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How to Buy A Treadmill: The Ultimate Treadmill Buyer’s Guide

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Treadmills are among the most popular pieces of home exercise equipment, which makes sense given the popularity of running and walking for exercise and the convenience and versatility of a treadmill as a cardio machine. 

However, there are so many treadmills on the market these days that it can be really difficult to decide which treadmill is the best one to buy based on your needs. Knowing how to buy a treadmill takes some research.

Given that most of the best treadmills for runners cost upwards of $1000 or more, buying a treadmill for your home is a sizable investment, which puts that much more pressure on the buying process.

In this guide, we will provide tips on how to buy a treadmill for your home, including what factors to consider and what specifications runners should look for when buying a treadmill to use at home

We will look at: 

  • Why Should You Buy a Treadmill?
  • How To Buy a Treadmill for Your Home
  • How To Buy A Treadmill That Meets Your Needs
  • How Much Does a Treadmill Cost?
  • Factors To Consider When Buying A Treadmill

Let’s jump in!

How to buy a treadmill featured image.

Should You Buy a Treadmill?

The majority of runners usually prefer running outside, but that’s not to say that buying a treadmill for your home isn’t a valuable investment.

Running on a treadmill can be a great option if you are an early morning runner or run at night after work when it is dark outside.

Treadmills can be a safer option if you have to run alone or don’t feel comfortable in your neighborhood. They can also be a safer way to train during inclement weather, such as when it is dangerously hot and humid or frigid and windy, or when the roads might be slippery, snowy, or have poor footing.

Having a treadmill can also be a valuable training tool for speed workouts, tempo runs, or race pace workouts because you can simply set the belt speed to your target pace and keep up with the treadmill rather than having to set and maintain the pace yourself.

Another benefit of running on the treadmill is that you can use the incline setting to practice running uphill, which can strengthen your body, burn more calories, and prepare you for hilly races. This can be a particularly valuable benefit for runners who live in flat areas with few organic hills to train on.

Woman syncing her phone to her treadmill.

Finally, buying a treadmill for your home can bring the convenience and privacy to your running workouts that you won’t get with a commercial treadmill at a gym. 

If you have young children, a hectic schedule with limited time to work out, or otherwise prefer to get your workouts in at home, a treadmill for your home can be a really great option to ensure you can fit in your workouts comfortably, efficiently, and reliably.

Related article: ProForm City L6 Review: A Compact And Portable Treadmill

How to Buy a Treadmill for Your Home

Before you buy a treadmill for your home gym, it’s important to consider a couple of questions that can narrow down your search:

  • How often do you plan to use the treadmill?
  • Do you mostly plan to run on the treadmill or will it be used for walking?
  • How much room do you have available for the treadmill and where do you plan on putting it?
  • Are there any specific features that are particularly important to you, such as incline, app integration or technological features, foldability, or a fast max speed?
  • What is your budget?
Man running on a treadmill in a gym.

Although there are plenty of additional factors to consider when buying a treadmill, which will be discussed later, these are some of the basic but essential questions to consider in the preliminary stages of buying a treadmill.

The answers to these questions can help guide your search and narrow down the options right away to make the search more manageable.

Finding a Treadmill that Meets Your Needs: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Let’s briefly discuss each of the questions to expand upon why you should consider your needs before looking at all of the options. 

#1: How often do you plan to use the treadmill?

When you are buying a treadmill for home use, durability is one of the chief factors that separates a poor quality treadmill from a robust machine that will last a long time.

One of the primary differences between a commercial-grade treadmill that you would find at a gym and a budget-conscious home treadmill is in the quality of construction and overall durability.

Girl walking on a treadmill in her living room.

However, this is not to say that you can’t buy extremely high-quality home treadmill‘s that rival those found at a gym. It will just take a little bit more of a refined search and a higher price point, in most cases.

The more often you plan to use your treadmill, or the more users in your home, the more rugged and durable the treadmill should be.

If you are only planning to occasionally run on it when the weather is particularly bad or you have a packed schedule with just a small window of time to train, you might not need the most robust treadmill nor the longest warranty.

#2: Do you plan on running, walking or jogging?

This question piggybacks well on the previous question, as it also points to the durability of the treadmill you plan to buy.

If you’re planning to use your treadmill for walking, it’s best to buy a walking-specific treadmill – you’ll save a lot of money and find a product that better meets your needs.

Man getting ready to go on a treadmill.

Dedicated runners who plan to be logging running mileage on the treadmill will certainly need a treadmill that is designed to withstand running and support the higher speeds of runners versus walkers.

Furthermore, if you are a competitive runner, you’ll need a treadmill that can reach fast maximal speeds, probably at least 10 to 12 mph or faster.

#3: How much space do you have?

The available space you have for the treadmill is an important consideration because even treadmills that are marketed as space-saving designs take up a significant amount of room.

