Reader Mailbag: New or Used Equipment?


Today we’ve got a note from Chris who resides in our neighbor to the north, Canada. He’s trying to find a good elliptical and is wondering if he should buy new, remanufactured or used. Take it away, Chris!

Hi Sensei,

I’ve been researching an elliptical purchase for many months now, your site has been a great resource, thank you.

There is currently a “rebate” program on Precor @ Fitness Depot here in Canada and the 5.23 (home version of 546) is on for $2858, that is a $1000 discount. However, it is still more than I wanted to spend and I keep looking at used/refurb units online from the US. Some of the used units can be had for under $2000 US. The new unit comes with a 10 year warranty and the used ones with virtually nothing.

If I purchased used am I likely to encounter large repair costs that will quickly eat the savings from buying used in the first place? What are typical repairs and repair costs for Precor 546’s?

Thank you very much, -Chris


First off, thanks for your note. Searching for the right elliptical can be a huge hassle due to the huge number of units out on the market. I’ve done around 120 elliptical reviews of the past year and have barely dented the surface of what is out. Buying an elliptical can be a truly daunting task for the uninitiated.

Your question is a good one, but one that is a bit difficult to answer. First and foremost, Precor puts out some of the best ellipticals. Period. There are only a few companies which produce ellipticals as good or that last as long (notice I said “ellipticals“…that’s because their treadmills have been hit or miss). Getting a Precor 5.23 elliptical, as expensive as they are, is a long term investment in your health. The Precor 5.23 will probably outlive your car if properly maintained. With a new unit, like you said, you also get the benefit of a healthy warranty.

That being said, if you can find a well-remanufactured commercial elliptical it will have the potential to last 5-10 years without any trouble. A Precor 546 is a commercial unit that is rated for a lot more usage than you’ll ever be able to put on it – they are made to be used in 24 hour gyms and the like. Again, as long as you keep up the cleaning and general maintenance of the unit. The ellipticals, unlike the treadmills, are mainly mechanical in nature. Any mechanical problems with a unit would pop up in the first month or two, hopefully while you’re still under warranty. The electronics issues with a machine like the Precor 546 will usually come in the console or control boards. A problem there will cost a few hundreds to replace but is something most owners can do themselves to avoid having to call a service tech out.

The problem with remanufactured units is finding one from a reliable company. There are some dealers out there who clean up a unit without replacing bearings (some just “wipe down” a machine and send it out), without removing rust and without replacing anything that can’t be seen. In that case you’re just getting a used elliptical while paying a higher remanufactured price. The best thing to do there is to ask the dealer about their remanufacturing process. Ask what is done and what gets replaced. Check out my remanufactured equipment guide for a little more info. Oh, and remanufactured home units are always a bad idea. If you’re going remanufactured, then stick with commercial units because a remanufactured budget treadmill just won’t last.

Finally, used ellipticals. Used machines can be a bit of a crap shoot. Sometimes you’ll luck out and get a good one and sometimes you’ll get a lemon.

On remanufactured or used ellipticals I’d try to get the dealer to agree to a 30-day return period (60 days if you can manage it) to let you try out the quality of the machine you’re buying. Again, any mechanical problems should be fairly quickly noticed.

Just remember, for any elliptical you get (new, used or remanufactured), proper maintenance is the key to long product life. Keep the machine clean and dust free, and keep it lubricated.

I don’t know if any of that helps or not. I would say that if you’re looking to stay under $2000, you might want to check out a remanufactured Precor 544 instead of a used Precor 546. The units are a little older but are built like tanks and you can find them for under $2000.

Thanks again for your note, Chris, and good luck with your elliptical search!

-The Treadmill Sensei

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