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Treadmills (cheap and expensive) let you exercise no matter the weather or how far you are from the gym. Running on a treadmill can raise your heart rate, challenge your cardiovascular system, and give your muscles a “run” for their money in the comfort of your own home (or garage or basement or… you get the idea).
BUT not all of us have a couple of thousand dollars to drop on a premium model with a touch screen and access to 24/7 fitness classes. (We’re looking at you Peloton and iFit.) Cheap treadmills for the win!
Here are our picks for the six best cheap treadmills, plus some tips for choosing the best one for you.
6 best cheap treadmills of 2021
- Best cheap treadmill for running: NordicTrack T Series Treadmill
- Best cheap treadmill for walking: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T7515 Smart Treadmill
- Best foldable cheap treadmill: UREVO Foldable Treadmills for Home
- Best manual cheap treadmill: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-T1407M Manual Walking Treadmill
- Best high-capacity cheap treadmill: Exerpeutic TF1000 Ultra High Capacity Walk to Fitness Electric Treadmill
- Best cheap treadmill for pace/speed work: XTERRA Fitness TR150 Folding Treadmill
To pick out the best cheap treadmills, we made sure each treadmill met a few minimum specs:
- Horsepower. For walking, treadmills need at least a 1.5 horsepower (hp) motor. For running, we looked for models with at least 2.25 hp.
- Speed options. Cheaper treadmills typically don’t reach high enough speeds for high performance runners, but we made sure to include treadmills with speed options ideal for walkers and runners.
- Incline options. Cheap treadmills also usually have fewer incline choices (or no incline at all) — but we included a few picks that have automatic incline adjustment.
- Maximum weight limit. Cheap treadmills aren’t as sturdy as their more expensive counterparts, but they should have at least a 220-pound maximum weight limit.
- Belt width and length. We included treadmills with belts wide and long enough to accommodate walkers and runners. For walkers, we included belts 13- to 16- inches wide and 46- to 50-inches long. For runners, we looked for options with belts 16- to 18-inches wide and 50- to 54-inches long.
- $ = under $200
- $$ = $200–$400
- $$$ = over $400
Best for running
- Price: $$$
- Speed: up to 10 mph
- Incline: up to 10 percent
- Weight limit: 300-pound maximum
- Warranty: 10-year frame, 2-year parts, 1-year labor
- Special features: iFit capable
Running requires certain treadmill features that — unfortunately — you can’t really budge on, so if you’re a serious runner you’ll probably end up spending a little more cash than someone that prefers walking or lighter jogs.
It includes a 20-by-55-inch belt, a 2.6 hp motor, deck cushioning to protect your joints, and a 5-inch built-in screen for streaming iFit workouts — a feature typically reserved for far more expensive models.
Also keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for an iFit subscription after the free trial expires, which can add a little more $$$ to your bottom line.
Best for walking
- Price: $$$
- Speed: up to eight mph
- Incline: up to 12 percent
- Weight limit: 240-pound maximum
- Warranty: 3-year structural, 180-day parts (varies by seller)
- Special features: Bluetooth connectivity and handrail pulse sensors
Walkers don’t need much more than 4 mph out of a treadmill — but if you do feel like pushing it, you can run up to 8 mph on this Sunny Health & Fitness model.
Walkers (and runners) can also kick it up a notch with up to a 12 percent incline, intensifying any workout. The 16.5-by-49.5-inch belt is a solid width for walkers and it also includes heart rate/pulse sensors, so you can keep track of your fitness zone.
Best foldable treadmill
- Price: $$
- Speed: up to 7.5 mph
- Incline: no incline
- Weight limit: 260-pound maximum
- Warranty: 12-months
- Special features: easy to store, folds down quickly
While all of the treadmills on our list have some amount of foldability, the UREVO folds down flat — like flat flat. The control deck and rails fold down over the deck, so you can slide it under a bed or set it against a wall.
It also packs a punch with a powerful 2.5 hp motor and a 260-pound maximum weight, which is pretty impressive for such a compact treadmill. The downside is that this baby can only reach speeds up to 7.5 mph and it doesn’t have any incline options.
Its 16.5-by-45.7-inch belt is also better (and safer) for walking vs. running.
Best manual treadmill
- Price: $
- Speed: manual speed
- Incline: fixed incline
- Weight limit: 220-pound maximum
- Warranty: 3-year structural
- Special features: compact and mobile, small monitor to track workout progress
You can save some serious money and still get an intense workout on a manual machine like the Sunny Health & Fitness treadmill. It doesn’t have an electric motor, so it relies on plain old muscle power to run. Two flywheels help you build momentum, which you can adjust by slowing down or speeding up.
