Merit Fitness Ellipticals

Merit Fitness elliptical trainers easily catch the eyes of frugal consumers. After all, these machines cost less than $400 and look prettier than other low-priced elliptical trainers. However, customer reviews indicate that buyers are often disappointed by Merit’s very lightweight products. Some reasons include the short strides, light flywheels and easily broken components. We recommend exploring other budget fitness brands like Horizon and Schwinn instead.

About the Merit Fitness Company

Merit Fitness is owned by Johnson Health Tech of Madison, Wisconsin. Johnson is a major player in the fitness equipment industry. Its cheapest brands are Merit and Tempo Fitness. Johnson also produces three mid-range brands: AFG, Horizon and LiveStrong. Its high-end commercial fitness brands are Matrix and Vision.

Merit equipment is designed in the US but manufactured in China. Ten percent of the trainers are randomly inspected for quality control, which involves breakdown and reassembly.

Features of Merit Fitness Elliptical Machines

The Merit Fitness elliptical series includes just two trainers, the 715E and the 725E. Their small footprints measure about 59” x 24”. Both have 16” strides, pivoting pedals and 10-pound front drives. The 715E weighs 103 pounds and the 725E weighs 110 pounds.

Both the 725E and 715E feature eight preset workouts: manual, random, cardio burn, fat blast, intervals, rolling hills, tempo and weight loss.

These models are typically priced at $349 and $399, respectively. The main difference between them is the 725E’s slight incline and two additional resistance levels. Also, the 715E uses AA batteries but the 725E has a rechargeable power pack.

Merit elliptical trainers have limited 90-day warranties for wear parts and labor. Their brakes are covered for three years and their frames are protected for five years.

Interpreting the Specs

With the exception of their eight preset workouts, Merit’s current trainers are substandard even for cheap elliptical machines. The 16” strides are choppy and the pivoting pedals do little to improve comfort.

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front drive machines that weight little to begin with, they need extra weight up front. Their slight ten-pound flywheels can hardly be considered effective anchors. The 715E and 725E are likely to wobble for many trainees – even those weighing less than the nominal 275-pound max user weight.

Customer Comments about Merit Cross Trainers

While some customers are pleased, more agree that Merits are built of too-cheap components. Many even report trainers being damaged upon arrival because of cheap packing material.

Customers reporting the most satisfaction are lightweight people who use their trainers with moderation. They say that the Merit ellipticals are easy to assemble and support light exercise well. On the other hand, heavy individuals and people getting vigorous workouts sometimes break these machines within months.

Our Overall Review

This brand’s biggest appeal comes from good looks and low prices. Unfortunately, beauty here is only plastic-deep. Merit Fitness has seen improvement over the past few years but still isn’t worthy of recommendation. Check out our elliptical trainer comparison charts for some better options.

Merit 725E Elliptical

The Merit 725E elliptical is a very low-budget fitness machine for beginners. Although advertisers point out that it has pivoting pedals and a heart rate sensor, this machine is far from your best option. The Merit 725E and its cheaper cousin, the 715E, are substandard even for budget elliptical trainers. Their light resistance and short parts warranty are especially discouraging. Besides that, Merit ellipticals are only sized for people with short strides.

For better options, see recommendations below or check our elliptical trainer comparison charts. The charts display features and warranties of elliptical trainers in five price categories.

Advertised Features of the Merit 725E Crosstrainer

One of the better aspects of the Merit 725E is its workout variety. Eight preset workouts include manual, cardio burn, fat blast, intervals, rolling hills, tempo, weight loss and random. Other ellipticals at this price point might not have any programmed workouts at all. Additionally, a very slight incline can be used to enhance workouts. Two LCD windows show the trainee’s time, distance, speed, and calories burned.

Specs for the Merit 725E elliptical trainer are:

  • 16″ Stride Length
  • Pivoting Footpads
  • Movable Arms for Upper-Body Workouts
  • 10 Levels of Magnetic Resistance
  • 10-Pound Flywheel
  • 8 Preset Programs
  • 5% Incline
  • 7” Pedal Spacing
  • Contact Pulse Rate Sensors
  • 275-pound User Capacity
  • Weighs 115 pounds
  • Dimensions: 59″L x 23.5″W x 66″H
  • Warranty: 5 years frame, 3 years brake, 90 days parts & labor

What the Specs Mean

Here are three great reasons to forego the Merit 725E: a meager 10-pound flywheel, a lightweight frame and a short warranty.

