It use to be if you wanted to buy a treadmill you were limited to your local fitness equipment store. Times have changed, and now you have the option to purchase from various local retailers, or on the Internet. So the question is, where is best place to get the best value? Below I review the pros and cons of various retailers, online and off.
Mass Merchants (Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Target)
The large retailers generally sell cheap treadmills. These machines often have 90 day parts and labor warranties. ProForm and Weslo are examples of brand names. With cheap treadmills your chances of having service issues increases. The sales people usually have little to no knowledge of the equipment.
Large Sporting Goods Stores (Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods)
The large sporting goods chains carry cheap and moderate price treadmills. These include brands like ProForm, Horizon, Sole, Reebok and New Balance. The moderate priced machines come with 1 year service warranties, and will have fewer service problems in comparison to cheap models.
In some cases you will get a sales person that has a reasonably knowledge of the equipment, but not always. Getting waited on can be a problem, especially on the weekends. After 20 minutes of trying to get serve at Dick’s I finally gave up.
Fitness Specialty Stores
These stores specialize in fitness equipment, and that is all they sell. They offer moderate to commercial grade treadmills. Their moderate price brands include Spirit, PaceMaster and Vision Fitness. The high end models include True and Precor. Their staff is very competent, but can be pushy. They work on commission, so expect them to upsell you. With these types of stores you will pay a premium, but usually will receive good information and service.
Buying Treadmills Online
All of the above retailers usually sell through their web site. In fact, you probably will get a better selection online. In addition, you can purchase treadmills online directly from many of the manufacturers, and from sites that specialize in selling fitness equipment. Examples of companies that sell direct include ProForm, Smooth, Sole and New Balance. In some cases you can get a better deal buying direct, but not always.
At the very least the Internet is an excellent source for detailed information on various treadmills. It gives you an opportunity to shop and compare features, including the extent of the warranties. There are also a number of sites that provide professional and customer reviews. These include treadmill-ratings-reviews.com, treadmilldoctor.com and epinions.com. Consumerreports.org is also a good resource, but they charge a subscription fee.
Is There an Advantage to Buying Online?
In some instances you can save money buying online, particularly if you buy from an online retailer that does not have a location in your state. You save on the local state taxes. For example, with Smooth Fitness you only pay state taxes in New Jersey.
Some manufacturers dictate the selling price to all of their retailers, online and off. But others allow sellers to be competitive, in which case you may save 5%-10%. There are a number of brands that do not sell online, like PaceMaster, True and Precor.
Many of the online retailers include shipping in their sales price. But be aware that in most cases the free delivery is curbside, which means you must move the treadmill into your house. Often they will offer an additional turnkey service, where you can get the treadmill move indoors and set-up.
Regardless if you purchase online or off, it is important to be an informed consumer. Learn about the different features, and what you require to achieve your fitness goals. Avoid cheap treadmills, in the long run they can be very costly. Ultimately you want a treadmill that will withstand your level of exercise without being an overkill.
And most important, once you purchase your treadmill make sure you use it.
Fred Waters worked in the treadmill industry for a number of years and is author of the Treadmill Ratings and Reviews site. Check out the latest reviews on over 75 of the most popular treadmills. Get important buying tips from his Treadmill Buyer's Guide .