This article is a little less bot-like and little more for the hobbyists out there. We’ve got all the best slot car set options to add to your collection this year. It’s great to live in an age when the ‘frivolous’ fun of youth gets retooled and upgraded. Many things that were thought of as toys are now series machines that support careers. Slot car racing might not quite be useful as a job, but it certainly has come a long way.
Slot cars provide the thrill of participating in a competition based on control and instinct. The feeling of hard-fought victory may explain some of slot car racings remarkable history and growth. Today the best slot car set combines the simple pleasures of old with new levels of realism. Branded sets give a glimpse into car culture and the world of racing.
Whether you are starting as a beginner or developing a collection as an enthusiast, slot cars have a lot to offer.
Best Slot Car Set Features
Ask an expert what makes the best of anything and they’ll start spitting jargon and fuzzy metrics at you. They’re not dodging the question, they just happen to need to answer it with the knowledge you might not have. Armed with this information, we’ll highlight a few of the best sets currently on the market, much as we’ve done with electric trains.
Brands of slot car racing sets matter. In part, the brand offers a window into the rich history of the hobby. More importantly, it tells you something about the compatibility of products. In a wise move, each company ensures that sets within a certain timeframe work together. This means you can start with a brand and continue to purchase new sets without fear your new pieces will no longer be compatible with the old sets.
The top brands currently offering slot car excitement include:
- and Scalextric
Scalextric and Carrera lead the market in terms of sales, branded deals, and history.
Controls come in digital and analog formats. Some companies even use smartphone apps as controllers.
- Analog controls connect to the track and set the power fed to a specific lane. These controllers use a pressure switch to regulate power and go back to the start of slot car racing.
- Digital controls are newer and provide more options, overall. These control specific cars. With these options for track changes and more competitive elements became possible. Digital controllers also free up internal components, since these are on the car and not the track. This allows sets to support four to six cars instead of the standard two.
Tracks and Customization
As we just touched on, tracks come in 2, 4, or 6 car configurations. Tracks no longer conform to simple ovals and eights but can be built out to cover dramatic shapes and recreations of real-world courses. Components such as pit areas, risers, and different slopes for corners all increase the excitement and the skill level of slot car racing. Amazing features such as loop da loops and lane switching panels add to the danger.
Also taking a page from model trains, slot car sets provide even more entertainment when dolled up. Combine accessories and miniatures to create a facsimile of the real world.
The most advanced sets leave space for a monitor, tablet, or smartphone to be used as a digital scoreboard. These display number of laps, lap times, and other information. Pace cars and AI controlled opponents provide ways of improving skills. Pit areas go from fun visual additions to necessary tools when you add in fuel limits (power limits) to the cars.
Tire wear, car damage, and incidents programmed into the race bring up the realism.
Having a lot of customization and parts comes with a hit to durability. Cars, now heavier and laden with internal control mechanisms (for digital controllers) become easier to break. They also go up in price to replace. The track edges fit together snuggly to prevent lines and grooves which could trip up a speeding car. This makes them easier to put together than pull apart. When pulling apart a track, the edges need to be pristine or it will interrupt power flow.
Power bases work double duty in the best slot car racing sets. They provide power to the track and/or cars but also manage elements of the race program. A power base can be configured to provide power to the 2, 4, or 6 cars and also for which control scheme is preferred. In this way, the power base is essentially the computer running the rest of the track.
Slot cars retain a surprising level of backward compatibility even with the new technology. Not the most key reason collections of vintage models grow in popularity and price, but it is worth consideration. Adjustments kits for tweaking the tires, weight of the car, and the connection to the track all provide more nuance to a race. While track pieces stay compatible only within a specific brand, cars can be widely used across different sets.
Finally, third-party accessories (a staple in hobbyist circles) give more options in the aftermarket. PC controllers simulate realistic racetrack options and run from a computer. AI-programmed cars find their ways into shops.
10 Best Slot Car Set Picks
Now that you have a grasp of the ins and outs of the hobby, we’ll look at some great picks for getting started in slot car racing.
Best Slot Car Set for Kids
This set from the Go!!! line makes an excellent starter set for kids. The 1:43 scale is compatible with Carrera’s Digital 143 hobbyist line but geared for children. They will love the character representations and the easy-to-learn analog controls. The set features a lap counter, three difficulty modes, and a loop. Prices are reasonable and the durability will hold up to some aggressive usage from the eight and up crowd.
