A full-sized elliptical trainer is most like the types of high-end elliptical trainers that you'll find in a professional gym, yet even good models can be highly affordable. While some home ellipticals don't have all the bells and whistles of gym-quality models, many come pretty close -- and get excellent reviews for sturdiness and durability as well. For those who don't have the room for a full-sized elliptical, see our separate discussion of the best compact elliptical trainers.
Of all the elliptical trainers we evaluated, the front-drive Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical Machine (Est. $1,700) boasts the best combination of stability; durability; useful features; smooth, quiet resistance; and affordability. Users say it feels like a gym-quality elliptical trainer with a very solid feel. Many say they and sometimes other members of their family use it every day.
The Sole E95 offers 20 levels of eddy current braking -- the gold standard for quiet operation and reliability -- and is backed by a solid warranty: Lifetime frame coverage, five years on parts, and two years of labor coverage. Sole Fitness has an excellent reputation for customer service; owners say they're prompt, efficient, and honor their warranty with no hassles.
The Sole E95 also has a plethora of proven features, including an incline ramp that power-adjusts between 0 and 40 degrees (adjusting the stride length between 20 and 22 inches); 10 workout programs, including two custom workouts and two heart rate control workouts; cushioned, adjustable foot pedals that angle slightly inward to reduce stress on your joints; a 9-inch LCD console that tilts for easier viewing; and handgrip controls for easy adjustments to both incline and resistance. Users say the built-in sound system and fan are just adequate -- but we see similar feedback for those features on almost every elliptical trainer.
At a lower price, the front-drive Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine (Est. $1,300) shares the same excellent build quality, warranty, and almost all the same features. The LCD screen is just a little smaller (7.5 inches), the max incline is a little lower (30 degrees), and the flywheel is a little lighter (29 pounds instead of 34). It's also got just a bit smaller footprint and a lower upper weight limit -- 375 pounds to the E95's 400 pounds. However, all that being said, the E35 gets just as good of reviews from experts and owners for performance and features.
That's not to say that the Sole E95 and E35 are perfect. The most common complaint we found for both was persistent squeaking or clicking noises from the foot rails. Most users say lubricating the foot rails will resolve this, while others simply let Sole's excellent service department take care of it.
Another great choice in the mid-range price category is the Best Fitness E1 Elliptical Trainer by Body Solid (Est. $1,100). It gets raves for its solid construction, ease of assembly and good range of electronic features, including a heart rate monitor. Best of all, it has a smaller footprint than either of the Sole Fitness models, so if you want an elliptical with all the bells and whistles of a full-sized model, but don't have the space, this may be the best choice. However, it can only accommodate up to a 275 pound user. The Best Fitness E1 offers a full body workout and functions in both forward and reverse. The center drive design is quiet and smooth, users say, and many describe it as a great value.
The least expensive full-sized elliptical in this category, and one of the highest-rated home machines in spite of its low price, is the Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine (Est. $600). Bargain-priced elliptical trainers tend to have short, choppy strides, but the front-drive Schwinn's 20-inch stride length is the equal of many high-end home ellipticals. It has 20 levels of eddy current resistance (another great feature for the price), and users say the motion is smooth and stable, even for larger users -- its maximum weight capacity is 300 pounds.
Eight heart rate control programs may be overkill, especially since the Schwinn 430 relies on handgrip heart rate monitors and is not compatible with a wireless chest strap heart monitor. The two user IDs and custom programs, however, are welcome additions; the built-in speakers and fan receive so-so reviews.
The Schwinn 430 also has a USB port for data export to Schwinn Connect and MyFitnessPal.com; this doubles as a charging port for your portable gadgets. We found a couple of comments that the 430's moving handlebars might be set just a little too narrow if you're planning on holding onto the stationary handlebars as you pedal -- but overall, the Schwinn 430's quiet, smooth performance, excellent stability and good durability are all remarkable finds in this price range
The Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer (Est. $800) is another inexpensive home elliptical that's highly rated by experts and owners. It receives a Very Good rating for ergonomics, exercise range, ease of use, construction and safety in one professional test. Another professional review site also gives high marks for ergonomics, saying it's impressive for the price and a good value.
Users agree, saying the Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 is very easy to assemble and use, and offers a great workout. They also note that it's smooth and quiet, with a good array of features, including 10 manual programs, a heart rate monitor (although it's a grip monitor, which is less accurate than a chest strap), and tracking for time, distance, speed and calories. The EX-59-02 also has 10 levels of resistance, although one expert review site says there is an "extreme lack of adjustability." It does not have quite the number of bells and whistles as the Schwinn 430, and a slightly lower upper weight limit of 275 pounds, but reviewers say it's very durable and they expect it to last for years. While we give the Schwinn 430 the edge in this report because it's been around quite a bit longer and has more, and slightly better, user reviews, many experts think the Horizon Fitness model will have a strong durability record over the long term.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Elliptical Trainers: Need a top elliptical trainer for your exercise room? We found the best ellipticals for every space and budget.
Best Compact Elliptical Trainers: Don't think you have space for an elliptical trainer? Think again -- these compact ellipticals can fit in even the smallest space.
Buying Guide: Not sure what type of home elliptical is right for you? Our buying guide will help you figure out how to find the perfect elliptical trainer.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user sources we consulted in finding the top elliptical trainers. They are listed in order from most to least helpful.