What cross-training do you do when you’re not running? If you aren’t doing anything yet, you should certainly consider it!
Today, we’re all about the elliptical, and we’ll be reviewing the best elliptical machines under $500. These machines can be accessible to everyone at home. If you have a bit of a larger budget, you can check out the best ellipticals under $1000 here.
For a more in-depth explanation of the benefits of using an elliptical, head down to the FAQs at the bottom of the page.
Our top pick is the Xterra FS2.5 Elliptical. It has 24 resistance levels, 24 built-in programs, hand-grip pulse sensors, and can pair up with an external heart rate chest strap for more metrics.
Check out the other great values on our list!
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Xterra FS2.5 Elliptical
SNODE E25 Elliptical Machine
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Magnetic Elliptical Bike
1. Xterra FS2.5 Elliptical
If you don’t have time to browse through all the options on this list, this is the one we’d recommend over all the others.
It’s a sturdy machine, packing a 22-pound rear flywheel that can handle any intensity you throw at it. The placement of the heavy-duty wheel also adds to the stability of this elliptical. You’d have to really throw it around to feel unstable!
In terms of comfort, the stride length is 14 inches, which should suit most users. You can use this elliptical both forward and in reverse, which makes it quite versatile.
The handlebars are cushioned, and the LCD screen is 5 inches in length, more than big enough and bright enough for anyone to read easily.
As for performance, you should be able to get a great workout on this machine, whatever your goals. 24 onboard programs mean it’s as simple as hopping on and pushing a button to get started!
The built-in programs include four user-customized settings, a body fat program, and two heart-rate programs. If you want to customize it entirely, you can set the magnetic resistance to one of 24 different levels.
The cushy handlebars also feature a pulse monitor. If you want more accurate or comfortable options, you can invest in a compatible HRM chest strap.
A 10-year warranty on the frame, 2-year parts warranty, and 6-month wear-and-tear warranty is the cherry on top.
- Built-in heart rate receiver (for external chest strap)
- Handlebar heart rate monitoring
- 24 levels of magnetic resistance
- 24 pre-programmed workouts
- No cooling fan
Top with High Resistance
2. SNODE E25 Elliptical Machine
If you like to challenge yourself, this is the elliptical you should be getting. 32 resistance levels provide plenty of space for you to push your intensity up to get the best results.
This sleek machine is also extremely stable, so no matter how intense you’re going, you should be safe and secure. A unique cross-crank system in the flywheel adds an extra element of sturdiness, as does the rear-position of the 22-pound flywheel.
The LCD display is basic, and tracks speed, time elapsed, distance, and calories burned. There’s also a space for a tablet or phone if you’d prefer to watch something or follow an app workout.
Another thing to enhance your workout is the fact that it has extra-large pedals. You won’t feel cramped or restricted as you move. A water bottle holder is a nice touch that’s appreciated when you’re in the midst of a serious training session.
Other pros include easy-move wheels, multi-functional handlebar grips (with a heart rate monitor built-in), and an eye-catching wood panel design (on the white version of the machine).
- 32 levels of electronic magnetic resistance
- Innovative cross-crank system
- Digital display and tablet holder
- Multi-functional grips
- The LCD screen is quite basic
3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Magnetic Elliptical Bike
Aspiring elliptical users who are budget-conscious will appreciate the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905.
It’s priced at less than a decent pair of running shoes, but it does the job well. If you knuckle down, you’ll get as good results on it as you would on any other.
8 levels of magnetic tension are more than enough for a super calorie-burning, muscle-working exercise. The micro-tension twisting knob allows you to set it as precisely as you’d like.
The digital monitor screen may be too small for some runners’ liking, but the display is easy to read if you’re okay with only having a few basic metrics shown. You’ll be able to scroll through time, speed, distance, calories burned, total distance, heart rate. The monitor will also cycle through all the fields.
Anti-slip pedal platforms help with the feeling of stability. The 11-inch stride length may be a little short for taller users.
You can choose to engage only your lower legs and core by holding onto the stationary handlebars. Or, make use of the swinging arms to work out your upper body too.
- 8 levels of magnetic tension
- Pulse sensors
- Transportation wheels
- Non-slip foot pedals
- The foot stride length may be too short for taller users
4. ANCHEER Smooth Quiet Driven Elliptical Trainer
Even when buying a budget exercise machine, durability is a non-negotiable. Constant use will cause wear and tear, like any other piece of exercise equipment. But your elliptical should still perform at a high level.
This one wins first prize on our list for the most durable elliptical. The 35-pound flywheel is larger and stronger than the others we’ve already reviewed. A V-belt drive facilitates quiet operation and a smooth feel when in use.
