Radio controlled (RC) cars are battery/gas-powered model cars or trucks that can be controlled from a distance using a specialised transmitter or remote. RC cars are powered by various sources. Electric model cars are powered by small but powerful electric motors and have rechargeable cells. There are also brushed or brushless electric motors. Most fuel-powered model cars use glow plug engines, small internal combustion engines fuelled by a special mixture of oil (in most cases a blend of castor oil and synthetic oil).

Electric RC cars are generally considered easier for the novice to work with compared to fuel-powered models RC cars, but can be equally as complex at the higher budget and skill levels.

In both of these categories, both on-road RC cars and off-road RC cars are available. Off-road model cars, which are built with fully functional off-road suspensions, and a wide tire selection, can be used on various types of terrain. On-road model cars, with a much less robust suspension, are strictly limited to smooth, paved surfaces.