Horizon Fitness T101 Review

From $599 Best

This basic treadmill promises excellent value for the money, with a sturdy build, a two-ply belt, and a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor. Features such as a hydraulic lift for easy folding are uncommon in this price range.

An expert Horizon T101 review by Treadmill Doctor calls this the strongest entry-level Horizon ever, thanks to its large, cushioned belt and overall value. Considering its low cost, it is much sturdier than expected, according to many users posting reviews at Amazon expected it to be. It is quite a hefty piece of machinery, with a 300-pound weight capacity. Also unusual for this price point is a two-ply belt, which promises many years of exercise. The 2.25 continuous horsepower rating is adequate for anybody who uses this treadmill for walking or jogging, with the occasional sprint.

The Horizon T101 can go from 0 to 10 miles per hour and incline from 0 percent to 10 percent. There are nine preset programs, with three targets (time, distance, and calories burned) and workouts that will change the speed and the incline automatically, along with a four-minute cool-down. While there is a heart rate monitor in the handgrips, treadmill reviews warn that readouts are iffy at best. The console displays basic information -- time elapsed, distance covered, calories burned. A fan helps cool you off when you've worked up a sweat, although it's at a fixed height and can't be adjusted to blow where you need it. The built-in MP3 dock has speakers so you don't need to be wired into your tunes; there's also a headphone jack if you prefer. Water bottle holders on either side of the console can hold refreshment or other items, although purchasers posting reviews at Sears warn that the holders are shallow enough that vigorous movement can shake a water bottle out.

Assembly of the Horizon T101 seems easy for most people, however reviewers say that setup really requires two people. They also advise assembling the treadmill where you're going to be using it, because it is quite heavy. It folds to about a 45-degree angle, so do not plan to store it under a bed. A lifetime warranty on the frame and motor and one year on parts and labor speak to the treadmill's durability.

While this is not a gym-quality treadmill, it is an excellent choice for bringing the gym into your home. Experts at Treadmill Talk say buyers who plan to primarily walk or jog will find the Horizon T101 a great value for a low price.

ProForm Performance 400 Review

From $599 Best

This high-tech treadmill is compatible with iFit Live and Nike + iPod to keep users motivated. It’s a leading performer in the budget category, with a strong enough motor to support jogging.

Experts at Treadmill Review call the ProForm Performance 400 the best treadmill under $600, based on its wide array of features and sturdy construction that's adequate for most exercisers. Users seem to agree, commenting in ProForm Performance 400 reviews at Sports Authority that this model is quiet and easy to use, and offers a smooth workout. Its 300-pound weight capacity and 2.25 continuous horsepower motor ensure a solid base for walking and jogging.

The ProForm Performance 400 goes up to 10 mph and automatically inclines from 0 percent to 10 percent. The features impress users posting ProForm Performance 400 reviews. The treadmill offers 15 built-in workouts (five each for time, distance, and calories burned). If you find that you are working too hard, or not hard enough, an intensity control feature brings the intensity up or down easily. In addition, the treadmill is iFit Live compatible: If you purchase an account on the iFit Live website and a separate wireless adapter, you can train with Jillian Michaels or use Google Maps to simulate the terrain anywhere in the world.

In ProForm Performance 400 reviews on the manufacturer's website, users say the console is big enough to hold a laptop, so you can browse the web or watch movies while you train. The display toggles among calories/incline, time/pulse, and distance/speed, rather than showing them all at once. You can plug your iPod into the console and listen through the speakers, so you don't get tangled up in headphone wires. The treadmill is also compatible with Nike + iPod (another additional cost), which lets you sync your workouts to the Nike Plus site, tracking your performance over time so you can monitor your improvement (or lack thereof).

Most users posting ProForm Performance 400 reviews report that assembly is simple; it seems to take a bit over half an hour on average. The treadmill folds up vertically to free up space when you need it. The manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty on the frame, a 25-year warranty on the motor, and one year on parts and labor.

While the ProForm Performance 400 might not be up to the demands of athletes who run at high speeds for long periods of time, it's perfectly adequate for exercisers who want a moderate daily workout and represents a good value for the money.

