As you can see, there’s a lot to be said for all 10 of the options we have listed. Whether you’re looking for fun and excitement, speed and performance, off-road capabilities, or something else, there’s a model here for just about everyone. Of course, it does help to have a bit more information about what different features, functions and specs mean. What are the key things to consider when buying a hoverboard in the first place? Our robust buying guide below will explain what you need to look for, what you need to avoid, and more.
The Buying Guide
If you’re in the market for a hoverboard, whether for yourself, your child, or someone else, you have a very broad range of options. There are low rider style boards, off-road boards, light-up boards, and more. There are different wheel sizes, motor capacities, charging times, and other factors at play here, too. How do you sort your options? How do you ensure that you’re making a smart, savvy decision with your purchase? Our buying guide will walk you through everything you need to know.
What’s a Hoverboard, Anyway?
For those unsure what a hoverboard actually is, it’s pretty simple. Imagine a skateboard, but positioned so that you ride with your feet side by side, and with only two wheels, rather than four, and you’re on the right track. However, there’s more to it than just a change in form factor. We’re talking about a significantly greater difference than that between, say, roller skates and inline skates.
A better name for the modern hoverboard is a self-balancing scooter. This is for a couple of reasons. One of those is that it’s closer to an electric scooter than it is to a skateboard or roller skates. The scooter has at least one electric motor that powers the wheels, although dual motor designs are becoming the most common today. Those motors are powered by advanced, rechargeable batteries and work in tandem to do more than just provide forward momentum, though.
The motors rely on gyroscopic systems built into the hoverboard to sense balance. Small, incremental adjustments to torque and wheel speed allow the boards to keep the riding surface flat while in motion, ensuring that riders only need to worry about starting, steering and stopping, rather than trying to manually maintain their balance while they are at it.
So, to sum up, hoverboards are essentially skateboards turned on their side, with one wheel at each end, powered by rechargeable batteries and electric motors. They’re capable of keeping you upright and balanced while you navigate your way through whatever environment you might find yourself in.
What They Are Not
Because hoverboards are relatively new to the market, there is some confusion over what does and what does not fall into this category. Hoverboards and self-balancing scooters both qualify. However, you’ll notice that some manufacturers and retailers attempt to “game the system” by classifying other types of vehicles in this category. Kick scooters of any type should not be considered in the same category. Even with the vast difference in format and style, hoverboards are self-powered. Kick scooters are not.
Are Hoverboards Safe?
When hoverboards first hit the market several years ago, they were available from a couple of different sources. US and EU made boards were just fine in terms of safety. However, some manufacturers from Asian countries, notably China, skimped when it came to quality, testing and safeguards. There were several instances in which batteries caught fire, or exploded due to overheating or damage.
So, to answer the question posed above, yes, some hoverboards were dangerous early on. However, things have changed dramatically. The US and retailers doing business with consumers in the US moved quickly to ban unsafe hoverboards, and the number of models with safety issues quickly plummeted. Today, most models available to US consumers are safe.
With that being said, it’s still important to do your due diligence. Proper safety testing is a vital part of the manufacturing process, but that has never kept unscrupulous companies from finding ways around it. To ensure that you are buying a completely safe board for your use or as a gift for someone else, make sure that the model you purchase is UL 2272 certified.
To clarify, UL certification means that the product, whatever it is, has gone through rigorous testing with Underwriters Laboratories, one of the world’s recognized leaders in safety testing. This certification applies to the batteries on hoverboards, but also to the entire device as a whole, meaning that the entire hoverboard has been tested strenuously, and has performed to or above manufacturer expectations.
So, buying a hoverboard with UL 2272 certification means that the board is a better purchase overall than one that only offers safe batteries. Note that all of the boards listed in our 10-best list and product reviews are UL 2272 certified for this reason. Safety should trump any other consideration here.
Key Considerations in Your Purchase
Now that we have established what a hoverboard is, and dispelled some of the rumors surrounding their safety, it is time to turn our attention to additional factors that should play a role in your buying decision. Below, we will discuss some of the “must have” features when buying a hoverboard, and what they mean for the riding experience.
We discussed UL 2272 certification above – this is a must have. If the board is not UL 2272 compliant, our recommendation is to choose another model. Truly, this certification is the most important when it comes to ensuring overall safety and performance – it is not related only to the batteries. It covers all areas of the board and its performance, from chassis durability to motor overheating, and everything in between.
Weight capacity is the limit to what the board can carry. Most of the boards on our list maxed out at 220 pounds, which is something of an average for mid-range boards in the industry. However, one of them only carried up to 196, and one of them carried double the average – 440 pounds. This goes to show you that while most boards can carry up to 220 pounds, there’s a lot of variety out there.
