Buy a Treadmill Or Join A Gym? An In-Depth Comparison

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, especially if the treadmill is used by multiple people. 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 gym membership, keep reading so you can make the right decision for your situation.

Key Takeaways

  • In the long run, owning a treadmill is cheaper than a gym membership.
  • If more than one person uses the treadmill, it’s much cheaper.
  • A home treadmill is just as effective as one in the gym.
  • Gyms offer more exercise options
  • Convenience, privacy, and motivation are the deciding factors for choosing a treadmill over a gym membership.

Treadmill vs. Gym Membership Costs

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.

Image of gym equipment in a gym.

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: A 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 costs about $800 to $2000. Most models are around $1200. These have the quality to last a while and most of the features you want. There are 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

Suggested post: How much does a home gym treadmill cost?

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 the use of the sauna and similar amenities.

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

Image of a large commercial gym
  • 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 recommend any of these places to friends and family but it’s an option if money is tight.
  • 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, have 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 places 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.

Suggested: Is 30 minutes on a treadmill enough to see results?

Is a Treadmill or Gym Membership Cheaper?

If buying a treadmill or gym membership is cheaper obviously depends on 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: +-$1200
  • Mid-range Gym membership: $300 to $660

So you can see that for most people, the price of a yearly gym membership will be cheaper than 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.

For about three years of average gym membership money, you can buy a very nice treadmill. Also, keep in mind a treadmill can be used by multiple people in your household. So if the treadmill repalces

In the long run (3 years+), buying a treadmill will be much cheaper than an average-priced gym membership.

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. In the long run, having your own treadmill is much cheaper though.

Image of a man using a treadmill at home.
A treadmill at home is always nearby and available.

What’s More Effective?

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

Suggested post: User weight limit of home treadmills

How Effective Is a Treadmill?

So how effective is running on a treadmill while 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.

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.

Suggested post: Best quiet treadmill alternatives

How Effective Is a Gym?

Let’s simplify this:

Comparing a single treadmill to a fully equipped gym isn’t quite fair – it’s like comparing apples to oranges. However, many people do make this comparison, so let’s do our best to weigh the pros and cons.

Most gyms worldwide offer treadmills but they also have a lot of other equipment on top of that. Gyms provide a range of other exercise equipment, including muscle-building machines, cardio machines, and free weights. Even if you don’t want to get super muscular, building some muscle can significantly improve your overall appearance and well-being.

More muscle means you burn more calories even when you’re not working out, enhancing weight loss and your physique. Building and maintaining muscle is vital for long-term health, combating age-related muscle loss effectively.

Ultimately, the effectiveness depends on how you utilize the gym’s resources. If you take full advantage of the available equipment, you can achieve your fitness goals more efficiently than with just a home treadmill. However, if you only use the treadmill at the gym, your results will be similar to using one at home.

Additionally, gyms often offer personal training, which can be beneficial, especially for those new to resistance training. A trainer can help you learn proper techniques and create effective workout plans.

Treadmill vs. Gym Effectiveness Summary

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 depends on your programming and the effort you put in.

If you only care about improving your cardio and losing body fat, a treadmill alone is great. If you are interested in building muscle, a gym will be better.

Of course, you can also spend the money you would save by owning a treadmill in the long run on some weightlifting equipment for at home to even the playing field.

Pros and Cons Of Owning a Treadmill Compared

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.

Here are the pros and cons of owning a treadmill as compared to having a gym membership.

Owning a Treadmill Pros

  • Convenience: No commute or opening times. You can use your treadmill 24/7 without waiting.
  • Privacy: You work out alone without feeling judged or self-conscious. Play any music or movie you like.
  • Hygiene: The treadmill is as clean as you want it to be, without other’s sweat on it.
  • Family Use: Other people in the household can use the treadmill without extra costs.

Owning a Treadmill Cons

  • Maintenance: Treadmills need some maintenance. You’ll have to do it yourself or hire someone.
  • Quality: The average treadmill in a commercial gym is higher-quality than a domestic model.
  • Social Interaction: Without a gym, you don’t have any social interaction, although that’s actually a pro for many.
  • Motivation: It can be harder for people to stick to working out at home than going to the gym even though it’s more convenient.
  • Cost: Buying a treadmill requires a significant upfront investment.
  • Space Requirements: Treadmills are large and take up space in your house.

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.

Image of people talking during a spin class.
Social interaction is a large benefit of a gym for many people.


A gym membership is all-inclusive. You use the equipment and the only thing they ask you to do is pay and 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 anyway, 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.

Suggested post: How much space do you need for a home gym?


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

On the other hand, the money you spend 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

Recommended home gym treadmills

Favorite Cardio 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 After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

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