Fuel-powered engines allow model cars to reach impressive speeds unmodified. Maximum power is generally achieved at medium to high speeds, and a slightly slower throttle response than electrically powered vehicles is to be expected. Electric motors effectively produces instantaneous torque, where nitro engines, like full-sized gasoline engines, take time for the engine to spool up and for the clutch to engage. Nitro- (and fuel) powered cars may be refuelled and returned to action in a few seconds, as opposed to electrics needing to remove the body shell and battery fasteners to replace a discharged battery. Nitro cars are completely air cooled, and may be run continuously with no need to take breaks for cooling down. Nitro cars tend to be larger than electric cars on average, because affordable high-performance electronics are only generally available in 1:10 scale and smaller. However, scale equivalents do exist in both nitro and electric forms, such as the RC10T4 and the GT2.
Nitro-powered cars operate like full-sized fuel vehicles more than their electric counterparts do. The sound of the engine and design of the drive train are main selling points to nitro enthusiasts. However, their exhaust contains unburned oil, which usually ends up coating the chassis. This, in turn, requires more cleaning than an electric-powered equivalent. Cleaning is usually achieved by the use of compressed air blowers and solvents (such as denatured alcohol). Tuning a fuel-powered vehicle requires learning to maintain optimum performance and fuel economy, and to minimize engine wear and overheating, even in ready-to-run vehicles.
Because of higher stock performance and their ability to be driven for longer periods of time, mechanical wear in nitro vehicles is generally greater than in electric vehicles. In addition, the increased speed and weight of fuel-powered vehicles generally lead to higher speed collisions, causing greater damage to the collided vehicles, and a greater degree of safety concern needs to be taken into account. However, nitro vehicles are more durable due to stronger components to sustain the greater stresses of more power.