Finding the best battery powered ride on toys for your toddler can be tricky.
They’ve been around for over a century if you can believe it! However, these days, there’s a pretty impressive amount of choice for anyone shopping for a child’s play car (or truck, or bike): whether your little one wants to drive Lightning McQueen from hit Disney movie Cars, or wants to zip around the back garden in a pint-sized replica of mum or dad’s ride, there are toymakers out there who have got you covered.
What’s more, as the technology improves, battery powered ride on toys are better-performing and safer than they ever have been: even battery powered ride on toys, which put (a small amount of) pedal power at your children’s feet, meet rigorous safety standards and can be enjoyed by children across a range of ages.
With Christmas on the horizon and parents starting to look for that perfect gift, it’s a great time to buy if you’ve been thinking about treating your family to a battery powered ride on toy.
There’s a lot of variety across a breadth of price points, so you’ll be sure to find something to delight the little ones in your life: as with any consumer decision, do your homework to get a good idea of what you’re looking for and you’re much likelier to be happy with your purchase.
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A ride-on toy is simply a children’s toy that can be ridden: while this technically includes toys such as rocking horses, what is most often meant by the term is a children’s vehicle, either pedal-powered or motorized.
The earliest battery-powered cars in this style were entirely pedal-powered, but an increasing number on the market today are motorized and come with power wheels: these provide enough power for your kid to ‘drive’ using a one-touch operating pedal, helping them to role play driving and enabling them to take charge (even if only in their imagination).
Most commonly, these ride on toys have an electric motor and are battery-powered, although there are also junior quad bikes which work in much the same way while being gas-powered. Most ride-on children’s vehicles are 4-wheelers (cars, quad bikes, trucks), but 2-wheeler (bikes) and 3-wheeler (trikes) riding toys are also available.
Battery powered toy cars are available for toddlers across a range of ages, with the design choices taken by the manufacturer generally reflecting the recommended age rating of the product. Those ride-on vehicles designed for the youngest children – those who are 2 years old or less – will typically not feature a pedal control on the toy itself, so that the responsibility of ‘driving’ the vehicle remains with an adult who has a one-touch remote control for that purpose.
This electric toy car, which has been designed for especially young children, will also have a low maximum speed (comfortably less than 5mph) and will usually be built for indoor use, with tires which will do fine on carpet and hard surfaces but may struggle with rough or muddy terrain.
Most electric cars for kids are marketed towards children aged 3-6 years: these vehicles will have maximum speeds up to around 6mph, come equipped with a seat belt, and are most often controlled by a foot pedal on the toy itself.
This pedal will usually be a one-touch control, making rapid acceleration impossible and so enhancing the vehicle’s safety. These ride-on toys are steered using an attached steering wheel or handlebars, although remote controls may also be included to give parents and carers the option to brake the vehicle at a distance.
The electric car in this age range also boasts the widest variety of styles: TV and movie vehicles are plentiful, as are emergency services-style vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks; while there are plenty of road vehicle replicas for any infant petrol-heads.
The ride on toys targeted at older children – those who are 6 years old or more – see an increasing number of road vehicle replicas, and relatively few TV and movie vehicles. You’re as likely to see gas-powered jeep wrangler as you are a ride-on truck at this end of the scale – with all the safety concerns and increase price that go along with them – but there are still plenty of options out there for older children.
If you’re shopping for an older child in particular, keep an eye out for features like dual gears and power wheels, which tend to come with an increased maximum speed and add a further layer of realism to the riding experience.
Why buy battery-powered toy cars?
Battery-powered cars are a great recreational, learning and confidence-building tool for your kid, and they can either encourage a child’s interest in the outdoors or nurture an interest that’s already there.
At its most basic level, a ride-on toy is just that – a toy – which can be great fun for kids and entertaining for the adults that watch them. It’s more than that, though: ‘driving’ a ride-on toy by oneself can be a hugely important developmental milestone, offering children the chance to take responsibility for themselves and achieve something (getting from A to B) under their own steam and without direct parental instruction.
If your kid is very confident, being given the freedom to ride on their own can help them express that while learning about risk management – if your child is not that brave yet, a vehicle to drive and the freedom to drive it can be a great step towards taking charge for themselves.
Of course, there’s little sense buying a child something you know they won’t like; but if you’ve read this far, it’s safe to assume you know a child who’d be pleased to get their hands on a ride-on toy.
