Ready to get in shape?
Woohoo! Awesome choice!
Now let’s talk about how you’re actually going to do it.
You can work out at home, which is free (with the exception of buying some equipment like a treadmill or some dumbbells).
But I really love the accountability and structure of joining a good commercial gym. The downside is, they aren’t free!
So how much does a gym membership actually cost on average?
A gym membership can cost anywhere from $10 a month to well over $100, plus annual fees. It’s common to pay somewhere around $40-50 per month to join an average gym, or around $500-600 per year — plus initiation fees, annual fees, etc. bringing the total average cost of a commercial gym membership to somewhere around $600-800 per year.
Private gyms, or locally-owned boutique gyms that have fewer members and include hands-on instruction from coaches and trainers, will cost more than big box gyms — expect the average cost of a private gym membership to often be billed per one-hour training session, at around $50-100 per hour or more.
But let’s take a closer look at what to look for when you’re joining a gym, what makes some gyms more expensive than others, and how to get the best deal on the cost of a gym membership.
Things that Affect the Cost of a Gym Membership
As I wrote, the price of joining a gym can really run the gamut.
Cheap, budget convenience gyms can start as low as about $10 per month, while elite fitness clubs can run you over $100 per month for a single person membership.
So what’s the difference? Aren’t they all just big rooms with exercise equipment in them?
Well, not quite.
Here are some factors you might want to consider when choosing a gym and how they can affect the price.
Fees & Access
The price isn’t always the price.
You’ll want to get a good understanding of what exactly is included with your membership, and what the actual charges on your account are going to be.
For example, you might get a good monthly rate of $30 at a gym, but there could also be a joining fee, plus an annual fee on top.
They may not seem like a lot when you sign up, but trust me, it kind of sucks when you get multiple gym charges in a single month out of the blue.
Then there’s access levels.
A lot of big gym chains give you choices: Go to one gym location, go to all local gym locations, or go to all national gym locations.
You’ll pay more the more access and convenience you want.
What is an annual fee or what is an initiation fee at the gym?
These are extra fees you can often expect when you join a commercial gym. Initiation fees are one-time costs charged when you join as a new member. Annual fees are billed once per year.
At most big chain gyms, these fees shouldn’t be over $100 or so — but it depends where you join and where you live. Costs and fees will be a lot higher in big cities like New York vs rural or suburban areas.
Monthly vs Yearly Commitment
Most major gym chains will give you the option of paying on a month-to-month, no-contract basis, or joining for a year or even multiple years.
Typically, the longer they lock you in, the better deal you’ll get.
There are obviously pros and cons to both approaches.
On a month-to-month plan, you’ll:
- Have the freedom to leave any time without any fees
- But you’ll pay significantly more every month
On a contract basis, you’ll:
- Get a better deal
- But if you stop going to the gym, move, get injured, or want to go to a new gym, it can cost a pretty penny to get out of the contract
If you’re really committed to working out and don’t see yourself moving or changing gyms any time soon, it’s a good idea to get a yearly contract.
Pool & Sauna
The really inexpensive convenience gyms like Planet Fitness don’t have pools.
You get in, you work out, you leave.
Mid-tier gyms like LA Fitness will often have a pool and sometimes a hot tub. Good for lap swimming and the occasional soak after your workout.
High-end gyms like Life Time Fitness can sometimes have baller pools. The kind of pool you’d take your family to every day during the summer (water slides, snack bar, etc.)
Accordingly, you pay more for your membership if your gym has a killer pool and spa area.
The group fitness classes at gyms are an amazing source of value if you use them.
Even most mid-tier gyms will give you access to a ton of classes like spin, yoga, bootcamps, Zumba, and more.
But if you’re not interested in classes, you can save some scratch on your gym membership cost by going with a cheaper option like a Planet Fitness, that doesn’t offer any classes to speak of.
Often, super high-end gyms will have absolutely amazing class schedules and stunning studios inside the gym for each course.
(The price of a ClassPass membership compares nicely here. For about the same price as a gym membership, you can get roughly two classes per week at (nearly) any studio you want in your area — spin, yoga, bootcamp, you name it. Hit my link here to try ClassPass free for a month.)
And that’s really just the beginning.
There are all kinds of small extras that can really add up to a better gym experience, and therefore drive the cost up.
- Snack bars & smoothie stations
- Newer, better & more equipment
- Training staff & support
- Sporting areas (basketball courts, racquetball)
- And more
It’s easy to be impressed by all this stuff, but ask yourself if you’ll really use it.
If you just want a simple place to use a treadmill or lift weights, you can often get a better deal on a no-frills option.
Private gyms vs big box gyms
A big box gym or a commercial gym usually refers to a chain that’s easily found everywhere, and anyone can join.
Private gyms, or boutique gyms, are usually locally owned. They’re smaller and they tend to include personal training or coaching as a part of your membership. You may or may not have access to the gym at your own pace, and usually you’ll schedule sessions at the gym with your coach or trainer.
