How Much Is it Going to Cost?
One way to tell if your board is any good is cost. Under $300? You probably want to back away quickly. Some of the best-reviewed boards are upwards of $1,000, though some of those without celebrity reputations attached can be bought for between $500-$900. TL;DR: There really isn’t a standard price yet, but you should budget to spend at least $500.
Which Ones Are the Safest?
A better question to ask might be, “Which hoverboard won’t explode and kill me, resulting in a death so embarrassing it sounds like an Onion headline?” Fantastic and wise query. There have been a few reports about cheap version of the devices being sold with low quality battery packs that overheat. And then, you know, explode. Unfortunately, these reports have all declined to name names—but most information suggests that units coming directly from China are the culprits. But, um, that’s a lot of them. A good bet is to opt for one of the popular brand names: PhunkeeDunk, Hovertrax, IO Hawk, Ninebot, and Swagway are all (relatively) big names in this market.
Really, though, if you see an ultra-cheap deal or some Groupon-type steep discount, take a hard look at those specs. And probably just don’t get it. Better to be safe than end up the butt of the saddest joke ever. If a deal seems too good to be true… it is.
Can I Ride This Thing Outside?
It depends where you live. The U.K. says you can’t ride your hands-free scooter on sidewalks or the road, so feel free to wheel around indoors or directly in front of your driveway. They are also—maybe—not allowed in New York City, depending on how fast yours can go. If it can go faster than 15 mph (and not that many can), leave it at home. In California, a new law that passes at the start of the year will make it perfectly OK to ride your board in bike lanes and pathways (helmets required!). Still, some individual malls, schools, and other spaces are taking measures to ban these from their hallways and premises, so be aware that the rules may not always be on your side.
OK, So If I Can Ride This Outside, Which One’s Best for Outdoors?
If you’re taking this thing out on concrete or pavement, then most of the major brands will work fine. If you’re looking for something to take on rougher terrain, the Solowheel Extreme from Hovertrax is a good option. In general, the original Hovertrax board is a fantastic choice for all-around rideability—check out this video breaking down some of the other major brands and comparing their strengths (and weaknesses). One thing to consider: These are electric, so riding them around in the rain isn’t the best idea ever. A little water on the road won’t cause an explosion, but that’s as much as you should risk.
Are These Little Kid-Friendly?
How dextrous is your child? If you are buying this thing for a kid, maybe check out a model that includes a handle. It’s basically a Segway for small people, but it’s certainly safer. If that’s just not going to cut it, then opt for a device with a lower max speed; 5 MPH is probably enough. Devices with bigger tires also a little easier to maneuver. The Ninebot’s middle knee rest feature might also help with balance.
Wait, What Are These Even Called?
LOL nobody knows! Technically, what you are trying to buy is not a hoverboard—those do actually exist, but only in prototype form, so you won’t be acquiring one this holiday shopping season. Names that people have been calling them: glideboard, hands-free Segway, electric scooter, or just “rideable” (ugh). If you want to speak the language of the people, just stick with hoverboard (though maybe use air quotes around “hover” because that is not actually what’s happening).