Budget-friendly treadmills like the Horizon Fitness T101-04 (Est. $630) , Gold's Gym CrossWalk 570 and LifeSpan TR200 offer many of the same features found on more expensive treadmills. However, the price difference usually translates to lower-quality components and poor durability.
The one major exception to this rule is the Horizon T101-04. Its predecessor, the Horizon T101-03, was great for walkers and joggers but sometimes wobbled under heavy runners. Reviewers say the T101-04 is much more stable, and it retains the power incline, 20-by-55-inch treadbelt, 2.25-chp motor and excellent customer service that has made this line our best-reviewed inexpensive treadmill for several years running. It offers a maximum speed of 10 mph and a maximum incline of 10 percent.
The LifeSpan TR200's treadbelt measures just 17 by 48 inches. Its small deck size, underpowered 1.5-chp motor, maximum speed of just 6 mph and tendency to stall abruptly (or smell of burning after just 30 minutes) all keep the TR200 out of the running for best cheap treadmill.
The Gold's Gym CrossWalk 570 offers the same size belt and motor as the Horizon T101-04 but has durability problems; an expert source warns it "could end up having maintenance issues and a very brief life span." Owners also complain the Gold's Gym support department is less than helpful; a stark contrast to Horizon's excellent customer service.
If you can spend a little more, the Smooth Fitness 5.65 (Est. $850) is still under the $1,000 threshold and offers a 2.75-chp motor (with a max speed of 10 mph) and with a powered 15-percent incline. Unfortunately, it's plagued by a noteworthy number of glitches and warranty complaints and doesn't seem to be as stable as the new Horizon T101-04.
Experts say the ProForm Performance 600 is another good choice for walking and light jogging, but we found consumer warnings of possible quality-control issues and poor customer service -- all of which just make the Horizon T101-04's smooth, stable and reasonably powerful ride stand out that much more.