Best Compact Ellipticals of 2016

Compact elliptical trainers and folding elliptical trainers can be ideal for cardio and strength training at home. Compared with traditional home ellipticals they take less floor space, plus they tend to be easier to move. And despite their small space requirements, the best compact and folding elliptical trainers don’t compromise on biomechanics. They support full strides and offer just-right resistance for each trainee.

Center drive elliptical machines have the smallest dimensions and are non-folding. Front and rear drive ellipticals have longer frames but may be foldable for storage. Examples of center, front and rear drive ellipticals are shown below.

Three Best Compact/Folding Elliptical Trainers

Just like a standard elliptical machine, a compact elliptical can have a front, center or rear drive. A best buy from each category makes our list of best compact ellipticals. These three machines are popular for plenty of reasons besides their convenient sizes and good ergonomics. Some highlights from the compact and folding units below are vibrant touchscreen displays, interactive video workouts, power inclines, MP3 speakers and mobile app compatibility.

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Buying Guide to Compact Elliptical Trainers

What can you expect from a compact or folding elliptical trainer? The best options boast all the functions of traditional crosstrainers. However, sometimes a folding elliptical costs a few hundred dollars more than a non-folding alternative with similar specs. Here are shopping tips.


Every performance level is available with compact ellipticals. Compact non-folding ellipticals are sold in every price class; choose from low-budget all the way up to commercial health club quality. Folding ellipticals aren't built for commercial use but do have a wide range of performance quality. Here are some factors to consider...

Resistance: The best elliptical machines provide enough resistance to support very smooth motion. The smoother the exercise, the longer a person can exercise before tiring. Smooth resistance also helps minimize the risk of exercise-related injury. For most elliptical brands the flywheel weight is an excellent clue about this aspect of performance, plus it lets you know the top skill level that's supported. Beginners may be satisfied with a flywheel weight of just 18 pounds. Intermediate and advanced trainees will want more heft. Individuals who weigh more will also need relatively more resistance to gain a comfortable momentum.

Stride: Narrow foot spacing is part of a healthy natural stride. You can see this when you walk slowly across a room: When your feet move past each other, they are probably separated by no more than 2 inches. Thus the best compact elliptical trainers have virtually no gaps between their pedals. Another aspect of healthy stride is length. The best ellipticals for adults of average heights have about 20” long footpaths. People with shorter inseams might prefer ellipticals with 18” strides but should probably avoid anything smaller. Some of the best ellipticals have adjustable strides such as 18-inches to 22-inches to fit multiple users, or more dramatic ranges to also serve as stairclimbers and treadmills.

Incline: Adjustable stride is useful for enhanced calorie burn and targeted muscle toning. An incline can also help meet these needs. Many ellipticals and hybrid trainers have power inclines. A maximum tilt of about 20 percent is typical, but specialty trainers have even steeper slopes. Workout programs can pair the incline training with scenic interactive video for immersive experiences.


The best compact ellipticals are long-lasting and rarely need maintenance. Here are some features to consider.

Drive Design: The only potential drawback of a rear drive elliptical is the floor space required, but choosing a folding model could be a solution.

Maximum User Weight: A good compact elliptical trainer can safely hold at least 300 pounds. Some of the best ellipticals on the market, whether compact or not, have 400-pound maximum user weights.

Warranty: The parts warranties on compact and folding ellipticals vary greatly. Moderately priced machines generally have parts warranties of two to five years. Lifetime coverage is typically included for the frame, and labor costs are free during the first year or two.


The best compact home ellipticals have the same features as larger machines, plus they might be foldable. Here are details about some options.

Folding: Adjusting a folding elliptical is easy. Hydraulics or electronics do most of the work, so little physical strength is required. When an elliptical machine is folded it might be half as long as when it's in use, e.g., three feet long instead of six feet long.

Interactive Workouts: Some of the best compact ellipticals support interactive workouts as well as classic workouts. Interactive workouts use technologies such as Google Maps with Street View. Some workouts have ambient sound as well as visuals.

App Integration: This year's top elliptical trainers arrive with apps and/or can wirelessly sync with a variety of mobile apps for fitness and entertainment. Examples of apps that work with select elliptical trainers are My Fitness Pal, Hulu and training apps from elliptical manufacturers.

List of Compact and Folding Elliptical Trainers

Three of our favorite compact ellipticals are shown above and below. For the overall value, they are truly the best you will find.

Best Compact/Folding Ellipticals

ModelRatingFlywheelResistancePriceLowest Price
NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i 5-stars18 LBS24 Digital LevelsUnder $1,500See best price »
Horizon Fitness Evolve 5 5-stars23 LBS20 Digital LevelsUnder $1,500See best price »
Bowflex Max Trainer M34-starsN/A8 Levels Under $1,000See best price »