The higher the max weight capacity, the stronger the motors moving the board along, but also the stronger the board itself will be. You should also be aware of minimum weight allowances. Most of the boards we listed have a minimum weight of 44 pounds, meaning that they are not usable by those who weigh under 44 pounds. It’s important to pay attention to weight capacity (both minimum and maximum) when buying a hoverboard to ensure that you’re getting the right one for your needs.
It’s also important to note that the maximum weight is not just the weight of the rider, but also the weight of any safety gear worn, and anything that the rider might be carrying. So, a high-school senior who weighed 180 pounds, wearing full safety gear, and carrying a backpack loaded down with textbooks, might overburden the board.
Speed is the maximum rating of how fast the hoverboard will move. Most of the boards on our list maxed out between 8 and 10 miles per hour. Again, this seems to be something of an unofficial middle ground in the industry. However, there were a couple of models on our list with a max speed of less than 8 miles per hour, as well as one or two with a max that topped out over 10 miles per hour.
There are several things to keep in mind about maximum speed. First, it is often related to battery charge, but not always. Some boards use older battery technology, which means that as the charge depletes, the maximum speed attainable drops.
However, newer boards on the market are able to maintain their maximum speed until the charge is completely depleted. This can take some riders by surprise, which makes it necessary to watch the built-in battery gauge, or use the accompanying app so you are not stranded with a dead battery.
You also need to understand that weight will impact maximum speed. Riders who approach or exceed the maximum weight rating of the board will see lower maximum speeds than riders who weigh less.
Range is the maximum distance that your board can travel on a single charge. To avoid being stranded with a dead battery, know your maximum distance, and make sure that all legs of your trip, including the return to home or wherever your charger is located, do not add up to more than that.
For instance, suppose your board has a maximum distance of 10 miles. You ride it 5 miles to the store, then 1 mile to another store, then 2 miles to the library, leaving you with three miles from the library to home. You’ll be stuck about halfway back to the house, because the last leg of your journey is farther than the remaining range on your battery.
To help avoid this issue, carefully plan out your routes. Know the distance from point to point that you travel. It also helps a lot to use smartphone map applications. Some of the models we mentioned in our list include such apps from the board manufacturer, but you can also use other apps, such as Waze, Apple Maps, and Google Maps to achieve the same goal.
Know your range. Know your battery charge. Know the distances you are traveling. It’s as simple as that.
Charge time is self-explanatory. It’s the amount of time that your board’s battery must be connected to a power source to fully recharge. However, a number of different factors can affect this. Obviously, different batteries require very different charge times. The greater the battery’s capacity, the longer it will take to charge in most instances.
However, that is not true across the board. Some hoverboards have relatively short ranges comparatively speaking, but long recharge times. Most hoverboard manufacturers do not list their recharge time on ecommerce websites. You will need to research customer reviews, or read the owner’s manual supplied by the manufacturer.
There you have them – some of the more important considerations when comparing the various hoverboard models on the market. However, while they might be critical elements, they are not the only things you’ll want to bear in mind. In the next section, we’ll cover some of the other important areas of comparison and things that you should know.
Additional Considerations and Features
When they first hit the market, hoverboards were pretty barebones. They offered few bells and whistles. Today’s boards are different, and they can be equipped with a lot of extra features that offer more convenience and enjoyment. We discuss most of those below.
Most of the boards we covered in our 10-best list have at least a pair of front-facing lights. These are always LEDs to help reduce power consumption and improve visibility. On some models, the front-facing lights also double as battery charge indicators, but that is not true for all of them. Some have separate battery gauges, or show the remaining charge through an app. You’ll also find that some hoverboards offer very creative, even bold, lighting schemes.
Some models offer four or five LED lights on each wheel that pulse in time with the beat of music streamed from a smartphone, or change while the wheels turn. Others have lighting on the riding surfaces, or on the back of the board for better visibility. Lights can be almost any color, from pure white to cool blue to rainbow hued, as well.
These days, it seems like Bluetooth connectivity is everywhere. It’s a definite part of modern life, and a key component of the Internet of Things. You’ll find it available with many (but not all) hoverboards, as well. This technology serves a number of important purposes with hoverboards, and work with the embedded computer chips and battery systems to provide additional functionality.
In most cases, Bluetooth allows you to connect your smartphone to the hoverboard to play music through an onboard speaker. Some boards offer stereo speakers, but others may only have a single speaker for playback. Another use for Bluetooth is to access the board’s remaining charge, speed, and even location through a built-in map app. More advanced boards allow you to adjust battery consumption and performance through the app, change riding modes, and more.
There are few things more important to the performance of a hoverboard than wheel size. The larger the wheel, the higher the board will stand off the ground, meaning that a board with larger wheels will have better ground clearance. This allows these boards to easily clear obstacles and debris that might be in their path. For this reason, most boards designed to be ridden off road have larger wheels – think 8 inches or so. Some offer truly massive wheels that measure 10 inches or more. These provide the best in terms of ground clearance.
