If you haven’t yet broken your ankle by skidding on a Matchbox car, are you really even a parent? Don’t worry: we’ve got vehicles of all shapes, sizes and skills to please all manner of mini petrol heads, recommended by expert toy reviewers as well as real parents who've been there and got the injuries to prove it.
At Christmas, all the big toy car manufacturers will have something new on offer, but you can never go wrong with some of the classic car toy sets or individual cars. Some of the recommended makes and models here have been favourites with kid car fans for some years, and with good reason.
From big-gift toy cars for Christmas to pocket-money versions for a ‘just because’ treat, our list of the very best toy cars will have exactly what you’re looking for. So buckle up and enjoy the ride.
At a glance:
1. Best overall toy cars: Hot Wheels 36-Car Pack
Price: £59.99 | Buy now from Amazon
“My DS who was four last Christmas still loves his Hot Wheels. He got the Hot Wheels crate last year and it has been the most played with Christmas gift.” Theyhaveallbeenused2
Hot Wheels cars are always popular with Mumsnetters. They’re well-made, so will stand up to as many skirting board pile-ups as your child involves them in, and they come in a multitude of different styles and types.
This 36-car pack is sure to please tiny car fans with its range of classic and new models, including cars, racers, vans and monster trucks. Each car is scaled at 1:64 and comes decorated with Hot Wheels’ usual authentic detailing. The set would make an excellent Christmas gift for a young child just getting into cars toys or for an older collector too.
2. Best budget toy cars: KandyToys Kids Die-Cast Metal Toy Cars
Price: £11.88 | Buy now from Amazon
If you want to give your child's collection of cars a big boost without breaking the bank then this box of 36 die-cast models works out at mere pennies per car and will provide hours of whizzy, vroom-y fun.
While they’re not quite well-made as Hot Wheels, if you want a bunch of cars that your child can hurl down the patio, or would like to increase their car stock without spending a fortune, then this is a great selection. These cars will also make great weekly rewards for star charts and the like.
3. Best wooden toy cars: Melissa and Doug Wooden Car Set
Price: £16.27 | Buy now from Amazon
“[For parents who don’t like plastic tat,] Melissa and Doug do lots of toys that might fit the bill.” Elfinablender
Melissa and Doug’s wooden toys never fail to impress Mumsnet parents for their chunky charm and gender-neutral appeal.
This set of nine wooden vehicles includes a police car and a New York-style taxi cab. All are pleasingly easy for little hands to manipulate and manoeuvre really well, particularly on hard surfaces. There are lots of Melissa and Doug toys available that these cars would be compatible with, and they'd also be ideal for use on a roadmap rug.
4. Best pull-back toy cars: Hanmum Die-Cast Metal Pull-Back Cars 9 Pack
Price: £17.99 | Buy now from Amazon
Friction-powered cars are lots of fun. They’re great for racing (with one in each hand), but are also ideal if a child is playing with someone else. Children can practise those all-important skills of making friends, taking turns and losing and winning graciously.
This eye-catching set includes a London bus, a Mini, a Beetle and a VW Campervan. They’re all friction-powered too so will never run out of batteries.
5. Best car toys for babies: WOW Toys Dynamite Daisy
Price: £14.58 | Buy now from Amazon
“My little one (just turned one) loves his WOW toys. They're well made and sturdy.” ohtooooodles
A baby's toy car needs to be nice and chunky so that it's easy to pick up, and this stylish pink racing car with a removable figure for pretend play would make a lovely first car for children of 12 months and up.
Daisy hops in and out of her car easily and, when she’s ready for the off, the friction push-and-go motor sends her speeding quickly away. The car has a magnet on the back so it can be hooked up to other Wow Toys cars too.
The car contains no BPA or small parts, making it suitable for younger petrol heads, and is designed to improve motor skills as well as encourage interactive and creative play.
6. Best car toys for toddlers: DINOBROS Pull-Back Dinosaur Car Toys 4 Pack
Price: £22.85 | Buy now from Amazon
What could be more fun when you’re a toddler than toy cars and dinosaurs? Toy car dinosaurs, obviously!
DINOBROS toy cars are super-scaly, realistic-looking dinosaur heads on wheels - literal monster trucks - which pull back and whizz across the floor like extinction never happened.
They’re lovely and chunky to hold and should have massive appeal for dinosaur fans as well as kids who love cars, adding an extra pretend-play dimension to their games. This pack of four is great fun for racing with friends or siblings and includes a T-Rex, Triceratops, Dilophosaurus and Carnotaurus. No batteries required.
7. Best eco-friendly toy cars: Green Toys Car Carrier Vehicle Set
Price: £27.37 | Buy now from Amazon
Green Toys are, quite simply, beautifully made. Pleasing to the eye for parents keen on sustainable alternatives, and brightly coloured and chunky enough for children to enjoy, they’re made from recycled milk plastic bottles, contain no BPA, phthalates or PVC and can even be slung in the dishwasher to give them a proper clean - you can’t do that with wooden toys.
This vehicle carrier set comprises a lorry cab, detachable two-storey trailer, two working ramps and three differently coloured cars to load up on it. Good for playing with alone or with a friend, it’s also robust enough for outdoor play.
