The best skateboard isn’t a specific brand or anything like that. The best skateboard ever is the one you custom-build. You get premium-quality parts and assemble them into an almost indestructible setup, one that rides like a dream. But not everyone wants to build a skateboard from scratch.
Fortunately, there’s tons of complete skateboards that aren’t complete junk. And some of these ready-to-skate boards can be great value for the price you pay.
Also Read: Best Beginner Complete Skateboards
Whether you’re looking to get into technical street skateboarding, skate pools and bowls, transition skating, downhill skateboarding, or park skating, I got you covered. I’ll list down and do brief reviews of the best complete skateboards for the money. I’ll also guide you on how to pick the best quality parts if you decide that building your own skateboard is the best route for you.
Build Your Own Skateboard or Buy a Complete?
There are pros and cons to each skateboard ownership strategy. But in the end, assembling your own skateboard with parts you’ve handpicked is the best thing you can do. When you build, you bring together the best skateboard wheels, trucks, axles, decks, grip tape, nuts, baseplates, and bushings. And the result is a board you fully own, one that meets your specific riding needs while letting your creativity shine.
But building your own skateboard involves a bit more work compared to just picking up a ready-made one. Finding the finest components isn’t easy, and having everything shipped over can take lots of time depending on your location. Imagine you’re the only skater in Ouagadougou and have to import trucks, deck, wheels, and hardware from across the Atlantic. Things get a whole lot worse if you ever need to return anything because its quality was subpar.
Most Important Step: Choose a Skating Style
You need a different setup for each skating style. Well, it may not be a huge difference between styles, but you become aware of these little differences as you evolve from a beginner-level skateboarder to a seasoned skateboarder. So think about how you’ll ride your skateboard and where you’ll do your skating.
You can either do park skateboarding, street skateboarding, cruising, or downhill skateboarding.
Once you pick the style you want to focus on, choosing the best skateboard or collecting the components you need for assembling a custom skateboard becomes easy.Mercy, skatingmagic.com
What’s park skateboarding? Park skateboarding is a style of skating performed in a dedicated skate park. It’s different than street skating even though the two forms share some aspects. If you choose to skate in parks, you can opt to do a less technical style or favor a more aggressive style.
(i) Less Technical Park skating: A Flowy Setup Works Best
Skating parks may or may not involve tons of technical maneuvers. Once you decide the level of technical skating you want to do, you can decide intelligently as far as the best setup for your style. Think of this skating style as a dumbed-down form of really technical street skateboarding.
These are some of the technical features you find in a skate park: mini ramps, quarter pipes, ramp copings, half pipes, handrails, grindboxes, funboxes, and bowls. Ramps and bowls happen to be the most common skate park fixtures. All skate parks have ramps of different sizes and shapes, but not every skate park boasts a bowl. If your local park lacks a bowl for whatever reason, ask around and you might a private skate park that has it.
What do you see yourself doing more of?
- I’ll Mostly Skate Rails and Banks
For this kind of skateboarding, you want to use a setup that’s pretty flowy. You want your skateboard to be more responsive and more maneuverable even if this means you won’t have an awful lot of stability. Skaters who play this way still need a wide deck, but the overall setup needs to be more flowy compared to someone who mostly battles mini ramps and pool.
- I’ll Mostly Skate Pool and Mini Ramps
If you’ve been to a skate park, you probably noticed that skaters with a preference for cruising around, skating pool, and skating mini ramps while frequently doing quarter turns rode a wider deck. That’s because stability is super important when you’re skating this way.
Deck Width and Concave
You’re probably wondering how wide the deck needs to be for less technical skate park sessions. Get a deck that’s 8.5″ wide for maximum stability.
As for concave (how the sides of the deck curve right from the base to the top), go for a deck with a mellow/shallow concave. The deeper the concave, the better suited that deck is for more technical skateboarding. And the mellower the deck, the more suitable it is for less technical skating in a park.
Wheels and Bearings: Wider Wheels + Nice bearings = Efficient Skateboarding
Since stability is super important when you’re doing less technical stuff in a park, you need relatively wide wheels. You need wheels with a decent-sized contact patch. The contact patch refers to the actual portion of the wheel that’s in contact with the surface. A skateboard wheel with a larger contact patch feels more stable than one with a narrower contact patch.
