Budget and midpriced ellipticals are sold at large retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods, Sears, Sports Authority, and Walmart. For more expensive brands, you'll generally need to hit a specialty fitness store. Whether you want to shop online for the best price or purchase a machine from the store, be sure to try it out in person first. You might notice a problem--your knees bump against the elliptical's framework or components, or it just doesn't quite move to your liking--that you couldn't detect by sight or reviews alone.
Here are other criteria to consider:
Size. Most of the ellipticals are about 6 feet by about 2.5 feet, though some are smaller. Since you'll be more elevated than you would on a treadmill, make sure you have a space with a sufficiently high ceiling. And you'll need adequate space to get on and off safely.
Safety features. All but one of the ellipticals we tested were very good or excellent for safety; the other was just good. But they're inherently dangerous for children, who could get pinched or trapped in the moving parts. People with children at home or as visitors should make sure that they can't access the machines.
Ergonomics. Check the comfort of the hand grips and make sure the foot pedals aren't too far apart. The stride length and elliptical path should feel natural.
High-tech features. Docks for iPods, USB ports, and wireless Internet connectivity are now common on ellipticals, though the features aren't always easy to use when you're exercising.
Adjustability. Some ellipticals have an incline. Check to see whether it's automated or requires you to manually adjust it.
Assembly. An elliptical machine can weigh up to 500 pounds, so ask about delivery and check whether assembly is included or available at an additional cost. It might be worth it if you're not particularly good with a toolbox. It generally takes our experienced engineers about 1 to 2 hours to put together an elliptical, depending on the number of steps.
Lifting heavy parts, applying grease, and working on your knees are part of the process. Some of the steps require two people.
Warranty. Look for one that provides two to three years of coverage on major moving parts and a year on labor. Our surveys suggest that an extended warranty probably isn't worth it.