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Driving can be a fun activity–even for kids if they have a safe, age-appropriate toy to ride. If you have a young child, you might be tempted to give your child what you never had. But what is the age limit for children to ride on Power Wheels, and how safe are they for children?
There are several Power Wheels options for children as young as 18 months old up to 10-12 years of age. Young children require cars with a top speed of 2 MPH, while older children can go slightly faster at 6-20 MPH. When giving your child Power Wheels, teach them proper safety procedures.
Before buying your child an electric toy car, read and absorb it to understand the best choice. See our full list of articles about power wheels for different ages here.
Not All Power Wheels Are Created Equal
Power Wheels is a brand name for electric motor vehicles made for children, but there are other brands and types of toy cars that children can ride, including pedal cars. If you're concerned about your child's safety with a motorized car, you might want to consider getting a pedal car on a trial basis and to help your child practice “driving.”
Within the electric vehicles category, several types of cars are made for different age levels and abilities. Smaller vehicles that travel at a top speed of two miles per hour are generally safe for toddlers, while larger vehicles with one or two seats and a top speed of six miles per hour are generally safe for older children up to 8 or 9 years of age.
There are several differences within the electric vehicles category, yet they differ completely from the pedal cars. This section will explain the differences and give you a brief history of the pedal cars, which is the predecessor to the Power Wheels cars.
Electric cars are not limited to the Power Wheels brand, but they are the most popular brand of children's riding toys. Fisher-Price, John Deere, and Huffy all carry electric vehicle toys and compete with the Power Wheels brand. Fisher-Price partnered with the Power Wheels brand to create ride-on toys for toddlers up to age three.
They are powered by a six or 12-volt battery and can reach up to six miles per hour without much input from the child. Power Wheels carries several vehicle models that mimic real-world vehicles, such as the Jeep Wrangler, Ford F-150, Ford Mustang, and the Cadillac Escalade EXT. Some vehicles mimic the characters in their favorite movies, such as Lightning McQueen from Cars.
While most models are operated from the car only, some models have a remote control option that allows parents to control how fast their kids go in their cars. It also helps parents keep their children safe if something dangerous happens, such as their child going into the street.
The downside to electric vehicles is that when the battery dies, it will not move until the battery is recharged or you get a new battery. But you don't want to let it discharge completely, as a sealed, rechargeable battery can develop a “memory” where it will only charge to a certain point and to that point. Keep the battery charged at least halfway at all times.
Pedal cars first appeared in the United States in the early 20th century and were advertised in catalogs at some point in the 1920s. Full-sized pedal cars came out in the 1890s and were marketed to the rich, as they were very expensive to make. Before the age of motorized carriages, pedal cars were one way to get around and carry passengers, as it was based on the bicycle.
These cars were used in Go-Kart racing that was popular in the 1940s and 50s, and many children grew up with one of these cars.
While they are not as popular today as they were back then, collectors are the main buyers of these cars. The one benefit they have over electric cars is that there is no battery to keep charged, and the child gets a bit more exercise if they want to make the car move. However, some of these cars might be too long for children, as they could have difficulty getting to the pedals.
Today, it might be more difficult to find an intact steel pedal vehicle, as they went out of production in the 1970s. The Little Tykes Crazy Coupe is still in production for toddlers, but the all-steel pedal cars have all but disappeared from production lines. If you want to get a pedal car for your child, you may want to try looking on eBay or second-hand sales and shops for one of the older models.
What Types of Power Wheels Vehicles Are Available?
As mentioned previously, Power Wheels produces several models and types of vehicles for young children that mimic real-life cars and other vehicles. Cars like the Cadillac Escalade or Jeep Wrangler are part of the Power Wheels family, along with small trains, motorcycles, and 4-wheelers.
Most of the vehicles are recommended for three years old and up, but if you choose to let your two-year-old ride on it, that is your choice.
