Last updated on March 16th, 2021 at 01:56 pm
The first thing most people consider when building a home gym is where in their home it might be able to fit. A millisecond later those same people are usually wondering what their new gym is going to cost. It’s probably a safe assumption that budget is one of, if not the primary concern of most people putting together a home training area.
The average home gym owner will end up spending between $1500 and $2500 on their gym. This includes everything from flooring and lighting to the actual training equipment itself. The most expensive pieces will be the cardio machine (treadmill, rower, etc), power rack, bench, weights, and barbell.
Step one in the budgetary discussion is figuring out whether or not we’ll even use a gym once it’s built. No gym is ever built without the intention of regular use, but Craig’s List and Ebay are filled with examples of good intentions set aside in lieu of evenings on the couch watching Netflix.
So, before worrying about what a home gym will cost, ask yourself, “Will I actually use it?” Only you can answer this question honestly.
I would say that anything other than a resounding “yes, I’ll definitely use my new home gym regularly” means that maybe a 6 month membership at a local gym might be a better choice. Run a real world test to see if the motivation to work out is real and lasting or not.
Many of us already know we’ll stick with it, but many don’t. In either case, there is another valuable lesson to be learned from working out in a commercial gym for a while first. It provides you with a real world cost comparison.
Today’s commercial gyms can cost as little as $10 per month and range to a high of $200 per month and more. Looking at what you would be willing to spend for a commercial gym (arguably more well equipped than anything you might build at home) over time can give you some insight into what would be a worthwhile amount to spend on your own garage or basement set up.
Another factor to take into consideration is the time you gain by working out at home. Even if you live close to your local gym, a workout habit of 3 days a week can quickly cost you 150 hours of your life each year. What is your time worth?
For most, with regular use, a home gym pays for itself in both cost and convenience. But again, that’s only if you use it!
Another great way to see if the commitment level is there before spending any money is to start small. I started with a single kettlebell and didn’t buy anything else for months. I often recommend people start their home training with a simple pair of gymnastics rings.
In addition to testing the level of commitment, starting with single pieces of multi use equipment is a great way to build a great gym on a budget and never go into debt to do it. A pair of rings or a used kettlebell are both sub $50 items.
Both of those items can provide you with a lifetime of training. They are great ways to keep you training at home while you save up and shop for your next purchase.
Doing things this way means you don’t have to come up with a capital “B” Budget that covers your entire new home gym from top to bottom. You only have to come up a small “b” budget that covers your next single piece of equipment.
Acquiring things one at a time also allows you to be patient and picky, This is especially important if you are cobbling together a home work out space from used items. Patience can often save you more money than any other single behavior.
What are you training for?
Whether you decide to build the whole gym in one shot or whether you decide to piece it together one item at a time, an overarching consideration should always be to know what you are training for.
The equipment needed to keep someone strong and flexible for golf is different than the gear needed to help someone train for a marathon. Someone whose primary activity is rock climbing will build a substantially different home gym than someone who simply wants bigger muscles.
As with all things in life, keep your end goal in mind. This is where you’ll start to determine what your unique budget needs to be. If you’re that rock climber, you will need to budget for finger boards. If not, that’s a piece of gear you will most likely never buy or use.
Knowing your training goals will also help you both prioritize and eliminate items on your budget. There have been quite a few pieces of gear I’ve spent money on that I shouldn’t have. They end up sitting unused and then sold for a loss. It wasn’t until I was clear on my fitness goals that I was able to intelligently put together the right list of equipment for me.
It’s that concise list that almost completely determines your budget for you.
What type of consumer are you?
I like to buy new stuff. I also like to buy new stuff that is nicer than I actually need to get the job done. My barbell and weight set cost over $1000. I could have bought a barbell and the same amount of weight at Play it Again Sports for a fraction of that.
A brand new 50 lb virgin rubber bumper plate weighs exactly the same amount as a 50 lb used iron plate. Lifting both will be equally challenging. I have my own set of reasons for buying the more expensive gear. I also have my own set of reasons for not buying a competition rated bar and plates which would have pushed my expenditure well over the $2000 mark.