Related: Best Bearings for Skateboarding
When you skate wider wheels, sliding doesn’t happen unless that’s exactly what you want. And that’s a good thing when doing less technical skating.
Get good-quality wheels, wheels that roll when you pump and push. If the wheels are bad and the bearings even crappier, you’ll soon not want to ride your skateboard anymore. Speaking of bearings, they don’t need to be expensive.
Most skateboarders (my family included) use Bones Reds because they roll beautifully, and they last a reasonable amount of time even with frequent skating. Aside from that, Bones Reds bearings are easy to clean and lubricate.
By the way, avoid going right through puddles with your skateboard because that will ruin your bearings, especially if they’re steel bearings. And most affordable bearings are made from steel. Hubby cleans his bearings (mine too) every 3 months, and we’ve never had a problem. But if your bearings start seizing up maybe because there’s loads of fine grit lodging in the bearings, definitely clean and lube them.
Wheel hardness and size
For less technical skateboarding in a park, you want wheels with a diameter range of 56 mm-58 mm. Smaller skateboard wheels are excellent at acceleration, but they lose the speed battle to larger-diameter wheels. Also, smaller wheels translate to somewhat greater stability because you’re riding nearer to the ground.
Get really hard wheels, too. How hard? The best durometer rating for this style of skating is anywhere between 97A and 103A. Hardness directly impacts the speed. If two wheels are the same size but one’s harder, the harder wheel will travel faster than the softer one. For parks, use smaller, harder wheels. That’s what works.
Stay away from soft skateboard wheels when skating in a skate park because soft wheels are naturally sticky. They stick to the surface, making rolling more difficult than it ought to be.
In case you didn’t already know, wheel durometer rating is a metric used to communicate skateboard wheel hardness to skaters. The greater the durometer, the harder the wheel, and vice versa.
High Trucks Are Best for Less Tech Skating
Get trucks that are the same width as the deck or slightly wider or narrower. No problem. Since you’ll be carving and turning a lot, it’s best to use high trucks for your setup. But how high? Good skateboard trucks for a low-tech-moves setup should be 53 mm-58 mm high.
I said above that you need 56-58mm wheels for this kind of skating, but with high trucks, you can use even mount larger wheels because there’s little chance you’ll have wheel bite. There’s adequate clearance between the deck and the wheels rolling underneath.
BTW, skateboard trucks are considered low if they’re 46mm-49mm tall. Low trucks work best with wheels with a diameter of 51-55mm. Medium-high trucks are 50-52mm tall and work great with 55-61mm wheels.
(ii) More Technical Park Skateboarding: Similar Setup to Street Skating
People who like doing more technical stuff at parks tend to do tons of ollies as well as skate flip gaps, quarter pipes, grinding rails, and more. The best setup for this style of skating is less flowy in nature and more like what you’d use for technical street skating.
What kinds of wheels, trucks, and concave work best for more technical park skating?
Wheel Size and Durometer
The best wheels for technical skating in a skate park stand somewhere between 52mm and 54mm tall. These are small wheels, which means they accelerate pretty quickly while adding a bit of stability to the setup. Most importantly, smaller wheels offer a great level of agility compared to those of a larger diameter.
In terms of wheel hardness, the ideal durometer scale rating for technical park skating is 99A-104A. So, we’re talking about really small, hard wheels here. Whether you’re saying an 8.0″ deck or an 8.5″ deck, keep wheel size in this range (52-54mm) for a successful session. Hubby finds that 53mm wheels work best for him.
Stay away from soft wheels because they’re noticeably bouncy, which makes landing the perfect trick that much harder. With bouncy skateboard wheels, two things happen. 1. You land primo even when that’s the not landing you were after. 2. You’re unable to catch the deck properly.
These two scenarios can lead you to a quickly deteriorating situation. So, stick to harder wheels and you’ll be fine as long as you know what you’re doing.
When grinding rails, small wheels are a great bet especially when it comes to disengaging from the feature.
Deck Width and Concave
When it comes to indulging in the more tech side of park skateboarding, you want a deck that’s 8″-8.5″ wide. And the more technical your style is, the narrower your deck needs to be. In other words, an 8.0″ deck is the best choice for super technical park riding.
