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How to choose an Electric Skateboard – a Beginner’s Buying Guide

If you’re reading this article right now, there’s a good chance that you’re on the hunt for your very first electric skateboard. There’s also a good chance that you might be overwhelmed, confused, or a nervous parent trying to secure this purchase for a child eager to shred the streets! However, the anxiety stops here. I, Terminal X, am here to provide an easy yet thorough guide for anyone attempting to navigate their first electric skateboard. Welcome! It’s an exciting product, filled with great times and memories for years to come. I personally have owned seven electric skateboards in my riding career, and I’m on the hunt for one or two new ones this year. 

This guide will break down some factors to consider in an electric skateboard, as well as help the reader in deciding what’s a priority for their board. I’ll highlight the most popular features, and I’ll be sure to help the reader navigate some pitfalls (including some I made). Once your board arrives, that first unboxing and riding feeling will be made even more secure knowing that you made the best choice possible in your very first electric skateboard!

What are you aiming for?

As with nearly any purchase decision, it’s vital to understand the buyer’s priorities. What is the end result you’re looking for? What is the job description of this electric skateboard? Labeling this board and giving it a specific goal will help narrow down the choices and highlight the right product for you. 

Commuter 

This is the workhorse electric skateboard, the original style that stormed onto the personal electric vehicle world several years ago now. This board doesn’t need to be anything fancy, since it’s merely a Point A to Point B transporter (which can still be fun). This type of board only needs average range, since the average commuter on an electric skateboard isn’t riding much more than several miles one way. If you’re riding more than 12-15 miles one way for a commute, you might want to look at some boards further down in the article that have bigger batteries. It’s assumed that the board can be charged at work. 

man commuting on electric skateboard

The board needs to be smooth, comfortable, and an easy ride. A high top speed isn’t necessary, but unless the commuter is taking bike trails and sidewalks exclusively, this electric skateboard will need to at least somewhat keep up with city street traffic. Larger wheels tend to eat up precious battery, but some city streets can be rough and outright dangerous for smaller urethane wheels. Therefore, some commuters might want a form of AT wheels for a smoother and safer experience. 

man commuting on electric skateboard through the city

Most boards in this category can be purchased for anywhere between $400 and $1200. Most of the differences in these commuter boards would be battery size, quality of parts, and customer service offerings (if any). 

One thing is important to note on commuting boards. While many companies do their best to seal the board, no electric skateboard is able to survive extended periods in the rain. Wheels with tread might prevent the commuter from slipping and sliding on the road, but it’s highly recommended to stick to alternative transportation in wet conditions, especially when braking depends on electronic components not failing due to water. 

Carving 

Carving refers to the ability to make small yet sharp turning motions with the electric skateboard. A fluid motion, carving is often seen on traditional longboards, as well as snowboards and skis. In short, it’s a very relaxing, almost casually thrilling activity that requires a fluid core movement with the hips and legs. With carving being quite rhythmic, it’s enjoyable to feel the electric skateboard effortlessly glide forward while the rider shifts their weight into alternating legs quickly, allowing the board to dart in one direction briefly, before snapping back into line. Carving isn’t just fun however. It’s also used to slow down a board. Instead of blowing full speed ahead in a straight line, carving forces the board to change into different directions rapidly, reducing its velocity. Unsurprisingly, carving is also a great leg workout.

man riding Maxfind FF Plus

While it’s rare to have an electric skateboard be marketed solely for carving, there are several boards that excel in carving and make it a top feature. Almost all of these electric skateboards utilize double kingpin trucks. Evolve, Wowgo, Ownboard, and others all sell boards with DKP trucks. They utilize double the bushings and allow for a very smooth and easy carving experience.

Electric skateboards with DKP trucks can turn quickly and with less effort. This also comes in handy maneuvering tight spaces in the city on an electric skateboard, as a DKP truck can make very tight turns with a much smaller radius. However, without dialing down the right bushing setup (which could be another article entirely), DKP trucks can be extremely unstable at high speeds. The higher probability for wobbles makes DKP trucks for many electric skateboard riders, who would prefer to go far and fast instead of carving slowly. While many DKP truck boards may be less stable out of the box, taking the time to locate the right bushing setup for you will pay massive dividends of fun. The right bushings in a DKP setup can allow the rider to recover most of the stability from their traditional trucks, while still maintaining the therapeutic thrill of carving.

Maxfind FF Plus double Kingpin Trucks

I myself was a vocal critic of DKP trucks until I purchased some Riptide bushings that were recommended based on my weight and board, and switching from DKP back to regular trucks feels almost stiff and lethargic. I still have incredible stability (which also comes with experience). 

