Last updated on March 31st, 2023 at 09:38 pm
Are you tired of trudging through the snow to get to the gym? Sick of getting stuck in traffic on the way? Fed up with waiting in line just to use the treadmill?
Getting a treadmill may just be the solution to all your fitness woes. Not only do they offer the convenience of indoor exercise, but they also provide the ability to customize your workouts to your heart’s content.
But before you start sprinting towards the nearest store, take a moment to consider what features are important to you. With so many options on the market, choosing the perfect treadmill can feel like an uphill battle.
But don’t worry; we’re here to guide you!
In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about buying a treadmill, so you can make an informed decision and be on your way to running toward your fitness goals in the comfort of your own home.
Rule# 1: Set A Budget
When it comes to buying a treadmill, the cost can vary widely depending on the type of treadmill and the features it includes. It’s important to consider your budget  when making a purchase to ensure you get a quality treadmill that fits your needs without breaking the bank.
How Much Should You Spend On A Treadmill?
A treadmill can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Generally, spending at least $1,000 – $2000 on a treadmill is recommended to ensure a durable machine that can handle regular use and has good build quality. Avid runners will want to spend almost double that.
Types Of Treadmills And Their Prices
There are several types of treadmills available, each with different price points:
● Manual Treadmills: These can be the most affordable option, with basic models ranging from $100 to $500. Current, more popular models run $2000-$4000.
● Folding Treadmills: These are a popular option for home gyms as they can be folded and stored when not in use. Prices range from $500-$2,000. These can be either manual or motorized.
● Motorized Treadmills: These treadmills are the most common type and range in price from $500-$5,000. Their motor powers the belt, allowing for a smooth and consistent workout.
● Commercial-grade Treadmills: These are designed for commercial use in gyms and fitness centers, and prices range from $5,000 to $10,000. Unless you are an avid runner, this type of treadmill is overkill for most home gyms.
Features That Affect The Price Of A Treadmill
There are a few features that are common in most treadmills, like speed adjustment, but some feature cost extra bucks; these would be:
● Incline and Decline: Treadmills that can incline or decline are usually more expensive than those without this feature.
● Motor Power: As mentioned earlier, the more powerful the motor, the higher the cost. See our guide on selecting the right motor power for your needs here!
● Running Area: Treadmills with a larger running area, longer deck, or more cushioning are more expensive.
● Programs and Features: Treadmills with advanced programs and features, such as built-in speakers or touch screens, tend to be more expensive. Many treadmills also offer live and prerecorded classes to work out with, and those services will also raise your total investment.
Rule #2: Know Which Features Are Important For You
Many treadmill manufacturers try to confuse you by mentioning features in fancy lingo that will make you think it offers more than it actually does. So to protect you from that trap, let’s take a look at features to look for in all treadmills.
1. Size and Space
When it comes to buying a treadmill, it’s important to consider the size and space requirements of the machine. Not only do you need to make sure it fits comfortably in your home gym or workout space, but you also want to ensure that you have enough room to move around the machine comfortably during your workout.
The dimensions of a treadmill can vary greatly depending on the type and model you choose. Here are the approximate dimensions of some common types of treadmills:
Folding treadmills are ideal for those with limited space. When not in use, they can be folded and stored away. These treadmills typically have a running surface of 50-60 inches in length and 20-30 inches in width. When folded, their dimensions can range from 25 x 32 inches to 25 x 70 inches.
Most folding treadmills are motorized, which makes them heavy. The folding function is usually assisted in some way, which makes it easy to fold up. These also typically have wheels, which allows you to move them easily to get them out of the way. Folding treadmills are ideal for those looking to save on space.
Non-folding treadmills are sturdier and more durable than folding models. They are typically larger and heavier, with dimensions ranging from 70 x 30 inches to 84 x 34 inches. The running surface on non-folding treadmills is typically larger, ranging from 60-84 inches in length and 20-34 inches in width.
Most non-folding treadmills are commercial models meant to run constantly all day, every day. These are overkill for home gyms for all but the most dedicated running families.
