Want to win the “Parent of the Year” award? Electric ride-on cars are the way to go — after all, nothing beats the look of wide-eyed delight on your budding little racing drivers face as they tear off the wrapping paper covering their brand-new ride-on toy. No matter whether you’re buying for an outdoorsy boy or a thrill-seeking girl, there’s a make, model and design to suit every type of driver, from luxury supercars to all-terrain quads.
However, navigating the world of kid’s electric ride-on toys can make you feel a little like you’re taking your first driving lesson blindfolded around the Silverstone with your hands tied. Fortunately, we’ve created this handy buyer’s guide to steer you through all the available options and avoid hitting any bumps in the road. In it, you’ll find advice on everything from choosing the most appropriate battery size for different age groups to tips on keeping those new wheels sparkling, so you can make an informed decision and pick your child the perfect electric ride-on car. Let’s put the pedal to the metal!
What’s in this guide
- What is a kids ride-on car?
- 3 reasons ride-on toys make brilliant gifts for children
- What are the different types of electric ride-on cars for kids?
- Battery sizes for children’s electric ride-ons explained
- An age-by-age guide to buying a kids ride-on toy car
- The hottest trends in electric ride-on toys
- What are the differences between licensed and unlicensed ride-on cars
- What accessories can I buy for my child’s ride-on toy?
- Plastic, EVA foam, and rubber: what are the best tyres for electric ride-on cars?
- Are ride-on toys for kids safe?
- How to maintain an electric ride-on car
- What’s the future of children’s ride-on toys?
What is a Kids Ride-On Car?
Although they come in various shapes and sizes, including cars, motorbikes, trucks, tractors and more, a ride-on toy is essentially any self-propelled toy that a child can ride, whether it’s powered by their legs, someone else pushing the vehicle or a battery. The main two types are push along ride-on toys and electric ride-on toys.
The first is ideal for toddlers, especially foot-to-floor ride-on cars, as they’re incredibly sturdy and won’t tip or wobble as your baby racer wears themselves out zooming around before nap-time. Some even have handles extending from the back of the seat, allowing parents or older siblings to direct and propel the toy until the child has developed enough coordination and balance to control it themselves.
The second, electric ride-ons, are the next step for kids who’ve mastered the push along and are looking for the ultimate driving thrill. Like a real car, they come equipped with a motor, steering wheel, gears, and a foot pedal and can have a host of flashy additions, like working LED headlights, beep-able horns, and even MP3/MP4 music players. Many of these vehicles are manufactured as mini replicas of luxury car brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini. However, instead of running on petrol, they’re powered by batteries, the voltage of which determines the toy’s speed and run time — but more on that later!
3 Reasons Ride-on Toys Make Brilliant Gifts for Children
There’s no denying it – ride-on vehicles are super fun for both the young and the young at heart. But, while these toys are fantastic for bonding with your kids, making life-long memories they’ll treasure forever, they can also help drive their educational development.
Here’re just a few ways ride-on cars can encourage little ones to grow:
- Fine-tune their motor skills: in essence, driving a ride-on toy is relatively simple, just push the pedals and steer the wheels. However, as your child learns to make turns, speed up, slow down and avoid obstacles in their path, they’re constantly improving their spatial awareness, an aptitude they can use in sports like skiing, skateboarding, or surfing as they get older.
- Fuel their imagination: whether they’re on a high-speed chase to catch a baddie or tending to the animals on a make-believe farm, these vehicles will enhance your tot’s creativity, both when playing on their own and as a group with their friends or siblings. Plus, as the world moves towards a future where we all drive electric cars, they’re brilliant tools for teaching kids valuable lessons about sustainability and, of course, road safety.
- Encourage them to explore: nothing beats the freedom of the open road. And while your wannabe adventurer might not entirely be ready for Route 66 yet, having a ride-on car to zip around the park or your garden is excellent for boosting their self-esteem and helping them gain a sense of autonomy. It’ll also encourage them to spend more time outdoors instead of staring at screens and devices, essential for top-notch physical and mental health.
What are the Different Types of Electric Ride-on Cars for Kids?
One of the reasons finding a suitable electric ride-on toy for your youngster can feel so tricky is the countless options available on the market. To help you make sense of the jargon, here’s an overview of the four main types:
- Single-seater: the classic, one-seater ride-on car is the most common variety available, and it’s brilliant for fostering a sense of independence in your child. They come in countless different styles, covering everything from cars and tractors to lorries and tanks.
- Side-by-side (SxS): if you’re looking for a ride-on vehicle that siblings can take out for a spin together, opt for a two-seater, often referred to as an SxS and generally powered by a 24v battery — perfect for snapping cute pics of your double troubles out on their adventures.
- All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV): these beefy four-wheelers, also called quads, are designed for off-roading and provide young teens with hours of mud-splattered thrills. Some even reach speeds of 10mph and over!
