RNA-interference (RNAi) agents such as small-interfering RNA (siRNA) and micro-RNA (miRNA) have strong potential as therapeutic agents for the treatment of a broad range of diseases such as malignancies, infections, autoimmune diseases and neurological diseases that are associated with undesirable gene expression. In recent years, several clinical trials of RNAi therapeutics especially siRNAs have been conducted with limited success so far. For systemic administration of these poorly permeable and easily degradable macromolecules, it is obvious that a safe and efficient delivery platform is highly desirable. Because of high biocompatibility, biodegradability and solid track record for clinical use, nanocarriers made of lipids and/or phospholipids have been commonly employed to facilitate RNA delivery. In this article, the key features of the major sub-classes of lipid-based nanocarriers, e.g. liposomes, lipid nanoparticles and lipid nanoemulsions, will be reviewed. Focus of the discussion is on the various challenges researchers face when developing lipid-based RNA nanocarriers, such as the toxicity of cationic lipids and issues related to PEGylated lipids, as well as the strategies employed in tackling these challenges. It is hoped that by understanding more about the pros and cons of these most frequently used RNA delivery systems, the pharmaceutical scientists, biomedical researchers and clinicians will be more successful in overcoming some of the obstacles that currently limit the clinical translation of RNAi therapy.