Best Home-Use Treadmills of 2021(2)
When shopping for a treadmill, it’s important to fully understand what to look out for so you can compare different models. It’s also important to consider the main categories of treadmills: Home treadmills, commercial treadmills, and light commercial treadmills. Since these classes of machine vary dramatically in price and function, comparing vastly different treadmills can feel like comparing apples with oranges.
Let’s take a closer look at the various styles and features of treadmills to give you a better sense of what to consider while treadmill shopping.
Comparing Home-Use Treadmills and Commercial Treadmills
First let’s explore the obvious: what’s the difference between a treadmill designed for home use versus one you would find at a gym? It won’t take long to see the main ways these machines vary.
A gym treadmill needs to be able to withstand hours and hours of use every day (which is often continuous). Gyms have users doing back-to-back workouts, sometimes going for as long as 60 minutes at a time. Obviously that requires a far more resilient machine than a treadmill used a few times a day or week in short bursts at home.
Here are a few key qualities to know about each style of treadmill.
- Commercial treadmills:
Commercial treadmills need to be especially durable to withstand a constant cycle of gym-goers. Just by standing on them you can see how solidly they are built. You could run at a top speed and still feel secure.
Obviously, these treadmills do come with a premium price tag due to this design. They are typically sought out by commercial gym managers, college recreational centers, and hotel workout rooms. Because of their size and price, you’ll rarely see these machines in a home.
Most commercial treadmills actually come with a warranty that accommodates 6 hours of use per day with weight limits of up to 400 pounds. These specs are great for a commercial setting, but probably excessive for personal use. They usually cost between $3000 and $10,000; not exactly cheap or practical. That’s why large gyms are typically the sole clientele of this style of equipment. If you’re used to one of these machines from a gym, don’t feel like that’s what you need to bring home. There are far more affordable and practical options that can still provide the workout you need.
- Light Commercial treadmills:
Next up comes commercial treadmills. These treadmills have a lower price point ($2000-5000), but are not quite as durable as the commercial treadmills noted above.
They are still built to withstand multiple users per day and long run times, they just don’t have the same rock solid feel. These are the machines that you’ll typically find in smaller gyms, smaller hotels, or in a condo gym.
These treadmills are manufactured for companies that require an affordable, yet quite durable machine. They are ideal for commercial settings in a smaller space as they generally don’t take up as much room as heavier commercial treadmills.
- Home treadmills:
Finally we come to home treadmills. These start at a much lower price point, which is ideal for home users at the start of their fitness journey. Top models still come at a premium price, but more often than not fit the budgets of most people.
Because these are home treadmills, their warranty reflects that. They aren’t covered for six hours of runtime, instead they are meant to be used for about 30-60 minutes a day by either one or two users.
If you want to purchase a premium home treadmill, you’ll spend around $1500-2000. However, smaller, more compact treadmills are available for under $1000 with only slight sacrifices in quality.
Typically treadmills in the higher price range run extremely quietly and are easy to maintain. The features and specifications on these treadmills vary significantly, and can include anything from incline/decline abilities to HD touchscreens to fitness app pairing and much more. These treadmills won’t require regular bolt tightening and belt waxing to run properly, so the extra cost saves you time in maintenance and reduces the risk of costly repairs. Most customers who opt for lower end treadmills simply buy a new treadmill if their model breaks down, as repairs are almost as costly as the machines themselves.
Regardless of the cost, home treadmills are much smaller than commercial treadmills, and their weight capacity is usually lower as a result. So if you carry a lot of weight, make sure to keep that in mind. Usually the weight restrictions on home treadmills ranges from 200 pounds to 350 pounds, and models are priced accordingly.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes companies sell commercial and home treadmill models that are quite similar, with only minor changes in specs and size (such as program options or belt size), so shop around. There are some truly impressive treadmills for home use out there and some might even be quite similar to the wildly expensive machines you’ve grown accustomed to at the gym.
Let’s take a closer look at the key differences…
- Higher price point
- Heavy-duty construction made for maximum durability
- Typically quite low maintenance and hold up well to almost constant use
- Designed to endure for many years
- Require more space for setup
- Don’t often come with a folding design
- Often include more bells and whistles
- More affordable
- Wide range of quality (some so cheap as to feel disposable and others that will hold up well for many years)
- The lower the cost, the more likely to require more maintenance (especially if you are a heavier user)
- Residential treadmills often come with longer warranties than commercial treadmills, but these can vary so be sure to read the fine print
- Take up less space, with some even folding up for easy storage
No two treadmill models are alike, so make sure to explore a wide variety of options while shopping. There is a machine out there to fit your specific needs and budget, you just need to hunt. Now, how about pricing?
Residential Treadmill Prices
Looking for the best home treadmill of 2020? Then you’ll want to budget for $1500 to $2000. There are treadmills available for as little as $500, but there’s a reason the cost is so low. They don’t offer the best user experience, and more often than not are actually user powered rather than motor powered, which has a much less satisfying feel.
At lower price points you’ll find machines that are generally much louder, have a smaller belt size (which can make running a challenge), and may even break down often if you increase the intensity of your sessions. For walkers, the basic machines might be sufficient enough. But for runners or people hoping to improve their current fitness level, these treadmills are easy to outgrow. If you bump up your budget even slightly, the upgrade in quality is significant.
Depending on the model and brand, when you shop in the mid-range price point you’ll be able to use the treadmill on an incline, and have added features such as a touchscreen console, virtual running paths displayed on-screen, and even built-in fans to keep you cool. The premium residential machines are often so well designed that you’ll feel as though you are on a commercial treadmill.
Here are the main features to consider when looking for the treadmill that suits your personal needs:
- The right treadmill size to fit your space
- An appropriate belt size for your body to avoid costly repairs and time-sucking maintenance
- Sufficient horsepower to manage your workouts (most people find 3.0 continuous horsepower is sufficient)
- A user weight capacity that’s at least 50 pounds heavier than you are to ensure you don’t rock the machine with use
- A strong warranty package
The following features aren’t necessities, but can make quite an impact on your workout experience and are worth considering:
- Heart rate monitor (wireless is most accurate)
- Bluetooth connection (sends workout stats to your mobile app)
- Cooling fan and water bottle holder
- Power incline (15% is average)
- Extra-thick belt (quiet, longer-lasting, low maintenance)
- High quality training programs
- Multiple user profiles
- Touchscreen with full color display
- Built-in Bluetooth speakers
- Tablet holder
2020 Treadmills can be stacked with extras; this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Although the flashy extras can help with motivation, it’s important to keep your priorities straight. If you need to minimize costs, always value necessities like cushioning and power over fancy electronics. You can always park your treadmill in front of a TV to make up for most of the luxuries. Entertainment features don’t need to be built in, but a strong treadmill core and structure is irreplaceable.
For more tips about finding the best treadmill at the best value, refer to our charts of the “Five Best Treadmills” organized by price.