Elliptical trainers are a longtime favorite in regards to exercise machines, and it’s fairly easy to see why. Low impact, highly efficient, and fun to use, these machines are found in practically every gym you’ll ever step foot in.
The popularity and effectiveness of elliptical trainers have created a massive market over time, with tons of these machines now available. With so many choices, it can be a little hard trying to find the elliptical that’s right for you -- if you even know what to look for in the first place.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the five best elliptical trainers for 2018, separated into two main budget ranges. Not only that, but there’s also some vital information you can use to help guide you through your buying process.
So, if you're on the fence, or don’t even know where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Let’s jump right in.
Best Elliptical Machines Under $1000
Winner: Schwinn 470 Elliptical Machine
The Schwinn 470 represents the deluxe side of elliptical machines, combining quality engineering and design that focuses on actual performance, and meshing it with advanced console controls, extensive programming, and one of the widest ranges of adjustability you’ll find.
This elliptical trainer is meant to have it all, offering comfort, efficiency, and modern technology with smartphone integration, along with various media features as well.
This massive amount of features allows each user to fine tailor their workouts, from length and intensity, right down to music selection, incline, and progress tracking.
The 470 is a front-drive model, utilizing a high-intensity front flywheel that is also extremely quiet. The unit is a bit on the large side, measuring 70.1" L x 28.2" W x 63.2" H, but that’s to be expected for an elliptical with this many options and range.
Stride length is on the longer side of things, as the 470 offers 20 full inches on the foot platforms. Cushioned foot pedals take the typical elliptical comfort to a higher level, allowing you to use the machine with or without footwear -- and always without sore feet.
The ramp of the 470 has a 10-degree incline range and can be manually adjusted to 6 different positions in between. Furthermore, the resistance level of the flywheel has a whopping 25 different levels, allowing you to dial things in.
Need to move the unit? The 470 has rear wheels that make it easy to get it across the room and back. The handles of the 470 have adjustable grips for better comfort and overall positioning, and heart rate sensors are conveniently located on each handle for quick, accurate readings during your workout.
The console of the 470 has too many features to list. You get two different screens, with the main LCD displaying up to 13 different feedbacks in real time. 29 settings and four user programs offer several ways to create custom workout programs, while also tracking your progress each time.
Large, moisture proof acoustic speakers are built into the console for times when you don’t want to use headphones. A USB charging port lets you keep your phone or tablet charged during use, which is an excellent compliment to the media platform on the top of the console.
There’s a lot more than I could say about the Schwinn 470, but I’ll save that for the full review. For under $1,000, this is absolutely the best elliptical trainer you can buy. It’s got it all, and with no gimmicks.
Runner-Up: Horizon Fitness EX-59 Elliptical Trainer
The Horizon Fitness EX-59 is another great example of an elliptical that places a big focus on actual performance and comfort while backing it up with an array of modern features and workout programs that places it on an elite level -- and all while taking up less space.
This machine is great for those that want the quality of an upper-tier elliptical, but don’t want it to overtake the area they have it set up at completely. Add to this the fact that it offers some modern conveniences and customizations options, and it’s easy to see why it’s one of our favorites.
The EX-59 if a front drive system, making use of ZeroGap technology that gives it overlapping pedal motions, making the machine easier on your legs, back, and hips. It also has pivoting pedals that go a long way in taking stress off of your ankles.
With an overall size of 65'' H x 22'' W x 73'' D, the EX-59 is surprisingly small considering its capabilities and provides a stride length of 18 full inches with each revolution. The flywheel weighs just 14 pounds, while still offering a wide range of resistance, and keeping things nice and quiet during operation.
There are no incline options with the EX-59, but it does offer ten different resistance levels that can be controlled manually, or on the console, allowing for convenient adjustments on the go without having to stop your movement -- perfect for HIIT workouts.
The EX-59’s console has three different LED screens displaying various sets of data at one time. The handles of the machine each have heart rate readers for real-time data, and the handles themselves are adjustable.
The console contains ten different programming options for various levels of exercise, which includes three full workout programs, plus the ability to create a custom program for yourself.
Some additional features include built-in acoustic speakers, and also the ability to connect your mp3 player or smartphone. A headphone jack is included as well, and a charging port for your devices. An integrated fan allows users to keep cool during more intense workouts.
The Horizon Fitness EX-59 is easily one of the best ellipticals on the market, and well worth the cost. Anyone looking for high-end fitness club-level performance and features without an overwhelming size will be very satisfied with this elliptical.
Alternative: Nautilus E614 Elliptical Trainer
Nautilus is known for putting out high-level fitness machines with inexplicably lower prices, and the E614 is a prime example of what they do. This expansive elliptical is certainly designed for the modern user, but not at the expense of performance and effectiveness.
