Budget and midrange models can usually be found at Sears, Sports Authority, Walmart, and other discount and sporting-goods chains. Shop at sporting-goods specialty stores for the moderate to high-end models. Just about any exercise machine can give you a workout, but the best machine for you is the one that inspires you to keep at it. So try it before you buy it. Important factors to consider include:
If you find a great deal online or at a discount store, check out the shipping cost and assembly policy before you buy it. Most machines weigh more than 200 pounds, and some are almost 300 pounds. Freight delivery can be pricey and will probably require you to haul the machine inside on your own. You might be able to get delivery into your home for a bit more, but you'll still have to assemble it yourself. Some manufacturers recommend professional assembly, and at least one offers such a service for $120. Specialty sporting-goods stores might have a higher sticker price, but that might also include delivery and assembly.
Elliptical exercisers are generally about the size of a small couch, but they can vary. Don't forget that you'll need extra space around an elliptical to safely get on and off. Some models can be folded when not in use. Also pay attention to the vertical space, especially if you have low ceilings, since you'll be elevated on the machine. The Octane Q35c has the lowest pedal height we've measured, making it a good choice for low ceilings. It was a favorite among our panelists.
Each elliptical machine has its own elliptical path; some are long and flat, like a ski stroke, and others are short and round, like pedaling a bicycle. Try before you buy and find one that feels right to you.
You should never feel discomfort in your knee or hip joints, and your knees shouldn't bump the frame or handgrips when you're using an elliptical trainer. The moving handgrips should not force you to lean uncomfortably forward or back, and the stationary grips in front should not be too far to reach or too close for comfort. Close pedal placement is usually more ergonomic, but some people might prefer a wider stance.
Look for one that provides two to three years of coverage on major moving parts and a year for labor. Survey data on the probability of failure and repair costs have shown that extended warranties are probably not a good deal.