Cheap Elliptical Trainers
Exercise enthusiasts and professional trainers love elliptical machines -- cheap as well as pricey -- because they work the whole body with minimal impact to the joints. Your feet never leave the pedals and most have handlebars that move, so you get a dual workout that burns more calories in less time. Better yet, exercising with an elliptical machine seems almost easy. You can certainly pay several thousand dollars for this privilege by buying the type of fitness equipment found in a gym. No need, though, because we've identified several cheap elliptical trainers that provide the same benefits, albeit with a few less frills.
Our Top Pick
Schwinn 420 Review
Excellent value for a surprisingly low price make the Schwinn 420 (starting at $500, Amazon) a favorite of veteran and novice exercisers alike. One Schwinn 420 review posted on Amazon says this model gives a better workout than elliptical machines at the gym, and another says level one of the preset programs is more than challenging. Numerous mentions of the quiet and smooth glide show up in Schwinn reviews on Walmart, where exercisers further note it feels stable and sturdy and award it an average 4.6 stars out of 5. The stride length and ergonomics should be fine for most adults, although users who are much shorter or taller than the norm may argue otherwise: for example, one review says the footpath feels a bit short and another says you may have to lean far forward to grab the handlebars if you're less than 5'4". Meanwhile, an elliptical review on Fitness Equipment Source says the extra-long grip bars provide lots of options for grabbing hold.
The Schwinn 420 is a front-drive model with an 18-inch stride, typical of budget elliptical trainers. The electronics and comfort features are somewhat limited -- no MP3 port or speakers, for example, or fan or backlit display on the console -- but users aren't deterred; some reviews even express a preference for the stripped-down design although quite a few express a desire for a water-bottle holder and can't figure out why the packaging contains the necessary screws but not the rest of the hardware. The angle of the ramp is fixed, but as one Schwinn 420 review asserts, there's little need to change the incline when you've got 16 resistance levels and 12 preset workouts (and one you can customize) to keep you motivated. One snazzy feature is the articulating foot pedals, which angle up in the back and follow the contour of your foot as you stride, thus minimizing the chances of your foot falling asleep. The Schwinn 420 measures 62"x26"x71" and weighs 154 pounds; the maximum recommended weight for users is 300 pounds. Assembly can be accomplished in a couple of hours, but a few reviewers say the directions could be clearer.
In sum, the Schwinn 420 is a well-built and well-designed piece of gym equipment that will give you a stirring workout. It may lack a few frills, but its performance and price earn it a spot at the top of our list.
Horizon EX69 Review
Quality for the money is the assessment of All Ellipticals, whose Horizon EX69 review dubs this model a top choice in the budget price range. Most home exercisers agree, often citing the very natural feel of the leg motion, which is almost like walking or running but without the impact. This flat-ellipse movement eliminates any bounciness in your stride and boosts the comfort factor, says a review on Amazon. The resulting workout is intense and smooth and rivals what you'd get with a model costing double, add Horizon reviews posted on Horizon Fitness Outlet. Users say the machine is quiet, even with a 220-pound male on board and the long stride suits users taller than six feet, according to elliptical reviews. Users like the built-in speakers for MP3 entertainment , say the manual incline is easy to adjust, and praise the company's customer service, which is reportedly quick to send out replacement parts and locate a technician who can make house calls.
The Horizon EX69 (starting at $799, Amazon) is a relatively new model with ergonomically-appealing features. The "zero gap" between the pedals is good for back and hips, for example, and the pedals have a power arch and traction edge. Unlike other front-drive elliptical trainers, the design on the EX69 keeps you standing upright rather than leaning forward slightly. This model sports a 20-inch stride (unusually long for a discount elliptical machine), five incline settings, 16 resistance levels, 11 preset workout programs, and a built-in fan. You can change the workouts as you go, customize workouts for two users, and track your goals (time, distance, calories burned) for up to 31 days. The maximum user weight is 300 pounds and the assembled measurements are 72"x22"x65".
Bottom line: This is an excellent option if you want an exercise experience that's much like what you'd get at a gym but at a price that beats annual gym membership costs.
Nautilus E514 Review
Several Nautilus E514 reviews compare this elliptical trainer favorably to machines they've used at the gym. Reviews on sites like Abe's of Maine comment on the smooth, quiet, and sturdy operation, although a few users near to top of the weight limit report a bit of swaying. The budget price, feature set, and intuitive control panel draw approving comments, as well. About the only features lacking, says one elliptical review on Sports Authority, are speakers (BTW, there's no MP3 port) and an adjustable incline, although this particular user says he's never fussed with an incline anyway. While we did read quite a few reviews on Amazon commending this machine, several gripe about problematic electronics: a motor that quits, for example, or a console monitor that gives out. Customer service is apparently polite about such matters, but users lament that the problems don't get fixed.
The Nautilus E514 (starting at $537, Amazon) is a front-drive elliptical with 16 levels of resistance and 17 total workout programs, including 11 profile workouts, four heart rate programs, and the opportunity to create two custom programs for two users. The 18-inch stride is typical for budget models, as are the 300-pound weight limit and heart-rate sensor on the handlebars. There's also a fan, water bottle holder, and backlit LCD display. Two unusual features for a budget model are the wireless chest strap to monitor heart rate (a plus, says one user, who reports that it's accurate and lets you keep your arms moving to give you that total-body workout) and articulating foot pedals that rise up in the back. The Nautilus E514 weighs 165 pounds and measures 62"x26"x71".
In exchange for a modest price tag, you give up a few comfort features and some adjustability with the E514. But if a wide array of programmed workouts and heart-rate monitoring are important to you, you won't miss what's not there. All in all, a good cheap elliptical trainer.
