Every RC hobbyist has their own opinion when asked if they think nitro RC trucks are better than electric RC trucks. In fact, some avid RC truck enthusiasts would argue that while electric trucks are fun, nitro trucks are much more exciting and truly for the RC truck purist.
What’s not to love about a powerful engine, loud exhaust, and nitro fuel, right? For many, the decision of whether to get a nitro truck or an electric truck is a rather easy one.
My Own Prejudices
I was this way for quite some time as I just assumed electric RC trucks were cheaper, toy-like models designed more for kids than an avid enthusiast. Looking back, I realise I was under a bit of a nitro spell where I simply believed nitro RC trucks were more expensive and the “real deal” of the RC world.
I’ve changed my tune since those early days as I’ve learned there are plenty of expensive, high-performance electric trucks with their own advantages on the market as well. So I thought it would be useful to take a closer look at the differences between the two and see if I can shed some further light for you on the question of whether nitro RC trucks really are better than electric RC trucks.
What is a Nitro RC Truck?
Unlike electric RC trucks that are powered by high-performance electric motors (sometimes ‘brushless’ just like you often also find in powerful remote control planes and topline RC cars)and batteries, nitro RC trucks are powered by internal combustion engines that are fueled by nitro methane.
The engines of most nitro RC trucks range in size from .12 to .35 cubic inches. However, there are a number of “outlaw” engines with larger displacements used by non-racers who don’t care about restrictions placed by sanctioning bodies.
While electric trucks spit out instantaneous torque, it most cases it takes time for the engines of nitro RC trucks to wind up and engage the clutch. On the other hand, not only do the batteries of electric trucks run out fairly quickly, but they sometimes overheat with continuous use as well. Nitro trucks are cooled by both the air and oil mixed within the fuel of their two-stroke engines, which when properly tuned and maintained can keep them cooler over the same running times.
Here are some more things to consider when choosing between a nitro RC truck and an electric RC truck:
1. The Advantages of Each Depend on Your Interests
If you’re buying an RC truck to check a box off of your 12-year old son’s Christmas wish list, then you’re obviously going to be interested in a different RC truck than someone who’s out to dominate every race in his region. There are advantages and disadvantages of both types of RC trucks, but the ultimate decision comes down to your individual interests and needs.
2. Nitro RC Trucks Require Tuning
Nitro trucks may let out roaring screams and put the power to the ground as they charge down a straightaway, but they also require constant tuning and cleaning.
In order to maintain fuel economy and peak performance while minimizing engine wear and tear, nitro trucks must be tuned regularly. Running a nitro engine without proper tuning can result in diminished performance and potentially cause substantial engine damage too.
Due to the time and effort needed to constantly tune an RC nitro truck, electric trucks can be viewed as better for anyone who’s not so mechanically inclined. However, if you are into tinkering with your engines, then nitro engines allow you the ability to fine-tune them to run just right in any environment.
The Team Associated 20501 1/8 MGT 4.60 Special Edition RTR is a fine example of a nitro RC truck that comes ready to race right out of the box, but requires a little tuning to get it ripping up the dirt to its full potential.
3. Nitro Trucks Can Be Refueled Really Quick!
Nitro-fueled RC trucks can easily be refueled and back out tearing up the terrain in a matter of seconds. Electric RC trucks, on the other hand, require much more time when the battery needs to be replaced.
For instance, you have to remove the truck’s body shell as well as the battery fasteners to replace the battery every time it runs out of juice. This may seem like no big deal, but since most electric trucks only run for approximately 10 minutes per charge, the time spent replacing batteries can certainly become a drag.
Since refueling is a quick and easy process for virtually all nitro trucks compared to the time and effort it takes to swap out old batteries for fresh ones on an electric truck, the length of each session with a nitro truck is only dependent on whether or not you damage the truck in a crash or run out of fuel!
Best of all, many nitro trucks, such as the Traxxas RTR 1/10 Monster T-Maxx 3.3 4WD 2.4GHz, can run for 20 minutes or more before needing to come in for a refill.
4. Nitro Trucks Sound Like the Real Deal
While the invigorating engine noise of nitro trucks is often one of their main selling points, your suburban neighbors may not like you if you break out your favorite toy in the backyard on a regular basis.
Electric RC trucks like the HPI Racing 105502 Mini Recon 2.4 RTR Truck, however, make substantially less noise. If that wasn’t enough, its brushless motor also makes it faster than many nitro models. Electric trucks are also able to be run inside, which is something no nitro truck owner would ever recommend.
5. Nitro Trucks Require Frequent Cleaning and Maintenance
Thanks to their ability to be driven for much longer sessions and the fact that they burn fuel, nitro trucks suffer more mechanical wear and tear. Needless to say, longer sessions also means more dirt and mud usually needs to be cleaned off as well.
When owning a nitro truck you must be prepared to clean the air filter and chassis, replace old and worn out clutch parts, properly lube key parts, and religiously perform a number of other maintenance-related tasks after each use.
However, with an electric RC truck like the Traxxas 58034 Slash 2WD Short Course Truck with 2.4GHz TQ Radio and Battery, there is nowhere near the same amount of essential regular motor maintenance required and considerably less to clean up after every fun session.
6. Electric RC Trucks are More Kid-Friendly
When it comes to kids, electric RC trucks are safer as well as much easier to use and maintain than nitro models that require routine engine maintenance and the use of potentially dangerous nitro fuel.
Kid-friendly electric RC trucks like the Maisto R/C Rock Crawler require almost no maintenance and are as durable as they come when kids are concerned.
Just like choosing between other types of RC vehicles, there are advantages to both nitro RC trucks and electric RC trucks. If you want a high-performance machine that will provide extended all-terrain sessions, than a nitro RC truck may be worth investigating. However, if you want a fast, fun, and nearly hassle-free RC truck suitable for all ages, then an electric RC truck may be the better way to go. But most importantly, no matter which way you decide to go, just remember RC trucks are always going to be a great hobby to get stuck into!