If you’re strapped for cash and in search for elliptical under $500, the Fast 88’s Portable Elliptical Machine is the one we recommend. Out of the 5 best ellipticals we considered, it came out on top with regards to reliability, ease of use, stability, and list of features.
Elliptical cross trainers are fast becoming one of the most popular styles of cardiovascular focused fitness equipment available to consumers, both in commercial gyms and in people’s home gyms.
It makes sense: the elliptical seems a ready answer to an increasing demand as researchers and the broader public as a whole learn more about the potential benefits of low impact, low stress, steady state cardiovascular exercise.
In today’s article, I will be going through what I think are 5 of the best elliptical machines you can find for purchase at under $500 and prove why Fast 88’s Portable Elliptical Machine comes out on top. They will all be perfect pieces of equipment for your garage gym or the corner of a convenient room, allowing you to get a decent cardiovascular routine going from the comfort of your own home.
Alongside this, I will go into what makes training with ellipticals in general one of the best types of cardiovascular exercise you can take part in. This will allow you to fully make your mind up as to both whether you should invest in one, and what model might suit you the best.
Top 5 Ellipticals Under 500 bucks
Now that we have a clear idea of what elliptical trainers are, let’s jump in with the main event: it’s time for our top five elliptical trainers, all commercially available at less than $500.
The following list is ranked in no particular order – all have their strengths and weaknesses, and all deserve their place on this list. However, I will end by revealing which, out of these five, is our number one most highly recommended product.
- Fitness Reality 2366 X-Class 710
- Exerpeutic GOLD 2000XLST
- Body Power BFX8000 Elliptical Cross Trainer
- Marcy ME-704
- Fast 88’s Portable Elliptical Machine (Our top pick)
Our Top Pick
Our top pick for the best elliptical under 500 bucks is Fast 88’s Portable Elliptical Machine.
I’ve given you 5 really strong picks with this list. Though some have a few minor flaws – and some have a major flaw or two – they are all functional, well-built machines that will serve their purpose to a high standard. If you do decide to buy any of the above, you will be making a good investment and getting a product that will help you to achieve your fitness goals.
There was always going to be a stand-out elliptical, however. For me, this is easily Fast 88’s Portable Elliptical Machine. This is based on a few things. Its simplicity is hugely attractive: where many other over engineered products might have endless ways in which to break down and go wrong, the Fast 88 Elliptical Machine does what it says on the tin, no more, and does so reliably. It is also very cost effective because of its simplicity. Yet its simplicity should not fool you: this is a well-crafted, well-engineered piece of equipment. It is also really easy to put together and to use, meaning that you will waste less time in faffing about and be able to devote yourself entirely to training.
It’s a hands-down winner.
What Is An Elliptical?
First thing’s first, let’s talk a little bit about what elliptical trainers actually are, and what they might be able to do for you. Also called a cross trainer – or simply an X-trainer – the elliptical machine entered the market in the early 1990s.
They are stationary cardiovascular machines used to simulate either: stair climbing, walking, or running. Their design greatly decreases pressure to the joints – especially the knees, hips and ankles – and so will allow you to train harder, for longer, without running the risk of injury from impact.
People with pre-existing joint problems will typically favour the elliptical cross trainer because of its non-impact nature. If you have any issues with your joints, especially in your lower body or hips, you would benefit a great deal from switching your cardiovascular routines around a little to make use of ellipticals.
Most elliptical cross trainers provide resistance both to the upper and lower bodies. Some can be self-powered by user-created force, whilst others – particularly more advanced, more effective models – will have electrical components for use in adjusting resistance and maintaining control consoles. Elliptical workouts can vary from high-intensity to low by manipulating resistance, making them useful for more advanced forms of cardio like HIT and Fartlek.
How We Picked Our Winner
Beyond the basic categories of what a good quality, home elliptical trainer should include – smooth tread, exercise variability and good craftsmanship in the build’s execution – when looking at the market we found quite a significant amount of variation in several other areas. Ease of construction fluctuated wildly between models, as did the stability of various designs.
Aesthetics and liveability were also a large factor, as you will be bringing whichever elliptical you choose into your home, hopefully for long-term use. Almost every elliptical trainer design offers the basics, but they also offer their unique twists, perks and pitfalls.
All elliptical trainers we considered for our list must, at the very least, deliver a satisfying workout, be relatively affordable, and must be something that you would willingly and realistically find room for in your own home. With this in mind, all of our finalists had to:
- Enable you to perform a satisfactory, steady state cardiovascular workout. We only considered candidates whose build allowed for a good, steady workout with a comfortable pace and stride to be performed with good form. Any that didn’t do so were immediately disqualified from the running.