How to Measure Your Space
Before purchasing a treadmill, measuring the space where you plan to place it is important. This will ensure that the machine fits comfortably and you have enough room to move around during your workout.
Here’s how to measure your space:
- Measure the length, width, and height of the space where you plan to place the treadmill.
- Make sure to leave enough clearance around the treadmill for you to comfortably move around it. A minimum of 3 feet of clearance on each side of the treadmill is recommended.
- If you’re considering a folding treadmill, measure the space where you plan to store it when not in use. Make sure that the folded dimensions of the treadmill will fit comfortably in this space.
For a much more detailed guide to ensuring your new treadmill will fit where you want it, see our article here!
2. Motor and Power
Motor power is vital for fitness success. Selecting a motor in a CHP (continuous horsepower) that can handle your training needs and ensure maximum performance is essential – let us explore this further!
Importance of the Motor and Its Power
The motor is the heart of the treadmill, and its power determines the machine’s performance. A higher-powered motor can handle heavier loads and operate at higher speeds, making it suitable for intense workouts like running.
On the other hand, a lower-powered motor may struggle to keep up with your workout routine and may even break down over time.
Calculating the Horsepower Needed
Regarding treadmill motors, continuous horsepower (CHP) is the measurement of power. To calculate the horsepower you need, consider your fitness goals and how you plan to use the treadmill.
If you’re looking for a treadmill for walking or light jogging, a motor with 1.5-2.0 HP horsepower is sufficient.
For running, look for a motor with at least 2.5 HP. However, if you use the treadmill for multiple users or high-intensity workouts, consider a motor with 3.0 HP or more.
We wrote a much more in-depth guide on treadmill motor size here if you want to go further with this topic.
Continuous Duty vs. Peak Duty Horsepower
When shopping for treadmills, you may come across two horsepower measurements: continuous duty and peak duty.
● Continuous duty horsepower (CHP) measures a motor’s performance when running at a consistent speed for an extended period.
● Peak duty horsepower (PHP) measures the motor’s highest possible output when it’s starting up or under a heavy load.
It’s important to note that CHP is a more accurate measure of a motor’s power, as it represents the motor’s sustained output. On the other hand, PHP can be misleading as it only represents the motor’s maximum output for a short period.
When comparing treadmills, be sure to look for the CHP measurement to ensure you’re getting a motor that can handle your workout needs. If you only see PHP ratings, you can bet that the manufacturer is trying to make their tread look better than it actually is.
3. Incline and Decline
Buying the right treadmill can be tricky without knowing the importance of incline and decline features. These options make all the difference when it comes to your physical well-being as well as exploring different types that could work for you.
Importance Of Incline and Decline Options
Incline and decline options add extra challenge and variety to your workout routine. By adjusting the incline, you can increase the intensity of your workout, which can help you burn more calories and build more muscle.
Decline options allow you to target different muscle groups and work on your endurance by simulating downhill running. Decline is not a common option, so if you decide this is important, you will have a very limited number of treadmills to choose from.
Types of Incline and Decline Options
Three main types of incline and decline options are available on treadmills: manual, motorized, and automatic.
- Manual Incline and Decline – This type of treadmill requires you to physically adjust the incline and decline by manually setting the angle using a lever or knob. While manual options can be budget-friendly, they may not be as precise or easily adjusted as other options. Having used manually adjusted treadmills before, we recommend against this type of unit.
- Motorized Incline and Decline – This type of treadmill features an automated system that allows you to adjust the incline and decline with the touch of a button. Automatic options are often more precise and convenient than manual options but can be more expensive.
- Automatic Incline and Decline – This type of incline changes with the workout programming you have selected. When using a system like iFit, the treadmill automatically adjusts to match the terrain you are running on on the screen in front of you. This is a remarkably satisfying way to use a treadmill and gets you very close to real running outside.
Benefits of Incline and Decline Options
Incorporating changes in elevation into your workout routine can offer a number of benefits, including:
- Increased Calorie Burn – By increasing the incline, you can burn more calories  in less time, making your workouts more efficient.