As mentioned elsewhere in this post, the narrower a deck is the more responsive the skateboard but the less stable. The reverse is also true: the wider the deck is the less agile but more stable the ride.
You can use an 8″, 8.25″, or 8.5″ deck for this kind of skateboarding. But you’ll want to vary the truckle axle width with deck width. For an 8.0″ deck, 139mm trucks (axle to axle) work great. And if you prefer an 8.25″ deck, consider going for 149mm trucks. As for an 8.5″ deck, an axle-to-axle width of 159mm would be ideal.
In terms of concave, the best concave for more technical park skating is medium or high concave. With a steeper concave, you won’t have as much foot space on the flat portion of the deck, but this steeper concave makes it remarkably easier to pop or flip your skateboard when performing all kinds of tricks. Learn more about skateboard concave here.
I recommend Bones Reds, again. And it’s not like I’m rooting for this company due to some motivation. No. I recommend Bones Bearings because they’re not too expensive, and they work beautifully for technical park skating. To be clear, these aren’t the only good bearings, but I wanted to make your decision-making easier and faster.
Get medium-high trucks. Tensor Independent, Thunder, Venture, and Indy are all good trucks, but they’re not the only ones. If you want trucks that many skaters have tested and approved over the years, you can’t go wrong with these three brands.
Transition and Vert Skateboarding
Vert skating and transition skateboarding (aka skating tranny) form part of what we call park skateboarding. Vert skating is pretty difficult, and it’s easy to crash and hurt yourself badly. You’re going up a vertical ramp, which requires a tremendous amount of skill, precision, and control.
Vert is definitely not a beginner style. In fact, most skaters don’t skate vert at all. And that’s partly because it’s not easy to find skate park bowls that have perfectly vertical walls and parks with vertical ramps.
Here’s the thing, anyone who does vert skateboarding doesn’t need advice of any kind. At least not from a beginner-level or intermediate-level skater like yours truly. Ever heard of Tony Hawk? He flew around parks a lot, doing all kinds of insane vert maneuvers.
Skating Tranny: Good for Older Bones
If you look at most ramps and bowls, you’ll see that they have a transition, the curvature between the flat surface of the bowl or park and the vertical part. While you may not be able to skate vert in many parks, you should be able to skate tranny in virtually every park with or without a bowl.
Are you an older person looking to get into skateboarding? Get a beginner complete skateboard and start doing freestyle skateboarding. Then, start going to parks and learn how to skate tranny. But why is tranny a good skating style for older folks?
I asked an older guy why he chooses to skate transition instead of street skating, and this is what Old Jummy (52) said, “I used to skate street way back when I was 20, but I don’t ride my board that way anymore. These days I exclusively skate tranny. And that’s because my knees like it…I mean I’m not piling tons of pressure on my old knees from massive stair jumps. Plus, I don’t struggle to look good.
Also, I believe transition skating isn’t as risky as street skateboarding. Yes, I’m moving at insane speeds when skating tranny, but it’s not as risky as skating weirdly shaped found street obstacles.”
What’s street skateboarding? Street skateboarding is a style of skating done outside of dedicated parks, usually out on the street. Instead of bowls and ramps, the skater skates found fixtures such as benches, ledges, handrails, staircases, and any other feature you might find out on the street.
I bet you’ve seen these guys and girls (well, it’s almost always a guy) skating dangerously down sidewalks and zapping down city alleys, in front of city buildings, in private backyard bowls, in schools over weekends, around churches…pretty much everywhere. Oh, don’t skate inside a school during lessons. Don’t even do it at nighttime. Instead, wait for the weekend and skate all you want.
And on Sundays, most places are closed down. But there’s always the police lol. If you’re an older dude, I say avoid street skating, especially where skateboarding isn’t allowed. I bet you won’t enjoy running away like some bat out of hell from the police.
This category of skateboarders tends to get into trouble with the police and private property owners. Because they’re always out looking for the next skateable spot. As long as there’s no skateboarding sign anywhere, these skaters will just hop on the board and ride the heck out of the spot.
Not surprisingly, they get asked to leave from time to time. And in some cases, they get banned from restaurants, malls, and other private property.
