When I was young I always wanted a grasshopper remote control car. Unfortunately my dad had no real interest in doing things with me lol. So I didn't get my first remote control car until later in life and had to to take a crash course in RC on my own.
Remote control cars are relatively inexpensive and like their real counterparts have a huge aftermarket parts availability to make your car/truck better and faster. This is where a father and son can spend quality time replacing and upgrading parts. Wrenching on an RC car teaches kids basic mechanical skills. Another great thing about RC cars is gearing, different gears provide different speeds and torques. This is great in teaching kids math skills and they really have an interest in it. You can build tracks and ramps, the list is endless.
To help get you started I wanted to share a few things about the hobby.
There are 2 types of RC cars RTR (ready to run) and Kit (un-assembled). RTR is usually the most cost effective option and throughout the vehicles life you will dissemble and upgrade it many of times. Just like drills, RC vehicles are starting to use brush-less motors. And let me say the difference is insane, brush-less motors scream! There is also different radios, some use the digital 2.4ghz band while lower end models use the FM/AM band. Digital will give you the best range and almost glitch free operation.
Batteries come in different variations also, there is Lipo and NIMH. Lipo's pack a major punch and have long run times but cost more. NIMH have been around forever and provide a cost effective power option. There is a host of different chargers, depending on your battery type. Kids really get into the power aspect of the hobby, they need to figure out the different voltages with the different gears to produce a fast vehicle without overheating the battery, motor or the electronic speed control (ESC)
Some models use nitro glow fuel which adds to the realism. They are noisy and produce smoke just like the real thing. But tend to be less reliable than their electric counterparts and are more expensive to maintain.
There are different scales and all sorts of models from 4×4 to tracked vehicles one brand that is a good starter and has lots of vehicles and parts is:
Traxxas: Traxxas is widely known in the hobby and basically invented the RTR. They have the most bang for the buck, are durable, most units are waterproof and parts are available anywhere. It sucks when you get a lesser known brand because there may not be parts at your local hobby shop when you need it and upgrades are not available. Most kits from Traxxas have everything included to get started, including batteries.
Traxxas has everything from trucks, to cars to boats and they are the leader in RC. The Traxxas Slash is a great vehicle to get started in the hobby. It takes a punishment and keeps on ticking and aftermarket upgrade parts are plentiful. Check out Traxxas