It’s important to not only measure the available footprint area where the treadmill will be placed, but also to ensure you have extra floor space around the treadmill to move around the machine and have adequate ceiling height to accommodate running.

The ceiling needs to be high enough so that you don’t hit your head as you run, remembering that you will need to factor in the step up height of the treadmill. In other words, the running deck of the treadmill is elevated off the ground. 

Man running on a manual treadmill.

You need to look at the specifications of the treadmill before you buy it to ensure that your height plus the height of the running deck is still at least 6 to 8 inches shorter than the floor-to-ceiling height in the room you plan to place the treadmill; so that you will not hit your head as you bounce up and down while you run.

Finally, another factor to consider when it comes to space for the treadmill is whether it is important to you that the treadmill can be folded up or folded flat when not in use.

Many home treadmills are advertised as being transportable, meaning that they have wheels on the bottom of them and they may fold up when not in use, but they still take up a significant amount of room and are not particularly easy to move around.

When most treadmills fold up, it’s not like they fold up completely vertically: they remain in a prominent “V”!shape—so they still take up a fair amount of room.

Some walking treadmills do foldl down completely flat and can be stored under a bed or couch. Either way, you should look at the dimensions of the treadmill one fold it up if you are looking for a machine that takes up little room when not in use.

Woman running on a treadmill.

#4: Which specific features are you looking for?

Another important question to ask yourself is which specific features are particularly important to you, such as incline, app integration or technological features, foldability, or a fast max speed?

Every runner is unique, and what might appeal to you in terms of treadmill features may differ from any other runner.

It’s important to think about what will be motivating to you when it comes to actually using the treadmill.

For example, are you excited about the idea of an integrated tablet where you can stream running workouts to follow along with?

Do you want a treadmill with Bluetooth capabilities so that your workout stats are seamlessly integrated and uploaded to running apps such as Strava or Apple health? 

Or, do you prefer a simpler treadmill from a technological standpoint and do not want to have to carry a monthly subscription fee for streaming workout content?

Woman standing on a treadmill and smiling at the camera.

Are pre-programmed workouts important to you, or do you like to use the manual controls and adjust the treadmill speed and incline yourself as you so choose?

Think about what you are looking for when it comes to the console or interface of the treadmill and the options for how to program workouts.

Other important treadmill features to consider include things like transportation wheels, heart rate monitoring, integrated fans for temperature control, and auto incline and decline capabilities.

Most higher-end treadmills these days have automatic incline, but the maximum gradient varies anywhere from 6-15%. You’ll want to consider your needs in this area. 

In that vein, it is still relatively uncommon for home treadmills to have decline capabilities, which enables you to replicate running downhill, but there are a number of higher-end home treadmills that do offer this feature.

If you are planning to do a lot of your training on a treadmill, particularly if you are training for races that have notable downhill portions, such as the Boston Marathon, this may be an important feature and a valuable investment when it comes to buying your treadmill.

Woman's feet on a treadmill.

#5: What is your budget?

Lastly, it should come as no surprise that your budget will greatly impact the best treadmill to buy for your needs. But, how much should you spend on a treadmill? How much does a treadmill cost?

How Much Does a Treadmill Cost?

Let’s look at the important question, “How much is a treadmill?” What should your budget for a treadmill be?

If you are just looking for a treadmill for walking, or want an under-the-desk walking treadmill, you might be able to get away with spending a little more than a couple hundred dollars and still getting a good machine.

On the other hand, if you are a serious runner and are looking for a home treadmill for running, you should expect to spend at least $500.

Most good home treadmills for runners are in the $1000-$1500 range, depending on the specific features you are looking for, and you may end up spending up to $2000-2500 if you want all the best features.

Woman on a treadmill smiling at the camera.

However, you can certainly get a decent treadmill for running in the $600-$1000 range, especially if you hunt around for sales or coupons and don’t need a machine capable of the highest speeds, steepest inclines, or equipped with the latest apps and technology.

When it comes to buying a treadmill for home use, the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” is generally fairly accurate, at least when it comes to buying a new treadmill that’s not on sale. 

However, there are often some pretty great deals on treadmills, so if you are willing to do a little bargain-hunting and have the patience to wait around for the best price, you can often end up getting a fantastic value that still falls within your budget.

In most cases, it doesn’t pay to buy a secondhand treadmill unless you know the previous owners and have confidence that the machine is in good condition. 

Warranties on exercise equipment are rarely transferable, meaning that if you buy a used treadmill, you’ll be out of luck if something malfunctions or breaks. 

Woman running on her home treadmill.

Moreover, unless you have a large truck and a couple of strong adults to help you move the machine, transporting a used treadmill from the place of purchase to your house can be really difficult.

Most new treadmills include free shipping or free delivery upon purchase, which is often the only feasible way to get the treadmill safely to your home.