- Improved Cardiovascular Health – Inclined running can help improve cardiovascular health  by increasing heart rate and oxygen consumption.
- Targeted Muscle Building – By adjusting the incline and decline, you can target different muscle groups, including glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
- Improved Endurance – By simulating downhill running, decline options can help improve your endurance and prepare you for outdoor running .
- Joint-friendly running – Walking and running on an incline have been shown to reduce stress on ankles, shins, and knees and can even help to eliminate pain in those joints. 
One important factor to consider is cushioning. This feature can have a significant impact on your workout experience and the health of your joints. And at the end of the day, if you are comfortable, you will be able to rock more on the treadmill.
Importance of Cushioning
Cushioning refers to the shock-absorbing system built into the treadmill deck. It can help reduce the impact on your joints and lower body, which can be especially beneficial for runners or individuals with joint pain or injuries.
The cushioning system can also help reduce noise and vibration, making for a more comfortable and enjoyable workout experience.
Types of Cushioning
There are three main types of cushioning available on treadmills:
Standard Cushioning – This type of cushioning provides a basic level of shock absorption and is typically found on entry-level treadmills.
Adjustable Cushioning – Adjustable cushioning allows you to customize the level of shock absorption to your liking. This type of cushioning is often found on mid-range and high-end treadmills.
Orthopedic Cushioning – Orthopedic cushioning is the most advanced type of cushioning and is designed to provide maximum shock absorption for the joints. This type of cushioning is typically found on high-end treadmills.
Benefits of Good Cushioning
Good cushioning can provide several benefits, including:
Reduced Joint Pain – The shock absorption provided by cushioning can help reduce the impact on your joints, resulting in less pain and discomfort .
Improved Comfort – A treadmill with good cushioning can provide a more comfortable and enjoyable workout experience by reducing noise and vibration .
Longer Treadmill Lifespan – A cushioned deck can help protect the treadmill’s motor and other components from excessive wear and tear, resulting in a longer lifespan for the machine.
5. Programs and Features
When it comes to buying a treadmill, the programs and features it offers are just as important as its motor power and running area. These features can make your workouts more efficient, effective, and enjoyable.
Importance of Programs and Features
Programs and features can provide a variety of benefits to your treadmill workouts, including:
● Improved Fitness: Many treadmills offer programs designed to improve cardiovascular endurance, increase speed and incline, and burn calories more efficiently.
● Personalized Workouts: With customizable programs and features, you can tailor your workouts to your fitness level, goals, and preferences.
● Motivation: Treadmills with programs and features such as music connectivity, virtual reality, and personalized coaching can make your workouts more engaging and enjoyable. You will train longer and harder with built-in programming vs. just running endlessly with no direction.
Types and Benefits of Programs and Features
● Pre-set Programs: Many treadmills come with pre-set programs designed to provide a variety of workout options. These programs can include interval training, hill workouts, and fat-burning programs. Pre-set programs can provide a variety of workout options, making it easy to switch up your routine and challenge yourself in different ways.
● Customizable Programs: Some treadmills allow you to create and save your own workout programs based on your fitness goals and preferences. Customizable programs allow you to create workouts tailored to your fitness level, goals, and preferences, providing a more personalized workout experience.
● Incline and Decline: Treadmills with incline and decline features allow you to simulate running uphill and downhill, which can provide a more challenging and effective workout. Incline and decline features can increase the intensity of your workout, burn more calories, and target different muscle groups.
● Heart Rate Monitoring: Treadmills with heart rate monitoring features can help you stay within your target heart rate zone for optimal fat-burning and cardiovascular health. Some models do this via sensors on the hand grips, while others connect to a heart rate strap like this one from Polar or other similar models.
● Entertainment Features: Treadmills with music connectivity, virtual reality, and personalized coaching can make your workouts more enjoyable and motivating. Entertainment features can make your workouts more enjoyable and motivating, helping you stay on track with your fitness goals.
Rule# 3: Choosing Between – Automatic Or Manual
When buying a treadmill, one decision you’ll need to make is whether to choose an automatic or manual model. Both types of treadmills have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider your needs and preferences before making a decision.
