Best Ellipticals for 2017

Finding the best elliptical machine or cross trainer can be a daunting task. There are well over 30 brands that manufacture these low-impact machines, so how can you possibly know which is the best elliptical for you? To make the research process easier, we’ve created lists of the “best ellipticals” in different categories to help you quickly narrow down your options for the ideal elliptical machine. By popular request, here are the top three overall best elliptical machines.

Best Ellipticals For Home Use

A home use elliptical machine gives instant access to a variety of cardio and strength workouts. More people are adding elliptical trainers to their workout routines and even making it their primary home fitness machine since the exercise is low-impact and works the whole body. See three of the year’s best elliptical choices for home use below.

Best Compact / Folding Ellipticals

Compact trainers are the perfect elliptical machine for people with smaller workout areas. Although their dimensions are smaller, compact ellipticals are sometimes just as heavy as traditional elliptical machines for home use. Our favorite cross trainers in this category can easily be folded for storage in-between workouts.

Best Front Drive Ellipticals

Front drive elliptical trainers have the flywheel, or drive system, housed at the front of the frame. This is the most popular elliptical design for home gyms because it's typically the most affordable. Low quality machines feel choppy, more like stair climbers than elliptical cross trainers -- but our favorite front drive machines support your natural stride and are good values.

Best Center Drive Ellipticals

A center drive machine could be your best elliptical for home use. Other ellipticals have long footprints, but center drive ellipticals have smaller square footprints to help maximize your living space. Don't be misled by the space-saving dimensions though… Some of the best ellipticals in this category allow especially long strides. Another benefit is easy balance; this style of cross trainer makes it easy to keep a healthy posture as you stride.

Best Rear Drive Ellipticals

Rear drive trainers tend to earn the most favorable elliptical reviews. These are larger than the other kinds of ellipticals, and they tend to be more expensive. Rear drive machines are some of the best elliptical trainers for people who want to mimic the feel of outdoor walking or jogging, not stair-stepping or climbing. Some rear drive elliptical trainers can be folded for storage.

Best Hybrid Ellipticals

Some of our favorite cross trainers are called "hybrid ellipticals" because they work in two ways. One example shown here can double as an elliptical trainer and recumbent exercise bike; adjustable seating makes it easy to switch the machine from one workout mode to the other. Other hybrid ellipticals offer the benefits of a treadmill, letting you "run" intensely but with very low impact on sensitive joints, ligaments and tendons.

Best Elliptical Bikes

Elliptical bikes are the only outdoor elliptical trainers on our review site. These are clever crosses between traditional outdoor bikes and standing elliptical trainers. Like an outdoor bicycle, an elliptical bike has brakes built into the handlebars. But like a traditional elliptical, it keeps you in a standing position and uses oversized pedals. Here are three favorite examples of this fun new ride.

Best Ellipticals for Runners

With occasional elliptical training instead of running, serious runners can avoid the pains of too much high impact motion. The highest quality ellipticals for runners have heavy drives for ultra-smooth cross training. Many have variable stride, which ensures they fit anyone's natural gait and also helps you target specific muscles. For cardio guidance the top-rated elliptical machines have wireless heart rate tracking… and unlike treadmills, they also provide strength training for your whole body. Burn more calories, sculpt your body, and save your knees with one of these low-impact fitness machines.

Best Ellipticals for Seniors

Elliptical machines are popular with seniors because they allow full body exercise without harsh impact. They're efficient too: Also called elliptical cross trainers, they combine cardio exercise with strength training. Elliptical trainers can be fun, safe trainers for flexibility, help with heart health, muscle strength and bone density. See below for three home ellipticals recommended for seniors in 2017, plus a buying guide with tips about the parts of an elliptical machine.

Buying Guide for Home Elliptical Trainers

The quality of home elliptical trainers varies widely. Low quality machines sometimes cost less than $500, and some of the highest-rated home ellipticals cost thousands more. How much should you spend? Here are some tips about residential elliptical machine performance, parts warranties and more. You can also see our lists of best ellipticals by price.

Performance

Some of the finest home ellipticals perform like health club fitness machines. Very cheap ellipticals on the other hand are poor imitations. Here are some performance essentials to know when shopping.

