The right home treadmill can help you lose weight sensibly, incorporate fitness into your daily life, and enjoy exercise from the comfort of your home whatever the weather. If you’re on the hunt for a new home treadmill, learn more about how to find your perfect match with the help of our free treadmill buying guide below. It covers what features to look for when browsing treadmill options and how you can save time and money along the way.
Watch Our Video “How to Buy a Treadmill” To Get Started
This treadmill buying guide is divided into two sections. The first part provides a treadmill shopping warm-up featuring five simple treadmill buying tips to save you time and money. Part two zooms in on the key treadmill components in more detail to help you understand how to buy a machine with the right motor power, track size and other features to suit your individual workout needs. When you reach the end of the guide and are more familiar with key treadmill terms and features, you will be ready to explore which brands and models are right for you. To help with this, the guide concludes with links to our honest treadmill reviews and overall brand reviews.
PART ONE: WARM UP FOR TREADMILL SHOPPING
Why should you warm up before treadmill shopping? There’s two main reasons which spring to mind. Firstly, you want to avoid brain sprain! With a huge array of brands, models and offers on the market, treadmill shopping can be overwhelming. Warming up will help you narrow down your options and give you a clearer idea of what you are looking for. Secondly, companies play price games. If you don’t know the rules, you could end up feeling cheated instead of happy with your decision. Learn how to buy a treadmill wisely with these simple tips and tricks.
1. CHOOSE YOUR WORKOUT SPACE AND TREADMILL SIZE
How much room can you offer a treadmill in your home, and where are you going to put it? To save time before shopping, measure the floor space you plan to put your treadmill on. If you’re considering a folding treadmill, also measure any space (L x W x H) you have to spare for storage. Treadmill dimensions are usually published, and keeping this information handy makes you a more efficient shopper. Keep in mind that the required running space, which you can work out via the treadmill belt size, can also impact the overall footprint of the treadmill. We recommend a 22″ wide belt for runners and 20″ for walkers. Although a 20″ belt is sufficient for runners, it just leaves a little less room for error.
As a general rule, a minimum of 50″ in belt length is recommended for walkers, 55″ for runners and 60″ for runners over 6′ tall.
Once you have worked out how much space you need in your home to have a treadmill, you can start thinking about treadmill size. Standard home treadmills are about 7′ long and 3′ wide. Although there are many folding treadmills on the market which are significantly shorter, they still require lots of room when they’re in use.
Looking for a foldable home treadmill? Luckily, foldable treadmills are now offered at every price point. Be sure to review the specs and dimensions of any folding treadmill you have your eye on before buying, and measure your space to ensure you have ample room. One example of a high-quality folding treadmill for runners is the Sole F85. If you’re looking for more options, browse our picks of the best folding treadmills when you’re ready.
Spend too much time sitting at work? You should try a desk treadmill. They work just the same as standard treadmills whilst also providing desk space and can be great for boosting productivity at work. Depending on your weight, you can burn between 80-180 calories per hour walking at a moderate speed; that’s up to 1,440 calories in a single work day!
2. IMAGINE YOUR TREADMILL WORKOUTS
Do you envision relaxing walks, intense running or something in between? Answering this question will help you narrow down your treadmill selection by motor power. The heavier the exercise you anticipate, the higher powered motor you will need. We will take a look at motor power in more detail in the second section of this guide.
Your answer to the above question can also help you choose the track size for your workout needs. Walkers can save money by choosing shorter treadmill tracks and runners (especially tall runners) will need more room to stretch out.
3. SET YOUR PRICE
Cheaper Treadmills: Comparing Treadmills Up to $1,000
- Under $500
Treadmills under $500 are very low-end, so even when $499 reflects a deep discount we’d proceed with lots of caution. In this price range, the warranties are often void after just 90 days. These treadmills can be handy for occasional walking or jogging during bad weather, but if you use them regularly or intensely they could break down within a few months. Common shortcomings include wobbly frames, noisy belts, very small workout areas, flickering data screens and minimal workout programming.
- Under $800
A small minority of treadmills under $800 earn high scores in our reviews. Most machines priced around $799 can serve hassle free for at least a year, especially when they’re used just for walking, but it’s difficult to supply all-round high quality at this price. Generally, shoppers need to choose between durability and engaging features. For example, you could get a manual incline here, but maybe not a power incline. You could get a contact heart rate monitor, but not a more accurate wireless pulse reader. For help sorting through the options you can see our list of best “cheap” treadmills.
