10 Best Cheap Kids Bikes

What’s the best cheap kids bike around or under $250?  Our top-recommended kids bikes are incredible little machines, but for many, their $300+ price tags are a bit daunting! For those parents looking for a more budget-friendly option, we have a solution for you!

Over the years, we’ve personally tested over 30 different cheap boys bikes and girls bikes. While these bikes are not as well-designed or as light as the bikes that take our top recommendations, they all perform impressively for their price tag and feature good basic geometry, a reasonable weight (well under 25 lb.), and a durable build.

Young girl riding purple REI kids bike

Best Cheap Kids Bikes

Bike Why You'll Love It 16" Price
Editor's Picks - The Absolute Best Under $250
Guardian Bikes Innovative SureStop Brakes $249
REI Co-Op REV REI Guarantee and Service* $229
Retrospec Koda 2 Incredible bang for your buck $119
Honorable Mentions - Other Options with Fun Colors and Styling
Schwinn EVO Krate Retro banana seat $250
Schwinn Koen Traditional boy styling $245
Schwinn Elm Traditional girl styling $249
Raleigh Rowdy Best for Aggressive Riders $280

Our Favorite Cheap Kids Bikes

Guardian Bikes

Best Overall – SureStop Braking Safety Innovation

Young child riding the Guardian Ethos  cheap kids bike through forest

MSRP: $249 – $399

SIZES AVAILABLE: 14 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch, 26 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: SureStop braking system, kid-friendly geometry, highest quality components

FULL REVIEW:  Guardian Bikes 14, Guardian Bikes 16, Guardian Bikes 20, Guardian Bikes 24, Guardian Bikes 26

Lightweight and the best quality of any bike on this list, Guardian bikes come with a proprietary braking system called SureStop that prevents unsafe braking. When braking with just the front hand brake while at high speeds, bikes can tilt forward and buck a child off the bike and over the handlebars.

SureStop brakes on Guardian bikes prevent this by having only one brake lever engage the front and rear brakes sequentially. It’s the power of dual hand brakes with just one brake lever!

Timid kids feel more confident that they can stop quickly, and they don’t have to think about which brake lever to pull. Confident kids love that they can ride fast and then stop on a dime.


REI Guarantee and Service

4 year old riding REI REV 16 kids bike down a country road

MSRP: $229 – $279

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch (But we don’t recommend the 12″. Please see our full review for details.)

STANDOUT FEATURE: Free assembly and basic maintenance for a year at your local REI

FULL REVIEW: REI Co-op Cycles REV Kids Bikes Review

*IMPORTANT SAFETY RECALL NOTICE: DO NOT USE TRAINING WHEELS with these bikes. Reviews on REI’s website detail several customers’ negative experiences with the training wheels loosening and coming off during a ride. As a result, any REI REV bike sold between 2022 and 2024 and being used with training wheels has been recalled by the CPSC.

In addition to being much more lightweight than cheap bikes at big-box stores, the REI Co-op Cycles line comes backed with REI’s amazing no-hassle return policy!  And although REI will ship their bikes direct to you, if you live near an REI store, assembly of the bike and your first year of basic service are included with your online purchase.

All REI Co-op Cycles REV models come with a coaster brake, however, the 20 inch model also comes with a hand brake for the rear wheel.

Retrospec Koda 2

Impressive Quality and Build for the Price

Side by side comparison of 5 year old on Retrospec Koda 20 7 speed and single speed. The 7 speed is much more aggressive.

MSRP: $119 – $219

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Best build and kid-friendly design you’ll find at this price

FULL REVIEW: Retrospec Koda 2 Kids Bikes Review

Retrospec recently re-designed their entire kids bikes line to make them more lightweight and a better fit for kids. They certainly succeeded, and the Koda 2 line of kids bikes is hands down the best on the market at their price point.

If you are considering walking into Walmart to buy your kid a bike – don’t! A Retrospec bike is about the same price or even cheaper, and far better quality and much easier to ride. For example, the basic Koda 2 16″ model is only $119, and every one of our little test riders has hopped on it and raced around the neighborhood or skatepark with ease.

Schwinn EVO Krate

Banana Seat Offers Most Room for Growth

5 year old smiling and riding the Schwinn Krate EVO kids bike down the street

MSRP: $170


STANDOUT FEATURE: Retro banana seat and fun styling

FULL REVIEW: Schwinn Krate EVO

The Banana Seat is back, baby! Beyond its retro cool styling, the Schwinn Krate EVO’s banana seat serves a functional purpose as well. Because a child can slide their bum back on the seat, a much older and taller rider can comfortably pedal on the Krate EVO. If you’re looking for a bike that your child won’t outgrow quickly, this modern take on a classic is a great option.

Schwinn Koen

Traditional Boy Styling

young boy riding a Schwinn 16 smartstart cheap kids bikes

MSRP: $118 – $170

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 14 inch, 16 inch, 18 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child.

