Many children eagerly anticipate their first ride on a scooter (look, Ma, freedom!) when they can begin cruising around the neighborhood in speedy and stylish fashion. Although you can spend hundreds of dollars on a tricked-out scooter, there are plenty of cheap scooters bearing two-digit price tags in an assortment of styles and colors that will keep youngsters happy and active -- and away from all those couch-potato alternatives. Moreover, cheap scooters seem to be a gender-neutral interest that's as popular with girls as with boys.
Cheap Scooters Buying Guide
Cheap scooters come in two forms: the traditional foot-powered type, best known as a kick scooter, that go for less than $40; or a motorized scooter powered by batteries that can be had for less than $100. There are also gas-powered scooters, but at a minimum of several hundred dollars apiece, these are way beyond the Cheapism niche.
Before deciding between a cheap kick scooter and a cheap motorized scooter, you'll need to consider the child's age. Two-year olds might start out on a three-wheeled scooter and graduate to the standard two-wheeled variety at age 4 or 5. Motorized scooters are meant to be ridden by older children; manufacturers' specs for the cheap electric scooters we researched all recommend 8 as the minimum age. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children younger than 8 should always be supervised while riding a scooter of any type, a stance echoed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which further advises that motorized scooters should be reserved for children at least 12 years old. Age aside, most kids master the scooter thing quickly. We read reports from parents and former pre-school teachers attesting to their value in boosting kids' self-confidence, coordination, and balance.
Razor dominates the kids' cheap scooter market with a lineup that includes entry-level scooters for tots and whooshes all the way to electric models with seats designed for teens and up. It's the cool brand and kids who are old enough to recognize such markers of status may refuse to ride anything else (or so we've been told by several young scooter aficionados). Radio Flyer is another well-known brand that focuses on traditional kick scooters for the pre-school and elementary-grades set. X-Treme Scooters specializes in electric and gas models. Other producers include Fisher-Price and Huffy, which target young riders with child-pleasing themes like Cars, Toy Story, and Spider Man.
Cheap scooters are pretty basic: a couple of wheels, a deck, and handlebars. The wheels are often hard urethane and the handlebars on many models adjust to different heights. Hand brakes are standard on electric scooters, and kick scooters meant for school-age children usually come with a foot-operated rear brake; entry-level kick scooters rely on a little foot stepping off the deck to serve as the brake if the scooter hasn't already come to a stop on its own. Seats are reserved for higher-end motorized models that go faster and farther than the cheap scooters we researched and are recommended for older (i.e., minimum 13 years) riders. A scooter's performance is best judged by ease of use and durability. That is, how easy is it to push off and keep going? How much abuse can the scooter take before it just gives out?
Our picks for best cheap scooters include the Razor A (starting at $27), a kick scooter noted for its durable construction, smooth ride, and high marks on the coolness scale, and the Razor E100 (starting at $91), an electric scooter that scores with kids and adults for the same reasons. We also like the Radio Flyer My First Scooter (starting at $34), a three-wheeled model that is well-built and designed for toddlers just launching their scooting careers; reviews indicate, however, that this one is tough to steer.
Parents and caregivers, heads up here: Make sure the child always wears a helmet when riding. Experts also recommend knee pads and elbow pads. Also note that cheap scooters should be used on hard surfaces that are clear of debris like rocks and pebbles.