Where to buy

Merit Fitness 725T Plus Review

From $400 Good

This basic treadmill is fine for walkers or the occasional jogger and sturdy enough to support those near the 250-pound weight limit. Seven preset workouts and auto incline help make working out easier and more interesting.

The Merit Fitness 725T Plus is light on features, but it's a solid machine for frugal walkers and light joggers. Its small workout area (18 x 45 inches) is too short for a lot of running, and the motor's 1.5 continuous horsepower rating is another indication that this is primarily a walking treadmill. However, several users posting Merit 725T reviews at Amazon have found that it works perfectly well for running. It can hold users up to 250 pounds without putting too much strain on the belt or motor.

It's difficult to find a treadmill at the $400 price point with automatic incline and numerous workout programs, but the Merit Fitness 725T Plus delivers. It offers speeds up to 10 mph and inclines up to a 10 percent grade. There are seven different workout programs, including weight loss, mountain and hill walks, cardio and endurance challenge, intervals, and manual. In a Merit 725T review at Bestcovery, which names this the best budget treadmill, an expert admires the dual LED screens that keep track of your progress. You can toggle among time, incline, and pulse on one screen and distance, speed, and calories burned on the other. However, as with most budget treadmills, the accuracy of some of these numbers is questionable. A conversation thread on Amazon points out that the formulas many treadmills use to calculate these readings assume the user is a 150-pound man; anyone else who is particularly concerned about such stats would be better off buying a separate monitor. This treadmill also comes with a water bottle holder, although a user who posted a Merit 725T review on Hayneedle notes that it can't accommodate anything larger than a standard 16.9-ounce bottle.

Most users report no problems assembling the machine; Merit 725T reviews say it takes under an hour. The treadmill folds up, although not completely vertically -- one user estimates that it folds to about a 60 degree angle. There is a lifetime warranty on the frame, two years on the motor, and 90 days on parts and labor.

For those interested in walking and the occasional jog, the Merit Fitness 725T Plus offers a lot for a low price.

Gold's Gym GG480 Review

From $377 Good

This entry-level treadmill is good for walking and rehab. It includes a set of hand weights to add an upper-body workout. Users cite its sturdiness and 300-pound capacity but complain that the console is hard to see in dim light.

Most of the hundreds of users posting Gold's Gym GG480 reviews at Walmart seem satisfied with this treadmill, especially given the low price they paid for it. A review from the experts at FitRated calls this an excellent choice for buyers on a tight budget. However, they warn that you won't get a lot of power, deck space, or bells and whistles. With a 1.5 continuous horsepower motor, this treadmill can handle walking and maybe the occasional light jog. The 18 x 50-inch deck will restrain the strides of taller users, whose arms are liable to hit the handrails. Still, with a maximum capacity of 300 pounds, this machine can accommodate almost anyone.

The Gold's Gym GG480 comes with just four weight-loss workouts and four workouts designed by a personal trainer. It comes with a set of one-pound hand weights, and an indicator light goes on when a workout calls for them. The console displays time, distance, speed, and pulse, from the heart-rate monitor in the handgrips. A race-track display shows how far you've gone in laps -- that is, if you can see the display. Several users posting Gold's Gym GG480 reviews at Walmart mention that a lack of backlighting makes the console difficult to read. This treadmill offers speeds up to 10 mph and inclines up to 10 percent.

The Gold's Gym GG480 weighs in at a relatively light 155 pounds, so it is not that hard to transport, but several users posting Gold's Gym GG480 reviews at Walmart complain that the machine is complicated to put together and the included parts do not always fit properly.

The Gold's Gym GG480 comes with a manufacturer's warranty of five years on the motor and 90 days for parts and labor. Walkers should find it a solid choice for the money.

Where to buy

Weslo Cadence G-40 Review

From $350 Think Twice

This ultra-low-cost option satisfies casual exercisers who don't want to commit to a more expensive machine. Its narrow belt and relatively weak motor make it unsuitable for running, and it comes with only a 90-day warranty.