Automatic treadmills, also known as motorized treadmills, are powered by a motor that drives the belt and controls the speed and incline of the workout. They are the more popular choice, and for a good reason – they offer a wide range of workout options, allowing you to easily adjust the speed and incline to meet your fitness goals. They are also typically less expensive than quality manual units.
Automatic treadmills also tend to have more advanced features, such as pre-programmed workouts, heart rate monitors, and built-in fans.
Manual treadmills, on the other hand, are powered by your own effort. You control the speed and incline (if available) by walking or running on the belt, which moves as a result of your movement.
Manual treadmills burn more calories than automatic ones (source). They are also the closest thing to real running outside of all treadmill options. While manual treadmills have been around for decades in the form of cheap, motorless Amazon options, a new generation of manual treads is making big waves in the running world.
Manual treadmills are a deep enough topic that we have a complete guide to them that you can read here!
Consider Your Fitness Goals
When choosing between an automatic or manual treadmill, consider your fitness goals. If you’re a serious runner or want to train for a race, an automatic treadmill is likely the better choice. They offer more options for speed and incline, allowing you to simulate varying running conditions.
They also tend to have a longer belt and a sturdier frame, which can handle the higher speeds and impact of running.
A manual treadmill is an ideal choice for those that want to simulate the effort given in real road running. They take more effort than motorized treads (which is a good thing), burn more calories, and their surface is perfect for all running speeds.
Overall, choosing an automatic or manual treadmill comes down to your personal preferences and fitness goals. Take the time to consider what you want to achieve with your treadmill, and choose the type that best suits your needs. With the right treadmill, you can get in a great workout from your home.
Our Top Treadmill Recommendations
Tim, the owner and founder of GymCrafter, has put together his list of recommended treadmills here. There are some really nice models there, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. I have experience with a different assortment of treads and have my favorites too. Here they are by category.
The Most Affordable Manual Treadmill
Price ~ Usually closer to $300 than $400. Check today’s price here.
Looking for a treadmill that won’t take up too much space in your home gym? Look no further than this foldable wonder! Not only is it great for running, walking, and HIIT exercises, but it’s also easy to store and won’t disturb the neighbors with its quiet manual motor. And with a five-layer nonslip belt, your stride will be comfortable and easy on your joints.
This treadmill comes equipped with an LCD screen that rotates up and down for easy adjustability depending on your height, a phone holder, and 12 built-in HIIT programs. You’ll be sweating to the beat of your favorite tunes in no time!
This machine is a bit tricky to fold (warning: you’ll need to remove four screws first), but it’s easy to assemble and perfect for narrow spaces.
If your primary treadmill need is budget-driven, this is a solid manual treadmill for the price.
The Best Manual Treadmill
Xebex Airplus Runner Smart Connect
Price ~ $4,799 retail, but it is often aggressively on sale. You can check the current price here.
The Xebex AirPlus Runner is a non-motorized treadmill designed for users who perform punishing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), MetCon workouts, or CrossFit sessions. It responds to user input, making it easy to switch between a gentle jog and a full-blown sprint with a mere adjustment of the upper body. The lack of a motor makes it quieter to use and more robust, with fewer components to go wrong.
The curvature of the running platform really helps with its usage, allowing users to position their bodies towards the rear to slow things down or lean forward and place their feet further up the deck to spin at a more rapid pace. The curved deck also mirrors the path of your feet, making this treadmill much easier on your joints.
The handle at the rear and wheels at the front make it easier to tip forward and wheel it around once fully assembled, but you’ll need a fair amount of space to swing this around at home. The little LCD computer is intuitive and gives easy-to-read data on heart rate, calories burnt, speed, pace, distance, and more.
Xebex claims that it burns 30 percent more calories than regular running machines, but this figure could easily be higher based on personal experience.
