May 28, 2023

10 Best Ride

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Excite the tiny speed demon in your life with one of these realistic rides.

Just as adults love hitting the open road, kids love the fun and freedom of taking off in a ride-on toy. But start your search and you’ll quickly learn just how many products there are to choose from: motorized mini-vehicles, scooters, go-karts, and bumper cars are just a few of the highly coveted items you’ll encounter. It's enough to make you pump the brakes and stop your shopping in its tracks.

Yet finding the right ride-on toys is a worthy pursuit and investment not only because of their major "wow" factor as a gift. These show-stopping products also deliver developmental benefits to kids, aiding coordination, motor skills, spatial reasoning, and balance. Best of all, they offer an exciting way to get outdoors, and encourage a bit of independence while doing it. Like swing sets and picnic games, they’re also perfect for taking advantage of those nicer fall days.

When shopping for a ride-on toy, it's important to look for one that's age-appropriate so kids can safely explore their newfound freedom. Size, maneuverability, and speed are all important factors to consider before making a purchase—as are special features like USB ports, working radios, and more.

Some also come with added safety features, like speed locks, remote controls for parental use, and five-point harnesses in the place of standard seat belts. Regardless of which type you choose, a helmet is always strongly advised.

Having two kids of my own—a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old—I’ve spent quite a bit of personal time researching ride-on toys—and I’ve purchased several for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Whether manual or motorized, safety has always been of top concern—then for my own kids, and now for yours.

That's why I began and ended this particular search with a focus on products with stellar safety records, ruling out any options that have ever been recalled for safety complaints. From there, I built this list of highly rated ride-on toys in a wide variety of styles, at a range of price points, and with different age ranges in mind. The ride-on toys you'll find below are all customer favorites as well, with each earning a 4 out of 5-star average user rating or higher.

Ready, set, go!

For more great gifts for the young transportation enthusiast in your life, check out our picks for the best remote control cars, trucks, and boats!

If you’re looking for a top-rated truck that will grow with your child, this rough and tumble GMC Sierra Denali is chock-full of exciting features.

Besides its spring suspension and three variable speeds (which can be controlled by a parent with a remote), it has bright lights, working doors and back storage box, and USB slot to plug up your own tunes.

It's also designed to accommodate two children at once with adjustable seat belts, which makes for ideal entertainment in multi-kid families.

Ride-on tractors are a fun way to get your kids excited about spending time in the yard—and maybe even helping out with some of the outdoor chores. This top-rated tractor from Peg Perego looks just like a real John Deere tractor, and comes equipped with a working FM radio, a detachable trailer, and adjustable seating.

Though it has two speed options, parents can lock it on the lower speed until their child gets comfortable and learns to ride safely. You’ll love how well it handles different terrains, including pavement, grass, dirt, and gravel.

If a motorized ride-on toy seems a bit advanced for your youngster but they still crave speed, this roller coaster ride may be just right. Having a designated track and nonslip steps means you’re unlikely to have any major safety surprises, but kids still love cruising off the platform and coasting up and down the slopes.

Best of all, its sturdy plastic build works both outside and indoors. When you’re done, simply break it apart for better storage.

Ride-on cars and scooters get all the glory, but they’re not the only show in town. This EzyRoller Mini puts a novel spin on the ride-on toy concept by letting kids hover just above the ground and peddle forward—hands-free—with a footbar. This results in a genuinely unique ride: It moves in a quick, snake-like zigzag and curves around with great control.

These are perfect for playgrounds or paved driveways (coned-off for safety, of course), and are a great stepping stone for kids who haven't quite mastered the scooter or bike.

For toddlers who are still somewhat wobbly on their feet, this animal-themed wheely toy offers a safe way to explore. And, with fully rotating wheels, they can take it in any direction from the comfort of a cushioned seat. A secure handlebar on the front lets them practice those new motor skills while giving them something safe to hold onto.

Last but not least—the adorable design is hardly an afterthought—there are many animals to choose from, including a bumblebee, mouse, hedgehog, cow, ladybug, piglet, and tiger.

Great for zipping around the playground or zooming around the neighborhood, scooters give kids a feeling of freedom. Yet the real gift of freedom is for parents who yearn for a quicker pace—especially those who commute with their kids on foot.

This particular three-wheel scooter has a 5-star rating, thanks to its durable design, flashing wheels, and adjustable-height handle. Choose from six fun colors to find just the right one!

Bumper cars are a blast, and this compact version—fully equipped with blinking LED lights and music—brings all the fun of a fair to your home. The ride-on toy has a parent-only mode allows you to drive by remote control, or kids can steer with two joysticks on the armrests. They’ll love zooming around the room, and you’ll love knowing they’re safe and secure in a five-point harness.

Go-karts are a childhood staple with vintage appeal—making Radio Flyer, purveyor of the classic red wagon, a brand ideally suited to develop the all-time best.

These popular go-karts put a decidedly modern spin on the original karts of yesteryear, with a 24-volt battery that offers three forward-driving speed settings—2.5, 5, and 8 mph—plus reverse. They come souped-up with drifting tires, an adjustable seat, a racing flag, and, of course, a seatbelt.

If your kid is obsessed with trucks and heavy machinery (as so many kids are), you’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting gift than this ride-on dump truck.

It has LED headlights, a real radio, three speeds to choose from, and a functioning dump bed that lets them haul toys, leaves, and other light items. As an added safety feature, a key start helps ensure that your kids will only play on this toy while supervised.

If a bike, scooter, or battery vehicle still feels like a stretch for your child, that doesn't mean they have to miss out on the fun.

Designed without gears, pedals, or batteries, this wiggle car is suited for a wide range of ages and abilities—they only need to be able to swivel the steering wheel to get things moving. Once they do, they won't want to stop thanks to its fun, zigzagging movement and motion-powered lights.

And for more great ways to get your kids moving, check out our top picks for outdoor toys, backyard sprinklers, and hoverboards.

Lauren Gray is a writer, editor, and consultant based in New York City. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree from Kenyon College. Her work has been published in Popular Mechanics, Best Life, MSN, and Yahoo! News.

Amber is the Digital Content Producer for Popular Mechanics, Runner's World and Bicycling, where she covers a range of tasks for the commerce team. She also writes fashion and beauty content for Best Products. Her work has been featured across all of the Enthusiast Group sites. In her free time you can likely find her watching horror movies, reading a good thriller book, or listening to a comedy podcast.

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For more great gifts for the young transportation enthusiast in your life, check out our picks for the best remote control cars, trucks, and boats!