Last updated on March 31st, 2023 at 09:38 pm
If you are in the market for an elliptical machine, it’s important to know what features to look for before making a purchase.
Ellipticals are an excellent piece of fitness equipment that can provide a low-impact workout for both beginners and advanced athletes. However, with so many different brands and models on the market, it can be challenging to know which one is right for you.
In this article, we will discuss what to look for when buying an elliptical machine.
Rule #1 – What’s Your Budget?
When it comes to investing in an elliptical machine, there are several factors to consider. One of the most important is pricing. Setting a budget and understanding the price range for ellipticals is crucial to ensure you get the best value for your money.
Price Range and Factors Affecting Cost
A quality elliptical machine for your home gym will run between $1000 and $2000. Low-quality units can be found for as little as $200, while premium models can cost upwards of $5000. The price of elliptical machines can vary depending on the brand, features, and overall build quality.
Factors that affect the cost of an elliptical machine include:
● Brand: Popular brands tend to be more expensive due to their reputation, quality, and features. While some brands charge extra for the name alone, brand reputation is usually earned and is worth more of an investment.
● Resistance Type: Ellipticals with magnetic resistance tend to be more expensive (and more effective) than those with manual resistance.
● Features: Advanced features such as touchscreen displays, Bluetooth connectivity, and built-in workouts can add to the cost of an elliptical.
● Quality: The build quality of an elliptical machine, including the frame, stride length, and durability, can also affect the price.
Balancing Quality & Affordability
When it comes to buying an elliptical machine, it’s important to balance quality and affordability. While you may be tempted to opt for the cheapest option available, it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for.
A low-priced elliptical may be made with lower-quality materials, lack durability, and have fewer features. This combination can decrease both the enjoyment and lifespan of your machine.
On the other hand, a high-end elliptical may not necessarily be the best option for everyone, especially those on a tight budget or those who don’t train very often.
It’s important to determine what features are essential for your workout needs and prioritize those when selecting a machine.
Consider Used or Refurbished Ellipticals
If you’re on a tight budget, you may consider purchasing a used or refurbished elliptical machine. However, it’s important to approach this option with caution.
You should thoroughly research the seller and inspect the machine before making a purchase. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as rust or frayed cables, and test the machine to ensure it’s functioning properly.
In addition, make sure the seller offers a warranty or return policy to protect your investment. While purchasing a used or refurbished elliptical can be a cost-effective option, it’s important to do your due diligence to avoid purchasing a lemon.
If you are looking for a great place to buy used fitness equipment, we highly recommend Freedom Fitness Equipment. Not only do they have amazing deals on used cardio gear, but they offer GymCrafter readers an exclusive extra 5% off by using code GC1 at checkout!
Rule #2 – Do The Specs Match Your Needs?
Clinical studies have shown that using an elliptical machine can provide numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness, lower body strength, and weight loss (1). In a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, researchers found that using an elliptical machine can significantly improve cardiovascular fitness and lower body strength compared to a sedentary control group (2).
Another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that using an elliptical machine can lead to more significant calorie expenditure and lower perceived exertion compared to a treadmill, making it a great option for individuals looking to burn calories and improve their fitness levels (3).
When purchasing an elliptical machine, it’s important to consider the features and specifications that will best suit your individual fitness needs and goals. By prioritizing comfort, durability, and the inclusion of programs and features, you can ensure that you get the most out of your elliptical workout.
It’s important to look at the machine’s specifications before making a purchase. Here are some key things to consider:
1. Space and Location
Before purchasing an elliptical, it’s essential to measure the available space where you plan to keep it. Ellipticals come in different sizes, and it’s important to ensure that you have enough room for them to fit comfortably.
Measure the floor space, including the length, width, and height, where you plan to keep the elliptical. Also, consider the ceiling height to ensure that there is enough clearance for your head while using the machine (especially for those of you training in low-ceiling basements!).
Another common question we get is whether or not you can safely install a heavy cardio machine like an elliptical on the second floor of your home. We have detailed instructions for this that you can see here (that article is for treadmills, but the info is exactly the same for ellipticals)!
Foldable and Compact Options
If you have limited space, consider purchasing a foldable or compact elliptical machine. These machines can be easily folded and stored in a closet or under a bed, making them perfect for small apartments or homes with limited space.
When purchasing a foldable or compact elliptical, ensure that it has a sturdy frame and offers smooth movement, just like a traditional elliptical.
Evaluating Noise Level and Impact on Surroundings
Ellipticals can produce noise while in use, which can be disruptive to people in the surrounding area. When evaluating an elliptical’s noise level, consider the type of resistance system it uses.