The AirPlus Runner costs twice, if not three times, the price of the more typical motorized treadmills that are currently on sale. However, it is physically and metaphorically built like a tank, while the workouts it supplies are like little else on sale today. It will feel a little strange at first, especially if one is well versed with the basic motorized treadmills found in gyms, but the curved deck and manual movement are actually said to improve running gait (source).
The user control over speed allows runners to easily and safely tweak form and make improvements during the offseason. Above all else, it’s a powerful, strength-improving cardio workout tool for time-strapped individuals that doesn’t take hours to use.
Budget Automatic Treadmill
Price ~ Retail is $599, but you can check to see it’s current sale price here.
Looking for an affordable treadmill that won’t take up too much space in your home gym? The ProForm City L6 might just fit the bill, but don’t expect too much from this discount machine. With a track size of 45″ x 17.5″, a 1.6 HP motor, and a top speed of 8 mph, this treadmill is meant for walking or light jogging. Serious runners should look at higher-end models.
This treadmill does not incline, which is good. Too many inexpensive treadmills add incline and go cheap on everything else. ProForm makes very high-quality units and would rather make sure everything you get is well-made instead of adding lots of features at the expense of quality.
But hey, around 600$, what else do you expect?
The console has a blue-tinted LCD that displays speed, elapsed time, distance, calories burned, and no preset workouts. It does have an iPad holder and comes with a free 30-day trial of iFit.
It may not be the most fully-featured machine, but it does the job for occasional home use.
My Top Treadmill Pick
Price ~ $1799 retail. Check today’s price here!
This treadmill offers incline and decline, wireless connectivity, and a large touchscreen display.
Look no further than the ProForm Pro 2000, our top pick for the best folding treadmill under $1500 in 2023. With a good-sized 20″ wide by 60″ long-running surface and a 3.25 horsepower Mach-Z motor that can power speeds up to 12 mph, this treadmill is perfect for walking, jogging, and light running.
But the ProForm Pro 2000 isn’t just functional – it also has some stylish touches, like a vibrant red stripe along the base of the deck.
And with iFit included free for the first year, up to five profiles for different users in your home, and automated controls that adjust the incline and speed while you walk hands-free, this treadmill is packed with useful features that will keep you engaged and motivated.
The King Of Treadmills
So you always treat yourself to the best? Budget isn’t an issue? And you love to run every day? Look no further!
NordicTrack Commercial 2450 Treadmill
Price ~ $2999 retail. Check today’s price here.
Looking for a treadmill that can keep up with even the most hardcore runners and athletes?
Look no further than the NordicTrack 2450 – this powerful folding treadmill is NordicTrack’s most impressive machine yet. With a large 4.25HP self-cooling motor, a 15% incline, and a -3% decline, 2450 provides added training variables that will keep you engaged and challenged.
And with a massive 22″ touchscreen display that brings the outdoors right into your home with impressive iFit content and outdoor workouts that span the globe, you’ll feel like you’re running along sandy white beaches or through crisp blue skies no matter what the weather is like outside.
This sturdy machine is perfect for athletes who plan to train for long distances or those who have multiple users in their homes.
And with iFit classes that bring the world to your doorstep, you no longer have to train alone in a cold garage during the off-season. Whether you’re a marathoner, long-distance runner, or triathlete, the NordicTrack 2450 is well-suited for extensive use and will help you achieve your fitness goals in no time.
Price ~ $1899 retail. Check it’s current sale price here.
Looking for a treadmill that can handle even the heaviest runners and provide some entertainment during your workout?
Look no further than the Sole F85 – this top-selling treadmill has just received an update that includes a 10″ color touchscreen console that supports up to seven external apps, including Netflix, YouTube, and several news channels.
That’s right – you can now run, walk, or jog while catching up on your favorite shows or staying up-to-date on the latest news.
But the Sole F85 isn’t just a pretty face – it’s also incredibly sturdy and easy to use. With a reinforced frame and a 60″ long by 22″ wide running belt, this treadmill can handle even the most intense workouts.
And with a powerful 4.0 HP motor that’s perfect for extended running and high-intensity training, the Sole F85 is a great option for larger users, as it can support up to 400 lbs – that’s 100 lbs more than comparable treadmills!
