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What Is a Hoverboard? How They Work and Where To Buy

Dive into the realm of these popular self-balancing scooters, where technology meets fun and innovation.

Have you been captivated by the electric allure of hoverboards, wondering how they magically glide on the streets? Well, you’re not alone.

Hoverboards, with a market valuation of $781 million in 2020, have transformed from mere futuristic fantasies to everyday realities (1).

But what exactly is a hoverboard? What makes them tick? How do they balance so effortlessly? And, crucially, are they safe for you and your loved ones?

Dive into this thorough guide that unpacks all essential facts and information about these captivating scooters.

What Is a Hoverboard?

Hoverboards are two-wheeled, self-balancing electric scooters. To move forward, backward, or stop, the rider must carefully balance and adjust how they tilt the board. Generally, people use hoverboards for recreational purposes, traveling on private property, or playing games with friends.

What Is a Hoverboard?

The hoverboard was first referenced in the 1967 novel The Hole in the Zero by M.K. Joseph. In the book, a character was chatting about “hoverboard skating”.

Hoverboards also became a pop culture phenomenon after a fictional version appeared in Back to the Future II. In the film, hoverboards resembled skateboards without wheels, literally hovering above the ground.

Nowadays, while hoverboards are popular gadgets for both kids and adults, the irony is that they don’t actually hover.

Instead, they are two-wheeled electric scooters that users must self-balance to ride. Running on battery power, the rider must carefully balance and adjust the board’s tilting direction in order to move forward, backward, or stop.

Generally, a hoverboard is made up of a main body, two wheels, a gyroscope, a logic board, a motor, and a battery.

In the US, you cannot ride your hoverboard in public places, such as a park. Instead, you can ride them on private property with the owner’s permission. Many people will use their hoverboards for recreational and personal use, transporting from point A to point B, or playing games like tag.

How Do Hoverboards Work?

Let’s delve into the mechanics of a hoverboard.

A hoverboard consists of two plastic platforms with a wheel on either side. Inside the plastic is an iron frame containing a rotating cylinder that connects the two platforms. This cylinder allows riders to tilt the platforms individually.

Each platform houses an electronic board equipped with tilt sensors, a main processor, and a battery.

When the rider turns the hoverboard on and steps both feet onto the platform, they simultaneously press two sensor buttons, and the hoverboard will keep both platforms horizontal to ensure the rider doesn’t fall.

The rider will slightly tilt their weight forward when they want to move the hoverboard. When the platforms tilt forward five degrees, the processor receives this message from the sensor, and the wheels will rotate slowly forward.

The processor sends around 100 signals or checks per second to swiftly respond to the rider’s movements.

The faster the rider wants to go, the more they will tilt the platforms, and the faster the wheels will turn.

When you need to turn left or right, the rider must tilt one platform more than the other. The processor will recognize this tilt and spin one wheel faster than the other to make a turn.

If you tilt both platforms in different directions, the hoverboard will spin in place.

Is a Hoverboard Safe?

Like any motorized vehicle, hoverboards pose risks, with injury being the primary concern. Even the most experienced hoverboard riders can fall.

But the majority of hoverboard riders are kids, and therefore, parents should be extra careful. It’s quite easy to fall off your hoverboard, knock into obstacles, or topple over while riding. It’s crucial that all hoverboard riders wear essential safety gear, including a skateboard helmet, knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, and closed-toe shoes.

Between 2015 and 2016, almost 30,000 children visited US hospitals with hoverboard-related injuries (2). These injuries were usually fractures, bruises, and sprains, especially to wrists, forearms, or heads.

Hoverboard safety is also a concern due to fire risks. Lithium-ion batteries can overheat and cause fires, so if you own a hoverboard made before 2017, check its recall status.

Overall, hoverboards carry many risks. However, wearing protective equipment, riding on smooth surfaces, using the supplied chargers, and not leaving the hoverboard unattended while charging can drastically minimize these risks.


The AAP says that children under the age of five should not skateboard or hoverboard (3). Children over six can use such gadgets but must have adult supervision.

Pros and Cons of Hoverboards

Are you considering buying a hoverboard? There are many benefits to owning a hoverboard, but there are also some significant disadvantages to consider. I’ve put together a list of pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.


  • Quick transportation: Hoverboards can cover short distances at speeds ranging from six to 10 mph.
  • They’re fun: Riding a hoverboard is an exhilarating experience.
  • They’re compact: Hoverboards are more compact and easier to carry than other motorized vehicles.
  • Easy enough to use: Despite an initial learning curve, kids as young as six can master a hoverboard.
  • It’s good exercise: You have to engage your muscles when riding, meaning you burn calories.
  • Not too expensive: Hoverboards are more affordable than motorized scooters or bikes.
  • Eco-friendly: Hoverboards use rechargeable batteries, reducing the need for single-use power sources and offering a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels.