Users posting Weslo Cadence G-40 reviews at Walmart who didn't expect much out of this treadmill seem happy with what they got. In a review at Treadmill-ratings-reviews.com, an expert warns that the motor's continuous horsepower rating of 1.25 is not powerful enough for runners, joggers, or users over 150 pounds. The belt is narrow, at 16 x 50 inches, so tall people will have trouble with their arms hitting the handrails.

As an entry-level machine, the Weslo Cadence G-40 is short on features. It offers three incline positions, but users must interrupt their workouts to adjust it manually. Four personal trainer workouts automatically adjust the speed, if not the incline, and the console displays time, speed, distance, calories burned, and heart rate. Some users gripe that the calorie counter and the heart-rate monitor build into the handgrips are not accurate, but that's true on many budget treadmills. While the speed goes up to 10 mph, some users posting Weslo Cadence G-40 reviews at Walmart complain that the machine can get a bit noisy and wobbly as it speeds up. That only reinforces that this super-cheap treadmill is strictly for walking.

The Weslo Cadence G-40 is relatively lightweight, at 124 pounds, making it easy to get into the house, and its small footprint doesn't take up much room. Most consumers posting Weslo Cadence G-40 reviews, including this one from Meijer, say the treadmill is easy to put together, although some users had problems aligning the holes and the screws, and others say it took them several frustrating hours. Many assert that assembly takes two people.

The warranty on the Weslo Cadence G-40 is a measly 90 days for the whole thing, one of the reasons we don't include it among our picks, despite its low price. As one Walmart customer says in a review, you get exactly what you pay for here.

Buying Guide

Doctors continually cite walking and jogging as important for cardiovascular fitness, so it's no surprise that treadmills are among the most popular pieces of fitness equipment. They are also among the most expensive, with price tags ranging upward of $2,000 for high-end brands such as Sole, Landice, and online-only retailer Smooth Fitness. At the same time, cheap treadmills afford budget-conscious consumers the convenience of exercising in their own homes for less than $600.

Cheap Treadmill Buying Guide

A serious runner might be disappointed in the performance of a cheap treadmill. If you fall into that category, commenters at Runner's World suggest hitting up Craigslist for used gym equipment. The experts at Treadmill Doctor say if you have a history of consistent exercise, you are likely to continue it at home, which could make a more expensive treadmill worth it. They also suggest looking outside the budget price range if more than one person will be using the equipment, if any user weighs more than 250 pounds, or if the treadmill will be used for more than an hour per day. On the other hand, if you are a novice runner, or intend to primarily walk or jog, a cheap treadmill could be all you need.

The intensity of exercise a treadmill can handle has to do with the power of its motor, as measured in continuous-duty horsepower, or CHP. Look for a motor with a CHP of 1.5 for walking and higher for interval training or jogging. The motor should run quietly; experts say noise indicates friction, which will wear down the components eventually. Also make sure a cheap treadmill's belt is long enough to accommodate your stride. Take note of the weight capacity, which needs to be high enough to accommodate anyone using the machine and can indicate how sturdy it is. Most cheap treadmills have a maximum weight of 250 pounds, although some weight limits are significantly higher. Even cheap treadmills come with a variety of attractive bonus features such as fans and iPod docks. Most discount treadmills have several preset workout programs, although an extensive variety of presets is one thing budget shoppers often have to sacrifice.

Some of the top cheap treadmills are produced by multinational manufacturers Icon Health and Fitness, which owns brands such as ProForm, Gold's Gym, Reebok, and Weslo, and Johnson Tech, the parent company of Horizon Fitness and Merit Fitness. The best budget treadmills we found are the Horizon Fitness T101 (starting at $599, Amazon) and the ProForm Performance 400 (starting at $599). The Horizon treadmill wins raves for its sturdy build, long deck, and easily changed speeds and inclines. Users like the added features as well, in particular the built-in fan that cools you off as you work out. The ProForm Performance 400 has a solid bed for walkers or light joggers and plenty of extra features.

The Merit Fitness 725T Plus (starting at $400, Amazon) is also sturdy enough for both walkers and joggers, with preset workouts to vary the routine. The Gold's Gym GG480 (starting at $377) is a solid choice for walkers. It comes with a set of hand weights for exercising the upper body as well. Buyers of the Weslo Cadence G-40 (starting at $350, Amazon) don't have high expectations at this price and recommend this cheap treadmill for those who are unsure of their commitment to exercise. Users warn that the belt tends to move and is fairly loud.