Many features that Merit seems to list as perks are disappointing. For example, the 5% incline is a joke compared with standard 15% and advanced 40% inclines on competitors’ crosstrainers. The 7” spacing between pedals is also nothing to brag about. Some people might even find the spacing uncomfortable; a zero-inch gap is best for most trainees. The pivoting pedals aren’t a luxury here either; they’re an absolute must considering this machine’s otherwise poor ergodynamics. Besides all that, the Merit’s heart rate monitor is inconvenient; instead of being integrated with the handlebars it hangs beneath the console.

The claim of a 275-pound user weight capacity is suspect and doesn’t match the experience of larger trainees.

Our Conclusion: Expect Little or Move Along

Unless you’re a light person who has light workouts, don’t expect a Merit bought today to be working in a year. It will probably be a distant memory or a place to hang laundry.

What’s a better option? We don’t recommend buying any crosstrainer in the Merit 725E price category. They’re just too poorly made and don’t include consumer protections. But if you insist on a $400 limit, check out the Horizon EX-57 or the ProForm 6.0ZE. Both models have heavier flywheels, heavier frames and longer strides than the Merit 725E

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elliptical trainer.

Merit 715E Elliptical

Basic & Inexpensive: The Merit 715E Elliptical Trainer

The Merit 715E elliptical trainer is advertised as being “EZ” for one person to assemble. While that may be true, it’s because there’s not much involved in this entry-level trainer. Still, it’s one of the better options among very low-cost cross trainers. It might satisfy a lightweight customer who wants to get light or moderate elliptical exercise at home. The Merit elliptical sells for about $350.

What You Get on a Merit 715E Crosstrainer

Two LCD windows can show time, speed, distance and calories burned. Since the console is powered by batteries, no power outlet is needed. The trade-off is you’ll quickly run through packs of AA Energizers.

Other features of the Merit 715E trainer include:

  • 16″ Stride Length
  • 8 Resistance Levels
  • 10-lb Drive
  • 6.9″ Pedal Spacing
  • Upper-Body Workout Bars
  • Thumb Pulse Sensors
  • Pivoting Footpads
  • 275-lb. User Capacity
  • Warranty: 5 years frame, 3 years brake, 90 days parts & labor

What Do These Specs Mean?

Overall the specs aren’t very encouraging. Nonetheless they make this elliptical better than other ultra-cheap fitness machines. Here’s our interpretation:

  • The 16” stride means that this machine is best for small or average-height adults. The stride is better than that of cheap competitors but poorer than that on most mid-priced and club-quality trainers.
  • The very light drive or flywheel means that the customer shouldn’t expect much resistance. Also, the flywheel and upper-body workout bars don’t provide much resistance. This cross trainer is very much intended for beginners.
  • The 6.9” pedal spacing is an indicator of OK biomechanics; it’s reasonably narrow although narrower would be better. Pivoting footpads are a nice touch. These let people’s ankles rotate naturally, thus helping to prevent strain and “sleepy foot syndrome.”
  • The thumb pulse sensor isn’t so grand. Taking your pulse manually would be just as convenient and possibly more accurate. The best heart rate monitors are POLAR wireless.
  • Finally, the weight capacity should be disregarded. Instead of carrying 175 pounds at most, this unit can probably accommodate just 170 pounds safely. This machine only weighs 103 pounds. It weighs more than other cheap elliptical trainers but is still too light for heavier users.

Our Overall Review of the Merit 715E Elliptical

The Merit 715E is very inexpensive but better than its cheap competitors. You can’t expect to ride it hard, but if you’re not so heavy it will be sturdy during somewhat vigorous workouts. It won’t last nearly as long as a more expensive elliptical but could give you about two years of moderate use. If you don’t expect much from this unit, you might be satisfied. If you expect to experience something like a club-quality workout, you’ll regret your purchase.

Very few ellipticals can seriously compete at this low price point. A few models worth seeing for comparison are the Schwinn A40, the Horizon EX-57 and the Proform 6.0ZE.