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What to Consider When Shopping for a Pilates Reformer to Use at Home

ReformerSo I received a fantastic inquiry about the BIG question – I want to buy a Pilates Reformer cheap!!!

Sooner or later, every avid Pilates student considers this option so they can stay consistent with their workouts and enjoy the ability to do Pilates day or night in the luxury of their own home.  The challenge then becomes, finding the best Pilates equipment for the space available, and evaluating to determine (a) If you’ll really use it at home, or it will become a drop zone for clothes and miscellaneous stuff.  (b) You feel confident with your Pilates program to work without supervision.

Here’s the question I received about this, and my recommendations:

“Aliesa, if you would be so kind as to help me I would really appreciate it. I am thinking about getting a reformer for my home. I can’t get one too big but also want one that would do the basics for me to keep up Pilates at home. There is a used one on Craig’s list under sporting equipment for $125. Would you tell me if this would work for me or you have a better suggestion. It’s not working to make it into a studio for regular lessons, this will hopefully keep me in Pilates. I’d love to know what you recommend.  Thanks!”  –Judy

Here’s My Reply:

Your question is a fantastic one!  Thrilled to get it!  You’re not the only one out there who is trying to find good, economically priced Pilates Reformers and equipment to use at home.

My first comment for you to consider…  You get what you pay for!

After years of working out on professional grade, high quality Pilates equipment in a studio, I think that you will be very disappointed with a home model that is selling for $125. Unless it was originally priced at $2500+ and they’re basically giving it away.

You really will be better served to invest in something that will last you a lifetime at home with little or no maintenance, then get something on the very low end of the market, that is designed more to sell than to use.

I know that it will cost a bit more, but think about how many years you’ve been doing Pilates and what you’ve spent to participate in private lessons and group classes 2- 3 days a week.  Then multiply that number out by the 25, 30, 40, or 50 years you’ve got left to use it!

For Example:

  • Group Reformer Class 2 days a week at $25 = $50 week
  • $50 a week x 4 weeks = $200 month
  • $200 month x 12 months = $2400 year
  • $2400 year x 20 years = and you’ve spent $48,000 to take 2 classes a week for a wonderful 20 years of great Pilates exercise!

Or spend $3,000-$4,000 on a good piece of equipment that you can use for the rest of your life at home and be on it 2, 3, 4 or more days a week!

Spending the money to invest in something that is well-made will be worth the money. Otherwise, you may find yourself like some of the other folks trying to get rid of stuff that they really can’t use (or won’t use) because it just isn’t sturdy, or safe enough, doesn’t feel right, or have adequate resistance like they are used to using in a Pilates studio.

A lot of the lower end machines don’t have springs, but are on giant rubber bands.  Some of the ones I’ve been on are tippy, and the foot bar is not solid, but wiggles when you use it.  They might be ok for the beginning basic exercises, but once you progress, you’re going to progress into needing a more sturdy Reformer.  Honestly, all of the people that I’ve talked to that have purchased lower-end equipment have been disappointed and aren’t using it like they thought they would.

Finding the Right Pilates Equipment Manufacturer to Buy From:

The major players that manufacture equipment all have home-models and some even sell fold-able reformers. These cost much more than the $125 bargain you’ve found on Craig’s list, but the difference in price for one of these from my perspective, still may not be worth the difference in quality of the feel of use when doing a workout on a regular studio reformer.

You might spend $1,000 – $2,000 for a high-end home Reformer, but the extra $1,000 -$1500 I would spend on a professional-grade piece of equipment, in the long run, just makes more sense to me.  Especially if I know I’m going to enjoy using it 3-4 days a week in my living room or basement for the next 20+ years.  But again, these comments are from my perspective.  Buying a good Pilates Reformer is like buying a good Treadmill.  If it doesn’t perform like the one at the health club, you might not be inclined to really use it.

I would love to hear what users who have actually purchased designed-for-home-use Reformers and foldable models have to say.

Here are a few links to go shopping for Pilates equipment:

Peak Pilates

Stott Pilates

Balanced Body Pilates

Gratz Pilates

Basil Blecher

Other manufacturers:

Teague Pilates

Home Equipment Manufacturer:

Stamina

There are probably quite a few other companies selling home equipment, but I really can’t with a clear conscious recommend them for purchase.  (Not sure I’d recommend everyone on the list above, but wanted to you have a variety of options to compare.)

