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Health: Peloton vs. Gym Membership: Which Is Cheaper? We Do the Math

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New Year's resolution season is just around the corner, and if you're debating whether to finally buy a much-hyped Peloton bike to help you get on a better exercise regimen at home, you might be wondering: Will this actually save me money down the line compared to joining a local gym?

Which is cheaper, a Peloton bike or a gym membership? We do the math. Amazon © Provided by CNET Which is cheaper, a Peloton bike or a gym membership? We do the math. Amazon   Peloton vs. Gym Membership: Which Is Cheaper? We Do the Math © Provided by CNET

Which option is best for you will depend on a bunch of individual factors outside of the cost, including your daily routine and workout style preferences, but the price tag is likely a big piece of the puzzle.

We broke down the figures to help you determine if it's worth it for you to purchase a Peloton or stick to a gym membership. (Spoiler: After the first year, it may not make a difference.) Keep in mind that these are rough estimates and gym membership prices may vary upon your location as well as the Peloton package you select. (And for more price comparisons, check out if streaming services are really cheaper than cable, how much you can save by shopping at Trader Joe's compared to a regular supermarket and how much you can save by switching from bottled water to a Brita filter.)

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How much does a Peloton bike cost?

During the pandemic when gyms were closed, the Peloton bike became the piece of fitness equipment everyone wanted to own. It's easy to see why: The indoor bike features a large screen where you can follow along with thousands of classes, some of them live, giving you both a good workout and the group fitness experience. You can also try classes beyond cycling, like weightlifting and yoga, in the privacy of your own home.

Whether you opt for the original Peloton Bike or the pricier Bike Plus, know that it's an investment (we break down the differences between the Peloton Bike and Bike Plus here). Peloton offers four package options for the Peloton Bike and Bike Plus, respectively, that range from just the bike to the bike with a bunch of extras, like dumbbells and a heart rate band. These packages range from $1,445 up to $2,875.

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Whichever bike package you choose, you also need to pay for the All-Access membership to actually use the classes, which costs $44 a month. The good news is the membership lets you create up to 20 user profiles, so everyone in your family can use the same bike and membership package. When you add on a year of the All-Access membership, the basic Peloton Bike package costs $1,973, and the basic Peloton Bike Plus package will run you $3,023.

Finally, you need to buy cycling shoes to use with your Peloton. You can buy those directly from the company starting at $125 a pair, or there are several non-Peloton options that are compatible with the bike, too.

Here, we've broken down each Peloton package so you can see what the investment for the first year with a full purchase of a Peloton and All-Access membership looks like. These figures don't include additional taxes and fees, which may vary upon your location. (Keep in mind, you can often find Peloton sales throughout the year on the Peloton website or Amazon.)

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Financing a Peloton

If you want a Peloton but can't pay for the whole thing up front, the company also has a financing option through Affirm that offers you a loan. You can pay off the Basic Bike in monthly installments for 12 months, 24 months or 39 months and the Bike Plus in 12 months, 24 months or 43 months.

Peloton will run a credit check to determine if you are qualified for a 0% annual percentage rate (in other words, to borrow money for the bike for free) or up to 4.8% APR. If you don't have decent enough credit to get the 0% APR, then you may be subject to paying a higher interest rate. This also doesn't include other fees or additional taxes. So if you are financially secure and qualify for the 0% APR, this may be a good option for you. As always, it's important to read through the fine print of alternative payment options before committing to it.

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How much does a gym membership cost?

Joining a gym gives you more workout equipment options. Getty/Kilito Chan © Provided by CNET Joining a gym gives you more workout equipment options. Getty/Kilito Chan

Gym memberships have a broad range of prices and can vary depending on where you live and what amenities the gym provides. Living in New York City, I've had gym memberships that cost $10, $40, $60 and $80 a month. This doesn't even include higher-end gyms like Equinox where you could be looking at over $200 a month for access to one location.

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In addition to the monthly price, most gyms charge an initiation fee and annual fee upon joining, which vary greatly as well. The initiation fee is a way for the gym to make extra money upon having a new member join. The annual fee is an additional fee that occurs once a year and is intended to help with the gym's upkeep of equipment. This can be about the same cost of a monthly membership fee. Often if you join a gym during a sale, the initiation or annual fee may be waived.

Gyms traditionally have a yearly contract that you have to commit to, but I've noticed some are straying away from yearly contracts, instead allowing members to pay month to month or for a select number of months up front. Gyms also expect members to provide a 30-day notice when canceling. In some cases, gyms may want you to mail them a cancellation letter. If you are signed onto a contract and cancel before the contract is up, additional fees may apply.

Using data from what I used to pay for a New York Sports Club Passport membership (which gave me access to all gym locations), and a Planet Fitness Classic membership (which gave me access to one gym location), I've broken down what a yearly gym membership can look like.

Full disclosure: According to the New York Sports Club website, it has changed its fees since I was a member, so this is an estimate based on prices from about two years ago. Planet Fitness has also changed some of its fees compared to when I was a member over a year ago.

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As you can see, depending on how much your gym charges, you're likely paying at least $200 a year, if not far more. These figures can change depending on what you're paying monthly and if you end up paying an initiation or additional fees.

What's cheaper over time, a gym membership or a Peloton?

After comparing the sets of prices above, it's clear that you're paying far more for your first year of purchasing and using a Peloton bike than you are for a gym membership, due to the high upfront cost of the equipment along with the ongoing membership fee. However, after that first year, you're only paying for a yearly Peloton All-Access membership, which comes out to $528, which falls in line with the price of many yearly gym memberships.

If you want to get more specific, the Peloton All-Access membership is cheaper for the year compared to a gym like New York Sports Club that charges $60 a month for a Passport membership and an annual fee. But a gym like Planet Fitness that only charges $10 a month, even with the annual and initiation fee, still comes out cheaper than a yearly Peloton All-Access membership.

The bottom line: Should you get a Peloton or sign up for a gym?

Ultimately, the choice between a Peloton and a gym membership is a highly personal one. It depends on your budget, yes, but also your space, your schedule and your workout preferences.

For example, some people are busy enough that having access to a workout space with a Peloton at home improves their chances of exercising during the week. Peloton is also well known for the motivating community it's created online, and sometimes that's all the boost you need.

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However, others need a gym to get into the right headspace for a workout, and want a place that has all the equipment they need, not just one bike. A gym also offers the chance to socialize with other members in person.

If you opt to join a gym, other things to consider are what types of equipment or amenities you want your gym to have. Some gyms only have limited equipment, while others are well-stocked with multiple pieces of the same equipment. Some gyms provide towels, toiletries and other perks for members, while others are more bare bones. Additionally, if you're looking for workout guidance at the gym and want to hire a personal trainer that comes at an extra cost as well. (But don't worry: We've got tips on how to haggle a cheaper gym membership.)

If you're uncertain about which is the better option for you, the good news is Peloton gives you a 30-day free trial to try out the bike in your home. If you're unsatisfied after the fact, you can return it at no extra cost. If you're looking at gyms, it's helpful to ask if they offer a free week trial or day passes so you can experience it firsthand before making your decision. Testing out these options will help narrow down if a Peloton or a gym membership is the right fit for you.

You can also check out the best Peloton alternatives available, and our guide to working out at home.

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