- Under $1,000
With about $1,000 to spend at a big treadmill sale, a walker or jogger can find some great bargains. Some of these machines have full prices around $1,499 and have parts and labor coverage for a couple of years. The best buys have full tracks, modest power inclines and a good variety of workout programs. As for their displays, classic LCD monitors are most common on treadmills under $1,000, but sometimes 7-inch touch screens are available too. These treadmills usually provide speakers with an AUX port for you to stream music or listen to podcasts, and are sometimes compatible with wireless heart rate transmitters. See our list of best treadmills under $1,000 for some options in this price range.
Better Treadmills: Comparing Treadmills Priced $1,000+
- Under $1,500
The most popular home treadmills for runners and serious walkers have full prices around $1,999 and up, but you can order one for $1,499 during sales. Compared with treadmills under $1,000, these cardio trainers are higher powered and more comfortable to use. They are also equipped with better features such as steeper power inclines, larger touch screens, enhanced workout options such as heart-rate controlled workout programs, and sometimes, wireless chest straps. See our list of best treadmills under $1,500 for some options in this price class.
- Under $2,000
Our top-rated home treadmills under $2,000 have impressive performance, cutting-edge electronics, and all the comforts of health club treadmills. The best treadmills in this price class are ideal for avid runners and for households with more than one trainee. Some of the most valuable features of these treadmills are found behind the scenes. Machines costing a bit less might look similar (with 10″ touch screens and spacious tracks, for instance) but won’t necessarily endure as long or perform as well. The best treadmills under $2,000 tend to have higher quality belts that last longer than others in their price class. These higher quality belts may also be maintenance-free as opposed to other belts that require occasional waxing. These treadmills are usually also equipped with better cushioning systems, which make a big difference to comfort and endurance and have even been shown to boost calorie burn rates.
- $2,000 and Up
Premium treadmills are often sale-priced at $2,000 at up, with full prices reaching $3,500 or more. This category includes incline trainer treadmills (great for calorie burn), very high-speed treadmills for marathon runners, and all-round luxury treadmills for everyday exercise at any intensity. These cardio trainers carry light commercial warranties and/or very long residential warranties. Highlights vary among the treadmill brands and models, but some top features in this top tier include: very high maximum speeds, excellent absorption of shock and sound, extra-large monitors, web-enabled touch screens, integrated television, and fitness tests in addition to standard workouts. The best-value models in this price range have maintenance-free tracks and reversible decks which give them twice the life.
Different models within the same price class can vary in features and performance significantly. Our in-depth treadmill reviews walk you through how specific models compare with each other. You can also use our lists of best treadmills by price as a reference.
4. DECIDE WHICH FEATURES YOU’LL USE
Most treadmills have special features. Such features aren’t necessary for cardio training, but they can improve the exercise experience and help keep you motivated. Examples are preset workout programs, Bluetooth speakers and TVs. You should assess which treadmill extras will actually help you meet your fitness goals and which ones will go unused. Being honest about your needs for guidance and distraction during training is an important part of figuring out which treadmill is right for you.
Here are some of the most practical special features treadmill shoppers should consider:
1. Automated Incline
Treadmills with inclines make exercise more interesting by varying your ride. They also have three very practical benefits: they make treadmill exercise easier on your joints, allow faster calorie burn and support better muscle definition.
You may be thinking about how much incline you would actually use on your treadmill and how much incline you should be using to maximize calorie burn. Most home treadmills today have maximum inclines of 10, 15, and 20%. Incline trainer treadmills have maximum inclines of 40%; these allow you to burn calories at a runner’s pace by simply walking.
2. Workout Programs
Most home treadmills today offer built-in workout programs that control their speed and incline. Keep in mind that the cheapest treadmills only work in manual mode and that treadmill workout menus vary in size and variety. Often this programming justifies a price hike, so be sure that you would take advantage of the additional workout guidance before you sacrifice the extra dollars.
Beyond the preloaded workout options, you can now choose to add extra workout technology to your purchase with many treadmill brands. Here are a couple of options you might want to pursue:
- iFit offers users unlimited personalized workouts through their monthly membership, which often comes free with certain brands’ treadmill purchase for a limited time. As well as accessing hundreds of video workouts delivered by personal trainers from fitness studios around the world, the iFit Google Maps app lets you draw any route in Google Maps and virtually experience it with your treadmill! Besides being immersed in a Google Street View of your choice, you’ll experience the rise and fall of terrain as the treadmill incline/decline responds to the programming. The treadmill brands that currently offer iFit are NordicTrack, HealthRider and ProForm.
- Passport Virtual Active workout programs are delivered through interactive videos. A Passport player works with your home TV to immerse you in scenic settings with ambient sound, and as your workout speed changes, the video and audio adjusts accordingly. Passport is compatible with most treadmills by Horizon Fitness and Vision Fitness.
- Wireless Pulse Monitors can help you exercise more efficiently by providing accurate heart rate data. Wireless heart rate monitors offer the most accuracy, and some treadmills with wireless monitors also offer heart rate control; their preset workout programs will adjust to help you stay in your target heart rate zone.
