How Long Does Gym Equipment Last?


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Knowing how long gym equipment lasts is a really handy piece of information when it comes to planning out your garage gym. How long equipment lasts will directly effect your garage gym budget. After all, it’s pretty tough to buy new equipment when all your money is going towards replacing your current equipment.

So, how long does gym equipment last?

Quality gym equipment bought from reputable companies will last anywhere from 5 to 20 years depending upon use and care. However, cheap cut-rate equipment can last much less, sometimes not even a full year.

That brings me to a very important point that I want to make before we start analyzing each type of equipment. As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. Nowhere is that more true than gym equipment.

There are multiple companies that make quality equipment, some of that equipment quite possibly will last longer than you do. However, if you decide to get a barbell from Wal-mart, well, that may not be the case.

So how are you supposed to know what is quality and what’s not? It’s not as easy as you might think because there are dozens of companies out there making equipment. To help you out, I’m going to give you some recommendations along the way.

How Long Do Squat Racks last?

Side View of Squat Rack

One of the biggest investments you’ll make in your garage gym is your rack. With that being said it’s good to know that a quality rack will last you a lifetime. This one actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Unless you’re building your own rack like I did, a gym rack is basically just solid steel.

Two things to look for when you’re shopping for racks. One, the size of the beams of the frame. Most racks are either 2×2″ or 3×3″. This is how deep and how wide each beam is. Generally, a 3×3 rack is going to be heavier, sturdier and more durable than a 2×2.

That is dependent upon the second dimension to be aware of. That is the gauge of steel. The gauge is the thickness of the steel itself. Obviously, the thicker the steel, the stronger. Typically most racks will fall between 11 and 14 gauge. The lower the number, the thicker.

11 gauge is pretty much the industry standard, especially with the racks that I deal with at the collegiate level. However, one of the ways to make your rack cheaper is to use thinner steel. Some lower end racks built primarily for home use will use 12 or even 14 gauge steel.

Like I said, I built my own rack using wood 4x4s. However, I’ve worked in a weight room for the last twenty years and I can tell you flatly that if I do decide to get a steel rack, it will be a 3×3 11 gauge steel rack. Not a single doubt or second thought about it.

How Long Do Barbells Last?

A quality barbell (there goes that word quality again!) will last you a lifetime. In fact, many of the high end barbells even come with a lifetime warranty.

I’m a barbell snob. I have a UESAKA Olympic Barbell that I paid good money for, but for good reasons. First, in my opinion, it’s the best barbell you can buy, period. Second, it came with a lifetime warranty. It’s a pretty good feeling knowing I’ll never have to spend another dime on a barbell.

Finally, having used UESAKA bars in college weight rooms that are over twenty years old, I know I’ll probably never have to use that warranty. Think about that for a second. If a bar in a college weight room used by hundreds of athletes on a daily basis will last twenty years, how long do you think it will last in your garage?

So what if you buy a cheaper barbell? While there are more economical barbells out there that will still last you a long time, there are also barbells that will absolutely tear up on you after a few years. This usually occurs by the end cap coming apart. The moral of the story, spend some money and BUY IT ONCE!

How Long Do Bumper and Cast Iron Plates Last?

Uesaka Bumper Plate on Barbell
My Uesaka Pro Series Bumpers. Two years old and still in immaculate shape.

There is a bit of a difference between bumper plates and iron plates. If we’re talking about bumper plates, the answer is basically verbatim to the barbell answer. This really makes sense when you consider the same companies making barbells are also making plates.

Eleiko and UESAKA plates will last you a lifetime. There are other mid-tier companies like Titan that make plates that will also last you a really long time. However, you get cheap budget plates and there’s a good chance you’ll be replacing them after a few years.

Steel plates, on the other hand, will last until the end of time. Seriously, I’ve seen iron plates that have been left outside for years that were cleaned up and good as new. If you just want some steel plates for bench and squatting and can save a few bucks – I say go for it.

How Long Do Machines Last?

While full on machines aren’t really common in a garage gym, some people may get a glute ham, lat pulldown and maybe even a hammer row machine. When it comes to machines like this, the machine itself, the steel frame will last forever. What you’ll end up needing to replace at some point are cables and the seat padding.

A cable on a lat pulldown machine will fray over time and need to be replaced. This will depend heavily on how much you use it, but I would plan on maybe every five or six years. You could also get lucky and not need to replace it for much longer.

If you do end up needing to replace a cable, the hardest part of the process will be finding a replacement part. Many times this isn’t something easily found online. If you’re struggling to find a part, call a couple of your local gyms. Find out if they have an equipment rep they work with (they most likely will) and try to get their contact info.

The other part of machines that will eventually need to be replaced are the pads and pad coverings. Over time the coverings will wear out and eventually crack, rip and create seams. How often you actually replace them (or if you do at all) really comes down to personal preference on aesthetics.

We always get these replaced at the school, but in my garage, I wouldn’t rush to replace a pad covering because of a small tear.

If you do end up deciding to replace them, you’ll most likely need to find a local upholstery shop. It’s not exactly cheap either. It will run you close to $100 to get a new covering put on a bench or other machine. I’d look at a rip as “adding character”, but you can do what makes you happy.

Replacing Other Accessories – Bands, Med Balls, etc

Resistance Bands

I’m not going to be able to go into every possible type of gym equipment and how long you can expect each one to last. There are way too many different pieces of equipment to buy including different companies that make each. How often you’ll need to replace each piece will also depend heavily on how much you use it and what you use it for.

For instance, a Dynamax rep (Dynamax is a very popular med ball maker) once told me their med balls were not intended to be slammed, either against a wall or especially on the floor. I was shocked considering I thought that was precisely what they were supposed to be used for!

Here is what I can tell you. In a college weight room (remember things in your garage will last much longer) we would typically replace about a third of our bands each year. This means the average life span of a band is roughly 3 years.

Med Balls usually need to be replaced every 3 to 4 years, if they are taken care of. I’m also talking about the “soft” med balls. Hard rubber med balls will last a bit longer.

Kettlebells, similarly to dumbbells and steel plates, will last ten years plus easily. I know I’m beating this into the ground, but again, this is IF you buy quality equipment. If you try to go as cheap as possible from a store that also sells groceries, it’s a total crap shoot.

There are lots of accessory equipment like jump ropes, wraps, straps, foam rollers, physio balls etc. that I’m not going to get into. These are relatively cheap items though, and even if they do need to be replaced, they’re probably not going to break the monthly budget.

Final Thoughts

If you’re still on the fence about going with a garage gym or sticking with your current gym membership, knowing how long your equipment is going to last is pretty helpful info. You really have to think of your garage gym as a long-term investment. A thousand dollars or more seems like a lot of money compared to a $30/month membership.

However, when you run the numbers (and we have – check out our garage gym vs gym membership) you’ll see that a garage gym can pay for itself after only a few years. Then, once you’ve broken even a garage gym can save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

One of, if not the biggest factor in that equation is the fact that quality gym equipment will last you a really long time.

 

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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