A few changes were made to our buyer’s guide and chart as we approached this article on the best sub-$500 ellipticals.
We started by updating the chart to include an excellent machine from Horizon Fitness – the EX-59, before amending a little information in the accompanying guide.
Ellipticals are an outstanding tool for cardio exercise. With a smoother ride than treadmills and the ability to protect your joints from stress and injury, it’s no wonder these machines are so popular.
Table of Contents
To help you save time and hassle, we’ve compiled a couple of lists detailing the best elliptical machines on the market today. The top seven chart on this page is specifically targeted towards users on a tighter budget – all of the ellipticals featured here cost less than $500!
While these are still a considerable step away from the professional-grade machines found at gyms and high-end fitness clubs, they’re a significant step up from entry-level ellipticals.
We’ll begin by walking you through the features of each of the models on our list. After that, we’ll discuss some of the things you should examine if you’re looking to buy an elliptical.
Finally, we’ll conclude by answering a few of the most frequently asked questions surrounding these devices. Take a look to discover everything you need to know!
Stride Length: 18”
Resistance: 10 levels
Features: 14.3lb flywheel, SixStar frame, 4.5” LCD screen, built-in speakers, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, water bottle holder, media shelf, 300lb weight capacity
Firstly, we have to admit that this elliptical is actually a little more expensive than the $500 price cap. However, the EX-59 from Horizon Fitness still falls into the low midrange market, and we’d be doing a disservice to you if we didn’t highlight it!
For the slightly higher price you get an excellent machine with a stride length of 18” and a SixStar frame built to offer a smooth, natural motion for users up to 300lbs. There are 10 levels of magnetic resistance providing ample challenge, whatever your goals.
As you may expect, the increased price means the central console is better equipped too. There’s a 4.5” LCD screen to display a plethora of workout feedback and preset programs, as well as built-in speakers, a media shelf and a USB port. A solid choice!
Stride Length: 8” (Vertical), 9” (Horizontal)
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: 29lb exposed flywheel, built-in wheels for easy transportation, magnetic resistance, fixed incline, 3.5” LCD display, smart resistance knob, 220lb weight capacity
The ProGear 9900 is an affordable elliptical that can help you burn more calories than many of the other models on the market. That’s because this design combines elements of both an elliptical and a stair-climber. The 8” vertical and 9” horizontal stride path provides a significant amount of fixed incline.
Beyond the aggressive incline, the ProGear 9900 also helps you torch calories with its eight different levels of magnetic resistance and 29lb flywheel. Compared to fan-wheel models, magnetic flywheels provide a smooth and ultra-quiet ride.
A 3.5” LCD display displays your workout statistics to keep you on track. If you ever need to transport this elliptical, the built-in wheels make it quick and hassle-free. The incline also keeps the footprint small to save space.
Stride Length: Unspecified
Features: Three different exercises, LCD display, programmable display, hand heart rate monitor, built-in transport wheels, media shelf
Body Champ’s Trio Trainer offers more than just good performance as an elliptical. In fact, it’s one of the most versatile models on our list, with three separate modes to switch between a cross trainer, upright bike, and recumbent bike.
Even if you’re just in the market for an elliptical, the Body Champ still delivers all you need. It’s a rear-drive model, with the foot pedals mounted on bars between the flywheel and the hand grips. An LCD display between the handlebars gives you all the workout feedback you need.
The stride length feels somewhat shorter than some other models, particularly because the seat isn’t removable. While it’s not a deal-breaker by any stretch, this machine may feel a tad cramped for runners and taller users.
Stride Length: 17.5”
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: Handlebar pulse sensors, magnetic resistance, LCD display screen, front-wheel design, weighted flywheel, 7 training programs, built-in speakers
Schwinn’s A40 elliptical harnesses the knowledge and history of the bike brand to deliver a versatile and comfortable model at an affordable price. Compared to many of the other machines in this price range, the A40’s stride length and simple construction stand out.
This elliptical uses a weighted flywheel mounted in the front of the bike to deliver eight different levels of resistance. The pedals are mounted on bar tracks, which keeps the back of the frame streamlined, while the 17.5” stride length is comfortable for all sizes of users.
The A40’s amenities include pulse-sensing handlebars and an LCD monitor, which displays statistics like speed, time, and RPM. The elliptical also features seven different training programs to accommodate beginners and advanced runners alike.
Stride Length: 14”
Resistance: 16 levels
Features: Built-in workout programs, magnetic adjustable resistance, LCD screen, tablet holder, pulse heart rate monitor, 330lb weight capacity
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-E3912 offers some of the best performance and amenities in the under-$500 market. This machine utilizes magnetic resistance for a smooth and quiet operation. Compared to fan-wheel resistance systems, magnetic resistance is also easier to adjust.
