run (RTR) model
  • Best feature 2: Stability Control
  • Plus points: 2.67cc nitro engine, 2.5mm aluminum chassis, oil-filled coil over shocks
  • Minus points: Pull starter, eats through fuel, some plastic parts are a tad weak

There’s no better start in the world of gas-powered racing cars than a model that’s ready to go right out of its box. There’s a 2.4GHz radio system included too. As an off-roader, it gives you plenty of options on where to drive this little beast. The sound produced by the 2.67cc Vertex nitro engine is incredible. It’s enough to get the adrenaline pumping before you even move off the start line.

An Easy Decision for Newbies

The Shockwave is an ideal choice at the entry level as well as being my best budget pick. The engine is easy for newbies to tune for one. The build quality is also durable enough to stand up to those inevitable beginner crashes. It’s a no-brainer for anyone just starting out in RC nitro racing.

Here are a few other reasons to shortlist the Redcat Shockwave:

  • Durable, lightweight aluminum lower chassis
  • Aluminum capped oil filled shocks (look great and help to prevent oil leaks)
  • Tunable aluminum shock towers
  • Adjustable suspension for maximum traction and enhanced performance
  • Composite center disc breaks
  • Easy flip lid protected filler fuel tank
  • Aggressive off-road tires
  • additional body styles<

There’s plenty to marvel for sure, but it’s the driving that makes the Shockwave shine.

The Not So Good

The pull starter works as it should do, but most people prefer electric starts given a choice. Another gripe is that it’s power hungry and gets through a lot of fuel. The fuel consumption is more of a novice complaint, to be honest. Burning through gas is the nature of these powerful models after all.

The final gripe is that you should expect to replace some parts. The metal parts are durable enough, but prepare to replace some plastic bits over time. They’re just too fragile to stand up to high impact crashes and collisions. You’re going to love this nitro buggy if you’re a tinkerer though.

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Tech Specs
Scale: 1:10
Dimensions: 15.8 x 10 x 6.5″
Product Weight: 7 lbs.
Drive system: 4 Wheel Drive
Fuel type: Nitro
Radio band: 2.4GHz System
Range: Not specified
Battery: 12 x AA (car 4, transmitter 4)
Running time: AVG 20 minutes
The Pros
Fully assembled (RTR) model
Stability Control
Powerful 2.67cc nitro engine
2.5mm aluminum chassis
Oil-filled coil over shocks
Adjustable suspension
Secure flip lid protected fuel tank
Aggressive off-road tires
Additional body styles
The Cons
Pull starter
Eats through fuel
Some plastic parts too fragile

#2 Team Losi 1/8 8IGHT 4WD Nitro Buggy RTR

Team Losi 1 Nitro Buggy RTRView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5.0

The Losi® 8IGHT Nitro Buggy RTR is a good progression from the Redcat’s Shockwave above. My best value pick arrives fully assembled and is ready to run soon after you unbox it.

  • Best feature 1: Metal-gear transmission & sealed differentials
  • Best feature 2: Sturdy center and rear dogbones
  • Plus points: Design, Gen III radio tray, pre-set suspension, Dynamite .21 nitro engine
  • Minus points: Pull start, price

The company promotes the incredible 8IGHT 4WD Nitro Buggy with two words: BRUTE FORCE. It goes as good as it looks too. The metal-gear transmission and sealed differentials provide the added durability needed to handle rough racing conditions. The buggy also sports center and rear dogbones that do a great job of eliminating CV coupler friction. They also improve the bump handling at the rear.

High performance is fine, but you also want a gas-powered RC car that looks the part. The eye-catching design and bright, standout colors of this angry tiger are striking.

The 8IGHT’s Other Standout Features

This buggy’s 4mm T-6 aluminum chassis plate is almost double the thickness of the previous pick. The Gen III radio tray also helps to prolong the life of the throttle and steering servo. It’s a superb build that resists wear and tear typically caused by chassis flex. The preset suspension geometry is equal to that used by professionals and thus remains forever constant.

There’s no assembly required with the Losi RTR 1/8 8IGHT 4WD Nitro Buggy. Even so, you do need four extra things before you can race, so be sure to have these ready in time. They include:

  1. Nitromethane fuel of between 20-30%
  2. A nitromethane-approved dispenser
  3. A quality NiMH Charger
  4. Glow Ignite

This gas-powered buggy has heaps of grunt. Its brute force comes from the powerful Dynamite .21 nitro engine. It provides plenty of torque and has an impressive 40+ mph on the stock setup. It’s a great entry-level nitro model for those with experience racing electric powered vehicles.

The Not So Good

It’s another pull start. There’s nothing wrong with pull starts if they fire up the engine after one or two pulls. The pull start also does away with the need to buy a starter box. Most folks still prefer to use electric starts. It’s a minor gripe, but it needs pointing out.