The E614 offers all the same features and capabilities found with the most superior ellipticals, and combines that with innovative design and engineering, resulting in one of the best ellipticals you can buy, regardless of price.
As you can see, the E614 uses a front wheel drive system, with a high-inertia, perimeter weighted flywheel that ensures smooth rotations at any speed, while keeping the noise level down to a satisfactory level. Size-wise, the E614 is manageable, measuring 70''L x 28''W x 71''H.
The flywheel offers 20 different resistance levels that can be adjusted from the console while in use, giving you plenty of variety for everything from light to intense workouts. The frame has six different incline settings to increase intensity as well. Rollers are included on the back for when you need to move it across the room.
The stride length on the E614 is 20 inches, giving you an expanded range that helps make the workouts more efficient.Curved handles with soft grips allow you to remain upright and relaxed and contain hand sensors that can continually relay your heart rate to the system.
The console is one of the most impressive aspects of the E614. For starters, there are two separate displays, with the upper level also serving as a space to place your tablet or phone. Even with a tablet covering the upper screen, you can read all your vital stats and progress on the lower screen.
Numerous buttons on each side allow you to choose from 22 different programs, ranging from cardio-based to lighter exercises and quickly starts too. You can store up to two custom programs, and track your progress using either Nautilus Connect or the My Fitness Pal app.
Additional features include a USB port, an adjustable fan, and dual acoustic speakers, letting you stay both cool and entertained during your exercises. The Nautilus E614 is impressive from the moment you step onto the pedals.
Clever design features, plenty of adjustability and customization, quiet operation, and the catering to smartphone and tablet users give you plenty of reasons for going with this model, and for a lower price than you’d expect.
Best Elliptical Machines Under 500
Winner: Cubii Pro Under Desk Elliptical
The Cubii Pro Under Desk Elliptical does things a bit differently, as you probably noticed. By no means a standard, full-sized elliptical trainer, the Cubii Pro is intended to help you squeeze in light workouts and physical activity when seated.
The Cubii Pro started as a Kickstarter project and is now fully funded and quite the popular product for the most part. This is certainly not the only mini-elliptical out there, but I’d say it’s easily the best.
The unit itself is intended to be small, measuring just 11''x 23''x 9'', allowing it to fit under desks and be used while seated. The small size also makes it ideal for using in your living room while sitting in a chair or couch, or just anywhere when you’re seated for an extended period.
I’m not sure of the exact stride length, but I do know that you have eight different levels of resistance, which ranges from very easy, to noticeably difficult. You can do whatever you want with the Cubii Pro, be it moderately intense exercise, or just something light to keep you stimulated.
The range of motion prevents your knees from hitting your desk like you would with stepper style modes. The angle allows for full revolutions, while seated in an upright position.
This targets your upper and lower legs, glutes, lower back, and abs. The flywheel is actually very quiet when in use, sounding similar to a small fan on a very low setting.
This particular Cubii Pro model works with a smartphone or tablet app via Bluetooth. You can control the resistance levels, use timers, track progress, and count your steps as you go. The app is very easy to use, and instantly responsive. It’s all pretty cool, and convenient.
The Cubii Pro also comes in a few different colors if aesthetics are of your concern, and the overall look is not distracting at all, making it perfect for keeping under your desk at work all day.
So, while the Cubii Pro may not be a full-fledged elliptical, it’s a very useful machine and viable option for anyone looking for clever and convenient ways to burn calories while seated, be it work or home.
It may be more expensive than other ellipticals in its category, but in this case, the price difference is very much deserved.
Runner-Up: Sunny Health And Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Trainer
For those in search of a no-frills, inexpensive elliptical trainer that still offers the typical range of features and capabilities, the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-E905 is the easy choice. Small, yet effective, this machine offers a smooth and seamless workout every time.
And while the SF-E905 may not have all the modernized tech features that more expensive models have, it still offers a great workout while saving space and money. It’s simple in all the right ways, easy to use, and you’ll have no problem moving it out of the way when needed.
Measuring just 37.8''x 26.6''x 60 '', the SF-E905 is very compact and is easy to hide in a corner when not in use. It weighs only 68 pounds and has rear rollers, making the moving process even easier.
The SF-E905 is a little different from the standard flywheel drive many ellipticals have, instead opting for a magnetized resistance system located just behind the platform pedals. It offers an 11-inch stride length, along with large, grooved platforms for added comfort, stability, and grip.
The SF-E905 comes with both moving handles, and center, stationary handles for when you want to switch things up, or focus on your lower body. The center handles have integrated pulse sensors that provide quick and accurate heart rate readouts.