Here’s a little secret I’ll share with you. If you’re unsure where to skate, make friends with other street skaters in your location. In no time, they’ll show all the sweet spots where you can skate to your heart’s content without being ejected.
Do you know where else you can ride a skateboard without much worry? Behind most factories and warehouses. For the most part, you’ll find they have stairs and rails that you can skate, especially at night.
A Good Setup for Street Skateboarding
Street skateboarding is 100% technical boarding. You want a deck with a steep concave for ease of popping and flipping the board. The wheels should be smaller than those used for park skating, and they should be hard. You want to mount 50 mm-53 mm wheels.
I’d stay away from 54mm wheels or bigger. Why? Because 54mm+ skateboard wheels don’t accelerate fast enough, nor will your board react as quickly. Larger wheels work better for transition skateboarding and cruising.
Hardness-wise, make it 92A to 97A. These are hard wheels, but they shouldn’t be as hard as park wheels if the streets are crappy. On rough outdoor surfaces, get softer wheels, like 92A wheels. The last thing I want to do is to ride a skateboard with 101A wheels on a rough road. Such wheels soak up road vibrations nicely, and your body doesn’t tremble like it’s doom day and the entire world is shaking like hell.
But if all you want to do is to cruise, get even softer wheels. I use 88A wheels for cruising, and my hubby prefers 86A. It’s down to personal preference in the end, but you sure need softer urethane for cruising on a skateboard.
Tip on street wheel quality: Never buy bad quality (often dirt-cheap wheels) wheels. Because they almost always have trouble rolling. Plus, they flat spot sooner than you’d like. You want to buy street wheels that will last a reasonably long time.
I consider Bones skateboard wheels and Spitfire wheels to be the best deal that can be hard. If you’re interested, I wrote a post on the best skateboard wheels for street skating here. Ricta Clouds are also a good bet. Not sure which Bones wheels to pick? Consider getting the Bones STF Retros 99A.
Trucks and bushings: Get low trucks and attach 50-53mm Spitfire wheels or any other wheelset you might prefer. Your bushings should be hard enough, too. If they’re too soft, your setup might get too turny and flowy, and you don’t want that when landing precision tricks.
If you opt to buy a complete skateboard, make sure to give the nut on the Kingpin a few turns to make it tighter. Because the bushings on completes tend to be pretty soft. It’s a trial-and-error approach here to determine the perfect level of looseness/tightness required.
Deck width: You need a somewhat narrower deck because narrower decks react quicker when you make moves. Most street skaters like 8.0-8.25″ decks. These decks are narrow and responsive, but they’re not too narrow that balance and stability take decrease drastically.
Well, you can use 8.5″ decks if you want a little more stability than the typical street deck offers. But you’ll find that flipping and popping the deck gets that much more challenging.
Concave: Considering that street skateboarding is as technical as it gets, you should avoid mellow decks. There’s just no decent pop in a board that shallow. It’s best to stick to a steep concave, but some skaters prefer a medium concave.
Something to know: Skateboarding out on “untamed” streets can be pretty taxing for your skateboard. The deck and trucks take quite a beating when you grind concrete ledges and skate other rough obstacles and surfaces.
Besides that, you might hit the ground with the middle of the deck, snapping it in two. And the nose, underside, and tail of the deck take tons of thrashing. Every other part will wear faster, and you’ll definitely have to buy replacement parts sooner.
Stay safe: Skateboarding is considered an extreme sport. And if there’s one style you’d always wear a helmet and pads for especially if you’re new to boarding, it’s street skating. You’re doing all sorts of hard jumps down stairs and jumping off of obstacles. You need strong legs, and your knees shouldn’t be very old.
Think of street boarding as skateboarding proper, as a hardcore form of boarding. And protect yourself accordingly.
Cruising: Will You Mostly Cruise on Your Skateboard?
A cruiser skateboard is a smaller version of a skateboard, but the wheels are larger and softer. This kind of skateboarding involves traveling on some road or street and doing minimal tricks or none at all. But serious cruising is done on a longboard cruiser, which is a gigantic skateboard with really big and soft wheels.
You can do one of three things when it comes to getting a good cruiser namely:
- Grab an old skateboard that’s been lying around (or purchased a secondhand skateboard off of Facebook Marketplace, Reddit, or Craigslist. Then add risers, and mount bigger softer wheels (60-63mm in diameter). Getting real cruiser wheels is best though.