Buying a treadmill can be an excellent investment for your fitness goals, providing convenience and customization for your workouts.
Before making a purchase, it’s important to set a budget and consider the essential features, such as size and space, motor power, incline and decline options, cushioning, and programs and features.
Remember to choose between automatic and manual models based on your fitness goals and personal preferences.
With the right research and consideration, you’ll be able to find the perfect treadmill to help you run toward your fitness goals in the comfort of your own home.
So, take the time to make an informed decision, and happy running!
How do I clean my treadmill?
Rule #1 is no Windex or other glass cleaner! Those types of chemicals will permanently damage your console. You can see my treadmill console here with permanent damage due to someone trying to clean it with glass cleaner.
Instead, use wipes made for electronics or fitness equipment. We wrote a complete guide to cleaning and maintaining your treadmill that you can see here.
Do I need a treadmill mat?
Yes! Most situations require a treadmill mat. Not sure what a treadmill mat is, what kind to buy, or when you actually need one? We have you covered in this article.
Are treadmills hard to assemble?
Yes! It is very easy to do it wrong. Specifically, the wiring harness is hard to run without breaking. If one wire is crimped the wrong way, your treadmill won’t work. Not to mention, they are really heavy!
It is worth every penny to have your treadmill professionally delivered and installed.
Sources and Further Reading
- Hansen, S. C., Otley, D. T., & Van der Stede, W. A. (2003, December 1). Practice Developments in Budgeting: An Overview and Research Perspective. American Accounting Association. https://doi.org/10.2308/jmar.2003.15.1.95
- Chan, Hong, et al. “Inclined Treadmill Training (ITT) for People with Chronic Stroke – a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” European Journal of Physiotherapy, vol. 0, no. 0, Dec. 2022, pp. 1–8. Taylor and Francis+NEJM, https://doi.org/10.1080/21679169.2022.2161628.
- LEE, I. M., & BUCHNER, D. M. (2008, July). The Importance of Walking to Public Health. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(7), S512–S518. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31817c65d0
- Damiano, Diane L., and Stacey L. DeJong. “A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Treadmill Training and Body Weight Support in Pediatric Rehabilitation.” Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, vol. 33, no. 1, Mar. 2009, p. 27. journals.lww.com, https://doi.org/10.1097/NPT.0b013e31819800e2.
- Hébert-Losier, Kim, et al. “Metabolic and Performance Responses of Male Runners Wearing 3 Types of Footwear: Nike Vaporfly 4%, Saucony Endorphin Racing Flats, and Their Own Shoes.” Journal of Sport and Health Science, vol. 11, no. 3, May 2022, pp. 275–84. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2020.11.012.
- Novotny, Sara C., et al. “A Harness for Enhanced Comfort and Loading during Treadmill Exercise in Space.” Acta Astronautica, vol. 89, Aug. 2013, pp. 205–14. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.03.010.
- Marathon Handbook. 12 Running Uphill Benefits: How It Makes You A Strong Runner, https://marathonhandbook.com/12-running-uphill-benefits/
7 thoughts on “Treadmill Buying Guide – What To Look For When Buying a Treadmill For Your Garage Gym”
Really nice and thorough guide! Thanks for the info, this really helped us decide which treadmill to buy!
glad it helped!!!
We love our Nordic Track, but it’s time to replace it. Nice to see they are still highly regarded. We planned on buying another one and you confirmed that choice for us, thank you!
I’ve always been a fan too. THey make quality gear across the board!
How about Bowflex treadmills? I found a good deal on a used one.
Bowflex makes a great treadmill! I think they fly under the radar because they don’t have the best reputation when it comes to their home gyms. I like their treadmill a lot. It’s really well made, has a great screen and interactivity, and is backed by a company that’s been around forever. If you have your eye on one, it’s a solid purchase. Of the three treads they make, I think the T10 (which you can see here) is the best option for garage gyms.
What size motor do I need if I only want to walk? I feel like most treadmills are too much for me, but the inexpensive ones all feel like they are going to break.