Before You Buy a Treadmill

Tips on Price, Specs, and Bells and Whistles

Clothes hanging on a treadmill
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Walk into any gym and you'll see that treadmills are one of the most popular pieces of cardio equipment out there. It's easy to see why, since treadmills mimic the exercises our bodies are used to doing on a regular basis, both walking and running

Even if we prefer to workout outside, the weather doesn't always cooperate. A treadmill can be a great investment, giving you more options for exercise when you're out of time, can't get to the gym or can't get outside.

Using a treadmill in a gym is one thing, but considering one for your home gym is another matter. A good treadmill is expensive and buying one doesn't necessarily mean that you'll use it on a regular basis.

So, how do you decide whether to take the plunge? Below are a few things to consider before you buy a treadmill. 

What You Need to Know About Buying a Treadmill

Your Budget

Budget is probably the number one consideration in buying any piece of home fitness equipment, especially something as big and expensive as a treadmill.

As with anything, it's important to get the highest quality treadmill you can afford. A quality treadmill will be comfortable, quiet, easy to use and will last a long time.

If you want a treadmill that will last, you'll likely spend at least $1000, although spending between $1500 and $3000 will offer more stability, better motors and more workout options.

There are some so-so models that fall under $1000, but keep in mind those may not last as long, especially if there are a lot of people using it.

Choosing the right treadmill for you will depend on a few factors such as:

  • Your budget
  • How much space you have
  • How many people will use it
  • What you'll use it for - If you're running a lot, that places more stress on the machine than walking
  • How many extras you want, such as different program options, heart rate monitor, etc.

    While thinking about your budget, another key element to getting the right treadmill is the kind of motor you should get.

    That may be something you've never even considered, but the type of motor directly affects the quality of your treadmill and how your workouts will feel. 

    Motor Control

    When shopping for a treadmill, next to how much it costs, you'll want to find out how to get the longest life out of your treadmill, which starts with the motor. 

    Most treadmills have two motors:  One to drive the belt and the other to raise and lower the incline.

    Figuring out horsepower and motor specifications can be confusing. To make it easy, shoot for a continuous duty motor with at least 1.5 horsepower. If you plan on running on the treadmill frequently, you'll be better off choosing 2.5-3.0 horsepower.

    Minimum Specifications

    Other things to look for include:

    • Belt size - At least 48" long and 16" wide
    • Speed - If you plan on running, get a treadmill that goes up to 10 mph or higher
    • Incline - Get a treadmill with an incline that goes up to 10% or higher
    • Cushioning - The running bed should absorb shock and the belt shouldn't move around with every foot-strike
    • Stability - The treadmill shouldn't shake when you run or walk on it and the frame should remain stable
    • Control panel - It should be within reach and simple to use

    Programming Extras

    Before you buy a treadmill, think about the kinds of things you want. Before you go shopping, ask yourself a few questions such as:

    • Do you want running or walking programs included?
    • Do you want a heart rate monitor included?
    • Do you want the ability to hook your treadmill up to a website such as for new workouts?
    • Do you need a treadmill that folds (often more expensive) or do you have enough space for a regular treadmill?
    • Can you maintain a treadmill?
    • What's the most important feature you want in a treadmill?

    Once you can answer some of these questions, you'll want to take the next important step - Try before you buy.

    Try Before You Buy

    You may not be able to find all your treadmill choices at local sporting goods stores, but it pays to do some research and try as many treadmills as possible. Make a list of treadmills you're interested in and call local sporting goods stores to see if they're available locally.

    Spend at least 10 minutes on each treadmill. Make sure it's quiet and that it doesn't shake, even when running. While you're there, see where the drink holder is. Is there a place to put your music player? Can you add a book rack?

    Treadmill Workouts

    Once you get your treadmill home, you'll have plenty of opportunities to try out the different programs and get into a routine. Treadmill workouts get pretty boring if you do the same thing all the time. The workouts listed offer some ideas for how to mix things up so you don't get bored.