Should I Buy a Treadmill Or Join A Gym? What’s Cheaper/Effective

You want to improve yourself and are wondering if buying a treadmill or a gym membership is the best way to go. Here are the most important things that can help you decide what’s best for you.

In the long run, buying a treadmill is cheaper than getting a gym membership. Access to a gym does provide many more exercise options that could make it easier to reach your fitness goals. On the other hand, having a treadmill at home means it’s always available and there’s no commute.

If you’re interested in all the differences, details, pros and cons of having a treadmill and gyms memberships, keep reading so you can make the right decision for your situation.

Treadmill vs. gym membership price

One of the first things you probably think about when making this decision is money. And it’s an important factor. For most people it matters how you spend your dollars and spending them in the right place is important.

So let’s look at what a treadmill and a gym membership cost and what the differences are.

How much does a treadmill cost?

Of course there are tons of different treadmills out there on the market. There are treadmills with different qualities, features, sizes and brands. All the different treadmills have different prices. Because there are so many options, it’s hard to say how much a treadmill in general costs.

Recommended home gym treadmills

We can identify a few price ranges though;

Low end: Cheap motorized treadmill will set you back around $400. For this amount of money you’ll get a relatively simple treadmill without many features. The quality is usually OK but not great.

Mid-range: Most people will be best served by a mid-range treadmill which cost about $800 to $2000. Most models are around $600. These have the quality to last a while and most of the features you want. There is a lot of variations in features in this price range but the quality in this price range is good for most users.

High end: Treadmills over $2000 can be categorized as high-end. As with almost any product, high end is a very wide price range. You can pay thousands of dollars for some treadmill. These are the high quality treadmills with all the features and customer service to back it up.

For most people spending $600 to $1000 on a treadmill will satisfy their needs. The average price of a treadmill for home use is about $1850 which is high because high-end models are so much more expensive. The cheapest home treadmills worth buying will cost about $500

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How much does a gym membership cost?

So now we know how much a treadmill costs, we should have a look at how much a gym membership is.

Of course, just like treadmills, gym memberships come in many shapes and sizes. Different gyms have different pricing structures. Some are cheaper, some are very expensive. Also, gyms often have different price levels that give you access to more or fewer extras. Those extras could be things like use of the sauna and similar amenities.

So just saying how much a gym membership is doesn’t really give you a good idea. That’s why I’ve looked at a few different gyms and types of membership at different levels.

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These are prices in the USA. In other countries these prices can obviously be different. Treadmills will roughly be the same price so that could change your decision.

Entry level: At the bottom end, we have a few gyms offering their basic membership for just $10 a month/$120 a year. Usually there are extra costs for signing up and a few other fees.  These gyms often have the basics but are mostly for casual exercisers. Some equipment will be missing and these gyms are often very busy in the evenings.

These gyms often have less than perfect sales strategies and it can be hard to cancel your membership. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend any of these places to good friends and family but it’s an option if money is tight.

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Medium: In the middle of the range you can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $55 a month ($300-$660 a year). These places are well equipped, good customer service and a range of extras that can include; group classes, sauna, tanning beds sometimes even limited personal training.

This type of gym is best for most people. They offer everything you need for a decent price.

High end: Of course there are plenty of high end gyms as well. Often located in big metropolitan areas where there are a lot of high earners. These place have all the fancy bells and whistles. How much they charge is quite a big range but you can expect to pay up to $230 a month ($2760/year) for one of the more well-known chains.   

If you can afford it and are going to use the extras you get in these places, go for it.

Treadmill vs. gym price comparison

So you can see that it depends which treadmill and which gym membership you compare. However, I’m going to assume that you’ll get a gym membership that’s somewhere in the mid-range because most people do. Let’s compare that to a treadmill with a roughly average price.

If you want to buy a high end or low end treadmill, you would likely get a gym membership in a corresponding price range so the outcome of this comparison is roughly the same.

  • Mid-range Treadmill: +-$800
  • Mid-range Gym membership: $300 to $660

So you can see that for most people, the price of a gym membership will be cheaper to similar to the price of a treadmill.

HOWEVER: The gym memberships are yearly. A treadmill should last much longer than a year. A good treadmill should last about 10 years with proper maintenance.

So comparing the numbers straight doesn’t tell the whole story. In the long run an average treadmill will be much cheaper than an average priced gym membership. For three years of average gym membership money, you can buy a very nice treadmill.

If you look at a single year, the difference isn’t too big. However, over 5 years, there is no comparison. Owning your own treadmill is much cheaper over time. You could even buy a reasonably high end treadmill and still be better off buying your own.

