The Best Cheap Treadmills

Get the basics (and more) for less than you think

The 30-Second Review

We hunted down the best cheap treadmills on the market for less than $1500. Most treadmills in this price range come with a similar set of features: 15 percent incline, over 3.0 CHP motor, sturdy frames, and 7” screens with pre-loaded workouts. Extras like a decline option, chest strap heart rate monitor, and web-enabled touchscreens added more to the price, but surprisingly weren’t out of reach.

Our Favorite

A basic machine featuring 15 percent incline, 3 percent decline, and a 3.5 CHP motor built to handle workouts from both runners and walkers. An added bonus: It was named a best buy from Consumer Reports and earned an excellent on durability tests. It wasn’t at the top of our price range, either. ($1299)

Best for Runners

The most bells and whistles of all of our picks and the most expensive too. ($1499)

Best Under $1000

Smooth Fitness 800
A no-frills machine with all the basic features except no decline option. ($899)

Treadmills aren’t complicated — they’re just big belts that move you in place. So when you can spend upwards of $10,000 on a machine, by comparison $1,500 is cheap. The good news: cheap doesn’t necessarily mean cheap. The best cheap treadmills we found are sturdy, comfortable machines built for both walkers and runners and are all priced under $1,500.

ProForm PRO 2000 Consumer Reports tested it and we agree. This is a best buy. And, for only $1299.

When it comes down to it, all three top picks are actually quite similar. The differences are in the details. The best cheap treadmill for you will depend on how you plan on using the machine and the level of technology you want.

The Pro-Form Pro 2000 is our overall favorite because it has all the features needed for both runners and walkers — 15 percent incline and 3 percent decline to better simulate road conditions, a 3.5 CHP motor which is well over the minimum needed for running, a 350 lbs weight capacity, and a 7” screen with 32 pre-loaded workouts that was standard for machines at this price range. It also earned Consumer Report’s best buy badge.

The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 is our top pick for runners. Its 3.8 CHP motor can handle more strenuous workouts and the adjustable deck cushioning allows you to adapt your workouts for comfort. This machine is also our only top pick that has touchscreen, web-enabled technology to connect to the internet (this is on top of the standard pre-loaded apps like the other machines).

Our budget pick, the Smooth Fitness 800, is a solid choice for only $900. It has a slightly smaller motor (3.25 CHP) and no decline option, but if you’ll be primarily walking and don’t need to simulate road conditions when you run, then save your money.

Our Picks for Best Cheap Treadmills

Our Favorite

ProForm PRO 2000 A 15 percent incline, plus 3 percent decline, and other added features like a chest strap heart monitor will amp up your workouts.

Whether you’re a casual weekend walker or training for your next marathon, the Pro-Form Pro 2000 has you covered for only $1299. It features a 15 percent incline to help you burn more calories, and a 3 percent decline to better simulate road conditions. Only two other treadmills of our eight finalists included a decline option, the Pro-Form Pro 5000 and one of our other top picks, the NordicTrack’s Commercial 1750. Why is this important? A decline feature at its most basic provides a workout for different muscle groups. If you’re training for a race though, using the decline feature will improve your muscle resistance and body position for running downhill. Super important unless you’re racing on a flat surface.

The 3.5 CHP motor can handle workout routines for both runners and walkers, and its weight capacity is 350 lbs — the highest of any of our top picks. (If you’re heavier than that, the Sole F60 can handle up to 375 lbs, though for $1500 we think it should decline too.) It has a one-ply rather than a two-ply belt we would have preferred, but it earned the Consumer Reports’ best buy badge (85 point overall ranking) with excellent performance in their durability test. After simulating a half-year of usage, it showed little signs of wear. The warranties are also excellent: lifetime on frame and motor, five years on parts, and two years on labor.

To amp up your workouts, it comes with a Polar Wireless chest strap to monitor your heart rate continuously; this is more accurate than using the hand grips’ sensors that come on most machines. It also features a tablet holder to access to your favorite workout apps and programs or you can use one of the 32 pre-loaded workouts on the 7-inch backlit LCD console screen. With iPod or MP3-player compatibility, two speakers, two fans, and quick one-touch buttons to increase or decrease speed and incline, you’ll never miss a step.

Best for Runners

NordicTrack Commercial 1750 For a higher price ($1500), you get a web-enabled touchscreen, adjustable deck cushioning, and 3.8 CHP motor for quieter and more comfortable workouts.

If you’re primarily a runner or you want more technology features, then the NordicTrack Commercial 1750 is worth the added price. It has the same 15 percent incline and 3 percent decline offered by the Pro-Form Pro 2000, but has the most powerful motor of all of our top picks at 3.8 CHP. This is a boon for serious runners with more rigorous workouts.

