Treadmills have always been quite popular and we have written this Treadmill buyers guide to help you navigate the features and things to look out for.
They’re great for an excellent cardio workout and many people use them for either walking or running – sometimes both. If you’re ready to start shopping for a treadmill, then you’ll want to know exactly what to look for in order to make the best investment.
If you don't want to read the full guide, you can skip ahead and see out top 3 recommended treadmills.
Do You Want a Manual or Motorized Treadmill?
Although most shoppers are exclusively looking for motorized treadmills, it is a good idea to decide whether you want a manual or motorized treadmill.
You might be scratching your head right now, if you’re like most people, because it’s very rare to find a manual treadmill in most fitness clubs and gyms. However, you are likely to stumble upon some manual ones during your search.
What exactly is a manual treadmill?
Think of manual treadmills like the old-time lawn mowers. The blades moved as you pushed the mower. If you stopped pushing, then the blades stopped turning and cutting grass.
The same holds true with the manual treadmills. With a manual treadmill, you have to get it going with your own “horsepower.” This can take quite a bit of energy and might add unnecessary stress on your joints.
Also, you’ll have to stop your workout and adjust the incline (if that features available on the manual version).
- The bottom-line is that some people find manual treadmills to be a hassle.
- The main reason some people consider getting a manual treadmill is that they tend to be drastically cheaper – $200 or less.
Before deciding to go with a manual treadmill, ask yourself:
- Am I willing to do the extra work required to get it going and adjust it?
- Is the discount in price really worth it?
- Am I interested in running on the treadmill? (Most manual ones are only suitable for walking).
Motorized treadmills are the most popular.
- The tread belt is moved automatically by a motor and without any effort on your part.
- The treadmill’s speed and incline can be adjusted while you are actually running or walking.
- All you have to do is start the treadmill, usually with just a push of a button.
With the ability to set various speeds, you are able to push yourself and also easily track your speed and progress.
As most people opt for a motorized treadmill, which have numerous features and specs to consider, the rest of this guide will focus on their various features and benefits of motorized treadmills to help with making a better buying decision.
Before You Start Shopping for your Treadmill
Treadmills might seem like a simple piece of exercise equipment, but before you spend your hard-earned money, you’ll want to consider a few things first.
Treadmills can range from less than $350 to over $4,000. Before browsing and considering all the features you want in a treadmill, decide what your budget will be.
What price would work for your budget?
How much can you comfortably invest in a treadmill?
Knowing this will save you a lot of time and quickly narrow your search to treadmills that fall within your price range.
One or More Users?
Will you be the only person using the treadmill?
As with anything, the more it is used the faster it is likely to wear out. However, if you know that 2 or more members of your household will be using the treadmill, then you’ll be able to select something built for increased usage.
- How many people will use it?
- How often and for what duration will they use the treadmill?
- Will they use it for walking or running?
- How much do they weigh?
Like all equipment, treadmills have a weight limit. In order to get the most of your purchase you want to make certain nobody’s weight exceeds this number. Weight limits can go as high as 350 lbs or more. It all depends on the treadmill.
- How much do you weigh?
- What’s the weight of the heaviest treadmill user?
A good rule of thumb is to plan on increasing your investment if any user weighs over 200 lbs. This typically will provide you with a treadmill with a more durable and powerful motor, belt, and deck.
Space for the Treadmill
Do you already have a space or room picked out for your new treadmill?
Sometimes it’s easy to overlook this small, yet very important detail. Treadmills vary in size; however, they tend to require plenty of room.
- Grab a tape measure and determine the area available for your treadmill.
- Factor in a 1 to 2 foot buffer around the machine for ease of access.
A typical treadmill’s dimensions might be around 74 x 32 x 54 inches. You might want to make sure that whatever area you plan on using the treadmill in has that much space. Some treadmill’s dimensions will be greater and others a bit smaller; however, 74 x 32 x 54 inches should serve as a great reference point for you.
Fixed Location or Space
You want to take a few minutes and consider whether your desired space for the treadmill will work long-term. Despite fold up models and transport wheels, treadmills are still heavy and awkward. Moving them from one room or space to the next can be more than a workout in and of itself.
The noise of various treadmills is generally comparable to one another. Nevertheless, quieter is often better. This is especially true in apartment settings or for those who have other members of the households.