- Buy a dedicated cruiser skateboard.
- Build your own cruiser board.
Wheels and bearings: Cruiser skateboard wheels need to be soft (78A-87A), otherwise you’ll feel every pesky pebble, every small crack, and your feet will shake like there’s no tomorrow. You’ll hate every moment of skating on that cruiser. Wheels harder than 92A are best suited to street skating and park skateboarding.
One more thing: when cruising on rough terrain, having wheels formulated with high-rebound technology helps a whole lot. Higher-rebound cruiser wheels absorb shocks and roughness like a boss.
Cruiser wheel size: Get big-size wheels. Bigger wheels are heavier and don’t accelerate fast, but they have higher top speed and win every battle with cracks and small rocks. A good wheel size for a cruiser is 56 mm-65 mm. You’re going to need risers past 60mm.
Some skaters use even bigger wheels, like 65-70mm wheels, but the ride can feel pretty unstable to a new skater. The bigger the wheel, the faster the board, and the harder it is to land tricks. Kickflips and ollies do feet pretty sketchy with skateboard wheels that large.
Bearings need to be good quality, or they won’t spin at all and you’ll go nowhere.
And if you want to take your cruising experience to a whole new level, get a longboard. Nothing cruises and carves better than a longboard. And a longboard is technically a longer, wider skateboard.
Deck width: You can use a narrower or wider deck depending on how you want your ride to feel. If you want a pretty stable and balanced ride, get an 8.5″ or an even wider deck. And if you want to be able to perform tricks moderately as you roll, get an 8.0″ deck.
Concave: Concave for a cruiser runs the gamut from completely flat to mellow and medium. It all depends on whether you want to just cruise without doing tricks or a combination of both.
Trucks and bushings: Get high trucks as these make carving and turning easier. Also, fitting in bigger wheels becomes easier. Use quality trucks because you don’t want your setup to fail you at some pretty vulnerable moment while bombing some hill.
What If I’m Heavy But Still Want to Skateboard?
You can ride a skateboard even if you’re a tall, heavy person. But you must make sure to have a setup that’d withstand that extra weight. Definitely get the strongest deck you can afford as well as high-quality trucks. Also good bearings and wheels. Especially wheels. Bad wheels will flat spot if a heavy rider skates them.
Hardness: Heavy skateboarders need hard wheels. They need wheels that won’t deform from their excessive weight. Also, harder wheels will last longer than softer ones.
Deck width: If you’re a big rider, there won’t be enough space on the deck for those large feet. A wider deck (8.5″+) works best for a bigger skateboarder. I’m talking about folks who weigh anywhere north of 220 lbs here.
Downhill Skateboarding: There’s no such thing as downhill skateboarding. It’s downhill longboarding. You want 70mm+ wheels, large wheels suited for rolling down hills at insane speeds.
This isn’t for beginners and intermediate-level skateboarders. It’s for pro-level skateboarders who’ve mastered the requisite skating technique and aren’t afraid of much. Yes, you need loads of inner confidence to move that fast and stay sane and focused.
I like watching guys bombing crazy steep roads on tall longboards and curving and sliding like mad. You see oncoming cars, and you think there’s no way the dude will avoid sudden disaster, but he dodges the vehicles and keeps descending the hill like a rocket. That’s downhill skateboarding, or more accurately, longboarding.
You definitely need to helmet up and wear great pads when doing any kind of downhill skateboarding. Go a step further and wear a certified downhill skateboard helmet, usually a full-face skate helmet. I’ve heard only good things about the Triple 8 Downhill Racer full-face skateboard helmet.
Deck width: You need a wide, long deck so that you’re able to pack your feet comfortably and safely. For DH skateboards, you don’t need to overthink getting the width right. if you choose a decent deck length, the width automatically sorts itself out. Most longboard decks are 9-10.5″wide. Length starts at 33″ and ends at around 59″.
Other Considerations: Griptape, Graphics, Hardware
Griptape is a sheet that’s plastered on the topside of the deck. It’s gritty, and its job is to provide the friction your feet need so they don’t keep slipping out. Stick to standard grip tape and you’ll be fine.