When I look at the comments on You Tube videos about putting together home gyms, I see a consistent and heated debate between those who insist the person in the video could have gone way cheaper and those who stubbornly proclaim the equipment isn’t nice enough. You’ll see the same debate in forums and in real life.
One of the things that helped me determine my budget was being realistic about the type of customer I am. I could have planned on paper to go with low priced options, but I know myself and I know that’s not what I would have bought in the end. Because of that, I budgeted realistically to start with.
So what type of customer are you? Be honest with yourself from the start. It will make things easier in the long run. If you are good with used gear, budget that way. If not, plan your spending accordingly!
Your spending options
Because of the wide variance in the type of people who may read this article, I’m going to try to provide budgeting guidance for all.
For each primary type of gear you might buy, I’ll give 3 different price ranges. I’ll start by listing pricing on low priced, cost saving gear. Then I’ll indicate what it would cost to step up to nicer stuff that presents a good value. Then, I’ll finish with what it costs for the really top shelf stuff.
I’ll also be sure to call out the times when you just shouldn’t go the inexpensive route. There is certainly a time and a place, but in some cases it’s simply not worth the savings. Going cheap can sometimes be a safety issue. It can also cause you to have to buy multiple times which isn’t saving money at all!
Readying your space
Often times when people are budgeting for their new gym, they will do a great job accounting for the equipment but will overlook the costs involved in making the space ready in the first place. Aside from the standard painting and aesthetic treatments, there are two areas that could (and should) add to the amount you plan to spend.
Lighting is an oft overlooked aspect of most home gyms, but it’s one that deserves at least a little bit of attention. I wrote an entire guide to lighting your home gym that you can see here, but the short version is that we need to make sure our gyms are well lit.
On the cheap, you can simply make due with whatever lights you already have. This may or may not work, but it is the cheapest option. Put a big zero on the budget sheet for lighting if this is you. In the long run, however, I’d highly recommend doing at least a minor upgrade.
For under $100 you can add some 5000k led lighting to simulate the bright light of the sun. This is the route I went and it made an absolutely huge difference in the mood and feel of my garage gym. It’s something I recommend all home gym owners do.
For those who want to really brighten things up as well as make things look as nice as possible, budget anywhere from $300-$700 for recessed or track lighting (more if extensive electrical work is required). If your gym is being built from the ground up in a finished room in your home, this is the right route to take.
Flooring is another one of the areas where a lot of folks tend to try to go really cheap. The most notable of the ways they do this is buying the cheapest rubber flooring money can buy… Horse stall mats.
As I pointed out in my article about how to get the smell out of rubber gym flooring, there are many issues with using a product meant for outdoor horse stalls in an enclosed home gym. I personally would never use stall mats and don’t think you should either.
There are plenty of other low priced options that don’t present a health risk. They also won’t smell like stall mats (which smell kind of like a rancid tire fire). The smell of a stall mat floor is bad enough to keep some people from ever using their gym in the first place.
The first viable budget option is to do nothing. There are millions of people around the world working out in garages and basements who are working with a bare cement floor. That’s free! And it’s a better option than stall mats which aren’t free!
The next option is a carpet remnant. These will typically run under $100 and aren’t a bad choice if money is tight. There are thousands of home gyms in the world that use an old piece of carpet over the cold cement floor found in many basements and garages.
For my gym, I went with a slightly more expensive option for flooring. I wrote an entire guide on home gym flooring that explains why. In the end I’m happy I did.
I went with ⅜” rubber tiles and I’m really happy I did. A quality, low odor rubber floor is the ideal choice for most home gyms. My floor came in at $3.50 per square foot. The most expensive rubber options will typically run $5 per square foot.
Installation of rubber flooring is a DIY project, so there aren’t any labor expenses involved. Just measure, order the flooring, and lay it down.
Regardless of what you are training for, it’s hard to imagine a home gym that wouldn’t benefit from the basics. A good rack, bar, weights, and dumbbells are all essentials for most home gym set ups. Here’s what you can expect to spend in those categories.
The power/squat rack is the centerpiece of most gyms in which weight training is an activity. It’s what allows you to lift alone safely and it’s pretty much required for squatting and pressing. This is another one of those areas where I wouldn’t go super cheap. If you need to watch your spending, be patient and shop used gear for the best value.