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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $599)
CHP 2.25
Belt Size 20 x 55 inches
No. of Programs 9
Console Display Time, distance, speed, incline, calories, heart rate
Weight Capacity 300 pounds
Warranty Lifetime on frame and motor, 1 year on parts and labor
(from $599)
CHP 2.25
Belt Size 20 x 55 inches
No. of Programs 15
Console Display Time, distance, speed, incline, calories, heart rate, race track. Also iFit Live compatible
Weight Capacity 300 pounds
Warranty Lifetime on frame, 25 years on motor, 1 year on parts and labor
(from $400)
CHP 1.25
Belt Size 18 x 45 inches
No. of Programs 7
Console Display Time, distance, speed, incline, calories, heart rate
Weight Capacity 250 pounds
Warranty Lifetime on frame, 2 years on motor, 90 days on parts and labor
(from $377)
CHP 1.5
Belt Size 18 x 50 inches
No. of Programs 8
Console Display Time, distance, speed, incline, calories, heart rate
Weight Capacity 300 pounds
Warranty 5 years on motor, 90 days on parts and labor

Walking Treadmills, Motorized Treadmills

There are two types of treadmills: manual and motorized. A manual treadmill is powered by your own two feet -- it's up to you to keep it going, and this can be a bit of a struggle, especially when it comes to maintaining a constant speed. It also takes a lot of effort to change the incline on a manual treadmill -- you have to get off the machine, adjust the incline, and then get on and get the thing moving again. On a motorized treadmill, you can select the speed and incline and change both at will. Manual treadmills are tempting to budget-conscious consumers looking for walking treadmills because of their low cost; the Stamina InMotion II starts at just $153. But if it's too hard to exercise, you likely won't do it often enough to make even such a cheap treadmill worth the money.

A motorized treadmill's continuous horsepower rating, or CHP, indicates the amount of power the motor will provide over the long haul. That's as opposed to peak performance horsepower (listed variously as HP, PHP, or THP), which indicates the maximum horsepower the machine can reach. The experts at Running Planet say a CHP of 1.5 is sufficient for a walking treadmill. Interval training, with its mix of inclines and speeds, puts more demands on the motor, so it requires a CHP of at least 2.0. The top-rated treadmills we found exceed those criteria. The Horizon Fitness T101 (starting at $599) and ProForm Performance 400 (starting at $599) boast a continuous rating of 2.25, and a jog should not strain the motors at all.

Running is possible on all the budget treadmills on our list, but the motors on some of them can't really accommodate serious runners. The Weslo Cadence (starting at $350), Merit Fitness 725T Plus (starting at $400), and the Gold's Gym GG480 (starting at $377) have peak performance horsepower of 2.25; however, the CHP latter two is 1.5 and the CHP of the Weslo treadmill is only 1.25, so these models really are walking treadmills. Using the peak performance power over long periods of time will burn the motor and cause friction on the belt.

Treadmill Warranty.

The high demand put on treadmills can wear them out quickly if they're not made well. Because treadmills in our price range are built with less costly materials that are unlikely to last many years, experts say long warranties on the motor and parts are must-have features on a discount treadmill. The Horizon Fitness T101, ProForm Performance 400, and Merit 725T all have lifetime warranties on the frame, and the Horizon also has a lifetime warranty on the motor, which is exceptional for this price range. The ProForm comes with a 25-year warranty on the motor, the Gold's Gym GG480 is guaranteed for five years, and the motor on the Merit 725T is covered for two years. As for parts, the Horizon Fitness T101 and ProForm Performance 400 have one-year warranties. The Merit and Gold's Gym models are covered for 90 days. The Weslo Cadence G-40 has only a 90-day warranty for the whole thing, one reason we don't include it among our picks.

Treadmill Incline and Speed.

One of the advantages of walking or running on a treadmill is the ability to stick to a set pace, a difficult feat on the ground. All of our picks have a top speed of 10 mph. Casual users are unlikely to want to go higher than that for anything other than a short sprint. The Horizon T101 also has a cool-down feature, which automatically slows the speed for four minutes.