The NordicTrack Commercial 1750 is all about comfort. Its Runners Flex™ Cushioning is an adjustable deck that lets you switch between two levels of cushioning — turn it on for more support for your ankles, knees, and back, and turn it off for a more road-like experience. It also comes with a two-ply belt compared to the single ply of the Pro-Form and Smooth Fitness machines. (Two-ply belts tend to be more durable and quieter during use.)

This machine has the most technology features of any of our top picks; it’s the only one with a 7-inch web-enabled touchscreen that connects to the internet via WiFi. This feature is usually seen on much more expensive machines. According to a NordicTrack rep though, you won’t be able to watch streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu because the machine’s processor can’t handle that much data. You’ll have to attach your tablet to the adjustable holder if you want to catch up on Orange is the New Black reruns during your workout.

Its console has a sleek, streamlined look with one-touch controls, iPod compatibility and dual 3-inch speakers, and three fans that automatically adjust to the intensity of your workout.
As with the Pro-Form machine, you’ve got top-of-the-line warranties: lifetime for frame and motor, five years for parts and electronics, and two years for labor.

Best Under $1,000

Smooth Fitness 800 There’s no decline feature but this may not be a deal breaker for only $899.

If you can do without some bells and whistles, then the Smooth Fitness 800 is a simpler machine for at least $400 less than the other top picks. In fact, the console looks surprisingly similar to the Pro-Form Pro 2000 (minus the built-in tablet holder and extra fan).

What you do get with the Smooth Fitness 800: a 3.25 CHP motor, 15 percent incline, iPod compatibility, and a 7-inch display screen with 32 pre-loaded workout apps. The big thing you give up: There is no decline feature for this machine like the other two top picks. But if you’re not training for a marathon or care about simulating road conditions, then this may be fine to do without. It also doesn’t come with a chest strap heart rate monitor, though, the side grip handles it comes with can do the job (although with slightly less accuracy). But this, too, probably isn’t a deal breaker.

The warranties aren’t as extensive either, with a lifetime warranty for frame and motor, three years for parts, and one year for labor. Its weight capacity is also only 300 lbs, so if you weigh more than that, this is not the machine for you. Overall, though, the Smooth Fitness 800 is a solid machine with the same baseline features as the other two models, so if price is your main concern, then this machine should do the trick.

Cheap Treadmills at a Glance

Feature

Smooth Fitness 800

Pro-Form Pro 2000

NordicTrack Commercial 1750

Price
$900
$1300
$1500
Motor
3.25 CHP
3.5 CHP
3.8 CHP
Incline
15%
15%
15%
Decline
None
3%
3%
Chest Strap
No
Yes
Yes
7” screen with pre-loaded apps
Yes

(32 apps)
Yes

(32 apps)
Yes

(38 apps)
Web-enabled
No
No
Yes
Touchscreen
No
No
Yes
Weight Capacity
300 lbs
350 lbs
300 lbs

Did You Know?

You’ll have to pay extra for in-house delivery.

Many of the top manufacturers (including Pro-Form and NordicTrack) offer free shipping, but there’s a catch: it’s only to your front door. If you want them to bring it inside, put it in the correct spot, and, even more, to assemble it, then it’ll cost you. Pro-Form charges $249 for this additional service. Your best bet for saving money — invite some friends over to get your treadmill from the front stoop to its final location. All it’ll cost you is a pizza.

Do you need to pay for regular maintenance?

Most treadmill manufacturers do not require routine maintenance from a technician for home machines, which are usually used only by one or two people. “Ultimately, it comes down to overall use,” said Chris Fisher, owner and CEO of Out-Fit, a company that provides exercise equipment and service to gyms. “The most important task someone can do to extend the life [of their machine] is to keep the treadmill clean, especially around the belt and deck where dust and dirt can get under the belt. This will prevent premature wear and unnecessary power draw on the motor.”

If you want to return your treadmill beware of hidden costs.

One last note on cost: Be sure to read the fine print in the return policy. While almost all manufacturers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, you’ll have to pay for return delivery, and most require a 10 to 15 percent restocking fee unless the machine is defective. The lesson here? If at all possible, try out the treadmill in person before you buy online. Avoid the return and avoid the cost.

The Bottom Line

Best Overall

ProForm PRO 2000 A solid machine for only $1,299.

You don’t have to sacrifice as much as you may think when purchasing a cheap treadmill. Our top picks are all solid machines that feature the building blocks of a good workout: a comfortable surface on which to walk, jog, or run, the ability to track basic health metrics, and a library of workout options. And, while you may miss out on some of the technology-laden extras that more expensive machines offer, don’t fret. Unless you’re planning on some serious training, those extra bells and whistles aren’t worth the (sometimes significantly) higher cost.