The Best Way to Display Model Cars

One of the perks of building a model car is displaying it once it’s finished. But, especially if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering, “What is the best way to display my model cars?” This is ultimately only a question you can answer because it depends on your preferences, the resources available to you, and your budget.

Fundamentally, there are two ways to put your models on display: in the open or in closed cases. In this article, I’ll discuss several options in both categories.

Displaying Your Model Cars in the Open

Displaying model cars out in the open—on a shelf, on top of a dresser, etc.—is the easiest and cheapest way to display your creations. It’s low- to no-cost, doesn’t necessarily require any special setup, and makes your models easily accessible if you like admiring your handiwork up close from time to time.  

Being the easiest way to display your models also means it has the most drawbacks. The most obvious drawback is that they get dusty very easily, requiring you to clean them often. Cleaning a potentially delicate model may not be something you want to do all the time. (If you do want to or you have to, read my articles about cleaning dust off of model ships and cleaning diecast model cars. Many of the points in those articles apply to cleaning dust off other models as well).

The biggest drawback to leaving your models in the open is, if you can easily access them, so can everyone else. When I was a kid, I once had a not-so-gentle friend visit me from out of town. Within a day of his visit, all of my open-display models were broken. I ended up throwing them all away. For this reason alone, I no longer display any models in the open. If you have small children around the house or, like me, destructive friends, openly displaying your models is probably not the best choice for you.

If dusty models and curious hands aren’t something you worry about, then this could be the best way to display model cars for you.

Displaying Your Model Cars on Shelves

Whether you want your models in a case or in the open, you’ll probably use display shelves of some sort. There’s no need to get fancy with your shelves. You can use an old bookshelf that’s lying around or some wall shelves. If you do want to get fancy, if you have a vision of the perfect way to arrange your creations to optimally show them off to the world, here are some options for you.

clear, 4-shelf set of shelvesThis is a small, simple set of clear shelves, made mostly of glass. The entire case measures 16″ x 8″ x 19″ with 3 ¾ inches between shelves. This is ideal for displaying your smaller models.

2 sets of 3 acrylic risers eachThis is two sets of acrylic rises. The risers measure, from biggest to smallest, at 5” x 5” x 5”, 4” x 4” x 4”, and 3” x 3” x 3”. These can create a nice tiered setup for your models, though they clearly can’t accommodate very large pieces. Another aspect of them that I like is the ability to store items beneath each riser, including other models, or even lighting if you’d like your models to have individual under-lighting. There are also other, similar products with more and larger size options. This is a good option if you want to showcase your models a bit but you already have shelving.

3-shelf set of shelvesThis is a simple set of shelves. The whole set measures 23.6″ x 11.6″ x 29.5″. The space between each shelf is 13 ½ inches. With these shelves, you get the option of choosing your own color. The shelves themselves are made from particleboard and the supports are PVC. They come disassembled but require no tools for assembly. View the assembly manual to see how they’re put together.

hanging wooden shadow box floating shelvesThis floating, shadow box style set of shelves can add a level of aestheticism to your model displays. This particular floating shelf set measures 11.73″ x 3″ x 14.98″. Each square section in the shelf measures 3.75” x 3.125” x 3” and each rectangular area is twice that (3.75” x 6.75” x 3”). This particular option can be hung from the wall, though based on the product images, if you want to maximize the usable space, you’ll have to reposition the hanging hooks.


These are just a few examples of the many options available; this is by no means a comprehensive list. The shelves I’ve shown here are on the smaller side (I tend to work with smaller models myself), but if you like any of these options but want them bigger, a bit of searching around in your local stores or on Amazon will likely bring up some results.

Using Display Cases

Giving each model its own display case is a great option. As you finish a new model, you buy a display case for it, and then add the car to your collection. Display cases will protect the model from dust and curious hands while keeping it clearly visible. Display cases are also great for creating nice organization schemes and your display can easily grow as your model collection grows. 

