Sometimes called a cross trainer, the elliptical machine first came onto the market in 1995 and is named for the elliptical pattern the foot makes during one cycle. These machines quickly gained popularity as a means to a great cardio workout that is also easy on the joints.
Ellipticals are popular in fitness facilities, and they also have found their way into home gyms and even some offices. When buying an elliptical, consider your budget, the amount of space available to you and what you want out of your workout. Many ellipticals can be customized with entertainment consoles that can ease boredom during a workout.
Top 10 Best Rated Ellipticals
Yowza Fitness specializes in advanced cardio equipment such as ellipticals and treadmills. They offer unique technology and online shopping options. Select models may include interest-free financing and a warranty.
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NordicTrack ellipticals are available in a wide range of options, including front driver, rear drive, FreeStride, space saving and commercial models. Their machines are built to last. Prices start at $1299.
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Proform is a leading name in the world of fitness equipment. Their elliptical machines include basic, advanced and hybrid options, giving consumers a wide range of choices when buying an elliptical. Prices start at $799.
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Known for introducing training equipment inside private hotel rooms, SOLE’s ellipticals are designed for both commercial and home use. They feature Bluetooth capability and up to 20 incline levels. Prices start at $1499.
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Originally established as a bicycle manufacturer in 1895, Schwinn sells ellipticals for home use. Their reclined elliptical takes all pressure off joints for an intense workout. Prices start around $450.
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Nautilus has four elliptical models for consumers looking for an at-home elliptical machine. They have models for most budgets and fitness needs, and some are compatible with MyFitnessPal. Prices start around $600.
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Known for their commercial-grade fitness equipment, Life Fitness also makes ellipticals for home use. Their ellipticals feature interactive consoles, Whisper Stride quiet technology and durability. Prices start at $1799.
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Precor has been delivering fitness equipment to gyms, universities and other commercial facilities for over 30 years. Their ellipticals are designed for commercial use, but they can also be used in homes. Call for a quote.
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Diamondback Fitness machines are all designed in the United States and feature recumbent and upright bikes, spin bikes and ellipticals. They also sell reconditioned equipment on their website. Ellipticals are priced at $2,699.
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Stamina Products, Inc. makes and sells a variety of exercise equipment, including treadmills, strength training equipment, rowers, trampolines and ellipticals. Their ellipticals are space saving models that start at $179.99.
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What features matter most?
How much space you have
Space is an important consideration when you plan to buy an elliptical, especially if you are buying one for home or office use. Measure your space before you go elliptical shopping, and consider the different size types of ellipticals during your search.
- Compact: Compact ellipticals are ideal for home and work spaces. Some elliptical trainers only include pedals, without any handlebars, which can easily be stored in a closet or even under a desk. These can be great space-saving and cost-effective options for anyone looking for an easy way to burn extra calories throughout the day.
- Foldable: Those who want a full-size elliptical but still need to save space will want to look for a foldable elliptical. These machines have all the functionality of a full-size elliptical, but with the added benefit of easy storage.
- Full-size: Homeowners with dedicated space and commercial facilities that are not concerned with saving space will want to buy a full-size, non-folding elliptical. These machines are durable and heavy, so they typically have a higher weight capacity than other types of elliptical trainers.
The types of workouts you intend to do on your elliptical will factor into the type of elliptical you buy.
- Rehabilitation workouts: People who use an elliptical as a rehabilitation/recovery tool, such as after surgery, will want an elliptical that has minimal impact. They may not be as concerned about the amount of resistance levels as people who are using ellipticals for more intense training. They will want a magnetic resistance elliptical, which is easy to adjust and requires less effort than an air resistance elliptical.
- Intense training: Users who want intense training sessions on their ellipticals will want an elliptical with a high resistance level. They may want an air resistance elliptical, which can offer a more intense and challenging workout.
- Low intensity workout throughout the day: People who are looking for a way to burn calories all day long doing low intensity workouts will benefit from compact strider machines that can be stored easily. These machines use the same feet movement as a full size elliptical, but they can be used while seated at a desk to burn additional calories throughout the day.
The drive system of an elliptical impacts the overall feel and experience of your workout. It determines your elliptical’s stability, which can significantly impact how your workout feels.
- Front drive: Also called a center drive system, front drive ellipticals have the most stable platforms. Most newer elliptical designs have front drives since it’s needed on machines that feature an adjustable stride length. The front drive adjusts the lower and the upper body motions so they are in sync throughout your workout.
