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Shopping for toy cars requires some forethought—aside from any developmental skills they may spark, they’re usually labeled for safety within certain age groups. While those labels are helpful, they're not always consistent. “That's why it's important to pay attention to whether small pieces can be removed, batteries can be taken out, wheels can come off—as well as your child’s personal development," says Adam Page of Toyology Toys.
We took Page's insight and also considered product value, durability, and gifting value during our research. Our top pick was the Hot Wheels 20 Car Gift Pack (view on Amazon)—it reigns from a household name in the category and contains a variety of collectible metal cars. Here are the rest of the best toy cars of 2022, with options for 1-year-olds and up.
Hot Wheels 20 Car Gift Pack
Works well with Hot Wheels and other tracks/mats
Appealing to both boys and girls
Some gift packs contain duplicate cars
Some cars are plastic—not all have rubber tires
This pack of 20 Hot Wheels reigns from an authority name in toy cars and ticks all the boxes for a great gift. Each set comes with 20 cars for collecting or play, all designed with metal bodies and plastic wheels. The 1:64 scale vehicle models are compatible with various toy racing tracks and mats, even beyond the brand, making for more exclusive play with your child's existing collections. Three-year-olds to adult car enthusiasts will appreciate the brightly colored, gender-neutral designs and variety of models.
WOW Fireball Frankie
Friction-powered, so no batteries are needed
Helps with fine motor skill development
Comes with rear magnetic hook, compatible with any WOW trailer
Moves rather slowly
Page named WOW vehicles among the safest made, as they are all battery-free, dishwasher safe, and made for durability. Fireball Frankie is a pullback toy car that comes with no small parts, and makes realistic car sounds that enhance playtime. The removable driver, Toby, looks great driving this flashy red car with flame detailing.
Kidoozie Press ‘n Zoom Fire Engine
Has no small parts that come off
Innovative and inspiring for creative, imaginative play
Wipes clean easily, but isn’t dishwasher-safe
Page also strongly recommends Kidoozie for younger children. He noted that the brand makes quality, safe products, as well as a remarkably wide assortment of toy vehicles. From fire trucks to street sweepers to garbage trucks and more, the toy vehicles often include remote control options.
The Kidoozie Press ‘n Zoom Fire Engine has wheels that spin, and moves forward easily with a simple press on the fireman’s head. The ladder also moves so that the fire fighter can get it into place for fire fighting.
Melissa & Doug Wooden Vehicles and Traffic Signs
Includes a variety of emergency vehicles, a school bus, taxi, and more
Signs are all vividly colored and easy to read
Provides practice with sorting, understanding cause and effect
Occasionally delivered with chipped paint
“Melissa & Doug make cool, educational stuff to work with as kids grow, with all kinds of fun gadgets from 9 months to 99 years old," says Page. We love that this set includes various types of everyday and emergency vehicles, perfect for youngsters to practice sorting and vocabulary. These wooden pieces are easy for little ones to grab, and the wooden material helps ensure years of use.
PLAYMOBIL® Back to The Future Delorean
Gull wing doors that open
Excellent customer service
Takes about 20 minutes to set up the first time
The Playmobil Back to the Future DeLorean comes equipped with all the expected movie elements: Marty McFly, the good doctor Emmett Brown, Einstein the dog, the skateboard, the flux capacitor, the plutonium cores and their case, as well as accessories and the DeLorean itself. The set is ideal for elementary aged children and has a warning for a possible choking hazard for children three years old and younger.
Radio Flyer My First Tesla Model Y
Helps develop motor skills
Has a weight capacity of 43 pounds
Wheels are quiet enough to ride indoors
Horn can get annoying
TESLA recently developed a partnership with Radio Flyer creating a unique line of ride-on toys. This ride-on car toy, the TESLA Model Y, is high quality, following the reputation of Radio Flyer, a company known for their well-made, sturdy products. The Radio Flyer My First TESLA Model Y is a solid toy vehicle with an ergonomic seat embedded on the hood, a working horn and steering wheel, and rubber grip wheels that work both indoors and out.
Paw Patrol Dino Patroller Motorized Vehicle
Hours of fun for any kid who loves PAW Patrol
Well-made and substantial
Small parts pose a choking hazard for kids under 3
The PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Paw Patroller marks the very first time the team has driven a motorized vehicle. It moves forward with the press of a button, and it shoots out rescue nets to save animals in distress. With oversized wheels, the Patroller can roll over nearly any terrain. It has room inside for all six animals, and the T. Rex’s mouth and tail both move. The PAW Patroller requires 6 AA batteries, which are included.
Kidoozie Lights 'n Sounds Police Station
Wipes clean easily
Helps preschoolers develop hand-eye coordination
Realistic lights and sounds would be better if there were volume control
Inspired by our first responders, this car set includes the lights and sounds of a real police station. The included moving police car, two officers, and police station wipe clean easily and promote imaginative play. You’ll need two AA batteries, which are included to power the exciting interactive features.
