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Gym Membership or Home Gym: What’s the Better Value?

You’re ready to commit to an exercise routine, but you’re unsure if you should start building a home gym or join one. One of them will be a better value for you—you just need to figure out which one.

Aside from the amount of money spent (or saved), value can also be considered in terms of which option will motivate you to stick to your exercise plan long term. To decide that, you need to consider what matters most to you when it comes to breaking a sweat. Is it variety of equipment or classes? Is it the ability to work out in private at any time of day or night? Or something else?

Read the following list of pros and cons for each option and see which one best fits your needs and workout personality. Note: many of the cons of one option are answered by the pros of the other, so there will be some repetition in the lists.

Gym Membership

Pros:

  • Variety. Gives you access to a wider variety of exercise equipment and possibly classes. Variety makes it easier to get a full-body workout and to prevent boredom.
  • Ancillary services and perks. Many gyms offer added perks like a sauna, spa, massage services, or nutrition advice (or a fancy juice bar).
  • More social. You can have a gym buddy and accountability partner more easily at a gym. You might even make new friends based on the classes or equipment you like to use. Sometimes there are gym-wide health and fitness competitions or games to motivate you.
  • Motivation via monthly fee. Believe it or not, the monthly gym fee can be a motivator for some people. To avoid throwing away money each month, they lace up their tennis shoes and show up regularly!
  • Classes and/or personal trainers. Group-based workouts offer comradery, accountability, and they mean you don’t have to plan your entire workout routine.
  • Childcare services (maybe). If your gym has childcare services, this is a huge plus for parents.

Cons:

  • Germs. Not everyone sprays down their equipment before and after their workout.
  • Your workout is public. Your sweaty jog on the treadmill and shaky first dumbbell workout will be out in the open. This can be a discouragement for some. Not to mention once you find a groove and a favorite elliptical machine, you may have to wait for others to finish using it.
  • Membership fees. Monthly fees range anywhere from $10 to $225/mo. And it can be notoriously hard to cancel your membership should you decide the relationship isn’t working out. You may find that most of your membership money pays for services you don’t use, like Zumba or CrossFit classes. Many gyms require you to commit to a one-year contract, regardless of if you show up after your New Year’s resolution falters in March.
  • Commute. You have to leave your home, battle with traffic and weather, find a parking space, and then deal with public showers and locker rooms—these may turn into convenient excuses not to go.
  • Not on your schedule. The gym might not be open when it’s most convenient for you to workout. On top of that, you’re forced to watch whatever’s on their TVs or use the treadmill with the broken audio jack.
  • Lack of childcare services. The gym may not provide childcare services for young kids.

Home Gym

Pros:

  • Only your germs. Not only are you not fighting others to use your preferred equipment and you get to use your own shower, but you’re not working out on top of other people’s sweat and germs!
  • Privacy. You can work out wearing whatever you want at whatever pace you can handle, and you don’t have to worry about any judgmental looks.
  • On your schedule. Exercise whenever you want, listening to music as loud as you want, watching whatever you want on your TV.
  • Costs you less. In the long run, mid-range gym equipment will cost you less than a regular gym membership. And, if you decide to sell the equipment, there’s a chance you can recoup at least some of the cost. You can’t sell your gym membership for the months you don’t go, though!
  • No commute. Besides the one down the stairs, across the hall, or into the garage. Plus, there’s no way for your workout to be derailed by forgetting to pack something in your gym bag.
  • No childcare required (maybe). With older children, you can work out at home and not need a sitter.

Cons:

  • Lack of variety. Space and budget limitations mean you won’t have the variety of tools and equipment for your workouts.
  • Personal trainer is extra. While you may have to pay extra for a personal trainer’s time at a gym as well, it’s usually at a steep discount to finding one on your own. And if you don’t cough up for professional instruction on how to properly organize your workouts and use equipment, your results may suffer. You’ll need to design your own well-rounded workout plan from trusted sources.
  • Solo workouts. If you’re motivated by partner or group workouts, hitting the weights or stationary bike alone can be tough.
  • It will cost more upfront. While home gyms cost less in the long run, they require a chunk of change up front. Depending on your training goals and needs, outfitting your home gym could cost from $500 to $5,000.
  • Clutter. You’ll need space for your treadmill, weight rack, yoga paraphernalia, BowFlex, etc. If you put your home gym in the garage, you’re going to be subject to more extreme temperatures in the summer and winter.
  • Equipment maintenance. If anything breaks, you’re responsible for fixing, replacing, and paying for it. And while your rower is out of commission, there isn’t another one for you to jump on.
  • Distractions. While at home, you can easily get distracted by the doorbell, dog needing to go out, kids, laundry buzzer, etc.