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We have tested dozens of the best ellipticals on the market, including a number of rear-drive machines. It seems many higher-end manufacturers have stopped producing rear-drive ellipticals, which may be good news to home gym owners looking for affordable options.
A rear-drive elliptical means that the flywheel or resistance system is housed behind you. On a front-drive elliptical, the resistance is in front of you. Front drive ellipticals can offer more incline options, whereas rear-drive ellipticals are often more affordable.
Our team of expert product testers and reviewers has used every machine on this list. Each one is compared against industry standards and used by real people with lots of fitness knowledge. Oh yeah, did I mention that besides being writers, we’re certified personal trainers, nutrition coaches, former college athletes, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainers? Well, now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, let’s get into it.
4 Best Rear-Drive Ellipticals
- Best Rear-Drive Elliptical Overall: Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Elliptical
- Best Budget Rear-Drive Elliptical: Niceday Elliptical Machine
- Best Hybrid Rear-Drive Elliptical: ProForm Hybrid Trainer XT
- Best Rear-Drive Elliptical Under $1,000: Exerpeutic Heavy Duty Magnetic Elliptical
Best Rear-Drive Elliptical Overall: Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Elliptical
Good for: Someone who wants a reliable rear-drive elliptical at a good price
- Just 105 pounds and easy to move
- Supports up to 330 pounds
- Fixed and moving handles for upper body workout
- 24 built-in workouts
Pros & Cons
- Easy-to-follow built-in workouts
- Under $600
- Machine is smooth and doesn’t shake
- 16 levels of resistance
- Warranty is below the industry standard
- Unclear assembly instructions
- Short stride length of just 15.5 inches
Looking for a sturdy, rear-drive elliptical trainer that won’t break the bank? The Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Elliptical is a cardio machine priced under $500. Kate Meier, GGR’s head of content and certified personal trainer, personally assembled and used this elliptical for a few workouts.
“This is a great ‘no-frills’ elliptical,” she says, giving it a 5 out of 5 for durability. “Whether you move forward or backward, or increase resistance, the machine is incredibly smooth. There is no shaking when you exercise.”
Speaking of exercise, the Sunny Magnetic comes with 24 built-in workouts, including intervals and resistance-based workouts. While there is no incline available, which is pretty common on ellipticals at this price point, there are 16 resistance levels to choose from as you work out.
You’ll find two sets of handles, one fixed and one moving, which provides an upper-body workout if you choose. The pedals, Kate notes, are hard plastic and lack the cushion you might find on higher-end machines.
“The stride length is short at just 15.5 inches,” she points out. “While that was okay with me, I’m a shorter person at 5-foot-4, so taller people may not be as comfortable with this stride length.”
You’ll find some conveniences, like a media shelf and a water bottle holder, but that’s about as fancy as this elliptical gets. There is no Bluetooth, no touchscreen, no speakers. The display is a basic LCD screen that shows you all your stats.
Made of alloy steel, the Sunny Magnetic weighs about 104 pounds. Kate said that it’s a little heavy, but she was able to move it around easily thanks to the front transport wheels. She rated the assembly a 3.8 out of 5, noting: “It took me about 1.5 hours to assemble with one person. The instructions could be much more clear, as they put 3-4 steps into one and the diagrams are very complicated. Attaching the pedals requires some finesse and reworking screws to get it right. Sunny Health provides the tools necessary, but it was easier using our own Philips head screwdriver.”
Want to learn more? Check out our full Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Review.
|23″D x 64.5″W x 55″H
Best Budget Rear-Drive Elliptical: Niceday Elliptical Machine
Good for: Someone who doesn’t want to spend a ton of money for a nice rear-drive elliptical
Best Budget Rear-Drive Elliptical
- Designed with 90% pre-assembled pieces makes installation simple
- 16-lb flywheel offers 16 levels of smooth resistance with a high gear ratio
- Extra-thick steel frame is exceptionally sturdy and able to hold weights up to 400 pounds
- Fits individuals 4’9” inches to 6’2”
- Minimal noise emission measuring only 20dB
Pros & Cons
- Simple assembly
- 16 levels of resistance
- No electrical source required
- High user weight capacity
- Short stride of 15.5 inches
- Circular stride versus oval may feel awkward
- Basic display reportedly breaks easily
If you’re on a hunt for the best deal, check out the Niceday elliptical machine. This rear-drive elliptical is around $600, and is extremely quiet. If you’re someone in an apartment or another shared space, you’ll likely enjoy this. Although the flywheel is just 16 pounds, which is on the lighter side industry-standard wise, it is a virtually noiseless machine.