WOW Toys Mack Monster Truck
Built sturdily with bright colors
Helps teach cause and effect
No batteries needed
Some children may feel Mack’s face is too scary
Encourage creative playtime and motor skill development when you give your kiddo a WOW Mack Monster truck. It comes as a set of two—just the truck and its removable driver—and it makes realistic engine sounds. It also has a push-down button that shows Mack’s Monster teeth, plus oversized rubber wheels for riding the roughest terrain.
WolVolk Transport Car Carrier Truck
Perfectly sized to hold matchbox cars
Front cab is detachable and turns
Lids snap closed to keep cars safely in their spaces on the truck
Packages aren’t always neatly packed up for shipping
This sturdy car carrier truck is a unique truck toy with numerous exciting features. Kids can push this truck around with up to 28 of their cars inside as they imagine they’re on their way to unload at the dealership or are simply transporting their cars to a friend’s house for more hours of creative play. There’s a handle on the top of the truck to help with its portability, so it makes for a great storage option, too.
Hot Wheels Hot Wheels Character Cars, Disney and Pixar
Built well, durable
Nice to add to any toy car collection
A little pricey for only six cars
Disney and Pixar fans, gather ‘round! Your favorite characters have now become Hot Wheels cars, and they’ve each been reimagined in stunning detail. Do you recognize them? Think: The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, and Wall-E. Perfect as a gift for a toddler, these six 1:64 scale cars instantly become a collection that your child can enjoy and then pass down through generations.
Radio Flyer Ultimate Go-Kart
Comes with a seat belt and racing flag to enhance visibility
Has a rechargeable 24 volt battery with charger included
Maximum speed of 8 mph
Partial assembly is required upon unboxing
An impressive toy car indeed, Radio Flyer’s Ultimate Go-Kart has a weight limit of 81 pounds and has an an adjustable seat, allowing for it to grow as your child grows, as well as a choice of three forward driving speeds and a single reverse speed—and a very handy parent-controlled speed lock that gives parents the ultimate control over how fast the go-kart actually goes. The front tires are rubber and have great traction and the rear wheels are extra wide.
Melissa & Doug Animal Rescue Shape-Sorting Truck
Comes with a booklet of instructions and play ideas
Figures and animals are solid wood
Encourages sorting skills, hand-eye coordination, shape recognition and more
Some find the wood to be low quality, splintering easily
Melissa & Doug have crafted the ideal toy truck for young animal lovers. The wooden animal rescue truck lets them put animals they have rescued through its sides while matching their shapes. This truck has room for a hippo, giraffe, elephant, rhino, lion, alligator, and more—then once full, you just lift the cargo door and remove them from the truck and release them into the animal sanctuary. Two rangers come with the set as do seven wooden animals.
BEZGAR Remote Control Car Licensed RC Series
Works inside and outside
Very realistic looking
Seems quite small compared to the photos
This stunning remote control Lamborghini Aventador SVJ is a high quality choice for beginner collectors or children practicing the controls of their first supercar replicas. The Aventador is easy to direct in all directions with the controller. It has a maximum speed of 4 mph and is made of non-harmful ABS plastic. It requires five AA batteries in total (three for the car and two for the remote controller.) It’s best as a gift for car-loving teenagers or adults looking to add to their collection.
The Big Dig Roll Big Dig Sandbox Digger
Can dig up to 15 feet deep
Encourages imaginative outdoor play
Helps improve hand eye coordination
Partial assembly is required at unboxing
An impressive ride-on toy excavator, the Big Dig and Roll can be used in all seasons on sand, dirt, or snow. Plan a little construction project in your backyard with the littles, or let them excavate the sandbox or a pile of fresh snow. You could even bring this along to the beach next time you make the trip. Crafted of durable metal, it offers a working crane and rubber wheels with a 360 degree rotation. The weight limit for the rider is 110 pounds.
Kidzone DIY Sticker Race Car 6V Kids Toy
Comes with a safety belt and anti-flat tires
No assembly required
Lengthy charging times required for short-lived battery life
Another brilliant ride-on toy option, this bumper car can be driven by the child or, for kids from 1.5 to 3, parents can choose remote control instead to operate it themselves for optimal safety. It can do full 360-degree spins, comes with a rechargeable 6V battery that holds a charge for one to two hours, and has a weight limit of 66 pounds for riders.
Playmobil Ambulance with Flashing Lights
Very realistic parts for play and role playing
Good value for the price
Flashing lights and siren work well
High quality product
Some littles quickly disassemble, lose parts, and never find them again
Aspiring young EMTs will dream of rushing to assist the injured bicyclist in this innovative ambulance with working lights and sounds that turn on with the flip of a switch. Kids will enjoy hurrying to aid the patient with the equipment provided, including a stretcher with straps that rolls, a medical chart, bandages, an IV drip, and more. The stretcher fits into the back of the ambulance, so the medical workers can roll the bicyclist in and drive them to the hospital. Light assembly and sticker-placement assistance is required from adults.