Riptide Bushings Set for Verreal RS

A few brave riders have utilized the new Waterborne Surf Adapter trucks to their electric skateboards for insane carving (almost dancelike). While hardcore carvers could install these on some electric skateboards, almost none come with the Surf Adapters stock. 

warerborne surf adapter

Off-Road 

For those who think paved roads are boring, some electric skateboards come equipped with the wheels and torque needed to conquer the wilderness. While these boards will also perform just fine in cities, they have specific traits that make them adept for off-road shredding. 

off road electric skateboard

The first obvious trait is the wheels. They need to be large (at least 155mm, but larger is almost always better) and with some tread. Pneumatic (air filled) wheels are the most ideal for comfort and the ability to handle severe undulations. There are a few “off-road” boards that blur this line. For example, the Raldey Carbon AT uses airless 195mm tires with mixed results. The Backfire Ranger series uses airless tires with hub motors built into the wheels. While these might do fine on very smooth, basic conditions, the airless tires and hub motors will not provide the grip and power needed to propel a rider through rough conditions. 

backfire Ranger off road

Another important feature is the motors and the torque they deliver. While a top speed isn’t a primary goal when off-roading, riders will need extensive power to push the weighted board through all types of terrain. Dirt, gravel, and thick bush are all stubborn friction for an electric skateboard, and it takes powerful motors to propel the board. Riders should look for belt motors with a lower KV rating (this generally provides lower speed but higher torque) and higher watts (more power in general). Gear drive and chain drive (extremely rare) would also provide this torque. While uncommon, some electric skateboards come in 4WD variants, which would help greatly when off-roading, as the motors will provide double the power. 

trampa off road

As for the remaining priorities, they tend to vary in importance depending on how severe the terrain will be. For example, an off-road board should have a sealed enclosure to help prevent water and dirt from hurting the electronics. Some of the most hardcore off-road boards (such as Trampa) utilize aggressive flexible decks to help with shock absorption. Some also use bindings to keep their feet locked into the board (being strapped to a powerful electric board has some risk, so be careful). 

Long Range

This priority is naturally straightforward. Electric skateboard riders that plan on taking long treks on the board should always look for the largest battery capacity possible. Many board manufacturers offer extended range batteries or versions of the board with a larger battery. A possible option is to invest in an electric skateboard with easily swappable batteries. This would allow riders to double their range within a few seconds and continue the journey. A final recommendation for long distance riders is to look into smaller wheels to save a good percentage of range on their electric skateboard (all-terrain wheels can chew through batteries quickly).

Best long range electric skateboards

High Speed

Buyers of electric skateboards are quick to look for this metric. It’s always fun to have the faster board. However, if this is your first electric skateboard, it’s really important to set proper expectations and keep safety in mind. Even if you have some skating or downhill longboard experience, riding a high performance electric skateboard takes time and muscle memory. 30MPH with a car or motorcycle would seem lethargic, but 30MPH on a slab of bamboo with no airbag is otherworldly. Therefore, it’s important to start slow and learn how to ride the electric skateboard correctly before you hit the drag strip trying to break records. 

How Fast do Electric Skateboards Go - Top Speeds compared

Most budget electric skateboards top out at 25MPH-30MPH. However, if you need something faster, there are several performance boards that can carry speeds well past 40mph (which is honestly insane). LaCroix, Metroboard, Kaly NYC, BioBoards, and a few prominent DIY builders all create monster electric skateboards.  Many refuse to announce the top speed of their products to keep riders from pushing past the point of safe riding. Most of these speed demons utilize massive batteries and motors to push the board to its max potential. Belt drive and gear drive motors will be used on most of these boards. It’s absolutely essential that riders of these fast electric skateboards wear maximum safety gear (helmets, pads, gloves, even armored jackets). They should also expect to put in hundreds of hours of riding to build that muscle memory to ride safely at top speeds. 

slow and fast

What is your skill level? 

If you’re a beginner at electric skateboards, it will be extremely handy if you know how to ride regular push longboards. Learning how to carve, steer, and foot brake will be absolute necessities for riding electric. Snowboarding also has a similar feeling. A good idea is to borrow a friend’s longboard and practice balancing and moving slowly while you wait for your first board to arrive. Understanding weight distribution and foot positioning for ideal control of the board will put you ahead of the curve in riding your first electric skateboard. 

skill levels

How much do you want to spend? 

Unless you’ve won the lottery recently, your first electric skateboard probably won’t be a high end top performer with a $4,000 price tag. Most budget boards with halfway decent reputations and specs will cost $500-$1000. Expect to pay more for boards with local service, faster shipping, and higher quality parts. Bigger battery options are a common cause of upselling electric skateboard buyers.

hand holding up money

Do you want good customer service? 

Chinese vs US Companies

Like any vehicle, electric skateboards will end up requiring service, maintenance, and possibly warranty fulfillment. With the type of harsh treatment the streets can give to a board, as well as the thousands of miles one can ride, it’s only natural that a board would need a new part. Therefore, good service and warranty should be a prominent factor to consider in the purchase of a first electric skateboard. 

woman from costumer service saying we are here to help

For American and European customers, there’s only a few local board manufacturers. First time buyers will quickly notice that the majority of electric skateboard companies (especially for budget boards) are based in China. Many US companies even get their products and parts right from China! It’s important to set proper expectations when dealing with service across the Pacific. There will be extended shipping times, and communication will usually take longer. The language barrier will also be tricky sometimes.