Private gyms often (but not always) don’t have amenities like pools, childcare, etc.
Expect to pay quite a bit more for this experience. A typical cost for personal training might be around $50-100 per hour, so your monthly cost for membership at a private gym really depends on what program you’re on and how often you go every month.
Alright, now let’s look at some actual examples of the price of different gym memberships!
Actual cost to join LA Fitness
LA Fitness is a really great all-around gym to join.
Not only do they locations everywhere, you can typically get a pretty good deal and they have most of the amenities your average gym-goer would want.
They have a lot more space and equipment than, say, Planet Fitness or 24 Hour Fitness, but aren’t quite as elite as a Life Time Fitness.
Full disclosure: I currently go to LA Fitness!
You’ll pay somewhere around $30-40 per month, depending on the access level you want and whether you lock into a contract.
There’s also typically an annual fee of about $40.
With taxes and fees built in, expect to pay around $500 per year to go to LA Fitness.
*Note: This and all prices I list come with a couple of key caveats: They’ll all likely vary by market and where you live, and very often can be negotiated if you know what you’re doing.
Actual cost to join Planet Fitness
Planet Fitness is one of the most popular gym chains in the United States and beyond.
- Open 24 hours (for the most part)
- Really, really inexpensive
The downside is, Planet Fitness is extremely short on amenities (no pool or exercise classes) and short of weightlifting equipment.
But if you want a cheap place to get in a cardio workout? You can’t go wrong.
Expect to pay around $10-20 per month to join Planet Fitness depending on your contract and access level, plus some startup fees where applicable.
You’ll pay somewhere around $150 a year to go Planet Fitness in most locations.
Actual cost to join 24 Hour Fitness
24 Hour Fitness is another super convenient gym that, not surprisingly, is built on the premise of being open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
That makes it a fantastic option for gym-goers who workout late at night, super early in the morning, or who otherwise have weird schedules.
I’d call 24 Hour Fitness a mid-tier gym on par with LA Fitness in terms of equipment and amenities.
Pricing, as such, is similar (though a lot more complicated). You can get a full breakdown from your local club, but expect to pay in the ballpark of $30-40 per month plus initiation and annual fees.
Going to 24 Hour Fitness will cost you around $500 per year.
Actual cost to join Gold’s Gym
Gold’s Gym is a nice step up from convenience gyms and it’s especially well-catered to people who love to lift weights.
There’s still cardio equipment here and some basic amenities, but Gold’s is typically where you’ll find a super robust lifting area and lots of equipment.
The pricing structure, however, is extremely complicated and individualized to each location.
The best ballpark I can give you is that joining Gold’s Gym will cost around $20-30 per month plus startup and annual fees, or around $400 per year.
Again, this will vary heavily on location, market, current promotions, and your negotiating skills.
Actual cost to join the YMCA
Hey, I know what you’re thinking. And don’t sleep on the YMCA!
The Y is actually a really solid gym, depending on location, with lots of good equipment and a friendly, family atmosphere.
The downside? It’s a little expensive if you’re joining solo.
You’ll get equipment, some classes, and usually a pool, but expect to pay about $50 per month for a single adult plus an initiation fee. That’s about $650 per year.
Joining with the whole family, however, at $75 per month total, is a far better deal.
How to get the best deal on a gym membership (with haggling and negotiating)
The art of negotiation is a topic that’s far too big to cover here, but I’ll give you a few quick tips.
To get the best deal possible at your local gym, try these negotiating tactics:
Do your research!
Check their pricing online and then search discussion forums like Reddit or Bodybuilding.com to see what other real people who go to that gym are paying.
Offer to pay for the whole year up front (in return for a discount)
This can work many places, not just gyms. It’s valuable for companies to know they’re getting paid right up front, and they may be willing to reward you for that value.
Join near the end of the month
All gyms and their sales staff have sales quotas they need to hit. At the end of the month, with deadlines looming, they may be more willing to cut you a deal, or they may be more likely to be running a promotional offer.
Make them stand up for you
This is my favorite negotiating trick I picked up, and that’s to come in self-deprecating and almost force the salesperson to stick up for you.
Say, “You’re going to think I’m such a cheapskate, but I was really hoping to spend less than X.”
They’ll likely respond with “No, no, I totally understand! Here’s what I can do…”
(You can read my much more in-depth guide to negotiating your gym membership here.)
That about covers it!
If you want a super bare-bones cardio box where you can get in, sweat on the treadmill, and get out, you can do this easily for $10 per month or so at a Planet Fitness.
If you want something a little bit more (classes, more equipment, a pool), expect to pay around $30-40 per month or somewhere close to $500 per year with all the fees.
Then, of course, there are elite gyms like Life Time Fitness that will run you even more than that.
But I hope this has helped you set your budget and expectations as you go gym shopping! And remember, the price is almost ALWAYS negotiable.
If you’re still confused, take my easy, 6 question quiz: Which gym should I join?