I get a common question via email and in person, once my job is known, is how much should I pay for an elliptical. Many times this question is asked in the context of evaluating a used machine at a garage sale or craigslist ad but also about new machines on the internet. The first thing I tell people is that buying an elliptical is a lot like buying a car. You have budget cars that cover the basics and luxury models with advanced engines and gadgets. These machines come in a variety of price ranges as well. I have seen home model ellipticals as low as $99 for a crappy no-name Chinese direct import and and as high as $10,999 for a Precor AMT with a Preva touch screen.
The common denominator with the machines is what is the designed use and typically you will get a corresponding price. I have come up with the following price matrix for people to help them figure out what to spend on their machines.
Below $500 – If you want to spend less than $500 you are basically buying a machine that will be good at sitting in your home, unused, and when you have company over you can point to it and tell them you have an elliptical for exercise; conveniently leaving out the fact that you never use it. If you, miraculously decide to use it consistently I doubt that you will get more than a year out of it.
$500 to $1000 – This price range is what I consider to be the true budget elliptical machines that are actually functional on a limited basis. These machines are good to be used consistently for 2 or 3 years and will have enough quality and design to provide good function during that time. I would warn you to only purchase models from established brands and manufacturers. Chinese imports available from are multiplying in this price range and are severely substandard.
$1000 – $2500 – The machines found in this price range are typically durable workhorse machines with out the refinements found in luxury machines. They are high quality, will last 5 to 10 years and are made for serious basic users (3 to 5 times per week at minimum without maintenance issues). Some come with nice features but you can’t count on it.
$2500 and UP – These machines are from the truly serious exercise aficionado. The only warning I will give you is to only purchase machines in this price range from established manufacturers. If you purchase a no-name in this price range you will be getting truly screwed. The list of brands I would consider in this range are these in no particular order: True Fitness, LifeFitness, Precor, Cybex, Matrix, NordicTrack, Octane, and Sole.