Ellipticals that use magnetic resistance tend to be quieter than those that use a fan or belt. Additionally, consider the impact the machine will have on your flooring.
If you plan to place the elliptical on hardwood floors or tiles, ensure that it has a rubber or foam base to prevent damage.
Caution: Mind Your Head!
It’s important to consider the height of your ceiling before purchasing an elliptical machine, especially if you have low ceilings. Ellipticals typically require a clearance of at least 7 feet to accommodate the full range of motion for most users of average height.
If you have a basement with low ceilings and/or you’re a tall king, you may need to look for a different type of exercise equipment that is better suited for your space. Additionally, if you are a tall person, you should also be mindful of the height of the machine, as some models may not have enough clearance for your height.
If you are building a gym with a low ceiling, make sure to check out our full series of articles detailing everything you need to know when building a gym in a room with a low ceiling!
2. Types of Ellipticals
When shopping for an elliptical, there are three main types to consider: rear-drive, center-drive, and front-drive. Each has its own set of pros and cons, and choosing the right one for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.
Here’s what you should know:
Rear-drive ellipticals are fitness machines that simulate the motion of running or walking without putting undue stress on the joints. Unlike front-drive ellipticals, which position the flywheel at the front of the machine, rear-drive ellipticals place the flywheel at the back, creating a longer stride length and a more natural-feeling elliptical motion.
Pros: They tend to have a longer stride length, making them a good choice for taller users. They also tend to be quieter and have a smoother motion compared to front-drive ellipticals.
Cons: They can be more expensive and take up more space. Additionally, the pedal motion can feel more “steppy” compared to other types.
Center-drive ellipticals are a type of exercise equipment that features a drive system located in the center of the machine rather than at the front or back like traditional ellipticals. This design allows for a more natural range of motion and better posture during workouts, as well as a more compact footprint.
Pros: They are often more compact and take up less space than other types of ellipticals. They also tend to have a more upright posture, which can feel more natural and comfortable for some users.
Cons: They may have a shorter stride length, making them less ideal for taller users. They also tend to be more expensive than front-drive ellipticals.
Front-drive ellipticals are fitness machines that feature the flywheel and drive mechanism located at the front of the machine. This design provides a more compact footprint, making them ideal for smaller workout spaces. Front-drive ellipticals typically have longer stride lengths and flatter elliptical paths, which can provide a more natural feeling workout.
Pros: They are often more affordable and take up less space than other types of ellipticals. They may also have a more natural-feeling pedal motion, with less of a “steppy” feel compared to rear-drive ellipticals.
Cons: They may have a shorter stride length, making them less ideal for taller users. They can also be noisier and have a less smooth motion compared to rear-drive ellipticals.
When selecting the best type of elliptical for your needs, consider your budget, the space you have available, your height and stride length, and your personal preferences for pedal motion and posture. You may also want to try out different types of ellipticals in person to see which feels most comfortable and natural for you.
3. Comfort and Ergonomics
When purchasing an elliptical, it’s important to consider the comfort and ergonomics of the machine to ensure a safe and effective workout experience. It’s also critical to realize that if your elliptical is not comfortable for you, you won’t use it!
Here are some key features to look for:
Adjustable Stride Length And Pedal Positioning
The stride length should be adjustable to accommodate different users’ heights and allow for varying workout intensities. The pedal positioning should also be adjustable to maintain proper alignment of the user’s feet and minimize stress on the joints.
Handlebar Design And Grip Options
The handlebars should be ergonomically designed to provide a comfortable grip and to allow for natural arm movements during the workout. Look for handlebars with multiple grip options to target different muscles and workout intensities.
Cushioning And Support Features
The elliptical machine should have cushion and support features to reduce the impact on the joints and provide a comfortable workout experience. Look for machines with adjustable inclines or ramps, shock-absorbing pedals, and padded footpads.
The console should be easy to read and use, with a variety of features to track workout progress and provide motivation. Look for machines with customizable workout programs, heart rate monitors, and Bluetooth connectivity to sync with fitness apps and track progress over time.
The console should also have a monitor that works for you. Some people are fine with a basic LED data display. Others would rather have a large touchscreen LCD. The console is your link to your elliptical. Make sure you like it!
4. Durability and Build Quality
Look for an elliptical that’s built tougher than your ex’s ego. Keep an eye out for factors like sturdy construction, reliable performance, and durable components that can handle even the most intense workouts. After all, you don’t want your exercise routine to be cut short due to a flimsy machine.