- Rear drive: More expensive ellipticals, typically those found in commercial facilities, are rear drive ellipticals. On this type of elliptical, the drive system is located behind the user. They have fewer moving parts than front drive ellipticals, and they also have a smoother pedal movement that is more similar to the natural motion of walking or running than front drive ellipticals.
For many people, the amount of entertainment options available during a workout is more important than any other feature. Gym owners might want to consider upgrading their consoles to provide entertainment options to their users, and home users may find they use their elliptical more when it has features that keep them occupied. People concerned with cost, though, may want to skip an enhanced console and stick to a basic one.
- Traditional: A traditional console keeps track of vital information, including speed, incline, calories burned, time spent exercising and distance, throughout your workout. This is the console included with most ellipticals.
- Upgraded entertainment console: Users who want their console to do more than just track their workout will want to upgrade to an entertainment console. These consoles have a variety of features. Some are web-enabled, allowing users to surf the Internet and watch TV while also keeping track of their workout progress.
- Tablet and book holders: Both traditional and upgraded entertainment consoles can come with tablet/book holders. These are handy for anyone who likes to read while they workout and can be a cost-effective way to add entertainment value.
The stride length on an elliptical is an important factor to consider, since getting one that is too long or too short can severely impact the effectiveness of your workout and even cause injury.
- 16-18 inches: Ellipticals with a range of 16-18 inches, and even those that extend to 20 inches, are good for people who are under five foot three. This length gives shorter people room for a comfortable stride without risking overreaching.
- Over 20 inches: People taller than five foot four should choose an elliptical with at least a 20 inch stride, preferably one that can adjust to a longer stride if needed. This gives taller users space for a comfortable stride.
- Up to 26 inches: Users who are very tall, over six foot seven, may want to consider ordering a special elliptical trainer with a stride length that ranges up to 26 inches.
To get the most out of your elliptical, make sure you find one that has adjustability features. Static ellipticals are rare, and they can quickly lead to burnout, boredom and exercise plateau when used regularly as part of your workout regimen. Nonadjustable ellipticals are more suitable for people who use them infrequently.
- Adjustable incline: An adjustable incline allows users to focus their workouts on different muscle groups, so it’s an important feature for those who are using their elliptical for serious training. Some ellipticals also feature an adjustable decline, which simulates running downhill.
- Adjustable resistance: Adjusting resistance allows users to push themselves during workouts. Most ellipticals use variable magnetic resistance, which makes it simple for users to change their resistance level.
- Adjustable pedals: Ellipticals with adjustable pedals allow users to add variety to workouts. It also allows users of different heights to use the same machine, since they can easily make the pedals comfortable for their needs every time they use it.
What are different types of ellipticals?
Hybrid elliptical machines combine an elliptical trainer with another type of cardio machine, such as a stationary bike or stair stepper. These machines can be a cost-effective way to add multiple types of exercise machines to a home gym.
Cross trainer ellipticals feature movements for both the upper and lower body. They have handlebars that move in tandem with the leg pedals, giving users a total body workout.
Magnetic resistance ellipticals allow users to change settings digitally and are quieter than air resistance ellipticals. These are the type most commonly found in gyms and other commercial facilities.
Air resistance ellipticals are driven by air, so the faster a user works, the harder the resistance becomes. These can be noisy, due to the amount of air that is blown through the fan to move the elliptical. These are more challenging than magnetic resistance machines.
Who's it for?
People with knee pain
Ellipticals are a popular option for people who have knee pain. The smooth movement of the elliptical is easy on the joints, since users’ feet don’t endure the same type of pounding that happens when running on a treadmill or other surface. Ellipticals can be used as a form of physical therapy or as a main source of exercise for anyone who has knee pain and approval from their doctor.
Runners frequently use ellipticals to cross train, since these machines mimic the motions of running. They can be a good way to get a total body workout, especially cross training ellipticals, without putting added pressure on joints.
Gym owners will want to buy commercial-grade ellipticals, since these are constructed to be more durable than ellipticals designed for home use. Gym and other commercial facility owners may want to buy different types of ellipticals and consoles to appeal to their members and stay competitive.
Proform has been providing innovative training tools and fitness equipment for over 30 years. They have a variety of ellipticals, including hybrid options that allow for multiple types of workouts using one machine.
- Best for Proform Ellipticals are best for recreational home users.
SOLE fitness equipment is engineered for commercial use, specifically hotel use, although they also manufacture equipment for home use. They have an elliptical hybrid that is a combined elliptical and stair machine along with high end ellipticals that are ideal for training and recreational use.
