Best Cheap Ellipticals Under $500

A $500 elliptical trainer budget is small but useful. With careful shopping you can avoid cheap troublemakers and choose a good value. To help you out, here we share three top-ranking discount elliptical trainers. We also list other ellipticals under $500 and explain what you can reasonably expect in this price category. You might decide to jump to a higher price level, but you might find the best elliptical for your home gym right here.

Top Elliptical Machines Under $500

Our elliptical review writers assign scores for machine durability, display, features and customer service. These three winners earn the best overall scores in their price class.

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Buying Guide to Elliptical Machines Under $500

Shopping for an elliptical machine, you've probably noticed choices that cost $2,000 or more. What can you expect from a low-budget elliptical trainer? How is it different from a luxury model? Here’s a brief guide to ellipticals under $500.

Performance

Basic elements that shape an elliptical machine's performance are resistance and stride length. Here's what to expect from ellipticals under $500.

Resistance Type: As an elliptical machine’s flywheel spins, resistance is controlled by contact braking or with touch-free magnetic force. Contact braking tends to be noisy and is associated with higher maintenance needs. Quiet magnetic resistance is now the standard for elliptical trainers in all price categories, include those under $500.

Resistance Amount: A key difference between ellipticals under $500 and their higher-priced alternatives is the amount of resistance. Light resistance tends to produce a not-so-smooth ride, and this drawback is more pronounced when the user carries more weight. Light resistance also means that workouts are less challenging. Very low budget ellipticals tend to have maximum resistance of about 12 to 15 pounds, which is generally only suitable for beginners. For comparison, ellipticals priced from $500 to $999 tend to have approximately 20-pound maximums. Club-quality elliptical machines have even heavier drives to produce the smoothest motion and support any athlete's ability level.

Resistance Levels: How many settings are available? Two elliptical machines might have the same maximum resistance levels, but one might split the resistance into 8 challenge levels while another offers 16.

Stride Length: Natural stride is essential to comfortable and low-risk elliptical workouts. Most adults have natural strides of about 18 to 22 inches, and the standard for elliptical trainers in health clubs is 20". Unfortunately stride length is often much shorter on ellipticals under $500. Some machines have strides as short as 13 inches and should generally be avoided. Compromising on stride length can cause knee pain and other discomfort.

Durability

Elliptical trainers are complex machines, but knowing a few specifics can help you make an educated guess about overall durability.

Maximum User Weight: Elliptical trainers at health clubs typically have user weight limits of 300 to 400 pounds. For home use, look for a unit that can safely hold at least 250 pounds. Although you might weigh significantly less than that, machines with lower capacities tend to be comprised of lightweight, substandard parts.

Warranty: A warranty package is usually the best indicator of a fitness machine's quality. The most important section to consider is the parts warranty. With an elliptical trainer under $500 you can expect a six-month parts warranty and a 90-day or six-month labor warranty. High-end ellipticals, in contrast, have their parts under warranty for a few years or more and include two or more years of labor.

Brand Reputation: When a new machine is available and there aren't yet reviews, the manufacturer's reputation can be a good clue about what to expect. If last year's models earned poor reviews, then this year’s models probably won't fare well either.

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Features

Discount elliptical shoppers seeking good value should focus primarily on performance and durability. The best $500 elliptical trainers are rather light on features. Here are some guidelines.

Heart Rate Monitor: The best cardio trainers make it easy to monitor heart rate. This helps trainees exercise in their target heart rate zones and easily track improvement over time. However, heart rate monitoring is one area in which cheap ellipticals fall short. Elliptical machines under $500 do not have wireless heart rate monitors, which are the most accurate, and their contact pulse readers can be very misleading. If you choose an elliptical under $500, consider pairing it with an accurate heart rate monitor.

Workout Programs: The workout variety on low-budget elliptical trainers tends to be slim. The user can typically choose from about six to 12 programs in one or two categories. Program variety and quality tends to be significantly better in the next price class. Some of the best ellipticals let users design and save customized programs, plus they have online connections for downloading new workouts.

Display: The displays on ellipticals under $500 tend to use older technology. The screens tend to be small and some aren’t backlit, so they're difficult to read. In higher price classes the ellipticals tend to have larger windows and crisper readouts. Some have colorful touchscreen displays.

List of Elliptical Trainers Under $500

Ellipticals under $500 require some compromise, but they can be a good choice for regular light training or rainy day workouts. Here is a list of all the ellipticals under $500 for which we have reviews. For comparison see lists for the $500 to $1,000 category.

Best Ellipticals Under $500

Model Rating Flywheel Resistance Price Lowest Price
ProForm Hybrid Trainer 4-stars 12.4 LBS 16 Digital Levels Under $1,000 See best price »
Schwinn A40 3-stars N/A 8 Levels Under $1,000 See best price »
Sunny Magnetic 2-stars Under $1,000 See best price »