By: Steve Murano
Last updated: July 2017
A treadmill is one of the best ways to get in shape without leaving your home. According to this SFIA report, it’s also the largest selling exercise equipment by a large margin. However, it’s also one of the most complex mechanisms in the equipment world and, such, they cost a lot of money. Most treadmills you see in the gyms cost at least several thousand dollars. However, they are made to be used commercially and would be an overkill for a typical home user. Surely, even the best treadmill designed for home use will cost many times less, right?
Not really. A good sturdy treadmill that will last you many years, can be used for running and has enough functions to keep the workouts interesting will set you back closer to a thousand dollars. In fact, most treadmills we recommend are in the $799-999 range. We have researched the treadmill market and listed our top three choices in the under $1000 range below.
Our Top Picks under $1000
1. ProForm Performance 600i is our favorite folding treadmill. It’s got a spacious running belt, a powerful motor and plenty of workout programs to choose from. We wish the display was a bit better, but apart from that, it’s a great choice for any home.
Check the current price on Amazon here: ProForm Performance 600i Treadmill
2. NordicTrack C 990 comes with a beautiful 7″ touchscreen, large walking belt and a 3 CHP motor. It’s our current overall favorite home treadmill. Our only gripe with it is that it’s not folding, though reviewers say it’s still pretty easy to move around.
Check the current price on Amazon here: NordicTrack C 990 Treadmill
3. LifeSpan TR1200i folding treadmill is tried-and-true model that has been around for a few years now and is a very popular choice as home exercise equipment. We wish the belt was slightly longer, but other than that, it’s a great treadmill that has everything you need to start exercising. The warranty is 3 years for parts and 1 years for labor.
Check the current price on Amazon here: LifeSpan TR1200i Folding Treadmill
Comparison of 3 best treadmills under $1000:
- Treadmill model
- Running belt
- Workout programs
- Max weight
- Max speed
- ProForm Performance 600i
- 2.75 CHP
- Width: 20"
- LED lights
- 22 programs
- 325 lbs
- 12 MPH
- NordicTrack C 990
- 3 CHP
- Width: 20"
- 7" web-enabled full-color touchscreen
- 32 programs
- 300 lbs
- 12 MPH
- LifeSpan TR1200i
- 2.5 CHP
- Width: 20"
- 15 levels
- Multi-color LCD
- 21 programs
- 300 lbs
- 11 MPH
When choosing a treadmill, you first need to answer 3 basic questions: how tall are you and what’s your weight, how do you plan to use the treadmill and, finally, what kind of functionality you need in a treadmill? Let’s go through each question and see how the answer to it influences your choice.
1. Your height and weight
Each treadmill has a maximum weight capacity that it’s designed for. Ideally, you should choose a treadmill that can handle at least 50 lbs more than your current weight. This way you minimize the chances of damaging the treadmill and ruining the motor.
If you’re above average height (it varies, but let’s say above 6′), you might want to look into treadmills with wider and longer belts. The larger the belt, the easier it will be for you to walk and run on the treadmill. Look for belts of at least 58″ or 60″.
NOTE: if there will be several persons using the treadmill, choose it based on the person with the largest weight/height
2. How do you plan to use – walking, running or both
If you plan to use the treadmill primarily for walking, you can save money by going for a shorter, narrower and less powerful model (even if you’re yourself are larger).
If, however, you intend to do a lot of running, you will appreciate the increased space larger belts have and the extra power that stronger motors provide. The faster you intend to run (or the taller you are), the longer and wider the running area should be.
3. What kind of functionality do you need in a treadmill
Do you need a plethora of customized workout programs or are you happy with the very basic functionality? Do you need a fancy touch screen or a simple monochrome display will do? These are things that can influence the price tag a lot.
How to Choose a Treadmill
Motor is the heart of the treadmill. It’s what keeps the running belt spinning. The motor’s power output is usually described in HP (Horse Power) or CHP (Continuous Horse Power). Most home treadmills will have a motor between 1.5 and 4 CHP.
The more powerful the motor, the more weight it can handle and the faster it can run.
So, if you’re above average weight or intend to do a lot of running, look for a more powerful motor. As a general recommendation, 2 CHP is enough for walking, 2.5 is good for jogging and 3 CHP is perfect for running. Keep in mind there are a lot of other specs in play, and in some cases a 2 CHP motor will be perfectly fine for a runner.
The belt (the running area)
The belt is the running area, where you stand, walk and run. To keep your workouts safe and productive, there should be enough space for you at all times.
When talking about the belt size, we look at the width and the length of the belt:
Most popular models have a belt width between 18 and 20″. The more expensive the model, the wider the belt. (Commercial models you will find the gyms often have width of 22″)
If you plan to jog or run, you will appreciate the extra space the 20″ belt provides.
If you only intend to walk on the treadmill, save some money and get one with a narrower belt.
Most belts you will find on home treadmills are between 50 and 60″. Again, the more expensive the treadmill, the longer the belt will usually be.
If you intend to do a lot of running on the treadmill or if you’re 6′ and above, look for a 58″ or 60″ belt.
Incline makes your workout more challenging (and interesting!) by raising the running area to mimic walking or running uphill. This not only adds intensity but also helps burn more calories and add variety to your workouts. It’s also safer for your knees.
Two types of incline are:
- powered (sometimes called automatic or motorized)
As the name suggests, with the manual incline you have to change the angle manually. This usually means pausing the workout, changing the angle and getting back to work.
With the automatic incline you only need to press the button to change the angle. Some models will even allow you to pre-program the changes beforehand.
The maximum incline you can set is usually around 10, 15 or 20%. With those higher numbers even walkers can achieve calorie burn previously reserved only for runners.
The Console (computer and display)
There’s no lack of choice when it comes to treadmill consoles.
From smaller monochrome screens to large color touchscreen displays, everyone can find what they are looking for. It’s largely a matter of personal preference, but whatever you choose, make sure all the information you need is easily accessible and visible at a glance.
Suspension (the shock absorption mechanism)
Since you will (hopefully) spending a lot of time on the running bed of the treadmill, make sure the suspension mechanism is up to par.
Overly soft cushioning might lead to knee injuries in the future. This kind of material will also often wear out quicker. Avoid excessively hard surfaces, too. It shouldn’t feel like you’re running on asphalt.
Since you’re buying a complex electronic device that will hopefully last you many years, you need to make sure the warranty will cover all the necessary parts. It’s not uncommon for manufacturers nowadays to offer lifetime warranty on the frame and motor, and a 1 to 3 years warranty on the parts and labor.
What to expect from a $1000 treadmill?
So, what can you expect from an under $1000 treadmill? You will be getting a powerful 2-3 CHP motor, a wide belt of up to 20″ width and 60″ length with powered incline, and a variety of built-in workouts. Unlike cheaper models, most treadmills in this price range will also feature some kind of smartphone integration (i.e. speakers) and at least 2 years warranty on parts and service.
What you probably won’t get at $1000 range
As mentioned previously, don’t expect to get the same level treadmill as the one you see in your local gym. Home treadmills will generally have slightly smaller belts, a simpler screen and might not have the heart-rate controlled workout programs and other functionality. The construction won’t be as sturdy and the incline won’t be as steep. But since it’s only you and your family using the treadmill, you probably don’t really need all that.