Hoverboards, mini-Segways, Swegways or self-balancing boards - whatever you call them, are great fun to ride, and they make great gifts.
The issue is that there are thousands available online, making it hard to work out which is best for your needs. That's where we at Tech Advisor come in; as hoverboard experts, we'll explain which features to consider when buying a hoverboard, as well as the laws regarding using their use. And of course, we will recommend which ones you should buy based on our hands-on testing.
What hoverboard wheel size do I need?
Like with many modes of transportation, wheel size is an important element to consider. Most hoverboards have quite small wheels, around 6.5-7in in size, to make compact and more efficient.
While that's perfect for smooth surfaces, such as indoor flooring or the smooth floor you'll find in a shopping centre, they are not suited to uneven surfaces, sand or grass. On bumpy surfaces, such as uneven paving slabs, when the wheel regains contact with the ground, it’ll jerk forward and cause you to lose control – especially when riding at high speeds.
This means you have to ride slowly over uneven surfaces, even below walking pace, in order to stay balanced and safe.
There are other wheel sizes available, specifically 8in and 10in. The 8in wheels should provide a slightly higher level of stability than those using the 6.5-7in wheels, whilst preserving its relatively small and compact form factor. If you're looking for something that can handle off-roading, we'd go for the 10in variant.
However, some designs feature a much larger single wheel, around 12-14in in size, that should handle uneven surfaces with ease. The fact that there’s only one wheel should negate any issues with losing control on uneven surfaces, as we’ve observed with riders on our daily commute. We’ve even seen advanced AirWheel users grab the rideable between their legs and jump up to pavements from road level, something that can't be done with a standard hoverboard.
Who can ride a hoverboard?
Weight is an important element to consider – both the weight of the hoverboard and the rider. Generally, standard 7in hoverboards carry a weight limit of around 100KG, or around 15 stone 7 pounds for those of us in the UK.
For those of us that weigh more than 100KG, you have two options; you can either opt for the 10in hoverboard or the 'AirWheel', as generally speaking both can support heavier riders, with a weight limit of 120KG, or 18 stone 8lbs.
As you might recall, a spate of ‘fake’ hoverboards made their way to the UK back in 2015 - in fact, 15,000 of 17,000 hoverboards examined from several UK ports were deemed dangerous by the National Trading Standards agency.
This is why it's worth buying from a local supplier and checking that the boards comply with local safety regulations. In particular, UK buyers should look for CE markings, a proper UK charger with a UK mains plug and branded batteries from the likes of Samsung.
Also look for a company's contact details and check the warranty policy: these are expensive devices and it's important to be able to talk to the company should something go wrong. This is why it's potentially risky to import them from China and other countries; often you will be liable for return shipping costs for warranty repairs and these can quickly mount up, as can import duty fees.
Is it illegal to ride a hoverboard in the UK?
Before you buy a hoverboard you should be aware that it is illegal to ride them on public roads and pavements in the UK.
This is because of an almost 200-year old law. The 1835 Highways Act states that people cannot use the footway to “lead of drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description” which, sadly, includes hoverboards. But notice how it only mentions footways and not roads - can you ride your hoverboard in the road like a bike?
Again, no. Any motor vehicle used on the road needs the user to be licensed and insured, as well as the ‘vehicle’ itself, according to the ‘European community whole vehicle type approval’, or ECWVTA.
It's the same reason why electric scooters are illegal. But we hope that the laws in the UK will be changed soon.
Best Hoverboards of 2020
The FLY Plus hoverboard available from hoverboards.co.uk is one of a new range of hoverboards now available in the UK that won’t explode like those when the hoverboard hype was at its highest in 2015.
Why? Unlike the cheap knockoffs available back then, the FLY Plus has authentic Samsung battery cells (4400mAh) and a UK charger fully compliant with UK electronic safety regulations.
In terms of design, the FLY Plus is one of the more eye-catching of all the hoverboards we’ve seen. Sporting a black body with flashes of yellow, blue, green, red and purple electricity, it’s stylish without being too in your face. The ‘electricity’ detailing also helps it disguise scrapes and bumps that the hoverboard is bound to build up over time.
In terms of dimensions, the FLY Plus measures in at 21.6in x 7.3in x 7.0in with 6.5in wide wheels and a weight of 12KG. Admittedly it’s heavier than some of the other hoverboards we’ve seen, but that is due to the 4400mAh Samsung batteries that offer almost double the capacity compared to other, lighter options. The FLY Plus comes with a handy carry bag too, making transporting the board (when you’re not on it) a little easier.
