Treadmills and Ellipticals – online buying vs offline buying


As the Treadmill Sensei and knower of all things fitness related, a lot of readers email me here at the DOJO and ask, “Oh, great Sensei, where should I purchase my new treadmill or elliptical? Should I buy it at a local store or online? Which is better?”

While I don’t really like recommending specific stores or websites to purchase from, I can break down the pros and cons of placing an internet order versus going in to a local store and buying the unit from a brick and mortar location. I’m not going to get in to “how to choose” in this post because I’ve already done that in my “Treadmill Buyer’s Guide” and “Elliptical Buyer’s Guide” articles. Check them out if you haven’t already done so.

The single best way to start researching a treadmill, and the easiest, is to load up your favorite search engine and start poking around. The internet has more information on it than any sales rep at a brick and mortar store…more than any 10 sales reps combined into a super sales rep. Start with review sites like this one (the Treadmill Sensei, Take a look at multiple sites because a lot of them out there have personal agendas in regards to which treadmill or elliptical they are “prescribing.” I’d suggest checking with at least 3 sources.

Once you’ve got a decent handle on a few ellipticals or treadmills that meet your needs, I suggest trying to find a local store to go and try them out. This is a large purchase for most people and it is for a piece of equipment that you’re going to spend a lot of time sweating on. Make sure the unit feels good to you.

Once you’re completely convinced you’ve found the perfect treadmill for yourself or the perfect elliptical for your den, get back online and start doing some price comparison. There are a lot of places online that will give you some fantastic prices on equipment. You’ll also generally get free shipping and won’t have to pay sales tax. Shopping online can save you hundreds dollars on the “hidden costs” that will pop up when purchasing at a local fitness store.

Let’s go over some of the pros and cons for online stores versus local shops.

Local Stores — The Pros:

  • The best thing about a local store is that you’ll be able to try out the actual equipment you’ve been researching online. You can do a run on a treadmill or take a quick workout on that elliptical you’ve had your eyes on.
  • The other positive is that you’ll be able to walk out the door with the equipment right there. You see it, you like it, you buy it and you take it home. Instant gratification is a wonderful thing.

Local Stores — The Cons:

  • You may get instant gratification, but more than likely it’ll cost you. Even if the actual cost of the elliptical or treadmill is good at a local shop, don’t forget you’re going to be hit with taxes which can add up to a hundred dollars or more on a lot of the treadmills and ellipticals. You might save that $25 or $50 on the price of your dream treadmill but that gets eaten up by $80 in sales taxes!
  • From there, you’d better have a big truck or SUV to cart that unit home because once you buy it you’ll have to deliver it yourself! Or, for anywhere from $50-$200, that local store can deliver it for you.
  • Now, the biggest Con about brick and mortar stores in product knowledge. Unfortunately, in my experience, most brick and mortar sales cashiers have very little actual product knowledge. In fact, if you go to your local seller of sporting goods/fitness equipment you’ll find it very hard to even get someone to help you! Most of the reps you’ll encounter are going to be young kids who get paid a minimum wage for a minimum amount of work…which is a shame because that will be a turnoff for most people interested in actually buying a treadmill or elliptical.
  • The last major problem you’ll find at a local store is: pushy salesmen. There’s nothing I hate worse than a sales person who treats me like an idiot and pushes hard on whatever product will get them the best commission. I dislike the “used car” style sales people you’ll find at a lot of fitness specialty stores. There is a big company here in the LA area that is known for their hard-selling salesmen who bully customers in to some truly bad equipment. If a salesmen gets pushy with you just walk out and don’t go back. There are lots of other places to buy a treadmill or elliptical where you won’t have to put up with that sort of attitude.

Internet Stores — The Pros:

  • You’ll find the widest selection of product around. The big fitness sites will have hundred or thousands of products available for you to take a look at and compare.
  • With that extensive product selection you’ll also find a lot more product knowledge. If you’ve got a question or problem, you can generally call up or email an online rep and find them to be incredibly well-informed on everything they carry.
    You will also find better pricing, free delivery in most cases and most of the time you won’t have to pay taxes. When you add it all up you’ll find yourself saving a lot of time and money when ordering online.

Internet Stores — The Cons:

  • No instant gratification — you will be waiting around 2-3 weeks to receive your order. Most of the units will be shipped out via a freight company which take 7-10 business days to travel across the country.
  • The big con for internet stores is that you don’t get to touch or test out their equipment. You’re having to deal with facts and opinions. Luckily, there are tons of sites out there and you’ll be able to get a good idea of what is a well-built machine and which ones are duds (Icon Fitness).

All-in-all, buying online is a lot easier and less painful. The brick and mortar shops have their place (say, for buying a floor model at a ridiculously low price), but for buying a new treadmill or elliptical I’d say check out online stores for a great deal and larger selection.

That’s it for today. Take care!

-The Treadmill Sensei

Speak Your Mind