Should I Buy A Cheap Treadmill? (No, Here's Why)

Treadmill Running

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By Simon Gould

When it comes to shopping for treadmills, you have a lot of variety. You can go for a manual one which will cost you a few hundred or you can go for a state of the art Technogym treadmill which costs thousands. Of course what most of us want is to pay as little as possible and get something that meets our needs. So how cheap should you go?

Flat belt manual treadmills

These are the cheapest. They're called manual because they have no motor, they require you to power the belt round by walking as you normally would. These cost a few hundred dollars and you get what you pay for. You get a flimsy product that may not last very long. They're only suitable for walking and have very small decks.

They take up very little room and are usually very easy to assemble unlike motorized treadmills. They typically have woefully short warranties, like 90 days. So you could pay $200 for one, it could go wrong after 4 months and you've got no come back. Some have an incline you would set yourself before you get on. They're very easy to use.

If money is tight and you need something to walk on at home, people do buy these treadmills.

Popular models include:

Motorized treadmills

These are the kind of treadmills I recommend even if you only want to walk on one. As the name suggests, they contain a motor which powers the belt. These you can walk, jog and run on. They have a motorized incline you can change while exercising. They do pretty much everything you can do on commercial gym treadmills.

However, you can still get cheap inferior motorized treadmills. They have plastic components, small motors and short warranties. Always go for a treadmill with a one year labor warranty or more. This will enable you to reject nearly every substandard treadmill out there. If the good warranty is there, then the manufacturer has to use high quality parts to honor that warranty without losing money.

The cheapest treadmill I recommend is this one:

It's got a 2.5 CHP motor, 1 year labor warranty and is designed for walking and jogging.

Other than that one, the minimum I recommend paying is $999. This is the price where quality comes in. You get durable and reliable machines beyond this point. A good treadmill should last around 10 years if it's properly maintained. If you're lucky, it can last many years more.

The treadmills I consider the best on the market are:

They are excellent quality and durable treadmills that customers seem to love. I always advise people to spend as much as you can afford. It will be money well spent.

6 Signs of a cheap treadmill

1. Weak motor

The weakest motor you should go for is 2.5 CHP and ideally 3.0 CHP or more. Weak motors don't have the power to cope with vigorous activity. If you were to run 3 times per week or more, then a motor weaker than 2.5 CHP will soon burn out. If you're serious about losing weight or getting healthy on a treadmill, the motor size is of great importance.

The maximum you find is 4.0 CHP and they'll be on treadmills that are $2k+. These can handle multiple family members running on them every day. As well as cost, you need to think of what your needs are. For walking my recommended treadmill above has 2.5 CHP. Curved treadmills have no motor but are very expensive, so I don't recommend any.

2. Short warranty

I've seen cheap treadmills with 90 and 180 day warranties. If the manufacturer can only guarantee it lasts 6 months then that's probably all it will be. The way they're made, they usually can't be repaired when they go wrong. This is different with motorized treadmills over $1k. Always go for 1 year labor or more. The cheapest I've seen with 2 years labor is this one* at $1,599.

3. Poor wiring

Good wiring takes time, and time is money. Paying someone to wire a treadmill on a factory line is inefficient. It's a slow process and to speed it up, corners will be cut. Bad wiring can burn out from the increased demand from a weak motor. There's often a burning smell coming from the motor compartment at the front of the treadmill when this happens.

4. Plastic parts

Plastic parts are cheaper than steel ones. They also break and wear out far quicker. There may be plastic bearings and even the frame could be plastic. You can expect motor covers to be plastic, but not critical weight baring components. These parts are the first to go wrong and the manufacturer knows it, that's why there's a short warranty.

5. Low weight capacity

Cheap treadmills don't have a good weight capacity. The lowest you should look for is 300 lbs. Don't worry if you weigh a lot less than that. See it as a sign of the sturdiness of the machine. The highest I've seen on a home treadmill is 400 lbs on this one*. The way treadmills are made today, they can handle a lot of weight. This is when they're well made.

6. Low treadmill weight

The cheapest treadmill I recommend is 180 lbs. This will take a couple of people to move and assemble it, but with the weight, you get durability. I wouldn't want to exercise on a treadmill that's moving about and can barely take my weight. Good quality metal components and steel frames weigh more, this is a good thing, remember that next time you want it moved!

Final thoughts

As I said above, I consider all treadmills with less than a 1 year labor warranty to be substandard. They're usually cheap and don't last. A $1,000 dollar treadmill should last around 10 years. A $300 treadmill may have a 90 or 180 day warranty and last a year, if you're lucky. Spending more represents a greater investment and you get more value. So don't buy a cheap treadmill.

Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here's my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*

Meet The Author

Simon Gould

I'm Simon Gould. I've been around treadmills my whole life. From running on them at an early age to working in treadmill dept's of national stores. I've run outside and I've run on treadmills and I prefer running on treadmills. I still run on one nearly every day and love it.

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