You don’t need me to tell you how important it is to exercise. You also know how difficult it can be to get proper exercise.
There are a lot of things that stand in the way of getting the exercise you need. Some people work long hours and don’t want to spend their free time in a crowded, noisy gym. Others have children and don’t have the luxury of a gym membership.
In many places, extreme weather can keep people indoors and not exercising too. For example, the continental United States and Canada experience long, cold, snowy winters. Between December and February, Chicago gets 29 inches of snow, and low temperatures are often well below freezing.
With all these obstacles in the way, it’s no wonder so many people choose to buy exercise equipment at home.
One of the most popular pieces of exercise equipment is the elliptical trainer. Ellipticals can be used for walking and jogging and can even be set at an incline to simulate hiking. Ellipticals place less strain on the joints than jogging does, making it highly desirable for anyone with joint problems.
No matter your reason for buying an elliptical, it’s important to buy one that is going to meet your needs without pushing your budget. My goal is to provide you with the information you need to make that purchase and give you some of the best products to choose from.
Things to Consider
Buying an elliptical machine is a major purchase and not one to take lightly. There are some considerations you need to make before you make the purchase. If you keep these points in mind, you should be prepared to make your big purchase.
Like all exercise equipment, a price is a major area of concern. More expensive ellipticals will offer better performance, but also represent a more serious investment. Try to weigh your exercise needs against what you can realistically afford.
Most ellipticals sold will be covered by a warranty, which might range from one to five years, with shorter warranties on parts. Some budget models may not offer warranties, but if you’re going to spend $500 or more on an elliptical, make sure it’s covered.
Ellipticals can vary greatly regarding stride. Smaller or cheaper ellipticals have smaller strides, which are only appropriate for smaller people. If you expect people of different sizes to use the elliptical, make sure you buy one with a larger stride.
Some elliptical machines have a fixed incline, whereas others allow you to adjust them. An adjustable incline is not necessary, but if you want to use an elliptical to prepare you for hiking, then you’ll want one that can adjust.
Resistance is how hard the elliptical will fight you when you walk. You don’t necessarily want a lot of resistance in your elliptical, but some people like to be able to adjust the resistance for a more intense workout.
The Best Elliptical Machines
Best Elliptical Machines Under $200
Exerpeutic 1000Xl Heavy Duty Magnetic Ellipticals
Just because you have a limited budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of using an elliptical. Sure, you may not get gym-quality results, but you can save a lot of money over a traditional gym membership.
That said, a lot of cheap ellipticals aren’t worth what you pay for them. So, I was pleasantly surprised with the Exerpeutic 1000Xl Heavy Duty Magnetic Elliptical. The elliptical is pretty smooth, without the annoying bounce that often plagues lesser models. It has eight levels of magnetic tension alignment, helping you to tailor your workout experience. The flywheel is designed for quiet operation so that you won’t get a lot of noise pollution.
In addition to the standard handlebars that move with your feet as you exercise, there are also two stationary handlebars that are used to read your pulse, providing you information on your cardio output. This information is delivered on an LCD screen that also reports distance, calories burned and other metrics.
The elliptical is far from perfect. The computer doesn’t count calories very well, it isn’t nearly as durable as more expensive models, and putting it together is a serious chore. Although it has a weight limit of 300 pounds, the stride is only 13 inches, which isn’t going to work well for taller people. But it does offer reasonable performance for the price and is backed by a three-year limited warranty.
Body Champ BRM3671 Elliptical Dual Trainer
The Body Champ BRM3671 Elliptical Dual Trainer elects itself to be a 2-in-1 elliptical and stationary exercise bike. It probably would have been better for Body Champ to focus on doing one thing right, but the BRM3671 still offers pretty decent performance.
Body Champ worked hard to make the transitions from elliptical to training bike as seamless as possible. The seat can be adjusted in two ways to accommodate this transition, and the LCD computer console comes with 12 different pre-programmed workout programs, with the ability to program your own as well. It has two sets of handlebars and a cushion seat much like a typical bicycle. It also comes with a workout DVD.