- Sole SC200 Stepper: Sole’s hybrid model is the SC200 Stepper. This machine is part elliptical, part step machine. It gives users a lower body workout that is easy on the joints and hips and features 20 levels of resistance. It is compact for easy storage when it is not in use.
- Sole E98 Elliptical: Sole’s most durable elliptical is the front drive E98. Designed for commercial use, this elliptical is most often found in smaller commercial facilities. It features an extra smooth ride, Bluetooth capability and a stride length up to 20 inches.
- SOLE guarantee: SOLE offers customers a full 30 days to try their new equipment to see if it’s right for them. Customers who are not happy with their purchase can receive a full refund of the purchase price and freight charges within 30 days of receiving their elliptical.
- Price match guarantee: SOLE will match any advertised price of the same model elliptical if it is lower than their advertised price. Find out more by calling a SOLE representative.
- Bluetooth compatibility: Most SOLE ellipticals now feature Bluetooth capability, making it simple to transfer workout data directly from your elliptical to your smart device. You can also track your fitness progress on the SOLE mobile app.
- Best for SOLE ellipticals are best for serious trainers and light commercial facilities.
NordicTrack is known for their trademark skiers, which were introduced over 25 years ago. They have since expanded their lineup to include a variety of cardio equipment, including ellipticals. NordicTrack’s ellipticals are designed for both commercial and home use.
- Best for NordicTrack ellipticals are best for serious trainers and light commercial facilities.
Schwinn was founded in Chicago in 1895 as a manufacturer of bicycles. Today, they continue to make and sell outdoor bicycles and have added indoor exercise equipment, including bikes and ellipticals, into their lineup. They currently have three ellipticals for consumers to choose from.
- Schwinn 470 elliptical: This elliptical has 29 programs, compatibility with MyFitnessPal, tracking lights, up to a 10-degree incline, 20-inch stride and more. It is safe for users up to 300 pounds.
- Schwinn 520 reclined elliptical: Users who need additional support for their joints will appreciate Schwinn’s reclined elliptical. This machine features a recumbent seat position, like a recumbent bike, but instead of bike pedals, it has an elliptical foot path with a 14-inch stride length. This is easy on the joints and comfortable for exercisers of all ages and abilities.
- Schwinn 430 elliptical: Those looking for a simplified piece of exercise equipment will like the Schwinn 430 elliptical. This machine features 22 workout programs, 20 resistance levels, a 20-inch stride length and performance tracking.
- Quick comparison: Compare two or three of Schwinn’s ellipticals side-by-side using the comparison feature on their website. This feature can help you narrow down your options so you get the best elliptical for your needs.
- Best for Schwinn ellipticals are best for home users.
Nautilus has been delivering quality fitness products to consumers for over 40 years. Their brands include Nautilus®, Bowflex®, Schwinn® and Universal®. They currently have four elliptical models for consumers to choose from.
- Nautilus E618 elliptical: This elliptical model has 29 performance training programs along with a free app-based tool to track your workouts and monitor your progress. It also has a 350-pound weight limit and a 22-inch stride length.
- Nautilus E616 elliptical: This model is similar to the E618, but it has additional technological features to enhance your workout experience. One notable addition is DualTrack™ display, which allows users to cover the main display with their tablet, book or magazine and still track their workout using a second LCD monitor. It has a 20-inch stride length.
- Nautilus E614 elliptical: In addition to DualTrack™ display and 20 resistance levels, this model is compatible with MyFitnessPal, allowing users to track their progress easily. It has a 20-inch stride length.
- Nautilus E514c elliptical: This model features bi-directional pedaling, giving users more options for targeted workouts. It has 16 magnetic resistance levels, 20 programs and an 18-inch stride length.
- Best for Nautilus ellipticals are best for recreational home elliptical users.
Life Fitness has been innovating fitness solutions for individuals and commercial fitness facilities for over 45 years. Many of their ellipticals feature Whisper Stride technology, which ensures a smooth, quiet workout experience.
- Commercial ellipticals: Life Fitness has several elliptical models for commercial fitness facilities, including the Elevation serious elliptical cross-trainer, the Elevation series flexstrider trainer, the Integrity series elliptical cross-trainer and the Activate series elliptical cross-trainer.
- High weight limit: Some of Life Fitness’ ellipticals, such as the Elevation series elliptical cross trainer for commercial facilities and the E1 elliptical cross trainer for home use, have a weight limit of 400 pounds, which is more than most ellipticals.