I also like that the Niceday elliptical doesn’t need to be plugged in to be used. Yep, you heard me correctly. You’ll be able to move this 106-pound machine anywhere in your home and use it without being worried about finding an outlet.
Plus, the Niceday elliptical can support folks up to 400 pounds, which is 125 pounds higher than the industry standard. Consider me impressed. I will say, the handlebars did feel a little shaky when I used this machine, but the base was sturdy. For the $600 price, I was impressed by the steel base construction (although there are a few plastic components).
It is worth noting that the machine has a short stride length. GGR’s Head of Content Kate Meier tested the Niceday elliptical, and for reference, she’s five feet, four inches.
“The stride length on this elliptical is just 15.5 inches,” Kate shares. “If you’re over six-feet tall, you may feel like you’re on more of a stepper than an actual elliptical.
Something Kate was fond of? The 16 different resistance levels on the Niceday elliptical.
“I felt like my legs got a decent workout on the highest setting,” Kate explained. Coming from a jacked competitive weightlifter, this is high praise.
Read our entire Niceday Elliptical Machine review.
|48″D x 25″W x 62″H
Best Hybrid Rear-Drive Elliptical: ProForm Hybrid Trainer XT
Good for: People who who want to switch up their low-impact exercise routine
Best Hybrid Rear-Drive Elliptical
- Easily adjusted to fit different body sizes
- 14 preset workouts
- Ability to work upper and lower body muscle groups
- Simple assembly
- Priced under $1,000
Pros & Cons
- 2-in-1 low impact cardio machine
- Affordable at well under $1,000
- Adjustable screen for viewing while on the elliptical or bike
- Interactive programming with iFIT
- 15-inch elliptical stride may be uncomfortable for taller users
- Storing machine in non-climate-controlled spaces voids the warranty
- Some returns could incur a $250 fee
If you can’t decide whether to purchase a bike or a rear-drive elliptical for your home gym, let the ProForm Hybrid Trainer XT solve the problem for you: Get both. The Hybrid trainer combines the comfort of a recumbent bike with a compact elliptical for around $600.
Although this ProForm machine doesn’t have an actual touchscreen, it is still compatible with iFIT memberships. There is a media shelf where you can stick your own tablet or smart device for viewing. Plus, you can connect your own heart rate monitor or headphones via Bluetooth to the Hybrid Trainer XT.
I like that a variety of the components on the ProForm Hybrid Trainer are adjustable.You’re able to adjust the seat to accommodate your legs or scoot the seat back when you’re ready to use the machine as an elliptical. The cushioned foot pedals are also adjustable for a more comfortable experience.
However, with a hybrid machine comes some limitations. Since the machine was designed with two types of movement in mind, the stride length does suffer. At just 15 inches, you may feel like you’re on a stepper rather than a normal elliptical. If you’re a shorter individual, this won’t be as much of a concern for you.
I also wish that the warranty and user weight capacity were higher. The warranty is just five years for the frame (compared to the industry standard of at least 15 years). Although I haven’t seen any issues with durability yet, the short warranty does slightly concern me. Plus, the 250-pound user weight capacity is a bit disappointing. This could be a great option for a lot of people (since it is two low-impact machines combined) but the weight capacity will limit the user pool.
Take a gander at our full ProForm Hybrid Trainer XT review.
