Best Budget Treadmills From Consumer Reports' Tests

    For less than $2,000 you can still get a quality machine for home workouts

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    person using treadmill in their home Photo: Leo Patrizi/Getty Images

    Want to spend less than $2,000 on a treadmill? You’ll need to opt for a folding design.

    And that’s okay. CR’s extensive testing shows that many folding treadmills costing between $1,000 and $2,000 perform on a par with—or better than—non-folding machines priced upward of $3,000.

    A good folding treadmill packs all the same basic attributes that a more expensive non-folder does. You can get features such as heart rate automation, where you choose a target heart rate zone and the treadmill adjusts its speed and/or incline to automatically let you reach that goal; heart rate monitoring, either via grips or a chest strap (the latter is usually more accurate); cup holders; and saveable program modes for each user, even in folding machines that cost closer to $1,000 than $2,000. Plus, of course, there’s the convenience of not having to drive to the gym or walk or run outside in lousy weather.

    More on Exercise Equipment

    That said, we do have some very specific advice about how to shop in this (relatively speaking) cheaper segment so that you’re still meeting your needs and not throwing good money away. 

    Above all, before clicking any “buy” buttons, definitely study the measurements of models you’re considering, according to John Galeotafiore, who oversees CR’s treadmill testing. A folder will save a significant amount of room, he says, but that may not amount to as much as you’d guess. “The length of a treadmill is typically between 60 and 90 inches.” Though you’d think you’d cut that footprint in half when you fold it, that’s not always the case. And don’t forget: They don’t get any narrower when you’ve put them away, either. 

    Speaking of size, one concern Galeotafiore cites for some folding models is that the deck length may be too short for some taller users; models we suggest below all have longer decks to avoid that constraint. 

    Can you get away with spending under $1,000? Based on CR’s testing, Galeotafiore says that when you start to sink below that price, you notice deficits in quality (so your treadmill might not last as long), as well as performance. You tend to get fewer features, such as heart rate programs, and slower models with wimpier motors and less ramp angle, so you cannot simulate walking up a really steep hill. You might think you don’t need these features, especially if you’re only intending to use a unit for walking. “But even if you are a beginner, you want to make sure the treadmill can accommodate the progress you will make in your exercise program,” Galeotafiore says.

    CR members can read on for ratings and reviews of five top-rated foldable treadmills. Each tilts to a ramp incline of at least 12 percent and will reach speeds up to 12 mph.  For even more options, check out our treadmill buying guide and comprehensive treadmill ratings.

    Michael Frank

    Michael Frank is a freelance writer who contributes to Consumer Reports on the intersection of cars and tech. His bias: lightweight cars with great steering over lumbering, loud muscle cars any day. You can  follow him on Twitter (@mfwords) and  Instagram (mfwords).