- Be easy to use and handle. You do not want any complications with an elliptical cross trainer. Anything that would detract from the smooth pace of a regular workout would be unacceptable: each one should be what it is – a piece of very simple exercise apparatus. My selections for this list reflect this desire, with none of those items included offering any extraneous concerns or difficulties.
- Be easy to install, maintain and clean. Some of the items on my list might take longer than others to put together. However, they are all manageable for anyone without prior experience to put together. At most, they will require help from a second person and will be easy enough for two people to handle and move. They are also all easy to keep clean, which is important given how much sweat you will hopefully be pouring when you’re using them. Rub each one down with a little disinfectant, dust off the console and then carry on, hassle free.
Best Elliptical Under 500 Bucks Reviews
It’s quite rare to see an elliptical in a more affordable price bracket, aimed more at home buyers rather than gym settings, that is quite so geared towards performance as the Fitness Reality 2366 X-Class 710. It’s quite a nice treat to see such a reasonable price tag on something so well developed.
Fitness Reality built the 2366 X-Class 710 from the flywheel up. This has a few advantages, including high-spec performance and smooth running at higher intensities. The flywheel itself is 44lbs – the sheer weight of this will give you something good to push against. Combined with its highly variable workout programmes, you will be able to set yourself some very challenging cardiovascular sessions.
The whole piece of kit is attractive. The computer is stylish and the interface is very user friendly – it comes with plenty of user features, yet remains very simple to navigate. It is set out in a very intuitive way. There are 24 pre-set programs, including workout goal options. However, as good as the software is, the touchscreen itself is not up to par. It can be difficult to use and the button placement is a little off. Quite often it will take you straight back to the home screen, seemingly at random.
The 2366 X-Class 710 comes very well parcelled, solidly packed with dense Styrofoam so that it should arrive in factory good condition. However, when you receive the package, the journey has just begun. On your own, it will take a good two hours to build the 2366 X-Class 710: with a friend helping, you’ll still likely spend upwards of an hour on it. The set-up manual is clear, with good instructions, but it will still be an effort of labour to get the elliptical up and running.
This was a bit of a surprise entry to the list, given the flaws that plagued its younger cousin, the 1000X. However, to give Exerpeutic their due, they have pinpointed these flaws and near enough eradicated them from the GOLD 2000XLST’s design to give a very well balanced, smooth working machine.
For starters, much like the Fitness Reality 2366 X-Class 710, the GOLD 2000XLST has a heavy flywheel – far heavier than the 1000X’s. This gives it a pleasant weightiness and allows for a smoother, heavier resistance progression. Alongside this, the GOLD 2000XLST has a few improvements in the design to its frame and software: it has a better, smoother stride length, an improved three piece cranking system, a very well-integrated computer system and peerless ergonomics involved in its proportions. You can a consistent, smooth workout from the GOLD 2000XLST as a result of all of these tweaks, making it a really quite thoroughly satisfying product.
The GOLD 2000XLST’s packaging was impressive. Everything was secure and well padded, with no damage evident from transit. It is very easy to put together – much more so than the Fitness Reality 2366 X-Class 710, for sure – with everything being simple, straight-forward and well labelled.
However, it is not without faults. Within a remarkably short space of time (just a few short workouts) the frame begins to squeak quite badly. Some users report this climbing to a ridiculous level over a process of weeks. No matter what you do – grease it, oil it, replace some of the parts in the joining angles – this squeaking seems to persist. Obviously, this is not ideal, especially if you’re using the elliptical at home, as it has been designed for.
This one is an elliptical after my own heart – hefty, bulky, with a satisfying weight and a reassuringly simple, unassuming design. The Body Power BFX8000 Elliptical Cross Trainer is a little weird looking – its frame, which looks like it is from some form of bike, features an odd front flywheel, with an odd layout – but this speaks more of the Body Power Elliptical Cross Trainer’s directness than anything else, as it foregoes more complex designs for brute efficiency.
The flywheel is a piece of heavy metal: a solid disk of steel. This has a couple of ramifications. It means that the wheel is pretty big, and that users experience a great deal of momentum and a very smooth tread. It feels fantastic. Coupled with a manual resistance control – the computer is only for tracking progress and storing data, not controlling the elliptical itself – this shows that the Body Power BFX8000 Elliptical Cross Trainer could be a well-built but spartan piece of kit.