Team Losi’s 1/8 8IGHT 4WD Nitro Buggy RTR is worth every single penny. At the entry-level, though, many users find the price tag a little on the high side. Value yes, but affordable, not really.

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Tech Specs
Scale: 1:8
Dimensions: 25.6 x 15.6 x 9.6″
Product Weight: 13.5 lbs.
Drive system: 4 Wheel Drive
Fuel type: 20-30% Nitromethane
Radio band: Spektrum DX2E 2-Channel
Range: Not specified
Battery: Dynamite NiMH Battery 6V 1600mAh Reciever Pack 3+2 Hump
Running time: Not specified
The Pros
Metal-gear transmission & sealed differentials
Effective center and rear dogbones
Eye-catching design
Gen III radio tray helps to prolong servo life
Pre-set suspension
Dynamite .21 nitro engine
Race-proven durability
4mm T-6 aluminum chassis plate
15mm oil-filled shocks (adjustable)
Spektrum™ waterproof metal-gear servos
The Cons
Pull start
Hight price at entry level

#3 Traxxas 53097 Revo 3.3 4WD Nitro-Powered

Traxxas 53097 Revo 3.3 4WD Nitro-PoweredView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.7/5.0

The Revo 3.3 Nitro Monster Truck is my top pick. It has a bunch of impressive features at first glance. The most noticeable is its wider, high-riding stance that provides the ultimate in monster fun.

  • Best feature 1: Traxxas Stability Management® (TSM)
  • Best feature 2: Telemetry Sensors
  • Plus points: Large size, fast, durable, versatile, Ready-To-Race (RTR), suspension System
  • Minus points: Price tag

This is a nitro-powered monster truck and not a racing car per se. It’s more about torque than top speed. Despite this, there are claims that it can reach an incredible 45mph with the right setup. It certainly excels in areas of performance, durability, and fine-tuning. You must witness the versatility to size ratio to believe it. Those who buy one of these beauties are unlikely to regret their decision.

Controlling the Beast

The Traxxas Stability Management TSM® gives users plenty of confident control. With TSM you get to experience the full power, acceleration, and top speeds the beast has to offer. You can push the truck to its limits without losing control on rough terrains, including loose or wet surfaces.

The Revo 3.3’s electronic control is another cool safety feature. It prevents users from accidentally shifting into reverse at high speeds. Operators love the truck’s pre-installed telemetry sensors. The sensors provide invaluable real-time data like temperature, battery voltage, speed, and RPM. It’s a tough nitro truck all right, built to handle tough conditions and survive the knocks drivers expose it to.

Fine-Tuning the Revo

The Revo is renowned for its innovative and distinctive suspension design and here’s why:

  • Delivers the greatest suspension travel of all current monster trucks
  • Constantly varies spring force and damping to coordinate suspension movements
  • Suspension is light yet responsive over smaller, bumpy surfaces
  • Increase spring force and the shock’s damping over larger jumps rocky terrain
  • Independently fine-tune height, progressive rate, and damping to match conditions

In short, the Traxxas Revo 3.3 4WD nitro truck has unrivaled handling for all extremes. It’s the fastest, lightest, and the most versatile monster Revo to date. It’s why RC enthusiasts are mad about it.

The Not So Good

Seriously, there aren’t many gripes at all, though users may come across a few issuers later. Finding shared complaints is impossible. At around $600 it’s not cheap and an obstacle for some. The price puts it out of the reach of many entry-level users who would love to own one. But for those who can afford it, well, the price tag is more than justified.

amazon

Tech Specs
Scale: 1:10
Dimensions: 20.65 x 17.5 x 11.02″
Product Weight: 3.76 lbs.
Drive system: 4 Wheel Drive
Fuel type: Nitro
Radio band: TQi 2.4GHz System
Range: Not specified
Battery: NiMH receiver pack and EZ-start battery; 4 x AA for transmitter
The Pros
Innovative design, feature-packed
Ready-To-Race (RTR)
Fast, powerful TRX 3.3 Racing Engine
Traxxas Stability Management®
Telemetry Sensors
Large size
Fast, durable, versatile
Unique suspension design
The Cons
Overpriced at the entry level

#4 Redcat Racing Tornado S30 Buggy

Redcat Racing Tornado S30 BuggyView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5.0

Just look at this thing. The Redcat Tornado S30 4WD nitro buggy is so souped up it seems unnatural standing still. This gorgeous 1/10 scale model has a lot to offer so let’s take a closer look.