Here are some factors to look for when making your purchase:
Material And Construction Quality
The quality of the materials used in the construction of an elliptical machine is a crucial factor in its durability.
Look for machines made of high-quality materials such as steel or aluminum, as they are less likely to wear over time. Additionally, the machine’s welding and assembly should be done with precision to ensure its stability and durability.
Weight Capacity And Stability
When choosing an elliptical machine, consider your weight and how much weight the machine can handle. Ensure the machine you choose has a weight capacity that can support your body weight.
Stability is also important, so make sure the machine has a wide base and doesn’t wobble or move during use.
Maintaining your elliptical machine is essential to keep it functioning properly and prolong its lifespan. Look for a machine that’s easy to clean and maintain and has easily accessible parts for repair or replacement.
Additionally, consider the machine’s maintenance requirements and whether you’re comfortable with the amount of upkeep required. For an idea of what it takes to clean and maintain a cardio machine, check out this article.
The warranty is an important consideration when purchasing an elliptical machine, as it can provide peace of mind and protect your investment.
Look for machines with a solid warranty that covers the frame, parts, and labor for at least a year. A good warranty ensures that you’re covered in case of any defects or malfunctions. Quality machines often have warranties that extend to 10 years and longer!
Beware the Cheapest Options
We love Amazon. We shop on Amazon all the time. We never buy no name, can’t buy them in a store, imported from who knows where cardio machines on Amazon. Please… You get what you pay for. And you simply can’t get a good elliptical for $500 and under!
5. Programs and Features
Skip the boring old jog and upgrade your workout game with a feature-packed elliptical! Look for programs and features that make sweating it out more fun, like customizable workouts, virtual coaching, and even built-in entertainment options.
Buying a machine with built-in programming, trainer-led sessions, and workouts that allow to you train virtually all over the world can be a huge benefit. Check out models with iFit if this is something that appeals to you!
Who says fitness can’t be both effective and entertaining?
Get yourself an elliptical that does both – your body (and sanity) will thank you!
Importance Of Programs And Features
Programs and features are important because they help keep your workouts varied and challenging. Having access to different programs and features can help you achieve your fitness goals by targeting different muscle groups and providing variety to your workouts.
Additionally, certain features such as heart rate monitors can help you track your progress and adjust your workout intensity accordingly.
Different Types Of Programs And Features
● Resistance Levels: This allows you to adjust the resistance of the elliptical machine, making your workout more or less challenging. Adjusting the resistance level helps you to target different muscle groups, such as your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
● Incline: The incline feature helps you target different muscle groups and increases the intensity of your workout. It can simulate climbing hills or stairs. This feature targets your leg muscles and can simulate uphill running or climbing stairs, making your workout more challenging.
● Pre-Set Workouts: These are pre-designed workout programs that help you vary your routine and provide specific challenges. They can focus on interval training, weight loss, or performance improvement. Pre-set workouts help you vary your routine and challenge your body differently. Again, check out units with iFit if this is something you want!
● Heart Rate Monitors: These monitors track your heart rate during exercise, helping you maintain a target heart rate zone for maximum effectiveness. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that using heart rate monitors during exercise can improve exercise adherence and motivation (4)
Some units monitor your heart rate with sensors built into the handles of the machines, while others can integrate with a chest strap style heart rate monitor like this Polar model.
● Bluetooth Connectivity: With this feature, you can connect your elliptical to your smartphone or tablet and access various fitness apps, including virtual coaching, progress tracking, and personalized workouts. A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that using fitness apps with Bluetooth connectivity on an elliptical machine can increase exercise adherence and improve health outcomes (5).
Our Recommended Ellipticals
Don’t want to have to look for all that on your own? We’ve got you covered! Let’s take a look at our top recommendations for an elliptical cardio machine.
Budget Option – ProForm Carbon EL
Price: Retail is $799 – Check the current sale price here!
The ProForm Carbon EL Elliptical is an entry-level elliptical machine that offers solid features at a budget-friendly price of $799. The elliptical is designed for average-sized users with a weight capacity of 275 pounds and features a 15-pound flywheel, a 19-inch adjustable stride, and 18 levels of SMR Silent Magnetic Resistance.
The machine comes with a 5-inch high-contrast display, a tablet holder, oversized pedals, and Soft Touch Upper-Body Grips for added comfort during workouts. It also has a 20-degree adjustable incline with five positions and front-mounted transport wheels for easy storage.
One of the key features of the ProForm Carbon EL Elliptical is its compatibility with iFit, which requires a subscription and an internet connection. This program provides users access to a virtual library of thousands of workouts and live trainers who can adjust the machine’s controls from remote locations.
