How To Buy An Elliptical – A Helpful Guide Before You Buy

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I want to start off by letting you know that I am a big fan of elliptical machines.  If you are interested in tips on how to buy an elliptical machine, please keep reading. I will walk you through some of the things to consider and think about before you take the plunge.  Be sure to check out my elliptical buyer’s guide, for the best elliptical trainers.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  Click here for details.Me demonstrating how to buy an elliptical

I have been using elliptical machines a lot over the past few years.  I had a pretty bad back injury in 2015 and working out on an elliptical was the first step in my recovery.  Still, I use an elliptical about 5 days per week in addition to the rest of my training.  I have really come to understand how beneficial an elliptical machine is for your whole body.

Depending on how you workout on an elliptical, you can get a full body workout, or you can concentrate mostly on your legs.  I love to spend at least 10 minutes with my arms behind my back, torso straight, and keep my head still.  That is a great way to focus on your lower body.  Going with “look mom, no hands” mode, really engages your core muscles as well.  Anyway you slice it, you can target different areas or your whole body.

I love the low impact aspect of an elliptical.  Ellipticals are great for knees, hips, really your whole body when it comes to low impact.  It’s like running without all the pounding.  I know some runners who work in elliptical training during the week, just for the reduced impact on their bodies.  It’s also a great way to mix something different into a workout routine.Row of ellipticals, showing how to buy an elliptical

Who will be using the elliptical and what are your goals?

If you are purchasing an elliptical just for yourself, this is a pretty easy one.  In that case, you only need to consider your particular needs.  If you have multiple users, then you will want to make sure you gather as much information about each person and what each users needs will be.  This will help you narrow down what kind of a machine you need, how much to spend etc.

What features do you want?

There are a lot of different ellipticals on the market and you will have to decide which features are most important to you.  How much technology do you want to be built into your machine?  You can get machines that have a lot of built-in, preset programs as well as a lot of resistance levels.  Some come iFit technology ready.  iFit allows you to have access to virtual training destinations around the world with Google Maps.

How much money do you want to spend?How to buy an elliptical, determine your budget piggy bank

This, of course, is a key consideration. You probably have a budget in mind. What can you get with the money you want to spend.  This is another thing to think about when choosing the features you want.  Are the features you want worth the price?

Where are you going to put the elliptical?

Space is a big consideration when you are thinking about purchasing any exercise equipment.  Where are you going to want to workout, and where do you have the space for the machine. If you live in a hot or cold climate, you may not want to put the unit in your garage unless it is air-conditioned or heated.

Will it fit in your basement and will you have enough headroom, when you are bouncing up and down?  Maybe consider a more compact, front drive system if you plan to put it in a bedroom, or office. Anyway, just things to consider regarding space.  There are some ellipticals that are a lot more compact than others.  Remember that the arms will be moving back and forth, extending farther forward than you may think so take that into your space considerations.

Overall, you want to get a machine that feels good.  Quality components and solid construction can make a really big difference. As far as components that make up the elliptical, things to consider are:

  • Stride length – When you think about this it makes sense.  When you walk or run, you have a length to your stride. When you ride an elliptical, you want to make sure the range of the pedal will work for you.  So stride length is definitely something you want to pay attention to.  Many machines will have a standard stride length that is not adjustable, and that is okay, as long as it works for you.  Some will have an adjustable stride length.
    • The flywheel is what makes the elliptical go. This is the part that rotates as you apply pressure with your arms to the handles, and legs on the pedals. Resistance is also adjusted to the flywheel.
    • There are different orientations for the flywheel, front, rear, and center.
      • A front drive offers a more upright user experience and tends to be more compact.  Easier access to the pedals.
      • A rear-drive machine will have the flywheel in the back. These are larger, bulkier machines, but typically offer a smoother ride.
      • There are some center drive units as well, which are kind of a hybrid unit.
    •  A heavier flywheel will usually offer a smoother and quieter ride than a more lightweight flywheel.
  • Pedals are something you will want to look at as well.  Make sure they are going to be comfortable for you.  Some are padded, some are oversized, some are neither. One thing I have learned from working out on an elliptical is that feet tend to move forward if the pedals allow for that.  Then your toes end up jammed at the front of the pedal and you either have to adjust on the fly, or stop and move your feet.
  • The console should suit your needs.  As I mentioned above, you will need to decide what features/programs you want and go from there.  Consoles range from basic to HD touchscreens.  You will want a console that is easy to read and user-friendly.
  • Electronics/gadgets/device compatibility – This is kind of a wide, catchall category, but,Device compatibility, how to buy an elliptical things to consider here:
    • Heart rate via telemetry with a chest strap or handgrips, or both.  Heart rate sensors allow you to keep an eye on where you want to be with your workout.  Some machines will automatically adjust the workout depending on the hear rate metrics you choose.  It will auto adjust to make the workout easier or harder to keep your heart rate in line.
    • Device compatibility.  Does this machine support iPhone, or Android, or both?
    • Bluetooth. will it pair with your devices and connect with your favorite fitness apps? This would allow you to keep track of your workouts and even compete with your friends
    • Does it have an audio system, or do you want one?

