There were two new additions to our chart as we refreshed this article.
These included the Fuel E5 and Bowflex BXE116 – both worthwhile considerations! We also revised our article content and FAQ section to bring it up to date.
If you’re looking to pump up your cardio routine without putting your joints in jeopardy, an elliptical is undoubtedly one of the best pieces of fitness gear you can buy.
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The good news is that, for less than $1,500, you can buy a great elliptical that approaches the quality found on commercial cross trainers.
The models on our list below combine awesome performance with outstanding durability and some top-notch amenities.
After we discuss the details of each model on our chart, we will also evaluate some of the key features you should consider in your search for a new machine. Finally, we will wrap up by answering some of the most common questions new buyers tend to have about ellipticals!
Stride Length: 20” to 22”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: 25lb flywheel, 10 built-in programs, magnetic resistance, 7.5” LCD console, up to 30 degrees of incline, adjustable oversized pedals, 350lb max user weight
The Sole Fitness E35 is our top pick thanks to its performance and versatility. This machine hits all of the marks you could ask for in this section. It includes a 25lb flywheel with 20 levels of magnetic resistance, up to 30 degrees of power adjustable incline, and a roomy 20” to 22” adjustable stride length.
On top of the basic features, the E35 also offers some outstanding amenities. A 7.5” LCD screen displays statistics and tracks your progress as you work out, while a built-in fan keeps you cool and Bluetooth speakers are on hand to keep you entertained.
With its 350lb maximum user weight, this elliptical makes a great choice for users of all fitness levels – beginners and seasoned runners alike can reach their goals with the E35.
Stride Length: 19” (Adjustable length)
Resistance: 24 levels
Features: Silent Magnetic Resistance, Soft Touch upper-body grips, 7” HD touchscreen display, one-year iFit membership included, built-in fan, tablet holder
NordicTrack equipment is known for a dependable performance and top-of-the-line extra features. In fact, regardless of whether you are looking for the best treadmills or best ellipticals, NordicTrack machines are regulars on our charts. The NTEL71218 is no exception – this elliptical is one of the best packages you can find for under $1,500.
The smoothly-operating magnetic flywheel delivers 24 levels of quiet resistance to handle users of all skill levels. While the 19” stride isn’t the longest on our list, it’s more than enough for everybody but the tallest runners.
The NTEL71218 also carries a 7” HD touchscreen – a premium feature for this segment of the market. With the included one-year membership to iFit, you can take advantage of unlimited virtual workout programs from all across the globe.
Stride Length: 20”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: 25lb steel flywheel, resistance and incline controls on handlebars, built-in fan, 7 pre-set workout programs, 7.5” LCD screen, built-in audio jack and speakers
The 159003 from XTERRA Fitness provides all of the performance that you’d expect in this price range, with a couple of thoughtful upgrades that set it apart from the competition. It’s a strong option that comes in at well below the $1,500 top price.
Like many of the other models on this list, the 159003 offers a 20” stride length, with 20 levels of adjustable magnetic resistance. The 7.5” backlit LCD screen keeps you informed about your workout as you go.
Beyond its performance, this elliptical also includes a pair of handlebars equipped with heart rate sensors and touch controls. You can use these to adjust incline, resistance and other components as you run. Finally, you can also run the 159003 in reverse to help target different muscle groups in one session.
Stride Length: 20”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: Multi-position handgrips, built-in speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, 7.5” backlit LCD display, chest strap to measure heart rate, 2-degree inward slope for foot pedals
The Fuel E5 is another solid choice in this higher-end market, offering great style, features and core performance. The thick steel frame and 25lb flywheel make for a smooth and stable ride.
To enhance the workout, the E5 includes 20 levels of adjustable incline. While flat running may be better for beginners, advanced users will appreciate the harder settings as high incline levels allow you to work different muscles and increase the difficulty of your session.
The Fuel E5 also makes a great choice for users who love to play their music loud when they work out, as a pair of Bluetooth speakers come built-in. These allow you to play music from your phone with a wireless connection.
Stride Length: 22”
Resistance: 25 levels
Features: Switch Select footplates, 7.5” full-color backlit LCD display, Bluetooth functionality, RunSocial integrated app, multi-grip handlebars with connected controls, nine integrated workout programs
Like NordicTrack, Bowflex machines have earned a sterling reputation for their durability and added features. The BXE116 offers the company’s traditional performance specs, along with some extra amenities for an all-round decent price tag.
The 22” stride length is one of the longest on our list – taller and faster runners will appreciate the extra room to move. The 25 resistance levels make finding a challenge easy for even the most advanced users. Finding comfort is also pretty simple thanks to the adjustable Switch Select footplates.
Finally, the 7.5” LCD screen offers a full-color display, rather than the blue screens found on many competitors. The BXE116 also connects to Bowflex’s RunSocial app, which gives you access to even more programmed workouts!