A solid used rack will run you been $200-$300. This is about the same price as a low priced new rack (but not one I’d recommend). If you’d rather buy new but still want to spend less, I’d budget for around $400. Otherwise the rack won’t last and you’ll end up buying two.
It’s important not to go super cheap here. Take a pass on the $50-$100 used racks and the $200 new versions. They simply won’t hold up and could even present a safety issue.
For my money, the sweet spot for a great power rack is at the $600 price point. That’s what I spent on mine and I’m thrilled with it. I’d also put mine up against racks that are twice as expensive.
If you want to go all out, be prepared to spend upwards of $2000 on the top end pieces by a company like Elite FTS. These are racks that are built for commercial gyms and CrossFit boxes. This is serious overkill for a home gym in my opinion, but still an option that many people choose.
Most people can go relatively low priced here. I wouldn’t recommend going used, but low priced is a great option. Regardless of what more serious lifters say, if you are a 3 day a week bench, squat, and deadlift person, you don’t really need to spend a ton on a bar. My first bar was just over $100 and I still use it today for some lifts.
No matter which bar you end up with in the long run, it’s a really good idea to start with a basic bar anyway. You’ll always have a need for a “beater bar”. One that you can treat a little harshly and not worry about it.
That said, I do recommend eventually upgrading to a nicer bar. It’s the one piece of equipment that you touch most often. When it comes to buying a nicer bar, there’s really no reason to take a small step to a $200 bar. It won’t net you anything over the budget level option. To make it worth the extra expense, you’ll want to step up to something at about the $300-$350 range.
If you think you’ll be competing, then you’ll want to look at a top end option. Be prepared, it’s a big step. Competition bars can tickle the $1000 price point fairly quickly.
As much as I love my bumper plates, I still often wonder if I shouldn’t have just bought a low priced set of iron plates and saved a whole lot of money. This is one of those categories that will be dictated by knowing what kind of customer you are as I described above.
On the low end, you can pick up used iron plates for a song. I regularly see complete sets for under $100. There is nothing wrong with taking this route at all. As I already mentioned, a pound is a pound and a kilo is a kilo regardless of the form it takes. Arnold won Mr. Olympia training with iron plates, what more can I say?
Mid priced bumper plate sets in the 300 lb – 400 lb size will run between $450 and $700. Mine were just over $600 and I would buy them again. They are most likely the last set of plates I’ll need to buy.
High end plates are stupid expensive. For precisely constructed name brand competition plates, you’ll find yourself at $1500 for a set before you know it. Honestly, this is a waste for all but the most serious competitors. For 99% of all home gym enthusiasts, I’d stick to options 1 or 2.
I’m a fan of adjustable dumbbells for a home gym and personally wouldn’t go any other way. You can see my complete article on why by clicking here.
Budget options require that you shop used. Most resale sporting goods stores sell standard dumbbells at around $.10 per lb. You most likely won’t get a matched set, but you will save money. The adjustable sets can be found used for $100-$150.
My best recommendation is a new set of adjustables. There are quite a few choices in the world of adjustable dumbbells, but they can all be made to serve their purpose. They will range from $150-$350 depending on which set you think will work for you.
For high end choices, you will always be buying a full set of separate dumbbells. If you have the room and the money, go for it. It’s very much like having a commercial gym at your home. Starting prices for a full set including a rack will start at $800 and go up quickly from there. For high end models, budget $2000 or more depending on how many you think you’ll need.
There are always those odds and ends that get forgotten. In the world of gym equipment, there are million accessories for sale. Fortunately for us, there are really only a few that are necessities.
It’s hard to use the above four items without a bench. Getting a good bench is important. It provides support, safety, and a foundation to lift from. Being that it’s something that directly supports your body while lifting, a bench isn’t something you should skimp on. That said, you don’t need to spend a fortune either.
Skip the high priced options from Rogue or Elite FTS in this area (those can cost $800-$1000!!! That’s crazy!). Instead head straight for the Rep Fitness AB-3000 (usually right around $250). This bench is reasonably prices and is hands down the best option for a home gym adjustable bench on the market. I love my AB-3000 and you will too!
Head on over to Rep Fitness to check out the AB-3000. It’s the first and last bench you’ll need for your home gym.
