Finding the best home elliptical machine doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s all about knowing the key differences between ellipticals and knowing what features are most important to you.
There are a lot of ellipticals on the market these days, but if you understand how to compare them effectively, you will be able to sift through the junk to find the right elliptical for your home gym in no time.
This guide will show you what home ellipticals can offer, which features are most important, and what you should expect from ellipticals in different price ranges. We’ll finish with a discussion on my top picks based on the criteria we discussed.
In a hurry? I understand, feel free to skip ahead:
Choosing An Elliptical Machine
Ellipticals are a great choice for home fitness. I like to think of ellipticals as a combination between stationary bikes and treadmills.
You get the benefits of performing a weight bearing exercise (burning more calories) combined with the low impact motion of a bike. It’s win-win: burn more calories, less stress on the joints. As a physical therapist, this makes me happy.
Folks love using ellipticals in the commercials gyms. It’s obvious because at my local YMCA they are always the first thing to fill up. Luckily, ellipticals for the home have gotten pretty advanced.
They are a little smaller and a little less heavy duty, but they can offer a lot of the same features the commercial machines offer.
And let’s face it, most of us may not have the room (or budget) for a full sized commercial grade elliptical in our home gyms. Keep in mind commercial grade equipment has to be designed to take the wear and tear of a lot of users day in and day out.
So when looking for a home elliptical, where do we start? Let’s start with the most important features you need to consider before purchasing.
Stride length is the most important consideration when it comes to how comfortable an elliptical is while you are using it. This is what gives an elliptical it’s “feel”, if that makes sense.
Technically speaking, it’s how far the pedals move (front to back) during use. As a therapist, stride length is something we consider as well during walking.
Having a longer stride length will make it feel more natural, shorter stride lengths will make the motion feel choppy and uncomfortable, especially for taller people.
Most ellipticals have stride lengths ranging from 12 – 20+ inches. Nicer ellipticals will be in the 20 inch range because it comfortably fits most people.
Anything below 16 inches is probably going to be uncomfortable, unless you are under 5’3″.
The flywheel in an elliptical is similar to the flywheel in an exercise bike. It’s what you are pushing against and moving as you use the machine.
Flywheels come in different weights and can range anywhere between 13 – 30 lb.
Heavier flywheels are typically preferred because they make the ride feel smoother- the extra weight (once you get it moving) builds up momentum and makes the flywheel spin more smoothly.
Heavier flywheels should, theoretically, be able to provide more overall resistance as well, but this depends on the magnetic resistance system as well.
Nicer ellipticals typically come with heavier flywheels, but you should always check to make sure. Personally, I recommend aiming for a machine with a flywheel in the 20 lb range to ensure smooth operation.
However, when it comes to the luxury or commercial grade ellipticals, the flywheel rule gets thrown out the window. Most commercial grade ellipticals don’t use perimeter weighted flywheels.
These machines are usually designed differently so they can provide the same smooth resistance without needing heavy flywheels- has something to do with different gear ratios and whatnot.
I’m always talking about weight capacity with cardio equipment. It’s just one of those things you have to look at and compare. If I’m stuck between two machines, I always go with the one with the higher weight capacity.
It’s a great indicator of quality of build.
You have to at least find a machine that comfortably accommodates your weight. Preferably, you should have a 50 lb cushion, but this may not be doable with some of the larger users.
I always aim for at least a 300 lb weight capacity. Again, higher is always better in my book. Higher-end models will offer 350 – 400 lb weight limits.
Warranty is another good indicator of quality. Quality machines have better warranties. Junkier machines have weak or no warranties. Always something to consider when purchasing fitness equipment.
Elliptical warranties are usually divided into frame, parts, and labor.
Quality ellipticals will often offer lifetime on the frame, although this does depend on the price of the machine. More expensive ellipticals tend to come with more generous guarantees, but this isn’t always necessarily the case.
You have to do your homework.
You should expect at least 3-5 years on parts and a 1-2 years on labor for quality ellipticals. Some brands go above and beyond and offer up to 10 years on parts (but this is rare).
You need to find an elliptical that fits your space. If your machine is too large for your space, you aren’t going to be able to use it effectively. Most home ellipticals need a floor space of about 3′ x 6′ to be used comfortably.
Keep in mind ceiling height as well. If you are planning on putting it in an attic and you’re tall, make sure you will have enough head room at the highest point of the ellipticals motion.
Users under 6 ft tall should be fine on any elliptical with an 8 ft ceiling.
If over 6 ft tall, add 20 inches to your height and that should be the minimum ceiling height- this is just an estimation, when in doubt, look at the specifications for the machine you are considering.
If you think ceiling height is going to be an issue, you should read my elliptical guide for low ceilings.
Ah, maybe the most important factor to consider. You obviously have to find a product that fits your budget. There are quality machines in all price ranges, but the more you pay, the more you get (usually).
I like to break down ellipticals into 3 price brackets:
- Budget (under $1000)- this is a very large category and there’s a lot of variation in what you can get here. The nicer models in this price range will offer long stride lengths, heavy flywheels, and loads of features.
- Mid-range ($1000-$2000)- ellipticals in this price bracket should come with heavier-duty frames, more advanced features, and longer warranties. There are some really nice machines in this price range.
- Luxury ($2000 and up)- these are the nicer, higher-end machines. These machines should start to feel commercial grade. For the extra cost, you get more comfortable (and sometimes adjustable) stride lengths, higher weight capacities, better warranties, and the most advanced features.
Other Things To Consider:
Different elliptical machines offer different levels of adjustable resistance. The nicer, higher quality machines tend to offer more control over resistance.
You can expect anywhere from 8 levels of resistance up to 25. Most resistances are controlled magnetically- as the magnetic brake comes closer to the flywheel, it provides more resistance.
Magnetic systems are quiet and smooth and require very little maintenance.
Pedals on ellipticals come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. It’s important to find one that feels comfortable during use because this is the biggest point of contact between you and the machine.
Pedals should be large enough to comfortably accommodate your foot and allow for some movement as you workout. Nicer pedals have non-slip treading to reduce chance of injury during use.
Consoles will vary greatly depending on price range. More expensive models will come with higher tech components:
- Pre-programmed workouts: hills, intervals, fat-burning, heart rate, etc. Ellipticals can offer anywhere from 8 – 40 different workouts
- LCD screens: some ellipticals have 1, some have 2 screens for viewing workout metrics (others have none). Nicer models have well lit screens making it easy to see all your stats
- Heart rate monitor: many machines will offer contact grip heart rate monitors for tracking heart rate during exercise. Nicer ellipticals will be compatible with telemetry (wireless) monitors and may even include them
- Motorized Inclines: some ellipticals offer an incline adjustment- similar to changing the resistance you are pushing against, you can increase or decrease the angle
- Speakers: mid to higher-end ellipticals will come with built-in speakers for connecting your phone or mp3 player. A lot of machines these days are coming with bluetooth speakers.
- Bluetooth: a lot of machines these days offer bluetooth compatibility to easily track your workout stats using one or more apps on your smartphone
- Fans: nicer machines will have built-in fans with adjustable speeds to help keep you cool during your workout
You should now have a good idea of what features you can expect to see discussed when looking at elliptical reviews. As you can see, a lot of the console features are not essential to the operation of the machine.
They just make working out a little more interesting. If the extra features aren’t as important to you, you can save some money by finding a machine with fewer bells and whistles.
Best Budget Ellipticals ($1000 and under)
Sole Fitness is one of my favorite brands. I’m a fan of pretty much everything this company makes. I like them so much because they concentrate on the performance of their machines, first and foremost.
Their E25 elliptical machine is no exception.
The E25 is the most affordable option they offer and will cost ya just under $1000. For the price, it comes with a great combination of performance specs and console features.
Right off the bat, this elliptical is packing a 20 lb flywheel and comes with a 20″ stride length. The 20/20 combo makes for a comfortable and smooth ride, while also ensuring the E25 has enough muscle to provide a challenging workout.
Speaking of 20/20, this elliptical also comes with 20 levels of resistance and 20 power incline levels (maybe sole should’ve named this the E20?), giving advanced users the option to really crank up the intensity of their workouts.
The frame is also heavy-duty enough to handle users weighing up to 350 lb, which is quite impressive for this price range.
Although Sole isn’t known for adding a lot of hi-tech stuff to their machines, the E25 does come with bluetooth speakers and a USB charging port.
Sole also backs this elliptical up with a great warranty: lifetime frame, 3 year parts, and 1 year labor.
The impressive combination of specs and warranty is what landed the E25 at the top of the list in this price range. Simply put- there is no better option for under $1000. See full review.
