An elliptical in front of a blue wall.

In 1999, when Consumer Reports first tested ellipticals, we called them a waste of money. The two we tried out broke.

But for anyone who has been persuaded by the events of 2020 to invest in home exercise equipment, these machines have come a long way since then. Today, consumers can choose between a wide variety of well-made ellipticals at different prices. Our recommended models start at $900 and top out at $2,600.

If you’re worried about stress on your joints, exercising on an elliptical can be a good way to get an aerobic workout without the impact, according to Peter Anzalone, a former senior test project leader for fitness equipment at CR, especially if you’re looking for a higher-intensity activity.

Unlike treadmills, ellipticals also allow for a built-in upper-body workout, and they're usually quieter than treadmills, too.

More on Fitness

If you're a first-time or casual user, you might consider models with preprogrammed routines, which eliminate guesswork and make it easy to get moving. If you already work out consistently or you're trading up from a basic model, consider which elliptical will best help you meet your specific fitness goals. Our buying guide can help you decide which features are right for you.

"While treadmills allow you to move free form, ellipticals constrain you to move the same as the machine," Anzalone said. "Pedal spacing and the elliptical path can be very different on different machines."

That means it's especially important to try any elliptical you're considering in a store to make sure you find it comfortable to use. You don't want to spend all that money for a piece of exercise equipment that will become an expensive, space-consuming clothes rack.

How We Test

Every elliptical machine that enters CR’s labs undergoes a battery of tests to assess whether it will give you a good workout without sacrificing ergonomic comfort or personal safety.

For our ergonomics testing, we use a figure proportioned to a man in the 95th percentile and a woman in the fifth percentile to evaluate comfort and reach for a wide range of users. We also measure the range of motion of the pedals and use an automated machine, which pedals the elliptical at a constant speed, to measure resistance. Our user-safety tests look at potential pinch points, pedal sizes, and coverings, as well as the design of the elliptical handles. If positioned poorly, the handles can cause accidental eye injuries.

Here are five ellipticals at a range of prices that impressed our testers. Members can see our full elliptical ratings and reviews.

Top Picks

1

Ergonomics
Exercise range
Ease of use

2

Ergonomics
Exercise range
Ease of use
Unlock Elliptical Ratings
Become a Member or Sign in