Incline settings allow you to do interval training with a mix of hills and speeds. The Weslo Cadence G-40 has a manual incline, with three choices of grade. The other treadmills on our list have incline motors, with the ability to change the grade electronically from 0 percent to 10 percent. Preset workouts with interval training, available on all four of our picks, automatically change the incline during the course of the workout.

Treadmill Belt.

Discount treadmills generally have one-ply belts, although the Horizon T101 has a two-ply belt. The dimensions of the belt should match your size and fitness goals. The experts at Running Planet suggest that for walking or interval training, a 54-inch belt is the minimum length to shoot for -- longer if you are tall. If you plan to do a good deal of running on a treadmill, the experts recommend at least 58 inches. The width of the belt should be at least 18 inches to accommodate some side-to-side motion, particularly if you are going to run.

For the most part, the cheaper the treadmill, the smaller the belt. The Horizon T101 and the ProForm Performance 400 both have belts that are 20 inches wide and 55 inches long. The Gold's Gym GG480 and Merit Fitness 725T are 18 inches wide. They are 50 and 45 inches long, respectively, which makes them fine for walking, but unless you're fairly short, running on them could be a problem. The same is true for the Weslo Cadence G-40, which has a very narrow belt, at 16 x 50. Some users who posted reviews on the Walmart website stress that the Weslo treadmill is meant only for walking; if you try to run, you are likely to bang your hands or arms on the grips.

Folding Treadmills

The console on a low-cost treadmill should display, at a minimum, standard information about your workout, such as time elapsed, distance, speed, and calories burned. Many cheap treadmills also feature built-in heart-rate monitors in the handgrips, which are useful for staying within a target zone. However, the calorie and heart-rate readouts on budget machines are notoriously inaccurate, particularly because you can't key in your gender, age, and weight. More expensive machines come with wireless chest straps to monitor heart rate. If you're keen to measure how many calories you've burned on a budget treadmill, you can download the iTreadmill app to an iPhone or iPod Touch for $1.99.

Treadmill Workout Programs.

Preprogrammed workouts can add to the intensity of your exercise and keep you motivated by automatically changing the speed and incline. The ProForm Performance 400 is compatible with iFit Live, which offers an almost unlimited number of customized treadmill workouts at an additional cost. IFit Live wirelessly downloads workouts to the treadmill's console and saves your results to a profile on iFit.com. In addition to the iFit option, ProForm offers built-in workouts based on performance, distance, time, and weight loss. The Horizon T101 has nine interval training, weight loss, and manual programs that allow you to set targets for time, distance, or calories. The Merit 725T Plus comes with seven. The Gold's Gym GG480 offers four treadmill workouts designed by a personal trainer and four weight-loss workouts. The Weslo Cadence G-40 also serves up four workouts designed by a certified personal trainer.

Folding Treadmill Reviews/Treadmill Storage.

Keep in mind that treadmills are big, about the size of a small couch, and take up a lot of room in the house. This accounts for the popularity of folding treadmills that can be shoved under a bed or in a closet when they're not being used. If hauling out a folding treadmill is too much of a chore, however, the tendency will be to let it stay where it is. All of the treadmills on our list fold up to some extent, but not enough to put them under a bed or in a closet. The bigger and heavier the treadmill, the less truly foldable it is. ProForm’s Space Saver feature lets the Performance 400 fold into an upright position when you need to clear space. The Weslo Cadence G-40, with its small footprint, folds up easily, according to reviews on the Walmart website, and can be stored vertically. The Gold's Gym GG480 also folds up and can be stored upright. The Horizon T101 has a hydraulic lift system so you don't have to lift the deck. The Stamina InMotion II manual treadmill weighs only 56 pounds, has wheels, and doesn't need to be plugged in, making it the most portable treadmill we researched.

Extra Features.

While experts say the most essential components of a treadmill are the motor, belt, and warranty, many cheap treadmills come with a variety of bells and whistles that add appeal but are not necessary. Some inexpensive treadmills, including the Horizon T101, and ProForm Performance 400, come with a fan to cool you off as you're working out, although the fans are not adjustable, so the blast of air may not hit you where you need it most. The Gold's Gym GG480 comes with a set of one-pound hand weights to add an upper-body workout.