- Utility Task Vehicle (UTV): similar to a jeep in their look, UTV buggies are another type of electric ride-on suited to rugged terrain and they love getting their wheels dirty. However, unlike ATVs which the driver typically rides like a bike using handlebars, UTVs have a steering wheel and foot pedal.
- Motorcycles and Scooters: often themed like BMWs, Vespas, Ducatis, Yamahas and Harleys, the best way for your wannabe biker to learn how to drive this style of ride-on toy is to start with stabilisers. Then, when they’re confident enough, take them off and watch your little one soar.
Battery Sizes for Electric Ride-on Cars Explained
Lead-acid batteries power the vast majority of electric ride-on toys. However, some pricier models use NiCd (nickel-cadmium) or NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) batteries as they have a longer life and aren’t as heavy. All are powered by plugging a charger into a wall socket and take between 8-10 hours to recharge fully, offering 1-2 hours of comfortable driving time. But be careful you don’t overcharge a lead-acid battery as it can reduce its longevity.
Want our top tip? Buy a second battery as a spare so that when the first runs out of juice, you’ll always have a backup on hand to keep the fun going.
The next thing to consider is speed. Ride-on car batteries are available in either 6v, 12v or 24v sizes, with the “v” standing for volts, the measure of electrical energy delivered to the toy’s motor to make it move. Essentially, the bigger the battery size, the higher the power output and the faster the car will go. Although some ride-ons have different speed settings, allowing you to alter the toy’s velocity depending on the driver’s capabilities, for most, you’ll want to choose a voltage appropriate to your child’s age. Here’s an overview to help you pick:
- 6v batteries: this battery size is best for beginners as it generally doesn’t exceed 2-3mph (depending on your child’s weight). It can propel a car smoothly over tarmac and cement but isn’t suitable for rough terrains like grass and mud.
- 12v batteries: this is the most common battery size on the market and can top out at speeds between 4-5mph on various surfaces, including gravel and dirt tracks.
- 24v batteries: ideal for older and more experienced drivers looking for a thrill, this battery size can hit up to 6mph even when bouncing up and down hills. Fun fact; 24v batteries are more energy-efficient than 12v batteries as they consist of two lower-powered 12-volt batteries.
An Age-By-Age Guide to Buying a Kids Ride-on Toy Car
With so many high-tech features and customisable add-ons available, choosing an electric ride-on toy can almost be as exciting for the adult buying the car as the kiddo opening it on Christmas morning or at their birthday party.
But, rather than heading straight for the biggest and fastest simply because you want your little one to be the envy of the playground, it’s wise to select a ride-on that matches your child’s age and abilities. After all, you can always upsize when they outgrow their push-along or swap an electric battery for one with a higher voltage to increase the speed as the driver becomes more daring.
To get an idea of which toy vehicles are most suited to different age groups, check out the guide below:
We recommend starting this first group of mini motorists off with a simple manual ride-on such as a balance bike, push along, or foot to floor toy. Their bright colours and engaging designs are brilliant for encouraging physical activity during playtime and can help speed up the development of their fine motor skills and sense of balance. Please do note, though — it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your toddler’s antics whilst playing with these movable toys to avoid tumbles and bumps.
Children in this age group are bursting with wonderment and eager to explore the world around them. Luckily, most have also developed the coordination, balance, reflexes, and motor skills required to safely handle an electric ride-on toy (with adult supervision!), providing them with an excellent tool for indulging their curiosity. A 6v battery that reaches a top speed of 3mph is usually enough power to satisfy any need for speed without you worrying about them zooming off over the horizon. It’s a good idea to opt for a car with a parental remote control, too, as this means you can take command of the vehicle if it looks like the driver’s getting carried away!
These little bundles of excitement can typically handle a more advanced ride-on toy, so consider choosing one that can keep up with their racing energy levels. Cars with a 12v battery or dual-motor system are ideal. They can get up to 5mph at full throttle and often come with a wide range of inbuilt features such as multiple gears, a dashboard, engine sounds, EVA rubber tyres and functional headlights providing a more immersive and realistic driving experience.
Older children, soon to hit double digits and their teen years, long for more freedom, and treating them to a flash pair of new wheels is a great way to encourage them to explore the outdoors and enjoy their newfound independence. Capable of learning to ride by themselves, they may want a little more oomph than what traditional ride-on cars can provide, so consider a quad, buggy, SUV or supercar. These vehicles are often equipped with a 24v battery, which maxes out at 6mph, and can be driven over more challenging terrains like grass, hills and gravel.