This elliptical comes with 24 different workout programs built-in, ranging from warmups to manual setups to cater to all different users. If you ever need to move the machine, the SF-E3912 also comes with wheels.
One gripe – the stride length is just 14” long. While this is fine for walkers, seniors and shorter users, it may feel a bit cramped for taller people and advanced runners. If you’re looking for a high-performance running machine, you may need to look in higher price ranges.
Stride Length: Unspecified
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: Compact under-desk design, fan wheel resistance, quiet operation, real-time workout tracking, Bluetooth connectivity, sleek and sturdy design
If you want to harness the benefits of an elliptical during your workday, it’s hard to beat the convenience and functionality of the Cubii Pro. This very popular mini machine incorporates a small fan wheel with pedals to let you simulate a full-size elliptical at your desk.
Unlike larger machines, the Cubii Pro will only function if you’re seated. This cuts down on the range of motion, which reduces the workload on your leg muscles. If you need more resistance, you can choose between eight levels, while the stable construction helps you generate more force.
Even though it’s not as effective as a full-sized machine, the Cubii Pro is an outstanding solution for office workers – quiet, compact and very effective. The added Bluetooth workout tracking is a nice touch.
The Best Fitness cross trainer rounds out our list of the best ellipticals under $500. This one is a smooth and refined option that’s outstanding for shorter users. The 12” stride length keeps the machine compact, so it’s best suited for walking and jogging.
This unit uses magnetic resistance to keep your ride effortless. The rear-drive setup also makes this model a bit more balanced than other machines that tilt towards the front.
An LED console helps you toggle between the eight different levels of resistance. Meanwhile, transport wheels are included for you to maneuver the elliptical into any space you want. The warranty coverage rounds out the package here, with a five-year frame and one-year parts warranty.
Ellipticals are a unique design among home cardio machines, and you’ll need to do some research to make the right purchase.
If you don’t evaluate all of the options, you might end up with an expensive machine that doesn’t fit your stride – or your room!
The shopping guide below covers all of the major features that you should be aware of before you pull the trigger on a new elliptical.
Most other cardio machines, like treadmills or bikes, tend to offer one main design. Ellipticals, on the other hand, come in a wide variety of layouts.
Each setup offers its own advantages and drawbacks. Depending on how much space you have available, you may be forced to consider only one type of machine.
The vast majority of ellipticals on the market fall into two primary designs: front-drive and rear-drive.
Our list includes multiple examples of each of these models. In addition, you may find some ellipticals designed specifically to fit underneath a desk, which allow you to get your cardio in during your day at work.
Let’s take a look at the specifics of these three designs to get a better idea of the features of each one.
As the name suggests, front-drive ellipticals run with their drive wheel at the front of the machine. To accommodate the large wheel, these ellipticals usually feature a large case surrounding the wheel, incorporating the handlebars and main console.
One of the great advantages of this design is that it is far more compact than some other ellipticals. Front-drive ellipticals are therefore easy keep in compact apartments and small home gyms.
Unfortunately, front-drive machines generally feature a much shorter stride length than their rear-drive counterparts. That shorter length also pushes the machine up, so you’ll need a bit of extra ceiling room to accommodate a front-drive style.
Rear-drive ellipticals, on the other hand, house their drive wheel at the back of the machine. Certain rear-drive machines have their foot pedals mounted on tracks, while others simply suspend the pedals on bars in between the drive wheel and the hand grips.
If you want an elliptical with the longest possible stride length, rear-drive models are the way to go.
These machines are far longer than front-drive ellipticals, and are often a bit more delicate as well. If you live in a small apartment or have an exercise room upstairs in your home, the rear-drive style might be too difficult to store.
Finally, under-desk ellipticals are the smallest of the three designs by far. These models generally resemble a pair of bike pedals running on a tiny track. While they don’t offer much in the way of a long stride, they’re extremely compact and work well if you don’t have time to exercise outside of the office.
Beyond these designs, you might also find some other elliptical designs like side-drive (where the flywheels are on either side of the pedals. Though rare, this design offers many of the benefits of front-drive ellipticals with a slightly longer stride.
Stride length is a critical feature in ellipticals for a variety of reasons. Buying an elliptical with a stride length that’s too long or too short can harm your own stride mechanics and lead to an unsatisfying workout.
Stride length falls into broad categories based on which design you purchase, but individual models will vary.
Most home ellipticals offer stride lengths ranging from 10” on the low end, to 22” on the high end. While you may find some models with shorter or longer strides, the spectrum between 16” and 22” should accommodate most users comfortably.
You will also need to consider a different stride length depending on both your size and how you want to use the elliptical. Walkers can aim for a model with a shorter length, while running requires a longer stride.
In general, shorter users (under 5ft 7) will fit best with a stride between 18” and 20”, while taller users will benefit from a stride length of 20” or more.