|70.5″D x 24.5″W x 60.5″H
Best Rear-Drive Elliptical Under $1,000: Exerpeutic Heavy Duty Magnetic Elliptical
Good for: A casual exerciser who doesn’t want to spend tons of money on an elliptical
Best Rear-Drive Elliptical Under $1,000
- Compact elliptical with 8 levels of magnetic resistance
- Small 3.4” LCD monitor displays distance, calories, time, speed, pulse, and a scan option
- Integrated tablet holder
- Bluetooth technology with MyCloudFitness app compatibility, which is available on iOS and Android
- Track workouts and choose from three workout goal options on the MyCloudFitness app; time, distance, and calories burned
- Optional premium subscription to MyCloudFitness, which enables access to personalized programs, coaching videos, and scenic routes
Pros & Cons
- Very sturdy
- Compact footprint
- Bluetooth smart technology
- Smooth glide
- Tension is surprisingly challenging for the price
- Assembly is reportedly time-consuming
- Squeaks, but with proper maintenance and lubrication, this is not an issue
- Short warranty
If you want a rear-drive elliptical while spending as little cash as possible, I’d recommend the Exerpeutic elliptical. This cardio machine is under $300 on Amazon and has quite a bit going for it. Although it doesn’t really have many tech features, the Exerpeutic does have Bluetooth connectivity, which is always a plus if you want to connect your earphones.
The Exerpeutic doesn’t have a touchscreen, but it does have a small media shelf. Honestly, it is only big enough for a phone (I wouldn’t trust it with anything bigger). However, you can also use the Bluetooth to connect your phone to the machine via the My Cloud Fitness app. Although you won’t be seeing any iFIT-level programming, you will be able to view a variety of useful metrics about your workout.
RELATED: Beginner Elliptical Workouts
If you’re in a shared space, the Exerpeutic is a good option for you––this machine is nice and quiet. It is also fairly simple to transport, especially considering it is around 75 pounds. The transport wheels are a little stiff, but still help get the job done.
I’m also a fan of the 300-pound user weight capacity. For such an inexpensive machine, it is impressive to have the weight limit over the industry standard of 275 pounds.
Check out our full Exerpeutic Elliptical review for more information.
|25″D x 53″W x 63″H
Other Rear-Drive Ellipticals We Tried and Researched
XTERRA Fitness RSX1500 Seated Stepper: Although we haven’t tried this seated stepper from XTERRA, we aren’t strangers to the XTERRA brand. They produce budget-friendly equipment, and the RSX1500 appears to be no different. It clocks in under $750 and looks like a low-impact way to get the movement pattern of an elliptical machine. If you’re a senior or someone recovering from an injury, you might appreciate this seated option.
Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Exercise Machine Trainer: We’ve used this inexpensive, rear-drive elliptical machine from Sunny Health and Fitness. However, we aren’t crazy about the short stride length and even shorter warranty period. Even for the $600 price tag, you can do better with another elliptical machine.
How We Picked and Tested the Best Rear-Drive Ellipticals
Before diving into adding rear-drive ellipticals to this roundup, I composed a list of qualifications to consider. Here are the questions I asked myself:
- Price: How expensive is the elliptical? Does this make the machine a budget, mid-range, or high-end option?
- Financing: Are there any financing options available? Do you have to qualify for them via a credit check? What does the interest rate look like and what are the applicable terms and conditions?
- Footprint: What are the dimensions of the machine? Would this work best in a larger home gym or in a smaller space?
- Pedals: How large are the pedals? Are they cushioned pedals?
- Workout experience: Will this elliptical provide a challenging workout for most people? Does this piece of exercise equipment feel durable? Will this elliptical cross trainer provide a full-body workout or just a workout for the lower body?
- Flywheel: Is the flywheel located in the front, center, or rear? How heavy is the flywheel? Does the weight meet the industry standards?
- Weight: How heavy is the machine? Will the average person be able to move this machine around? Does the elliptical have transport wheels? If so, where are they located on the machine?
- Weight capacity: What is the weight capacity of this machine? Does it hit the 275-pound industry standard?
- Stride length: How long is the stride length on this machine? Does this feel more like a traditional elliptical machine or a stepper? Does it hit the industry standard of 18 to 20 inches? Is it an adjustable stride length and will it support a longer stride?
- Extras: Does this machine have any extras like Bluetooth connectivity, water bottle holders, cooling fans, accessory trays, tablet holder, Google Maps, or heart rate monitoring?
- Warranty: What does the warranty look like for this machine? Does it hit the 15-year-to-life warranty expectation? Can you purchase additional years of warranty coverage at checkout?
- Programming: Are there any preset workout programs? Is the machine compatible with interactive programming like iFIT?
- Resistance: What levels of resistance does this machine have? Do they feel challenging enough for a variety of fitness goals?