3. Treadmill Accessories
Most treadmill brands allow you to personalize your purchase. As you seek out the best treadmill for your specific needs, keep in mind that there are a number of unique accessories to help you reach your unique fitness goals. Just a few extras you can consider as you weigh up your options include:
- Treadmill Mats: A treadmill mat can improve the durability of your treadmill and the flooring underneath, especially if you plan to place your machine on carpet. They also make it easier to clean the floor around your treadmill and minimize the noise caused by the vibration of using your machine.
- Treadmill Cleaning Materials: You want your treadmill to last. A great way to ensure this is to buy the proper cleaning materials to help it stand the test of time, including cleaning solutions and brushes specific to your treadmill. It’s best to wait until you receive your owner’s manual to ensure you purchase the appropriate materials for your machine.
- Entertainment Accessories: Don’t want to invest in a treadmill with a built-in screen? Maybe you already have a treadmill and just want to update it with the latest accessories, or instead want to use the technology you already have. For this, you could buy a tablet holder so you can use your tablet or iPad while you workout or a reading rack so you can enjoy a book or magazine using your e-reader. You could even buy a TV stand to put in front of your treadmill so you can catch up on your shows whilst you burn calories.
Some other special features to consider are on/off cushioning, workout fans, water bottle holders, tablet computer holders, touch screens, and HD TV.
5. TAKE A TEST RUN AND READ TREADMILL REVIEWS
It’s wise to try a treadmill before inviting it home for good. You can test various brands in sporting goods stores and in some department stores such as Sears. However, if you do decide to test in-store and find your perfect match, be sure to buy your treadmill online! Usually the manufacturer’s website offers the best deal once you consider online discounts, sales tax, treadmill delivery and consumer protections.
If testing a treadmill isn’t feasible, then it’s especially important to read honest reviews featuring feedback from real customers; this is something we take seriously in our review process. We’ll give you the inside scoop about which home treadmills you should put at the top of your list, which ones seem like quality health club treadmills and so forth.
PART TWO: UNDERSTAND THE ELEMENTS OF A TREADMILL
Treadmills are advertised with lists of their “specs” or specifications. Whether these features are fantastic or you could get better value elsewhere, marketers manage to make them all sound pretty great. Read this section to get a better understanding of how to buy a treadmill with elements that honestly fit your needs.
A treadmill’s motor powers the track. Treadmill motor power is described in terms of horsepower (HP) or continuous horsepower (CHP). CHP is the most useful thing to take into consideration because it indicates how much power a motor can put out continuously versus just at its peak. Most home treadmill motors have somewhere between 2.25 and 4.25 CHP. You can find some treadmills with 1.5 CHP or 5.0 CHP motors, but this is a minority.
How much treadmill motor power do you need? That depends on the type of exercise you plan to do on your treadmill and your body weight. For people weighing up to 200 pounds, here are our general recommendations:
- Walking: Choose 2.0 CHP or higher
- Jogging: Choose 2.5 CHP or higher
- Running: Choose 3.0 CHP or higher
If you weigh over 200 pounds then it’s a good idea to add another 0.5 CHP, because a motor running at nearly full capacity will wear out faster than one with more power to spare.
Most treadmill motors today are under lifetime warranty, but cheaper models offer much shorter motor warranties (anything from 2 to 25 years of coverage), so it’s best to check with a sales representative what’s offered on the machine you’re looking at before purchasing.
Need some more help on how to buy a treadmill with the right motor for you? Review more information on our site.
Track length isn’t of great importance to petite walkers, but it’s important to treadmill users who take longer strides and is especially important to runners. Today’s standards for treadmill track length are 55″ for walking treadmills and 58″ or 60″ for running treadmills. Some treadmills for runners have tracks up to 63″ long; see the brands Landice and BodyCraft for this option.
As for track width, the industry standard is 20″. Extra-wide treadmill tracks are becoming more common and are key for larger trainees; these tracks are usually 22″ inches wide.
TREAD BELT DURABILITY
There are three main factors that determine tread belt durability: thickness, metal rollers, and lubrication.
Regarding belt thickness, a two-ply or four-ply tread belt is more durable than one with a single layer. Thicker tread belts also tend to be quieter during use. Most home treadmills that are budget priced or mid-priced have one-ply tracks. This feature might be omitted from the specs list as advertisers boast about thick tracks but tend to keep quiet when tracks are basic.
Another important factor is the metal rollers that propel a track. Rollers with larger diameters put less stress on the treadmill motor and help to extend belt life. A good roller diameter for home treadmills is about 2.5′.