It also offers heart rate monitoring via EKG Grip Pulse Sensors and can take users around the world virtually by way of iFit Global Workouts using the included screen or their own tablet.
While the machine lacks a workout fan and has a small display relative to other machines, its strong warranty plan (10-year frame warranty and 1 year on everything else) and ProForm’s availability for technical support make it a solid choice for users seeking the basics.
Additionally, the machine’s smaller footprint relative to larger rear-drive ellipticals and auxiliary audio ports with dual 2-inch speakers are notable features. Overall, the ProForm Carbon EL Elliptical is a budget-friendly option for fitness enthusiasts looking for a solid machine with the added benefit of iFit compatibility.
Best Bang For The Buck Elliptical – The Schwinn 470
Price: Retail is $1099. Check the current sale price here!
The Schwinn 470 elliptical machine is designed to provide a comfortable and enjoyable workout experience for its users. The machine features padded handlebars that are ergonomically designed to reduce strain on the hands and wrists, making for a more comfortable workout.
Additionally, the machine offers a wide range of intensity options, a 20-inch path stride, and multiple workout programs, which help to keep users engaged and challenged throughout their workouts.
One of the standout features of the Schwinn 470 is its precision path drive system, which ensures easy start-up and a smooth, consistent workout experience. This feature is particularly important for users who are looking for a machine that is easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of effort to get going.
The Schwinn 470 also offers a variety of other features that make it a great choice for fitness enthusiasts. It is compatible with the Explore the World app, which allows users to connect with other users and virtually run through different locations around the world.
Additionally, the machine has an intuitive LCD display that tracks fitness data and progresses over time, as well as an MP3 port so users can listen to their favorite workout music or podcasts during their sessions.
All in all, the Schwinn 470 is a well-rounded elliptical machine that offers a lot of features for a relatively moderate price. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fitness enthusiast, this machine is a great choice for anyone looking for a comfortable, challenging, and enjoyable workout experience.
Premium Model – The Nordic Track FS14i Freestride Elliptical Trainer
Price: Retail is $2499. Check out its current sale price here.
The NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer is a versatile piece of fitness equipment that provides a low-impact workout for users who want to combine cardio and strength training. Its 3-in-1 design allows users to choose between a stair stepper, elliptical, or treadmill workout, depending on how they move the pedals.
The machine has a 32-inch stride length, which is roughly double that of comparable ellipticals, allowing for a wider range of motion and full leg extension. The machine can decline to -10% and incline to 10%, providing a challenging workout with a full range of incline challenges.
The NordicTrack FS14i is built with a solid steel frame and oversized levelers, making it sturdy and durable. The machine has a 375 lb. user capacity, which is impressive and indicative of its solid construction.
However, due to the long stride length, this elliptical requires significant space, both in front of and behind the machine. It is also heavy and hard to move, so it’s best to place the machine where it will be used and not move it regularly.
The console of the NordicTrack FS14i includes a 14-inch touchscreen, which is bright and easy to see. It is embedded in the center of the console and provides easy access to the iFit programs, which include thousands of trainer-led workouts.
The touchscreen is also adjustable in terms of resolution, and functionality is built into the touchscreen, which reduces the buttons needed on the console. Additionally, the machine has a fan built into the console that is surprisingly strong, as well as a large cup holder in front of the console.
Overall, the NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer is an excellent choice for users who want a versatile, low-impact workout machine that can provide a challenging workout with a full range of incline challenges. Its solid construction, wide range of motion, and iFit capabilities make it a great addition to any home gym.
My Favorite/Honorable Mention – The SOLE E95 Elliptical
Price: Retail is $3399, but it often goes on sale for more than half off! Check out its current sale price here!
The Sole E95 elliptical is an exceptional exercise machine that provides users with a top-quality workout experience at an affordable price point. With a steel frame that can hold up to 375 pounds, this front-drive elliptical is both sturdy and durable. It boasts an adjustable stride length, enabling users to customize their workouts for maximum comfort.
The E95 elliptical also features a 27-pound flywheel and a low step-up height, making it easy to get on and off. With a lifetime warranty on the frame, this machine is a smart investment for long-term use. Additionally, it offers 20 levels of incline, ten onboard programs, and heart rate training support.
This elliptical is perfect for those seeking a quiet, low-impact workout machine that can be used while enjoying entertainment on a TV or iPad.
Its pedal adjustments can accommodate users of different sizes, and the multi-position handlebars come with various grip options. While it may have a longer footprint than some other ellipticals, the E95 elliptical has a reasonable price tag and impressive features.
