Home Gym vs. Commercial Gym: Which Is Better?

Matt Marandola
Written by Matt Marandola
Updated August 30, 2022
Couple training in their home gym
Photo: Authentic Images / E+ / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Home gyms have a larger upfront cost to start.

  • Commercial gyms are often crowded and only operate during specific hours.

  • Home gyms allow for customization.

  • Commercial gyms often have the space for specialized equipment and areas.

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Whether you’re looking to take your fitness routine to the next level or learn the fundamentals of working out, there’s a gym type for everyone. Commercial gyms can encompass everything, from weight machines to swimming pools. Home gyms, on the other hand, are left to the imagination and customizable to the routine you’re looking to accomplish.

Each has its own benefits and disadvantages, so choosing will come down to your specific goals.

Pros of Home Gyms

Home gyms are convenient and, while they’re often significantly smaller than commercial gyms, you’re able to customize your home gym to your exact fitness routine.

They’re Convenient

Home gyms are right in your home, so it doesn’t get more convenient. Typically located in a spare bedroom, garage, or basement, it lets you work out whenever you want, no commute required. The only thing you really need to worry about is waking up everyone else in the home if you’re getting a late-night or early morning lift in.

There’s No Crowd

Man running on a treadmill
Photo: raquel arocena torres / Moment / Getty Images

With a home gym, there’s no waiting around for someone to get off the machine you want to use.

There Are No Membership Fees

One of the least talked about benefits is the high potential to save money when building a home gym. While there are larger upfront costs to building a home gym, this may equal out or even save you money in the long run when you take into account membership fees. Browsing the second-hand market for used fitness equipment can also significantly decrease the upfront cost, too.

Cons of Home Gyms

Along with its pros, home gyms do have some drawbacks to consider. 

They’re Expensive Upfront

Home gyms are great at many things, but they have a high initial cost. On top of the equipment, you’ll need to pay for any renovations to the space (like choosing a home gym flooring material). And if something breaks and it's outside of warranty, you’re either looking at expensive repairs or completely replacing the item.

They Take Up Space

People are often limited on space when creating their home gyms as well. Unless you have a 500-square-foot area dedicated to your home gym, it can start to feel cramped and you might realize quickly how much room gym equipment takes up. This is hard to compete with when commercial gyms can easily range in 20,000 square feet or more.

Pros of Commercial Gyms

Commercial gyms are a great way to learn the ins and outs of the fitness community. 

They Offer Classes

You may not care for weight lifting and want to focus on yoga or fitness classes. As long as there’s a gym that offers it, you’re good to go. Many gyms also offer free fitness training to help familiarize yourself with the gym and proper gym etiquette, which may help reduce injuries down the line.

They’re Social

Friends chatting and using treadmills at the gym
Photo: Martinns / E+ / Getty Images

Commercial gyms are also a great way to get out of the home, which some gym-goers may look forward to, especially if they work from home. It can be a great way to socialize and interact with other like-minded individuals while also getting a great workout in.

They Offer More Equipment

The reality is that commercial gyms will almost always have more equipment than a home gym, even if all the extra equipment isn’t what you’re looking for. They might have spin cycling cardio bikes, rowing machines, basketball courts, every dumbbell weight imaginable, and anything in-between.

Cons of Commercial Gyms

Some aspects, like hidden fees and crowded timeframes, may make a commercial gym uncomfortable for users.

They’re Crowded

Woman running on a treadmill at a crowded gym
Photo: nd3000 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Unless you go to the gym between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m., there’s a good chance you’re going to deal with crowds at commercial gyms. Most gyms have a rule of no more than 15 minutes dedicated to a machine at any given time, but if someone wants to maximize it, they absolutely can. So you may need to adjust your workout routine on the fly if certain equipment isn’t available.

They Have Fees

If you attend a commercial gym, you'll need to pay monthly fees. These can range widely, starting at $10 for some larger chain gyms to over $300 per month for some boutique fitness studios. Even if you start with a low monthly payment as part of a promotion, you could pay more if you renew—and even more if you cancel. Plus, if you add personal training or specialized classes on top of your regular membership, you're looking at a larger bill.

Home Gyms vs. Commercial Gyms

Realistically, whether you’re building a home gym or looking to attend your first commercial gym, there isn’t one that’s necessarily better than the other. It all comes down to what you’re looking for in a gym and whether it’s easier for you to achieve this at home or somewhere else. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many people to have a home gym to do the majority of workouts and a commercial gym for when they need to do specific exercises.

Comparison of home versus commercial gyms, with home gyms having increased privacy

Appearance

There are plenty of home gym ideas you can use to customize your space as you see fit. You can also set up the equipment as you’d like and organize the room to your specific needs.

Best appearance: Home gyms

Pricing

Over the short term (within a single year), commercial gyms are going to come out on top because they handle maintenance and purchasing of gym equipment. Though over the long term (five years or more), you may see your investment into a home gym even out or actually come out on top. Actual pricing will come down to what you’re looking to buy, but there’s often a home gym for every budget.

Most affordable: It depends

Options

Commercial gyms will come in on top here, so long as they have what you’re looking for. Higher-end gyms that have saunas, pools, group fitness classes, and a wide variety of equipment are going to be hard to beat when it comes to options.

Most options: Commercial gyms

Privacy

No matter how empty a commercial gym is, you’re never going to get the same privacy you do from a home gym. You can set up your own rules, play whatever music you see fit at any volume (with respect to your neighbors), and wear what you feel like.

Best for privacy: Home gyms

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