In partnership with Power Wheels, Fisher-Price has created a line of electric toys for younger children under three years old that are somewhat safer than the bigger cars and trucks. For example, Thomas the Tank Engine is powered by a 6-volt battery and has a top speed of two miles per hour. The small train can either run on the included track or the floor.
Small trains are built for very young children and have very few controls, as they are more suited for parent and child interaction. These are also more suited for teaching your child how to operate an electric ride-on toy at a young age.
SUVs and Pickup Trucks
The Ford F-150 Power Wheels toy is one example of the pickups they carry. They also have a Cadillac Escalade EXT, a Jeep Wrangler, and other SUVs that mimic the real vehicles of the same name. These toys have a 12-volt battery, with a top speed of six miles per hour, and are recommended for children three years and up. They also have a weight limit, so older children might not be able to use them.
Bigger Power Wheels vehicles can usually be used outside, providing that you have a smooth surface for your child to “drive” on. Rough surfaces can cause your child to tip over and, perhaps, become injured. The best surfaces are concrete, a flat lawn, or a blacktop area away from real cars.
Power Wheels carries several types of cars that mimic real cars and cars from favorite movies, as mentioned earlier. Lightning McQueen is a favorite character from the “Cars” movie and is one of the many character cars they carry. They also have a Mercedes Benz and other luxury cars, complete with the fancy designs that real luxury cars have.
They also have the same size battery that the SUVs and pickup trucks have, with the same top speed of six miles per hour. You could potentially put in an 18-volt battery to boost the car's speed, but this is not recommended because you could shorten the life of the motor by burning up the element faster. It's not recommended, especially for younger children, as they could get injured by going too fast.
Motorcycles and 4-Wheelers
4-wheelers for young children have the same top speed as the other Power Wheels vehicles but are shaped like the real 4-wheelers made for adults and older teens. However, the 4-wheelers for children are painted in bright colors that appeal to children and have safety features that protect young children that the real vehicles don't have.
For children, motorcycles come in either the standard two-wheel bike for older children or with training wheels for younger children. They also come with three wheels for children under five who need stability because of a lack of balance that comes with fine motor skills. Power Wheels make these, but so do Honda and Razor–two giants in the motorcycle industry.
The motorcycles and 4-wheelers meant for young children don't get past six miles per hour, but those meant for older children can go up to 12 miles per hour. Smaller motorcycles are electric and go up to 2.5 miles per hour to help kids get used to riding a power bike without too much risk of injuries.
What Ages Work for Which Type of Vehicle?
Most vehicles have a minimum age of three years to use, but if you find that your two-year-old is bigger than most kids their age and need a bigger vehicle, you might want to get one rated for older children. But this is your choice, and you take responsibility for the consequences should something happen.
There are electric ride-on toys for every age group, up to 14 years and older. When children can sit on their own and walk, they can ride on an electric toy with supervision.
Up to 24 Months
Age-appropriate Power Wheels toys for children up to two years are rare, but they exist and are made specifically for little bodies. Because children this age don't have fine motor skills yet, these vehicles are controlled by push buttons so that children don't need to coordinate hand and foot actions. They are low to the ground and have a top speed of two miles per hour, as stated above.
As a parent, you'll be able to walk beside them as they ride on their toy to be sure nothing happens to them. Small trains, smaller 4-wheelers, and little cars are appropriate for this age, but only at your discretion.
Two-year-olds are still developing their motor skills and need simple vehicles to ride, so smaller vehicles with simple controls are still needed at this age. But three and four-year-olds have better fine motor control skills and can “graduate” to bigger vehicles with push buttons and foot pedals.
The normal range of Power Wheels vehicles are appropriate for 36 months and up. Once kids this age know the safety procedures and how to “drive” an electric car, they can play with minimal supervision. However, it would be best to keep your eye on them should something happen and your child gets injured.
These cars have realistic engine sounds and stereos to make their experience much more real.