However, for the treadmill you’ll have to budget some maintenance costs as well. The first few years that will be quite low but over time it’ll increase.

Treadmill vs. gym membership effectiveness

Of course if one is cheaper than the other doesn’t matter if it isn’t effective. But what does effective mean in this case?

If you’re interested in running on a treadmill you’ll likely have the following fitness goals;

  • Improving cardiovascular health
  • Losing weight
  • Looking better

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How effective is a treadmill?

So how effective is running on a treadmill keeping the goals above in mind.

A treadmill is a very good tool to reach those goals. A treadmill is made for cardio exercise. It’s very good at getting your heart rate up and burning calories. This helps you reach all the goals mentioned above.

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A treadmill is the gold standard of cardio exercise and if you follow a good program and push yourself regularly, you’ll see results.

On the other hand, a treadmill doesn’t provide much in the way of muscle growth. Your legs might get a little better tone but the rest of your body doesn’t change much except for the lower body fat percentage.

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How effective is a gym?

This comparison isn’t really all that fair. We’re comparing a single piece of equipment to a building full of equipment. It’s a category error.

However, this is something many people are comparing so let’s do the best we can to do so.

Almost all gyms in the world are going to have treadmills. It’s just one of the most basic pieces of workout equipment that’s very popular. So with a gym membership, you pretty much always get access to a treadmill.

On top of that, you get access to a lot of other equipment. In a gym, you’ll have treadmills but also a lot of muscle building equipment. Even if you don’t want to look ‘ripped’, building a little bit of muscle will make a big difference in how you look and feel.

Having more muscle increases your resting TDEE, which means you burn more calories without doing anything. Any cardio exercise you do on top of that only makes it more effective in losing weight and improving your physique.

For longevity reasons training your muscles is also very important. Muscular atrophy is one of the problems that come with old age and resistance training is the best way to counter this.  

In the end it always depends on how you use it. If you’re going to take advantage of all the exercise opportunities a gym has to offer, you have the potential to reach your goals faster or get much better results than only using a treadmill. If you’re going to the gym but only using the treadmill, you’ll have the same results as with a treadmill at home.

Also, in a gym you have the option for some personal training. For cardio equipment that’s usually not necessary. However, if you’re doing resistance training for the first time, it’s a good idea to get someone that knows what they’re doing to help you get all the movements and programming right.

Treadmill vs. gym effectiveness

If you take advantage of the exercise options a gym offers, it can be more effective than a home treadmill but the effectiveness of either one really depends on your programming and the effort you put in.

That said, a treadmill is still a very effective tool to reach the goals we set before.

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General Pros and Cons of a treadmill vs. gym

There are a few other considerations that can influence your decision. Besides price and effectiveness, here are some other factors that you should keep in mind before buying one or the other. If these factors play a role is personal.

Social interaction

Many people don’t only go to a gym for a workout session but also to get some social interaction. Having worked from home for a while, I notice that I’m just looking for reasons to get out of the house so I can interact with other humans.

A gym is a good place to meet other people. Sure, some people won’t be open to interaction but many people will be. Making new connections in a gym is pretty common if usually just superficial.

Of course if you have plenty of human contact and want to avoid other people during your time off, a treadmill at home is the better option.


A gym membership is all inclusive. You use the equipment and the only thing they ask you to do is to clean up your sweat after you’re done.

Suggested post: Treadmill maintenance

If you have a treadmill at home (or any other gym equipment), you are responsible for upkeep and maintenance. In the first year or two, that won’t be much outside of cleaning. However, after a while the maintenance will increase. And it might not be too much or cost all that much but it is something that can be a pain to deal with.


A home gym treadmill is always available just for you. There’s never a wait.

In a commercial gym, the equipment you want to use isn’t always available. During the daytime, this usually isn’t a problem. However, in the evening, gyms tend to be much busier and most equipment is in use.


A treadmill takes up quite a bit of space. If you have plenty of space in your house you’re not using anyways, it doesn’t matter too much. If you could also use that space for something else you’re interested in it becomes a tradeoff you’ll have to make yourself.

A gym membership doesn’t take up any space in your house.

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Ok, I know that a big percentage of people has a gym membership but never actually goes there except a few times in January and before a beach holiday.

On the other hand, the money you spent on a treadmill can also be a motivator. However, there’s something about the action of going to a different place to work out that makes it easier

What’s better for you?

Above you can find a lot of different factors that influence which of the two is a better choice.

Everyone’s situation is different. Everyone has different goals, wallets and houses. Your situation and wishes will dictate what’s best for you.

Recommended home gym treadmills

Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories

Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:

  • Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high quality choice.
  • Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
  • Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.

To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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