Some things never change, and that’s okay.
Treadmills have always been the go-to home gym machine in the US, and while they’re only getting better and being designed with more technological input, they still provide the same great workouts that we’ve always counted on them for.
But as these machines change, new features and designs allow you to optimize your workouts like never before.
We’re not only found the best treadmill available on the market, but we’ve given you a detailed guide to let you know what to look for, and how to know if it’s worth the price.
Fitness is something you invest in, and a treadmill (which can last for decades) can vastly beat-out the cost and annoyances of gym memberships.
Now that it’s time to put in the hours on your health, you’re left with one simple question: which one is best for you?
XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill
XTERRA beat out Nordic Track, which was even a surprise for us.
After testing everything out, it was clear who the winner was and what it is about their reasonably-priced, state-of-the-art treadmill that won us over.
This is undoubtedly the best treadmill for the money when you look at everything it offers, from the hand pulse grips to the intuitive direct access speed keys.
It’s designed to be very user-friendly in all manners, which is one of the most important things about a treadmill.
Your running mat is fairly large at 50” of available running space along the entire treadmill, as well as the 16” in width.
It feels pretty spacious while you’re on it, unlike those ultra narrow machines you’ve used at the gym.
Flip the switch to allow you up to 10 MPH for a high intensity workout (great for VIIT training).
Access your 5” LCD screen to see updated information on your running progress, distance, and heart rate.
Speaking of which, those metal side rails help detect the pulse in your hands, which feeds that information to the screen for your heart rate.
However, this is something that’s pretty imperfect no matter what treadmill you look at.
The most reliable methods of monitoring your heart rate are holter monitors, but nobody is going to hook those up on a treadmill, you know?
It gives you enough information if you hold the railings tight.
One of the greatest features here is that it’s specifically designed for smaller home gyms.
I know I just mentioned how large it was and all that running space, but the entire thing actually folds up into a slightly easier-to-store size.
It works quite well if you’re flipping from your rowing machine to your treadmill for different workouts in a small area.
Now, treadmills are motorized more often than not, but this does come with some manual modes where it takes some of the payload off the motor and relies on you to keep the treads moving.
It’s a great workout that also promotes the longevity of your treadmill.
The weight cap on this is set at 250 lbs, which could actually be a downside once you take a look at the other treadmills that we’ve reviewed.
NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
When we tested all of these treadmills, it was almost certain that NordicTrack was going to end up on top.
To clarify that statement, it’s neck-in-neck up against XTERRA in just about every single way, and a fine piece of machinery.
First and foremost, they made this with a fantastic design in mind.
This folds up to fit in tight spots up against the wall or in tight storage closets in a home gym, but it also features an all-steel design that allows a 300 lb maximum user capacity, beating XTERRA in that department.
That design doesn’t come without its own increased weight, though: the T Series is a 200 lb+ treadmill, so when it arrives on your door, it’s time to break out the dolly and pull it up the stairs.
While NordicTrack did what they could to incorporate better technology into this, they fell a bit flat on the EKG grip.
Like I said before, this is imperfect technology in just about every treadmill that you’re going to use throughout your life, and I wouldn’t blame any specific brand.
Engage with your intuitive display that includes a full workout plan—on-screen trainers “control” your speed, incline, and everything in between on your run.
It creates a bit of mystery when you try a new plan, which makes cardio fun again (you’ll find a lot of people don’t have fun with cardio the way that we do).
When it comes to the nitty gritty, you get a one-year labor warranty, a two-year parts warranty, and a whopping decade on the frame.
They put a lot of stock behind their quality of construction. However, they do try to pull a fast one on you by including a trial of iFit in their display.
It locks a lot of the features of this treadmill behind a paywall, which is the last thing that anybody wants.
MaxKare Folding Electric Treadmill
MaxKare hit this list for being the best treadmill under 500 that still comes with a ton of features.
First and foremost, you get a bright LCD screen that’s visible whether you’re running in the middle of bright light or the early morning hours.
With 15 preset modes, and no paywall to get to them, you can customize your running experience on a constant basis to keep everything fresh.
I would have to say that the number one selling point of this treadmill is the copper motor, which runs pretty quietly during your entire experience.
