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10 of the best toy vehicles

From cars that do stunts and planes that turn into recording studios to recycling lorries, rainbow buses and big red fire engines, we've selected the top toy vehicles for boys and girls ages 18 months to 8 years

Toy trains, planes and automobiles – not to mention fire engines, trucks and buses: there's something about toy vehicles that fascinates children of all ages.

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From the simplest, baby-friendly chunky car on wheels to the super-detailed, high-tech vehicles with motors and remote controls, they're all great for honing hand-eye coordination – and having some seriously good wheely fun.

With the help of our crack team of child testers, we've rated and selected the best toy vehicles, in a range of prices, for toddlers, preschooler and older children...

Here’s our pick of the best toy vehicles for children, as tested by kids and rated by parents

1. Playmobil City Action Fire Ladder Unit, £62.99

– Great for extended imaginative play

Playmobil City Action Fire Ladder Unit with Extendable Ladder

Age suitability: 4+ | Best for age: 5+ | Batteries: 2 x AAA (not included)
Awards: Gold, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 17cm x 39cm fire engine with an extendable, rotating ladder and flashing lights and siren sounds. It has a removeable roof on the driver's cab and slide-down stabilising legs. Comes with 3 firefighters, and accessories including fire helmets with visors, a power generator, fire extinguisher and firefighters' axes. Can be combined with a remote control unit (sold separately).

Why we love it: Its blue flashing lights and 'nee-naw' siren are great but it's the extendable, rotating ladder that give this fire engine the wow factor. We really like the diverse set of firefighters and the great clutch of accessories, too: lots there to spark off some excellent firefighting scenarios. "The attention to detail is fabulous," said Carolyn, mum of our child tester twins Arabella and Joseph, 4. 'They completely lose themselves in imaginative play. The engine feels robust, too – it will stand the test of time." Arabella added, "I love the lights and the fire engine noise, and how the ladder goes up and down! Can I keep it for ever?"

Available at: Amazon

2. LOL Surprise! OMG Remix 4-in-1 Plane Playset, £49.99

– Great for accessories

LOL Surprise Remix 4 in 1 Plane

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 7 | Batteries: 6 x LR44 (included)
Awards: Silver, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 60cm-long plane playset with lights and sounds that transforms into a car, recording studio and mixing booth. It comes with 50 surprises, including a drink cart and wheelie suitcases, as well as accessories, including sleep masks, microphones and passports.

Why we love it: There’s so much play potential with this 4-in-1 playset and our child tester, Tabitha, 7, loved discovering all the little extras included with it, like mini headsets and tickets. She especially liked the light-up element and the fact she could fold down all the chairs for her dolls to sleep at night, declaring it "a really cool and fun toy!" Mum, Jessica, also agreed the lights are great fun but cautions that this is a big toy, so that's worth bearing in mind if space is an issue.

Available at: Smyths Toys, Amazon and Argos

3. Jaques of London Wooden London Bus, £21.99

– Great for storytelling play

Jaques of London Wooden London Bus

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A red wooden London bus with working wheels and 9 painted passenger figures that fit into the seat slots inside. You can take off the top deck to play between both levels (and store the figures safely inside).

Why we love it: It's sturdy and moves smoothly and is just a lovely, simple traditional wooden toy. With its diverse mix of figures and lots of different seating options, it's also brilliant for encouraging imaginative play – which is exactly what our child tester Beth, 4, plunged straight into. "I like this toy as it go everywhere and it has seats in it," she said. "It can go to the bus stop in London and some people will go to football and some people to Snow World and some people to work and some people to builder work and some to the farm."

Available at: Amazon and Jacques of London

4. Learning Resources Design & Drill Bolt Buddies Fire Truck, £46

Great for creative role play

bolt-buddies-fire-truck

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: 3 x AAA (not included)
Awards: Editor's Choice, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A 16cm x 18cm x 33cm fire truck that comes with a play power drill for you to use to fix the wheels on (and take them off). Features a hinged ladder, 13 drilling spots, 24 bolts, 8 snap-on fire and water toppers, 2 firefighter figures and a little dog. The eco-friendly packaging is designed to be turned inside out and used as a burning building and fire headquarters.

Why we love it: The play drill is great fun – and adds loads more playability to a fire truck toy. It's nicely designed and we liked the diverse skin tones of the firefighters. We also like the seat on the ladder although, oddly, you can only access the driver's cab through the roof as the cab doors don't open. Our child tester Casper, 4, loved playing mechanic and fixing the fire engine, as well as carrying out daring rescues. His mum Robyn said: "The box turning into a scene that can then be turned back into a box is genius!"

