Best Hoverboard Buyer’s Guide: What’s SAFE Right Now? (2016)

Best Hoverboard

Welcome to PricePlow’s Hoverboard Brigade – The best and most honest community about Hoverboards in the world!

The two most important things to know about hoverboards going into 2016 are as follows:

  1. They don’t actually hover (they roll)
  2. Some of them have been catching on fire

The good news is, it’s possible to avoid the ones that have a propensity to explode on you. And though you’re still stuck with wheels for now, the sensation of riding one feels a lot like hovering — once you get the hang of it, that is.

What’s the best hoverboard… for you?

Ultimately, the answer is going to be “it depends,” and we’re here to help with that. Over time, as we see more hoverboards come out, we’re going to turn this page into a “buyer’s guide” where we ask you a series of questions and give you the one best suited to your needs.

But for now, the best answer to that question (besides “it depends”) is a hoverboard that won’t blow up. Such is where we are in this market right now.

Before we begin, you can see the best deals from PricePlow, which is a price comparison site (not a store). We list models from the Amazon hoverboards, who’s been more stringent on safety:

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So, Which Model Should I Get? (aka, Which One Won’t Burn My House Down?)

Right now, this is actually tricky question, and there’s no model that is 100% guaranteed to be safe. We haven’t yet seen seriously conducted safety tests, due to the race to get boards out for Christmas 2015.

There are a few basic criteria you should use as guidelines to screen out any model you might be considering:

  1. No models under $300.

    Hoverboard Fire

    As of late 2015, fires have been a big issue. Here, you can see a board on fire in a mall, with a woman about to put it out.

    Some hastily-written guides from tech sites, mostly published before the late 2015 rash of fires, suggest that the cheaper models are the same or better as the more expensive ones. This is penny-wise, pound-foolish advice that could end with you losing your property (or worse). If they’re cheap, it’s a virtual guarantee that build quality and safety testing were completely sacrificed to get them to that price point.

    Even though we’re a price comparison site here, and we want to save you money, we know that going 100% cheap all the time is a terrible idea in some cases. Hoverboards are one such case.

  2. That said, don’t use price as a sole criteria of safety.

    Some other tech guides are recommending you spend at least $500, but not differentiating between any models in that price range. There’s nothing to stop the shoddier manufacturers from jacking up their prices if they see people blindly spending their money that way.

  3. Find a company headquartered (or with a very established distributor) in the United States.

    All of these units are manufactured in China, and that’s not likely to change, but a company that’s registered in America has a lot more legal impetus to make sure their product is safe if it’s sold here. For just half a second, think like a lawyer: you want to follow the American money, because they’re the ones with the most to lose and will be the most cautious.

    American Hoverboards

    Let’s admit it – “Made in the USA” or even “Assembled” in the USA isn’t happening here. But who’s headquartered in America, with actual American engineers?!

    Right now that means IO Hawk, Inventist Inc. / Razor USA, MonoRover, and Swagway USA. The lattermost had their boards singled out for removal by Amazon initially, but have since been restored to sale listings, and we haven’t seen any evidence yet that they have a unique propensity to catch fire.[3]

    Those are the products listed in our “Top 10” list below (we actually put that in quotes because at the time of writing this, there aren’t even 10 hoverboards that make the cut).

  4. Check to see if the battery is UL certified.

    No hoverboards as a whole are UL certified as of yet, and this doesn’t eliminate all danger, but it cuts out the largest point of danger since fires originate from a low-quality battery getting knocked about (or just failing on its own during charging) and then melting down. This will be easier with companies with an established American presence than fly-by-night Chinese knockoff companies.

    But again, this isn’t a sole criteria. If a UL-certified battery is used in an inappropriate matter (ie the hoverboard is trying to draw too much current out of it due to poor engineering), then it can still overheat.

The Best Hoverboards on the market

Finally — our top 10 (top 5) list!

This list is subject to change frequently since this is a fast-moving market, and a board listed here should not be taken as an absolute assurance of safety or quality. But these are the boards that meet the criteria we listed above for choosing the safest possible board at present (in order of retail price):

  1. Swagway X1

    X1 - Best Deals and Price Drop Notifications

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    Swagway X1

    The Swagway X1 is currently a fantastic choice if you find a good deal on it!

  2. PowerBoard

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    Powerboard Hoverboard

    The Powerboard has several color options and excellent light designs

  3. Razor HoverTrax

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    Razor Hovertrax

    Razor Hovertrax is getting a lot of good reviews, but questions loom over Mark Cuban’s departure

  4. Hover X

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    Hover X

    The Hover X has a max speed of 9.3mph, battery range of 10 miles, and can climb hills of 15 degrees!

