So you want to buy a slot car set, but aren’t sure which one to buy? Which brand is good, better, or best? Which one is best for kids (even though we know it’s for the parents)? Well, perhaps this article will help you to make that decision. We’ll discuss the things to look for in general that will help you get the most out of your new hobby as well as some detailed things to look for.
While there are many brands out there, the top brands are Carrera, Scalextric, and Ninco. And, of course, everyone has their opinion to which brand is best. I would like to suggest that you take a hard look at Carrera. My first and foremost reason for recommending Carrera is that their customer service is top notch. Though their quality and craftsmanship is impeccable, on that rare occasion when you do have a problem with a product, they are there to help you out. Not only do they work well with you, the consumer, they also support their dealers. Upon making your purchase, knowing that you can get help when you need it speaks volumes in my book.
Now you’re thinking, “Customer service is all good and well, but what about the product? Why should I choose Carrera?” As much as we do not like to admit it, we all shop with our wallets. Meaning that we buy products at the lowest price possible. Usually when you do this, you sacrifice quality. Not so with Carrera. The items in their track sets are extremely well made and durable. When you make a product for the entire family, it better stand up to some rough handling and Carrera has that figured out.
Aside from customer service, quality, and value, what makes Carrera stand out? Here are some things to note and keep in mind while you are shopping.
No Tools Required! You will get everything you need to start racing as soon as you get your new set home. Each set comes complete with the power supply, track, controllers, border, guardrail, and cars. Some sets also come with bridges, banked turns and supports where required. While I won’t cover them here, it’s also worth mentioning that Carrera offers both digital racing sets and wireless controllers. More on that in future articles, so stay tuned. The track pieces go together using a tab-and-slot system as well as clips. The clips help to hold everything in place to ensure that the track gets full power by the way of tight connections between track sections.
Carrera offers the widest track on the market. At 198mm (7.79”), it gives you the width needed to run both 1/32 scale cars and 1/24 scale cars as well. And yes, Carrera makes cars in both scales, something no other home set manufacturer currently does. The downside to this larger track is that the track layouts, or designs, sometimes require more space than other brands. This isn’t and shouldn’t be a deal breaker for you though. With an endless possibility of track designs, you’ll be able to create a track to fit the space you have available. Of course, another positive about plastic track sets, is that you can take them apart and store them away when not in use. Though once you see how much fun it is, you won’t want to put it away!
Carrera also offers track and cars in 1/43 scale, which are larger than HO, but smaller than 1/32. The track uses a smaller footprint allowing a larger race course to be created. Carrera 1/43 is a great way to get started into slot cars as well. All of the great features of the larger track and cars is also made into the 1/43 system and cars. So if space is a real issue or a smaller track is what you are after, look into the 1/43 sets as well. They are just as much fun as the 1/32 and 1/24 race sets and cars, and there are lots of cars to choose from in this scale as well.
A couple of things to note about what makes up each piece of Carrera track; the rails are stainless steel alloy and the track is made from durable ABS plastic, not vinyl. ABS will hold its shape under hot and cold conditions, whereas vinyl based track will warp and twist. The stainless steel rails that help deliver power to the slot cars will not corrode due to its stainless steel content, and while the amount of magnetism is less than other manufacturers because of this, it’s a small sacrifice that should be welcomed knowing you will not have heavy oxidation or rust on your track, which will occur at some point. Also, the less magnetic rail will afford you the opportunity to see more realistic movements and racing from the cars. To see a car slink through the curves and have a challenging yet fun time making it happen is well worth it. The plastic is rigid and provides a nice surface for the cars to race on. It won’t warp and there is no fear of twisting the track and bending the rails that carry the power. The track is yet another check mark in the ‘Yes to Carrera’ column of your shopping list!
The controllers that Carrera makes are called ‘thumb controllers’, meaning that you use your thumb to actuate a ‘button’ on the controller to make the car go. For me, this type of controller is much more comfortable to use than a pistol grip type of controller where you use your index finger to pull a trigger to make the car go. The controller from Carrera fits in your hand comfortably and is light weight so you won’t get tired of holding it.
With each Carrera set, you get two cars that are ready to run. Once your track is setup, look over the guide that comes in the set on preparing the car to run on the track. This guide offers simple tips to allow you to get the most fun out of your racing experience. Part of that fun is that no tools are required for preparing the cars so racing can happen quickly. Speaking of cars, there is what seems like an endless selection. From street cars, to classic and current race cars, there is something that everyone will like. Each car comes with some spare parts that can include braids, mirrors, or guides. Just a nicety that Carrera does to add more value to your purchase. So, add yet another check mark in the ‘Yes to Carrera’ column of your shopping list!
Your final selection, should you choose to make it, should have the name ‘Carrera’ on the package. There is no doubt that the products from Carrera are unrivaled. That’s why they are now the #1 race set brand worldwide! They must be doing something right, and that something is found in the smiles and fun that you’ll have with their products! So pick up a set today, you’ll be glad you did.
Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee