Buying Guide

Factors you need to consider before purchasing a new elliptical trainer.

What to Look for in Your Elliptical Trainer

As you’re shopping around for an elliptical trainer, there are certain factors that you should consider. Things like the type of resistance system and the different options on the console will determine how the machine functions and how effectively you are able to use it.

Even if you’re not very familiar with ellipticals, the following information should help you make the best choice.

Size Matters

Most ellipticals are heavy and have a large footprint. They are also stationary and not designed to be folded away for storage.

Ellipticals with the front drive type are normally more compact and easy to store away; some of them are even foldable, but this is rare. Center Drive ellipticals are relatively new to the market, but they typically have a more compact design than the front and rear drive types. If you have only a small space for your elliptical you may want to take measurements of the space and match them against the dimensions of the elliptical you want, just to be sure that it will be able to fit in comfortably.

The Console Features

Ellipticals on the lower end of the price scale tend to have consoles with very basic functionality, such as the ability to check your speed, time, and distance. If you prefer to have more high-tech features on the console of your elliptical, be prepared to spend more money, as these features are normally found on the more expensive elliptical models. Some more advanced features that you may find on elliptical consoles include built-in speakers, Internet connectivity, and built-in fans.

You may also want to look for an elliptical trainer with functions like a heart rate monitor and a calorie counter. These are great features that can be used to enhance the quality of your workouts and help you to stay within the limits of your physical capabilities during your workout sessions. Many ellipticals will also have features like a reading rack, bottle holder, and an iPod dock.

Resistance System Types

The durability of an elliptical, its overall feel, and how noisy or quiet it is are features largely dependent on the type of resistance system that it uses. For this reason, the type of resistance on the elliptical that you choose is an area that you do not want to overlook. The best ellipticals will have a eddy current brake system that creates resistance using magnets. Systems that use electromagnets typically have the smoothest operation because there are not many moving parts. They are also relatively easy to maintain, and allow you to control the resistance settings by pressing buttons on the console. Elliptical trainers that use manual brake systems require you to manually turn a knob to change the resistance settings, and in some cases this will mean you have to physically get off the machine to do this. You’ll also want to pay special attention to the weight of the flywheel on your elliptical. Generally speaking, the heavier the flywheel the smoother your strides will be on the machine.

Incline Ability

Only some elliptical trainers have a incline ability, but if you are looking to get the most out of your workouts then you will want to find a model that has this function. Using the incline function on an elliptical will enable you to target different sets of muscles and also add variety to your workouts. This feature can also help keep you motivated. Check to see if the incline on the elliptical you want is manual or automated. Manual incline will most times mean that you have to get off the machine to make an incline adjustment, while automated incline can normally be adjusted by pressing buttons on the console. You will also want to look at the range of incline angle – the average elliptical will have a maximum incline of about 20 degrees. Any ability less than 15 degrees may not be worth the extra money that you will most likely have to pay to have this functionality on your elliptical.


You should be able to use your elliptical for a very long time. Over time you will most likely find the need to have some servicing or repairs done, so it’s important that you get a good warranty with your purchase. Ideally, you want to get a machine that has at least a one-year warranty on labor and two or three years on the moving parts. The best ellipticals (and the most expensive ones) typically come with a lifetime warranty on the frame.


These are just some things that you should consider when you are shopping around for an elliptical trainer. For most people, getting an elliptical is a significant investment in their health and fitness, so it is a good idea to give careful consideration to the features and functions that are important to you.

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