Comparison with Other Review Services
When we started doing reviews in 1999, we felt that the other available options were subpar. The reviews we found reminded us of Car & Driver reviews, except they only gave opinions on 5-10 cars a year. This lack of comprehensive coverage was a major failure that completely neglected the need to obtain a perspective on the market as a whole. We set out to reverse this trend. When Treadmill Doctor started, we began visiting as many factories as possible. We've traveled the world and visited all of the major treadmill and elliptical manufacturers. In the last year and a half alone, we have made trips to Asia and Europe to sharpen our focus on the overall world fitness market. Originally, we planned to inspire other publications to get better and then stop doing reviews ourselves, but now that we've become the authority on reviews, it doesn't make sense to stop doing them.
One fitness company president, who coincidentally lost his job a few years ago, encouraged consumers to compare reviews with many sources. What he neglected to mention was that most of the treadmill and elliptical review sites on the web are affiliate sites. Whenever you purchased one of his company's products due to a good review, the review site got paid. We NEVER accept any monetary encouragement for ratings, and we do NOT accept affiliate compensation from advertising on our website. We do receive a small fee for the clickthrough, but not from the purchase. For more information read our advertising note.
We also encourage you to look at other reviews, but you should only read useful information. The best sources are Consumersearch.com, About.com, and Consumer Reports. Below you will find our thoughts on ratings that are published either in print or online.
Consumer Reports- They were considered the standard when we started reviewing fitness equipment, but it quickly became apparent that their testing method did not have real-world application. CR has started doing a better job with their reviews, but their perspective is still limited due to the small number of models they cover. It's our understanding that beginning 4 years ago, they sent out questionnaires to factories to make sure they didn't buy discontinued machines. Unfortunately, this lead them to miss out on several great new models, such as those from NordicTrack and others. Also, they recently reviewed a treadmill from Keys, a company that went out of business. They had to make a last minute change once they realized their error. Perhaps the best example of one of their common missteps is when they named the Lifefitness Essential FT6 as a best buy when Lifefitness was trying to get rid of them on eBay for half the price. It wasn't exactly a high quality machine. One customer from Anchorage emailed us asking for help dealing with the company because they weren't receiving adequate assistance after a blue flame shot out of the motor when it was first plugged in. Many Diamondback customers experienced the same problem with the 1200T, which was made in the same factory in Taiwan that made Lifefitness's Essential line. This is information a treadmill review company should be privy to. Still, this isn't a bad source for information. They've really put forth effort to improve.
Runner's World- Their most recent ratings were an enigma because they reduced the number of models tested. It helped that they asked for our guidance in picking models for a few years. We would have like to see them continue to review a variety of models, but we had to stop offering help. It was interesting that they requested assistance in selecting models but refused help with their ratings system, which could use some tweaking. There are a couple of components of their reviews that immediately struck us as odd. The first was the use of acceleration as a means to rate the treadmills. Acceleration is a component of software programming, and many companies choose slow acceleration in order to promote safety. Anyone who knows treadmills knows that if you jump the speed input circuit on most machines, you can get the treadmill to full output and belt speed in a second or two. The other issue is that they let amateur treadmill enthusiasts contribute to the rankings. Most of us drive a car every day, and we can even change our own oil, but that doesn't make us qualified to determine the quality of the parts or the vehicle in general.
Consumer Guide- They take whatever bait various companies throw at them. They rated one company's model as a best buy because the inflated MSRP made the actual selling price look like a great deal. In reality, there were several other brands, owned by the same private-label manufacturer, which offered similar treadmills at a lower price.
Epinions- This site is certainly an amusing one. In general, the ratings are from people who have just bought the machine and, for whatever reason, want to convince other people to buy the same model, maybe it's buyer's remorse or the need for confirmation. Other times, the ratings are written by salespeople. Some admit their jobs, but it's still hard to trust them. We've even seem some people rave about a treadmill when we know the sales would help them make money. The concept is interesting, but you should be careful. There are some people on this site who will say anything. As a result, the content suffers.
The Fitness Official, Monster Ratings, and other treadmill seller review sites- Luckily, companies like these are losing popularity. People have caught on to the fact that the company selling the treadmill or elliptical controls the reviews. You'd probably expect their fitness equipment to rate as the best, and you'd be right.
Affiliate and Blogger Sites- The unsavory practice of review sites being paid for contributing to manufacturer's sales began a couple of years ago. If you were only getting paid when you helped a company make a sale, would you mention its unfavorable qualities? It's doubtful, at best. Our understanding is that Icon, Smooth, and Sole offer the most per sale at around 8%, which is about $120 commission for an average sale. It's no coincidence that so many sites have favorable reviews for these models. We wish factories would focus on building quality machines rather than tricking consumers. Fortunately, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) recently ruled that these sources can be punished if they don't disclose that they are making money off their recommendations, up to $11,000 per incident. If you think you have been tricked by one of these affiliate sites, you can report them by visiting www.ftc.gov or by calling the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP. We actually had a blogger attack us a few years ago, and in our settlement, we took over the site and sold it to a guy in Utah that now runs the affiliate site under the name www.treadmillsensei.com. Fortunately, he is disclosing that he is an affiliate site and many of his links are clearly product advertisements. Obviously, when you compare our reviews, we don't agree with him all the time, but at least he is telling the public that he gets paid for his opinions. and that's the way it should be.