Ultimately, the best way to determine the ideal stride length for you is to try out a variety of different ellipticals yourself. Stride length varies from person to person and, with a feature as important as this, it’s always a good idea to make sure you find the right size.
Aside from stride length, resistance is one of the most important factors to consider when you purchase a new elliptical. While stride length affects whether or not you can exercise at all on a certain elliptical, the resistance determines how much room you’ll have to develop on the machine.
Buy a machine with too much resistance, and you may struggle to progress and develop a fitness routine. On the other hand, an elliptical without enough resistance will prevent you from getting a great workout after you grow more experienced.
Different models utilize their own systems to generate resistance. In the under-$500 category, most units use a fan wheel design (occasionally referred to as an ‘air resistance’ system). With this design, your movement powers a fan which blows against the blades of the drive wheel. The faster you pedal, the more resistance you’ll generate.
While these ellipticals are much more affordable than competitors and work smoothly without the need for lots of maintenance, they can also get loud. If you want a completely quiet workout, you’ll need to examine an elliptical that utilizes magnetic resistance instead.
Magnetic resistance ellipticals use a set of magnets to generate smooth and silent resistance while you pedal. This resistance system is what you’ll find on premium ellipticals and commercial machines.
Unfortunately, these units are also far more expensive and may require more maintenance than fan wheel systems. They are not as common in the under-$500 market, particularly when you consider miniature or under-desk sizes.
While incline is a rare feature on ellipticals in this market, it can be a great tool for advanced runners to make their workout more difficult.
The incline feature on an elliptical creates an effect that’s similar to a stair-climber – they shorten your stride and force you to exert more energy to cover the same distance.
If you find an elliptical offering incline in the $500 range, it will most likely be fixed. Rather than adjustable incline levels that you can control from the center console, a fixed incline cannot be changed if you need an easier workout. Keep this in mind if you’re searching for a machine that will accommodate beginners!
If you do want to buy an elliptical with incline, make sure that you find a model with power incline adjustments. Less expensive models with incline often require you to adjust the grade yourself.
While these are just as stable as automated incline models, you’ll need to step off of the machine to switch the incline on your own. This can lower your heart rate and interrupt the flow of your workout.
Control modules are the heart of any elliptical machine. In addition to a selection of resistance and incline controls, they tend to feature display screens.
These screens offer feedback on your workout – from essentials like speed and time, to more nuanced items like heart rate – and can help you adjust your machine to better suit your needs. A poorly designed control module can ruin even a great elliptical.
It is therefore essential to find a cross trainer with an intuitive and clutter-free console. Even under $500, most models will carry LCD screens. These are basic and get the job done – they’re not the prettiest and can be hard to read in low light, but they are simple and effective for the vast majority of users.
If you are willing to spend more than $500, you may be able to find ellipticals with a color display and/or touchscreen.
Because control modules help you organize your device’s workout modes and pre-installed programs, a color display may help you get into the groove and make it easier to navigate to and from different routines.
This is particularly true if you want to take advantage of scenic runs on your elliptical display. Thankfully, many of the models listed here incorporate a tablet holder so that you can attach your device separately.
Like plenty of other home cardio machines, ellipticals are big and unwieldy. Ellipticals that fold are uncommon at this price, but transportation wheels are the next best thing. These wheels allow you to simply pick up your cross trainer at one end and wheel it wherever you want to go.
Not all models on our list come with transportation wheels included, but they can be a massive boon for any elliptical owner. Don’t forget to look for them as you search!
Next, look at the pedals – one of the biggest concerns many users have when they begin to search for an elliptical. If pedals on a certain machine don’t fit, it may be difficult or even impossible to use it for a fulfilling exercise session.
Thankfully, adjustable pedals allow you to modify the pedal to fit your foot better in size, and sometimes in shape as well.
In addition to simply keeping your foot more tightly attached to the pedal throughout your ride, adjustable pedals may also help you generate more force and direct it more consistently into the machine.
Energy leaks can sap any athlete’s stamina, and there’s nothing worse on long-distance runs than wasting extra energy. Adjustable pedals lock your foot into the pedal for a seamless fit. This keeps the machine flush and allows you to push off without any extra resistance or wasted motion.
Other secondary features manufacturers tend to add include things like speakers and Bluetooth connectivity to connect the elliptical to various workout apps. In this budget price range these are a welcome addition, although they are not worth buying the elliptical for alone.
This is because the speakers will usually be quite low quality, while Bluetooth connectivity may not work as desired. See them as bonuses, but nothing more.
Finally, it takes a lot of work to put an elliptical together. Paying for help with assembly may be pricey, but it is often worth it – ellipticals contain a lot of moving parts and it often takes beginners hours to sort them all out.
If you want to save yourself a lot of time and hassle, make sure to leave enough room in your budget for assembly.
The ideal time to use your elliptical machine will vary depending on your goals. However, you can keep a couple of key statistics in mind to help guide your workout.
