Front Drive VS Rear Drive Elliptical: Pros, Cons, & Differences

Congratulations! You’ve decided that it’s time to purchase an elliptical machine for your at-home exercise routine. Elliptical machines can be a fun, safe, low-impact form of exercise… but you know this, which is why you are getting one.

So now you’re asking the questions, “Which type of machine is the best for me?” And “Where do I begin when deciding between a front drive vs rear drive elliptical machine?

In this article, we will take a look at the pros, cons, and differences between front-drive and rear drive elliptical machines… as well as recommend a few of each type, so you have detailed information about the best-rated models of both kinds.

So let’s get down to business, shall we?

Definitions of a Front Drive Elliptical Machine and a Rear Drive Elliptical Machine

In a front drive elliptical machine, the flywheel system is located at the front of the machine. This design gives this type of elliptical machine a feeling like the user is walking more uphill or climbing a hill.

With a rear drive elliptical machine, the flywheel system is located at the rear or back end of the elliptical machine. The first elliptical machines on the market back in the 1990s used this rear drive system. This required their competitors to manufacture and market front drive options to avoid patent infringements. 

Pros and Cons of Front Drive Elliptical Machines 


  • Generally Less Expensive Than Rear Drive Elliptical Machines
  • More Compact in Size than Rear Drive Machines
  • Typically Have More Incline Possibilities than Rear Drive Ellipticals


  • Can Be Noisier
  • Can Require More Maintenance 
  • They usually have More Moving Parts Which Can Break Down

Pros and Cons of Rear Drive Elliptical Machines


  • You Get a Flatter Exercise Movement
  • It’s a More Natural Stride Motion
  • There Are Less Moving Parts, Less Maintenance


  • Most Take Up More Floor Space
  • Tend To Be More Expensive In Cost
  • Not as Likely To Have a Significant Incline

To Sum up the Pros and Cons… 

As you can see, each type of machine has its pros and cons. Use this infographic below to help make your decision. 

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How to Decide Between Front Drive Elliptical Machines and Rear Drive Elliptical Machines

Both front drive and rear drive elliptical machines offer solid selling points for anyone looking for the right elliptical machine for their home. There can be a number of variables that should help most people make a well-informed choice as to which type would work best in their home. Here is a brief rundown:

Purchase and Use a Front Drive Elliptical Machine If

  • You Are Looking to Buy A Less Expensive Elliptical Machine
  • You Have Less Space To Keep Your Machine In
  • If Incline Workouts On Your Elliptical Machine Are Important To You

Purchase and Use a Front Drive Elliptical Machine If

  • You Prefer A Flatter Exercise Movement
  • You Enjoy A More Natural Stride
  • A Quieter Machine Is Important To You
  • Less Moving Parts And Less Maintenance Is Important To You

Our 3 Top-Rated Picks for Front Drive Elliptical Machines

1. Schwinn Fitness 430 Elliptical

This quieter front drive elliptical machine by Schwinn has 22 preset workouts, 20 levels of resistance, and a Dual Track 2 screen LCD display to help you track your goals. See this awesome model here: 

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2. Sunny Health & Fitness electric Elliptical Trainer Machine

This front drive model elliptical machine is affordable and delivers some amazing options for the price. At almost half of its retail price, this model features a 20-inch stride length, supports users up to 300 lbs., and has a programmable monitor with heartrate-taking ability. Check out this incredible machine here:

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3. Schwinn Fitness 411 Compact Elliptical Machine

  • Low-impact cardio workouts at a fraction of the size of other ellipticals
  • Explore the world and discover more than 50 global routes that auto-adjust in real-time to your speed
  • Space-saving design with 18” stride length
  • Streamlined console displays time, speed, distance, calories, and heart rate
  • 16 levels of variable resistance allow you to dial the challenge up or down

This sale-priced, 4-star rated front drive elliptical machine is one of the best out there for the price. It offers your low-impact cardio workouts, a streamlined console that displays time, distance, heart rate, calories, and speed, a space-saving design with an 18-inch stride length, plus 16 levels of varying resistance. Check out this smaller but mighty product here: 

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Our 3 Top-Rated Picks for Rear Drive Elliptical Machines

1. Niceday Elliptical Machine, Cross Trainer Machine

This moderately priced model has a hyper-quiet magnetic drive system, can accommodate users up to 400 lbs., and has 16 resistance levels. Normally $799.99 on pricing, it’s on sale and ready to ship. Check this model out here:

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2. NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i Rear Drive Smart Elliptical

This model is the priciest of all the ones recommended in this article. However, it is money well spent. This rear drive elliptical machine is made of alloy steel, offers 22 resistance levels, comes with a 30-day iFIT membership with live stream and on-demand workouts, and even folds in half vertically for easy storage when not in use. Look at these options and a number of others here: 

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3. Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Trainer Machine

The Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Trainer Machine is one of the best for the cost. On sale for 49% off its list price, you still get many awesome features you’ll want in a rear drive elliptical machine.

This one features 24 levels of resistance, a device holder, a backlit display, and a quiet internal flywheel. Check out this value-priced model here: 

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Final Thoughts on Front Drive VS Rear Drive Elliptical Machines

Both front and rear drive elliptical machines have their strong points, and their negative points.  It comes to down to what you are looking for in a machine, namely with regards to:

  • Cost
  • Size
  • Features

It would be wise to test drive both types locally, if possible. Or else educate yourself with reviews, such as the ones we provided above. These may not be the exact models you select, but they provide a good starting point for your research.

And if you ever found yourself wondering how many strides you’ll take in a mile on these machines, be sure to check out our latest article on the subject. You may be surprised!

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