Don’t go cheap here!
Get a set of Lock Jaws or a set of OSO’s (I have one of each and love both). They’ll run you $25 and $50 respectively. The best place to buy Lock Jaw collars is on Amazon. OSO’s are found here on the Fringe Sport site.
All gyms need a set of bands. Get a few different strengths. Which ones don’t matter near as much. I’m a fan of the bands made by Rubber Banditz, check them out here on Amazon. Don’t go super cheap or you’ll experience the pain and embarrassment of getting snapped with a broken band. A good set of 6-8 bands will cost $50-$80 depending on the resistance level you select.
Pull up bar
I can’t recommend this one enough! Some people go with a TRX or a set of rings (rings are the better choice and value for most), but at minimum a basic pull up bar will do the trick. You can get one for $20-$35 depending on where you look. If you don’t want to go to the trouble, just buy this basic one on Amazon and call it a day!
No matter what side of the cardio argument you fall on, the fact of the matter is that there are more cardio machines in homes than there are weight sets. It’s not even close.
Treadmills seem to be the most popular option here. Despite what the salesperson at the store might tell you, you can get a decent basic model from a reputable company like Pro-Form for a surprisingly reasonable price. You can see the one I like at around that price point here on Amazon.
If you are going to be doing a lot of running, you will be happy you jumped up to about the $1200 price point. Going back to Pro-Form, I absolutely love this model which is often on sale for right around $1200.
For the serious runner, I’d strongly recommend heading to a store to try things out. It is well worth the trip. As for what you’ll spend, I’d expect to be at $2500 minimum. I know avid runners who have happily spent $5000 and more! A great recommendation in this category is this model by Life Fitness.
While not a hard and fast rule, the above pricing will also hold true for other types of machines like ellipticals, bikes, and recumbents. $500-$600 for basic, $1000-$1500 for mid level, and $2500+ for high end.
All in one home gyms
All in one gym systems are a love it or hate it option among the free weight crowd, and are a popular category for casual fitness people for several reasons. Having owned 2 Bowflex machines in my past, I fall somewhere in the middle.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion on whether or not they are worthwhile, they will be the right choice for some people. They are compact, safe, easy to use, and a great alternative for anyone not wanting to use free weights.
This is another category I absolutely wouldn’t skimp on. There are a variety of $300-$500 options out there, but they are pretty much guaranteed to fall apart with any semblance of regular use. They will also be hard to use, clunky, and ineffective if you go cheap, so don’t.
Not to mention, you are replacing a lot of individual pieces of gear with one, so it’s natural to expect to spend more on that one that you would any other individual thing.
If this is the category you fall into, I would plan on spending $1000-$1500 on a new machine.
The nice thing about this category is that it’s very easy to find used options. If you are patient, you can often find a machine in great condition that was hardly used for pennies on the dollar. I’ve seen $1500 Bowflex units go for as low as $200!
So what to budget here? I’d say $200-$500 on the low end, $1000-$1500 for a mid level unit, and $2500-$4000 for a high end beauty like this $3000 G7 from Life Fitness.
Adding it all up
As you can see, what your personal home gym will end up costing is impacted by a good number of variables. How much room you have, what you are training for, and the type of consumer you are all weigh in heavily.
In reality, you could get an amazing workout at home and not spend a dime. Just clear a spot on the living room floor and follow any number of amazing calisthenics programs floating around on YouTube.
You could also build your dream gym from the ground up. I’ll be honest in that it is my hopes to do this someday down the road. The thought of building a gym with no real budget to hold me back is the stuff of some of my favorite dreams.
I put together a gym I love for under $3000. From what I’ve seen, most folks who have a dedicated gym and buy mid level, nicer gear spend this much. That’s not to say I couldn’t have spent much less. That’s simply the gym that met my needs, space, spending habits, and real world budget.
Every time I go into my garage to work out, I never once think about the money I could have saved if I’d pursued less expensive options. If I think about what I spent at all, it’s to be happy with the purchases I chose. My hopes are that you build a gym in the same way.
To see everything I own and recommend, make sure to visit my recommended gear page here. I’ve taken the time to research and test a ton of gear and that page is the result of all that work. If you build a gym from the equipment on that page, I know you’ll love the result.