  • Best feature 1: Powerful 3.0cc.18 SH nitro engine
  • Best feature 2: Two-speed transmission
  • Plus points: Racy sound, strong aluminum chassis, oil- filled aluminum bodied shocks, price
  • Minus points: No hobby shop support for spares (only online), parts may break

This fast, off-road racer should reach 35+ mph with its powerful 3.0cc.18 SH nitro engine. You could probably add another 10 mph with modifications. The 2-speed transmission gives plenty of low-end torque. You get lots of control, though you may not always see this beast with the debris it kicks up. And the finely tuned aluminum exhaust pipe lets out a racy roar that adds to the enjoyment.

The build of the Tornado S30 uses plenty of blue anodized aluminum parts. These include tunable oil-filled coil over shocks, a 2.5mm chassis, race adjustable shock towers, and a heat sink.

The Not So Good

It’s a great entry-level nitro RC racing car for the money. One of the problems is getting spare parts as there’s no hobby shop support. That means you can only order online only. This brings me to the next point. This car is fast and handles well, but you will crash it at times, and you will need replacement parts. It’s not quite as tough as it looks despite its aluminum parts.

amazon

Tech Specs
Scale: 1:10
Dimensions: 15.8 x 10 x 6.5″
Product Weight: 7.1 lbs.
Drive system: 4 Wheel Drive
Fuel type: Nitro
Radio band: 2.4GHz
Range: Not specified
Battery: AA size (car and remote)
Running time: Not specified
The Pros
Powerful 3.0cc.18 SH nitro engine
Two-speed transmission
Racy sound exhaust
Sturdy aluminum chassis
Oil- filled aluminum bodied shocks
Two color designs to choose from
Affordable price
The Cons
No hobby shop support for spares, only online
Parts break; not quite as tough as it appears

#5 Redcat Racing Earthquake 3.5 Monster Truck

Redcat Racing Earthquake 3.5 Monster TruckView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5.0

At number five is another gas-powered RC car by Redcat. This one’s the Racing Earthquake 3.5 Monster Truck with a powerful 3.5cc nitro engine to drive it forward.

  • Best feature 1: Powerful 3.5 cc nitro engine
  • Best feature 2: Incredible top speed
  • Plus points: Composite disc brakes, front/rear sealed differential, 2-speed transmission
  • Minus points: Needs skill to run and maintain, pull start not the best

The Redcat Racing Earthquake 3.5 Monster Truck borders on a semi-truck. It’s part of Redcat’s ultra-light performing RC series. It’s a model for the tinkerer, which means an interest in checks and maintenance as well as driving. Skip this review if you’re only into the latter. The 50+ mph and incredible acceleration are sure to put this baby onto the shortlist if speed’s your thing.

It has an impressive construction too. There are the excellent composite disc brakes, the sealed front & rear differential, and a highly responsive 2-speed transmission.

The Not So Good

Most of the complaints come from people who bought this truck before they were ready for it. It’s not an ideal nitro RC vehicle for the newbie. It’s one of those bigger models that needs a little TLC, regular maintenance, diagnosis, and tweaking. You won’t enjoy this model unless you love tinkering.

A more legitimate complaint is the pull start mechanism. It’s the main gripe from users who say it’s awkward, easy to break, and hard work. A power starter upgrade is the best way around this.

amazon

Tech Specs
Scale: 1:8
Dimensions: 20 x 15 x 10″
Product Weight: 10 lbs.
Drive system: 4 Wheel Drive
Fuel type: Nitro 20%
Radio band: 2.4GHz
Battery: 12 x AA; 4 for the care, 8 for the transmitter
Running time: Approx. 30 minutes
The Pros
Powerful 3.5 cc nitro engine
Incredible top speed
Capable for road and off-road
Durable build
Composite disc brakes
Front/rear sealed differential
2-speed transmission
Decent running time
Well-priced
The Cons
Needs skill to run & maintain
Pull start not the best

#6 Traxxas T-Maxx 4WD Monster Truck

Traxxas T-Maxx 4WD Monster TruckView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5.0

The T-Maxx 2.5 is another fast, high-quality 4WD monster truck. The Traxxas TRX 2.5 Racing Engine pushes this beast to speeds that exceed 40 mph. It’s also a Ready-T-Run (RTR) package, which means it’s almost set to go out of its box.

  • Best feature 1: Strengthened parts
  • Best feature 2: Traxxas TRX 2.5 racing engine
  • Plus points: Striking body graphics, heavy-duty chassis, electric starting, DVD tutorial
  • Minus points: Screws can be loose, no opti-drive

This monster truck guarantees to provide lots of fun at any level. There are a bunch of enhancements on the previous version like the newly strengthened parts. These include differential housings, front and rear bulkheads, and the new engine mount. The adjustable body-mounts are also an improvement on the predecessor. It wheelies, launches off jumps and glides over raised curbs without effort.