Many people first step onto an elliptical to burn calories and shed some weight. While ellipticals are a good resource for cardio – and, as we’ve mentioned, they’re far easier on your knees and joints than some other machines – they don’t tend to burn quite as many calories as treadmills or stair-climbers.
People of different sizes will also burn calories at vastly different rates when using an elliptical. If you are particularly tall or muscular, you’ll burn the same number of calories as a shorter or thinner person in a quicker timeframe.
This is one of the reasons why it’s difficult to create a specific number for calories burned that applies to everybody. You may burn between 250 and 550 calories in 30 minutes on a cross trainer, depending on your body size and composition.
Thirty minutes to an hour of work on an elliptical each day should be enough to burn a significant number of calories in most cases. Users who want to purchase an elliptical for cardiovascular benefits don’t need to run for much longer than this in most cases.
If you’re training for a race, however, it might be a good idea to train based on miles run rather than time. This way, you can measure your pace and stamina more accurately. Build up your workouts to develop your endurance over time – and make sure that you start training a couple of months in advance!
When compared to other cardio machines, ellipticals are one of the best options to protect your knees.
The nature of a cross trainer, where your feet move along pedals on a fixed track, alleviates some of the pressure you would normally place on your joints.
Ellipticals remove the repetitive impact between your knees and the running surface that treadmills create. However, the machines have some added benefits beyond just reducing impact. Working out with an elliptical can strengthen the muscles around the joints in your knees, ankles and hips.
Strengthening these muscles on the elliptical will also protect your joints against any damage in the future – even when you don’t have access to a low-impact fitness machine. You can also use low-impact machines like an elliptical to aid your rehab from a lower-body injury (particularly your knees).
While ellipticals and treadmills fulfill a similar purpose in your workout, the two devices don’t function the same way. The differences between the two machines may make one a better fit for you than the other – make sure to compare the features before you decide on purchasing one!
As we’ve mentioned above, ellipticals are easier on your joints than treadmills. While treadmills are a high-impact cardio workout that requires you to push off the belt with each stride, ellipticals use pedals on a fixed track to lessen the stress on your ankles, knees and hips.
This distinction makes cross trainers much easier on the joints in your lower body than treadmills. If you are recovering from a knee, ankle or hip injury, or just want to reduce the load on your legs, you should use an elliptical.
Unfortunately, ellipticals don’t mimic your natural stride as well as treadmills. This decreases the number of calories you can burn, and means that you won’t work out the muscles in your legs on an elliptical machine as well as you would on a treadmill. Plus, if you purchase a cross trainer with an improper stride length, you may compound the problem.
In summary, ellipticals are generally the better choice for people who need a lower-impact form of cardio for their lower body. Treadmills are more intense and potentially have more cardio benefits, but they can harm your joints if you aren’t careful.
This is one of the most common questions people consider as they evaluate cross trainers in the sub-$500 market. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most difficult to answer.
Whether or not you can find a high-quality machine at this price point will hinge upon your fitness goals, preferred activities and your idea of ‘high-quality’.
Ellipticals in this market often feature slightly shorter stride lengths and fewer amenities than their more expensive counterparts. This works better for walkers, who don’t require a long stride and can adjust more easily to an elliptical that doesn’t quite fit their perfect length.
On the other hand, runners require a cross trainer that adapts more closely to their stride length.
Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find the right size in the under-$500 market. This is particularly true if you’re very short or tall.
Whether or not you can find a high-quality elliptical for less than $500 also depends on what you plan on using the machine for. If you have experience with these types of cardio machines and just want something that can function reliably, then you may be able to find that here.
However, these models lack many of the advanced features and programming that you would find on ellipticals in the under-$1,500 range or under-$2,000 price range [INSERT LINK to https://www.fitnessverve.com/best-elliptical-trainer/under-2000/]. If you’re completely new to running on elliptical machines, and want to purchase a model that can guide you through a detailed system of workouts, you may need to consider some more expensive options instead.
Keep in mind that while some ellipticals in the under-$500 market can be durable, they almost certainly won’t offer the same build quality or warranty coverage that professional-grade cross trainers do.
There are some great bargains to be had in this price range, to be sure – but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can get a gym-quality machine for less than $500! If you want a machine that will last a lifetime, $500 just won’t be enough money.
With all the options available to us in the sub-$500 market, we decided to be a little cheeky and opt for one costing just over that amount as our top pick. The Horizon Fitness EX-59 is definitely worth stretching that bit further for, as you are rewarded with more versatility and comfort features.
Having said that, you’ll find plenty of other outstanding choices on this list and on the market in general.
Whether you are in search of a lighter, smaller elliptical, or a long-striding machine for high-speed running, they are all present in our chart. Check out our buyer’s guide and frequently asked questions to help you find the perfect elliptical for you.