8. Best Disney Pixar Cars car toys: Disney Pixar Cars Deluxe 9-Piece Playset
Price: £25.95 | Buy now from Amazon
“My son turns five just after Christmas, and he wants a remote control recycling truck (Playmobil) and some Disney Cars die-casts for his collection.” user64325
The Cars movie franchise is as popular with children now as it was when it all began 15 years ago, and new generations of kids are falling in love with Lightning, Mater and the gang each year.
If your child is a fan of the films, this nine-piece Cars playset will go down a storm and fit in well with their ever-growing collection of die-cast models. Ka-chow!
9. Best toy car garage: V-Tech Toot-Toot Driver’s Garage
Price: £44.99 | Buy now from Amazon
“DS3 plays with the Toot-Toot Garage the most.” CandyCaneLane0
VTech is famed for its bright and appealing toys with lots of lights, sounds and buttons to push, and the Toot-Toot Driver’s Garage is no exception. It comes with a tow truck, but you could easily add more VTech cars to join the pack.
Little ones can drive the tow truck around the two floors, travel up in the lift and down the ramps, visit the repair centre with a moving spanner and even take the truck to the car wash with spinning brushes.
There are open-and-close gates and spinning gears to bring on fine motor skills, and three light-up buttons that introduce colours and a few objects. The garage also has nine interaction points which you drive over for sound effects. All in all, there’s lots to do and we think this would keep children of one to five years busy for hours.
10. Best toy cars track: Hot Wheels GYP65 Track Builder Unlimited Triple Loop Kit
Price: £39.99 | Buy now from Amazon
“Hot Wheels goes down well here - lots of different sets to choose from depending on budget.” WellTidy
One for more experienced toy cars fans, this triple graduating loop set from Hot Wheels allows you to build gravity drops, create jumps and race the Hot Wheels car that comes with the set all over the Triple Loop.
It's great toy for slightly older children to help extend the life of their toy car enthusiasm - as well as help them a few very useful things about physics.
What should I look for in a toy car?
There are always lots of toy cars on the market - they never go out of fashion - so choosing the best option for your child will depend on both age and interest level.
If you’re buying for a very young child, always look at the age suitability as some cars may have tiny pieces that could be a choking hazard for under-threes. Little'uns will also want to be able to manipulate their cars easily so go for chunkier versions for very young children, and leave the opening doors and car boots for slightly older kids, for whom that kind of thing can help with fine motor skills.
Regardless of age, look for cars that are sturdy and like they’ll stand up to a bit of rough and tumble. They’re going to be hitting a LOT of skirting boards at speed, and may even get taken out into the back garden.
It’s worth paying a little more for the well-known brands if you can, because these will manoeuvre better, won’t fall apart and have wheels that stick.
Type of play
Consider how the toy car will be played with too. If it's for a keen vehicles fan, you might want some unusual or vintage-type designs that are more of a collector’s item than a toy. If it's for a race enthusiast, pull-back friction cars, push-and-go vehicles or toys with some track (like the Hot Wheels sets) are particularly fun. If you’re after a toy garage, or your child has one already, you’ll want free-wheeling cars that will run smoothly down different slopes.
It’s also worth looking for familiar faces that your child might know. The Disney Pixar Cars franchise is perennially popular and a young Cars fan will be thrilled to have Mater, Lightning McQueen and co in their collection. But there are also cars with superheroes, Star Wars characters, Polly Pocket and evenPaw Patrol and Peppa Pig about, so play to your audience and go for characters they know and love.
While we’ve mostly featured cars in our roundup, there are lots of diggers, buses, trains, trucks and other vehicles that might take your child's fancy - even tractor fans aren’t left out, with entire ranges of John Deere merch available to buy.
What is the best toy car?
For a please-all present for Christmas, or any time of year, we think the generous box of 36 Hot Wheels Cars, in every shade and style you can think of, are the best toy cars to buy right now. Hot Wheels cars are always a favourite with Mumsnet parents for their robustness and child-pleasing designs, as well as car-loving children of different ages.
How we chose our recommendations
Recommendations from real Mumsnet users
Before we recommend new products, we always ask our trusted Mumsnet users, of which there are more than 7 million each month. That’s a lot of honest, impartial advice.
We sought out the trusted opinions of Mumsnet users, to get their feedback on their kids' favourite toy cars, including the brands that they rate and recommend. To find the toy cars that came with the most recommendations, we first searched the Mumsnet forums to create a longlist of approximately 50 toy cars that had been popular with Mumsnetters and their children.
We then looked at which toy cars had impressed parents on toy review sites - including both industry reviews and customer feedback. We cross-referenced this with the original list to shortlist 20 toy cars and sets that both Mumsnetters and reviewers had loved and, from there, we chose a final 10 products suitable for every age and stage.
Authentic consumer reviews
Finally, to bring you our definitive list of the best toy cars on the market, we thoroughly investigated genuine, in-depth customer reviews on retailer sites such as Amazon to get wider consumer experiences regarding the products on our shortlist.
Why you should trust us
We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust, prioritising recommendations from real parents who tried the products themselves and cared enough to share their opinions on Mumsnet’s Talk forums. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful reviews like this one.