Best Slot Car Track
The use of the word ‘giant’ on the box actually undersells this amazing 62.5-foot track. A combination of risers, curves, and overlaps let you really push the endurance of a race. A digital lap counter and three difficulty modes provide a way to throttle up the difficulty. The cars and track will break under rough handling but can survive some rough and tumble starts. Controls can get set to digital or analog.
You get a lot in the box but the drawback of this system is its lack of major compatibility as it’s not provided by one of the frontrunner companies. This is one of the best slot car track to buy because of it’s size for the price.
Best Slot Car Set for the Money
This middle tier (in size and difficulty) product from Carrera features 1:25 scale cars and tracks. The smaller cars make the track look long and winding without taking up too much space. This size also allows for more reaction time and skill improvement in comparison to the 1:34 line.
The included Mustang GT and Shelby Cobra cars are fun. They have great detail and identical performance. It’s a shame that the cars don’t have different handling or speeds. Carrera’s track kit comes with risers and a combination of cure grades to create some solid skill-building tracks. The guard rails protect most of the track so you will have few problems will fly-offs.
Best Slot Car Set for Beginners
Geared for children but with compatibility to other 1:32 Scalextric products, comes the Fast and Furious set. The cars have a bit of bulk in comparison to some other slot car products. This provides them with some needed heft when going over the signature jump of this set.
The track provides some incredible competitive features usually found in larger sets. Aside from the jump, the set includes a crossover section and a sideswipe area. This narrowing of the track can allow one car to shove the other off the track to devastating effect.
Finally, the set comes with analog controls but has a digital plug ready to upgrade or if you want to use the cars elsewhere.
This set brings a little more gimmick than performance over other top sets. The track is made of a durable light absorbing material that glows in the dark. Kids will love watching the cars zipping through the near total darkness on a futuristic glowing roadway. The cars and the track are extremely durable and even a bit rubbery over other sets.
The controls are analog only and a bit heavy on the battery power. The set itself uses batteries instead of an adapter setup. The 46 feet of track store well and come apart without the usual concern for edges as the power is in the cars via the controller chargers. A good beginner set if rough-playing children is a concern for more delicate products.
Another in the line of big boxes loaded with some competent and durable beginners equipment. The 1:43 scale of the track and cars are perfect for many Carrerra products but won’t necessarily be compatible.
Analog controls and hard to break cars make it easy to deal with the ostentatious track. LEDs installed under the tracks or on the loop configurations add some spectacular color. This set only has two-speed modes. The jump between the two can be a bit much for smaller children. Watch out for that frustration when swapping modes!
Best Digital Slot Car Set
The track only allows for a simple oval without purchasing more track. But with the track at 1:43 scale, this can be easy to find. For those looking to supply a larger competitive experience, this set comes with four cars and controllers. The cars use dynamic racing technology to allow them to jump slots on the track and move back and forth across lanes easily. This creates a heated competitive experience.
The durability of the track and cars is surprisingly high with all the grooves in the track.
Another from the kid-friendly Go!!! line but with some added pizazz. The 1:43 scale cars have a lot of detail from the stock car world with branding and logos galore. The track features loops, banked turns, and a 70-degree raised bank. The lower speed is just enough to keep the cars on the track across the more dynamic features.
The set comes with spacers for the controllers that work as throttle limiters. This makes changing speed settings even more intuitive. The excitement kicks in when you go to the intermediate or advanced settings. Controls are analog with digital ready options.
Best Slot Car Race Track
This simple entry in the best slot car track to buy list builds skill like no other. The track has a few turns and weaves but no frills. The controllers are where the real dynamic action lies. The controllers are digital and come with power selector for on the fly adjustments. Similar to changing gears, you can also swap the power levels on the fly. Most sets require the levels to be set through the power supply between races.
At 1:32 scale it is compatible with other Scalextric products even those in the ARC line. The cars have beautiful and intricate detailing and run like a dream.
Best Slot Car Set for Enthusiasts
For the serious enthusiast looking to get started in the digital control and competition world comes the Platinum GT. The set comes with four cars and supports up to six.The provided cars accurately simulate high-end vehicles from several manufacturers. Feel the power of a Mercedes, BMW, Aston Martin, or Porsche. A tablet app and stand provide a scoreboard.
As a starter for the ARC Pro line, this also gets you a toehold which can be expanded by adding more track. It already has a stellar set of features built in including pit stops, tire wear, lane changing, and even weather. More features can be added with additional programming.