ProForm 590E Review
For exercisers who like lots of features on their in-home gym equipment, the ProForm 590E (starting at $582) delivers. ProForm 590E reviews on Abe's of Maine, for example, give a thumbs-up to the adjustable incline and the number of preset workout programs, which one user says is plenty sufficient for variety without paralyzing you with too many choices. The iFit Live compatibility is well-liked by users, including one home-workout neophyte who writes in a review on My Sears that the extra workouts you can access provide the challenge and motivation to stick with a regimen. Other users point out in ProForm reviews on Overstock that the backlit display is easy to read, you can watch a Netflix movie on your plugged-in iPhone while exercising and keep cool with the built-in adjustable fan. In terms of performance, consumers generally praise the smooth and quiet ride -- no problems hearing a radio or television -- and say several weeks of use produces noticeable results. This model finds favor with the budget-conscious, as well, who insist you get your money's worth.
And yet, we read a few ProForm 590E reviews reporting that the machine seems a bit wobbly, the stride a bit short, and the footpath not quite elliptical. Also, the display does not give a readout for distance. Elliptical Trainers concludes this is a machine best suited for moderate exercise by users who weigh quite a bit less than the specified 300-pound weight capacity.
Like most elliptical trainers in this price range, the ProForm 590E sports an 18-inch stride, heart-rate monitor, 16 resistance levels, and extra-large foot pedals. It also boasts a few less-common features, such as a manually-adjustable incline ramp (four positions between 5 and 20 degrees), a total of 20 preset workouts (14 performance and six weight-loss), and, as noted above, a personal fan and iFit Live compatibility. The 590E measures 62"x27"x65", and the pedals and base fold to save space.
Users consider this a solid piece of equipment that works smoothly and quietly and is best suited for people who of average size who expect to pursue a program of moderate exercise.
Weslo Momentum 630 Review
For exercise newbies who don't want to make a big investment in a piece of home gym equipment, the Weslo Momentum 630 (starting at $229, Amazon) holds some appeal. As numerous Weslo Momentum 630 reviews point out, the price is about as low as could be, the machine is lightweight and easy to use, and the footprint is small compared to other low-cost ellipticals. It suffices for cardio workouts and weight control, say reviews on Walmart, and the resistance forces you to make an effort.
Positive assessments, no doubt, but a large share of Weslo Momentum 630 reviews gripe about several feature- and performance-related shortcomings. The noise, for one; users report rattling sounds from inside the machine, others say the overall racket interferes with TV-watching (wear ear plugs, suggests an owner), and still others say greasing the works has little to no effect. Rocking and wobbling cause consternation, according to elliptical reviews on Best Buy, as do the model's dimensions; one user says the short distance between the handlebars and where you stand is problematic for taller people. Users also grouse that the readout for distance displays rotations rather than miles, and some find the pedals spaced too far apart for a comfortable stride. Fitness Equipment Source faults the Momentum 630 for build quality and concludes it's more toy than serious elliptical trainer.
Indeed, it helps to be below-average height or way out of shape to get much use from this rear-drive model. The 12-inch stride length is far less than what workout experts recommend for most adults, and the100-pound mass reportedly struggles under the bulk of some users whose weight is clearly within the specified 250-pound limit. There are only two preset workout programs and 10 resistance levels; other budget models we researched feature more of both. One unusual frill is the "target pacer," which prompts you to adjust your speed up or down to better meet your target goals. The Weslo Momentum 630 measures just 44"x21"x55".
There are certainly users who like the Weslo Momentum 630. For a price that's several hundred dollars less than the best cheap elliptical trainers on our list, you get a bare-bones machine that could be a ticket into the workout scene -- or leave you wondering, why bother? If you find yourself becoming addicted to the whole exercise thing, you might wish you had opted for a bigger and better model from the get-go.
Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 Review
Walmart has close to a lock on sales of the Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 (starting at $277), and reviews there are above average. The price is right, say Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 reviews, and the machine is sturdy and quiet -- at least at first. Users like the fluid movement and smooth transitions from one resistance level to the next, so you get a workout that impacts different muscle groups. And yet, quite a few reviews report odd little noises (a rubbing sound in the flywheel, for example, or something like a stiff piece of paper hitting the spokes), electronic malfunctions (try using pennies to hold the batteries in place, suggests one user), and component failures (e.g., a frame that cracks, screws that don't stay tight) that soon mar the experience. A few users also say the lightweight machine wobbles and caution that serious exercisers will be disappointed. The largest share of complaints, though, is reserved for the assembly process. Reviews grumble about missing parts, pieces that don't fit together properly, and poor instructions -- some units come packed with instructions in Spanish or French; in all, users assert that assembly is quite a chore. Customer service also is dinged in a few reviews for inadequately responding to calls for help or requests for new parts.
The StrideTrainer 380 features a short 14-inch stride length, which is a no-go for anyone taller than average and/or who is relatively fit; several users claim that the footpath stresses their knees. The weight capacity for users is 250 pounds, but an expert Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 review on Treadmill Sensei suggests you steer clear if you're anywhere near that limit. This model features six preset workout program, adjustable resistance (number of levels is unspecified), a console with a small display for the usual readouts, and a water-bottle holder. The StrideTrainer 380 is one of few elliptical trainers that runs on batteries (four D cells required) and in reviews on Workout Warehouseusers grouse that the alarming frequency of replacing them drives up the overall cost.
The Gold's Gym StrideTrainer 380 is cheap enough, and many people seem to get what they need from it. But reviews also suggest that this model is designed for casual users who are aren't very tall, have a tolerance for loud noises, and are undeterred by a challenging assembly process.