If you’re interested in an electric skateboard from a Chinese company, there are a few recommendations for dealing with their service. Patience is paramount when waiting for replies. Writing emails in simple English is important. Repeating oneself a few times is a good idea. Attaching lots of pictures and videos to your warranty request will speed things up quickly too. Remember that they are likely reading your messages through a translator, so skip the local colloquial slang. Almost every chinese company offers customer service via WeChat as well. From experience, we can tell that their response time is a lot quicker compared to mail.

wechat app logo

If you’re willing to spend the extra dough for a local electric skateboard maker, you’ll usually enjoy much faster replies, as well as a more personal dialogue with the company. You’ll skip the misunderstandings and vague responses because they speak English (or your native language). Shipping will be exponentially faster if the company keeps parts supplied locally. 

These features are important 

Reputable and safe

This would seem like a no brainer. Naturally every rider wants their electric skateboard to be safe. An important strategy for a new buyer is to research the brand that they are interested in and look for common issues amongst customers. They can look in various online communities to see which brands are helping their customers, and which electric skateboards are causing problems. 

No brand or board is 100% guaranteed not to have issues. That said, it’s generally true that the more expensive American and European electric skateboards tend to perform better over time and have fewer issues. A few Chinese companies have begun to develop repair centers in the USA and Europe, but this is still a rarity. At the end of the day, the best assurance for a safe and reputable electric skateboard is a healthy amount of research, proper maintenance, and safe riding. 

group of teens riding electric skateboards

Durable 

Since electric skateboards tend to take a beating on the streets, durability is also an important factor. Some common board issues are plastic enclosures braking, hub sleeves wearing out (the rear motorized wheels on a hub motor electric skateboard), even decks or trucks snapping! It’s very important to reach out to online electric skateboard communities and see what issues longtime customers have dealt with. Another common situation is belts wearing out or snapping on belt motor boards, but that’s considered normal and routine. While some problems are considered unfortunate but recoverable, a few electric skateboards have had common issues that are very dangerous. Do your research in order to ride with confidence!

man standing on Maxfind FF Plus

Enough range

As new riders become more accustomed to their electric skateboards, they tend to ride faster and longer. This inevitably leads to dissatisfaction in their current battery’s range. When looking at different boards, it’s a good idea to overestimate how much range you’ll actually use. A common theme with electric skateboard companies is that they tend to stretch or exaggerate the range claims, so normal or aggressive riding usually yields less mileage than advertised. If the board you’re interested in has an ER battery option, it’s always better to save a little longer and get that model. Extra batteries to swap out are also a good idea. Remember, you can always finish your ride or commute early with juice left, but you can’t keep riding with a dead board. Now get out and drain your new electric skateboard!

Range of Electric Skateboards compared - how far can they go?

Good performance 

Most riders are looking for something fun and thrilling with their new board. While top speed seems like an obvious metric, torque is another important factor. Good torque will get the rider off the line and up to their top speed faster. An electric skateboard with ample torque will also propel the rider up a hill far more quickly. Electric skateboards with belt drive and gear drive motors tend to fare better with torque, but hub motor boards eventually catch up and can even overtake them in some cases! Generally speaking, larger wheels will equal less torque but a higher top speed. In addition to power off the line, braking power is also usually stronger with belt and gear drive board, allowing riders to come to a stop in a shorter distance. 

man riding on electric skateboard uphill

Drivetrain Options

Hub

Most inexpensive budget boards tend to use hub motors. Because of this, many rider’s first boards tend to be hub motors. While they require a bit less maintenance than belts, they lack torque and are usually less comfortable (the rear wheels are only slim urethane sleeves on metal cans, not exactly a plush feeling). Hub motors also mean that swapping out for different wheels isn’t possible. That said, they are quieter, and swapping out a replacement hub is pretty straightforward. Reputable companies with hub motor boards:

hub motor of an electric skateboard

Belt

The vast majority of mid-range electric skateboards are belts. The legendary Boosted Board brought this to the forefront, and budget brands have been switching to belt drive ever since! Belt drives are a little whinier (although some think this is cool) but provide the rider loads of torque and power. Many belt drive boards offer the ability to swap wheels. Belts will eventually wear out and need replacement. In addition, getting a belt to be the right tension can be a small learning curve, but most riders say that fiddling around and carrying a couple of extra belts in their bag is worth the joy! Reputable companies with belt drive boards:

belt drive electric skateboard with explanations

Direct

Direct drive is less common but has some unique advantages. There’s no belts involved, but the motors still provide strong torque directly to the wheels. Some direct drive boards allow for different wheels. However, direct drive motors are placed directly on the skateboard trucks. This means that the motors are placed precariously low to the ground, which can create opportunities for damage from rough streets. Reputable companies with direct drive boards:

Gear

Gear drive electric skateboards are rare but are full of power. They work similarly to belt motors, but are quieter and don’t require as much maintenance. Because of the many pros but few cons, they are fairly expensive. They are usually found on the most powerful boards, such as

gear drive system for electric skateboards

Conclusion

With the hundreds of electric skateboard models available today, deciding what to buy can be daunting to say the least. However, with a narrowed focus, a budget, and this guide, you can be properly armed to pull the trigger confidently on your first electric skate

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