An increasing number of treadmills now play music directly or connect to an MP3 player. All our picks have a port or iPod dock with speakers, so the music can keep you moving without headphones or earbuds. Don't expect great quality from these speakers, though.

Treadmill Reviews

Buyers of inexpensive treadmills tend to do a lot of research before they make such a big purchase and have reasonable expectations about what they are going to get. Treadmill reviews indicate that consumers don't expect to get the same quality they would with a gym machine.

The key to buying a treadmill is determining how you will use it now and, based on your fitness goals, how you will use it in the future. If you purchase an inexpensive treadmill to walk on, only to find yourself primarily running on it, you can expect it to break down over time because of the increased friction on the belt and the impact on the deck. For the most part, consumers who put a treadmill to its intended use are satisfied with the models on our list, according to treadmill reviews.

Treadmill Motor Performance.

As noted in the features section of this buying guide, if the motor's CHP, or continuous horsepower rating, is under 2.0, you may be disappointed if you run on the treadmill and/or use it daily. A small motor will be noisy or feel unsteady if it is put to heavier use than intended. Still, an occasional run or a frequent light jog will not strain its capacity, and users posting treadmill reviews tend to give our picks high marks on the capacity of the motor, even when it's strained. According to reviews on Amazon, even users who are near the 300-pound weight limit find that the Horizon Fitness T101 holds up to lots of walking. Similarly, users posting treadmill reviews at the ProForm site note that the Performance 400 is quiet and stable even at a jog.

The Gold's Gym GG480 likewise wins praise in reviews on the Walmart site for its ability to provide a good workout for multiple exercisers, runners, and people close to the 300-pound maximum weight without being wobbly or noisy. However, some complain that it's a bit noisy at higher speeds. The same is true of the Merit Fitness 725T Plus; one user who posted a review at Wayfair finds it suitable for walking and interval running but says it may not be made for heavy running.

Purchasers of the Weslo Cadence G-40 are usually looking for a really inexpensive option because they aren't sure about their commitment to exercise, according to reviews, and they tend to be walkers and light joggers. Users posting reviews of this model at Walmart seem pretty satisfied with their choice, although a few find this model a bit jerky or noisy.

Treadmill Deck Performance.

The key elements of a treadmill's deck are the tread belt and the shock-absorbing cushioning. Users don't often mention cushioning in treadmill reviews -- it seems to be just part of what they expect from a treadmill as opposed to exercising outdoors. Consumers posting reviews at Sears do note that the cushioning on the Horizon T101 allows them to get a good, low-impact workout. ProForm is known for its cushioning, and a review at Treadmill Adviser reports that the Performance 400 compresses and responds evenly to each step you take. Consumers answering questions about the Gold's Gym GG480 at Walmart say the cushioning is just right -- not too spongy but enough to keep the machine from shaking at low speeds.

Users of the Merit Fitness 725T find the deck sturdy on the whole but not very well cushioned, according to reviews on Amazon, which could be an issue for people with joint problems.

Best Cheap Treadmills

The console displays on budget treadmills are sometimes lit from behind but are usually easy to read, according to reviews. The exception to the general satisfaction among consumers on this front is the console on the Gold's Gym GG480, which users posting reviews at Walmart find difficult to read, particularly in dim light. Budget treadmills provide correct information for basic indicators such as workout setting, elapsed time, incline, speed, and distance traveled. However, other displays may give misleading data because you can't program your gender, age, and weight into the system. Even the best cheap treadmills we found don't have that option built in, although you can set up a profile if you buy iFit Live for the ProForm Performance 400. (One user who reviewed the Weslo Cadence G-40 at Walmart figured out that the calorie counter is calibrated for people who weigh 185 pounds, so the formula for figuring out how many calories you've burned is your weight divided by 185, multiplied by the calorie readout on the machine -- more than most people likely want to calculate.) For all the treadmills that have heart-rate monitors in the handgrips, we saw many complaints that they don't give accurate readouts.

Treadmill Assembly.