The benefits aren’t only for the kids, though: ride-on toys are fun and exciting confidence builders, but they’re also fundamentally safe – more so than you might think. Almost all battery-powered ride-on toys have a low maximum speed, usually not more than 5mph, and many of them come packaged with a remote control, which allows you to stop or turn off the vehicle at a distance if your little one is getting into trouble.
Put simply, they’re a great way to introduce kids to responsibility and risk-taking without exposing them to too much danger; and they’re also a fun toy that actually looks good in the home, and isn’t just messy clutter.
Battery power toys are well-loved by children, and with the colourful variety of styles on offer you’re sure to be able to find something that appeals to even the most reluctant road-user.
What’s more, thanks to the breadth of competition in the toy marketplace, they’re safer and cheaper than they’ve ever been, allowing parents to afford one with easy payments.
If you have more than one young child, or are planning on adding to the family further down the line, it’s also worth thinking about your value for money over the long term. If you buy a quality product and take care of it, there’s no reason your battery powered ride-on toy can’t bring joy to the family for many years to come.
Things to consider
If you’ve decided to lay down some hard-earned cash to get a battery-powered ride-on toy for the children in your life, there are a few things worth considering before you buying one:
- Age recommendation. Manufacturers make their age recommendation according to a number of factors, including the toy’s maximum speed and the degree of control afforded to the child user. Stick to toys recommended for the child’s age and you can buy with confidence in a fun and safe experience.
- Battery capacity. The battery power and capacity will roughly correlate to the vehicle’s maximum speed: a 6 volt battery should be enough for a top speed of 2.5-3mph, while a 12 volt battery can handle 5-6mph.
- Battery life. All of these toy cars come with a rechargeable battery, but knowing how long the ride-on toy wil work before its battery needs recharging or replacement is important. If you’re disciplined with charging the battery between uses, this may not need to be particularly long to ensure the child gets good use out of the toy, but a longer battery life is always a positive.
- Size and weight capacity. If your child is big for their age, you may already be familiar with the discrepancy that can arise between recommended age and recommended weight capacity when it comes to children’s toys. Check the size and weight limit and buy sensibly to avoid issues further down the line and ensure a comfortable ride for your kid.
- Battery-powered ride-on toys can be purchased with a number of different features, to improve fun and usability for children and peace of mind for parents. A remote control allows parents to shut down the toy at a distance, improving safety and parental control; while children will be happy to see features such as a horn (important for driving role play), fm radio or music player, LED lights, or a customized number plate.
- Intended user. Think about the child you’re buying for; not only their age and size, but also their preferences. Would they prefer a car straight out of their favourite movie or TV show, or would they be happier in a replica of their favourite racing car? Does the car offer an adjustable seat to accommodate their growth? Perhaps they just want to play grown-up by driving a smaller version of mum’s or dad’s car around the yard. Ask yourself what your child would most enjoy, and you’re well on the way to buying the ideal gift.
- Price is always more of a concern for some of us than others, but whatever your budget it’s worth knowing roughly what you’d like to spend before you start shopping. $100 should be enough to buy a decent entry-level battery-powered ride-on toy, with quality products starting around $200 and luxury pieces costing $300 or considerably more.
Risks and warnings
When buying any toys for toddlers, you always want to consider any risks that the toy may possess. Let’s go over some here:
- With any children’s toy, but particularly with motorized toys and those with moving parts, safety should be the number one concern. Be sure to check the ride-on toy over yourself before committing to a purchase. Look out for any signs of wear and tear or indications that the vehicle might be in anything other than factory-fresh condition. It’s also worth looking online to see if the toy has ever been subject to a product recall due to safety concerns, such as steering issues. If it hasn’t, but a lot of toys by the same manufacturer have, you may still have cause to be wary.
- Most age, size and weight recommendations on children’s toys are just that – recommendations – but they’re worth paying attention to and heeding. For one thing, any warranty attached to the product will likely be null and void if the manufacturer’s guidance for use wasn’t followed; but more importantly, you’re potentially placing your child at risk if you let them use a product intended for younger, smaller children.
- If the ride on toy is being ‘driven’ across your lawn, there’s little risk of a collision or nasty accident; but when it comes to safety, it’s impossible to be too prepared. If you want to keep you little one protected while they’re playing, a helmet and knee and elbow pads are advised.
- If you have a nice lawn and plan to let children drive ride-on toys across it, be prepared to no longer have a nice lawn. While a battery-powered ride-on toy won’t do as much damage as driving a full-sized automobile across grass, they’re hefty toys with chunky tires, so take that into consideration.