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Treadmill Buying Guide

Author: Vienna Miller

Buying a treadmill? There are so many brands and features to choose from. How do you know which treadmill is best for you?

This treadmill buyers guide will tell you exactly what to look for when buying your treadmill. Knowing this will help you choose the best treadmill for your fitness needs (and it might even save you some money!)

So here's what to look at when choosing a treadmill:


The motor is the heart of your treadmill. Motor power is measured by horsepower - HP. Unless your treadmill has a strong motor (at least 1.5 horsepower) you can quickly wear it out, even if only moderately walking.

When looking at motors and horsepower, there are two different ratings:

- Continuous Duty (which is the rating for steady, continual 24 hour motor use), and
- Peak Duty (which is the maximum power potential, however it cannot be maintained).

When looking at treadmills you want to know the Continuous Duty motor power. It's recommended that you go with at least a 1.75 HP continuous duty (CD) motor (preferably higher).

For runners or those planning heavy use of their treadmills, experts recommend at least a 2.5 - 3 HP continuous duty motor so that your motor doesn't quickly burn out on you and end up costing you in expensive treadmill repairs.

Tip: Many cheaper treadmill brands will often give you the Peak Duty motor power (since it's always higher than the Continuous Duty rating) just to impress unsuspecting buyers. Make sure you know the continuous duty rating when comparing units.


There are two types of frames: aluminum or steel (NEVER plastic!). Steel is heavier than aluminum which potentially increases stability. However steel may also rust or corrode from sweat (unlike aluminum).

So there are advantages and disadvantages to both and it really boils down to a matter of personal choice. One thing to keep in mind however is that aluminum is more expensive than steel so it may be built into the price of the treadmill.


Average treadbelt widths range from 17" to 22" and lengths from 51" to 61". Never go below a belt width of 16 " and make sure that the belt is long enough to accomodate your stride.

If you are tall and/or have long legs, it's better to go with a longer belt (54" or more). Make sure you also consider anyone else who will be using the treadmill and their height as well.


Treadmill cushioning is the ability of the treadmill to absorb the force of your step. Better cushioning means lower impact on your joints and ligaments. Cushioning is extremely important as poor cushioning can cause injury and muscle strain.

Many quality treadmills have their own form of cushioning system to protect you. Make sure your treadmill has a quality cushioning system to protect your joints over the long run.


According to Runner's World, stability is the most important quality in a treadmill. Stability is how smooth a ride the treadmill provides you. There should be no shaking or wobbling when you start to run.

Generally with treadmills you get what you pay for. For a high stability, high quality treadmill you should be willing to spend at least $1000, and definitely more if you plan on using it heavily. There's no use spending $500-600 on something you're scared to use.


Consider both the layout and user-friendliness of the information displays and controls. This is largely a matter of personal preference since some people want to see a constant display of calories burned or miles covered,etc.

For safety concerns, make sure the speed and incline controls are prominently displayed and easy to reach.

Heart Rate Monitor/Control:

Again, this is largely a personal preference whether or not you want to monitor your heart rate. A heart rate monitor simply shows you at what rate your heart is beating while you work out.

Some people like to take a step up and get a heart rate control which can actually adjust the treadmill pace to keep you in your target fat-burning zone.


Treadmill warranties vary across the board and again, you usually get what you pay for. Don't waste your money buying an added warranty when most quality treadmills include a good warranty in the price already.

Tip: The warranty gives you a good idea of the quality of parts used in building the treadmill (ever wondered why those cheap department store brands only offer you 90 day warranties?).

A quality warranty will include at least 10 years on the frame, 3 years on the motor, 2 years on parts and 1 year on labor. (Keep in mind that the motor is usually the most expensive to fix).


A quality motorized treadmill is going to cost you at least $1000. The quality of treadmills (cushioning, construction, parts, quality) drops substantially once you go below $800.

According to expert Gregory Florez, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, "Just about anything under $900 is not made to be used over the long haul."

There are ways to save on your treadmill of course (buy direct, online wholesalers, etc.) but the bottom line is that a treadmill is an investment in your health. It will last you 10 years or more so you really want to invest in a quality unit built to last.

Where to Buy A Treadmill:

There are a number of options here but they mainly fall into 2 categories:

1) Store
2) Online

- Store Advantages: You can actually try out the treadmill.

- Store Disadvantages: You'll probably pay more for the same treadmill you can get online simply because the store has overhead costs and salespeople to pay. Stores will also charge you for shipping and delivery and you'll also pay sales tax.

- Internet Disadvantages: You can't try out the treadmill

- Internet Advantages: You can save a lot of money buying direct from the manufacturer, sometimes $600 or more. You can usually get free shipping and save on sales tax too. Plus you have a larger selection of treadmill to choose from so you may be able to find a treadmill that is more suited to your needs.

It really comes down to what you're comfortable with.

So that's it! You now know what to look for when buying a treadmill. Just remember to take your time and select a treadmill that fits your fitness goals. And you're guaranteed to find the best treadmill for you.

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