#2 ProForm Pro 9.9
It’s hard to place the ProForm Pro 9.9 in the number 2 position, but I thought it would be lame to have a tie for 1st place. I ultimately went with the Sole elliptical because I like bluetooth speakers, but there’s really no wrong answer here.
ProForm, like Sole, is a very well respected company known for offering awesome products and their ellipticals are some of the best in all classes.
If you’re looking for workout variety, this is a better choice than the Sole E25.
The Pro 9.9 comes with a massive, 28 lb flywheel, which is pretty unheard of in this price range. Speaking of unheard of, it also comes with an adjustable stride length (18-21″), making it a great choice for taller athletes.
ProForm also gives you complete control over that flywheel with 24 levels of resistance and power incline up to 20°.
This gives the Pro 9.9 plenty of ammunition to kick your butt on a daily basis.
One of the biggest perks (and most obvious reason to choose over the Sole E25) of this elliptical is its workout library. The Pro 9.9 comes with 32 built-in workout programs.
This is a ton of workout variety on it’s own, but this elliptical can also connect with iFit and give you access to unlimited workouts lead by personal trainers.
iFit is a paid subscription app and is optional, although ProForm pushes it pretty hard on their customers.
ProForm backs this elliptical with the same great warranty Sole offers: lifetime frame, 3 year parts, 1 year labor.
Overall, the ProForm Pro 9.9 is the total package. If you like the idea of having a ton of workouts to choose from, this is a great choice. See full review.
#3 Horizon 7.0 AE
Horizon Fitness may not be as immediately recognizable as the first 2 brands, but they do a good job of providing high quality products in the budget and mid-range price levels.
They offer several ellipticals in the budget price range, but I think their newest model, the 7.0 AE has the best combination of specs and features.
Primarily because they finally offered power incline with this model.
This elliptical also has a 20″ stride length, making it a comfortable ride for most folks. To go along with this stride length, it’s packing a 23 lb flywheel- impressive considering this is the most affordable option on this list.
Horizon pairs the heavy flywheel with 20 resistance levels and 20 levels of power incline, giving you the ability to really crank up the intensity of your workouts if you so choose.
Other fun highlights include bluetooth speakers, a USB charging port, and one touch speed/incline buttons. This elliptical also has a fairly large display screen, making viewing all your stats easy during your workouts.
Speaking of workouts, this elliptical is a little lacking in the workout department (only 6 included), but it comes with the same great warranty as the 2 previous models.
But, this elliptical does cost about $100 less than the other 2 options.
Overall, the Horizon 7.0 AE is a smart choice for people looking for a quality elliptical that is easy to use and that won’t break the bank. See full review.
Best Mid-Range Ellipticals ($1000 – $2000)
With higher price tags, we should expect to get a little more than we saw in the budget category. And by more, I mean heavier-duty frames, longer warranties, and more advanced consoles.
The Sole E95 can confidently check all these boxes.
The E95 is Sole’s most advanced mid-range elliptical. This machine is flirting with commercial grade and has some significant upgrades over the more affordable E25 we saw up above.
The first major upgrade we see is in the flywheel department. The E95 comes loaded with a 27 lb flywheel, which is a full 7 lb heavier than the budget model.
There are heavier flywheels out there in this price range (as you’ll see down below), but at 27 lb, the E95 has plenty of mass behind it to provide a velvety smooth ride.
This elliptical also comes with a 20″ stride length, 20 resistance levels, and 20 levels of power incline.
Another significant upgrade we see with this model is the larger console- the E95 comes with a 10″ display, which is significantly larger than the E25. The larger screen makes viewing workout data and accessing workouts easier and more convenient.
The E95 is a heavy, solid machine with a commercial grade worthy weight capacity of 400 lb. This elliptical is tough enough to handle users of all sizes.
Like all Sole equipment, the E95 isn’t packing a ton of hi-tech features, but it does come with bluetooth speakers, a USB charging port, and a free chest strap heart rate monitor.
This elliptical only comes with 10 workout programs, but it’s backed by a great warranty: lifetime frame, 5 year parts, 2 year labor.
Overall, I think the Sole E95 offers the best combination of specs and features in this price range. If you’re ok with the limited number of workouts, you can’t go wrong with this one. See full review.
It was a tough decision to rank the Bowflex BXE216 in the number 2 spot because this elliptical surpasses the Sole E95 in more than one category. Ultimately, I went the Sole elliptical for my first pick because the warranty is a little better and I tend to prefer Sole products over Bowflex.
