The 10 Best Pedal Cars

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This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Pedal cars have been enjoyed by generations of children, and these miniature vehicles still remain very popular. They come in a wide variety of styles and colors to match any youngster’s personality, and are great for getting them outside for fresh air and exercise. For safety’s sake, make sure children always wear shoes when riding and stay away from streets and driveways. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.

1. Berg Toys Buddy

2. Little Tikes Sport Racer

3. Instep Pink Lady

Editor's Notes

March 27, 2020:

Whether you plan to buy your child a realistic, pint-sized replica of a classic automobile from decades gone by, or your little one is more interested in a go-cart type model, our list is likely to have a pedal car of interest to you. In this update, we added in the Little Tikes Sport Racer, a sleek model that’s sure to make your child’s new ride the talk of the block. It sports a black exterior with bright red trim, and has rugged off-road style tires that are designed for all surfaces. It grows along with your child, thanks to its adjustable back seat. Instead of a wheel, steering is done with dual handles that make it easy to turn and maneuver.

For something more elegant, look to the classic Instep Pink Lady, which youngsters will love decorating to their liking, using the included sheet of decals that features a variety of pictures as well as letters. It can accommodate riders of up to 70 pounds and is a cinch to put together. Along similar lines, the Baghera Classic boasts an antique design with all sorts of vintage-inspired details, including headlights on the radiator, realistic-looking gauges, and an attractive red interior.

For safety’s sake, have your child wear a helmet with these riding toys, and supervise them at all times during use. Be sure to use pedal cars only in areas that are a safe distance from streets and driveways, and ensure your child wears shoes at all times to prevent injuries to the feet. Lastly, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the appropriate age range for any given model.

In this update, we removed both the Hauck Nerf Battle Racer Ride On and the Hauck Batmobile Go Kart, both of which contain small parts and are not suitable for younger children. If you’re interested in checking out additional riding options for your youngster, check out our list of best Big Wheels and best tricycles.

Special Honors

Pottery Barn Kids Fire Truck Pedal Car Kids will enjoy hours of imaginative play on this extra-durable steel vehicle, which sports fun, interactive features like a ringing bell, a pretend ladder, a water hose, and a functioning steering wheel. It features a powder-coated, smooth red finish that’s been sprayed on by hand and panels and a frame that are hand-welded. It’s suitable for children aged two to four years, and can be personalized upon request.

4. Hauck Lightning Go-Kart

5. Baghera Classic

6. Blue Diamond Classics Fire Truck

7. Rolly Toys Cat Front Loader

8. Instep Street Rod PC600

9. Peg Perego John Deere

10. Morgan Cycle Retro

Childhood Fun On Four Wheels

Finally, no description of a mobile toy would be complete without mentioning the potential for exploration.

When I was young, personal mobility played an important part in forming my sense of independence. For many young kids today, mobility is realized through use of a bicycle or skateboard. As kids get older, their desire for a more sophisticated form of mechanized transportation also evolves, leading to the use of an automobile. It stands to reason that because driving embodies this personal independence, something like a pedal car would be an attractive toy for a much younger "driver".

Typically equipped with four wheels, the pedal car is a ride-on toy engineered for children and powered entirely by a little one's feet and legs. One of its defining characteristics is the fact that its body style can be manufactured to resemble a real vehicle, such as a fire truck, dump truck, police cruiser, or even a hot rod. The majority of pedal cars on our list reflect an eclectic range of designs. They are often constructed from a combination of steel and heavy-duty plastics engineered to withstand impacts, while maintaining superior safety at all times.

Ride-on toys of any kind provide a world of fun, freedom, choice, growth, and learning for kids of all ages, not to mention a variety of benefits that develop a child's fine motor skills. The toy promotes childhood independence, while a constant pedaling motion develops both the leg muscles and upper limbs when riding around the house or on the sidewalk. Pedal cars spark creativity and the imagination. Depending on the theme, children can use pedal cars as tools for role playing and considering different possibilities, which serves them well later in life when honing critical thinking skills and dealing with adversity. The mobile nature of a pedal car trains a child to understand balance and how to distribute their weight evenly, proving useful for tykes who are just learning to walk. Given that no two pedal cars are identical, kids can form their own identities (and relationships) through group play and social bonding. Finally, no description of a mobile toy would be complete without mentioning the potential for exploration. The pedal car not only gives a kid control over where he goes, but it allows him to familiarize himself with the world around him.

Forming Identity Through Versatility

Most kids are naturally inquisitive and they love to be spontaneous when choosing objects they feel suit their desires and personalities. Keeping that in mind, show your child as many styles of pedal car as possible before making a decision to purchase one. Don't assume that your young daughter isn't interested in a pedal car resembling a fire engine. Part of the experience of giving kids this kind of independence is letting them make the decisions on their own about what they want and the style of car they prefer when it comes to expressing themselves.

Don't assume that your young daughter isn't interested in a pedal car resembling a fire engine.

Next, consider a child's age and potential for growth spurts when making your decision. Many models are equipped with adjustable steering wheels, seats, seatbelts, and pedals for comfort and accommodating children between ages three and eight. The last thing you want is for your child to outgrow their toy in a year or less.

Safety is also very important. Always keep an eye on your little ones when they ride on a pedal car. Look for an option made with a steel frame, lead-free paint, and with large tires to ensure superior stability and balance on both streets and sidewalks. Very close supervision is recommended on actual streets, since none of these types of cars will offer the speed of a real automobile. It is also for this reason that the colors on the car should be bright and easy to spot.

A Brief History Of Pedal Cars

The birth of the pedal car roughly coincides with the development of the first conventional, gasoline-powered automobile, which is commonly credited to German engineer Carl Friedrich Benz in 1885. This doesn't mean the rudimentary concept of personal mechanized transportation started with Benz's design, but it does mark one of the first practical applications of the technology. This ultimately helped to set the stage for a younger audience to experience the excitement of driving and exploration without the complexities of an internal combustion engine.

Originally constructed with wood frames and sheet steel, the earliest pedal cars appeared in the 1890s and were modeled after real automobiles.

Originally constructed with wood frames and sheet steel, the earliest pedal cars appeared in the 1890s and were modeled after real automobiles. Due to their high costs at the time, these toys were primarily found in the homes of only the wealthiest families. The time period between the World Wars was the most popular for manufacturing the cars. Two of the biggest pedal car manufacturers were American National Automobiles of Toledo and Steelcraft of Murray, both based in Ohio. Common designs from these manufacturers included pedal trucks dump trucks, and Model T Roadsters, among other designs.

Pedal car production ceased after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 due to the requirements of metal for the war effort, however the toy experienced a resurgence in popularity by the 1950s. Similar to their engine-powered counterparts, pedal cars appeared in a variety of different styles and colors, and were engineered to reflect the current trends of the automotive industry. In addition to their all-steel construction, many pedal cars were equipped with lights, horns, windshields, whitewall tires, and customized paint jobs.

While pedal cars of the 1950s are collector's items today, there are plenty of modern options from which to choose that are durable enough to withstand heavy abuse from little ones still developing their motor skills. Given their continued popularity and the obsession many automobile enthusiasts have with bringing older trends back to life, it's doubtful that pedal cars will ever fall completely out of style.

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Karen Bennett
Last updated on March 29, 2020 by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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