Elliptical Buying Tips

These elliptical buying tips will help you evaluate and compare the many makes and models of elliptical machines on the market today.

There are so many different types and variations of elliptical machines now-a-days that it can be difficult to see if you’re getting the most for your money. Some specifications and features may be invaluable to you, while others you might be able to live without.

Elliptical machines are a great choice for a cross-training exercise, because it gives you a whole-body workout. It tones your upper body and lower body in a naturally low-impact and fluid stride.

It’s important that you pick a piece of equipment that will be comfortable and fun to use, as well as meets your budget.

The table below compares some of the more popular pieces of equipment and their operating characteristics. Below the table are some additional insights and elliptical buying tips that look into the pros and cons of various features to help you find the right machine for you

Elliptical Price Stride
Resistance Programs Heart Rate Frame
Fitness Quest® Eclipse® 1100HR $349 15 in. Magnetic 6 Pulse Unknown
Horizon Fitness EX75 $699 18 in. Magnetic 20 3 prog. Lifetime
Horizon Fitness E22 $550 18 in. Magnetic 4 Pulse 10-year
Horizon Fitness EX33 $799 18 in. Magnetic 7 1 prog. Lifetime
NordicTrack CX 938 $899 18 in. Magnetic 10 10 prog. 1-year
NordicTrack CX 985 $599 18 in. Magnetic 8 2 prog. 1-year
ProForm 320 $269 14 in. Magnetic 4 Pulse 90-day
ProForm 330 $314 14 in. Magnetic 4 Pulse 90-day
Proform 900 $349 17.5 in. Magnetic 8 Pulse 90-day
ProForm 650 $269 15.5 in. Magnetic 4 Pulse 90-day
ProForm 825 $365 14 in. Magnetic n/a Pulse 90-day
Sole E25 $1,099 20 in. Magnetic 6 Pulse Lifetime
Sole E35 $1,299 20 in. Eddy Current 8 Pulse Lifetime
Sole E55 $1,499 20 in. Eddy Current 10 2 prog. Lifetime
Sole E95 $1,699 20 in. Eddy Current 10 2 prog. Lifetime
Weslo Momentum 610 $179 12 in. Magnetic n/a Pulse 90-day
Weslo Momentum 745 $699 17.5 in. Magnetic 4 Pulse 90-day

Elliptical Buying TIPS:

  • Elliptical Buying Tip #1: Look at the stride length
    Most of the more popular machines have a stride length between 14” - 20”. An elliptical with a short stride length could feel choppy in its motion instead of smooth and fluid. Some of the newer machines even have the ability to adjust the stride length which adds some more versatility.
  • Elliptical Buying Tip #2: Evaluate the resistance system
    Most of the inexpensive models have a magnetic resistance system in which a flywheel is surrounded by a U-shaped magnet that can reduce or increase the tension. These are fairly quiet and effective. In the more commercial and expensive models, you usually find an eddy current brake system (ECB). The ECB works with an aluminum wheel and an electromagnetic current that controls the tension. Because the ECB system doesn’t have any moving parts its more durable and reliable than other resistance systems.
  • Elliptical Buying Tip #3: What programs does it come with?
    Part of the challenge with sticking to an exercise routine is avoiding monotony. Finding an elliptical with some different programs is a good way to keep it interesting and vary the difficulties of your workout. Most units come with a standard interval, hill, and manual program package. Personally, I think that is plenty…but I only use the elliptical to cross-train a few times a month. Look at what each has to offer and what you want it to use it for in your workouts.
  • Elliptical Buying Tip #4: Measuring heart rate
    Most elliptical machines come with a heart rate or pulse monitor. The method can range from sensors on the grips to a wireless chest strap. The high-end machines usually have the sensors on the actual elliptical arm grips and use the heart rate in the programs and calorie calculations. This is a nice feature. My elliptical at home has a separate sensor that you can grab intermittently through the workout to get your pulse…this is fine, too. Depending on how important this feature is to you, choose the set-up that’s most agreeable to your needs.
  • Elliptical Buying Tip #5: Don’t forget the warranty
    Warranties are usually divided into frame, motor, and console – each of which has a parts and labor constraint. Look closely at the warranty as this can also be a good gauge of the manufacturer’s confidence in their product. Some vendors will offer extended warranty specials which can add some peace-of-mind. Warranties are a valuable feature of any piece of equipment – make sure that you factor the value of the warranty into your purchase.

Some other things to consider...

The elliptical buying tips above are the primary factors and some of them could even be the feature that drives you to make a purchase.

The features below are somewhat secondary, but they could add or detract from the unit that you’re considering. Take a look at some of these features when you’re looking at elliptical machines.

Other Factors

  • Weight / Dimensions
    It may be the last thing on your mind as you look through the various models and their features, but it’ll certainly be a factor when you look to see where you’re going to put it. Make sure the dimensions of the unit will fit where you want it to go and if you plan on moving it often, the weight may be a factor, too. Take a minute to look the weight and dimensions up and plan where it’s going – it’s worth it.
  • Bells & Whistles:
    These can range from a cup holder to a cooling fan for comfort and each of them could make the unit that much more enjoyable to use. My elliptical machine at home is not too fancy and doesn’t have a whole lot of extra features, but it does have a water bottle holder and book / magazine holder which are terrific. They’re very simple features, but nice to have.
  • Power Requirements
    Most of these units utilize a battery pack or household voltage, but make sure you find that detail out before you buy it. You’ll want to make sure that you have an outlet that’s close by and that it’s the proper voltage before you purchase the unit.
  • Drive System
    A few of the units utilize a front drive system while most elliptical machines use a reverse drive system. Personally, I don’t notice much of a difference. The front drive systems without articulating pedals are said to have an awkward feel by some, but most of the higher end brands, like Schwinn, use an articulating pedal.

These elliptical buying tips are just a guide. The most important factor is your opinion. It’s far better to buy an elliptical that will get used than it is to buy one that becomes a place to hang laundry on, so pick the one that’s right for you.

If you want an elliptical with certain features that is slightly out of your price range, you may want to hold off on your purchase and save up to buy the one that you really want.

An elliptical machine can be a great investment…in your health and fitness. I hope these elliptical buying tips were helpful.

Good luck!

Leave Elliptical Buying Tips & Return to Gifts for Runners

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