Even if you are used to a mostly silent running experience, this is noticeably better.
I would always recommend using a treadmill mat with any treadmill, but it’s good to know that you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
The 17” of clearance in width on the track is pretty good, but the plastic on either side is easy to scuff, so if you’re looking for aesthetic points to remain after a lot of use then this isn’t where you want to focus.
It’s not exactly difficult to scuff it up, but it doesn’t impede upon the function of the treadmill, so I don’t really count it as much of a loss.
Everything has to have a trade-off though, especially at the great prices MaxKare is always selling at.
The maximum weight limit on this treadmill is just 220 lbs, and while that might not seem like a big deal, remember that the weight limit is relative to the frame strength and quality.
I’m not saying it’s a bad unit, but that it’s obviously not as strong as NordicTrack.
MaxKare also boasts their fantastic customer support, but it’s actually pretty difficult to reach them.
In my experience, they’re not quite so keen to explain everything about the warranty or products, so it’s a toss-up when it comes to customer service.
Last but not least, this entire unit is foldable, so you can put it up and stash it in a closet or back area of your home gym if that’s something you need to do.
The stable design maintains comfort and keeps things quiet, but it’s not the most durable treadmill ever made.
Confidence Power Plus Motorized Electric Treadmill
Confidence Power is a brand that you’ve probably never heard of before, and by the end of this review, you’ll know why.
I try to keep these lists diverse with multiple budgets in mind.
This is the best value treadmill that you can get, but keep in mind, value does not often equal durability or quality.
That being said, I’m not discrediting the overall power behind this.
It has a higher weight limit than some of the others that we’ve seen, even though those are held in a higher regard.
Users up to 250 lbs can use this treadmill without issue.
The display here is very basic. It would be more worth your time to get a cheap phone clamp and position your smartphone or tablet over the screen, because it’s just there to give some very basic data on one of the most archaic screens out there.
Screens that I did not think would be manufactured in 2020.
But the good news here is that since they skimped on the screen quality, they were able to lend that to the rest of the project.
The entire frame folds up for super compact storage, ideal for smaller home gyms with more machines than floor space.
The profile of this treadmill is minimalistic and inexpensive, so while it should last for quite some time, keep in mind that it’s not built with all the bells and whistles of their competitors.
Horizon Fitness T101 Treadmill Series
Horizon Fitness isn’t the first name you think of when personal gym equipment comes to mind, but I have a feeling that this treadmill is going to blow your expectations out of the water.
As one of the best treadmill under 1000 models on this list, you’re going to get enhanced bluetooth connectivity, as well as ten speeds to choose from on your panel.
There’s a three-zone cushioning system underneath your tread, which helps absorb the impact of hard steppers who traditionally go through home gym equipment faster than most.
Built with a high-durability aluminum frame, you get a weight cap of 250 lbs, on top of the soft touch design that’s there to help you retain a comfortable grip while running.
Overall, it’s a solid unit. While it’s under 1000, it’s also not the cheapest on our list, which is why the screen design was a real bummer.
It’s very small and displaying information is a chore; you can barely see anything.
If you go through to the sales page, you’ll see that they actually advertise blocking the entire screen with a tablet or phone.
They could have left the screen out and knocked a few bucks off the price tag.
I will say this: the inclusion of a rapid charging USB port is pretty nice, and makes up for a lot of the other lackluster design elements.
You can go from half a mile per hour up to 10 MPH, so if you’re just getting started on your cardio journey, there’s plenty of room to move with the T101 in your home gym.
Treadmill Buying Guide & FAQ
What to Look for in a Budget-Friendly Treadmill
You want your track to be wide enough to be comfortable, not to just fit the user.
On average, you’ll see 14” for smaller treadmills, and 16” to 17” for average-sized ones.
Oversized treads are available for many treadmill models, but they’re also a lot more pricey.
Your max speed should be somewhere that you hope to one day achieve, but that you don’t need for good intermediate exercise on a daily basis.
On average, you’re going to see a cap of 10 MPH, which is plenty. 10 MPH should be used for intense VIIT training or HIIT training.
I don’t anticipate using that on average for a standard workout.
Medium intensity means medium levels of fatigue, and you can get on with your day without crashing.
