Buying Guide : Rock Crawlers

The ultimate choice for a ‘do everything’ remote control car, a crawler is a must-have model for any RC enthusiast. These scale rock crawlers have steadily increased in popularity with big name manufacturers each bringing a fantastic new model to the market. From detailed ‘scale’ models like the Traxxas’ Defender to purpose built, stripped out performance monsters like Axial’s Bomber, there is something for everyone.

 RC Crawlers

What is an RC Crawler and why should I buy one?

RC Crawlers are remotely controlled vehicles designed to scale steep inclines and climb over rocks. They offer a different driving challenge, one centered around control over extreme terrain rather than outright top speed. What they lack in pace they make up for in technical climbing capability. Typically they feature fine acceleration control, brakes that ‘drag’ to enable a steady descent, huge ground clearance with minimal overhangs and of course, grippy tyres. If you love green-laning, rock-crawling or just  accessorising scale models, then picking up an RC Crawler should be a priority.

Previously models have fit into one of two camps. ‘Scale’ models that aim to authentically replicate the full size vehicles they are based on and ‘Performance’ models, alien looking rigs designed from the start with the sole purpose of climbing. This gap has begun to close, now the scale models we focus at stocking are gifted with incredible climbing capabilities. The sectors’ growing popularity has generated a lot of competition resulting in today’s RC Crawlers offering some of the best in both scale detail and chassis design.

Crawlers available for every budget

With RC Crawlers available from just £60, we have models suitable for all budgets:

Entry-level (Under £160)

Entry level models such as BSD Racing’s 1/12th scale Rock Crawler, their larger Monster Rock Crawler and FTX’s Ravine are hobby-grade models but pay lip service to the term ‘Crawler’. Funtek’s Raid looks great but lacks any real capability. Thus if you are on a budget look to FTX for a true crawler. The Outback 2 Ranger features a twin metal rail chassis, mid mounted motor and transmission, metal links and more. Not bothered about a scale appearance? Check out the Mauler with a similar specification but with greater climbing capability.

Basic (£160 to £250)

From here the models performance steps up considerably. FTX’s Outback Fury and the Kanyon are both great basic models. HPI’s Ford Raptor Crawler King offers one of the cheapest branded crawlers going. If you are willing to build a chassis from a kit, consider 3Racing’s EX Real Crawler and the brilliant Carisma SCA-1E crawler kit but note that you will need to provide your own electronics. Looking for something a little different? Check out ECX’s Barage. What it lacks in crawling performance it makes up for with its unique FPV feed

Intermediate (£250 to £400)

Whilst it is true that you get what you pay for, many mid range crawlers can match the high end models for capability. Carisma’s SCA-1E models can be picked up ready-to-run such as the fabulous Classic Range Rover and a Ford F150. From here on out it is worth noting that models lack batteries and chargers, the manufacturers leaving it to the customers personal preferences. 

Overall Axial rule this price point with the Wraith and the Bombe and SCX10ii variants. Our pick would be a model based on that incredible chassis, either the inexpensive Deadbolt, the Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, UMG10, Chevy Blazer, or Honcho bodied variants that cover this entire price bracket.

Advanced £400+

Our top of the range crawlers are not only fantastic at climbing, but they look incredible whilst doing it. Traxxas’ TRX-4 chassis rules the roost, is absurdly capable and available from around £400 as a kit or a RTR pickup with permanently locked diffs for around £400. 

Perhaps due to the legend surrounding the body, the highly detailed Land Rover Defender edition TRX-4 has been by far our most popular crawler sold to date. Available in an array of colours and special edition it features remotely lockable diffs, twin speed transmission, clever portal axles and more. This chassis is also available under a Chevy Blazer body or a Mercedes G500. Traxxas also offer a special edition 6x6 Mercedes G63 available in Black or Silver.

What makes a good RC Crawler?

Let's take a look at the design considerations and the important components to look for when shopping for a high-end RC Crawler.

  • Ground clearance : You need to be up to get over items. Chassis rail design, multi link arms and clever portal axles all help with this.
  • Suspension : Not just long travel but well damped with consistent performance and long droop to ensure contact is kept with the terrain.
  • Waterproof Electronics : A core part of serious off-roading is taking on puddles, rivers and streams, so your electronics need to be prepared for this.
  • Locked/Locking Differentials : Often tackling loose surfaces or climbs with one wheel in the air require a locked diff and switchable units are preferable.
  • Grippy Tyres : Soft compound, deep tread, large sidewalls with foam inserts.

RC Crawlers in action

  • Powerful steering : Strong servos hooked up to balanced linkages that can resist the weight of the vehicle when hung off of a rock, sat on just one wheel.
  • Torquey motor : Commonly brushed units, typically high-turn motors with plenty of torque
  • Gear ratios : Transmissions designed to maximise motor torque and provide low speed control. Twin-speed selectable ones such as that in the TRX-4 are great for trails.
  • Balance : Low centre of gravity and an even weight distribution will help you maintain control.
  • Crawler specific ESC : One with excellent throttle control and a drag brake

RC Crawler spare parts and upgrades

Once hooked, you will want to upgrade your rig. Whether it be to improve its climbing capability or just look cooler on the trails. We are talking offroad specific beadlock wheels and tyres, more powerful motors and revised ESC’s . Beyond that alternate body shells, LED kits for bodies, light bars and much, much more.

RC Geeks - Captivated by Crawlers

Over the past years we have really got into RC crawling in a big way. View our blog for extensive reviews of some of the models listed here. Check our YouTube channel for videos of the crawlers in action and follow us on Instagram to see the latest RC Crawler releases. If you have any questions about RC Crawlers, drop us a message via our contact form.