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Elliptical Buying Guide Hero Image

Elliptical Buying Guide

Elliptical machines offer effective yet low-impact cardio that's easy on your joints. Read on to ensure you've considered every factor before purchasing a new elliptical.
Close-up of a person's legs on an elliptical. They are wearing cropped black leggings and black and orange gym shoes.

Getting Started

Ellipticals are a popular machine because they deliver an effective yet low-impact total body workout. The pedaling motion is easier on your joints than running, and the moving hand grips work your upper body as well. If you're building a full-fledged home gym or just want to be more physically active, an elliptical machine is a great choice. However, there are several factors to consider before making your purchase. Our elliptical buying guide will walk you through each of those factors so you can make an informed decision.


There are several size factors one should consider when purchasing an elliptical for their home. Because you're somewhat elevated on an elliptical, be sure your ceilings are high enough to accommodate your height when on the machine. Additionally, many elliptical models feature pedals that extend past the machine, which is another dimension you need to accommodate. Be sure to measure the space where you intend to place your machine. If you're concerned about needing to move your elliptical at any time, look for a model with wheels. You should also consider the step-up height to ensure that you can easily and comfortably get on and off the machine.


Are there certain fitness classes you love? Do you want to enjoy your favorite gym playlist without headphones? If so, you need an elliptical with some sort of connectivity, whether it's Bluetooth, WiFi or both. Oftentimes, your purchase will include a free trial of workout classes that you can stream from the console. Being able to stream your music frees you from earbuds that can fall out or headphones that make your head sweat. Connectivity is also important for those with specific goals in mind as many apps are now available that communicate with your equipment. Popular fitness equipment brands like Spirit have free apps so you can track, monitor and record your workouts. Additionally, machines with WiFi might let you browse the internet or watch TV from the touch screen so you can watch your favorite show or catch up on work emails while you exercise.


Woman with brown hair wearing a white racerback top on an elliptical holding the hand grips
Depending on your goals or your history with exercise, you may want to switch things up. Having exercise programs on your elliptical is a great way to make sure you don't get bored or, if you're new to exercise, have some guidance as you're first starting out. Most machines have some basic programs like Manual, Hill, Interval or Distance.You can easily set goals or difficulty levels, then the program does the rest of the work for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for a simpler, straightforward workout, don't pay for features you won't use.


Ellipticals are available in three different configurations: front-drive, rear-drive and center-drive. The configuration you choose can affect various factors including the workout you get and the cost of the machine.

Front-Drive Ellipticals

Angle view of a grey front-drive elliptical machine with a cup holder beneath the display console
Front-drive ellipticals feature a drive wheel at the front of the machine that is typically in a large housing. These models have pedals that are supported by wheels on a track. The placement of the wheel can make it feel as if you're walking or climbing uphill. Depending on the quality of the components, these models can be noisy; if noise is a concern, it is beneficial to try the model you want to purchase in person. They also tend to be less expensive than other options. The majority of home ellipticals are front-drive models.

Rear-Drive Ellipticals

Angle view of a black and grey rear-drive elliptical. The words Life Fitness are in white on the back of the machine
Rear-drive ellipticals feature the wheel at the rear of the machine. Typically, you stand straighter on these which is important; additionally, their design makes the user stand flatter, which feels more natural. These are typically much quieter than front-drive models. This enhanced design does mean that rear-drive ellipticals tend to be more expensive and are often found in commercial gyms. They're also usually the longest models and will thus need the most space in your home.

Center-Drive Ellipticals

Rear angle view of a black center-drive elliptical. The word 'endurance' is printed on the side of the machine in white.
Center-drive ellipticals position the wheel at the center of the machine, typically on either side of the foot pedals. These are the newest type of elliptical and are thus less common than their front- and rear-drive counterparts. Their design lends itself to better balance because the weight of the user is centered. These models tend to be more compact though they do have longer stride lengths, which can be a pro or a con depending on the user.


Price is the final factor to consider when purchasing an elliptical. All of the factors listed above can affect price, so it's important to determine what features are your main priority before making an investment. There are models for around $500 available if you're not looking to invest too much in your machine; however, some of the most exciting features may not be available on these elliptical machines. If you're building a state-of-the-art home gym, you'll definitely want to invest more to ensure that your machine is up to par with the rest of your exercise equipment. Abt offers ellipticals at a variety of price points, so browse our selection to find the one that best fits your budget.

Find Your Perfect Elliptical at Abt

At this point, you have plenty of helpful information to help you buy an elliptical machine for your home. If you're in need of further assistance or need help placing an order, call 800-860-3577 to speak with one of our specialists. You can also visit our Glenview, IL storefront, where we have several pieces of exercise equipment on display.