However, tire size comes with a tradeoff. You’ll find that the larger the wheels are, the more energy motors must expend to turn them. Larger wheels also have a wider turning radius, although some manufacturers offer a 0-turn radius system that can reverse one wheel while turning the other wheel forward, similar to the way tank treads work.
If you’re just starting out with a hoverboard and only want a basic model, you do not need to concern yourself with tire type too much. However, if you’re upgrading to a new board, or want to enjoy a specific type of riding, then you will need to pay attention to the type of tires that come with your board. There are three types of tires on the market:
- Hard Rubber: Hard rubber tires are extremely durable, and are the most common options with the majority of hoverboards out there. They are solid rubber, with no need for air. This means that punctures pose no problem for them – they’ll keep running. The only real wear and tear related issue would be developing flat spots from skidding or if part of the tire were cut away. Hard rubber tires do not equate to the most comfortable ride, though, and can be harsh on rough terrain. They also do not provide that much in the way of grip – they’re generally not well suited to use off the pavement.
- Pneumatic/Tubeless: Tubeless tires are filled with air, which means a couple of things. First, they are less durable in some instances. This is particularly true when it comes to punctures. A nail through the sidewall will leave you with a flat tire. However, they are better suited for many different things. One of those is providing a more comfortable ride quality. Because they contain air, tubeless tires are springier than solid tires. This leads to a less jarring ride when the hoverboard is ridden over bumps or rough surfaces. Tubeless tires also offer better grip on softer riding surfaces, making these better choices for boards designed to get you off the beaten path.
- Pneumatic/Tubed: Tubed tires perform exactly like tubeless tires, but they have an innertube that is inflated, rather than the tire itself being inflated. As such, they offer a more comfortable ride than solid rubber tires, as well as better grip in off-road riding situations, but they are not as difficult to deal with as tubeless tires if there is a puncture. In most cases, a puncture just means replacing the innertube, rather than the entire tire, although many punctures can be repaired with a seal kit. With all that being said, tubed tires are a rarity in the industry. Most tires are solid rubber, and those that are not are primarily tubeless pneumatic tires.
Turning radius is a measure of how tightly a particular hoverboard can turn. The higher the number, the wider the turn must be. As a general rule, smaller tires enable a hoverboard to make tighter turns. However, there are some systems on the market, such as the T6 that occupied the tail end of our list, that offer large tires but are able to make a 0-degree turn by reversing one tire while the other tire rolls forward, thereby turning the entire hoverboard.
Many hoverboards today come with accompanying smartphone apps. These allow you to stream music through onboard speakers, control lighting, change riding modes, check the charge on your battery, and a great deal more. However, not all apps are created equal. If app connectivity is important to you, verity what features and functions are available through the app prior to purchasing a hoverboard.
Now that we’ve explored features and functions available with some of the better quality hoverboards on the market, we need to say a word or two about safety.
Related: How to Ride a Hoverboard
Safety Considerations with Hoverboards
Hoverboards are moving vehicles. Despite the fact that they are self-balancing, accidents are still possible. And, because the vast majority of such boards are designed to be ridden on pavement, there is a significant chance for injury. It is highly recommended that anyone riding a hoverboard use basic safety equipment, including:
- A helmet
- Elbow pads
- Knee pads
- Wrist and hand protection
Essentially, any gear that you might wear when riding a skateboard should be used when riding a hoverboard.
There are additional safety precautions that you need to follow due to the electronic nature of these boards. Because they are not completely manual devices, like skateboards, you cannot simply “hop on and ride”.
Turn the board on, and make sure that the foot panels are level, and that the wheels respond to small amounts of pressure applied to the chassis. If they do not activate, you will need to restart the board and start the process over again. Never get on a board if the wheels are not activating, as it could lead to damage to the motors, or injury to yourself.
Stepping onto a hoverboard can be tricky until you get the hang of it. With the board flat and level, step onto it with your dominant foot first (right if you’re right handed left if you’re left handed). Place your foot as close to the fender as possible so that you can take a wider stance. When your foot is firmly positioned, bring your other foot up and place it on the foot pad, close to the other fender. When bringing your second foot up, make sure to keep your first foot flat. You want to avoid shifting your weight too much forward or backward, as this will cause the board to move. When first learning to get on your board, you might need to use a wall or table as a support to help provide stability.
You’ll follow the reverse procedure to get safely off the board. Bend your knees so that you squat slightly, and then step off with your non-dominant foot. Follow this with your dominant foot and keep your balance level while doing so.
Finally, riding the board can also be challenging. It is not at all like riding any other device on the market. Moving forward is accomplished by shifting your weight toward the front of the board. Moving backward requires you to do the opposite. Turning is perhaps the most difficult – you’ll need to master opposites. If you wanted to turn right, you would press forward with your left foot. Turning left would require you to press forward with your right foot.
Ultimately, the right hoverboard, the right safety gear, and a bit of time to practice is all you’ll need to start enjoying this exciting new sport.