Probably the single most important feature in a treadmill is the motor. That is why motors generally have a separate warranty in comparison to parts and labor. The motor is what drives the treadbelt. Depending on the quality and power it can make the difference between a smooth running machine and a loud noise maker that struggles to run.
In most cases the larger and heavier the motor the better. But that is not always the case. The quality of the motor can make a big difference. In other words not all treadmill motors are equal. For example, a manufacturer explained to me that he can buy a 2.0 HP continuous duty motor for between $30-$120. There is huge difference in what they put out.
When comparing treadmill motors you want to go by the horsepower of the continuous duty, not peak horsepower. Peak horsepower is the maximum horsepower a treadmill can reach. Continuous-duty horsepower is a measure of sustained power during regular use. The continuous motor power is what is consistently delivered during heavy usage over an extended period of time. Since peak horsepower is usually significantly higher than a motor’s continuous capability, continuous horsepower better helps you determine which treadmill will accommodate your intended exercise use. Generally speaking, the larger the motor the more powerful it can operate at a continuous rate
Continuous duty is the standard in comparing horsepower. Unfortunately there is no official standard rating and in some instances treadmill manufacturers will exaggerate the actual continuous duty horsepower. Regardless, the continuous duty horsepower rating will give you some guideline. We suggest the following continuous duty horsepower when selecting a treadmill. If you are over 200 lbs you may want to add an extra .5 hp to the motor level:
2.0 HP +
2.5 HP +
3.0 HP +
Motor Warranties – In the last few years the manufacturers have increased the coverage of their motors. Where it use to be most motors had 1-3 years coverage, now many come with lifetime warranties. In fact, ProForm, which normally had very weak warranties, now offers lifetime coverage on several of their models.
In general, the motors found in treadmills costing more than $600 are usually reliable.