The digital monitor is nothing to get excited about, but it still offers all the standard vital data and tracking one needs. This includes time, speed, distance, calories, total distance, and pulse. A centrally located knob in the middle of the frame allows you to make adjustments to the resistance level, on a scale of 1 to 8.
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-E905 isn’t flashy, but it’s easily one of the most affordable ways to purchase a full-size elliptical machine, without sacrificing on quality. It’s a combination of small size, wide adjustability, and smooth operation make it the logical choice for anyone looking to get started with ellipticals, or prefer a cheaper alternative.
What Features And Specs Should You Look Out For When Shopping?
For being one of the more simple exercise machines out there, ellipticals still have a lot of variances, depending on the model. This encompasses a lot of different aspects which all have an effect on the level of workout the elliptical trainer can offer, and also certain conveniences.
One of the first things you’re going to want to consider is the actual size of the machine. Elliptical trainers tend to be awkwardly shaped, taking up more space than you may initially think.
When you see the dimensions of an elliptical, realize that you also have to account for the strides on the handles and platforms.
There really isn’t some target size to go off of, just make sure you measure the area you plan on setting the machine up, and then add a foot or two front and back to account for the stride space.
If you need to be able to move the machine back and forth on a regular basis, make sure you get a model with at least rear wheels.
Stride length is something that often gets overlooked with ellipticals. This term refers to the distance from the center with each “stride” you take with your feet on the platform pedals. The longer the stride, the more effective the workout will be in general.
Think about it for a moment. If the stride length is shorter, you aren’t getting as much of an extension with each stride. This diminishes the intensity of the workout. Longer strides let you make the most of each stride, making the workout more efficient.
For the most part, 20 inches is considered very good for a stride length, with a minimum of 11 inches as the lowest you should go.
Something else that people often forget to check is the weight limit of the machine. Depending on the model you’re considering, this could be anywhere from 175 pounds to almost 300.
Always double check the weight limit before buying just to be safe, or else you risk damaging the machine and even injury.
Type Of Elliptical Trainers
As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the term “elliptical” refers to the oval motion of the pedal platforms as they make each revolution, mimicking a sort a stride similar to running. If an exercise has that motion, it’s technically an elliptical trainer.
While that may be true, most people have a certain idea that pops into their head when they hear the term elliptical. This almost always is the basic setup of pedal platforms paired with vertical handlebars on each side that move front and back in conjunction with the pedals.
There are other types, however, such as full-size ellipticals that are peal only, with a stationary handlebar to hold onto for stability. Mini ellipticals that are usually designed to be placed under a desk are another popular type.
It’s also not uncommon to see bicycle-style ellipticals, which makes sense since elliptical trainers mimic a pedaling motion. These machines come with and without moving vertical handlebars.
The flywheel or drive system in an elliptical is what’s responsible for providing the resistance that you’re constantly working against. Every elliptical with a flywheel or drive system possesses the ability to make at least a few adjustments to the resistance.
With expanded resistance adjustment, you have more options for fine-tuning your workout, allowing you to increase or decrease as needed. This gives you more control over creating lighter workouts, or more intense workouts. The more options, the better.
This is related to the resistance in many ways. Altering the incline of your elliptical gives you the ability to not only make the exercises more difficult and intense but also target specific muscle areas more.
Having a few different incline settings can provide your elliptical with a lot more intensity options overall.
Elliptical machines these days come with a lot more technical features than they used to. This is mostly in regards to the various types of displays on the console’s screen (or screen,) and what kind of data and programming is available.
Heart pulse scanners are very common to have now, and these are usually found on the actual handles of the elliptical. The ability to adjust resistance from the console is more widespread now as well, along with Bluetooth compatibility for fitness apps and progress tracking.
Built-in fans, speakers, cupholders, and tablet holders are helpful accessories that can make your workouts more enjoyable and comfortable too.
Does It Come Assembled?
Ellipticals can be a bit tricky to assemble at times, especially if you’re not apt at doing such things.
Fortunately, if your machine doesn’t come assembled when shipped, you can typically purchase an assembly service from the shipper, who will put it all together after bringing it to your home.
Elliptical trainers are one of the best things you can purchase for your home gym, or even as your main fitness machine. As you can see, you have a lot of leeway in terms of how much you want to spend, and also what kind of elliptical you’re getting in the first place.
Regardless of what you go with, any of the above products come highly recommended. Make sure you first review all of your fitness requirements, go over the aspects most important to you, and then take it from there, as that’s the best way to ensure you get the proper elliptical.
Good luck with your fitness goals!