What to Consider Before Buying a Treadmill

Tips on Price, Specs, and Bells and Whistles

Clothes hanging on a treadmill
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A home 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. Before you decide whether to but a treadmill, consider these factors:

  • Your budget
  • How much space you have and whether you need a folding treadmill
  • How many people will use it and how often
  • How you'll use it—running places more stress on the machine than walking and requires a longer belt for a longer stride
  • Extras such as program options, heart rate monitor, etc.

Budget for a Home Treadmill

Budget is probably the number one consideration in buying any piece of home fitness equipment, especially something as big and expensive as a treadmill. 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 $1,000, although spending between $1,500 and $3,000 will offer more stability, better motors and more workout options.

There are some so-so models that fall under $1,000, but keep in mind those may not last as long, especially if there are a lot of people using it. If you have a limited budget, consider buying a lightly-used or refurbished treadmill. You can often find these for sale by previous owners as well as at some stores that sell used fitness equipment.

Treadmill Motor Horsepower

The horsepower delivered by the drive motor directly affects the quality of your treadmill and how your workouts will feel. 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 to 3.0 horsepower. You will also need a more powerful motor depending on your weight.

Minimum Specifications

Other things to look for include:

  • Belt size: For running, the belt should be at least 48 inches long and 16 inches 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 percent or higher. If the treadmill has a decline feature, that is also valuable to give a better simulation of outdoor running conditions.
  • 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 ifit.com for new workouts?
  • Do you need a treadmill that folds 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?

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 or cell phone? Can you add a book rack?

Treadmill Warranty, Delivery, and Set-up

The manufacturer's warranty will often give you significant clues as to the quality of the treadmill. Look for a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor, or at a minimum 10 years. Electronics should have a five-year warranty. Parts and labor should have a two-year warranty.

How will you get the treadmill into your home? Delivery costs can be significant if they are not included in the purchase price. Also, consider how you are going to move the treadmill from your doorstep to your designated workout area and whether that is included or will cost extra. New treadmills usually require some assembly and you should see if that is included or requires a separate fee.

Using Your Treadmill

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. Be sure to take the time to explore all of the variations so your new treadmill doesn't linger in the corner becoming a clothes rack.