If you’re looking to spend up to $1,500 on a new elliptical, it’s important that you get the right one! The machines in this price range are genuine investments, and without some research you may struggle to tell them all apart.
Thankfully, you can compare every model on a few key features. We’ll discuss some of these points below to help you feel informed and confident you are making the right choice.
Afterwards, we’ll also answer some of the most popular questions new buyers have about the process.
Ellipticals are one of the most complex cardio machines around, with tons of moving parts to keep in mind. Despite that complexity, however, most ellipticals on the market fall into two categories: rear-drive and front-drive – separated by one major difference.
Rear-drive ellipticals, which you will find in many gyms, place the flywheel at the back of the machine and behind the rider as you pedal.
These ellipticals usually feature a long stride length and do a good job of replicating a natural feel. This is particularly true when the pedals are suspended between the flywheel and the handlebars, rather than on a fixed track.
However, many of the models on our list are front-drive ellipticals. These machines sometimes receive a poor reputation because cheap versions utilize exceptionally short (and uncomfortable) stride lengths.
Higher-end front-drive ellipticals, on the other hand, offer all of the benefits of rear-drive ellipticals along with the bonus of incline settings.
Because the flywheel is at the front of the machine on these devices, it’s easy for users to dial in a gradient for some added challenge. The ellipticals on our list are roomy enough for runners of all sizes; the pedals are mounted on a fixed track that stretches to the very back of the machine.
An elliptical’s stride length is the heart of the machine. Not only can an elliptical with an improper stride length be uncomfortable, it can be downright unusable for many runners.
Stride lengths on elliptical machines vary from 14” in the low end of the market, right up to 22” or more as you reach premium territory.
Walkers can often get away with a shorter stride length, as walking doesn’t require full extension in your stride. However, if you plan on running on your elliptical, you’ll need to pick your machine carefully – a mismatched stride can ruin your progress!
All of the models on our list range between 19” and 22” in stride length. These strides may be a tad long for shorter users (5ft 3 and below, for example), but they allow average and tall runners to move freely without feeling cramped.
Resistance separates beginner ellipticals from professional-quality machines. The bottom line is that if you’re about to drop nearly $1,500, you should get the most resistance possible!
In the sub-$1,500 segment, all of the machines provide magnetic resistance. Magnetic flywheels dominate the premium market because they offer smooth resistance that’s almost completely silent.
With a magnetic elliptical, you can happily listen to music or watch TV during your workout without your machine getting in the way.
However, different models will offer different levels of resistance. It’s important to pick a setup that’s easy for you to use, yet still provides room to grow. Some elliptical experts recommend that you pick a machine where the resistance levels begin to get challenging at around 75% of full resistance.
If you want an extra challenge, you can buy a model with even more levels of resistance to keep you challenged for longer. Keep in mind, however, that you can also increase the difficulty of your routine by adding some incline (see below) rather than increasing the friction against your strides.
Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer when you choose how much resistance you need in your new elliptical.
Just keep in mind that, while a more challenging machine may be hard to get started with, it may pay off in the long run.
As we touched on above, incline is another way to keep your elliptical workouts challenging. Taking advantage of your cross trainer’s built-in incline feature can also work different muscles for a more complete exercise session.
All of the models on our list offer some significant incline. At the minimum, you’ll find 10 degrees to amp up your workout. Most of the cross trainers offer 20 degrees, while some even reach 30 degrees of incline – quite a hill!
In general, 0 to 10 degrees of incline makes your workout more difficult without fundamentally changing your stride. Beyond 15 degrees, you’ll start to feel a significant slope. With a slope measuring 20 degrees or greater, you’ll turn your elliptical into a sort of stair climber.
If you’ve never tried incline workouts before, heavy training might seem a bit intimidating. However, you’ll develop the necessary strength as you move from smoother to steeper grades.
Along with stride length, the control module may be one of the most noticeable differences between cheaper and more expensive ellipticals. While pro-quality machines which cost $2,000+ will offer even more features, you can find a ton of amenities on models in the under-$1,500 market as well.
All of the models on our list incorporate large screens that display statistics about your workout and give you a visual indicator of your progress. Some are more basic LCD, but others are full-color touchscreens.
While a touchscreen isn’t necessary to control the machine and get accurate statistics, it can be helpful if you want to take advantage of any built-in workouts your elliptical offers.
Beyond the central screen, control modules on ellipticals in this price range usually include control buttons as well. These buttons adjust the speed, incline, and workout mode of your machine (if applicable).
While the factors we’ve listed above are the most important things to consider, you might want to take a couple of other aspects into account as well.
These secondary features can make the difference between a good elliptical and a great one. In other words, an elliptical you turn down versus the one you end up purchasing.