John Deere Toy Tractor Value Set
High quality pieces
Easily grasped by small hands
Vehicles are smaller than expected
Small parts dangerous, i.e. horses, choking hazard for kids under 3
This 26-piece farm set has everything needed to set up a miniature farm in your own home. There are plenty of tractors, trucks, horses, fencing, and more, and the farm vehicles each have at least 3-inch long bodies and rolling wheels for realistic playtime.
Melissa & Doug School Bus Wooden Play Set
Helps kids learn sorting, shapes, matching, etc.
Kids get exercise pushing the bus through the house
Sparks a lot of creative, imaginative play
Occasional misshapen pieces
If you’ve got little ones heading off to school on the bus soon, why not prepare them ahead of time with a Melissa and Doug school bus set? Each set comes with a happy, smiling driver and six enthusiastic student passengers ready to get in and ride the bus to school. Wheels roll easily, the bus door opens and closes, the stop sign flips open for safety, and the composition of all the pieces is high quality and durable.
Kidoozie Little Tuffies
Helps kids learn cause and effect, fine motor skills, and more
Perfectly sized for little hands to grasp
Some seem to break easily
For the industrious young child, hours of play “work” awaits with these durable and colorful toy trucks. Ideal toddlers and older, Kidoozie Little Tuffies come with three construction vehicles per package—a bulldozer, dump truck, and cement mixer. Play with them at home or stash them in the beach bag or picnic basket for your next outing.
Amicool RC Cars Stunt Car Toy
Makes a great gift
Fun for family time
Does amazing flips and turns no other remote control vehicles do
Some stop working correctly after a few days
For toddlers to tweens, the Amicool Red RC Stunt Car Toy might be the coolest thing to hit the sidewalk in a long while. Battery-powered and highly durable, the stunt car can do impressive turns, spins, flips, and extreme 360 degree tumbling, all things that should be investigated in the operation guide to learn about prior to heading outside. It can work on most terrains and needs 4 AAA batteries for the car and 2 AA batteries for the remote.
What to Look for in a Toy Car
Carefully examine toys upon purchase to make sure pieces don’t come apart or fall off, especially when children age 3 and younger are going to be using them. This age group still puts a lot in their mouths while playing, and could easily choke on such pieces. As Page mentioned, consider your child's own age and personal development. For example, the toy may be designed for your child’s age group, but if your child still puts toys in their mouth and you’ve seen do it recently, you may still want to hold off on presenting the toy until that habit is over.
For young kids, you’ll want to skip over the true figurines, or toy cars that don’t move. Toys with functional wheels that easily move around are much more engaging and appropriate for small children. That said, there are different types of functional toy cars. Some only move by force of your hand, some have pull systems, others crank and go, and still others have battery-operated motors. If you want the toy to travel further without much energy, opt for one of the latter options.
Toy cars typically come in one of two materials—plastic or metal. Plastic toy cars aren’t quite as heavy and are better suited for younger children. As kids get older, they’ll be more capable of handling heavier metal cars, including popular items like Hot Wheels.
Because toy cars come in a range of materials and come in varying degrees of intricacy, it’s important to evaluate all potential toys for age-appropriateness. Check the manufacturer’s recommended age, a great indication as to whether the item is suitable for your child. In general, when shopping for smaller babies and toddlers, avoid small, intricate cars made of tough materials like metal. For older toddlers and kids, look for more engaging cars, like battery-operated motors or handheld remote controls.
Where can I find a durable toy car?
Age-appropriate toys tend to be more durable for the child's style of play at that age. Toys like the take apart car are designed to be taken apart and put back together and may withstand more rough handing from a child. Hot wheels and other small metal cars are also very durable for children age three and up.
When is it safe to let kids play with toy cars?
Kids can play with toy cars as soon as they are able to hold toys. However, it's important to get age-appropriate toy cars. Toddlers should only play with durable toy cars that are too large to swallow and contain no loose parts. Look for the age guidelines on the package, and consider what you know about what the child is doing behaviorally (i.e. putting things in their mouth, etc.) before purchasing.
What are some affordable toy cars?
There are plenty of affordable toy cars, like pull back cars and take apart cars. Look for individual toy cars rather than large sets. You can also search for a cars and accessories to add to the child's current toy car collection.
Why Trust the Spruce?
KJ Callihan writes for The Spruce and has done gift and shopping guides for several other sites. She enjoys interviewing experts on relevant topics, and searching for hours for the perfect gifts for everyone on her list. Julie Evans is a writer and editor who has written for USA Today, Realtor.com, Brit + Co, and SheKnows, among others.