Other things you may want to consider 

  • Water bottle holder
  • Fan
  • Media shelf
  • Does the machine have an incline feature?  If so, is it manual or powered?  Incline can really enhance your workout experience and engage different parts of your body.  Definitely, something to consider
  • Is the elliptical foldable?  Some machines will fold and they claim it’s transportable for storage.  This is technically true, but it’s just not realistic since these ellipticals can weigh a lot. It would probably take 2 people realistically to move the unit out of the way.  So, just food for thought.  Some of the lighter weight machines can be moved no problem.
  • User weight
  • Warranty and customer service are things to consider.  Check the warranty to see what it covers.  Does the warranty cover all components, including the flywheel brake and electronic components?

At the end of the day, you will want to choose a machine that fits you, not the other way around.  Think about your goals, as they will change.  Your goals today may be different than your goals 6 months from now.  Are you going to outgrow this machine or will it have enough programs and resistance levels for you to achieve your goals?

I really hope this guide will help with your search for an elliptical machine.  I have outlined a lot of information here, and hopefully, you are better informed now than when you started reading. Please let me know if you have any further questions or comments.  I will get back to you as soon as I can.  Thank you very much for reading and I hope you have a great day.


6 thoughts on “How To Buy An Elliptical – A Helpful Guide Before You Buy”

  1. Nice post Steve. This is very important information when buying an Elliptical. I agree they seem to be much better to use then running. As someone who is really into fitness, I’m not a fan of running. Not because its strenuous, I can take that, but because it does seem harsh on the joints. I don’t really want to risk my body health to get more conditioned. Especially since there are more efficient and fun ways to get conditioned. Anyways what’s the price range for a quality elliptical?


    • Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, there are quality machines in various price ranges. I really think in the $1-$2K range there are a lot of good machines with a good amount of tech options. If you are looking for something less expensive, the Schwinn products would be a good way to go. There are a lot of choices, so hopefully, I have helped you narrow it down a bit. Thanks again for stopping by.

  2. Great article Steve. My wife and I have been looking at treadmills and elliptical trainers for a while and are thinking of buying one. I know that elliptical trainers have less of an impact on your body but are there other obvious advantages of an elliptical trainer of a treadmill?

    • Thank you for your comment. Besides the low impact of an elliptical, there are some other advantages. First of all, you can engage your upper body by using the moving handgrips on an elliptical. Another advantage, I believe the elliptical engages your core more than running on a treadmill. Just the full body action of an elliptical is great for engaging your core. One thing I like to do on the elliptical is to hold onto the handles that are fixed, and lean back into my butt, this works my glutes really well. I also like to go with no hands at all, often times holding my hands behind my back, and keep my upper body straight, this really works the quads. So I think there are different areas you can focus on with an elliptical versus a treadmill. You may also have the ability to pedal backward on the elliptical, which is another range of motion. There are certainly treadmill people out there who won’t give them up for anything though :). Anyway, these are my thoughts. Hopefully, this helps to answer your question.

  3. Loved this post! Very informational … and as embarrassing as it may be, a light bulb came on while I was reading your segment on space for the equipment. You said, “Where are you going to want to workout, and where do you have the space for the machine?” And it dawned on me that even though I’ve put a bit of thought into where I can fit an elliptical, I’ve literally never thought once about where I’d actually want to work out. Where do I want to spend that time? And suddenly I realized that where I had been planning on putting work out equipment just because it fits there, isn’t actually where I want to work out at all lol Isn’t that silly? Anyway, this was great… as I have lower back pain as well and am always looking for more natural remedies for ailments, verses prescription meds. I enjoyed this, thanks for helping me think outside of the box!

    • Thank you so much for your comment. Not silly at all, I am glad you found some value from my post! It’s a good idea to have a plan before you buy something like this, that is for sure. Yes, I am a big believer in exercise to help our bodies with ailments, when at all possible. Thanks again for stopping by.


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