5 Years Up to 8 Years
As kids get older, they have a firmer grasp on how to operate moving toys and might even learn how to ride a bicycle at this point. While five-year-olds can still fit into cars meant for three and four-year-olds, they start looking at the sophistication of the more detailed cars.
When kids get to the upper age of this range, they start wanting the real thing that goes faster than six miles per hour, such as scooters and motocross bikes for younger riders. Power Wheels cars that cater to this age include more realistic controls that work and an engine that sounds like the real thing.
8 Years to 13 Years
Kids in this age group are getting too big to ride Power Wheels toys and often crave going faster. At this point, you might want to look into getting small, gas-powered ATVs they can ride. Of course, you will need to re-visit safety protocols as these vehicles can go quite a bit faster, and when they first take one out, a parent or older, more experienced rider should accompany the child.
A Dirt Quad electric 4-wheeler made by Razor is a smaller electric ATV that is made specifically for 8-13 year-olds and gives them valuable riding experience for larger adult ATVs.
Once kids get out of this age group, they get ready to get their driver's licenses and drive real cars. But, there are still certain electric and gas-powered vehicles they can use, which can go much faster than the Power Wheels toys.
Power Wheels By Age
Here you'll find a link to our best recommendations for Power Wheels by Age:
- Power Wheels for 2 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 3 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 4 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 5 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 6 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 7 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 8 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 9 Year Olds
- Power Wheels for 10 Year Olds
Power Supplies You Need To Keep the Cars Running
Power Wheels vehicles use either a 6-volt or 12-volt battery, depending on how fast the vehicle is designed to go. Smaller vehicles for toddlers usually use a 6-volt battery, while regular vehicles for children three and older take a 12-volt battery. These batteries use specialty chargers that come with the vehicle, and if you lose it, you won't be able to recharge the battery.
You might be able to substitute another battery, providing it is the same voltage and type. But, if the battery is made for a lawnmower or motorcycle, it might not work the same.
What Voltage Battery Do You Need?
Vehicles designed to go at a maximum of two miles per hour, such as those made for toddlers and two-year-olds, require a 6-volt battery. Since there is no need for speed, the power output is less than a vehicle made for older children.
Power Wheels cars made for older children have a maximum speed of six miles per hour, so they need a 12-volt battery.
Can you put a larger battery in a Power Wheels vehicle to make it go faster? Yes and no. You can put a 16 or 18-volt battery in a vehicle, but it might short out the car, and it can void any warranty you have after purchasing it.
Keep the Specialty Charger
Without the specialty charger that comes with the vehicle, you won't be able to charge the battery, and your child won't be able to use the car. When you get the vehicle, and before letting your child in it, you'll need to fully charge the battery for 12-14 hours. After the battery is fully charged, place the charger in a safe place for the next charging session.
If you need to buy a new battery, it might be best to stick with the same battery brand for optimal performance. However, if you buy a generic battery, the battery terminals might not be the same, and you could short out the car.
How To Keep Your Child Safe on a Power Wheels Vehicle
Once you've chosen the vehicle for your child, you need to ensure your child is safe on the vehicle. Aside from making sure the vehicle is age-appropriate and providing safety equipment such as helmets and knee pads, you will want to show your child how to use it properly and set firm boundaries of where to ride and where not to go.
The following list outlines what you need to ensure your child stays safe while having fun on their ride-on toy.
Make Sure the Vehicle Is Age-Appropriate
While some vehicles are safe for children as young as 18 months old, most electric ride-on toys have a minimum age requirement of three years. But some cars could be too much for your child, especially if it goes too fast or they are too small to reach the controls.
Cars meant for toddlers run slower and don't have the same power unit as cars meant for older children. At six volts, the toy doesn't have the same amount of power and speed and is smaller for smaller bodies and hands. For example, the Thomas the Tank Engine train toy is meant for children 1-2 years of age and comes with a track. The top speed is 2 miles per hour and can only be used indoors and only at the parents' discretion.
