Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in December 2020 but has been updated with new information.
Are these popular holiday gifts safe?
As your local insurance professional, HIG wants to help you and your loved ones have the safest—and simplest—holiday season possible. For this reason, each year we do a little holiday shopping research for you. Check out our current list of five trending gift ideas. We hope this helps you better understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of having these items in and around your home.
The HIG team would also like to remind you that it is extremely important to check customer reviews, search recall product lists, and read consumer buying guides to get all the pros and cons of the product you are buying. In some cases, you may be surprised to learn that the gifts you are planning to purchase, while extremely popular, come with serious safety concerns as well.
Are e-bikes safe?
E-bikes are all the rage for 20- and 30-somethings who want to cruise around town with ease. Unfortunately, these convenient, eco-friendly bikes can also come with some major risks. The battery of the bike is where the main problem lies. In 2022, lithium-ion bike batteries caused 190 fires in New York City alone, with most taking place in residential properties, such as multifamily homes and multiunit rental and condo buildings. Every day, we use items that are powered by lithium-ion batteries, including cell phones and laptops, but thankfully they do not have this rate failure. However, since the e-bike is a relatively new product to the market and there is such high demand, some bikes are being manufactured without regard to consumer safety regulations or third-party testing.
That doesn’t mean you have to scrap this idea from your gift list. Just be sure to carefully research each brand and model you’re considering, especially if it is a secondhand e-bike. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has already recalled several models that reportedly catch fire frequently or have not been tested by a reputable laboratory. If you are the lucky recipient of this cool gift, thoroughly read and follow the bike’s safety manual, especially the pages on charging and storing. Some general safety tips are to never leave a charging bike unattended; use only the manufacturer’s power chargers and batteries that were made specifically for your e-bike; and store it in a cool, dry place away from nature’s elements.
Are hoverboards safe?
Since 2015, several million hoverboards have been purchased in the U.S. However, these self-balancing scooters have some notorious safety issues. Soon after their rise in popularity, consumers were reporting that their hoverboards were heating up to the point of melting, catching fire, and even exploding. As a result, the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) implemented a much higher safety standard for hoverboards.
If you do decide to purchase one, look for models that are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2272 certified, which demonstrates that the hoverboard’s mechanical and electrical systems have been put through rigorous safety testing. This certification still doesn’t mean a hoverboard is completely risk-free—any item with a lithium-ion battery, e.g., smartphone, tablet, etc., can pose a fire hazard if not charged properly. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that owners avoid overcharging their hoverboard or charging it overnight, use only the charger it comes with, and keep it away from flammable items while charging. Riders should also wear proper safety gear—a helmet, elbow, wrist and knee guards, and even padded pants—to protect them should they fall. You may want to consider gifting these items along with the prized hoverboard.
Are trampolines safe?
If you’re trying to get the people in your household off the couch and moving around this winter, an indoor exercise trampoline could be a great gift idea for the whole family. A fitness trampoline, just like the one in your backyard, can lead to better circulation, improve balance and coordination, and it’s just plain fun. On the other hand, trampolines cause over 100,000 injuries every year and many experts refer to them as America’s most dangerous toy. Broken bones, concussions, and serious head and neck injuries can occur when the user falls off or collides with something—or someone—while jumping.
If you do buy one this year, it is recommended that you place it at least a few feet away from furniture, walls, electronics, etc. Plus, other people should give the jumper a very wide berth in case they slip. When the trampoline isn’t in use, it should be folded up and stored away, out of the reach of young children who might be tempted to use it unmonitored. A few other things you may want to consider when you are selecting the right trampoline to gift are jumping surface area, leg stability, and whether it comes with a safety bar, which allows the user to hold on while jumping.
Are drones safe?
Drones have come a long way from the days when they were used only for military purposes. Today, millions of people enjoy “toy” drones for recreational purposes, like racing, taking aerial photographs or videos, and snapping sports selfies or action photos. Unfortunately, these hobby drones can be very dangerous, especially in the hands of inexperienced and uninformed users. Significant property damage and serious injuries often occur when an amateur drone operator cannot control the toy and it crashes into a building, a person, a pet, or even another flying object, like a plane.
If you purchase a drone as a gift this year, make sure to choose the best product for your recipient’s age, abilities, and likely use. For example, a low-cost beginner model comes with fewer flight modules, making it easier to learn how to operate. Finally, since all drones—regardless of their design, purpose, or use—are considered aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration, it’s critical that the drone owner, and their parent if the recipient is a minor, read up on local and federal regulations for drone usage, including how to properly register a drone and what areas are considered no-fly zones in your community.
Are robot vacuums safe?
Household appliances don’t typically show up on people’s holiday wish lists. However, the robot vacuum may be one of the exceptions this year. Not only are these devices highly effective, but they are also extremely sophisticated computers. Without running into walls, hitting household objects, or falling downstairs, robot vacuums make their way through a house, using Wi-Fi-enabled mapping technology. Ironically, it is this technology that also makes a robot vacuum a potential cybersecurity breach point in a home. Like other IoT (Internet of Things) devices, robot vacuums can be the victim of a cyberattack, and a hacker can use the machine to secretly spy on a household.
To prevent a robot vacuum from becoming a cyber risk, buy only reputable brands—no knock-offs—which should ensure that it was secured against malware at the time of manufacture. In addition, the device owner will need to stay on top of any updates recommended by the manufacturer to combat evolving cyber threats.
HIG is here to help protect your home and family against the hazards of the holiday season
We hope that the information we provided above makes you feel more prepared to shop for these popular, but not always safe, holiday gifts. However, simply being aware that a product comes with safety concerns and following tips for avoiding these hazards doesn’t mean that something may not go wrong with the gifts you give.
If you plan to purchase any of the products discussed above or other higher risk items, like an ATV, video gaming system, or even a new furry four-legged friend, you may want to discuss the possible insurance implications with your local agent. At HIG, we are happy to spend time with you reviewing what your standard home insurance covers in the event that a well-intentioned gift ends up igniting a fire, injuring someone, causing a cyber security breach, or damaging another’s property.
Often times, when you invest in an item that comes with risk, it is beneficial to consider purchasing additional liability coverage, like an umbrella policy, to protect you from the increased likelihood of a legal claim against you or a family member. In addition, if some of the gifts you are purchasing this year are expensive, you may want to add an affordable endorsement to your home insurance, called scheduled personal property, to ensure that you can replace these items quickly should they ever be lost or stolen.
Please contact HIG today about securing the best personal insurance plan to protect your purchases, home, and loved ones this holiday season and beyond.