How to Buy the Best Treadmill - 8 Points to Consider

Woman on Home Treadmill
uniquely india/Getty Images

Finding the best treadmill for your budget can be a chore. You must know what to look for to get the best buy in a treadmill that will give you a good home workout.

What are the Best Treadmills in Each Price Range?

Any treadmill is going to be a significant investment for most of us, but you get what you pay for. When you shop by price, you must be even more careful to select the best in that price range.

The price ranges generally break down to budget ($500 to $1,500), mid-range ($1,500 to $3,000) and quality ($3,000 and up). There are often significant sales and discounts.

Treadmill Motor and Horsepower

The motor and its rating and warranty are the keys to getting a treadmill that will last for years. They are rated for horsepower (HP) but manufacturers use different terms that are confusing. The figure you want to look at is the continuous duty rating - CHP - and shop for 1.5 to 2.5 CHP. The "peak duty" rating is less valuable. A "treadmill duty" rating falls between continuous and peak in usefulness. In general, the heavier you are, the more horsepower you will need. Runners also need more horsepower than walkers.

Treadmills will often have a maximum user weight rating. Consider that optimistic and subtract 50 pounds in order to get a machine that will perform well for the user.

Look for the longest warranty on the motor, at least one year and preferably five years. DC (direct current) motors are quieter.

    Treadmill Stability and Smooth Ride

    Test treadmills while wearing your workout shoes and clothes. A shaky or jerky ride is unacceptable. The hand rails should feel sturdy enough to support you and be in a good position to grip easily and not block your arm motion.

    The belt must be wide enough and long enough for your stride.

      Treadmill Workout Features

      How easy is it to change speed and incline from the console? Increasing incline boosts the intensity of your workout and allows you do hill training. Some models also feature decline, so you can mimic going downhill. That is important for training for a real-world route with both uphill and downhill.

      • Boredom kills treadmill workouts. Choose a model that has the most pre-set and programmable workouts to vary pace and incline.
      • Some models plug into a video player, connect to the internet or a mobile app for new workouts. Apps and videos can get you going in the right direction.
      • The incline and speed should be easily adjustable from the console.
      • A pulse monitor is good to have to measure your heart rate, and many treadmills also come with a chest strap heart rate monitor that integrates with the console.
      • A water bottle holder and book rack/tablet holder are essential.
      • Treadmill Accessories, Apps, Videos

      Noise and Space

      The treadmill needs to work in your space.

      How noisy is it? If you plan to watch video or listen to music, you need to be able to hear those over the treadmill itself. A model that looks small in the store can turn into an elephant in your spare room. Check its size when folded or stored and test how easy it is to move.

        Manual Treadmills vs. Motorized Treadmills

        Due to the difference in cost, many people are tempted to buy a manual treadmill instead of a motorized treadmill. But manual treadmills have many drawbacks vs. their motorized cousins. They are often difficult to get moving without using an extreme incline, and once moving you can't change the incline. The low price also often means less sturdy construction.

        Best Treadmill Bargains and Alternatives

        If a new treadmill breaks your budget, you have many alternatives to find good treadmills at bargain prices. There are also many ways to use somebody else's quality treadmill. Browse my tips on how to use a good treadmill for fewer dollars -- or even for free. You should also try elliptical trainers. They give a lower impact workout while exercising both your upper and lower body. Top quality elliptical trainers are a similar price to bargain treadmills, so you get more for less.

        Folding Treadmills vs. Non-Folding

        Considerable design improvements have contributed to folding models being comparable to stationary treadmills. Look for stability, ease of folding, weight capacity, and how easy it is to move. But also know that most users rarely fold and unfold their treadmill, so you need to buy a machine that will fit into your space in either condition.

        Continue Reading