Catherine Hiles
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What to Know Before Buying a Power Wheels Toy

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what to know before buying power wheels
Photo: DaMongMan via CC

When thinking about a birthday gift for my almost-2-year-old son who is obsessed with all things that go “vroom-vroom,” the most obvious choice was some sort of battery-powered ride-on toy car. The most recognizable brand of these toys is Power Wheels, which makes pretty much any vehicle you can think of in miniature form. But Power Wheels is certainly not the only brand of EVs for kids.

Before you buy a Power Wheels or alternate brand toy car, it’s important that you do your research. Here are the answers to some of the questions you might be asking yourself.

What ages are they made for?

Fisher-Price Power Wheels toys are designed for children ages 12 months to 7 years. However, the majority of drivable vehicles have a minimum age recommendation of 3.

How many seats do they have?

That depends on the type of vehicle. Many of the battery vehicles modeled on actual full-size vehicles like the Jeep Wrangler or Ford F-150 have two seats, while others like battery-powered ATVs and quad bikes only seat one. If you have more than one kid it might be an idea to get a vehicle that seats at least two to avoid arguments.

PowerWheels F-150
Ford F-150 Power Wheels
Photo: Ford

What kind of batteries do they have?

Most battery-powered toy cars come with a rechargeable 12-volt battery. If you want to increase the toy’s speed you can replace the stock battery with a 16- or 18-volt battery yourself using an online tutorial like this one. However, keep in mind that any warranty the toy covers will likely be voided if you choose to upgrade the battery.

How long does it take to charge them?

The first time you charge the battery out of the box it may take up to 18 hours, so plan ahead. After that, recharging the car takes an average of 14 hours after each use.

How fast do they go?

Toy electric vehicles are not meant to go fast. Most have a variety of speed settings that rarely go above 5 or 6 mph. Again, you can modify your kid’s Power Wheels vehicle if you want it to go faster, but the manufacturers would not recommend doing so for liability reasons.

Power Wheels Smart Drive Mustang
Ford Mustang Power Wheels
Photo: Ford

What kind of surfaces can they drive on?

These toys are generally easier to handle and can go faster on paved surfaces like concrete or asphalt. Most will perform decently on grassy surfaces, but some vehicles are more designed for off-road driving than others. Consider the type of surface your kids will be driving on and make sure your chosen option can handle it before purchasing.

What is the maximum weight they can handle?

This depends on the make and the model. As an example, the Disney Princess Jeep Wrangler (a serious contender for my kiddos) has a maximum weight limit of 130 pounds. Again, check the limits on your preferred model before buying to make sure it can handle your kids.

How much do they cost?

For a new Power Wheels-brand vehicle, you’re looking at $250-$400 depending on which model you choose. You may be able to find one on sale or from a different brand for less than $200, but know that this toy is going to be an investment.

power wheels racers
Photo: Brant via CC

Are they safe?

Due to their low speeds and built-in safety precautions, these toys are generally pretty safe. It’s important to use common sense and not let your kid operate the toy close to a road where they could stray into the path of an oncoming car. You should also supervise your child at all times when using this toy. Ride-on toy cars tend to be pretty heavy and could easily injure a child who is hit with one or if one tips over (unlikely though not impossible).

Can you buy them used?

Yes, absolutely. You can likely get a used version for cheaper, but make sure you test the toy out before completing your transaction. I bought a used one from someone I trust; I might be more reluctant to buy one if I didn’t know its history. You can check sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, and more.