Usually, it is worth it when you factor in the convenience and assurance afforded by the manufacturer’s warranty to spend a little more upfront and get a new treadmill rather than assume the risks and hassles of a secondhand one.

9 Factors to Consider When Buying a Treadmill

Now that we’ve discussed some of the basic questions to evaluate how to buy a treadmill, let’s look at some specifications that differentiate treadmills and what you should be looking for when you consider how to buy a treadmill that best suits your needs.

Woman listening to music and walking on a treadmill in her living room.

#1: Motor

The strength of the treadmill’s motor influences its power, performance, and longevity.

If you’re going to be running on the treadmill, you’ll want a minimum of a 2.5 CHP motor, though 3.0-3.0 CHP or more is ideal. Marathon runners and heavier users will want to look for a 4.0 CHP motor.

If the treadmill is going to be used mostly for walking and/or by a petite user, 2.25 CHP should be sufficient.

Treadmills with a more powerful motor typically last longer and make the machine capable of reaching higher maximum speeds and inclines.

#2: Speed

If you’re a fast runner, you may be hard pressed to find a good running treadmill under $1,000 because most treadmills within this budget max out at 10 mph (6 minute mile) or even less. However, there are a few treadmills under $1,000 that go up to 12 mph (5 minute mile).

The best home treadmills may go up to 15 mph, but this is typically unnecessary for recreational runners.

Men running on treadmills.

#3: Incline

The least expensive treadmills don’t have any incline capabilities or may have manual incline adjustment for a few different levels.

There are some treadmills under $1,000 with automatic incline, potentially from 0-10% grade or even 0-15% grade. If you want to simulate running or walking uphill, you’ll want your treadmill to have an automatic incline.

As previously discussed, automatic decline is great for serious runners looking to have the option to simulate downhill running. Some treadmills have a -3% decline range.

#4: Weight Limit

Unfortunately, most inexpensive home treadmills are less durable and robust than high-end models. They use inferior components, less powerful motors, and may have flimsier construction. 

As such, the weight limit for many treadmills under $1,000 is 250-300 pounds, if not even significantly less. 

If you are a heavier person or anticipate high use for your treadmill, be sure to look at the maximum user weight before you buy, and be prepared to spend a bit more.

Older man running on a treadmill in his living room.

#5: Belt Size

The belt size of a treadmill dictates the available surface area for running. Budget treadmills often sacrifice the generous belt size of more expensive treadmills to save money. 

This may work for petite runners, but can be problematic for tall runners with long strides or people with a wider build.

Commercial treadmills found in gyms usually have a belt that’s at least 20 inches wide and 60 inches long, if not 22 inches wide. 

For walking, a belt that is 18-20 inches wide and 50 inches long is usually sufficient. If you plan to run on the treadmill, you’ll want the belt to be at least 55 inches inches long and 20-22 inches wide. If you are tall or have a long stride, you’ll need at least 60 inches long and 22 inches wide.

Smaller belts equate to a smaller deck size and footprint of the machine, which is a perk for home use.

Woman's feet on treadmill.

#6: Dimensions

As mentioned, you’ll want to look at the size of the treadmill in terms of the length, width, and height when assembled and folded, if applicable. 

Make sure you have at least six inches or so of additional floor space on either side of the treadmill and at least 18-24 inches behind the treadmill between the end of the belt and a wall or other object to accommodate your running stride.

#7: Programs

Nearly all electric home treadmills have some pre-programed, guided workouts. These can be great for beginner runners and those who want to just zone out yet have varied and targeted running routines.

Fancier home treadmills often have subscription-based streaming content for live or on-demand workouts and app integration. Such programs can be really engaging and motivating, making your treadmill runs more fun.

Peoples feet on treadmill.

#8: Warranty

A treadmill is an investment, so you’ll want to ensure it is backed by a good warranty. Plus, the warranty can provide insight into the manufacturer’s idea of the durability of the treadmill. 

The treadmill warranty should include four parts: frame, motor, parts, and labor. The frame and motor should have a lifetime warranty, and if not, you might be looking at an inferior product. 

#9: Additional Features

Here’s where the bells and whistles like Bluetooth speakers, heart rate monitoring, fans, integrated tablets, and other such features come into play. 

Usually, the more features the machine has, the higher the price tag, so consider what you’ll actually use and what you can do without if you’re on a budget.

In general, it’s smarter to spend more for a better motor and a well-cushioned, roomier running deck than fancy consoles with large displays, but it all depends on your priorities and needs.

Men running on treadmills.

Recommended Treadmill Brands:

Knowing how to buy a treadmill requires knowing some quality brands. Here are some of our recommendations:

The best User Powered Treadmill? Check Out our review below!

Now you know how to buy a treadmill, time to read some reviews of the best out there!

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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