- Discover tablet consoles for commercial ellipticals: Life Fitness’s Discover consoles for commercial fitness equipment offer users a wide variety of entertainment options, including TV, Internet, interactive courses and asset management. They are also compatible with several apps, allowing users to sync their information for an easy way to track their progress.
- Home ellipticals: Life Fitness brings commercial grade quality to home fitness equipment with their durable treadmills that feature Whisper Stride technology, entertainment options, 20 resistance levels and more.
- Track+ Console for home ellipticals: The Track+ Console is available on several models of Life Fitness ellipticals. This console is compatible with Apple and Android devices to help users track their fitness and find entertainment throughout their workout.
- Best for Life Fitness ellipticals are best for serious home trainers and commercial facilities.
Precor has been delivering quality exercise equipment for commercial use for over three decades. Their ellipticals fall into two series: the Experience™ Series and the Assurance™Series.
- Experience Series: Precor’s Experience Series ellipticals are full size machines that offer users a customizable experience. There are several options for consoles, and the ellipticals offer a converging stride path, which allows for a more natural footpath than other ellipticals. This series is ideal for larger fitness facilities.
- Assurance Series: Precor’s Assurance Series is ideal for smaller fitness facilities. These machines feature a standard console and an elliptical path that ranges between 15 and 40 degrees. The Assurance Series is a more cost-effective option for smaller and/or private fitness facilities.
- Preventative Maintenance agreement: Facilities can sign up for a preventative maintenance agreement with Precor to ensure their machines are properly maintained. Agreements can be made monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. They can be made for all types of Precor machines, not just ellipticals.
- Professional delivery and installation: Precor includes professional delivery and installation into the total price of the delivery service fee when their equipment is bought directly through their website. Buying through their website is the best way to ensure proper delivery and installation, although they also sell through authorized dealer retail stores and on Amazon.com.
- Best for Precor ellipticals are best for small and large commercial fitness facilities.
Diamondback Fitness is one of LifeCore Fitness Inc.’s brands. Their exercise machines are designed in the United States and include recumbent bikes, upright bikes, spin trainers and ellipticals.
- Five year warranty: Diamondback Fitness ellipticals come with a limited lifetime warranty on frame and brake, a three year warranty on parts and electronics, a one year warranty on labor and a 90 day warranty on wear items. Note that these warranties only apply to first time owners and cannot be transferred to new owners.
- Fast and free shipping: All Diamondback Fitness equipment bought through their site is shipped for free within the 48 contiguous United States, and most items can be received within 5-7 days. Items can be shipped internationally and to Hawaii or Alaska for an additional shipping charge.
- 1260 EF elliptical trainer: Diamondback only sells one elliptical, the 1260 EF elliptical trainer. This elliptical is designed for home gyms and features 20 resistance levels, built-in reading rack, custom programs, a personal trainer function, a 19-inch stride length and more.
- Accessories: Buy accessories for your elliptical from Diamondback Fitness to enhance your workout. Accessories include a rectangular non-stick mat to go under your elliptical and a heart rate monitor that is compatible with the 1260 EF elliptical.
- Reconditioned equipment: DiamondBack sells reconditioned equipment at a fraction of the original price on their website. Check back frequently as supplies are limited and change regularly.
- Best for The Diamondback Fitness elliptical is best for home gym owners looking for a durable elliptical with a traditional console.
Stamina Products, Inc. was founded in 1987. They sell fitness equipment at major retailers and online, and they sell several compact elliptical trainers that are ideal for home or work use.
- InMotion® compact striders: Stamina’s InMotion® compact striders are ideal for people who want to stay active at home or in the office without buying bulky exercise equipment. These machines feature only the bottom half of the elliptical, making them easy to store in a closet or under a desk. They can be used while seated or standing and have adjustable tension to increase or decrease your resistance and are available with or without handles.
- Avari® ellipticals: Stamina’s Avari® ellipticals are available in two models. The magnetic elliptical is a full size elliptical that features quiet magnetic resistance, adjustable pedals, multi-function display and more.
- 30-day return policy: Try your Stamina elliptical for 30 days to make sure you are completely satisfied with the product. If you are not, return it within 30 days of delivery for a refund. Note, this only applies to Stamina products purchased directly from their website.
- Workout guides: Search for a workout guide to accompany any Stamina products, including ellipticals, on Stamina’s website. Simply input the product number to download a PDF with suggested workouts.
- Best for Stamina ellipticals are best for those seeking a convenient and cost-effective way to workout at home or at the office.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.