Hottest Trends in Electric Ride-on Toys
Cabbage Patch Kids. Pokemon. Fidget spinners. There’s always a new toy craze sweeping the playground. To help you stay ahead of the kiddies (and the queues!), here are the latest electric ride-on car trends soon to be snapped up:
Ride-on Bumper Cars
Get all the fun of the fairground without the extortionate ride prices and candyfloss-sticky crowds with these zippy little bumper cars. Built for beginners, these toys are a brilliant gift idea for children aged between one and six as they usually only reach speeds of 1-2mph. However, a control stick enables them to do 360-degree spins, while the rubber shock-absorbing rings and adjustable safety belts prevent the child from causing harm to themselves or your home. Some waltzer cars even come in customisable colours with vibrant LED lights, stickers and MP4/MP3 music players so your toddler can rock out as they ride.
Ride-on Stunt Planes
Watch your precious little pilot’s fantasies take flight with an electric ride-on aeroplane. Like the bumper cars mentioned above, the captain controls the stunt plane using a joystick rather than pedals and a steering wheel, allowing them to direct the vehicle in various directions and even spin it around 360 degrees. Opt for one with foldable wings and a front propeller for added realism, and let them set a course for hours of imaginative ride-on fun.
Electric Motorbikes and Scooters
From classic American choppers to chic Italian-style Vespas, there’s no doubt that these incredible ride-on motorbikes and scooters are a must-have for all free spirits. Features can include secret storage compartments, twist-grip throttle control and padded seats to provide a more comfortable ride. And don’t forget, you can always attach stabilisers until your child is confident enough to whizz off unaided!
Ride-on Construction Toys
Kid-friendly replicas of large construction equipment, such as excavators, tractors and forklift trucks, allow your child to scoop, dig and haul crops to their heart’s content, all from the safety of your back garden. These ride-on toys might even inspire future career choices, teaching them a basic understanding of how these machines operate through hours of fun and enjoyable lets-pretend play.
Luxury Ride-on Electric Cars
Back in the day, there wasn’t much variation in the types of ride-on toys available — typically, parents would choose between Jeeps and pink Corvettes. Luckily, there’s now a whole fleet of fantastic shrunk-down ride-on luxury cars for kids to drive, covering every style imaginable, from Range Rovers to Masserattis, Lamborghinis to Audis. When it comes to the finishing touches, buckle up as most of these vehicles come with working LED lights, functional speedometers, push-button ignition, sound systems so they can blast out their favourite music and even scissor style doors!
Electric Quad Bikes
Perfect for allowing soon-to-be teens to experience the thrill of off-road adventure in comfort and style, these electric four-wheelers can handle almost any terrain and love getting muddy. They’re also safer and better for the environment than quads that run on petrol or diesel engines as they don’t pump out any harmful fumes.
What Are the Differences Between Licensed and Unlicensed Ride-on Cars
There’s a lot of jargon surrounding the world of ride-on vehicles, and one of the biggest head-scratchers is the word “licensed”. Essentially a licensed ride-on toy pays a licensing fee to the car manufacturer their mini replica is copying. They tend to be made under the supervision of the parent company’s engineers, and greater attention to detail is spent on the car’s build, paintwork and electrics than those not endorsed by the brand they’re imitating.
However, this superior quality comes with a heftier price tag, so consider opting for an unlicensed ride-on if you’re on a budget or looking for a first-time vehicle. Ultimately, unlicensed cars are just as fun and no less safe, but they can lack a branded product’s style and finishing flourishes. Fortunately, spotting the difference is pretty straightforward as licensed ride-on toys come adorned in official badges and stickers, while generic cars have words like “lookalike” and “inspired” in their title.
What Accessories Can I Buy for My Child’s Ride-on Toy?
What’s more thrilling for your little adrenaline junkie than having their own set of wheels? Accessories and customisation, of course! Plus, these additions are not only essential for making their ride-on car one of a kind, but they’re also handy for keeping it in tip-top condition. Here are a few of our favourites:
Ride-On Car Covers
While this might not be the most exciting accessory on the list, it’s undoubtedly the most practical, especially if you’re planning on storing the toy outside. Available in various sizes to fit all types of ride-on, simply pop the cover over the top and fasten it around the car’s bottom edge to keep the elements at bay.
Training Cones and Traffic Lights
These accessories are fantastic for helping children develop their hand-eye coordination and teaching them essential skills like judging distances, braking at speed, and turning sharp corners without swerving off course. Plus, they transform any boring old driveway into a mini racetrack, instantly amping up your little one’s driving experience.
Stickers & Decals
From police badges to taxi signs, racing stripes to speedometer gauges, decals are one of the easiest ways to give a ride-on toy authentic flair. Our favourite vinyl stickers are personalised number plates as you can add the driver’s name and, on some, the flag of their national country. Now would seem a good time to mention that all of our cars come with free personalised number plate sticker kits!
Make picking up and packing away your child’s car a breeze by mounting a transport handle to its back. They also offer extra grip for you to grab and direct the vehicle if it looks like they might be heading towards trouble.