It can comfortably handle weights of up to 330lb. An 18-inch stride length is perfect for runners of all heights. Textured pedals keep you safely planted on the pedals.
When you need to challenge yourself a little more, up the resistance. 10 levels provide sufficient room for improvement and challenge as you progress.
Download the free Qiber app so you can “compete’ with others in real-time. This is great if you need a bit of motivation to train indoors, as you can simulate an outdoor scene. Just place your device on the tablet/phone holder.
If you’re in a small space, easy-transport wheels make it simple to roll the machine away out of sight if you need to use the space for something else.
- 10 magnetic resistance levels
- Cushioned footplates
- Adjustable non-slip pedals
- 330lb weight capacity
- The instruction manual may be hard to follow
Best with Heart Rate Monitor
5. EXERPEUTIC 1000XL Heavy-Duty Magnetic Elliptical
This is a compact elliptical, taking up just 54” x 23” of space. It’s perfect for people who live in smaller spaces. It’s also easy to move around, at just 76 lbs.
One of the nice things about this machine is that it can run both forward and backward. This may not sound like a huge pro, but you might be surprised at how many more muscles you can target by moving your feet backward!
The machine can handle up to 300 lbs and has a stride length of 13 inches. This may be too short for some, so find out your own comfy stride length before buying.
Eight resistance levels are enough for a variety of intensities, so you can vary your workout to match your training schedule.
- Duel direction flywheel
- 8 levels of magnetic resistance
- Weight capacity 300 pounds
- Large window LCD display
- Stride length may be too short
- Lacks programmable workouts
Top Elliptical with Tablet Holder
6. MaxKare Elliptical Machine
Love working out with your device close by so you can catch up on series or follow along to training videos? This elliptical is perfect for those who want their tablet or phone close at hand.
Unlike others, which often offer a wonky, thin piece of plastic for your tablet to stand on, this one has a safe, solid holder that you slip your device into. There’s virtually no chance of it falling out, and it holds devices of any size.
In terms of training, it may not be the fanciest. But it will get the job done well if you put in the effort!
The magnetic flywheel is located at the front, which could compromise the stability a little if you’re going to be getting very intense with your workouts.
If you’re planning on sticking to low-to-moderate intensity, it shouldn’t be a problem at all. 8 levels of tension mean you can increase the level of your workout without necessarily needing to move more or faster.
Stationary and moving handlebars give you the option to focus on the lower body or incorporate some upper body exercise.
It’s also quiet in operation, is fairly weather-resistant if you wish to leave it on a patio or balcony, and has transportation wheels.
- Impressive tablet holder
- Quiet operation
- 8-level magnetic resistance
- Transportation wheels
- May be less stable than others due to front-driven flywheel
7. Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Machine SF-E3912
If customized fitness is your thing, then this Sunny Health & Fitness elliptical should fit the bill. It’s the top of their entry-level elliptical range, so it’s nothing extremely high tech, but you’ll find all you need and maybe a little extra.
At 105 lbs, you can count on this machine to be sturdy. The downside is that it may be more difficult to move if you live alone, but sturdiness trumps portability in our humble opinion.
It has a weight capacity of 330lbs, which is on the higher side. There’s enough choice for every kind of user, too, with 16 magnetic resistance levels and 24 programs to choose from.
Another bonus is the large color screen, which makes it simple to read your metrics at a glance. You’ll be able to quick-view your speed, distance, time, rotations per minute, resistance level, and heart rate (measured using handlebar sensors).
This is also where you’ll adjust the settings for whatever program you’ve chosen to do. It’s quite a bit larger and easier to read than many others.
- 16-level electro-magnetic resistance
- 24 built-in programs
- 15.5 inches of stride length
- Non-slip foot pedals
- Heavy for one person to move
8. Bestlucky Elliptical Machine
Insomniacs, rejoice! With this elliptical, you can exercise all night long without disturbing anyone.
It’s tough enough to give you a great workout, but quiet enough that you can listen to music, watch a TV show, or exercise in the next room while your spouse or child sleeps.
The silent belt design and inertia-enhanced flywheel keep the motor running at optimal power without increasing noise.
The machine can deal with 330lbs comfortably, and the ride is smooth and easy. A pulse grip and easy-to-read monitor allow you to keep track of your heart rate as you’re exercising.
The 13-inch stride length may be too short for tall users to find comfortable. If you’re under 6 feet tall, you should have no trouble. Taller users may need to find one with a larger stride length, which is the subject of the following review.
- Quiet operation
- Maximum weight capacity of 330 pounds
- Easy tension-control system
- Easy to assemble
- 13-inch stride length may be too short for taller users
Best Stride Length
9. Schwinn 411 Elliptical
Schwinn is a well-known name in the fitness world, so you can be sure this exercise machine is of high quality. It’s a front-drive elliptical, but it’s well-built and sturdier than most others.
