Small electric cars are super fun for your kids to zoom around the driveway in. Your kids might even be begging you for a certain style or brand of vehicle. We’ve all been there.
But, as your kids zip around the yard on their electric vehicles, you want to know they’re protected, too. Fortunately, you can maximize their fun, minimize the impact on your wallet, and feel confident your kids are staying safe in their electric cars.
Here, we’ll give you the information you need to match the right electric car to your child’s specific needs. We cover four key aspects to consider when choosing an electric car for your kids. Let’s dive into it.
Kids’ electric cars, also known as ride-on cars or Power Wheels (which is actually a brand), come in three basic categories. These categories are based on wheel count: 4-wheelers, 3-wheelers, and motorcycles.
Each style of electric vehicle has benefits and drawbacks. Some 4-wheel cars can seat two children, for instance. Understanding the differences will help you choose the ideal car for your kids.
In general, electric 4-wheelers are the most durable option. However, the flip side of this feature is a more limited turn radius and maneuverability.
For yards with limited square footage, you might consider looking into other wheel options. That said, the stability of some 4-wheelers, designed for outdoor use and older kids, is a better fit for rougher terrain.
Keep in mind that larger vehicles tend to require larger batteries and longer charging times.
You’ll have to choose between a few design options when considering 3-wheelers. These electric vehicles come as scooters, tricycle-style motorcycles, and even go-kart and bumper-car style circular vehicles.
Especially for younger kids, 3-wheelers offer higher stability than a motorcycle. A decent rule of thumb here is whether your child is comfortable riding a bicycle yet. If not, a 3-wheel electric vehicle might be a better choice.
Note that these vehicles do best on paved and flat (or gently sloping) terrain.
It’s tempting to think of kids’ motorcycles as miniature versions of adult motorcycles. Though the 2-wheel design is primarily geared for older children, kids’ electric motorcycles are designed for small bodies.
For example, your child should be able to sit on their motorcycle and “walk” the vehicle without difficulty.
Your kids’ electric motorcycle may be for either rough dirt or smooth asphalt depending on the design, battery power, and wheels. For peak performance and safety, it’s essential to check with the manufacturer to select a kids’ electric bike that matches your terrain.
Buying an electric car for your kids can be a larger purchase, so it makes sense that you want it to last. That said, your kids will treat this vehicle as a toy and, depending on their age, putting it through considerable wear.
The battery and motor size, materials used to make your kids’ electric car, and the type of use it will receive are equally important factors in determining the durability—and therefore the practicality—of your child’s car.
Fortunately, electric vehicles are less likely to experience many breakdown and maintenance issues associated with gas motors.
While batteries gradually lose their ability to hold a charge after several years, they provide fewer safety hazards and smoother operation than motorized gas vehicles. However, if you are experiencing issues, check out our guide on electric ride-on car troubleshooting.
When selecting an electric vehicle for your kids, you’ll need to choose a battery voltage. The voltage will determine the potential speed and, when paired with engine size, the car’s power. Most kids’ electric cars are available as either 6V, 12V, 24V, or 36V.
Low voltage cars use low-powered motors. Practically speaking, a 6V vehicle operates at speeds up to 2 or 3 miles per hour, slow enough for you to walk alongside. A 36V vehicle usually maxes out at around 15 mph.
- 6V yields ~2-3 mph (think a slow mozy next to your kid)
- 12V yields ~4 mph (this would be a slow but diliberate pace)
- 24V yields ~6 mph (walking at your normal pace)
- 36V yields ~15-18 mph (okay, now you’re running)
Though 48V ride-on vehicles do exist, we don’t recommend them for children under 12, and you will not really be able to keep up.
Your choice of voltage should directly correlate to your child’s age. The higher the voltage, the faster the vehicle and the greater the demand on your child’s reflexes and muscle control. Each child is different, so consider what makes the most sense for your kids when choosing an electric car.
Think about the maximum speed your child can achieve under their own power. If your preschooler can’t consistently keep up with your walking pace, a 24V vehicle might be a bit much for them right now.
Remember, you want your kids to have fun, which means they should always feel in control of their vehicle.
Slower 6V vehicles are generally for smooth surfaces or indoor riding that won’t tax the battery. For outdoor vehicles, you’ll likely need to consider a mid-range or higher voltage.
Larger motors will handle rougher environments, but keep in mind tip hazards. Try to match your vehicle’s style and wheel count to the terrain before factoring in the voltage and speed.
Be sure to consider the power demands of different batteries, too. With high voltage cars, your electrical bill might take a hit.
Kids’ electric cars with higher voltages will also take longer to recharge. Consider the duration and frequency of use so your kids can make the most of their car.
Remember that kids’ electric car batteries – of any voltage – are still relatively small and vulnerable to overcharging. To extend battery life, don’t charge them for more than 24 hours at a time.
Different styles of electric cars for kids and different intended age ranges help determine the materials being used in the toy. The safety ratings of each component will depend on the vehicle’s maximum speed and the weight of the child driving.
Though basic information is generally available online, it’s worth taking the time to dig into specifics. Consider how the weight and size of the electric car will impact your family’s ability to bring it along on trips, for example.
Seat padding is a crucial and often overlooked element contributing to the comfort of your kids’ driving experience. Don’t forget, most kids will happily max out their time driving around in the car. The more comfortable they are, the less distracted and safe they’ll be!
Type of Use
How your child will use their electric car is also related to their age. Toddlers, for instance, will often be safer and happier shuttling around indoors. Cars aimed at this age range are designed primarily for this kind of light use.