The construction of the E95 elliptical is noteworthy, with a double-track system under the pedals and oversized, textured pedals. The machine also has a power-adjustable stride length that can range from 20 to 22 inches.
The handlebars move in sync with the pedals, and there are stationary handlebars for added convenience when getting on and off the machine.
Using magnetic resistance, the E95 elliptical operates quietly, with 20 levels of incline for added intensity. Its console is user-friendly and displays large, easy-to-read numbers on a 10.1-inch screen. The console also includes a built-in cooling fan, water bottle holder, and speakers.
Additionally, the machine is Bluetooth-enabled and features a USB port for charging devices.
In short, the Sole E95 elliptical is a high-quality exercise machine that delivers an excellent workout experience at an affordable price. Its adjustability accommodates users of different sizes, and it is quiet and low impact.
With a durable frame and impressive warranty, this machine is a reliable investment. While its footprint may be slightly longer than other ellipticals, its stability and smooth operation make it an ideal choice for those seeking a top-quality workout machine.
Well, folks, we’ve reached the end of our journey on what to look for when buying an elliptical machine. But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with our top recommendations!
When it comes to getting the best bang for your buck, we recommend finding an elliptical that balances quality and affordability. Look for a sturdy machine made with high-quality materials and advanced features like customizable workouts, heart rate monitors, and Bluetooth connectivity.
And remember, getting fit doesn’t have to be a chore – choose an elliptical with programs and features that make sweating it out fun and entertaining.
So, get ready to upgrade your workout game and make your body (and sanity) happy with our top recommendation for the perfect elliptical machine. Happy shopping!
Should I consider purchasing a used or refurbished elliptical machine?
Yes! A lot of cardio machines are lightly used and then sit there (sound familiar, anyone?). These gently used machines offer an exceedingly good value. Check out our friends over at Freedom Fitness Equipment if you are looking for a preowned model!
What is the importance of adjustable stride length and pedal positioning in an elliptical machine?
Adjustable stride length and pedal positioning are essential in an elliptical machine to accommodate different users’ heights, allow for varying workout intensities, and maintain proper alignment of the user’s feet to minimize joint stress.
What burns more calories, an elliptical or a treadmill?
We wrote an entire article to answer that question, and the details might surprise you. You can read that article here.
- McMillan, K. A., et al. (2019). A comparison of cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses between treadmill walking and elliptical exercise in individuals with knee osteoarthritis. Journal of aging and physical activity, 27(4), 490-497.
- Colado, J. C., et al. (2010). The use of elliptical cross trainer affects lower limb kinematics and muscle activation patterns during walking at different speeds. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 9(3), 448-454.
- Smith, L., et al. (2015). The effects of high-intensity interval training on physical performance and psychophysiological responses in individuals with obesity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(6), 1576-1583.
- Cadmus-Bertram, L. A., et al. (2015). Using fitness trackers
- Adeniran, S. A., et al. (2013). Heart rate monitoring during treadmill exercise among adults with obesity. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 113(12), 3149-3156.
8 thoughts on “Elliptical Buying Guide – What To Look For When Buying an Elliptical For Your Garage Gym”
Is the BowFlex tread climber really an elliptical? It doesn’t seem like it really is.
Kind of. It can be used as an elliptical, but it does add several other dimensions. It doesn’t feel like using an elliptical. It took me a little while to get used to using it. But, once you get the hang of it, I liked it better than a standard elliptical. IT’s a better workout, more engaging, and more fun than a standard elliptical for sure.
Any ideas on how to make this machine more fun? I hate the elliptical and every minute on one is like torture for me!
I wish I could help! I hate them too! The best recommendation is never to force feed something you hate. YOu’ll for sure stop doing it and lose any benefits. don’t get attached to calorie burn, etc. Instead find the cardio you love to do and to that regularly. It will be much more effective in the long run!
How are ellipticals for people who have bad knees and ankles? Walking and running isn’t something that works for me any more.
Of all the cardio machines out there, the elliptical is one of, if not the, lowest impact option. If you don’t have a problem with knee and ankle mobility and it’s just the impact of running and walking, then an elliptical is a great option. If it’s a mobility issue, maybe work on that first? And as always, I am NOT a doctor! Please check with your doctor before trying anything new.
Do you know who makes the shortest elliptical? Our basement ceiling is only 7′ and we’d love to find a way to get an elliptical in there!
7′ is not tall enough for any elliptical. I’d look for another cardio option, or put the elliptical in another area of your home.