If you are shopping for an RC plane on a budget, it can be tough to figure out where you want to spend your money. You want to make you don’t spend your money on piece of junk, or on something that isn’t really what you want.
How exactly do you go about finding the right plane though? Heck, you can spend anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars on a plane. You’ve probably even seen some $25 planes at Walmart. What are the real differences?
Basically, the difference comes down to what the plane has to offer. You can get lots of good beginner to intermediate planes at the lower prices, but as you get into the higher performance machines they will start costing more.
One important thing to keep in mind is the type of motor your plane will have. If it is electric, your ongoing costs should be fairly minimal besides repairing any damage to the plane. On the other hand, if it has a nitro motor you will probably have more ongoing cost for fuel and upkeep.
In the end, we just want to make sure we don’t spend money on poor quality plane, and we want to make sure we don’t buy one plane when we could have gotten a better one for the same amount of money.
In my list below, I’ve broken my selections out by price range (under 100, under 200, etc.). That way, you should be able to find a quality plane for your budget no matter what size it might be. Even if you don’t choose one of these planes, I hope you get the best plane you can for the money you have to spend.
Keep checking back from time to time, as I intend to grow this into a fairly thorough guide to cover all budgets both small and large.
Best Option Under $100, and Best Plane For Absolute Beginner: HobbyZone Champ RTF
The Champ RC plane is the perfect choice for beginners to the world of RC planes. It is easily the best rc plane under 100 dollars. You won’t empty your wallet on your first flying attempt. That means you’ll have no fear of wasting money if it turns out that flying RC planes isn’t the hobby for you. Most likely, though, you’ll enjoy the Champ so much that it will become your new favorite hobby.
This beginner plane has everything you need to get started. It is electric powered and comes equipped with a 3.7V iS 150mAH LiPo battery in the plane. The battery lasts a long time without needing to constantly change or charge it. It has a 4000 foot range. That means the plane will read the transceiver even at that distance. You can fly this plane in an open field or in your small backyard.
The best thing about the Champ plane is how easy it is fly. Even if you’ve never tried an RC plane before, you’ll be able to get this one into the sky and doing loops within minutes. It was designed with beginners in mind, but also takes into consideration the future when you want to try something more professional. The Champ uses Spektrum DSM2 technology. That’s the same technology used by the pros. It guarantees a strong connection between the transceiver and the plane without frequency interruptions. Working with this technology at the beginning of your RC adventures means you’ll be used to it when you upgrade your plane.
The construction of the Champ RC has some pros and cons. It is made of durable foam that makes it lightweight. The foam protects the plane from crashes. It will bounce off hard surfaces instead of shattering. The foam also makes the plane lightweight, which is good for getting it off the ground easy, but difficult to control in wind. Only fly the plane on windless days or indoor.
If you want to try your hand at RC flying, then give this Champ a try. You’ll soon be hooked on the hobby and become a pro in no time.
Here’s great challenge video showing just how great this plane is for beginners:
Best Option Under $200: ParkZone 6880 Sport Cub BNF
As an RC plane enthusiast I love the classic look of the new ParkZone 6880 Sport Cub BNF. I grew up seeing Super Cub planes fly around my hometown, and I’ve always admired the way its aerodynamic shape and simple design guaranteed a smooth ride. True to form, the 6880 Sport Cub BNF is a lightweight, durable flyer with tight, responsive controls, which is forgiving and flyable in basically any environment.
This sweet little plane is easily one of the best rc planes you can find under $200. It’s made of a special Z-Foam which is durable and lightweight. The plane has big tundra tires in the front so you can launch it basically anywhere, and its forgiving 3-axis sensing means it can deal well with wind.Enthusiastic amateurs are going to love how sporty and easy-to-fly this plane is. More serious hobbyists might want to know about the 480-size, 960Kv outrunner motor that comes pre-installed, The 6880’s cutting-edge vortex generators, and its pre-installed 18A brushless ESC. the Parkzone 6880 Sport Cub BNF is pretty much ready-to-fly out of the box, so long as you can link it up to your favorite transmitter. This plane has a wingspan of 51 inches and measures 34 inches long. It weighs in at 33.3 oz, and, even though it’s recommended for “intermediate’ flyers, I bet it’d be a cinch for a new pilot to figure this one out.
When you take this plane out you will love how smooth the ride is and how easy it is to get up and running. Unboxing and assembly is a piece of cake. Take it out to a local high school or other nice open mowed field, and it launches no problem off the grass. If it is a little breezy, the plane might struggle a little bit during strong gusts, but overall it will fly like a champ.
If you’re looking for the best RC plane under 200 dollars, I’d strongly recommend checking out the ParkZone 6880 Sport Cub BNF for its convenience, ease of use, and tight controls. As an aside, you will love how easy it is to get the included battery in and out. Super user-friendly!
Here’s great video of the Sport Cub in action:
Best Choice Under $300: E-Flite Apprentice S 15e
The E-flite Apprentice RC plane is easily the best rc plane under 300 dollars. It sits smack in the middle between cheaper beginner planes and expensive professional planes. It is the choice for beginners that have every intention of continuing their new hobby. You won’t feel bad about spending $300 on an RC plane because it will last a long time and become your favorite toy.
The E-flite Apprentice comes with everything you need to get started. It has its own strong 3S 3200mAh 20C Li-Po battery that will last for hours of flight time. Once it loses power, simply charge it up with the included DC charger. Beginners will have no trouble getting this plane in the air and landing it on the ground thanks to the nose wheel handling and tricycle landing gear. The foam construction means you won’t worry about crash landing a few times until you get the hang of flying. The plane will bounce back without damage.
Why spend $300 on a plane when you get cheaper beginner planes? The E-flite RC Apprentice is worth the price because it grows with you. It has three difficulty levels that you can change once you’re comfortable. Start with the easiest level. Once you’ve mastered that level then move up to the next one. It’s like having three planes in one, instead of buying a new one each time you improve. This is an incredibly intelligent design that protects the plane and corrects your mistakes. You can reduce the protection as you become more comfortable controlling the plane.
Even with the SAFE technology that protects your plane, you still might worry about messing up and crashing your plane somewhere that will cause damage. Even then, the E-flite Apprentice has the answer. Simply hit the “panic” button on the transceiver and the plane will take over and right itself so it flies level again. This is useful for RC fliers of all levels because you never know when something might go wrong.
The E-flite Apprentice is a large plane with a wingspan of 59 inches. The size does make things a little more complicated for beginners. It is best to learn how to fly this plane with an instructor instead of just taking it outside yourself. It’s size also means you need space to fly it. Only fly this plane in large open fields.
In this video, the guys put it through its paces and test out how effective the “panic” button is (hint: pretty darn effective):
I hope this list will help you decide which option is truly the best RC plane for the money.