But there’s no loser here.
If you’re looking for the elliptical with the most muscle, the BXE216 is probably going to be your preferred model. This elliptical has a 35 lb flywheel under the hood.
Not only is this an astounding 8 lb heavier than the E95, but I think it might be the heaviest flywheel I’ve ever seen on a home elliptical (easily the heaviest in this price range).
The BXE216 is built like a tank from top to bottom- the total weight for this model is just over 260 lb. This extra mass is a good thing, ensuring a stable base that won’t move or wobble during use.
It also allows this elliptical to safely accommodate users weighing up to 400 lb.
The BXE216 also comes with a larger than average stride length of 22″, making this a smart idea for folks over 6′ tall. Bowflex also added adjustable pedals (the pedal angle) on this model for added customization and comfort.
This elliptical is very similar to the E95 in terms of tech and features. This model is also lacking a little in the workout department (11 workouts), but it is bluetooth compatible and comes with a USB charging port and free chest strap as well.
The warranty on this machine is pretty impressive too: 15 year warranty, 5 year parts, 2 year labor.
Overall, if you’re looking for the toughest elliptical in this price range, the Bowflex BXE216 is it. The super heavy flywheel and long stride length make this a great choice for the big and tall crowd. See full review.
#3 NordicTrack Commercial 14.9
NordicTrack is another huge name in fitness equipment, well known for producing popular and dependable home fitness machines.
Their Commercial 14.9 is their most advanced front-drive elliptical to date and it’s got a lot to be proud of. If you’re looking for an elliptical with more going on in the tech department, this could be your best bet.
This elliptical comes with a 10″ HD touchscreen display and 35 built-in workouts to choose from. This is a big difference from the rather simple displays the previous 2 ellipticals come with.
The Commercial 14.9 is also compatible with iFit, ICON Fitness’s workout app, that gives you unlimited access to workouts, personal training, data tracking, and more.
The large, gorgeous display is designed to pair perfectly with iFit, but if you don’t want to pay the monthly subscription fee, you can still access the library of workouts included with the machine.
Although the hi-tech console is probably the highlight of this model, its also sporting some impressive performance specs. Most notably, a 32 lb flywheel, 26 levels of magnetic resistance, and up to 20° of power incline.
NordicTrack also backs the Commercial 14.9 with an amazing warranty: lifetime frame, 6 year parts, 3 year labor.
The biggest downside is the stride length- at 19″, taller users may find themselves having to shorten their stride. But if you’re under 6′ tall, you probably won’t notice.
Overall, the Commercial 14.9 is a high-end elliptical with impressive specs. This model is a great choice if you’re looking for a hi-tech console with lots of workout variety. See full review.
Best Luxury Ellipticals ($2000 and up)
As we enter the luxury price range, we’re entering the realm of truly commercial-grade ellipticals. Machines in this category should offer the comfort and feel of the ellipticals you’ve used before at the local gym.
And if you’ve ever used an elliptical at a local gym before, odds are you’ve used a Life Fitness product.
Even though Life Fitness is most well-known for their commercial machines, they also have a residential lineup full of models designed for home use.
With Life Fitness though, it can be hard to tell the difference between their residential and commercial models- this is especially true for their Platinum Club Series Elliptical.
But that’s probably the point (considering the name of this model).
The Platinum Club Series is their most advanced home elliptical and it looks like something you’d see people fighting over during rush hour at Gold’s.
This elliptical is a mirror image of some of their commercial models, providing the same heavy-duty frame (400 lb weight capacity) and nearly silent operation (WhisperStride technology).
This machine comes with a 20″ stride length and 26 levels of magnetic resistance to provide a comfortable workout while giving you full control over your intensity.
The performance specs are all pretty legit here (although it is lacking power incline), but the most luxurious feature is the Discover SE3HD display- this 16″ HD touchscreen console gives you access to TV, the internet, a boat load of workout apps, and up to 42 workout programs.
The biggest downside (other than the price) is probably the warranty- not awful, but for the asking price I’d expect a little longer (especially in the parts category).
Overall though, the Life Fitness Platinum Club Series Elliptical is a world class machine. If you have the cash and are looking for the feel of an elliptical you’d see at Gold’s or Crunch Fitness, this one is hard to beat. See full review.
