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7 Things You Must Know Before Buying a Treadmill or Elliptical This Year

  1. Unbundling Isn't Just for Airlines Any Longer. An ongoing trend is to get very aggressive on the price of the machine but take away things that were once free and that you would expect to be included in the price...remember there is no free lunch. Just like the airlines now charge for bags, drinks, snacks, a seat larger than a thimble, and breathing (we'll maybe not breathing yet but it wouldn't surprise me) and Ryan Air is trying to charge to use the restroom. Fitness companies are trying to figure out new ways to cut costs or raise additional revenue. Things have been tried like charging a processing fee for a warranty part or assessing a trip charge when a tech makes a warranty labor call. When is a warranty not a real warranty??? You decide! Be aware of this when making your purchasing decision.

  2. Check the Health. Just to make things harder on the average consumer, not only do you need to be concerned with the quality of the treadmill, this year you also need to be concerned with the retailer and manufacturer too. Retailers continue to go out of business left and right and the manufacturers have been falling like flies hitting a bug zapper on a hot summer day. The safe bet is to go with a big retailer and a big manufacturer although some of the smaller companies seem to be doing well too so you may be able to get a better deal from them but be aware of the risk with the continued economic shakeout. Be sure to check out our manufacturers' comments to help you make sense about what is going on.

  3. Don't Buy on Specs. Especially if you visit a specialty retailer, you will get all kinds of facts and figures thrown at you...typically at the mass-market retailers all you will hear about is the motor HP. All of these figures are about as useful as a bottle of water for a drowning person and many people email in and say they feel like they are trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose. These facts and figures are, many times, designed to confuse most consumers because HP ratings can be manipulated wildly and bigger is not necessarily better. You are better off looking only at quality brands from a quality retailer and not let your head get too clouded with all the hyperbole. We help you cut through the nonsense with our quality ratings. We also launched our new motor ratings last year because there is no standard in the treadmill business and we wanted you to have an apples to apples comparison. Keep in mind, even if a company uses good parts, if it is assembled or engineered poorly, the parts won't work well together.

  4. If It Sounds Too Good to Be True It Probably Is. Some companies will talk about Lifetime warranties and other come-ons that sound great but if the factory is no longer in business, you can take the warranty and use it for toilet paper because that will be all that it is worth. Others claim massively inflated MSRP's with a "sale" price that is only good for today. If you feel pressure to make a decision today, you are probably getting the short end of the stick. Get all your ducks in a row and learn all you can (and the new habit- pull out your smartphone and check prices on the Net while you are in the store). Try out different models because this is an important purchase...we are talking about your health here so it is important to get a good product that will support your fitness goals, weight loss goals, heart health, etc. This is a great business because it improves people's lives but remember there are sharks in every business.

  5. The Quality is Getting Better at the Low End. Just as other consumer products are getting better while the price is going down, treadmills and ellipticals are no exception. Just a few years ago, you had to spend $1500 to get a decent treadmill and $1500 was the minimum on an elliptical too. That is no longer the case and in fact, the $1000 machines on the market today are better than the $1500 machines from just a few years ago. Sears has really stepped up in quality; as have some of the big sporting goods companies like Dick's Sporting Goods. On the whole, the consumer is the real beneficiary. If you want something for occasional, light use, you can really save some money on a lower-end unit. If you are a marathon runner or someone who pounds the heck out of a machine, still be prepared to shell out the bucks for something that is a long-term treadmill. If you put 10 miles on an elliptical every morning, you will want to shell out more for a better quality machine. If you want the best, open up your wallet and be ready to spend thousands but the lower end is as strong as it has ever been in this business.

  6. Don't Expect a Cheaper Machine to Be Perfect. We regularly get an email from someone that bought a warehouse club machine and they comment that it has plastic on the side rails or doesn't feel as sturdy as the model at the club...here's a news flash- when you buy a $999 from a club or even a $2500 model from a fitness store, they aren't the same as a $8000 club model. That's right, list price on most club models is now approaching or over $8 grand and there are now models over $12 grand. You get what you pay for. With that said, the cheaper units don't have as high quality components overall as the more expensive machines. Many of the lower end units are now using the same motors as the higher end units and electronics that are just as good but they cut corners on the quality of the heart rate grips or use an incline motor that is slower than the ones on the more expensive machines. If you want a great machine with no disappointments, you have to pay for that. If you are willing to make a few compromises, you can get a heck of a deal on a cheaper machine.

  7. Figure Out the Angle. We are always ready to let you know that we accept advertising from factories and the links are clearly labeled as sponsored links- just like on Google. We know Google makes piles of cash but NOT our little advertising program. Our advertising program is finally getting to the point where it helps cover costs?we make our money by selling replacement parts and we are the leader on the Internet in parts sales so that's how we make a living. We've been doing this for 14 years now so if we were trying to push an agenda or trick the public, we would have been figured out a long time ago- especially how it is impossible to keep a secret on the Internet- just ask Lindsey Lohan. Our policy has always been to tell people what we would buy if we were standing in the consumer's shoes. As always, we NEVER accept any compensation in any form for the reviews we do. When we finally figured out that we were spending six figures on the reviews, we knew we had to accept advertising because our readers told us they didn't want to pay for it. Reviews like Consumer Reports, Runner's World, etc. are also easy to figure out and are above board. Many affiliate sites are on the web and they get paid if you click through from the affiliate site over to the manufacturer to buy the product...many times they get hundreds of dollars for a single click. No wonder they push certain products. A recycled idea is for factories to start doing their own reviews. Some have tried to create an arms-length arrangement to make it look independent but you need to ask yourself a simple question; "how does this site make money?" If you see a well developed review site, it costs a bunch of money and they have to get it back somehow. Many unwitting sheep are getting served up as lamb chops when they don't ask this simple question.

We wish you the best of luck with your purchase. Click here for our buyer's guide. Click here for 2012 Treadmill Reviews  Click here for 2012 Elliptical Reviews. Click here for 2012 Treadmill Best Buys  Click here for 2012 Elliptical Best Buys.