Certain high voltage outdoor cars are designed for asphalt and the smooth surfaces of driveways. Just because an electric car has a higher voltage doesn’t necessarily mean it can handle off-roading.
In general, however, outdoor vehicles come equipped with more safety features since the collision and other risks increase with the vehicle’s average speed.
Before purchasing a kids’ electric car, think through where your child is likely to operate the vehicle. This thought process will make it easier to match the appropriate style to the terrain.
A primary concern as a parent is always the safety of your kids. Ensure your child has appropriate safety gear (like a helmet and joint pads) to match their age, the speed of their electric car, and the terrain.
Kids’ electric cars come equipped with various additional safety measures. Be sure to consider remote functions, parental controls over speed settings, and the overall age-appropriateness of your child’s electric car.
While safety belts and brake systems are standard, other features required for adult vehicles (like lights) aren’t. Safety isn’t just about certain features; it involves considering how your child will use their car. Let’s get into some more specifics. Also make sure to read our electric ride-on car safety guide.
A common feature in electric cars for younger kids, like toddlers, is a built-in remote control. Many 6V and 12V vehicles come equipped with a parental override that enables you to control your kid’s speed and direction.
For toddlers especially, who aren’t quite able to direct their driving but love thinking they can, this feature helps keep the experience fun and exciting.
As a safety feature, the remote control gives you the power to prevent your young kid from inadvertently veering into a dangerous situation. You can even control braking.
As much as you want to meet your kids’ need for speed, safety comes first.
As your child adjusts to their new ride, it’s helpful to use parental controls to limit their speed. Once they’re more comfortable, you can increase those limits.
Not every electric car for kids comes with these parental controls, however. Make sure to check if your little speed demon requires this feature.
Generally, as voltage increases, so do the number of speed settings. Be certain your child understands the differences before they start riding!
Age Appropriateness and Size
Overall, you’ll want to select the size and features of your kids’ electric car based on age appropriateness. The better a match the car is to your child’s age and abilities, the more fun they’ll have as a driver and the safer they’ll be.
While each child’s development is unique, electric cars for kids are designed to fit approximate age ranges:
- Toddler (Age 0-2) – 6V
- Preschooler (Age 3-5) – 6V to 12V
- Middle Childhood (Age 6-8) – 12V to 24V
- Preteen (Age 8-12) – 12V to 36V
Keep in mind that the style of the vehicle factors into age-appropriateness, too. Most 2-wheel motorcycles, even 6V ones, aren’t intended for toddlers.
Your child may fall somewhere between two categories. If you’re unsure which guideline to follow, some simple tests of dexterity, balance, and reaction time may help you decide.
As with any of your child’s activities, know the local laws. For example, children under a certain age cannot ride motorized scooters in certain states. Some areas also have regulations around safety gear.
Check your local ordinance when planning to purchase an electric vehicle for your kids.
Because kids’ electric cars include batteries, their disposal is often regulated. It’s smart to confirm how you should recycle your child’s electric vehicle once they outgrow it.
It probably comes as no surprise that electric cars for kids are an enormous marketing opportunity for car brands. For most major brands, there’s a child’s car to match. However, just because a kids’ electric car has a brand name doesn’t make it inherently superior.
At the end of the day, kids’ electric cars are simple constructions. It’s easy to believe you’re getting a better product and value because of your associations with a particular brand.
While there are significant differences between luxury kids’ cars and standard ones, what’s under the hood isn’t usually that different.
Is This Car for Your Child…or You?
Brands like Tesla and Lamborghini, for instance, have successfully navigated significant marketing campaigns that involve posting images of a child’s small electric car next to the adult version.
It’s helpful to remind yourself that this purchase should bring your child joy.
If you feel the need for a branded hood ornament on your kids’ electric car, by all means, indulge yourself. Just know, they probably won’t notice, and you’ll pay a premium for the privilege.
One benefit of certain branded kids’ electric cars and motorcycles is the greater range of color, design, and add-on options. You can even have a vehicle custom-built.
Electric cars for kids now include options to include customized:
- Music players: Bluetooth/Radio/USB/MP3
- LED lights
- Wheels (tire treads, size, and hubcaps)
- Air conditioning/Heat
- Adjustable seats and mirrors
- Roll bars
- Leather seats
- Butterfly doors
In addition to purely aesthetic accessories, you can also purchase better quality batteries and other kits that let you DIY improvements to your child’s car.
Think about which features your child will appreciate the most (and their impact on your budget) before selecting extra accessories.
Price and Value
As noted, branded vehicles come with a higher price tag. It’s up to you to consider whether the value-added justifies the higher price. Generally, it’s worth checking what extras actually come with that price.
Some manufacturers offer insurance plans as an additional incentive. While these can be tempting, particularly for pricier models, remember your kids will outgrow their fancy ride in just a few years.
Rather than assuming higher voltage, larger motor, bigger size overall, or brand association translate into better value, consider the best fit for your child.
The best electric car for your kids will be the car that best matches their age and use.
Final Comments: Choosing Your Kids’ Electric Car
Buying an electric car for your kids can be about more than the sheer fun of driving. It’s also an opportunity to teach your kids valuable lessons about road safety and sustainability.
For kids with limited mobility, electric cars can be incredibly freeing and offer developmental benefits even in your own backyard.
Even DIY kits and online tutorials are available if you’re looking for a hands-on project for you and your kids to work on together.
Whatever your primary purpose, remember that when identifying an electric car for your kids, age is everything. Finding a great kids’ car means considering how its style, durability, features, and use complement your child’s age and interests.
With these simple factors in mind, you’ll get your kids on the road in no time!
Questions about electric ride-on cars? Let us know, always happy to help.