Available from: Amazon and Learning Resources

5. Woody Treasures Classic London Vehicle Set, £14.99

– Great for fun

Woody Treasures Classic London Vehicle Set

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None
Awards: Bronze, MadeForMums Toy Awards 2021

What it is: A set of 6 4cm to 5cm-high wooden vehicles, including a double decker bus, taxi, ambulance, police car, fire engine and school bus. Comes with a 30cm x 15cm wooden storage box with a compartment for each vehicle.

Why we love it: Simple and colourful, these wooden vehicles are made with high-quality wood and non-toxic paint and are nicely shaped for little hands to hold. They’re more push-along-with-your-hand vehicles than push-and-watch (they don’t whizz away at any speed) and we have to say we think the yellow school bus looks like something you’d find on US streets, rather than London ones. But our child testers didn’t mind a bit. They all also loved the box the set comes in: Melisa, 3, said her favourite part was "putting cars to sleep in the houses".

Available at: Woody Treasures, Amazon and Toy Shop

6. Green Toys Car Carrier, £24

– Great for sustainability

Green Toys Car Carrier

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 32-cm long double-decker car transporter, made from recycled plastic milk cartons, that has a detachable cab and 2 slide-out ramps. Comes with 3 mini cars in different colours.

Why we love it: This toy ticks so many boxes: it's eco-friendly, soft (no sharp edges to worry about), very durable, has no metal parts (great for outdoor or wet play) and it can even be cleaned in the dishwasher! Our child testers really liked the pulling out the ramps and zooming the cars up to the top platform.

Available at: Amazon and Kidly

7. GeoSmart FlipBot, from £39.99

– Great for building and learning

GeoSmart FlipBo

Age suitability: 5+ | Best for age: 6+ | Batteries: 7 x AAA (not included)

What it is: A 30-piece STEM-inspired magnetic construction set that comes with 2 snap-in motors and a wireless remote – so you can build and drive your very own vehicle that zooms around, spins and flips.

Why we love it: Our child testers were impressed by the colourful parts and cool big wheels – and loved the idea of experimenting with constructing different versions of the vehicle, and then using the remote to see how whizzy each of their creations is. Our 8-year-old child tester Theo played with it for 45 minutes straight on his first go and since then he has been playing with it almost every day.

Available at: Bright Minds

8. Audi R8 1:24 Radio Controlled Sports Car – Matte Black, £15

– Great for remote-control fun

Audi R8 1:24 Radio Controlled Sports Car

Age suitability: 6+ | Best for age: 6+ | Batteries: 5 x AA (not included)

What it is: A 5cm-high, scaled-down, remote-controlled version of a full-size Audi R8, complete with LED working headlights, rubber tyres, multi direction driving and a matte black paint finish. It has a 25m operational range.

Why we love it: It's nice and solid and impressively zippy, with a top speed of 8mph. Our child testers loved the lights and found the controls simple to use (one joystick for forward and back; the other for side to side) although they reported it can get a bit stuck on thicker carpet, as it's so low to the ground. Be warned that the batteries do run out quickly – we reckon you get about 2 hours' driving time per set.

Available at: Amazon

9. Wooden Recycling Truck, £26

– Great for toddler dexterity

Wooden Recycling Truck

Age: 18 months+ | Best for age: 18 months+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 27cm-long, 16cm-high wooden recycling truck with opening back door and a tilting trailer box with sorting holes on both sides that match up with the wooden recycling items it comes with.

Why we love it: We like the bright colours and the nicely diverse (painted) recycling crew. Our child testers really enjoyed trying to find the right holes to post the chunky pieces of recycling through – the clothing one is a bit tricky! But best of all, of course, is making the trailer box tilt and throw all the pieces back out again.

Available at: JoJo Maman Bebe

10. Sylvanian Families Sunshine Nursery Bus, £22.99

– Great for versatility

Sylvanian Families Sunshine Nursery Bus

Age suitability: 3+ | Best for age: 3+ | Batteries: None

What it is: A 17cm x 26cm x 12.5cm bus, fully kitted out with 12 seats. The seats and rainbow section upstairs are removable and can be turned over to make a slide or a seesaw – and if you take the pink lower-deck seats out, there's a little paddling pool underneath. There are no Sylvanian animals passengers, though; you'll need to get those separately.

Why we love it: This is completely adorable and kept our child testers enthralled for a long time. The added elements are really thoughtful and the children particularly liked turfing out top-desk passengers to make the seesaw. It's a shame that no figures are included, unlike with the Playmobil offerings and the Paw Patrol Sea Patroller, but it is cheaper than all of those offerings.

Available at: Amazon and Sylvanian Families

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About the author

Helen is Deputy Editor of MadeForMums, the author of Parenting for Dummies (Wiley, £17.99) and the Head Tester for our MadeForMums Toy Awards. She has written about parenting for Mumsnet, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Boots Parenting Club and She Magazine and she's also been Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby. She has 3 boys and a heavy-duty washing machine.

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