How Long Does Gym Equipment Last? (Hint: Quality Matters)
Knowing how long gym equipment lasts is a really handy piece of information when it comes to planning out your garage gym. How long gym equipment lasts will directly affect your garage gym budget. After all, it’s pretty tough to buy new gym equipment if all your money is going toward replacing your current stuff.
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, and some of that equipment quite possibly will last longer than you do. However, if you decide to get a barbell from a big box retailer that also sells chips and soda, 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?
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 squat rack can last you a lifetime. This one actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Unless you’re building your own DIY rack out of wood, a gym rack is basically just solid steel.
Two things to look for when you’re shopping for racks. One, is the size of the beams of the frame. Most racks are either 2×2″, 2×3″ 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.
I currently have a Titan T3 rack that is 2×3″. To be honest, I was a little hesitant at first not going with a 3×3″, but it’s been one of my best home gym equipment buys thus far.
The second dimension to be aware of 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 gold standard, especially with the racks that I deal with at the collegiate level. It’s also what you’ll find on most commercial gym equipment.
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.
Personally, I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable with anything but 11-gauge steel.
Having said that, when I first started my garage gym I built my own rack using wood 4x4s. It did the job for the entire first year until I finally decided it was time to upgrade to something more… steel.
Just make sure to keep your squat rack properly maintained. Wipe down the rack at least once a week to keep it clean from dirt and sweat. Try to keep the humidity in your gym in check to help prevent rust. Finally, check the bolts and beams periodically for wear and tear.
How Long Do Barbells Last?
A quality barbell (there goes that word quality again!) will last you a lifetime. In fact, many of the ultra 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?
Having said that, you also don’t need to spend a thousand dollars on a barbell. There are plenty of good, quality barbells in the $300 dollar range that will perform well and last you a decade or longer if taken care of.
Can you go even cheaper?
Yes, you can barbells for as little as $100. But, now you’re rolling the dice on how long it’s going to last.
Also, keep in mind that for most of us, our barbell is the one piece of gym equipment that we’re likely to use every day. If you’re doing Olympic lifts, Squats, Bench Press and even simpler movements like Barbell Curls – chances are your barbell is the most used piece of gym equipment that you’ll own.
How Long Do Bumper and Cast Iron Plates Last?
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 companies that specialize more in home gym equipment like Rogue and Titan that make bumper plates that I’ve seen last ten years plus.
However, if you get cheap budget plates and there’s a good chance you’ll be replacing them after a few years. The center hub coming loose on bumper plates is generally the main culprit. Look for plates with a wide diameter center hub as those will generally hold up much longer.
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 pieces of home gym equipment, some people may get a glute ham, lat pulldown and maybe even a hammer row machine. But, if you’re running a gym, chances are you’re going to have a least a few machines on your floor.
When it comes to machines like this, the machine itself, the steel frame will last pretty much forever. What you’ll end up needing to replace at some point are the cables and the seat padding. The springs and clamps that are used to adjust heights and weights on machines are also more prone to breaking down.
A cable on a lat pulldown machine will fray over time and need to be replaced. This will depend heavily on how much it is used, 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 the machines that will eventually need to be replaced is 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 for aesthetics.
We always get these replaced at the school at least once a year, 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.
What about cardio equipment? Things like exercise bikes, ellipticals and treadmills?
Cardio equipment, way more so than other types of gym equipment, is much more unpredictable on how long it will last. Most gym equipment like squat racks, barbell and weight plates are made of either steel or heavy-duty rubber. Materials built to last. And, there isn’t a bunch of small moving parts that can easily derail an entire piece of equipment.
However, that is exactly what you’re dealing with when it comes to cardio equipment.
What I have learned over the years is two things:
First, pay close attention to your warranty. How long it is and what exactly it covers. A warranty on fitness equipment matters, because there is a decent chance you might need to use it.
Second, spend the money and get quality fitness equipment. The cheap treadmill from the big box store is going to perform like crap and break down quickly. On the other hand, cardio machines which are commercial gym equipment level machines – can last you years and will be a dream to workout on.
Going cheap on cardio equipment is the equivalent of lighting your money on fire.
Replacing Other Accessories – Bands, Med Balls, etc
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 workout 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 a home gym will last much longer) we typically replace about a third of our bands each year. This means the average life span of a band is roughly 3 years.
Medicine 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, also referred to as wall 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 and if it is properly maintained. 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 gym equipment like jump ropes, wraps, lifting 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.
If you’re still on the fence about going with a garage gym or sticking with your current gym membership, knowing how long your gym 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 factors in that equation is the fact that quality gym equipment will last you a really long time.