Beware of placing a treadmill upstairs. Running on your treadmill upstairs can create a constant thundering sound for those below. Even walking at a brisk pace can be unpleasant for others.
The Treadmill’s Motor
As with anything motorized, the motor is definitely important.
Power for your treadmill’s motor will be expressed in terms of “continuous horsepower.”
- For walkers, 1.5 to 1.75 continuous horsepower should be sufficient.
- For runners, 2.0 to 3.0 plus continuous horsepower is generally recommended.
As with cars, sometimes you really don’t get an idea as to the true power of the motor until after you’ve purchased it. That being said, top brand and rated treadmills will tend to provide the better quality motors that stand the test of time.
The warranty is another good indicator of a quality motor.
- A 10-year warranty is recommended for ANY treadmill especially those within the $1,000 price range (give or take a few hundred dollars).
- A 15-year warranty is recommended for treadmills in the $1,400 plus neighborhood.
The Treadmill Frame
The treadmill’s frame is its foundation.
The frame is very important despite not being considered by many shoppers. You will find frames of two different types:
Look at the treadmill’s specs to determine whether it has an aluminium or steel frame. Sometimes the specs won’t provide the type and you’ll have to do a bit more digging and research. Overall, you want a frame that has a solid warranty of between 5 to 10 years.
Does an aluminium frame last as long as a steel frame? Yes. The 2 major benefits of having a steel frame instead of an aluminium frame are:
- Quietness (less noise)
- Better feel and foot strike for runners
The deck of the treadmill is typically about 1-inch thick and is mounted over the frame.
Some are made of solid wood (the better quality), while some are simply pressboard. Finding out the details of this might be a bit challenging, as many treadmill deck specifications only provide the dimension. Decks generally last as long as treadmill belts. A good rule of thumb is to replace both at the same time.
Selecting a quality treadmill with great customer reviews will alleviate the burden of trying to determine the type of deck on a particular treadmill. More importantly a reasonable warranty will put your mind at ease.
A final note on decks is that you’ll probably appreciate a treadmill that has a 20-inch wide deck and is 55-inches long. The length can be a bit less if you’re only planning on walking on the treadmill. However, runners will want a longer deck, somewhere between 55 to 60 inches.
Treadmill Tread belts
The treadmill belt should typically last for about 2 to 3 years.
The longevity of the belt really depends on the frequency and duration of treadmill use. Runners should expect to wear out the belt a bit sooner than those who walk. Regardless, of walking or running, all treadmill belts require proper care and eventual replacement.
Here are a few treadmill belt considerations:
- Two ply treadmill belts are typically a sign of a better quality treadmill.
- Multi-ply or even 4-ply belts are recommended for heavy usage. For example, multiple family or household users.
- Beware of treadmills with belts that give off a thumping or thudding noise with each rotation.
- Beware of treadmills that make a buzzing sound as that can indicate a poor belt.
- Longer tread belts, such as 20” x 60”, are recommended for runners.
The Treadmill Console (Display Panel)
Virtually all treadmills come equipped with a console.
The display is typically LCD (liquid crystal display), however you might find some that are LED (light-emitting diode). The difference between LCD and LED is one of much debate, but probably not worth spending much, if any, time on.
The console or display panel is required to start the treadmill and allows you to make a variety of adjustments to your workout routine. Treadmill consoles might have as few as 5 preset programs and as many as 25 or more. Also, many have customizable programs and the ability to setup individual user profiles for multiple users.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure your treadmill has at least a one year electronics warranty.
The larger your investment in the treadmill, the better and longer you should expect the electronics’ warranty to be.
Folding or Non-folding Treadmill?
Due to space constraints, there are quite a few folding treadmills on the market.
Depending upon your living arrangements and space availability, a folding treadmill might be ideal for you.
Here are 6 important things to consider when looking at a folding treadmill:
- The general consensus is that most folding units are not as stable as non-folding units, particularly for running.
- The units of $1,000 or more tend to have better stability for walking AND running.
· Ease of folding
- Some units fold up with hydraulics, so you don’t have to do any lifting.
- Others require you to do manually fold it up.
- Decide whether the unit you’re considering has hydraulics or not.
· Equipment Weight
- Consider the weight of the treadmill if you plan on folding the unit up and then rolling it to another location or moving it even a few feet after your workouts.
