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Lifewire / Rebecca Issacs
Unique transmitter features for multiple cars
Can travel across a multitude of terrains
Thin plastic exterior
Some lag in transmissions
The Maisto RC Rock Crawler is a fairly affordable RC car with a powerful engine that can traverse a variety of terrain, has a long-lasting battery, and good range.
Radio-controlled (RC) cars don’t have to be an expensive hobby. While some RC cars may cost upwards of $100, there are actually fairly affordable options for entry-level buyers, like the Maisto RC Rock Crawler. It’s a long-lasting, long-range RC car with the ability to traverse a wide variety of terrain. During testing, we drove it across asphalt, lawns, over curbs, and through the woods. Read on to see how it fared.
Measuring 12.5 by 7.0 by 8.5 inches (LWH) and weighing 2.8 pounds, the Maisto is large, but not so heavy that children can’t carry it. It comes in various bright color options, though you can’t select which one you get on Amazon. The one we received sported a black plastic body with small green stickers and bright yellow wheels. We liked the bright yellows, as it gave a fun flair to the car. The black body, however, left much to be desired, as it was thin, and looked cheap. Fortunately, you do get an anti-collision bumper on the front to protect you from damage.
One thing to note about the design is that the Maisto’s shell locks into the base and engine by using plastic locking clips. If you have a spare shell, you can change out the car exterior, but since it doesn’t come with an extra, you’ll have to see if you can buy one separately. Because the clips are so small, Maisto throws in a couple of extra clips in the box in case you lose them. The battery compartment is easily accessible, being located on the undercarriage of the car.
One of the nice perks is that of the slow pace and heavily treaded tires is that the car almost never loses control.
The car also comes with wiry antennae, which was surprising and seemed outdated compared to other RC cars we’ve tested. The presence of the antennae, unfortunately, didn’t seem to make any significant improvement to range.
The Maisto comes in a plain cardboard box. Locked into place with zip ties and screws, we had to slice the ties with scissors and use a small, four-pronged screwdriver to finish extracting the car. In order to insert the three AAA batteries into the remote, we needed to unscrew a sole screw and pop off the remote’s lid, located at the bottom of the device. It was easy since we had the screwdriver on hand, but fairly time-consuming.
Inserting the six AA batteries into the car is a lot simpler. The undercarriage comes with a clasp which pops open when you push down and turn. Once is open, simply stick the batteries in, close it, and it’s essentially ready to go. The car comes with optional plastic “straws” which serve as antennae stabilizers. You can slip them over the wiry antennae on the car and the remote, keeping both out of the way while driving.
The controls come with three different “stations” labeled A, B, and C. These stations are meant to differentiate between vehicles if other Maisto cars are present. This way, the controls don’t get confused.
We tested out the different channels to see which ones worked with our Maisto RC car. The A and C channels didn’t respond to our controls. We ended up on the B channel. Even then, as the distance grew between the remote and the car, we noticed some lag. Sometimes we would press the forward button and the car just sat there. When we flipped it in reverse, then pressed forward again, it finally spurred into action. While the channel system is clever, we wouldn’t recommend buying multiple of the same types of cars for simplicity’s sake.
That said, the Maisto did well in our testing, both indoors and outdoors. One of the nice perks is that of the slow pace and heavily treaded tires is that the car almost never loses control. It can perform tight turns and move in all directions, which is something you don’t always get on simpler vehicles. That makes a big difference when driving across barriers and objects.
We tested the Maisto over a series of terrains: indoors, over asphalt, sidewalks, grass, and mud. Important to note, the instructions don’t mention waterproofing so we’d advise avoiding puddles. The three engines under the hood gave the RC car enough gusto to push over steep hills, both muddy and grassy. We also took it through leaves, sticks, and over sidewalk curbs. With each obstacle, the car handled like a charm.
Because the car has three engines, after a few days of heavy use, the car’s battery will inevitably give out.
It particularly excelled on rough terrain. When we tested it over bumpy surfaces, we half expected the car to flip. Not so, the car’s articulated suspension in the front and rear glided over bumpy surfaces without issue. Stability-wise, the car is a gem.
As previously mentioned, one place where the Maisto does fall short is range. While it can drive at least a half block, the lag issues caused us not to push it further. We were worried about testing on the street due to the chance a real, life-sized car would come and we wouldn’t be able to move the Maisto out of the way in time.
Because the car has three engines, after a few days of heavy use, the car’s battery will inevitably give out. We ended up having to swap out the batteries somewhat frequently. If you get rechargeable batteries, it isn’t an issue, as you can simply recharge them for a few hours and continue driving the Maisto around. If you don’t, this expense could add up over time. Be sure to turn off the power switch when not using the car since it seems like battery drains even when the car isn’t moving.
At $39.99, the Maisto is a great price for a kid’s car. Adult enthusiasts may not see the benefit in investing in an RC car for this price—especially when there are faster models on the market. However, the simple controls and good terrain handling make the Maisto a good RC car for older adolescents.
We tested the Maisto against the Top Race RC Rock Crawler car to see how the two compared, especially since they hover around the same price. Overall, the Maisto definitely has tighter controls. When turning the car, it was more responsive, despite being larger than the Top Race. Because the center of gravity is higher on the Top Race, it was more prone to flipping, and struggled to get over sidewalk curbs.
However, the Maisto has one big issue the Rock Crawler lacks—lag. The Maisto lags as the distance increases between the remote and the car. The Top Race, by contrast, didn’t have this problem. If you are looking to go distances, we recommend the Top Race. However, if you would prefer to have a smooth drive, the Maisto is a better bet for you.
A decent RC car for older children
With tight controls and a powerful engine, the Maisto RC Rock Crawler is a good choice for older kids. While younger kids may enjoy it, they might also struggle to handle the tight controls. Adults have more powerful options, though the Maisto is worth keeping in mind for its three engines and ability to go over rough terrain.