  • Fire risk: Some of the older models pose a fire risk.
  • You need good balance: Not everybody can master a hoverboard since you need good balance and coordination.
  • Risk of injury: Hoverboards have sent children and adults to hospital with various injuries.
  • Restricted use: You can’t use hoverboards in many spaces, including public places, certain airports, or parks.
  • Short battery life: Typically, you can travel 10 to 15 miles (or around one hour) per charge.
  • Smooth surfaces only: Even minor obstacles, such as cracks in the pavement, can cause you to fall off your board.

Cost To Buy a Hoverboard

Generally, hoverboards cost anywhere from $80 to $300. The average cost of a hoverboard is around $130. They’re not cheap, but they’re more cost-efficient than other motorized micromobility vehicles, such as a Segway.

To make it easier for you to compare costs, check out these popular hoverboards and their price points:

How To Choose a Hoverboard

When shopping for a hoverboard, it’s important to consider various features, including the wheel size, board size, weight capacity, and more.

Speed Range

Check the speed range for the hoverboard, especially the maximum speed. On average, this is usually between six and 10 miles per hour. I don’t recommend choosing a hoverboard that goes faster than 10 miles per hour, as this increases safety risks.

Mileage Range

If you use a hoverboard for commuting, it’s important to know how far it can travel on a single charge. Usually, hoverboards can go between seven to fifteen miles per charge, depending on the specific model you choose. Be sure to read the item description to get a complete understanding of your chosen model’s specifications.

Battery Features

Consider the battery life of the hoverboard. While you can figure this out by checking the mileage range and the maximum speed, it’s important to check the advertised battery life. Typically, this is around one hour.

You should also check if the battery has a safety certificate, such as a UL certificate. This implies the lithium-ion battery has been meticulously tested for safety.

Top Tip

Aim to charge the battery after every ride to keep it in great working condition. Also, note that frequent stops and starts will shorten the battery life.


Check the weight of the hoverboard. This is typically around 20 to 30 pounds, which isn’t too bad if you simply need to lift your hoverboard into a locker.

But if you run out of charge a mile from home, this will be cumbersome to carry. Also, check the hoverboard’s dimensions to ensure you have space to store it.

Many hoverboards include a backpack for easier transportation.

Safety Certifications

Make sure the hoverboard you choose has passed safety tests. I highly recommend choosing a hoverboard that is UL-certified. This means that it has met all UL 2272 safety standards.

Even if a hoverboard is safety certified, you should always wear protective equipment, including a helmet, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads.

Wheel Size and Features

There are a few different types of wheels. Hoverboards typically feature 10-inch wheels or 6.5-inch wheels.

If you want a smoother ride that can handle cracks in pavements and slight inclines, I recommend choosing 10-inch wheels.

But 6.5-inch wheels are acceptable for traveling on smooth and flat surfaces. However, these wheels bring the board closer to the ground, so they’re not best for various terrains or riding off-road.

You should also note the wheel material. The best option is premium-grade solid rubber wheels that are more puncture-resistant.

Lastly, you’ll also find hoverboards with wheels that contain LED lights. Not only does this look cool, it’s helpful when the light is low.

Weight Capacity

Make sure to check the weight limit of hoverboards, as some are only suitable for children, and exceeding the weight limit can cause damage. Hoverboards typically support weights between 170 and 265 pounds.

Build Quality

The best hoverboards use high-quality materials like an iron frame and superior-grade plastic. As mentioned previously, check that the wheels are made from premium-grade solid rubber.

I also recommend investigating the construction to ensure the hoverboard has systems that prevent electrical issues and overheating.

When you buy an off-brand hoverboard, you risk getting low-quality technology. If possible, choose a branded model such as Swagtron, GoTrax, or Hover-1.

Additional Features

Finally, consider additional features, including Bluetooth speakers, fast charging times, LED lights, and multiple color options. Want to step up your style game when you’re cruising the streets? These features are guaranteed to help you look your best!


Are Hoverboards Legal?

It is legal to own and ride a hoverboard on private property with the owner’s permission. But in the United States, different states have different laws and regulations.

For example, in California, you cannot use your hoverboard on public roads or pavements. In New York and Illinois, hoverboards are banned in open areas, parks, and roads.

Check your city and state’s local hoverboard regulations for the best guidance.

What Age Are Hoverboards For?

The AAP recommends children be at least six years old to ride a hoverboard, but many manufacturers recommend ages eight and up. Check with your hoverboard manufacturer first.

On the other hand, hoverboards are suitable for kids, teenagers, and adults.

How Fast Does a Hoverboard Go?

Hoverboards typically travel between six and 10 miles per hour. Anything over 10 miles per hour is too fast.

How Many Miles Can a Hoverboard Go?

Hoverboards can generally travel between seven and 15 miles per charge. However, some top models can go up to 17 miles per charge.

How Long Does a Hoverboard Battery Last?

Some batteries last as little as 20 minutes, while others last up to four hours between charging. It depends on the model of your hoverboard and how you care for the battery.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a Scottish freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. She is a mum to a young boy, and believes that it truly takes a village. When she’s not parenting, writing about parenting, or working, she can be found reading, working on her novel, taking photos, playing board games or wandering through the countryside with her family.