The treadmill is the most sold piece of fitness equipment in the world. The reason is simply that it works. No other piece of fitness equipment comes close to providing the fitness and weight loss benefits of the treadmill.
The variation in treadmill prices is extreme, ranging from a few hundred dollars to many thousands. This can give rise to a tendency to dismiss lower priced brands as cheap and nasty. In this article, we aim to dispel that notion.
We’ve gathered together the 5 best budget treadmill brands. As you’re about to see, quality and style can be had for under $400.
Summary: The Best Budget Treadmills
What to Look For in a Treadmill?
So, you’ve decided to invest in a treadmill.
In narrowing down your purchasing options, you should firstly ask yourself some qualifying questions:
- What am I going to mainly be using the treadmill for – walking, light jogging or sprinting?
- Will other people also be using the treadmill?
- What weight will the heaviest user be?
- Do I have limited space?
- Do I want built-in programs?
Your answers to those questions will allow you to focus your search. Let’s now take a look at the various parts of the treadmill and identify what’s important.
The size of the motor you need depends on how you’re using the machine. At the lower end of the power spectrum is a 1.25 horsepower (hp) motor. 1.75 – 2.0 hp would be considered as satisfactory for walking and light jogging. However, the average runner should be after, at least, a 2.5 hp motor.
If people who weigh in excess of 225 pounds will be using the treadmill, you should go with a minimum 3.0 hp motor.
The Track Size
The size of the running track depends on both your level of comfort and the height of the users. Track width usually ranges from 16 to 22 inches. Many people find 16 inches to be a little narrow.
Most treadmills have a track length of between 42 and 63 inches. If you are over 6 feet tall, you should look for a machine that is, at least 55 inches long.
Most machines will go up to 12 miles per hour. This will be suitable for most people. As a minimum, you’ll want a machine that does 10 miles per hour.
Most treadmill models have a 10-15 degree incline. This will allow you to burn calories more efficiently than running on a horizontal track. Look for a treadmill that allows you to change the incline with one push of a button from your running position.
Cushioning refers to the ability of the running track to absorb the force of impact of the runner’s steps. Effective cushioning will protect your joints, hips, knees, and back.
Good track cushioning can help to reduce the impact on your body by between 15-40%. The best way to check the level of cushioning is to try out the machine for yourself. If you’re buying online, check user experiences.
The console of your treadmill should be backlit. The window should be large and easy to read. At a minimum it should provide feedback on your time, speed, and calories burned.
Most machines come with 12-14 built-in fitness programs. The top-end models have up to 44 built-in programs. Many brands also offer customizable options, allowing you to sync your data with individual platforms.
You should decide what extra features are important to you. Extras include:
- Built-in fans
- Tablet holder
- MP3 input
- USB port
- Water bottle holder
- Wireless heart rate monitor
The warranty offered by the manufacturer is a good indication of the quality of the machine. The warranty can range from a limited 90 days to an entire lifetime. You may find different warranties for different parts of the machine, such as the frame, motor, electronics, and labor.
Treadmill weight capacities range from 200 to 400 pounds. As a rule of thumb, consider buying a treadmill with a weight limit that is 50 pounds heavier than your current body weight.
While portability is an important feature, you don’t want to compromise strength and reliability in the process. Some of the cheaper folding models are not very sturdy, especially in the main frame area. Non-folding treadmills will always be sturdier than folding ones.
Budget Treadmill Reviews
The Weslo Cadence G 5.9 is a very good entry level treadmill. It comes with 6 built-in programs, has soft cushioning and built-in heart rate monitor. All of this is offered for under $300. That is great value.
The Weslo Cadence G5.9 is a foldable treadmill with a 2.25 HP motor. It provides two incline positions, but they have to be manually adjusted. Comfort Cell Cushioning provides a good level of support in the running track.
Space Saver Design technology is utilized to provide a very compact portable unit. The console is small and quite difficult to read. It provides a basic readout of your workout indicators.
