We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back.
For many of us, our indoctrination to the world of cars came early on, with plush toys, tiny die-casts, ride-ons, and, of course, remote control cars. Today's RC cars are far more high-tech than the Tonka trucks and Hot Wheels we used to play with, but toy cars can still provide hours of screen-free, tactile entertainment for kids (and their parents).
While we here at Car and Driver are experts on real cars and trucks, we recognize that we may have some glaring blind spots when it comes to offering advice on the best toys for our children; crash-test safety and 60-mph times just aren't the relevant factors.
Our Top Picks
For more than a century, our colleagues at Good Housekeeping have been testing and evaluating products for parents and homes, and their testing and evaluation processes have become an industry standard. With that in mind, we looked to our friends at the Good Housekeeping Institute (GHI) for some expert insight into the best RC cars on the market.
Here are Good Housekeeping's picks for the Best RC Cars for Kids. Note: Car and Driver has paraphrased the findings to reflect our purposes here. While this list includes cars for a range of ages, even some that adults can get a good kick out of, we're saving the adult-level RC cars for our own future test.
How Good Housekeeping Tested RC Cars
Whether in their lab or in the home of staff and family testers, Good Housekeeping has been testing RC cars since the beginning. Priority was placed on safety, ensuring that each toy met federal safety standards. Then the experts checked for pinch points (spots on a toy where a small child could hurt a finger) and conducted a drop test, to be certain the toy won't shatter into small pieces if dropped.
Then the fun begins. Dozens of RC cars were tested for ease of assembly, durability, battery life, size, speed, and features like the ability to perform fun tricks. Close attention was paid to the power source (rechargeable or disposable batteries), whether the car works best indoors or out, if it left marks on walls or cabinets, and age grading.
Each RC car was tested with a full charge to ensure that it could achieve at least 15 straight minutes of playtime. Then, the cars were driven, at speed, off of a countertop and down stairs to test their ability to withstand hard landings. Then, they let their kids play with them!
The folks at Good Housekeeping have been providing reliable, expert reviews on popular toys and games for decades. They compile an annual list of the top toys and tech they've tested for a wide range of ages.
Key Factors in Shopping for an RC Car
- Just about any toy RC car will be powered by either rechargeable batteries (which allow you to plug the toy in to charge) or disposable batteries (usually not included). While rechargeable batteries alleviate the need to change batteries, they usually offer a much shorter play time on a single charge—sometimes less than half an hour.
- Even for toys that use rechargeable batteries for the car itself, you'll typically need to purchase batteries for the remote control. All but one of the recommendations on our list require either AA or AAA batteries in the remote.
- Durability is key, so look for brands that are known for making toys built to hold up to rough play.
- RC cars can be very speedy, particularly those age-graded for teens and adults. There are exceptions, as the RC wheelchair we recommended, while rated for ages 6-plus, is quite fast.
- It's always important to keep age-grading in mind. For instance, toys marked for ages 12-plus may require a level of patience that younger children may not have yet developed. This is even more important for the youngest children.
- Keep an eye on the dimensions, as they often make the difference between whether or not a toy can be practically used indoors.
Why Trust Good Housekeeping?
The Good Housekeeping Institute has been testing products and providing expert reviews and advice on everything parents and children love for over 100 years, from family board games to ride-on toys. RC vehicles chosen for this list have been evaluated by Rachel Rothman, the GH Institute's chief technologist and executive technical director, and Marisa LaScala, Good Housekeeping's senior parenting and relationships editor. They helm Good Housekeeping's annual list of Best Toys.
Why Trust Us?
With a combined 206 years of automotive publishing experience, Hearst Autos—Car and Driver, Road & Track, and Autoweek—knows cars better than just about anyone. The Gear Team delivers honest evaluations, hands-on tests, and product reviews driven by decades of knowledge and experience. We get our hands on almost every product, tool, and piece of gear we feature; we evaluate gear on its own merits and tell you the truth.
We'll never say anything is "the best" if we wouldn't recommend it to our friends or buy it ourselves, and we won't tell you we've tested something if we haven't. Learn more about our product testing here.
Justin Helton is an avid automobile collector and gearhead from New York City.
Rachel Rothman (she/her) is the chief technologist and executive technical director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she oversees testing methodology, implementation and reporting for all GH Labs. She also manages GH’s growing research division and the analysis of applicants for the GH Seal and all other testing emblems. During her 15 years at Good Housekeeping, Rachel has had the opportunity to evaluate thousands of products, including toys and cars for GH’s annual awards programs and countless innovative breakthroughs in consumer tech and home improvement.
Save Your Wrists With a Cordless Ratchet
Formula 1 Is Back! Grab Some Swag Today
Best OBD-II Scanners for 2023, Tested
Great TV Deals in Time for Auto Racing Season