- They typical treadmill weighs anywhere from 200 to over 300 pounds. This might be a problem for those who are not in peak shape or don’t have a little extra muscle.
· User Weight Limitations
- Like non-folding units, be sure to check the user weight limits.
- Some folding units might not be able to absorb as much weight as non-folding treadmills. As long as you stay within the manufacturer’s weight limit, you’ll likely preserve your equipment and body.
As a general rule of thumb, here are recommended prices for folding treadmills based upon the intended purpose of walking or running:
- $1,000 for walking
- $1,500 + for running
When considering a folding treadmill, stick to similar warranty recommendations for stationary (non-folding) treadmills.
- 5 to 10 year frame
- 10 to 15 year motor
- 1 to 2 years electronics
- 1 to 2 years labor and service
5 Important Treadmill Considerations
- Cushioning: Treadmills of a better quality will have a cushioning system. People with a bad back, sensitive knees, or ankle problems will find a great cushioning system very beneficial.
- Speed: Treadmill speed is typically more important for runners or aspiring runners. The average walker uses speeds in the neighborhood of 5 miles per hour, whereas runners will need a treadmill in the range of 6 to 10 miles per hour.
- Incline: More and more treadmills come with incline ability. If you’re interested in a treadmill with the ability to incline, then determine whether the incline is adjusted manually or electronically. The electronic (power) incline is an excellent and favorite feature for walkers and runners who enjoy the convenience of added resistance.
- Stability: Make sure your treadmill is sturdy and stable. Avoid ones that have shaky handrails or a shaky feel when walking or running on them. Also, consider whether the dimensions (belt length and width) are sufficient to comfortably accommodate your stride.
- Maintenance: Check to see if your desired treadmill requires more than basic cleaning and the occasional lubrication of belts.
6 Treadmill Features and Extras
- Heart Rate Monitor: Most treadmills are equipped with handgrip heart rate monitors to let users know if they are working at their target heart rate. More expensive treadmills have heart rate straps. Both tend to do the job; however, you’ll find advocates for both. If you’re serious about fitness, then having either the hand grip or strap heart rate monitors might be a wise addition (if they are not already included with your treadmill).
- Programs: Most decent treadmills come with some basic workout features. The better quality treadmill, the more pre-set features and ability to customize your own workout. Many people find programs excellent for adding spice and keeping their workout from becoming boring.
- LCD TV & DVD Player: Having a TV or DVD console on your treadmill is not necessary; however, it is a nice feature if you really enjoy watching the news, shows, or your favorite movie.
- Reading Rack: Some people consider a reading rack a must for their treadmill. This enables them to read their favorite book while working out.
- Bottle Holder: A treadmill with a water bottle holder is considered essential by most fitness folks. Unless you want to stop your workout or work out with a bottle in your hand, then a bottle holder makes staying hydrated easy.
- Treadmill Mat: Protecting nice floors, carpets, and rugs is important when using a treadmill. Treadmill mats are just the thing for this type of protection and some also act as a noise (vibration) dampener.
The longer the manufacturer’s warranty, the better indication it is of a quality treadmill. Generally, better treadmills have better (longer) warranties and require a bit more of an investment. When considering treadmill warranties, look for the following:
- Frame (lifetime)
- Motor (10 years or more)
- Parts (3 to 5 years)
- Electronics (1 year or more)
- Labor (1 year or more)
Reading customer reviews to help with the final selection of a treadmill is always a great idea. Here you’ll find the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to people’s experiences with the exact product you’re considering purchasing.
Here are just a handful of things to look for:
- Common positives such as stability, sturdiness, ease of use, great value, and assembly.
- Common negatives such as shaking, console or electronic issues, and noises.
- Manufacturer customer service and honoring their warranty.
Ideally, you want to find a product that meets all of your needs within your budget AND has an overwhelming amount of positive customer reviews.
Ready to Go!
Congratulations on completing this guide on buying a treadmill! We hope you have found our Treadmill buyers guide helpful in your choice.
Now that you understand the essential elements of a treadmill, we hope you find the perfect one for your fitness needs.
Best wishes with your health, fitness, and shopping. If you want our opinion to help you choose the best treadmill for you, see our top 3 treadmills.