Lubrication is another important aspect of tread belt durability. Treadmill belts must be lubricated for smooth performance. Sometimes this job falls to the treadmill owner, where you’ll treat the track every few months. The best treadmill tracks are maintenance-free; these are usually infused with silicone or another lubricant. Precor treadmill tracks are a good example of these.
Treadmills that support top speeds of 10 mph are adequate for most trainees, but runners who are training for a 5-minute mile will want machines with higher top speeds. Home treadmills that reach 12 mph are increasingly available under $1,000, such as the NordicTrack C 990.
Track cushioning helps protect your joints from the impact of exercise. Compared with road running, cushioned treadmill running typically reduces impact by about 15-40%. Although cushioning is most important for runners, it reduces the impact on anyone’s body by minimizing the risk of injury and promoting stamina. Some treadmills feature adjustable cushioning so that runners can choose their preferred level of support. Advanced treadmill decks have differential cushioning, where you get firm support as you push off the track and more cushioning on landing.
Want faster fitness results? A treadmill incline helps you burn calories more efficiently. It also reduces the stress on your joints and can help you target different muscle groups. Most treadmill tracks can be inclined to a maximum of 10, 15, or 20%. A few brands include small declines on their treadmills too. Most treadmill inclines are motorized; only the cheapest treadmills with inclines require manual incline adjustment.
Most treadmills today are sold with preset workout programs. These help support different exercise goals such as weight loss training and endurance training. Programs automatically control the speed of the treadmill, and they’ll adjust its incline/decline too if applicable.
These days, immersive workout technologies help sell many home treadmills. One popular option is iFit, available on home treadmills by NordicTrack, ProForm and HealthRider. The program offers a whole host of benefits, but is especially enticing due to its unlimited interactive Google Maps workouts. Another great (although more expensive) option is Passport Virtual Active technology, compatible with most treadmills by Horizon Fitness and Vision Fitness. Here, scenic Virtual Active treadmill workouts are shown on your home TV and automatically adjust the speed and intensity of your exercise.
Extra features on treadmills range from console fans and water bottle holders to Bluetooth speakers, tablet holders and TVs. These features might be worth the extra investment if they motivate you to exercise regularly.
A treadmill’s warranty is an excellent clue from the manufacturer regarding a treadmill’s durability. The typical treadmill warranty includes four parts: frame, motor, parts, and labor.
- Frame: Many treadmills (including some cheap treadmills) have their frames under lifetime warranty.
- Motor: Most treadmill motors have lifetime guarantees. Cheaper models offer much shorter motor warranties (anything from 2 to 25 years of coverage), so check with a sales representative before purchasing your machine.
- Parts: The most variation in treadmill warranties involves parts and electronics. Typically a very cheap treadmill has no warranty or just a 90-day warranty. Slightly more reliable treadmills get one-year parts warranties. The best home treadmills tend to have at least five-year parts warranties. Landice treadmills have lifetime parts warranties.
- Labor: Labor isn’t included on the cheapest treadmills. Others generally offer one or two years of free labor. However, the quality of labor warranties varies. For example, Landice provides labor in your home for free provided that you live within 60 miles of a dealer. NordicTrack, on the other hand, might expect you to pay shipping costs for machine repair.
Treadmill user weight capacities generally range from 250 to 400 pounds. We recommend choosing a treadmill that can handle at least 50 pounds more than your body weight to help ensure that you don’t strain the motor. If you weigh more than this, you may need to invest in a higher-end product. There are treadmills out there capable of handling up to 500 pounds, but you’ll have to pay more.
STORAGE AND PORTABILITY
You can now find foldable treadmills in every home treadmill price category. With these treadmills, you can fold the treadmill deck upwards after your workout to free up some floor space. Power-assist technology, which is included with some foldable treadmills, makes this process easy regardless of your physical strength.
Some of the smallest treadmills are portable; they are lightweight and have transport wheels. A portable treadmill can typically be stored under a bed, behind a door or in a closet. Generally these are substandard products, but we do have some recommendations in our best treadmills for walkers roundup.
Auto-stop is an important safety feature to many treadmill shoppers who are elderly or infirm, or for those with pets or young children. Auto-stop is usually controlled with a key. When you’re exercising, the key is attached to your body with a lanyard and if you slip, the key will disengage and the treadmill will turn off. What’s more, the key can be removed after each workout session to prevent accidental treadmill activation.
We hope this guide has helped you understand how to buy a treadmill to suit your workout needs. It’s worthwhile to first determine your general needs and preferences, then choose a home treadmill that offers the best combination of components, features, and warranties that fits your home fitness budget.
Where should you start your treadmill search? Try our Treadmill Finder tool alongside our links below for honest treadmill reviews in three categories:
- Treadmill Model Reviews
- Treadmill Brand Reviews
- Our Top Treadmill Picks for 2020
Happy treadmill shopping!