Your screen is going to display data such as how far you’ve ran, how many calories you’ve burned, and things of the sort.
The screen only matters so much in 2020, because half of us are using FitBits anyway, so if you have to transmit information to your phone/tablet while running, and position it on the panel in front of you, that’s perfectly okay.
Don’t let the screen be a deal-breaker.
The weight cap is usually correlated to quality and durability, but mostly, you just want to find one that accommodates you and has some leeway.
Treadmills are commonly purchased for weight loss, so keeping a close eye on the weight cap is very important.
Get a good warranty. These things are never designed to break, and they’re definitely built with longevity in mind, but you never know what’s going to happen.
I avoid warranties on trivial things, like mini bluetooth speakers or coffeemakers, but for this, it’s important to have a warranty.
Not all brands are going to give you the best options for warranties, so be reserved in how you choose.
Which Treadmill is Good for Home Use?
For home use, I have to give it to NordicTrack’s T Series.
While it’s the number two on our list, it’s only by a small margin of differences when compared to the XTERRA.
NordicTrack just offers excellent weight caps, durability, and a fantastic warranty program that nobody else can compete with.
If this was just a top treadmills for home list and not an all-around best budget-friendly treadmill, NordicTrack would have been on top.
Can You Lose Weight on a Treadmill?
You can lose weight on any home fitness equipment, whether it’s motorized or manual.
Treadmills are famous for being one of the staple items in any effective home gym because they provide one of the best, most reliable ways to burn fat and lose weight.
So whether you go with the best rated treadmills or a manual one, you can lose weight, it’s just a matter of how efficient you want it to be.
A good treadmill makes all the difference in a thirty-minute cardio session.
If you’re running at a moderate intensity for a half-hour, you’re going to burn a few hundred calories.
That could be what actually sets you to lose weight, but if you’re on a jumpy, shaky, and noisy treadmill from the start, your experience isn’t going to be as streamlined.
It won’t be as smooth. A quality treadmill can make or break your cardio routine.
How is Running Outside Different Than Running on a Treadmill?
Not to discredit or demean treadmills in any way, but they’re different from running outside simply because they are easier to run on than the hard concrete of the sidewalk outside.
There are zero variables (rocks, tree roots, debris, litter, people), so you can just focus on consistency and interval training without anything getting in your way.
So what is the best treadmill if they all emulate the same running experience?
That depends on incline, width, maximum speed, and a variety of other factors.
These can all emulate the difficulties of running outside, but without a bunch of things physically getting in your way.
Also, because most modern treadmills have some cushioning system beneath the treads, you’re allowing the machine to take on a lot of the impact, and saving your joints in the process.
The goal is not to come out of this with damage to your body (especially if you’re on a weight loss journey), but to come out healthier and feeling better.
Treadmills are easier, obviously more expensive than just running outside, and safer in many regards.
What Speed Should I Run on a Treadmill?
That’s going to depend on a few different factors, which would better be determined by accounting for your own fitness level, weight, and overall training with athletic equipment.
If you’re severely overweight and trying to turn your health around (first of all I want to say congratulations, because getting started isn’t easy and you’re doing it), you’re going to want to start on the lowest setting.
For most treadmills, this is a .5, or half a mile per hour.
If you’re slightly overweight and trying to lose weight, you’ll want to start out on a 2 (2 MPH) setting, and work your way up to a 3.5 on an incline.
If you’re already somewhat physically active and weight loss isn’t your primary goal, you can start on a 3 and work up to a 5.5 or a 6.
You could progress from there once you see changes and eventually run on the highest setting.
The more weight you currently have and are trying to lose, the more damage you can do to your joints and back.
When you run on a treadmill, you’re applying a lot of pressure to your knees, ankles, and hip flexors, which can be damaged if you try to go over-the-top right off rip.
Account for weight and fitness, and don’t be afraid to start small.
Putting in 20 minutes on a .5 setting is still exercising and still beneficial, and you can graduate as time marches on.
Run for Change
You know what to look for, what speed to use, and the differences between running on a treadmill versus running outside.
Now it’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do with all that information.
After showing you the five best treadmills on the market, while keeping budget in mind, we make it easy to invest in your fitness and health.
Be sure to pick up a treadmill mat to muffle the noise.