When you decide to buy a treadmill, you might not anticipate how difficult it can be to choose just one. There are thousands available, with many features to choose from. A treadmill represents a valuable investment in your health, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting a quality machine with features that best fit your goals, budget, and lifestyle.

Generally, treadmills are pretty easy to use. If you’re looking for a way to burn fat and calories, lose weight, or improve your cardiovascular conditioning, they’re a great choice. Their versatility makes them popular, but that popularity means you might have a hard time narrowing down your search from the many models on the market. To help you minimize the stress as you embark on your fitness adventure, here are a few things to consider when deciding which treadmill to buy.

    1. Your goals
      If you don’t fancy yourself a competitive runner, then you probably don’t need the extras that are meant to feed the need for speed. While you don’t want to skimp on quality or features, if you’re simply going to use the treadmill for walking, you probably don’t need one that is geared more for sprinting. On the other hand, if you really want to improve your level of fitness, you might want to try interval or incline training. Those needs would demand a treadmill with one-touch speed control, power incline, and higher speed capability, such as the Life Fitness 95Ti, which can support speeds of up to 14 mph. These trainer-designed apps let the treadmill guide you through the steps that will help you meet your goals. Keep in mind that as your fitness progresses, you may decide to change your goals to keep up with your changing body.
    2. Physical limitations
      Walking is a great exercise for most people, but consider any physical limitations or injury history before you make a decision. Should you be concerned about reducing the impact to your joints? Are you going to start running? Talk to your doctor about how you can best use a treadmill to get in shape or stay fit, without causing yourself injury. Many treadmills come with cushioned decks that can reduce the amount of impact to your body. Take such features into consideration when deciding which treadmills deserve a serious look.
    3. Expert and user opinions
      The beauty of a treadmill is that it lets you get and stay fit without leaving home. The beauty of the Internet is that you can research those treadmills without driving from store to store. There are thousands of reviews online, and just as many places to buy your new treadmill. You’ll probably want to take a look at the top brands such as NordicTrack, Landice, and Proform. Look at the models that fit your needs and budget, read plenty of reviews, then browse stores online for the best value.
    4. Size and placement
      Before you actually visit a store, be sure to take some measurements. Where do you plan to keep the treadmill? Will you need a folding model to save room? Be sure you will have enough space around and behind the treadmill to keep you safe incase you lose your footing and fall. Do you plan to put your treadmill in the basement or upper floor? You might need some help getting it in the right place, as treadmills can weigh hundreds of pounds. You also might need an extra set of hands for setup and any required assembly.
    5. Power
      If you’re a walker, you still need a powerful motor. At slower speeds, you foot comes in contact with the belt for a longer period of time on each step. The quick “pushing” motion of a runner’s foot coming off the belt can actually take some of the pressure off the motor, making its job a little less demanding. So never assume that walking is less demanding on your treadmill.
    6. Entertainment value
      Do you want to have stuff to do built into your treadmill? These days, you don’t even have to leave Facebook to get a workout in. Many treadmill models, such as the NordicTrack 1750, come with web-enabled touchscreen displays, so you can access workout programs, email, social media and more. Many people buy a treadmill and place it facing the television at home, but if you want to get the exercise without “unplugging,” such a display might be a great option. Other models have headphone jacks, tablet holders, USB ports, or even MP3 docking availability for your devices.
    7. Controls and display
      Be sure to try any treadmills you’re looking at buying. Are the controls in a good place? Do you like the way they feel? Will you be able to adjust the incline or the speed quickly during a workout? Also consider options such as EKG monitors. If you get into interval training or need to watch your pulse, you might want a model that helps you keep an eye on your heart rate. The Sole TTB, for example, includes pulse-sensing grips and the ability to use an EKG chest strap during your workout.
    8. Dealer quality
      Make sure you buy your treadmill from a reputable shop that will be around to help you with questions or repairs in the future. A good deal is always attractive, but not at the risk of a bad experience. Do your homework on dealers before you make a purchase. Get referrals from friends, check with the Better Business Bureau, and consider their customer service record.
    9. Warranty
      Your treadmill will likely be a fairly large investment, so it’s important for it to last. Before settling on a model, learn about the warranty offered by the manufacturer. Compare the warranties of the different brands and think about how that should impact your decision. Not all warranties are created equally. Landice, for example, offers a lifetime warranty on all parts, including those that generally wear out over time. Other manufacturers include lifetime coverage on the motor and structure, with a shorter term for parts and in-home labor. As part of your warranty considerations, look at the return policy. Many companies offer some kind of in-home trial period.

Hopefully, we have given you some some things to think about before getting serious in your treadmill search. Again, before you decide which types of exercise are right for you and your body, consult your doctor. Once you decide to buy a treadmill, talk to other users, read reviews, and get plenty of trusted advice before you buy. You’re about to make a positive investment in your health — do everything you can to make sure it’s the right one.