#2 Precor EFX 447 Elliptical
Considering the fact that Precor invented the elliptical (and has been producing awesome equipment ever since) it didn’t seem right not to include at least one of their machines on this list.
It was a tough call ranking the EFX 447 in second behind the Platinum Club Series, but I though it would be lame to have a tie for 1st.
If you’re looking to save a few thousand bucks and aren’t gonna miss the fancy console too much, this elliptical is a smart choice.
The EFX 447 is Precor’s most advanced home model, but it’s likely to be confused with their commercial units. It does share a lot of the same patented technology as the ellipticals you’ll find in club gyms around the world.
This beauty comes with a variable stride length, ranging between 21″ and 24″ depending on the incline setting of the power ramp. Even at the lowest setting, this elliptical has a larger stride length than most, making it a great option for taller users.
The EFX 447 has Precor’s patented power ramp incline system, allowing you to bump the incline all the way up to 40° for when you’re really in the mood for a punishing workout.
The 20 levels of magnetic resistance (along with the 20 incline settings) gives you complete control over your workout intensity, allowing you to fine tune for gradual increases as your fitness improves.
Speaking of workouts, this model comes packed with 40 different programs to choose from. With this many workout options on your elliptical, getting bored with your routine won’t be an issue.
Unlike the elliptical mentioned above, the EFX 447 has a rather unsophisticated console, but it’s large enough for easy viewing and easy to make workout selections.
This elliptical does, however, have a much better warranty- lifetime frame, 10 year parts, 1 year labor.
Overall, Precor’s EFX 447 is the definition of home fitness luxury. This model looks and feels exactly like the ones you see in the local gym- and isn’t that the point anyway? See full review.
#3 Life Fitness E5 Elliptical Cross-Trainer
Yup, another Life Fitness model made the list. When it comes to luxury, commercial grade equipment, they’re kinda the biggest show in town.
If you like the Platinum Club Series model above, but are looking for a model that’s a little more affordable, the E5 might be a good fit.
At roughly half the price, I think this elliptical offers a great features-to-price ratio.
The E5 is built with the same attention to detail in terms of quality and comfort as all the other Life Fitness ellipticals are and it shares a lot of the same technology with the Platinum Club Series.
There are a few key differences though.
With the E5, you get to choose between the less sophisticated “Go” console and the slightly more advanced “Track Connect” console. If you aren’t interested in fitness apps and data tracking, you can save some cash and go with the “Go” (get it?).
You get extra workouts and user profiles with the “Track Connect” option, but it costs about $500 more.
The most impressive feature on the E5 is its adjustable stride length. With the push of a button on the console (or moving handle), you can instantly adjust the stride length anywhere from 18″ to 24″.
This is a cool feature for 2 reasons: it ensures a comfortable fit regardless of your height, and it allows you to concentrate on different muscle groups during your workouts.
The stride length features makes the E5 a smart choice for homes with multiple users, especially if the users are all of different heights.
The E5 also comes with comfortable pedals and the same WhisperStride technology as the more expensive ellipticals in Life Fitness’s lineup.
Other notable highlights include 20 levels of magnetic resistance, a 400 lb weight capacity, and a free chest strap heart rate monitor with purchase. You can also usually get free delivery and assembly with Life Fitness, fyi.
The biggest downside is that the E5 doesn’t come with an adjustable incline (quite the opposite of the Precor EFX 447 seen above).
But if you’re looking for a more affordable Life Fitness model, the E5 is a smart choice. Even the Platinum Club Series doesn’t have an adjustable stride length. See full review.
You should now feel confident in your ability to pick the best elliptical for YOUR home. You know you need to consider certain factors, including: machine size, weight capacity, warranty, and price.
These are the essentials and should directly guide your buying decision.
Also important are considerations like stride length, workout options, resistance levels, and console features. These might not be as essential as the 4 above factors, but these characteristics are going to be what dictates how comfortable and how fun your new elliptical will be to use.
After all, the best elliptical in the world is worthless if you don’t want to use it.
Speaking of comfort, keep in mind stride length is the most important aspect to consider when it comes to how comfortable an elliptical is to use. Longer stride lengths are usually preferred, but it does depend a lot on your height.
Now that you’ve seen the best ellipticals for the home, there’s only one more thing to do… find the one that best matches your needs and start using it!
I hope this article was helpful. As always, if you have an questions or comments, leave them below and I’ll get back to you.