The main problem with the FRM3671 is the same as with the 1000X1 – it’s stride. Although the weight limit is 275 pounds, the stride of 14 inches isn’t going to be enough for taller people. Nevertheless, it is backed by a one-year warranty on the frame and 90 days on parts. This isn’t going to be anybody’s first choice, but if you don’t have a huge budget, this isn’t terrible.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $400
Exerpeutic 5000 Magnetic Elliptical Trainer
The Exerpeutic 5000 Magnetic Elliptical Trainer is a lot more advanced and reliable than the Exerpeutic 100X1 above. It improves on the 100X1’s biggest weakness by expanding the stride to 18 inches.
Another notable improvement with the Exerpeutix 5000 is its Mobile App tracking and Bluetooth technology. The elliptical sends your workout data to your phone, enabling you to confer with your trainer or simply review your progress on your commute to work. It also improves upon the 1000X1 by tripling the number of tension resistance settings to 24. Like the Exerpeutic 1000X1, it also has a second pair of handles to monitor your heart rate during workouts.
Oddly enough, the maximum weight limit for the Exerpeutic 5000 is only 270 pounds, which is less than the X1. That said, there are enough improvements in this elliptical for it to be well worth the increase in price, even if its warranty is only good for one year instead of three.
Universal E40 Elliptical Machine
The Universal E40 Elliptical is in some ways better than and inferior to the performance of the Exerpeutic 5000. On the whole, I’d say it averages out, and these two ellipticals are roughly complimentary regarding quality.
One improvement is that the pulse tracking system is streamlined. Instead of being built into a secondary pair of handles, the pulse tracking is integrated into the main handles, so you can monitor your pulse while moving your arms naturally. It also includes seven different workout programs that are designed to push and challenge you to improve yourself.
On the other hand, it only has eight levels of magnetic resistance, so there’s not as much customization as regards the intensity of your workout. Whether that decreases the value of the elliptical depends on your individual preferences. It does offer a better warranty than Exerpeutic, with three years on the frame and one year for electrical and parts. Like the Exerpeutic 5000, it has a stride of 18 inches but can support a weight of up to 350 pounds. Either one of these models is a good value for the price.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $500
ProForm Hybrid Trainer
Like the other two ellipticals in the same price range as this one, the ProForm Hybrid Trainer has its strengths and its weaknesses. None of these models is definitively better than others in the same price range. I don’t want to recommend any of these three models over the other, as it comes down to what you’re personally looking for in an elliptical machine.
In the case of the ProForm Hybrid Trainer, you’re treated to 16 different levels of resistance and an LCD computer screen that relays valuable feedback back to you. The peddles adjustable, the flywheel responds to inertia, and it has a secondary set of handlebars to monitor your pulse. On the downside, the stride is only 15 inches, which isn’t very good. I’m 5’10, and I had a hard time with the stride, as it was too short for me. If I had to guess, I’d say this would be uncomfortable for anyone under 5’8.
The warranty is a mixed bag. The warranty on the frame is five years, which is the best in this class. However, the 90-day warranty on parts is inferior to the Universal E40 warranty. The maximum weight capacity is 350 pounds. All in all, this is a capable elliptical that suffers from a limited stride.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $700
Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine Series
The latest version of the Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine was released in 2016 and offers a few improvements over earlier models. The Schwinn 430 is loaded with a variety of luxury features that help make your workout session more enjoyable.
The 430 is in every way superior to the reviewed models that precede it. It has a stride of 20 inches, which is standard for all ellipticals. It has two different LCD screens which provide valuable information regarding your workout, as well as information regarding the exercise program you’re currently running. It offers 20 levels of resistance, which are controlled by the computer rather by magnetics, and has 22 different preset exercise programs.