The most important question is, how does it perform? Is it easy to ride? The FLY Plus features a plethora of built-in tech that makes it incredibly easy to ride with a very small learning curve. After you’ve found your centre of balance, just adjust the pressure on your feet to move forwards, backwards, left and right with ease. The small wheels do make it a little difficult to use on uneven ground – those looking for an ‘off-road’ hoverboard should opt for one with bigger 10in wheels.
Powering the wheels under the hood are two 350W Silent Drive Motors, providing an *almost* silent experience. You’ll hear a slight hum as you build up speed on the board, but it’s not enough to get noise complaints from the neighbours when you’re whizzing around the neighbourhood.
Those twin drives provide a maximum speed of 12kmph, or around 7mph, with around two hours of use before it requires a top up. That time somewhat depends on the weight of the rider – someone who weighs 50kg will get more out of it than someone that weighs the maximum weight (100kg). But despite the large capacity of the Samsung batteries, the FLY Plus only takes around 2-3 hours to be fully charged.
If that wasn’t enough for you, the FLY Plus also offers a built-in Bluetooth speaker. Simply connect your smartphone and play your favourite tunes as you whizz around. The speaker quality isn’t amazing, but it’s loud and should be sufficient for most users.
The Vanguard is a superb hoverboard which ticks all the boxes. For a start, it comes bundled with a basic kart frame so you can whiz around straight away without having to learn to ride the board standing up.
Attaching the kart takes just a few minutes and has handles so you can control forward / reverse movement as well as steering.
It’s adjustable in length to suit both kids and adults, and the 100kg rider weight means almost everyone in the family can have a play.
The Vanguard board comes in a variety of great colours and (like the Fly Plus above) has built-in Bluetooth and a loud speaker so you can listen to tunes from your phone as you ride.
The best feature, though, is auto-balance which really helps to stabilise the board so you’re not constantly working hard to remain upright. It’s so easy to ride, in fact, that it will be a matter of minutes before you feel in control and able to ride without holding onto something – or someone – for assistance.
Returning to the tick-boxes, the Vanguard comes with a CE-certified charger with a UK mains plug, a built-in Samsung 4400mAh battery, and protection while charging from overcurrent and short circuit. (You shouldn’t leave the board unattended while charging, though, and shouldn’t allow it to charge for more than three hours.)
A full charge should give you up to two hours of run time (and around 10km of travel) though this will depend on terrain and gradient, as well as ambient temperature.
The board has 6.5in wheels and a 350W motor powering each. They provide a maximum speed of 5.6mph (12km/h).
If there’s one niggle, it’s that there are no guards on the sides to protect against scrapes, so you’ll probably scratch and scrape the glossy finish if you start off by riding the board indoors – as we did.
But aside from that, this is a great board at a decent price and the included kart frame really adds to the fun.
If you’re looking for something a little more high-end than the Vanguard, Bolt’s 2-in-1 hoverboard-powered Go Kart might be the ideal option.
The idea is simple yet effective; you can ride your Bolt-branded hoverboard around by itself, or you can slot it into the Go Kart frame and transform it into a three-speed electric kart, complete with reverse gear and a mechanical handbrake that can be used for drifting as well as emergencies – if you’ve got the skill and confidence, anyway!
It’s rapid, going from a cold start to 12mph within a few seconds thanks to two 400W motors, making it faster than many classic petrol-powered cars on the road, and the steering wheel is incredibly responsive. Unlike cheaper options on the market, the Bolt’s Go-Kart frame is adjustable, allowing kids and adults alike (up to 100kg and 6ft3) to get in on the fun.
Though that’s cool though, there’s more; you can download an app on your iPhone or Android to control not only the top speed of the kart (ideal for children), but you can toggle the built-in headlight, customise the LED array and more. It’s admittedly a little rough around the edges, as these kinds of apps sometimes are, but the functionality is there.
Though you won’t be able to go on long drives using Bolt’s Go-Kart, we’ve found that we could go around 10 miles before needing a top-up, although that was dependent on speed and other variants. The good news is that the charging process isn’t too laborious, taking around three hours to charge from flat-to-full.
