Radio Control RC Hobby Vehicle Kits

RTR RTF ARR ARF BNF PNP? – The Complete Guide to Radio Control RC Vehicle Kits

The available versions of Radio Control RC Vehicle Kits has changed and evolved over the past 25 years. With the ever-growing and changing RC hobby industry the demand for more complete and higher-quality vehicles and kits is always growing. While some prefer ripping around in their new vehicle 5 minutes after opening a box, some prefer to build it from scratch and have full control over exactly how it is built and what parts are used to do it.

As a result we find ourselves today with many choices and options for RC Vehicle Kits. A long way from the box of parts that required hours or days of assembly before you can even turn it on. The barrier to entry for new RC enthusiasts has never been lower and the popularity of Radio Control Drones and FPV Racing has brought more options recently to consider when buying a kit.

But, before we look at the Available RC Vehicle Kits available today, let’s take a look at how we got here.

The Early Days of Radio Control

In the early days or RC when Tamiya, Kyosho, and AYK vehicles first started appearing in the United States they were all sold as a unassembled kit of parts requiring assembly and the separate purchase of a transmitter, receiver, servos, batteries, and charger. Many parents were not-so-happy the day after Christmas when the task of building their child’s new radio control vehicle kit came in to focus.

If you were one of the lucky kids, like myself, your dad told you, “If you want to drive it, you have to build it”. He then explained he would help me get everything setup on his workbench with tools and place to work and if I needed to come ask him for help. My dad was pretty handy and was skilled with tools, construction, and building most anything. So, I knew together we could do it.

In 3 days working on it every night after dinner and with some help from my dad I had a brand new Tamiya Grasshopper I couldn’t wait to drive! Looking back, it is surprising how much I did on my own. My dad would stop by occasionally and ask if I needed help. He showed me how to solder and guided me when I was lost, but he let “me” build it. That whole experience taught me so much about working with tools, electronics, and driving that it started the life-long hobby of building, driving, flying, and racing RC Cars, Trucks, Drones, FPV Racers, and Airplanes.

Tamiya Grasshopper Kit

The American Invasion

1984 saw the introduction of an American-made Radio Control car kit that the shook the entire overseas RC hobby industry. The introduction of Team Associated’s RC10 2WD Buggy was a revolution in design and performance that helped refine Radio Control vehicles of all types to this day. 

Some of the innovations and features the RC10 introduced include:

  • Heat treated, gold anodized aircraft aluminum chassis tub.
  • Replaceable gold anodized nose (skid) plate.
  • Adjustable wheelbase.
  • High volume hydraulic shocks, double O-Ring sealed, gold anodized.
  • Adjustable, limited-slip ball differential.
  • Servo saver, linkage, and universal servo mounts fit most radios.
  • Quick-change battery- and body-mounting hardware.
  • High-traction pneumatic tires: knobby rears, grooved fronts.
  • High-impact nylon rear rims fit Associated and Tamiya “Holiday” tires.
  • Quick-change knock-off rear hubs are key-locked to the axle.
  • High-impact nylon front wheels.

This single vehicle spawned a whole new segment of the RC hobby industry with the off road RC car racing and competition it inspired. Soon the industry saw an explosion of new companies, products, and innovation. Better batteries were always being released, Electronic Speed Controllers ESC replaced manual resistor-based controllers, and new manufacturers and car kits were being released at rapid rate.

Team Associated RC10

The Kit is Not Enough

In the years following the RC10 release the RC hobby industry was growing in size and popularity and the amount of new companies, manufacturers, parts, hobby shops, and race tracks fueled rapid growth and popularity for the hobby. As more and more adults and children both were getting in to the hobby manufacturers started to offer kits in more complete and ‘easy’ versions. No longer did someone need to spend hours or days building a kit from scratch. You could now buy kits that were partially of even fully assembled.

Traxxas introduced their first Ready-to-Run or RTR Monster Truck in 1999 called the T-Maxx. This vehicle was a nitro-engine powered truck that quickly became one of the best selling RC trucks of all time. The T-Maxx came in a box that included everything needed to get going minus fuel and some AA batteries. The popularity and sales of this truck changed the industry and many other manufacturers started offering pre-assembled and Ready-To-Run vehicles of their own.

Traxxas TMaxx RTR

Today We Shall Have it All

As the industry continued to grow and evolve kits starting showing up in various forms of completeness to suit everyone from the people who wanted the ease of Ready-to-Run to those who wanted to build it entirely and pick every last part and screw that was used. With this growth in the amount of kit options available we started seeing different words and phrases used to market these options.