One quick tip I learned a while back is, if you want to put a larger model in a display case, but you’re having a hard time finding a case large enough, an alternative is to use a fish tank. Of course, there are large display cases out there (look for model plane or boat display cases), but fish tanks are another option.

If you’d like to get some display cases for your model, I have some choices listed below to help you choose.  

clear acrylic display case with mirrored bottomThis is a clear acrylic case measuring 9” x 4.38” x 4.13” on the inside. What sets this case apart is the mirrored bottom, which adds a nice aesthetic touch to your display.

clear acrylic display case with black bottom and an LED in each cornerThis is another clear acrylic case, measuring 15” x 6” x 6”. This case comes with white LED lights to put your model in the spotlight. You can power the lights with a micro USB cable or with 4 AA batteries.

clear acrylic case with black bottomThis is just a simple clear acrylic case, about as basic as they come. This one pictured measures 12” x 12” x 6”, but there are other size options available for this particular product.

clear acrylic display case with clear bottomThis is another basic clear acrylic case with the main difference being that the entire case is clear, even the base. This case is also stackable. This case measures 13” x 5.5” x 5”.


Again, these are just a few of the options available. There are countless other choices out there. Clicking on the links above and looking in the similar items category will show you plenty that you can work with.

Using a Display Cabinet

I think display cabinets are the best way to display model cars. They combine the benefits of shelves and display cases in one, and some of them even have locking doors. And if you want your entire display area to be portable, cabinets can be moved and placed nearly anywhere you want them. If you decide to purchase your cabinet instead of making your own, then you’re also providing yourself with a premade area to house your models. You only have to choose which cabinet to get and where to put it, and the rest is taken care of for you.

There are two main drawbacks to using display cabinets: they tend to be pricier and they don’t grow as easily with your model collection. If you can afford it, one simple remedy to the latter is to just buy multiple cabinets, preferably making sure they match so that your display area has a nice, clean look.

If you want to use a display cabinet, here are some options to help get you started.

3-shelf glass curio cabinet with black top, bottom, and supportsThis is a simple three-shelf curio cabinet that’s a great option for a small model display. Its exterior dimensions are 16.8” x 14.2” x 33.5”. The space between each shelf is about 10”. It’s made of glass with wood supports and a hinged, magnetically latching glass door.

4-shelf curio cabinet with black top and baseThis cabinet is very similar to the last one, but it has one extra shelf. This one measures 66” x 18” x 5” with about 15” between shelves. It’s made of glass and wood with a hinged, magnetically latching glass door.

5-shelf curio cabinet made of glass and woodI like minimalist cabinets because I want as much focus to be on the models as possible. However, if you want a more traditional, wooden look for your cabinet, one such as this is a good choice. This one has a mirrored back and a solid wood construction, except for the shelves, which are glass. It measures 28.5” x 14.5” x 75” with 5 shelves. This one has a sliding door.

5-shelf curio cabinet with locking door, lights made of glass and aluminumThis cabinet is definitely on the pricey side, but I included it for two reasons: being a retail product display cabinet, it has built-in lighting and locking doors. It’s also quite large compared to the other options, meaning more space for more models. It measures 78” x 40” x 16 ½”. Each shelf is 38” x 14 ¼”, with 14 3/8” between shelves. It’s made from tempered glass and aluminum. In my opinion, if you can afford it, this one is the best way to display model cars out of all the options listed in this article.


These are just a few of the options available. If nothing here matches what you want, just look around in your local stores and online and you’ll eventually find something that fits your specifications.

In conclusion, you can display your model cars in the open, in a cabinet (which is the best way to display model cars, in my opinion), on shelves, or in a display case. Of course, the sky’s the limit when it comes to displaying your models. Just get a little inventive. For example, you could hang them from the ceiling, a method that is popular with model airplanes, or attach them directly to the wall. Don’t be afraid to get creative (but also don’t do anything that could damage your models).