Some skaters like graphics on their grip tape, but in my experience, most fancy grip tapes end up peeling off after some time. Unless you’re OK with buying replacement grip tape more often, stick to standard grip tape.
If you’re wondering what the best grip tape brands are, many skaters have piled heaps of praise on MOB, Jessup, Black Magic, Grizzly, and FKD among others.
BTW, if you buy your skateboard from a local skate shop, chances are they’ll install the grip tape for free. And most places will even give you an extra free grip tape for future use. Supporting local folks is always a good idea.
Skateboarding itself is an art form, so why not add some nice graphics to spice up your ride? Welcome Graphics and Creature Graphics are really nice and you’re sure to find something rad from them. You can also get sick graphics from this online shop.
Lots of skateboarders buy decks because they like the graphics on the underside. But if you like a board but don’t like the art it comes with, just do some hardcore street skating and you’ll soon have a deck that needs stickers. Get stickers you like and problem solved.
The deck is perhaps the most important and personal part of any skateboard. There’s all kinds of decks on the market, some of which are good but others are utter trash.
Your weight goes straight down to the deck, so if it’s not good quality, it’ll snap sooner than you imagine. Some of the most popular and best-quality skateboard deck brands include Deathwish, Plan B, Element Boards, Powell Peralta, Real, Girl Decks, Anti-hero, Enjoy, Primitive Decks, Baker Decks, Santa Cruz, Creature Decks…it turns out there’s tons of brands to choose from.
IMHO, it’s not so much the brand. It’s the shape/concave, so don’t overthink decks. As long as it’s well-made and it’s at least 7-ply maple wood, go for it.
Hardware here refers to nuts and bolts. Without hardware, you’d not be able to mount the trucks and wheels onto the deck. Make sure to get the right size hardware though. Choose size 1″ hardware if you plan on adding risers/shock pads and 7/8″ hardware if you don’t want to use risers. I found this guide to skate hardware helpful.
Best Skateboard FAQs
1. Should the size of your shoes determine deck size? Yes. If you have size 13 feet and try skating on a deck that’s narrower than 9.5″, it’d feel like you’re falling off the board. generally, the bigger the feet, the wider the deck of your longboard and skateboard should be.
2. Should my trucks be the same size as my deck? It’s best if deck size aligns with truck size, but it’s no big deal if the deck is slightly wider or narrower than the trucks. It’s recommended that you stick to a difference of no more than 0.25″.
3. Should I avoid cheap skateboard bearings? Bearings matter, but more expensive doesn’t always translate to better quality. Cheap steel skateboard bearings are OK as long as they roll nicely.
4. Why does truck sizing seem too far off with some brands? Different skateboard truck brands indicate truck sizes somewhat differently. Some companies will indicate the axle-to-axle width measurement while others only indicate the width measurement of the truck only, ignoring axle length. It’s best to pay more attention to the axle width as that’s the most logical measure to compare with your deck width. Most listings state axle width, but you can always email the seller for details when in doubt.
5. Is a complete skateboard a bad idea? Not really, especially if you’re new to skateboarding. You can always upgrade to better-quality components as your skating ability improves.
6. Building versus buying a complete skateboard, which is better? Building your own skateboard is always the best option, but it’s always more expensive than buying an already-assembled skateboard. That said, there are $100 or even slightly cheaper complete skateboards that aren’t pure crap.
7. Where do I buy quality components to build a custom skateboard? Once you know what specific brands you want for your custom-built skateboard, go to skatewarehouse.com and buy them. You can also buy the parts on Amazon and else online, but be sure to read reviews before purchasing. If you’d rather buy from a local skate shop, I recommend CCS, but others like Zumiez.
8. Are all skateboard bearings work for all skateboard wheels? Yes, they do. Stop worrying about bearing sizes.
9. What’s a reasonable price for a good complete skateboard? A decent complete skateboard costs anywhere between $80 and $150.
10. Do I need ABEC-rated skateboard bearings? Not really. In fact, the ABEC rating is irrelevant to skateboarding and applies to industrial applications that run for hours on end. Skate-rated bearings could actually be better than any ABEC-7 skateboard bearings since they’re designed with the needs of skaters in mind. Learn more about skateboard-bearing ratings here.