Most treadmills weigh more than 200 pounds, so it's best to assemble a treadmill where you are going to use it. Several purchasers say it was worth paying extra to have a delivery service to bring a treadmill up the stairs, and many say it might be worthwhile to pay for assembly. However, putting together a cheap treadmill doesn't seem to have been a strain for most people. Bargain treadmills come with the tools you need to do the assembly, although reviews indicate that people who are more mechanically inclined tend to use their own tools.

In reviews of the Horizon T101 on Amazon, reported assembly times range from half an hour to several hours, mostly depending on the mechanical ability of the user. Some had problems assembling the console because the bolts didn't line up perfectly. The same issue comes up in reviews of the Merit 725T Plus, which takes about half an hour to assemble, according to users posting reviews on Amazon. Most people who mention assembly of the Gold's Gym GG480 in reviews at Walmart say it was not a complicated process; one person adds that a husband would have had a much easier time if he had read the instructions. Generally the Gold's Gym GG480 seems to have taken between one and four hours to put together, with most users falling on the low end of that range. As with other models, reviews indicate that having at least two people makes the job go faster and there are some problems with screws not lining up.

Treadmill Durability.

Reviews by long-term users of budget treadmills are few and far between. Most comments come from consumers who have recently bought a treadmill and are newly energized and enthused about their at-home exercise routines. As a general rule, treadmills with more powerful motors last longer, as long as they are used as intended. Most people posting reviews of the Horizon T101 on Amazon are pretty happy with the machine after using it for several months. However, one who ran at 7 mph three or four times a week found that the Horizon treadmill broke after a year and a half. A user posting a review of the Weslo Cadence G-40 at Walmart is still happy with the Weslo treadmill after more than two years of using it several times a week. However, a 165-pound user who ran 7 to 8 mph for 30 minutes daily found that the deck cracked after only a week. Consumers posting reviews of the Gold's Gym GG480 at Walmart report some issues with the belt drifting a bit over time, but nonetheless rate the treadmill highly. One reviewer says it is still working perfectly after a year of use by three people, although another who ran 20 miles a week on it says it broke after a year and a half. Expert reviewers at Treadmill Talk suggest that the Merit 725T Plus, like other bargain treadmills, might have a short lifespan if you are close to the 250-pound weight limit; a heavy individual walking slowly puts more stress on the machine than a light person running.

Additional Products We Considered

Stamina InMotion II Review

From $153

For anyone on a really tight budget or unsure of their commitment to exercise, a manual treadmill like the Stamina InMotion II might be the way to go -- as long as you understand what you're getting. A manual treadmill is powered by the user's feet, so it takes a bit of work to get the thing going. Some users posting Stamina InMotion II reviews point out that this can be seen as an advantage because it adds to a workout. Many users have trouble keeping a steady pace, according to reviews, but find the treadmill works pretty well once they get used to it.

The Stamina InMotion II is easy to move and use anywhere. As a manual treadmill, it doesn't need to be plugged in. It also folds up, has wheels, and weighs a relatively light 56 pounds. While the manufacturer asserts that its lack of a motor makes it dead quiet, many users posting Stamina InMotion II reviews at Walgreens and Amazon beg to differ.

The Stamina InMotion II operates at an eight- or 10-degree incline (although some users posting reviews at Walgreens put blocks under the back to make it flat). A few tall users comment that the handlebar is a bit too short. The belt measures 17 x 42 inches, wide for a manual treadmill but short compared with the standard treadmills on our list, another reason not to attempt a run on this machine. The belt also seems to have trouble staying centered, according to users posting treadmill reviews at Overstock.com, but that can be easily remedied with an Allen wrench. The Stamina InMotion II comes with a battery-powered monitor that displays distance, time, speed, and calories burned. It has a 250-pound weight limit, and several users posting reviews on Amazon suggest taking the limit seriously. Most people seemed to find the Stamina InMotion II easy to put together in under an hour. It comes with a limited one-year manufacturer's warranty.

This is obviously not an adequate piece of equipment for a serious exerciser -- you really can only walk on it. However, it's an extremely low-budget choice for consumers looking for an entry-level treadmill.