From its humble beginnings as a part time business for two college students in Utah, ICON Health and Fitness has grown into one of the world’s largest manufacturers of fitness equipment. The company’s credentials are impressive: 4000 employees in 11 locations around the world, nearly 200 patents, ISO 9001 certified and a portfolio of some of the best known brands in the fitness industry. Among this stable of brands are some of the best-selling elliptical trainers in the world — Weslo, ProForm, NordicTrack, and Reebok.
It’s no wonder these ellipticals sell so well. They retail from $200 – $900 with an average purchase price of around $400. They boast features usually found on higher-end elliptical trainers such as heart rate monitors, several built-in exercise programs, built-in cooling fans, motorized resistance settings, and iFit.com technology.
The vast majority of consumers in the market for a home elliptical trainer balk at spending more than $500 for a machine. An elliptical trainer from ICON Health and Fitness for $400 seems like a no-brainer, but before you whip out your credit card, you may want to take a peek under the covers.
*The Sears Alliance — I believe that the biggest factor that makes elliptical trainers from ICON Health and Fitness such big sellers is that Sears carries them. Sears is very well associated with affordable products such as tools, entertainment equipment, and appliances. They also have a good reputation for service. Just don’t expect the sales person in the sporting goods department to give you the facts about product returns with ICON ellipticals. I’ve tried, but who can blame them. It’s their job to sell product.
If you do decide to purchase an ICON elliptical trainer then you’re probably better off purchasing it from Sears. Sears seems to be pretty good about making exchanges if you have problems during the 90-day warranty period. In some cases, they may just refund your money, but your mileage may vary here so don’t count on it. After the 90-day warranty expires then you’ll have to deal directly with ICON. Based on reviewers at Epinions.com this tends to be a frustrating and unsatisfying process.
*The 90-Day Warranty Says It All — If a fitness equipment manufacturer isn’t willing to stand behind their product for more than 90-days, then that should be a big honking red flag! Again, take a look at some of the reviews at Epinions.com and see when these ellipticals start breaking down. In many cases, it’s before the end of the 90-day warranty period!
*Consumers Speak Out at Epinions.com — If you haven’t checked out product reviews at Epinions.com, you really owe it to yourself to have a look. Just about all of the elliptical trainers from ICON are reviewed here. Real consumers write the reviews and some go into great detail about every aspect of their experience.
In some cases the reviewers describe their on-going experiences with product returns and the customer service department. Do yourself a huge favor and read every one of these reviews if you’re considering one of these ellipticals.
*Elliptical Trainer Reviews That Don’t Review Anything — Unfortunately many of the elliptical trainer reviews sites on the Internet give glowing reviews to every elliptical trainer they advertise. When I see rave reviews of any ICON elliptical trainer on these sites I know to not trust any of their elliptical trainer reviews.
My hope is that ICON will eventually begin listening to customer feedback and redesign their elliptical trainers to correct the most glaring weaknesses. Extending the parts and labor warranty from 90-days to a full year would go a long way towards demonstrating their commitment to both their products as well as to their customers.
In the mean time you can protect yourself when shopping for an elliptical trainer by doing your homework — both on-line and off. It all really comes down to putting the odds in your favor. My suggestion is to narrow down your search to several higher quality residential trainers that you’ve tested off-line, MSRP $1000 – $3000, and then shop on-line for the best possible price.