  • The difference in quality between professional grade and a $1,000 or less model is HUGE.
  • I can’t recommend something I haven’t personally had a chance to use, to really see how they feel and work.

Since I haven’t been on every model out there, it’s a tough call.  I am partial to springs vs. bungee cords, and leather straps vs. ropes and risers.  I also prefer a foot bar that has several height adjustments.  Some manufacturers sell everything you need for your Reformer as a package, and other companies sell the reformer separately from the long/short box, handles, stick, and other accessories you might need to use.  So when comparing prices, you need to also compare the accessories that are included, or what you might have to spend extra money on.

Home Reformer Disappointments

I do know that while I was in Italy, I had the chance to get on a home model reformer that is being manufactured in Argentina.  It has promise for being a good lower-cost option, but the model we were on was a prototype and it was great for basic things, as soon as we progressed through a workout there were issues in keeping the carriage gliding evenly.  And we were only on it for 5-10 minutes.  Can’t imagine how it would hold up under normal use.  So I’m waiting and hoping that they will be able to get the bugs out, before I can recommend it, because it had great potential.

I also have a past client and teacher who ordered from Teague, because their prices are soooo much lower than everybody else.  But unfortunately, she was not thrilled with what she got.  But perhaps this would be a more economical option for you as they usually run some great specials on their equipment.

I would love to hear some comments from folks who are using Teague equipment to let the rest of us know how it compares to the big 3 manufacturers (Peak, Stott, and Balanced Body.)

Finding good used equipment is a challenge – if somebody posts good stuff, it usually sells very quickly. There are a few discussion boards and Pilates sites that do advertise used equipment for sale.

Here are two resources to shop for Used Pilates equipment that I know of:

The Pilates Guy

Pilates Connections Discussion Board (head to forums – Pilates Classifieds)

Yes, possibly on craigslist and eBay.  But the good stuff goes fast, and generally it holds its value – so a good slightly-used reformer won’t be much cheaper than buying a new one.  You might expect to pay  ½ price (plus or minus) for a well-used commercial grade reformer, even if it’s 20 years old!  (Plus shipping)

Final Thoughts

I Know that a $125 Pilates Reformer on Craig’s list sounds like a great bargain…but I’m just not sure you’re going to be happy with what you get. I do agree that it would be really good for you to have equipment that you can use at home to be consistent with your Pilates program.  You have demonstrated your commitment to yourself and your health by sticking with your Pilates workouts for so many years.  Shop around and spend your money wisely. I’m confident that, if, and when, you purchase something you will get your money’s worth and be using it regularly!

It’s always a big decision.  You’re not out much to spend $125 and try it!  But I will be curious to hear feedback from you if you do.

Hope this helps.  Let me know if I can assist you with anything else, and give me some feedback on the equipment you get when you make a decision and purchase a home Reformer.  Best of Luck finding the right equipment for your home Pilates workouts!

And to those of you that have already taken the plunge and purchased a reformer to use at home…

I’d love to hear your comments about the brand and model you’ve purchased:

  • What Brand and Model did you purchase?
  • Do you like it?
  • Do you use it regularly?
  • What are the pros and cons from your perspective!

Please share your thoughts so the folks that are still shopping can use your experience to make a great buying decision!

Posted by Aliesa George in Pilates and tagged , , .

Copyright: If you reprint a post on this site or re-post it on your own blog or website, you must include the following attribution: © MMVIII-MMXIII, Aliesa George and Centerworks©. Used by Permission. Originally posted on Centerworks.com.

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16 Responses to What to Consider When Shopping for a Pilates Reformer to Use at Home

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  4. karen: March 10, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Have a clinical studio reformer, barely used I want to sell. Any advice?
    Thanks in advance!

  5. Aliesa George: March 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Karen,

    You might contact your local Pilates studio’s and health clubs to see if they are interested, or have clients who might want equipment for home. You may be able to post a picture and details on a bulletin board, or put a small add in their studio newsletter.