This should mean that there is little hassle to be had from the Body Power BFX8000 Elliptical Cross Trainer: it should all fit together very well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The assembly is straight forward and the machine is quite light, making it easy to move about. However, within half an hour or so of using it, a terrible grinding noise began. Much like the GOLD 2000XLST, an otherwise solid bet is undermined by noises and motions that speak of a distinct lack of professional finish. Alongside this, the arms do not quite fit properly onto the main frame – simplicity should lead to efficiency, which it really doesn’t here.
Those of you looking for a straight forward, no frills machine would do well to invest in the Body Power BFX8000 Elliptical Cross Trainer. However, if you’re looking for something more advanced, or something with a greater degree of comfort or a nicer product finish, perhaps consider looking elsewhere.
4. Marcy ME-704
Marcy’s reputation proceeds them: they are known for being a trustworthy, reliable manufacturer. This is very evident in their offering to this list, the Marcy ME-704. It is another very simple design, once more demonstrating the elegance of functionality over frills, and the end result is a very efficient, compact product.
The Marcy ME-704 is very easy to assemble and its small footprint makes it ideal for a smaller room. It is quiet to use – and remains quiet, unlike the GOLD 2000XLST or the Body Power Elliptical Cross Trainer.
Its small size can have some drawbacks, of course. The ME-704’s frame is not the best – it lacks a little stability where a larger, more well planted product might be better. I also wouldn’t recommend the ME-704 for anyone much over six foot tall. However, the flywheel is pretty standard, and they have managed to get good performance from it – the tread is smooth and, as I said, almost silent (though, of course, most ellipticals will begin to give some noise if you use them for long enough periods of time. The ME-704 is just a good starting point.)
The Marcy ME-704’s control module is all built in and easy to use, with one of the best screens I have seen on a product like this. It gives decent variability as well, with 23 workout programs to alter intensity, duration and function. Finally, my favourite feature of the Marcy ME-704 is its power needs. They are all met by user input, meaning that no external power sources are required – it self powers, saving precious energy and money, and meaning that you won’t have to worry about there being cables all over the place.
If you’re looking for a reliable, straight forward yet quite visually attractive elliptical, Fast 88’s Portable Elliptical Machine might be the one for you. It has a plethora of great reviews online for a very good reason: anybody purchasing it should be very confident in its design and finish. It is another quite compact piece of kit, though as it delivers everything a larger model might, this is only to be celebrated.
The price and quality of this machine make it very worth looking into. Though they are pretty basic, the mechanisms all function smoothly and quietly, and with eight levels of resistance, built in pulse monitors and a simple to use LCD display which keeps you abreast of everything going on throughout your workout, it will meet your training needs very ably. The Fast 88 Portable Elliptical Machine’s elegance comes in its simplicity, driving down its price whilst still retaining good quality, reliability and smooth functioning.
It takes a little bit of assembly and, for all that it’s advertised as being portable, the frame is not light. However, this makes it stable. It’s easy to use and small enough to keep tidied away in a convenient corner when you’re not using it.
Ultimately, the Fast 88 Portable Elliptical Machine is a very satisfying, trustworthy product which is a real pleasure to use.
How To Use Your Elliptical
The exertion you should find placed upon your legs and cardiovascular system should be similar from an elliptical cross trainer to either jogging on a treadmill or a soft, outdoor surface. The leg motion they will give you will be in an intermediate range between a stationary bike and a typical treadmill, allowing for a wide, smooth range of motion.
Exercise performed at the same rate of perceived exertion (RPE) on both an elliptical cross trainer and a treadmill should lead to the same oxygen consumption and energy expenditure, showing the same cardiovascular benefits between both. Most physiological responses – oxygen retention, build up of lactic acid, heart rate fluctuations and so on – will be broadly similar for both.
Most models, and all the ones in our list, are similar in the way in which they are used. You will want to stand in a comfortable, neutral position, with your knees, hips and ankles aligned. Keep your weight distributed as evenly as possible both between your feet and between the heels and balls of each foot.
Hold onto the handles, if there are any (there are in all of my selections) and stride either forwards or in reverse, working both your arms and legs through a full and natural range of motion. Keep your movements fluid, smooth and continuous.
Varying the length of your stride on an elliptical cross trainer will have an impact on the variety and mass of muscles recruited. The longer your stride, the more calories you will burn at every level of perceived exertion
Hopefully, you now know a little bit more about elliptical cross trainers than you did before reading this article. By now, you should have a fairly good idea of the kinds of elliptical cross trainers available to you, their potential pitfalls, what others have said about some of the top products out there, and of course which elliptical you can get for less than $500.
You know my favourite, but do you have a preference? Have you tried out a few, or indeed any, from my list? Let me know in the comments below: what power towers would you recommend?