Plastic, EVA Foam, and Rubber: What Are the Best Tyres for Electric Ride-on Cars?
There’s nothing like seeing the delight on your little tyke’s face when they turn the key and set off on their first adventure in their new ride-on toy. However, those smiles can quickly turn to tears if the car gets stuck and the wheels can’t spin due to a lack of traction. That’s why it’s so important for you to take some time to consider tyre types.
Rigid plastic tyres are the most common type for cheaper models and travel along fine on flat, smooth surfaces, such as a driveway or inside at home. However, the thin layer of rubber covering them for grip can be prone to slipping, making them unsuitable for off-road use.
For tackling rugged terrains, opt for either rubber or EVA foam. While both provide lots of traction and don’t make much noise when rattling over uneven surfaces, EVA foam is the new super material, essential for a top-quality drive and a stress-free life. EVA (which stands for ethylene-vinyl acetate) tyres have a dense foam core, providing the cushioning effect of air-filled tyres without having to worry about air pressures or punctures. They also beat all the other tyre options in terms of durability, grip and softness, which significantly dampens vibrations for a smooth and comfortable ride.
Are Ride-on Toys for Kids Safe?
Safety will, of course, be your main priority when choosing a ride-on toy for your child. Fortunately, as long as you follow manufacturer guidelines (paying attention to minimum age requirements and maximum driver weight specifications) and supervise children when using them, you shouldn’t need to worry. But, there are extra measures you can take for even further peace of mind:
- Only allow young toddlers to use the vehicle indoors, preferably in a large open room with few objects they can bump into and a flat surface. Also, avoid areas like kitchens and bedrooms where sharp corners and hidden dangers can cause accidents. Purchase a parental remote to control the direction and speed of the ride-on car and double-check it’s functioning correctly, and the battery’s not low before use
- Choose a toy that comes with adjustable seat belts or harnesses to accommodate your child’s growth. The strap should wrap around them with the fabric sitting flush against their skin to avoid bruises and has clips that you attach to the seat, preventing your kiddo from toppling out as they play.
- If the driver is particularly prone to injuries or is eager to hit top speeds on rocky terrains, consider investing in additional safety gear such as joint pads and a helmet. You could even buy a racing driver costume to help them live their full F1 fantasy!
To ensure their protection, though, we strongly recommend not simply giving your child the keys and hoping for the best. Instead, think of it as teaching them to ride a bike. Be patient and vigilant and go through the process slowly, step by step. Kids are smart cookies, and they pick things up pretty quick, so it won’t take long before they’re leaving you in the dust.
How to Maintain an Electric Ride-on Car
To ensure you and your child get the most out of a new ride-on toy, educate yourself by giving the instruction manual a thorough read and watching assembly videos, as learning to operate the vehicle correctly is the first step to keeping it in peak condition. Next, you’ll need to find a convenient storage space, as lead-acid batteries are not keen on extreme cold or hot conditions, we suggest you store your car indoors. If you haven’t any other choice than to keep it outside, you must buy a dust and rain cover to protect it from bad weather, ensuring that it fits snugly over the toy and covers the wheels.
However, the battery, like the engine of a real car, is the heart of the vehicle and requires the most maintenance, as any damage to it will result in the toy no longer working. We recommend charging the battery at least once a month, even if the car isn’t in use, and leaving it plugged in for no longer than 8-10 hours, as overcharging can dramatically decrease the battery’s lifespan. When it needs replacing, refer to the manual again to check that the new battery is compatible with the car and you’ve properly connected it.
Lastly, give the toy a clean after use — and don’t forget to get the driver involved, too! Simply switch off the car, get a bucket of warm, soapy water and gently wipe away any grime and dirt from the steering wheel, buttons and rims. A quick spruce up will kill any sniffle-inducing viruses and give the toy a satisfying sparkle, ready for your child’s next expedition.
What’s the Future of Children’s Ride-on Toys?
Although there are already plenty of fantastic models available, all equipped with a vast array of exciting features and customisable elements, let’s end by revving into the future and looking at some of the latest add-ons set to steal the show.
- In-car entertainment systems: while MP3 players with AUX ports, SD card and USB slots and buttons to adjust the volume and select the next track have been popular for a few years, recently, high-end vehicles have also begun appearing with built-in TV screens and MP4 players. These smart LCD screens are guaranteed to heighten your child’s enjoyment of the toy, allowing them to watch movies and play games while chilling in the front seat.
- Remote and app-controlled LED lights: from flashing emergency beacons to neon-style dashboards, all controlled by the click of a button, LED lights make night time cruising even cooler
- Functioning doors: in the past, kids would have to climb over the side of the car to get in. Now, many newer ride-on toys come equipped with working doors, and some like the licensed Lambourgini Sian or McLaren Senna even feature butterfly doors for added realism and awesomeness.