The top performers in our review are Pro Boat Recoil, the Gold Award winner; Traxxas Blast, the Silver Award winner; and Aquacraft Miss Seattle, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a remote control boat to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 boats.
For the most part, ponds, streams and other small bodies of water are usually pretty tranquil. Remote control (RC) boats can stir the water up and help make things more interesting. They’re small, speedy and provide entertainment for both kids and adults. They are fun to race or just cruise around with, and you don't have to get wet or step foot in the water to control one. You can drive them in lakes, ponds, slow-flowing rivers or even pools. While they aren't recommend for use in salt water, it is possible; just make sure to rinse the salty residue off afterwards.
Prices vary greatly with RC boats. We evaluated models that cost as little as $40 all the way up to $180. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and types; most are speedboats, others are sailboats and some are intricate models with a high attention to detail. For the sake of consistency, we reviewed RC speedboats, which are by far the most widely used.
Even RC speedboats come in several varieties with different lengths and body styles. Monohulls, probably the most common hull shape, are a type of RC boat that have a deep V-shaped hull. Monohulls are great boats for slicing through the waves and turn well in both directions. They are able to handle rougher water, like fast-moving streams or choppy lake waters, and are typically faster than boats with other hull styles.
Another type, hydroplanes, are RC boats that have a large surface area. They're powerful and ride on a cushion of air. Although this floating effect looks cool, hydroplanes are more likely to crash or blow over. Hydroplanes work best on smooth water, and they struggle making left turns.
Catamarans are very similar to monohulls, but their sponsons, those projections that extend from the sides of the boat that provide added stability, run the full length of the boat. They too are at a high risk of flipping like hydroplanes, but they have great handling and easily make turns.
Several RC boats are ready to run right out of the box; just make sure the batteries are included, too. Many manufacturers claim that their RCs are ready to run, even when they don't include batteries for the boat or its transmitter. Some boats are suited more toward hobbyists and require additional assembly or the purchase of separate parts like a radio, which pairs the transmitter to your boat. Other people get RC boats strictly for collecting—you can find replica models of cruise ships, war ships and luxury speedboats, for example.
Selecting an RC boat is largely based on your personal opinion of the boat's appearance. They come in an array of colors, and some even have stickers or decals. Loud colors and decals help distinguish your boat from others and make it easier to spot your boat from a distance.
If you would prefer to control something on land or in the air rather than on the water, check out our reviews of remote control cars, remote control airplanes and remote control helicopters. For additional information, take a look at our articles on remote control boats.
RC boats are more than just toys. As time goes on, they are becoming faster and more powerful. Typically, RC boats are outfitted with a small but mighty brushless motor. Compared to brushed motors, brushless motors typically are more powerful, overheat less, and are more reliable. The boats are powered by either a lithium polymer (LiPo) or a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable battery. LiPo batteries are much lighter, hold more power and offer higher discharge rates. However, they have a shorter life span and are more expensive than NiMH batteries. Another element to keep in mind is battery capacity, which is expressed using milliamp hours (mAh). The higher this number, the longer the battery is designed to last. Generally, RC boats have a run time of around 10 minutes. Battery packs are easy to swap out; we recommend having extra batteries on hand, but they come at an additional cost.
The requirements of a good RC boat are relatively straightforward. It needs to have good battery life, a long range, and it should be easy to use. These are just some of the criteria we took into account when evaluating RC boats. The perfect RC boat, however, depends on the person using it. And faster doesn't always mean better. A good RC boat should have good handling and be a breeze to control. You shouldn't have to spend several minutes assembling the boat, and it should be easy enough for most kids to set up and use.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
We did several runs with the top-selling remote control boats in different settings, including a backyard pool and a local reservoir with water that can be choppy due to wind and waves from boats and Jet Skis. When driving the boats, we took into consideration run time and speed. To test speed, we relied on a radar gun. Most boats reach a top speed around 20 mph. A high-performance RC boat should be able to handle a few waves here and there, but a speedier boat doesn't always result in more fun. It can be frustrating when you flip your boat, just because you are going too fast. Smaller boats that can zip through the water and turn quickly are a hoot. Watching them do flips on the water is extremely entertaining. Some even submarine and nosedive quickly in the water and then resurface. Many are self-righting so that if they tip, you can push a button on the receiver and the boat rights itself. We also tested the boats' durability by crashing them into one another, as well as into the cement wall of a pool.
You shouldn't have to worry about your battery dying after only a couple minutes. The type of battery required by your RC boat helps determine how the boat performs. The amount of wind and your driving style also affect battery life. Fortunately, most RC boat batteries are rechargeable, so you won't have to keep putting money into your boat. However, since most RC boats have short battery lifespans, we recommend purchasing multiple battery packs to extend your runs.
Accessories & Supplies
You need to pay attention to whether or not the manufacturer has included all the parts needed to operate your new remote control boat. This consists of the transmitter, batteries for both your boat and the transmitter, a charger for the boat battery, propellers and a stand. Several RC boats are ready to run right out of the box. However, a few do not include a transmitter or batteries. Some manufactures go the extra mile and include a stand to display your boat when it isn't in use, decals to customize your boat or some extra propellers.
You also want to purchase hatch tape, or water-resistant adhesive tape that seals the hatch to your RC boat. The hatch is a boat's equivalent to the hood of a car. The tape is designed to keep water out of your boat for one run at a time. If too much water seeps in, the boat runs much slower and is at higher risk of capsizing. Typically, hatch tape is about an inch wide and a roll costs less than ten dollars. Very few manufacturers include hatch tape with their remote control boats.
A lot can go wrong while boating: You can crash, get the boat's inner components wet or damage its parts. Unfortunately, most manufacturer warranties don't cover accidental damage or crashes. A warranty is still good to have though, and help isn't out of reach.
Many manufacturers sell replacement parts, which can potentially fix the problem. Warranties eliminate the worry of problems like a propeller or rudder malfunctioning. We looked for RC boats backed by a warranty. Most boats only have a warranty of 90 days, but some last up to two years. You should also be able to easily reach the manufacturer by telephone or email in the event of any questions or problems. In addition to a decent warranty period and strong support, you should be able to download a user manual in the event your original is misplaced.
We also looked for products with social media pages and online forums, which make it possible to see how others rate their overall experience with their RC boat. Forums are also great way to troubleshoot boat problems. Lastly, many manufacturers include some YouTube videos of the boats in action, which is extremely helpful when selecting the perfect boat for you or a child.
Three remote control boats – the Pro Boat Recoil, our Gold Award winner; the Traxxas Blast, our Silver Award Winner; and the Aquacraft Miss Seattle, our Bronze Award Winner – stood out from the other RC boats.
They offer boatloads of fun, are simple to control and can zip through the water fast. Besides that, they provide outstanding maneuverability and are easy to set up. Like other RC boats, their battery lives are by no means long – averaging a little more than 10 minutes – but our three award winners are each outfitted with powerful motors and can reach speeds up to 25 mph while still giving you precise control and maneuverability. They each sport sleek and stylish designs while still providing you with customization options if you like.
The UDI RC Power Venom also deserves some recognition. It's a fast and fun RC boat that is a great value. It is small but speedy and has a nifty self-righting feature where it can flip itself over if it gets stuck upside down.
The top three boats are durable enough to handle some crashes, whether they are with another boat or the wall of your pool. You also can have peace of mind knowing that most of these boats have batteries, and all of them include a transmitter. Lastly, if your boat malfunctions, you can be confident that you can get the support you need, or find the required replacement parts to get your boat up and running again, since they all include a warranty.