Of course, you can’t actually ride Bolt’s Go-Kart on UK roads as it’s not road legal, so you’ll have to find private land to put your karting skills to the test. It’s not very portable either, being quite large and bulky even at its smallest, making it quite difficult to transport and store when not in use. But if you’ve got the space and budget available, we’d recommend it - it’s one of the more exciting hoverboard-powered experiences available right now.
Xiaomi Ninebot Plus
The Ninebot Plus from Xiaomi is a bit different to the other hoverboards in our round-up, and with two 400W motors quite the beast.
As with the others here you lean forward and backward to propel the device, reverse and to bring it to a halt, but to turn corners you bend the centre-mounted 'stick' with your knees. This takes a little bit of getting used to because when you turn, say, left, your body will naturally want to move to the right to stay upright. However, it quickly becomes natural.
At which point the Ninebot Plus actually feels a lot more stable than most hoverboards - partly due to having something extra to cling to, and partly due to a pair of large 11in anti-slip tyres that do a great job mounting small curbs and basic off-roading. It helps that the board is self-balancing, and unlike other models won't shoot off as you climb aboard, but when you turn off the power the Ninebot will come crashing to the ground.
The Ninebot Plus can handle wet surfaces, thanks to special grooves in the tyres and a waterproof (IPX6) battery cover.
This stick has another function, too, allowing you to mount a camera (not supplied) to the Ninebot. It seems a crazy thing to do, putting a camera between your legs, but you won't look any more silly than you would with said camera strapped to your head. A storage compartment here allows you to stash away the camera when not in use.
The other thing that marks out the Ninebot Plus from other hoverboards is its remote control, which connects over Bluetooth with an operating range of around 20m. Using this you can remotely control the Ninebot, and even get it to follow you in 'puppy' mode - ideal if you want it to carry the shopping, or simply don't feel like riding or carrying it (it weighs around 12kg). The remote can also activate a lock, and if anyone tries to walk off with your toy it will sound an alarm.
The Ninebot Plus works with the Ninebot mobile app, too, which lets you turn off the otherwise automatic headlight, change the colour of the reversing/brake lights, see how fast you're going and how much battery remains. It's also through the app that you turn off the speed limiter, allowing you to take the board from around 6mph up to a maximum just short of 12mph.
When used at top speed total mileage will obviously be reduced, but Xiaomi says you'll get somewhere between 20- and 35km from the 18650mAh battery, with the rider's weight also affecting things here. The Ninebot Plus can cope with a rider up to 100kg in weight.
Overall the Ninebot Plus offers a huge amount of fun. We got ours from GearBest, which ships from China, so do keep in mind that you may be asked to pay import duty. This works out at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork, plus an admin fee of around £11.
The Ninebot Plus hails from Xiaomi, a well known Chinese brand we trust. It does ship with a Chinese plug, however, so you will need an adaptor (GearBest should be able to supply one if requested).
Segway Drift W1
If you’re looking for something a little different to the standard hoverboard experience, Segway’s Drift W1 e-skates could be up your alley. They work in the same way as a hoverboard; you stand on them, lean forward to go forward and back to slow down, stop and reverse. However, unlike a hoverboard, the skates are separate – and this poses an entirely new challenge, even for seasoned hoverboard riders.
The main challenge when first riding the Segway Drift W1 is keeping your feet (and the skates) facing the same direction because even if it’s a little out-of-line, you’ll soon be doing the splits. This brings new challenges to steering, something that was quite easy to do with the standard hoverboard, but it’s a fun learning experience.
Once you manage to maintain control of the Drift W1 e-skates, you’ll be able to go to speeds up to 7.5mph (three times faster than the average walker) for up to 45 minutes, although that can vary depending on different factors including weight, speed, LED lights and more.
The speed and battery life aren’t quite as impressive as other hoverboards on our list, leading us to believe that this is more of a casual, fun mode of transport to use to whiz to the local shop, rather than something you’d use to get around a city on a daily basis. There is IP54 water resistance though, so at least they’ll survive a splash in the rain.
The good news is that the Drift W1 e-skates are much more portable and lightweight than traditional hoverboards. They’re small enough to fit into a rucksack and at a combined 7kg, they’re between 3- and 8kg lighter than other hoverboards in our roundup.
Just like practically every other hoverboard available in 2020, the Drift W1 e-skates sport LED strips that provide ambient lighting when in use, with three colour modes to choose from. There’s no Bluetooth connectivity or built-in speakers, but really and truly, we think that’s probably for the best. Who really wants to listen to poor-quality music via a hoverboard or pair of skates?