The biggest limitation with this one is that it only works on an incline. That can be bad news if hills are the bane of your existence — but it’s great news if you’re looking to up the intensity of your workouts. The 13-by-42-inch belt is also too narrow for runners, so it def works better for walkers.
Best high-capacity treadmill
- Price: $$$
- Speed: up to 4 mph
- Incline: two incline positions
- Weight limit: 400-pound maximum
- Warranty: 5-year motor and 1-year frame
- Special features: heart rate sensors
Having a larger frame shouldn’t be a barrier to buying an affordable treadmill. Thanks to Exerpeutic, it doesn’t have to be. Its treadmill has a 400-pound maximum weight limit that stands out among treadmills in this price range.
It also features a wide 20-inch belt, leaving plenty of room for bodies of all sizes. Keep in mind that this treadmill maxes out at 4 mph, doesn’t have incline options, and has a belt length of only 40 inches — so this treadmill is designed specifically for flat walking only.
Best for pace/speed work
- Price: $$
- Speed: up to 10 mph
- Incline: 3 manual incline settings
- Weight limit: 250-pound maximum weight limit
- Warranty: lifetime frame, 1-year motor, 90-day parts and labor
- Special features: heart rate sensors
Need a place to do work on pacing and speed when the weather isn’t on your side? The XTERRA’s solid (and cushioned) deck, 10 mph max speed, and 3 incline settings are where it’s at.
This model lets you do tempo workouts and push the upper limits of your speed to develop your race from the safety (and warmth) of the indoors. A 16 by 50-inch belt provides plenty of room for running strides, too.
Just keep in mind that the incline options are manual — so you can’t change them while you’re actually on the treadmill.
So is a cheap treadmill right for you? It depends. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you shop:
- compact and foldable options
- excellent speed, incline, and size options for walkers
- less powerful motors are more common
- lower maximum weight limits
- fewer speed, incline, and size options for runners
- very few have built-in screens
Ready to run? Here’s what you need to know when picking a cheap treadmill:
Power for pounds and mileage
The more you weigh or the more you run, the harder the treadmill’s motor has to work to keep speeds consistent. Here’s a general rule of thumb:
- For walkers (even the power walkers!). You can get by with a 1.5 to 2.0 hp motor, though you’ll get better performance with a motor that’s over 2.0 hp.
- For overachieving runners. Look for at least a 2.25 hp motor.
- For people over 200 pounds. Opt for more powerful 2.5 to 3.0 hp motors for more consistent speeds.
Are you running or walking?
If you’re planning on running, you’ll need more speed and a wider, longer belt:
- Walkers can get by with a model with a maximum speed of 4 mph and a 13-by-40-inch to 13-by-45-inch belt.
- Runners need higher speeds (at least 10 mph) and a 16-by-50-inch to 18-by-50-inch belt.
Also keep in mind that long legged folks might need extra length to accommodate a longer stride.
Design and size
Most cheap treadmills are foldable to some extent. But some models are more compact than others.
In some designs, the deck folds upward toward the control panel, creating a V. With others, the control panel and handlebars fold onto (or into) the deck, creating a flatter surface that fits underneath furniture or leans against a wall.
Consider how much floor and storage space you have and how compact you want your new treadmill to be.
Hit the hills
The hills are alive with the sound of your footsteps. Incline settings let you intensify and add variety to your workouts.
Some models have electric incline settings that let you change the incline while the motor runs. Others have manual incline settings that require you to get off the treadmill and manually adjust the deck height.
Warranties are often broken down into different sections to cover various areas of the treadmill. For example, the company might offer a 5-year frame, 1-year motor, and 1-year parts and labor warranty.
At the very least, look for a model with a 1-year warranty on the frame and motor. Warranties that cover parts and labor will save you repair costs, too.
A basic display that shows time lapsed, speed, and incline can get you through any workout. But treadmills with extra features like Bluetooth connectivity, heart rate sensors, and preset workout programs can add variety to your exercise program and take some of the grind out of running.
No more pounding the pavement in the snow/rain or the scorching heat. Cheap treadmills bring the gym to your home, so you can keep up with your training or just burn extra calories.
You don’t have to spend a fortune — and you can find models that don’t eat up your floor space either. So, get on it, get those feet moving, and invest in your health for years to come.