Update December 26, 2015: The Jetson boards have been removed from this list due to too many negative reviews because of non UL-certification compliance.

Maybe Just Wait?

Of course, a prudent choice is also waiting until a bigger player gets into the market. This seems unlikely to happen until the patent mess is settled, however, but at the very least Mark Cuban has vowed to build his own model after ending his business relationship with Inventist Inc.[4]

You can also wait for tougher regulation by United States authorities. As of right now, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has volleyed the ball over to retailers, with a December 17 statement calling on them to check with their suppliers for safety assurances.[5] There can only be so many house fires before you see an actual regulatory crackdown, however.

How Hoverboards Work

In case you’re not familiar, here’s a brief overview:

The current “hoverboards” are really just a Segway without the handles. As such, they have a bit more of a learning curve than a Segway. A set of sensors underneath each foot helps to automatically correct balance, but they don’t do all the work. The length of time it will take to learn how to ride one will vary by individual, and it helps to have some leg and ab strength built up to handle prolonged sessions.

Swagway X1 Dimensions

Understanding how hoverboards work may help with your purchasing decision when looking for the best hoverboard

Right now, they tend to operate at a top speed of about 10 miles per hour, and can go for about 10 to 15 miles on a full charge. It’s important to note that the current models have no capacity whatsoever to handle bumps or cracks. You need to be on a flat surface all the way, or you could find yourself going flying.

There aren’t any laws as of yet specific to these self-balancing scooters as they are so new (really only appearing in the United States in significant numbers in mid-2015). New York City has banned them on sidewalks, however, and you can probably expect similarly crowded cities to follow suit sooner or later. In the meantime, existing laws regarding Segways and skateboarding are likely going to be applied by authorities to public use, and of course private property owners are free to set their own rules about use. If your local mall doesn’t allow skateboarding, you’re likely going to be in a low-speed Segway chase with security if you try using one of these indoors too!

Differences Between Models

Structurally, these things are all pretty much the same at this point. They’re all working from a single patent that originated in China and that various factions are fighting legal battles over ownership of. Each one weighs about 15 to 20 pounds, looks roughly the same and has about the same top speed and charge capacity.[1]

PricePlow

Welcome to PricePlow! We’re a price comparison site for nutrition products, but are run by engineers and are branching into fun new territories like hoverboards!

So these companies are all using pretty much the same blueprint to manufacture these things, but there can be huge differences in build quality. The quality of the components — especially the battery and the durability of the case — are the key difference between models right now. This is the difference between the models that catch on fire and the ones that don’t![2]

The fires are caused by the lithium-ion batteries used to power these things. When shoddier batteries with manufacturing defects are used, there is a much greater risk of the battery eventually exploding. It happens more frequently with hoverboards than with other li-ion devices because of the regular abuse they are subject to — carrying body weight around all the time is enough strain on the unit, let alone smacking into things or being used for skateboard-style tricks. And of course, the shoddier and less shock-absorbent the outer housing is, the less protection the battery gets.

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References

  1. McHugh, Molly; “Everything You Need To Know About Buying A Hoverboard”; Wired; November 27, 2015; http://www.wired.com/2015/11/hoverboard-buying-guide/

  2. “Why Are Hoverboards Literally Catching On Fire?”; NPR; Retrieved December 2015; http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/12/19/460354043/why-are-hoverboards-literally-catching-on-fire

  3. Opam, Kwame; “Amazon selling Swagway hoverboards as it urges customers to destroy knockoffs”; The Verge; December 16, 2015; http://www.theverge.com/2015/12/16/10307246/amazon-hoverboard-disposal-UK-battery-plug-explosions

  4. Reich, JE; “Mark Cuban relinquishes hold on hoverboard patent”; The Verge; November 13, 2015;; http://www.techtimes.com/articles/106572/20151113/mark-cuban-hoverboard-lawsuit-shane-chen.htm

  5. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission; “Statement from the U.S. CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye on the safety of hoverboards”; Consumer Product Safety Commission; December 16, 2015; https://www.cpsc.gov/en/About-CPSC/Chairman/Kaye-Biography/Chairman-Kayes-Statements/Statements/Statement-from-the-US-CPSC-Chairman-Elliot-F-Kaye-on-the-safety-of-hoverboards/
Posted in by Mike.