Other Standout Features of the T-Maxx 2.5

Starting this gas-powered model is a breeze thanks to its electric push-button EZ-Start. A lot of these models are pull-start which is less popular than the easier electric starters.

The factory presets the truck for maximum ground clearance. Its heavy-duty 3mm blue-anodized chassis takes the pounding away from challenging terrains. The way a nitro-powered truck looks is also a main selling point. Well, the T-Maxx 4WD Monster Truck is a handsome brute with striking, eye-catching body graphics. Here are a few of the model’s other standout features:

  • TQ-3 2.4GHz 3-channel radio system
  • Pre-glued 3.8-inch Maxx Chevron tires
  • Upper shock mounts (3 mounting positions)
  • Auto 2-speed shifting (forward & reverse)
  • 8 x adjustable oil-filled ultra-shocks
  • Over 3.5” suspension travel
  • 4-wheel disc braking
  • 28 precision ball bearings
  • 5mm long-lasting precision turnbuckles
  • Pre-set fuel mixtures

There’s a lot to discover with this high-quality nitro truck. It’s not difficult to control if you take the time to get familiar with the model. There’s an excellent DVD tutorial that comes with it that everyone should watch. Not all users are happy with this new upgraded version though.

The Not So Good

There have been several reviewers complain about loose screws. It’s a good idea to check to make sure all screws are tight before you operate the model. I’d suggest making it part of pre-maintenance checks. Another complaint is the absence of an opti-drive. The previous T-Maxx had one.

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Tech Specs
Scale: 1:10
Dimensions: 19.12 x 16.5 x 10.4″
Product Weight: 10 lbs.
Drive system: 4 Wheel Drive
Fuel type: Nitro
Radio band: 2.4Ghz
Range: Not specified
Battery: 8 x AA
Running time: AVG. 15 minutes
The Pros
Strengthened parts
TRX 2.5 Racing Engine
Striking body graphics
Heavy-duty chassis
Push-button electric starting
DVD tutorial
TQ-3 2.4GHz 3-channel radio
3.8-inch Maxx Chevron tires Auto 2-speed shifting
Adjustable oil-filled ultra-shocks
3.5+” suspension travel
The Cons
Might arrive with loose screws; check them all before use
No opti-drive

#7 HPI Racing 107012 Trophy 3.5 Buggy RTR

HPI Racing 107012 Trophy 3.5 Buggy RTRView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5.0

My last pick is also the most expensive in this guide, but is it worth the money? That depends on whether it delivers everything and more of what you want. Let’s look at what it offers.

  • Best feature 1: Waterproofed parts
  • Best feature 2: Durable aluminum chassis
  • Plus points: Nitro Star F3.5 HPI engine, durable metal oil-filled shocks, high traction tires
  • Minus points: High maintenance, price

The HPI Racing 107012 Trophy 3.5 Buggy is an off-road racer with lots of protection. The battery compartment, servos, and receiver are all waterproofed. You can race anytime, anywhere, and in extreme conditions. Rallycross buggies are the most popular racing class now and continue to grow. The strong aluminum chassis lets you bash and perform air stunts with confidence and conviction.

Wow Features of the 107012 Trophy 3.5 Buggy RTR

There’s plenty more to admire about this Trophy 3.5 Buggy, including:

  • Powerful race-legal Nitro Star F3.5 HPI engine
  • Fast at stock setting, faster with tweaks
  • Ultra-sleek aerodynamic body w/ brand new pain design
  • Front/rear metal rod braces
  • Durable aluminum shock towers
  • Team HB Proto tires w/ large lugs provide high traction
  • Lots of fine-tuning possibilities

These are the most standout features, but there’s plenty more to explore with this rallycross buggy.

The Not So Good

The 107012 Trophy 3.5 1/8 4WD NITRO Rallycross Buggy is not a toy. It’s a car for tinkerers and needs lots of care and maintenance. That’s half the fun if you’re an enthusiast. It’s a headache for those who want a more low-maintenance nitro car though. The other downside is the cost. It’s not cheap so make sure you can justify its price if you’re thinking about it.

amazon

Tech Specs
Scale: 1:8
Dimensions: 20.7 x 12 x 7.2″
Product Weight: 10.6 lbs.
Drive system: 4 Wheel Drive
Fuel type: Nitro
Radio band: 2.4Ghz
Battery: 8 x AA; 4 for transmitter, 4 for receiver pack (all included)
Running time: 30+ minutes
The Pros
Race-legal Nitro Star F3.5 HPI engine
Ultra-sleek aerodynamic body
Lots of fine-tuning possibilities
Waterproofed parts
Hard-wearing aluminum chassis
Durable metal oil-filled shocks
High traction tires
The Cons
Easy to maintain but lots of high-maintenance needed
High price