FULL REVIEW: Schwinn SmartStart, Schwinn Koen

Easy-to-ride and easy-to-love, the Schwinn Koen has a low center-of-gravity which provides a comfortable and confidence-building stable ride for beginning riders. Aggressive riders also enjoyed the SmartStart but preferred the (now discontinued) Raleigh MXR. Schwinn’s overall quality has room for improvement but is significantly better than your standard big-box-store bike.

While we prefer the even cheaper Retrospec Koda 2 to the Koen, its styling may be more appealing to some kids.

Schwinn Elm

Traditional Girl Styling

Young child riding Schwinn Smartstart kids bike in white and pink

MSRP: $118 – $170

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 14 inch, 16 inch, 18 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child. Also, it comes with a basket!

FULL REVIEW: Schwinn SmartStart, Schwinn Elm

The Schwinn Elm is the girls’ version of the Schwinn Koen. While its quality is on the lower end on this list, the overall design is far superior to a standard big-box store bike. If you’re on a serious budget but need a super girly bike (with a basket!), the Elm is easily your best choice.

Raleigh Rowdy

Best for Aggressive Riders

Child riding up grassy hill on Raleigh Rowdy 20 kid's bike in green

MSRP: $290


STANDOUT FEATURE: Solid-quality components and aggressive body position, NO coaster brake!

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh Rowdy 16, Raleigh Rowdy 20

For a budget bike, the Raleigh Rowdy is one rugged and kid-friendly bike. With more aggressive body positioning than neighborhood bikes, the Raleigh Rowdy is the best bike on this list for kids who want to get off the paved trails and explore a little all-terrain.

Our testers have consistently loved the Rowdy, which is incredibly well-designed for the price. It’s a serious bang for your buck.

Discontinued Bikes or Low Stock Bikes

The bikes below were previously some of our favorite kids bikes for families on a budget, and are still worthy of your consideration. While some are no longer available new, if you can get them on the used market, don’t miss out!

Raleigh MXR

Best Neighborhood Bike: Boys

Child riding Raleigh MXR 16 cheap kids bike

MSRP: $150 – $190

SIZES AVAILABLE: 12 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Sturdy and lighter-weight build allows average to aggressive riders to get adventurous on the MXR.

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh MXR 16, Raleigh MXR 20

Well-built with durable components, the MXR provides a smooth, comfortable ride and will surely last for years. With slightly lower-rise handlebars, it performs better for adventurous kids who are likely to go over small jumps or curbs. While not recommended for really aggressive riders (check out the Raleigh Rowdy!), the MXR has excellent quality for a budget bike, and is a solid option for adventurous riders on a budget.

Raleigh Jazzi

Best Neighborhood Bike: Girls

Young child riding Raleigh Jazzi 16 inch cheap kids bike down a sidewalk

MSRP: $170

STANDOUT FEATURE: Well-built and durable, the Jazzi is easy to ride and is also adorable.

FULL REVIEW: Raleigh Jazzi 12, Raleigh Jazzi 16, Raleigh Jazzi 20

The Jazzi is Raleigh’s girl version of the MXR. The geometry is vastly different, with a swooped frame that is typically associated with girls’ bikes. It still performs just as well as the MXR, but comes in girly colors with ice cream sprinkles that our testers have gone GAGA for!

Our tester who previously rode a cheaper Royal baby bike, immediately abandoned her old bike and has been rocking the Jazzi ever since.  An older tester who couldn’t learn to ride before she hopped on the Jazzi, was confidently riding down the street in just one day.

Btwin Kids Bikes

Best Neighborhood Bike: Boys and Girls

Young child riding Btwin kids bike down the sidewalk

MSRP: $149 – $299

SIZES AVAILABLE: 14 inch, 16 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch

STANDOUT FEATURE: Kid-friendly geometry and lighter-weight build are great for timid and adventurous riders

FULL REVIEW: Btwin 14 inch kids bike, Btwin 16 inch kids bike, Btwin Rockrider 20, Btwin Rockrider 24, Btwin Original 24

Btwin is a new brand to America, and is the house bike brand for Decathlon Sports. Decathlon is like a Dick’s Sporting goods in Europe, but prides itself on its excellent house brand products (think Trader Joe’s).

Btwin bikes are designed to be both affordable and usable. While so many cheap kids bikes are bulky and awkward to ride, Btwin kids bikes are relatively lightweight, and feature kid-friendly geometry for a natural riding experience. If you’re looking for a kids bike that’s actually fun and easy to ride, Btwin is the lowest price tag you should consider.

What We Look for in a Cheap Kids Bike

Our evaluation and rankings for cheap kids bicycles were based on how easy it was for our testers to balance and maneuver the bike. Several different factors affect the overall performance of a bike, which we outline in more detail on our Best Kids Bikes: The Authoritative Buying Guide, but for 12 inch, 16″, 20″ and 24″ budget bikes, our main criteria for performance were 1) geometry, 2) handlebar height, 3) weight, and 4) quality.