Resistance: The highest-rated home ellipticals offer wide ranges of resistance. They can challenge trainees in peak condition as well as those getting gentle physical therapy. A heavier flywheel makes a machine cost more, but it makes a big difference to performance quality. Look for a flywheel weight of at least 20 pounds if you want an elliptical to carry you beyond the beginner's level. Also choose heavier resistance if an intended user is rather heavy. Otherwise the elliptical motion might not feel sufficiently smooth.

Stride: The best ellipticals for home gyms have stride settings for every intended user. In some families one size fits all, but in others it's wise to choose an adjustable stride elliptical. This feature isn't available on the cheapest ellipticals but becomes more common in the middle and higher price categories. Some of our favorite ellipticals have especially generous stride ranges. These are considered hybrid trainers because they work as low-impact treadmills and/or steppers as well as ellipticals.

Upper Body Training: Most but not all home ellipticals have moving arm bars. The best elliptical handlebars are angled to comfortably fit people of different sizes. On the top home ellipticals the coordination between the upper body and lower body training feels especially natural, whereas on cheap cross trainers the movements might feel awkward.

Durability

At the low end of the price spectrum, the highest quality home ellipticals have rather simple electronics. Most resources are put into essential components for durability. But when you spend an average or higher amount on an elliptical, you can expect great features along with long-lasting high performance. Here are some factors that help make an elliptical durable.

Metal vs. Plastic: Durable ellipticals have metal parts instead of breakable plastic. The metal also contributes to the higher weights of better machines, which makes them more stable during exercise.

Sealed Bearings: One problem with cheap ellipticals is that their rollers need frequent maintenance (oiling) to keep running smoothly. Durable ellipticals have sealed bearings that are self-lubricating for low maintenance ownership and better machine longevity.

Rear Drive Design: Rear drive ellipticals are generally associated with the fewest maintenance needs. Still, durable ellipticals with center drives and front drives are easy to find. An advantage of center drive and front drive ellipticals is that they're more compact.

Maximum User Weight: Maximum user weight is a great clue about elliptical durability. The better quality home elliptical trainers have user weight capacities of at least 300 pounds.

Warranty: Read the product warranty to get an idea about durability. The top ellipticals include electronics warranties as well as coverage for the moving parts and frame. If an elliptical parts warranty is for just 90 days or six months, then overall low quality is very likely.

Best Elliptical Picks of 2017 Summary

Model Rating Flywheel Resistance Price Lowest Price
Bowflex Max Trainer M5 5-stars N/A 16 Levels Under $2,000 See best price »
NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS7i 5-stars 20 LB 24 Levels Under $2,000 See best price »
Sole E95 5-stars 27 LBS ECB Under $2,000 See best price »

Features

The home ellipticals that we rank highly have just the right amount of features to keep you motivated with training variety and entertainment. Here are some popular features.

Adjustable Incline: While some ellipticals have adjustable stride, others have adjustable incline. These let you simulate climbing at different angles for targeted muscle toning and faster calorie burn. In general the incline options increase with cross trainer prices. Some of the most popular home ellipticals pair the incline training with interactive video so you can simulate outdoor exercise. Look for ellipticals with iFit, Passport or similar technologies.

Customized Programs: The quality and variety of exercise programming can contribute a good deal to the overall cost of a home fitness machine. On cheap elliptical machines there might be many programs but little variety. Our favorite home ellipticals have excellent preset program variety and can also supply personalized workout programs.

Heart Rate Control: The leading home elliptical trainers also work with chest straps for wireless heart rate monitoring. Besides that, they have exercise programs for heart rate control. These adjust the pedal resistance to help you work within a target heart rate zone.

HDTV: Premium home ellipticals have widescreen high definition TV screens. They make it easy to track workout data and watch your favorite programs at the same time.

iPhone/iPod Compatible: Home ellipticals at all price points have speakers for MP3 players. The better ellipticals have higher quality speakers and convenient console controls for mobile devices. Secure holders, sometimes with charging ports, are also built into some of the best ellipticals for 2017.