- Incline: Are there adjustable incline options or power incline?
- Foldability: Is this machine foldable? If so, what direction does this machine fold?
- Display: What type of display does this machine have? Does it have an HD touchscreen, LCD, or LED display?
Why You Should Have a Rear-Drive Elliptical
Not convinced you should add a rear-drive elliptical to your home gym repertoire versus other types of ellipticals? No need to fret! GGR writer and certified personal trainer Anthony O’Reilly is here to help explain.
“One of the benefits of rear-drive ellipticals is that it puts the flywheel behind the rider, which prevents sweat from dripping down and getting into the machine,” Anthony explains.
“Accumulated perspiration can, over time, damage the elliptical but a rear-drive machine eliminates any such concern.”
“The machines also tend to be flatter,” Anthony adds. “This produces a more natural walking motion.”
It is also worth noting that rear-drive ellipticals tend to need less maintenance than their front-drive counterparts. Although rear-drive elliptical machines tend to be more expensive upfront, they require less upkeep, which may make it a worthy purchase.
How to Choose the Best Rear-Drive Elliptical for You
When choosing a rear-drive elliptical machine, here are the top three things to consider:
Check the Price
This may go without saying, but cardio machines aren’t cheap, especially rear-drive ellipticals. Make sure you have a budget in mind before getting carried away by a beautiful machine that will leave your bank account screaming.
Many brands (like NordicTrack and ProForm) offer excellent financing options through banks and don’t charge any interest if you qualify. To save even more cash, keep your eyes peeled for holiday sales like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Plenty of companies slash prices in order to move inventory, which means more savings for you.
Evaluate Your Space
If you’re lucky enough to have a designated room for your home gym, you know how precious space can be. This is exactly why it is important to know how much room you have for a new rear-drive elliptical. I suggest measuring your space ahead of time so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises where the machine doesn’t fit.
Look at Stride Length
If you’re six-feet tall or over, this is a PSA: Please make sure your stride length on your new elliptical is at least 18 inches. If you’re shorter or don’t mind the feeling of a stair climber machine, this may matter less to you. However, for all the taller folks out there or those who enjoy the feeling of a traditional elliptical, make sure you find one that has a long enough stride length.
Best Rear-Drive Ellipticals FAQs
Is a rear-drive elliptical better than a front-drive elliptical?
Not necessarily. Both rear-drive and front-drive ellipticals can be great cardio tools in your arsenal. Rear-drive ellipticals are usually larger, since they have to accommodate the flywheel in the back. Front-drive ellipticals generally are best for people tight on space, since they are more compact.
You’ll also have to consider price and maintenance concerns when choosing between a front-drive or rear-drive elliptical. A rear-drive elliptical usually requires less maintenance, but is generally pricier upfront. A front-drive elliptical may seem inexpensive, but you’ll have to frequently maintain the machine to keep it running smoothly at home.
What is the highest-rated elliptical machine?
Luckily for you, dear reader, I have tested more elliptical machines than you probably know exist. I’ve created a roundup of the best ellipticals on the market as a helpful reference point for your search. Here are my top picks:
Best Elliptical Overall: NordicTrack AirGlide 14i
Best Elliptical Machine Runner-Up: Sole E25
Best Elliptical for Comfort: Bowflex Max Trainer M6
Best Elliptical for Knee Pain: ProForm Hybrid Trainer
Best Elliptical for Small Spaces: NordicTrack FS10i
Best Elliptical for Beginners: ProForm Carbon EL
Best Budget Elliptical: Horizon 7.0 AE Elliptical
Best Adjustable Elliptical Machine: Diamondback Fitness 1280ef Adjustable Stride Elliptical Trainer
Best Under-Desk Elliptical: Cubii Move
Best Elliptical Under $1,000: NiceDay Elliptical Machine
Best Elliptical Under $500: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Machine
How heavy should a flywheel be on an elliptical?
Generally speaking, you’ll want to make sure your elliptical has a flywheel that is at least 16 pounds. The industry standard is 16 to 20 pounds, so anything within this range is on target.
Are ellipticals good for bad knees?
An elliptical workout is a low-impact activity, especially compared to running or jumping. This means that if you have bad knees, you may feel better using an elliptical, which can reduce the stress on your joints.
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