Luxury features include a USB charging port and speakers to play your music, as well as a three-level fan to keep you cool while you exercise, allowing you to workout out longer without overheating. It also has a ten-inch manual ramp that allows you to adjust the incline, preparing you for hiking or mountain biking or just giving you a more intense workout.
If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s the warranty. Trying to figure it all out is a nightmare because it has four different components to it. The warranty on the frame is ten years, the warranty on mechanical components is two years. Electrical components have a two-year warranty and labour has a 90-day warranty. This is all way to unnecessarily complicated, but in the end, doesn’t prevent this from being a very good elliptical for the price.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $800
Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer
Although the Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer is more expensive than the Schwinn 670, it lags behind the 670 performance-wise in a lot of ways.
For example, it only has ten variable levels of resistance, instead of 25. It also comes with just ten workout programs and doesn’t give you the option to write your own. IT does built-in feature speakers, an LCD screen that feeds you information and mp3-compatible audio jacks, but I can’t help but feel that this is a step back. It only has 18 inches of stride, and it doesn’t have the ability to incline.
The main benefits of the EX-59-02 are that it is smaller and weighs less, and the warranty – two years on frame, one year on parts – isn’t quite so cumbersome. If you’re a smaller person, you might enjoy the sturdy construction of the EX-59-02 over the Schwinn 470, but in general, I think the 470 is the superior elliptical.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $900
Schwinn 470 Elliptical Machine Series
As the numbers indicate, the Schwinn 470 Elliptical Machine is one step up from the 430 regarding performance and abilities. T difference in price is not substantial, the Schwinn 470 packs more features than the 430.
The differences aren’t major and mostly relate to the levels of resistance and the number of preset training programs. The 470 has 25 levels of resistance and offers 29 different workout settings. In most other ways, it is similar. It has a built-in fan, USB charging station, speakers, several levels of incline, a maximum weight limit of 300 pounds and 20 inches of stride.
Like the 430, it has the same incomprehensibly complicated warranty, and one additional downside: it’s larger and, at 186 pounds, it’s even heavier than the 430. I didn’t mention it in my review of the 430, but these are not machines you’re going to want to move around a lot, and chances are you’re going to need help moving it around at all.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $1000
ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer
The ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer is a completely different elliptical, redesigned and very 21st century. In some ways, it functions more like a stair climber than an elliptical, with a reduced stride of 8 or 12 inches, but thanks to its vertical design, the limited stride isn’t a drawback.
The ProForm Cardo HIIT offers 24 resistance levels, 32 workout apps and is designed to accommodate up to 10 inches of incline. It has a seven-inch LCD screen and iPhone compatibility with built-in speakers. It comes with a lifetime warranty on the frame, a three-year warranty on the parts and a one-year warranty on labour. It has a bottle holder and can support a weight of up to 350 pounds.
You can get a good workout with the ProForm but at a premium price. If you’re looking for a true elliptical machine, however, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $1500
Sole E35 Elliptical Trainer System
Gym quality exercise equipment comes at a premium price, but that’s what you’re getting with the Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine.
The E35 delivers it all. Stride is adjustable from 20 inches to 22 inches, and the ramp can adjust from 0 up to 30 degrees of incline. While it’s limited in the number of programs it has – six standard programs and two custom programs – and the stride isn’t adjustable, it makes up for it with exceptional performance. All the amenities ae included as well, such as a water bottle holder, speakers and LCD screen that feeds you with valuable information.
The warranty is also excellent, with a lifetime warranty on the frame, a five-year warranty on electronics and parts and a two-year warranty for labour. You might be paying a premium on price, but you get a premium product in return.
If you’re looking to get a machine that’s not going to cost you a lot but can deliver a good workout, your best bet is something in the $300-400 price range. If you can afford the very best, the Sole Fitness E35 delivers a phenomenal experience.
For most users, however, I recommend meeting in the middle with the Schwinn 470. You get a great balance of features and performance at a reasonable price. I hope this information helped, and I hope you find a great elliptical for your exercise needs.
*All prices mentioned above are at the time of publishing.