Including everything from Ready-to-Run RTR all way back to the unassembled kits of the early days, the terminology used to describe the different versions of RC Vehicle Kits today can be confusing and not entirely clear on their definition. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used terms and try to define them to understand how much work and how many extra parts will be needed for assembly and operation.

RC Car Truck Boat Rock Crawler Kits

RTR – Ready-to-Run

These kits come fully assembled and everything needed to operate is included. They have been setup and tested and require minimal steps before operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Ready-to-Run (RTR) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)
  • *Optional – Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type

ARR – Almost Ready-to-Run

These kits come partially assembled and everything is included except for electronics. They have been assembled and require the electronics (not included) to be installed, setup, and configured before flying. Make sure to check the number of channels and features required for vehicle operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Almost Ready-to-Run (ARR) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • Transmitter – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Receiver – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Servos – Check kit requirements for number of servos, size, and ratings
  • Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Electric Motor or Nitro/Gasoline Engine – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Battery – Check kit requirements for size and ratings
  • Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)

RC Airplane Drone FPV Helicopter Kits

RTF – Ready-to-Fly

These kits come fully assembled and everything needed to operate is included. They have been setup and tested and require minimal steps before operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Ready-to-Fly (RTF) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)
  • *Optional – Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type

ARF – Almost Ready-to-Fly

These kits come partially assembled and everything is included except for electronics. They have been assembled and require the electronics (not included) to be installed, setup, and configured before flying. Make sure to check the number of channels and features required for vehicle operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Almost Ready-to-Fly (ARF) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • Transmitter – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Receiver – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Servos – Check kit requirements for number of servos, size, and ratings
  • Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Electric Motor or Nitro/Gasoline Engine – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Battery – Check kit requirements for size and ratings
  • Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)

BNF – Bind-n-Fly

These kits come fully assembled and everything is included except for the transmitter. They have been assembled and tested and require a transmitter (not included) to be setup and configured before flying. Make sure to check the number of channels and features required for vehicle operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Bind-n-Fly (BNF) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • Transmitter – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)
  • *Optional – Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type

PNP – Plug-n-Play

These kits come mostly assembled and everything is included except for the transmitter and receiver. They have been assembled and tested and require a transmitter and receiver (not included) to be installed, setup, and configured before flying. Make sure to check the number of channels and features required for vehicle operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Plug-n-Play (PNP) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • Transmitter – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Receiver – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)
  • *Optional – Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type

The Other Options

The options available for Radio Control RC Vehicle Kits above are the most commonly used. However, you will find some other terms used which will vary somewhat but let’s take a shot at defining them in the same terms as above.

ARF Plus – Almost Ready-to-Fly Plus

These kits come partially assembled with servos included and without the rest of the electronics. They have been assembled and require the electronics (not included) to be installed, setup, and configured before flying. Make sure to check the number of channels and features required for vehicle operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Almost Ready-to-Fly PLUS (ARF+) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • Transmitter – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Receiver – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Electric Motor or Nitro/Gasoline Engine – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Battery – Check kit requirements for size and ratings
  • Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)

ARF Bundle – Almost Ready-to-Fly Bundle

These kits come partially assembled with electronic speed controller (ESC), engine/motor, and servos included. They have been assembled and require the transmitter and receiver (not included) to be installed, setup, and configured before flying. Make sure to check the number of channels and features required for vehicle operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Almost Ready-to-Fly Bundle (ARFB) kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • Transmitter – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Receiver – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Battery – Check kit requirements for size and ratings
  • Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)

Unassembled – Kit

These kits come requiring complete assembly and everything needed for operation will be required. These kits include the parts required to build the basic vehicle. They do not include electronics, engines/motors, batteries, or parts required for operation. Make sure to check the number of channels, parts, and equipment required for vehicle operation.

Items which may be needed when purchasing a Unassembled kit:

  • AA Batteries
  • Nitro Fuel or Gasoline (For gas-powered vehicles)
  • Transmitter – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Receiver – Check kit requirements for channels and features
  • Servos – Check kit requirements for number of servos, size, and ratings
  • Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Electric Motor or Nitro/Gasoline Engine – Check kit requirements for size and power
  • Battery – Check kit requirements for size and ratings
  • Battery Charger – Check kit requirement for battery size and type
  • *Optional – Transmitter and/or Receiver battery pack
  • *Optional – Extra Battery Pack(s)

We Like Options

With the evolution of the available Radio Control RC Vehicle Kit options there is now a version for every type of RC enthusiast. From the kid bashing around the neighborhood, to the guy looking to start his new Camera Drone business. The number of available RC Vehicle Kits provides plenty of options for finding the right level of assembly and customization for everyone.

How do you like your kit?

1/5 Ready to Run RTR

 

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