We touched on the importance of control modules above, but some ellipticals add even more amenities to the package. Depending on the model, these can include Bluetooth and internet connectivity, USB ports to charge your devices, and fans to keep you cool while you work out.
Internet access is relatively rare on machines in this price range, though many do allow you to connect your devices (via Bluetooth or auxiliary cable) to play your own music as you exercise. Fans are also fairly standard at this price. While they may seem like a small feature, they become crucial when you start working up a sweat!
One major downside of ellipticals is their size and fragility. In terms of portability, they’re bulkier and harder to install than comparable machines, like treadmills.
However, transport wheels go a long way towards making your elliptical easier to transport. If you plan on moving your machine around within your house, make sure you find a model with a durable set of wheels built in – it will save you plenty of hassle down the road.
When used properly, ellipticals are an awesome tool to burn calories and, therefore, fat. Ellipticals fall under the cardio category with other machines like treadmills, meaning that they focus primarily on strengthening the heart and increasing your stamina.
Ellipticals are lower-impact machines than some other cardio sets. This means that running on an elliptical doesn’t burn exactly as many calories as, say, you might burn running on a treadmill for the same amount of time.
However, cross trainers are still top-notch calorie burners – and their lower impact makes them more user-friendly to boot!
If you’re trying to lose weight, an elliptical is a great way to accomplish your goals. The striding motion of an elliptical is easier for beginners to get comfortable with than the pounding routine of a treadmill, for example. Beginners will be able to travel farther and increase their confidence on a cross trainer as they improve.
The longer and faster that you can run on an elliptical, the more calories you’ll burn and the more pound you’ll shed.
Regular workouts of 30 minutes to an hour should help you work towards your weight-loss goals – providing you ensure your diet also puts you in the required calorie deficit. Stick with it and you’ll soon begin to see some rewards!
Cardio is an essential part of any workout program. However, between the time it takes to do effective cardio and the length of many strength training sessions, it can be difficult to fit both activities into your routine.
Many people evaluate ellipticals because they believe that these machines will work their arm muscles while they get their cardio in.
It’s true that ellipticals can stress your arms, particularly more than other cardio machines (like treadmills or stair-climbers). However, whether or not an elliptical provides enough arm work for you will depend on your strength goals.
If cardio is your main focus, but you are concerned about losing lots of upper-body muscle, an elliptical might be a good way to slow the loss. In fact, anyone who’s used an elliptical before can attest to how they feel the burn in their arms when they finish!
However, an elliptical isn’t a substitute for a proper strength training program. If you want to actively build muscle in your arms and upper body, you’ll need to commit to a conventional lifting schedule.
That’s not to say that ellipticals won’t work at all – they can and do have an important place – but they are simply not heavy-duty enough to replace weightlifting and still help you gain arm mass.
Before you spend four figures on a new elliptical, you might want to consider what benefits it provides beyond normal running. Obviously, the machine can provide some extra amenities – but is there a fundamental difference in the mechanics?
The answer to this question is a resounding YES! Running on an elliptical saves your joints from the beating that running on a treadmill or sidewalk often causes.
An elliptical is a ‘closed-circuit’ machine, meaning that your pedals and feet move along a fixed track as you run. This means that the force you exert goes back into the elliptical, and that your body remains connected to the machine throughout your workout.
Running, on the other hand, requires your legs to strike and push off of the ground with every step. Over time, these impacts can add up and lead to problems with your joints. While running does burn a couple more calories than an elliptical, the added physical toll may not be worth it for many users.
Beyond the mechanical advantages, ellipticals also provide a couple of other benefits.
Primarily, they can be used year-round without any issue. This might not be a selling point if you live in a sunny location like California, but users in cold and rainy climates will certainly appreciate the comfort and convenience of an indoor elliptical.
Finally, the ability to play music or watch Netflix while you run is another significant bonus!
If you’re coming back from an injury and looking to restart your cardio routine, it may be difficult to find a suitable option. Many machines and strategies are simply too brutal on your body to work in the long run. Ellipticals, however, are the exception to this rule.
For the reasons we’ve mentioned above, ellipticals are one of the softest forms of cardio around for your joints and bones. Running on an elliptical protects areas of your body, such as your back, knees, and ankles. These normally bear a lot of stress during running activities.
These features help make an elliptical one of the best machines you can find for helping yourself or a loved one to rehab from an injury.
Of course, you should never act against the orders of your physician – make sure that you have the green light to work out before you pull the trigger on a new machine!
After breaking down the details of each option, we finally decided on the Sole Fitness E35 to be our top pick on this list. The E35 offers everything you could want in a cross trainer: high performance, easy usability, and great amenities, all for a price that’s very good for this range.
However, depending on your needs and wants, you may find that another option on this list or elsewhere on the market better serves you.
Just keep in mind our shopping guide and our FAQs to make an informed decision before you settle on a machine to purchase. Good luck!