Older children can use larger vehicles with a 12-volt battery, which powers the toys up to six miles per hour.
Teach Your Child Basic Safety Guidelines As Appropriate
When you're outside with your two-year-old on a small electric car, the risk is minimal as you're there with your child and can teach them how to “drive” the car. The child then learns how to control the car by watching you and can mimic your actions later.
However, for an older child, you will need to teach him or her how the basic safety guidelines, including:
- What surfaces to ride on, including grass and concrete.
- Stay off the roads where “big” cars drive.
- Always sit while in the car, and not standing.
- Keep the car off rough or slanted surfaces, as it can tip.
- When backing up, always turn your head to look behind you.
When you teach your children these safety procedures, they will have a better experience while staying safe.
Provide Safety Equipment if Available
Some Power Wheels cars come with seat belts and remote control options just in case your child needs it. If your child tends to take more risks than you feel safe, a remote control option in addition to seat belts might help keep your child safer.
You will also need to get your child helmets and knee and elbow pads like you would if they were riding a bicycle. There is not a lot of this protective equipment specifically for electric ride-on toys, but you can use the same equipment from other toys. Older kids with motorcycles and larger 4-wheelers can use motocross gear to keep themselves safe.
Helmets May or May Not Be Necessary
You can get your child a helmet to use while in the electric car, but it might not always be necessary. However, if your child has an electric motorcycle or 4-wheeler, a helmet is recommended, as there is more of a risk of falling off and hitting their head.
What Should Be the Top Speed for Each Age Group?
As mentioned before, younger children need cars that go slower, while older children can handle faster speeds. Take a look at the breakdown per age group:
- Up to three years: Two miles per hour is the maximum that cars made for this age can go.
- 3-7 years: Cars made for this age range can go up to six miles per hour.
- 8-10 years: While most Power Wheels cars are made for under eight years of age, some electric riding toys are still made for older children. There is no built-in top speed for these, but the safest speed should be what your child can handle, and you approve.
However, you have the final say in how fast or slow your child travels in their Power Wheels car. If you say they should go slower, then that is the speed they should go. Most cars made for younger children are programmed to go at a maximum speed to keep children safe. Even so, you may need to watch your child closely, at least in the beginning, to make sure they aren't exceeding your set speed.
What To Look for When Buying a Power Wheels Car
If your child loves adventure or takes a lot of risks, you might want to get a car that has a remote control option where you can keep your child's adventures in check. For example, if your kid is going full force towards a dangerous area, you can stop the car immediately before disaster strikes. Or, if your child refuses to obey you about something, you can back it up and bring them back to you.
Another helpful feature you might want in your child's Power Wheels car is a “high-speed lockout” option. This option allows you to set the maximum speed at a certain speed to keep your kiddo from going faster than they can handle for their age and experience.
Some vehicles have a seat belt option that keeps your kids safe should the vehicle tip over. Or, if your child loves to climb out of things, the seatbelts will help keep your kid in the car. Not all Power Wheels cars have this option, but you might want to look for this option if you have an adventurous child.
A reverse option is available on some cars, and it offers kids a real experience of fully “driving.” You may need to supervise the first few times your child tries reversing, as they won't always have the thought to turn and look behind them for safety.
If your child has siblings of a similar age or weight, you might want to look into getting a vehicle with more than one seat. Two or more seats help your child socialize and have a more fun driving experience. And they can have fun playing like they are adults, going to the “store” or the “gas station.”
Power Wheels cars have come a long way since the days of the pedal cars. But the spirit is still the same in children mimic what they see with their parents. They want to drive cars, go to the store and go out with friends. These vehicles allow kids to experience adulthood without the responsibilities.
But with each age comes safety and motor skills concerns, and making sure you get the right vehicle for your child's age is critical to keeping your child safe. Please do your research before getting a vehicle to make sure it is the right one.