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.
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
Best Overall – SureStop Braking Safety Innovation
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
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
MSRP: $229 – $279
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 NOTE: We do NOT recommend using the training wheels with these bikes. Recent reviews on REI’s website detail several customers’ negative experiences with the training wheels loosening and coming off during a ride.
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 training wheels for beginning riders but are lightweight and easy to ride without them. All three models come with a coaster brake, however, the 20 inch model also comes with a hand brake for the rear wheel.
Impressive Quality and Build for the Price
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.
Banana Seat Offers Most Room for Growth
SIZES AVAILABLE: 16 inch
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.
Traditional Boy Styling
MSRP: $118 – $170
STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child.
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.
Traditional Girl Styling
MSRP: $118 – $170
STANDOUT FEATURE: Available in many different wheels sizes to dial in for the perfect fit for your child. Also, it comes with a basket!
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.
Best for Aggressive Riders
SIZES AVAILABLE: 20 inch
STANDOUT FEATURE: Solid-quality components and aggressive body position, NO coaster brake!
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!
Best Neighborhood Bike: Boys
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.
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.
Best Neighborhood Bike: Girls
SIZES AVAILABLE: 16 inch
STANDOUT FEATURE: Well-built and durable, the Jazzi is easy to ride and is also adorable.
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.
Best Neighborhood Bike: Boys and Girls
MSRP: $149 – $299
STANDOUT FEATURE: Kid-friendly geometry and lighter-weight build are great for timid and adventurous riders
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.
Cheap Kids Bikes Comparison
|Brand||MSRP||Weight||Min. Seat Height||Max. Seat Height||Brakes||Training Wheels||Frame|
|12" and 14" Bikes|
|Co-Op REV 12||$199||16.3 lb.||Coaster||Yes||Aluminum|
|Raleigh MXR 12||$150||17.7 lb.||Coaster||Yes||Steel|
|Raleigh Jazzi 12||$150||16.9 lb.||17"||20.5"||Coaster||Yes||Steel|
|Btwin 100 14||$149||16.3 lb.||17.25″||20.5"||Rear coaster, front hand brake||Yes||Steel|
|Guardian Bikes 14||$269||16.2 lb.||15.5"||19.25"||SureStop, no coaster||No||Steel|
|Co-Op REV 16||$229||16.25 lb.||Coaster||Yes||Aluminum|
|Btwin HYC 500 16||$199||20.6 lb.||19.5"||23.75"||Rear coaster, front hand||No||Steel|
|Raleigh MXR 16||$170||18.3 lb.||19.5"||24"||Coaster||3.5||Aluminum|
|Raleigh Jazzi 16||$170||18.5 lb.||19"||23"||Coaster||Yes||Aluminum|
|Schwinn Koen 16||$145||20.6 lb.||20.5"||20.6"||Front hand brake, coaster||Yes||Steel|
|Schwinn Elm 16||$145||Front hand brake, coaster||Steel|
|Raleigh Rowdy 16||$260||15.6 lb.||21.5"||26"||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Raleigh Lily 16||$230||16.1 lb.||21.25"||25.5"||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Diamondback Mini Viper 16||$120||17.4 lb.||17.5″||20.5"||Coaster||Yes||Steel|
|Guardian Bikes 16||$249||17.5 lb.||18.5"||23.5"||SureStop||No||Steel|
|Schwinn Krate EVO||$159||24.5 lb.||20.25″||23.75″||Coaster||Yes||Steel|
|Co-Op REV 20||$249||20.1 lb.||Coaster, single hand brake||No||Aluminum|
|Raleigh MXR 20||$190||22.8 lb.||23.5"||29.5"||Coaster, single hand brake||Yes||Aluminum|
|Raleigh Jazzi 20||$190||21.8 lb.||23"||29.5"||Coaster, single hand brake||No||Aluminum|
|Diamondback Mini Viper 20||$135||Coaster, single hand brake||Yes||Steel|
|Raleigh Rowdy 20||$290||21 lb.||25.25"||29.9"||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Raleigh Lily 20||$290||21.5 lb.||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Guardian Bikes 20||$299||20.7 lb.||20.8"||28.8"||SureStop||No||Steel|
|Raleigh Lily 24||$330||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Raleigh Rowdy 24||$330||Dual Hand||No||Aluminum|
|Guardian Bikes 24||$339||25.5 lb.||25"||33"||SureStop||No||Steel|
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
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
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
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!
Related Kids Bikes Articles
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!