Yes, hoverboards are fun to ride, and kids love them. But despite their image as novelty kid’s toys, many manufacturers have focused on developing models that can serve as a viable personal transportation alternative. Beyond the brightly colored, Bluetooth speaker-integrated models commonly advertised, some of the more high-end models are effectively scaled-down Segway scooters, with top-notch mobility and performance.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell many of these boards because they have similar designs and features. Kids’ boards generally have speakers and bright, colorful lights, to distinguish them as “toys.” All-purpose boards tend to emphasize weight capacity and battery life, to try and maximize their travel distance, as well as top speed. Other model types can be more specialized, such as off-road boards with higher ground clearance and larger wheels, or boards with unique designs, such as single-wheel “surfboards” and even hover skates.
Hoverboard buying guide
Here are the most important features to look out for when shopping around for a hoverboard:
• Weight Limit: Due to their generally compact design, most hoverboards do not support weights over 220 pounds, which is why they are commonly used by children and lighter adults. There are some exceptions, however. Whenever possible, try to look for hoverboards with generous weight limits to ensure that you can make the most of your device’s top speed and battery life.
• Distance per Charge: Hoverboards are loads of fun, but getting stranded in the middle of your ride isn’t. Though the distance your hoverboard can travel may range anywhere from 6 to 12 miles, you always want to make sure that a single charge can take you to your destination and back home. At the very least, you’ll want a hoverboard that can charge quickly wherever you ride.
• UL 2272 Certification: In the early days of hoverboards, news articles abounded highlighting their propensity to combust or even explode. As a result, UL — an organization dedicated to developing safety standards for existing and developing technologies — developed certification 2272, which requires rigorous testing of electrical components to avoid these hazards.
• Motor Power: Part of the fun of hoverboards is being able to zip around faster than a brisk jog for a fraction of the effort. A powerful set of motors — usually upwards of 250W — will guarantee that you can maintain top speed without significantly impacting battery life. Not only that, but more powerful motors translate to higher weight limits, which will make the hoverboard more accessible to more people.
1. Editor's pick: Razor 2.0 Hovertrax
Razor has long been a staple of the scooter industry, so it comes as no surprise that the brand has thrown its hat into the self-balancing scooter arena. The 2.0 Hovertrax is one of Razor’s middle-of-the-road models, combining affordability with overall good performance.
Even though it’s not Razor’s top model, the 2.0 supports riders of up to 220 pounds — comparable to other boards in its range — with two powerful 350W motors that maintain a top speed of over 8 mph even at maximum weight load. It also includes a training mode that helps newcomers familiarize themselves with the ins and outs of hoverboard riding.
The most notable feature, however, is its swappable 36-volt lithium ion battery, which lets you keep riding if you run out of juice just by swapping a fully charged spare on the go. On the down side, the 2.0 Hovertrax is 24.5” across, not quite as wide as other hoverboards, which might make it impractical for larger riders (or just those with large feet).
2. Editor's pick runner-up: Swagtron Swagboard Pro T1 Hoverboard
Swagtron is one of the top brands in the hoverboard market, and the T1 hoverboard is a great example of why this is so. The T1 is a sturdy, well-built board that suits a wide range of purposes.
It has a carry weight of up to 220 pounds, weighs a relatively light 22 pounds, and can run at speeds up to 8 mph. While it lacks some features commonly found in many other hoverboards, such as Bluetooth speakers and multicolor LED light displays, the T1 nevertheless remains a solid contender due to its reasonably affordable pricing of just under $250. The long-lasting battery that can run up to 11 miles in a single charge.
3. Best for value: Hover-1 Ultra Electric Self-Balancing Hoverboard Scooter
If the Swagtron T1 is not available or you'd just like to spend a little less, Hover-1's Ultra hoverboard model is a terrific alternative. It's a solid performer and a great all-around value.
In terms of capability and specifications, the Hover-1 is very similar to the Swagtron. It has a maximum weight limit of 220 pound and can go as far as 12 miles on a single charge, and the Hover-1 has LED front-sensor headlights. Hover-1 Ultra models are often cheaper too — generally costing less than $200.
The one notable difference between these models is the Ultra's lack of a training mode for novice riders.
4. Best for kids: Tomoloo Q3-X1 Hoverboard With Bluetooth
Even though the difference between hoverboards for kids and adults is somewhat subjective, Tomoloo makes it a point to manufacture board models for each audience separately. The Q3-X1 is one of Tomoloo’s heavy-duty models, allowing for a weight load of up to 220 pounds, and yet it is marketed specifically for kids and is pretty affordable compared to others in its class.
In addition to its generous weight limit and relatively low price — around $220 normally — the Q3-X1 has a fairly low top speed of 7 mph. That's not a bad thing: The lower speeds allow hoverboard novices to get used to the basics of riding without worrying about going too fast and potentially injuring themselves. It also boasts a variety of attractive LED color settings and powerful Bluetooth speakers.
The Q3-X1 comes with a self-balancing mode, so novices can get on and off the board with relatively little hassle. It also features a smartphone app with multiple ride and training modes, which can help new users get up to speed on how to make the most of their hoverboard riding.
5. Best for off-road: Swagtron Swagboard Outlaw Off-Road T6
Swagtron makes boards for every type of rider. The T6 is by far the brand's heftiest board, weighing 30.55 pounds and sporting 10” wheels that allow it to cruise over nearly any type of terrain. It boasts a top speed of 12 mph, with a maximum trip distance of 12 miles per charge.
In addition to being a great off-road hoverboard, the T6 sports many features popular in less rugged boards, such as Bluetooth speakers, training modes, and front-facing LED lights to navigate in the dark.
Being a high performance off-road board, the T6 has incredibly responsive steering, which should please more experienced riders. On the other hand, it could be a less advisable purchase for hoverboard newbies.
6. Best for portability: IOTAtrax Compact Hoverboard
The IOTAtrax started out as a Kickstarter project looking to change up the hoverboard scene. While it still follows the general design specs of traditional hoverboards (two wheels, self-balancing, lean to steer), it does something completely different by placing both wheels in the middle, with two foldable “wings” serving as the footrests.
By virtue of its compact design, the IOTAtrax has a strap handle on the top, for easy portability, and is incredibly light, coming in at just over 15 pounds. Unfortunately, this means that it doesn’t support much weight, only allowing up to 200 pounds. Also, the IOTAtrax can only handle inclines of up to 15 degrees, whereas most other hoverboards can handle between 20- and 30-degree inclines.
This board has a relatively short distance per charge of 8 miles, though this is offset by its equally short charge time of no more than an hour. So it’s ideal for either short trips around the neighborhood, or perhaps a quick commute where you can charge the board while you go about your business.
7. Best Segway self-balancing scooter: Segway Ninebot S
If what you want is a reliable alternative mode of transportation (and aren’t into performing fancy tricks), the Segwqy Ninebot S is a great option. Though not strictly a hoverboard on account of its knee-length control bar, it does provide the hands-free hoverboard experience, but with added balance control.
Unlike traditional hoverboards, the Ninebot S is designed with transportation in mind and it shows. It sports dual 400W motors that allow it to reach cruising speeds of up to 10 mph, and its 10.5” wheels give it enough ground clearance to traverse uneven terrain while out and about.
The Ninebot S’s app helps you monitor vehicle diagnostics and speed limit, and it comes with a remote control and anti-theft features, further cementing its status as a personal transportation device.