    There are also a couple of other websites that help folks sell used Pilates equipment. Here are the two sites that I visit if I’m looking to see what’s available for used equipment.

    http://www.thepilatesguy.com/
    http://www.pilatesconnections.com/index.php?/forum/10-equipment-for-sale/

    Hope this helps! Good Luck!

    Aliesa
    http://www.Centerworks.com

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  8. Jonathon Mitchell: October 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Hey Aliesa,
    Check out the ABCO Range of Reformers. Great for home and studio.

  9. Sam: December 29, 2013 at 12:40 am

    I was just about to call someone on craigslist to see about buying one of those cheap ones…I am so glad I came across this! I would gladly give up half of my bedroom for the real thing! I’ll keep saving… Thanks again!

  10. Marcia: July 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

    I am 5′ 0″ tall. Which pilates machine will work for me so that I get full extensions and contractions?

  11. Aliesa George: July 10, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Hi Maracia,

    Most of the major Pilates equipment manufacturers are producing Reformers that work for everyone regardless of height. However it is possible to buy Reformers that are extra long for taller folks, (which I realize is not your issue…) Because the machines have “gears” which allow you to adjust the distance of the springs to the foot bar, it is possible to make adjustments to accommodate both taller and shorter people on a regular sized Reformer. In my studio we use Peak Pilates Reformers, and purchased most of them with what Peak calls a “negative” gear. This allows us to move the gear bar in to better accommodate a full range of movement for shorter folks. You might also find the Gratz equipment a nice choice for your height – classically the Reformers were a bit smaller than some of the ones that are manufactured today. Hope this helps!

  12. Kay: September 18, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    i am interested in purchasing either the Studio Reformer or the Allegro 2 for home use. Which one is better?

  13. Aliesa George: September 19, 2014 at 2:03 am

    Hi Kay, While I’ve been on Balanced Body equipment when teaching in other studios, it’s not a brand that I’ve ever had in my studio. Generally speaking regardless of whether you’re doing Pilates IN a studio, or at home – studio grade equipment is always the best choice. A) it will last you a lifetime and can be passed along to your great, great, great grand kids. B) it’s generally way more durable, stable, and will give you the most versatility as you progress with your Pilates training program. I’m a fan of leather straps, rather than ropes and risers, but it depends on who you are training with and classical vs. contemporary styles as well as if you’ve got a healthy body or have injuries or limitations. If you are currently working with a qualified instructor in a studio, you might be most comfortable purchasing the same equipment you’re using in the studio. If you’ve got the space at home it’s nice to have the versatility of a Reformer that also has the Tower attachments. Looks like this is an option for both the Studio Reformer and Allegro 2 that you are considering. Balanced Body is a great company, and a lot of the home-use Pilates equipment is made much better now than it was 5-10 years ago, especially if you’re purchasing from one of the top Pilates equipment companies. Don’t think you’ll go wrong with either of these as a choice for your home gym.

  14. hlee: November 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    have you had any experience with imex equipment? any comments would be appreciated.

  15. Aliesa George: November 17, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Hi! I have not personally been on an IMX reformer, but from a quick Google search, if I were going to invest in Pilates equipment, I’d stick with the main manufacturers, Peak, Balanced Body, Stott, Gratz, Basil… and spend my money on studio-grade equipment. Even for home use. A well-built Reformer will last lifetimes, and in the long run will give you maximum versatility for exercises and usage. I don’t know anyone who has been happy with their low-end home-equipment purchases, especially if they’ve been in a studio working on commercial grade Pilates equipment.

  16. Lisa: December 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Could not be happier with our Stamina 700 machine. It is a beautifully built piece of equipment and a pleasure to work with. At $500 with a stand, wide, comfortable and smooth carriage, comfortable head/neck rest and cozy hand/feet loops, it is a pleasure to use. Because the price was so good, we were able to add some stronger, red, cords, a box and pole and a pull up bar. It is possible that way down the road we may want to upgrade to a much more expensive machine, but we are completely satisfied with what we’ve got and are thrilled with the price. Having used several different professional models in multiple cities, there is not one I would rather have in our home than this one. Those who don’t have $1500, $2000 or more to spend on used or entry level commercial grade equipment, should not hesitate to spend $500 on a Stamina reformer. You will not be disappointed.

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