We recommend this elliptical for users who are 6 feet or taller. The stride length is noticeably longer than most others, at 18 inches. Shorter runners may actually find this to be a bit of a stretch, but taller people will most likely find it more comfortable and less cramped than others.
Some may find themselves wishing for a larger monitor. The console is compact and “streamlined,” designed to deliver only the basic information. It’s also not backlit, which makes it tough to read in dim light.
You’ll have the choice of using the stationary arms or moving arms, to vary up your routine. As is the standard, the stationary arms come with pulse grips to measure your heart rate. If you have a wireless heart rate monitor, you can also use it in conjunction with this elliptical.
16 resistance settings give you a great range of intensities to suit however you feel on the day. A built-in media shelf gives you the option to watch YouTube videos, read a book, or use an app like RunSocial (which this elliptical is compatible with).
- 18-inch stride length
- Can be used with wireless HRM
- Built-in media shelf
- 16 levels of resistance
- There’s no backlight on the display
Top Glide Elliptical
10. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E902 Air Walk Trainer
A glider is the most basic form of elliptical, and it has some advantages over the traditional flywheel type.
First, you’ll most likely get a better workout, as you’ll be relying entirely on your own movements, with just a little help from momentum. There’s no flywheel driving things in the background – this is all you.
Second, they’re generally more affordable than the fancier ones. Also, less can go wrong with a machine when there’s no machinery or drivers!
It does have a small screen that shows only the basic details, but that should be more than enough. One thing that may be a slight con is that there’s no resistance, so it’s great for beginners but more advanced users may find it too easy.
That’s true for most gliders, though. You can up the intensity by moving your legs faster, wearing ankle weights, or doing intervals.
Non-slip foot pedals and a handy abdominal support pad add to your stability on this minimalistic machine.
- 30-inch stride length
- Folds up to compact size
- Abdominal pad for support
- Non-slip pedals
- The max weight capacity (220lb) is less than most others
- No way to increase resistance or intensity
Need more info on the best ellipticals under $500? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get.
What are the Benefits of Elliptical Machines?
Elliptical machines are low-impact and provide a full-body workout without taking up a lot of space. If you have an elliptical machine at home, you don’t have to worry about missing a run when the weather is bad.
The machine mimics the motion of running without the impact. It helps to maintain or increase your fitness levels, and it also increases your cardiovascular health and capacity, boosts your endurance levels, improves your balance, and helps you to develop strength.
By changing the intensity of your workout or the resistance, you can also target specific muscle groups like your hamstrings, quads, calves, or glutes.
It can be a great way to maintain your fitness levels when you’re recovering from an injury, as it’s low-impact. Being able to exercise without placing stress on the affected area can help you to develop strength in the muscles and regain your full range of motion.
Exercising on an elliptical will have you burning a decent amount of calories. If you pair it with careful nutrition, you’ll find that you’ll be able to shed those excess pounds. It’s fantastic for the early birds, as it’s quieter than running on a treadmill.
What Should You Look for When Buying an Elliptical Machine?
Pick a spot in your house with enough space for the machine. This will help you to identify the size of the elliptical you need before you shop.
Weight Capacity & Stride Length
Consider the weight capacity of the machine, as well as the stride length. If you’re a taller person, you’d need a stride length as big as 18 inches to workout comfortably without restricting your range of movement. Taller people tend to weigh more as well, so capacity can be a limiting factor as well.
Take into consideration your training needs. The higher the number of resistance levels, the more you’re able to change up your workouts. This will make your HIIT and interval workouts more challenging.
Perhaps you want to exercise freely, or maybe you prefer built-in programs. Do you need to connect to a wireless heart rate monitor?
Smooth & Quiet
You’re not going to get a great workout if the flywheel doesn’t do its job properly. If it’s not running smoothly, it’s going to affect the quality of your workout and cause frustration (not to mention make a noise).
Elliptical machines are generally quiet in operation. This is great if you’re working out late at night or early in the morning, as you won’t disturb your neighbors or loved ones.
What Are Bonus Features You Can Find?
Some elliptical machines come with tablet holders. This lets you catch up on your favorite show or take part in a virtual run, which can add some excitement to the workout.
Most will pair with a heart rate monitor via Bluetooth, so you can make sure you’re training in your target heart rate zone. You may even be able to connect your phone via Bluetooth, which can help you keep track of your stats if you’re taking part in a virtual race.
Sometimes a bottle holder is within easy reach but won’t interfere with your movements while you’re doing a workout.