When considering the purchase of a treadmill, one of the best indicators of the quality of the treadmill will be its warranty. Better quality machines will have much better warranties than entry level treadmills. If your purchase decision comes down to two or three machines of similar functions, your best choice is usually the treadmill that has the best warranty.
A good warranty does not guarantee a good treadmill. However, the treadmill market has become very competitive and manufacturers are offering much more generous warranties today than they have in the past.
Here is a look at the different items a warranty can cover with some specific examples at the end. When reading the warranty information on treadmills at Amazon, you may not be able to see all of the details. But individual treadmill manufacturers would be glad to provide you with the information you need.
The two most prominent bits of warranty information are frame and motor warranties. The frame warranty covers the parts that make up the structure of the machine. This warranty mostly has to do with the welds and how the frame is put together. This warranty does not cover the belt, rollers or motor.
Because the frame is something completely within the quality control of the manufacturer (unlike an electrical part that can mysteriously malfunction) you should look for a machine with a long frame warranty. This tells you that the company believes in the quality of their own ability to do the work. It is fairly easy to find lifetime warranties on many treadmills.
Along with looking at the horse power of a treadmill motor when you are shopping for a treadmill, make sure you check to see how long a motor is covered. Some motors are covered for as little as 1 year. A moderately priced treadmill (around $1000) should have a motor warranty of at least 2 to 5 years. Many will be much longer than 5 years.
With the plethora of treadmill companies available, there is no reason to buy a treadmill with a warranty shorter than 5 years. There are many manufactures which offer lifetime motor warranties.
Items covered under a parts warranty are the consumable parts that will get worn out with use. These are the items that wear out with use. This usually includes the belt and rollers, but sometimes they are covered separately. While you should expect that some parts would wear out over time, you should also be able to expect to get a couple of years worth of use from your treadmill. If a company will only give you 1-year warranty on the parts, then you should consider a different machine.
The more features your new treadmill has, the more it is likely to need a multi-year warranty on the electronics. If you are buying a certain machine because it has a TV built in to the unit, you need to think about the cost of replacing that TV if it were to stop working in a year. You could probably ignore a non-working TV, but you can't ignore a broken user interface. If the brains of the treadmill are not working, then the machine won't work at all.
Most of these warranties will be between 1 and 2 years. Though this may seem short, the good thing about the electrical components of the machine is that they are unlikely to fail. There are no moving parts which would cause them to deteriorate over time. If there is an electronics failure it will usually show up within a short period of time.
The labor warranty will cover the cost of the repairman to do a repair. You may have a motor warranty of 10 years, but a labor warranty of only 2 years. You will be responsible to pay the repairman to replace the motor if it were to fail after 5 years. Or, you could replace the motor yourself for free, if you are capable. While the part being replaced will be covered under the repair, the cost of labor is the owner's responsibility after the labor warranty is over.
Here are some samples of different warranties on current treadmills. Amazon sells hundreds of treadmills for less than $1500. There are plenty of good machines with great warranties available.
The Sole F63 2011 model carries a lifetime frame and motor warranty. The deck, electronics, belt and rollers are covered for 3 years. All of that is great (better than many), but the labor is only covered for a year. At $999, this is a good balance of warranty and price. Compared to the Nautilus T516, which costs $1199, this is a good warranty since the Nautilus machine only has 15 years of coverage on the motor and frame, but 2 years on parts and electronics. Worse is the 6 months on labor and 3 months on the belt. The Sole treadmill is $200 less and has a considerably better warranty.
The Horizon Fitness T102 treadmill may be short on fancy features, but it makes up for that with a good warranty. At only $757 this treadmill has a lifetime warranty on the frame and motor. Parts and labor are only covered for a year, but that is still far better than the Nautilus machine mentioned above which costs $400+ more than the Horizon Fitness treadmill.
Then there are the treadmills to avoid. The Star Trac Model 561225 has a 3 year warranty on the motor, but lifetime on the frame. Parts and labor are covered for 3 years. The belt and rollers have a 1-year warranty. That may not sound too bad until you consider that this is a $9000 machine! These warranty numbers are only good if it is used in a "light commercial" setting. This treadmill is not even rated for full commercial use.
Keep in mind the different types of warranty information when shopping for a treadmill. When you have to make that final decision, it could come down to 2 machines that are otherwise similar, but one will have a more generous warranty.