Hoverboards are easily the hottest toy of the holiday season, but getting one is, unfortunately, complex.
That’s because the rapid social-media popularity of these two-wheeled misnomers led to a huge boom in manufacturing that’s largely unregulated. A reporter with BuzzFeed visited Shenzhen, China, the city where hoverboards are made, to find hundreds of factories all cranking out a very similar product.
Western distributors purchase supplies of the boards, then deliver them to the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, often sourcing boards from various manufacturers. Hoverboards quite literally can’t be made quickly enough, which may to have led to some cost-cutting on the part of manufacturers. Batteries have been the primary issue.
Low-quality lithium-ion batteries and chargers can sometimes catch fire. That fact has led someairlines to ban them from certain types of luggage and to the seizure of 15,000 unsafe hoverboards entering the UK.
Just this past weekend, reports emerged of two hoverboard fires in New Orleans and Florida.
Still, hoverboards are surprisingly fun to ride, and there’s a 90% chance you know someone who wants one, so what to do? Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast rule on which hoverboards might be dangerous, but there are some general guidelines you can follow to have the best chance of buying a hoverboard that’s safe.
Make sure you buy it from a reputable store
To cash in on the boom, scores of sellers offer hoverboards, but not necessarily all are reputable. For example, if you search for “hoverboard” on Walmart’s website, you’ll see a handful of different devices; however, when you specify you want to only see products offered by Walmart.com itself, only one hoverboard is available, the Razor Hovertraxs. It’s a similar story at Amazon.
If you’re buying a hoverboard from a store or seller you’ve never heard of before, excercise extra caution.
Your best bet is to stick with sellers you know
Your best bet is to stick with sellers you know, especially well-known brick & mortar stores.
Look for more well-known brands
There are hundreds of brand names attached to hoverboards currently, but some are more legitimate than others. Even though many of the major players are involved in a legal battle over who truly invented the hoverboard — and thus, who has exclusive right to produce it — any of the major manufacturers will likely provide you a better product.
Do a search to find out more about the company: Swagway and Razor, for example, have websites with legitimate customer-service information, whereas a search for WEECOO only turns up links to other Amazon listings.
There’s no guarantee that a Swagway, Razor, IO Hawk or Phunkee Duck hoverboard won’t have flaws, but there will be more accountability with those manufacturers.
If the price is too good to be true, that’s because it probably is
You don’t need to spend $1,800 on an IO Hawk, but if you see a hoverboard for $100 run away.
$300 to $600 seems to be the sweet spot
$300 to $600 seems to be the sweet spot for a device that won’t break the bank, but won’t also, you know, break.
In conclusion, be a smart consumer
Due to the murky origins of most hoverboards, you need to exercise caution and good judgement when buying one. It’s not like buying an iPhone directly from Apple with the comforting knowledge that the product was built to be reliable and has excellent customer support — buying a hoverboard means you need to be educate yourself a little more about the company selling it to you before you buy it.
Since there’s no definitive way of saying “this hoverboard is safe and this one isn’t,” follow these guidelines and trust your gut. If your gut tells you it’s sketchy, it probably is.