Value for money
The Weslo Cadence G5.9 can be purchased online for under $300. It comes with a 90-day parts and labor and 1-year motor warranty. This represents exceptional value for money.
The G5.9 is a lightweight machine with a 250-pound max weight capacity. While not designed for heavy-duty use, it does feel solid to run on. It allows for a maximum speed of 10 mph.
The Merit Fitness 715T Plus is an excellent budget priced treadmill that offers medium priced features. It is powerful enough to provide you with a challenging workout and advanced enough to give you the vital feedback that you need.
The Merit Fitness 715T Plus is a budget treadmill that manages to pack in features that you’d only expect in a higher priced unit. It features an advanced level LED display, a 2.5 HP motor, and AeroSoft cushioning designed to reduce foot impact on the running surface.
Value for money
The Merit Fitness 715T Plus is available for around $330. This puts it in the mid range of our budget review treadmills. However, we feel that, considering the motor size, maximum user weight, and added features, it represents very good value.
The 715T Plus features a sturdy steel folding frame. Maximum user weight is 250 pounds, and the running track provides plenty of room. The unit does come on wheels but is still a little heavy to move around by yourself.
The Sunny Heath & Fitness SF-T4400 treadmill is a stylish, functional treadmill that offers a high spec console with 9 workout programs. It is limited by its small motor and limited weight capacity.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T4400 Treadmill is a rigid, stylish machine that provides you with a natural, smooth running workout. The 2.2 HP motor allows you to run at a speed of up to 9 mph. You can adjust the speed at 0.1-mile intervals.
There are control adjustments on both the main console and the hand grips. The running track can be adjusted to three incline levels. The maximum user weight is 220 pounds.
Value for money
The Sunny Heath and Fitness Treadmill can be purchased for under $330.
This price represents good value for money in terms of the computer programs, console, running track, and overall design. However, the power output and maximum weight are not ideal for the price.
With a weight capacity of just 220 pounds, the durability of the unit is questionable. However, the housing is solid and the treadmill features a soft-drop mechanism to provide safe and easy folding for storage.
The Confidence Power Trac Pro represents the best value you are likely to find in a motorized treadmill. It provides a quality machine which will give you a good basic exercise session without the frills.
The Confidence Power Trac Pro is a pared back, simple unit designed for light work. It has a large LED display console. The machine is foldable for easy storage and has glide wheels for transportation. It weighs less than 55 pounds.
There are 12 built-in fitness programs with the Confidence Power Trac Pro.
Value for money
The Confidence Power Trac Pro is listed at around $220. For an automated treadmill, that represents excellent value for money. Keep in mind, however, that this machine is designed for walking, not running.
With less than 1 hp of motor power, the Confidence Power Trac Pro doesn’t offer very much grunt. The frame of the unit is solid, however, and the unit has an impressive maximum user weight of 265 pounds.
Some users have reported an uneven or jerky belt movement when increasing the speed beyond 5 mph (max speed is 6.2 mph).
The ProForm Performance 300i is a lightweight treadmill designed for light use. It does not have the grunt or the amount of running space required for a serious workout.
The ProForm Performance 300i features a space save design and comes in a lightweight, sleek finish. The large, easy to read console provides 8 pre-set workouts. The track features ProShox cushioning to reduce impact on the joints. The running track is 16” x 50”.
Value for money
The Proform 300i can be purchased for under $400. That represents the highest of our budget review prices. For the size of the motor and the short track length, we do not consider this to be great value.
With just a 2.0 hp motor, the Proform Performance 300i doesn’t offer a lot of grunt to power your workout. The body is rigidly constructed and foldable parts are solid when in working position. This machine is not suited for continued fast running, and it will tend to vibrate after a couple of minutes at the top speed of 10 mph.
When it comes to budget treadmills, the buyer most definitely has to be aware. There are a lot of low-quality, low-performance machines out there that are not only ineffective but potentially dangerous.
By sticking to our best budget treadmill under $400 guide, you can be confident that you’ll be benefiting both your wallet and your level of fitness. This is a good option for beginners or people who are looking for a walking workout.