We’ve tested over 25 budget-friendly bikes, with kids ranging from 3 years old to 8 years old.  The smaller the bike, the more exaggerated potential issues are.

There are very few 12″ bikes that are easy to ride. It’s absolutely more important to get a better bike when your child is young. A 12″ bike that’s difficult to ride may deter a 3 or 4-year-old from ever learning to ride. An adventurous 8-year-old, on the other hand, is going to have a much easier time handling a less-than-perfect 24″ bike.


A bike’s geometry is how the bike positions a child while riding. The bottom bracket (where crank arms attach to the frame), should sit low to the ground to provide a lower center-of-gravity for the rider. A lower bottom bracket allows the rider to sit lower on the bike (sit closer to the wheels), which makes the bike easier to balance. The bottom bracket heights varied from 8″ to 9.5″ on the seven 16″ bikes we tested, with the Schwinn SmartStart having the lowest bottom bracket height of 8″.

Sitting Lower to the Ground Makes it Easier to Balance

Picture showing the Schwinn SmartStart having a low center of gravity against the Raleigh MXR and the Diamonback Mini-Viper. All three are budget 16" kids bikes under $200.

Bikes with a lower bottom bracket generally also allow the rider to center more of their weight over their hips, which mimics the ease of standing or walking. By sitting lower on the bike, a child can sit in a more natural, upright position, which not only centers their weight over their hips for better balance, but for beginning and timid riders, greatly increases their comfort and confidence on a bike.

Since most kids on 12″ and 16″ bikes are beginning riders, we gave preference to bikes with upright positioning for this comparison. For more skilled or adventurous riders, however, a more leaned forward position is generally better as it allows them to shift their weight when maneuvering the bike up and around jumps, curbs, and hills.

Schwinn SmartStart has Most Upright Body Positioning

Picture showing the differences in geometry on three different cheap kids bikes. The Schwinn is most upright, the Mini Viper is most leaned forward. The MXR is in the middle.

Handlebar Height

The height and shape of a bike’s handlebars can greatly affect the overall maneuverability of the bike. In our testing, the performance of the Diamondback Mini Venom and Next Rocket all suffered due to a lack of proper handlebar design.

When the bars are too low, the child must lean forward to reach the bars, which limits their comfort on the bike and can also minimize the space for the child’s legs when pedaling. When too high and/or swept back, the handlebars can reach halfway up a child’s chest which requires riders to bend their elbows too much, limiting their range of motion.

Bars can also be too narrow or too wide, which can make the rider feel too squished or too stretched out on the bike. As seen below, the older version of the REI Co-op REV bike had narrow handlebars that were difficult to manage for our young riders. The REV bike has since been updated and its handlebars are wider and better-designed.

Poorly Designed Handlebars Make a Bike Difficult to Ride

Comparison of handlebars of three cheap kids bikes, Diamondback Mini Venom, REI Co-op REV 16 and Next Rocket/Flare. The Mini Venom's handlebars are too low, the REV's are too narrow, and the Rocket's are too tall/swept back.

As shown in the body positioning pictures earlier, the Schwinn SmartStart, Raleigh MXR and Diamondback Mini Viper all have handlebar designs that allow for proper arm extension as well as plenty of room for knees when pedaling.


Ideally, a child’s bike should weigh no more than 30% of their own weight. This is often hard to achieve with budget bikes as they are usually made with heavier steel frames and lower-end components. At 17.6 lb., the REI’s Co-op REV is the lightest of our top picks. The Royalbaby Classic, which we do not recommend, was the heaviest at 24.5 lb.

Quality of Build

The actual frames of kids’ bikes rarely break, but their components (the smaller parts of a bike) often do. Like adult bikes, it’s usually the quality of these components that determine the overall cost of the bike. While determining quality is subjective, assembling the bike and feeling how well the parts go together and stay together is very indicative of their quality.

We found the Raleigh MXR to have the best quality for the under $200 price point. The bike went together very smoothly with no rattles or noises made while pedaling.

The Schwinn SmartStart was the lowest quality of those on our list as it required a lot of tweaking to get the handbrake to work and has some minor squeaks when in use.

The Diamondback Mini Viper was mid-range in quality between the Raleigh and the SmartStart. It doesn’t feel as “solid” as the Raleigh, but has no rattles or squeaks when in use.

Keep in mind that each of these bikes are some of the best quality in their price range. You can only expect so much for the price!

Kids Pedal Bikes: Comparison Charts – To view and filter even more bikes, and read reviews.

Best Kids Bikes: The Authoritative Buying Guide – Detailed information on what to look for when choosing a bike.

How to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike – It doesn’t have to be painful!

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