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The Smart Shopper’s Treadmill Buying Guide

When you’re going to spend a few hundred or a few thousand dollars on exercise equipment, it’s a really good idea to determine the following:

  • Treadmill features you want
  • Treadmill features you need
  • Getting as much of your wants and needs within your budget.

Finding the right treadmill for you requires research. Fortunately the internet makes researching much easier than pre-internet days. There’s all kinds of information on treadmills on the web. This article “The Smart Shopper’s Treadmill Buying Guide” is one more chunk of information which I hope helps you buy the perfect treadmill that meets your wants, needs, and budget.

Just to be clear, there is no one perfect treadmill for everyone. Instead, the point of this smart shopper’s treadmill buying guide is to alert you to the key features to look for when buying a treadmill.

Let’s get started… what treadmill features should you look out for when buying a treadmill.

1. The Motor

Fortunately, most treadmill motors on major treadmill brands are good. The common range in horsepower is 2.25 to 3.5. There are lower and higher motors, but that’s the common range for residential treadmills. 2.5 to 3.0 horsepower motors should be more than sufficient. I’m a big guy so I prefer 3.0 horsepower motors.

Should you get a non-motorized treadmill?

I wouldn’t. Non-motorized treadmills are much cheaper, but paying a few hundred more dollars for a motor is worth it.

2. Running Area

Treadmill running areas range from 55 inches to 60 inches long and are typically 20 inches wide. If you’re taller than 6 feet, look at a 60 inch long running area. Frankly, I wouldn’t consider a treadmill with a running area shorter than 60 inches, but I’m over six feet tall.

Try a treadmill at a gym or retail store to see what the right length is for you. If 55 inches works, that opens up more treadmill buying options for you.

3. Cushioning

Treadmill technology is impressive, and it’s particularly impressive where cushioning is concerned. You can get treadmills that actually enable you to adjust the amount of cushioning. You pay more for this feature, but it’s pretty cool.

At the end of the day you want a treadmill with some cushioning, but not too much. I liken too much cushioning to running on the beach. Too much cushioning does not replicate running on pavement. That said, if you have joint issues, then more cushioning may be the right way to go. Like I said, there’s no one-size-fits-all treadmill. That’s the point of this treadmill buying guide article.

4. Speed and Incline

What’s your running regimen? Do you sprint and do HIIT? Or, do you run at a steady even pace? Or, maybe you’re a walker? Treadmill speeds generally range from 10 to 12 miles per hour. If you’re a sprinter, then look for a treadmill with top speeds of 12 miles per hour or more. If you’re a walker or jogger, 10 is more than sufficient.

The incline element is also important. It’s a good idea to incline your treadmill slightly in order to compensate for the fact running on treadmills is easier than on pavement. The reason for this is two-fold:

No wind resistance, and more importantly 
The running surface moves so you don’t expend as much energy because you don’t need to propel forward.

I generally incline a treadmill 1.5 to 4 degrees. I’m not into steep incline hiking, but if you are, you might prefer to get an incline trainer. An incline trainer inclines up to 20 or even 40 percent. Otherwise, most treadmills incline from 10 to 15 percent which is more than sufficient for most training regimens.

5. Fan

Do you get overly sweaty and hot when running? If so, consider a cooling fan. There are many treadmills with a cooling fan so it’s not hard to find.

6. Folding Feature

There are 2 types of folding treadmills:

  1. Flat folding treadmills, and
  2. Upright folding treadmills.

A flat folding treadmill folds flat to the ground so it’s easy to store under a bed.

An upright folding treadmill folds vertically for easy storage in a closet.

Therefore, know where you’ll be storing your treadmill so you know what type of folding treadmill to buy.

If you won’t be storing your treadmill, then obviously you don’t need the folding feature. However, you may in the future so it doesn’t hurt. That said, a folding treadmill’s frame durability may not be quite as strong as a non-folding treadmill.

Regardless of whether you buy a folding treadmill or not, ensure your treadmill has wheels. Wheels are important for moving your treadmill around. Most treadmills have wheels, but I would double-check anyway.

7. Maximum Weight Capacity

It’s hard to tell whether a treadmill’s frame is good. However, one way to determine whether a particular treadmill has an excellent frame is weight capacity… the higher the better. Most treadmills have weight capacity maximums in the range of 250 to 300 pounds. That’s why treadmills with a maximum user weight of 350 pounds or higher are an attractive option.

I’m not saying to only look at treadmills with a 350 pound or higher weight capacity; but it’s one consideration to consider.

8. The Warranty

I prefer treadmills with a lifetime warranty on both the frame and motor. Of course, these treadmills are more expensive. Lifetime warranties tell me that it’s a quality machine generally. There are exceptions to be sure.

9. Bells and Whistles

Because so many treadmills offer the same feature set, your treadmill buying decision may boil down to the bells and whistles.

What are treadmill bells and whistles?

They are all the extras such as music system, magazine reading rack, graphical monitor, water bottle holders (look for larger water bottle holders), iFit integration, and overall design.

10. Free Shipping

Shipping can be expensive. I wouldn’t avoid buying the perfect treadmill if free shipping wasn’t included, but it’s definitely something to look for because it can save a couple of hundred dollars. All else being equal when comparing two treadmills, obviously you’ll go with the treadmill that offers free shipping to your home.

If you live in Alaska, Hawaii, or outside of the USA, be sure to inquire carefully about the cost of shipping. Don’t assume any “free shipping” offers include you.

11. Price

No treadmill buying guide would be complete without commenting on price.

Treadmill pricing varies tremendously from a couple of hundred dollars to $10,000 or more. Establish a budget before you start your research. Generally $750 to $2,500 will get you a decent treadmill for your home.

12. Look for a Treadmill Sale or Discount!

Last, but not least, always look for the best treadmill sale so you can get a discount.


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