About LA Fitness
LA Fitness is North American gym offering memberships as low as $19.99 a month. Their claim to fame is their reasonable pricing that includes access to fitness classes, a heated lap pool, whirlpools, saunas and, at some locations, child care.
The company started in 1984 in Southern California by Chin Yi and Louis Welch. The company has since grown to more than 800 clubs in the United States and Canada. Their mission, according to the company’s About Us page, is to “seek innovative ways to enhance the physical and emotional wellbeing of our increasingly diverse membership base.”
Exactly how LA Fitness does that is part of what we want to find out in this review. As we work through the various sections you’ll read, our goal is that you’ll get a clear sense of what LA Fitness is all about and whether or not it’s a good fit for you.
The topics we’ll cover are:
- What LA Fitness offers: Fees, amenities, training/classes and philosophy
- What people say about LA Fitness: Consumer and expert reviews
- LA Fitness in the news: Lawsuits and other information.
We’ll finish up this review with our overall conclusions about LA Fitness, as well as recommendations about who would be a good fit for the gym.
What LA Fitness Offers
When you walk into a gym for a preliminary look, there’s a good chance a staff member will offer you a tour, then proceed to give you a rundown on what the gym is all about.
Information is crucial when making a decision about which gym you’ll join, so listen up as the staff member explains what the gym offers.
LA Fitness’ Fees
Every gym offers at least one membership level, with nearly all of them giving you multiple options. Those multiple options usually give you more perks (using all the company’s gyms as opposed to one is common), but those added perks come at a higher price.
At the time of publishing, LA Fitness was offering new members two options: a single-club membership and a multi-club membership. Like other gyms, signing up for a membership isn’t just a matter of monthly payments. You’ll also pay an annual fee and an initiation fee:
- Single-club: $19.99/month, $49 annual fee, $99 initiation fee
- Multi-club: $29.99/month, $0 annual fee, $99 initiation fee
These two options are set up, in our opinion, to push you toward the multi-club membership. If you factor the single-club annual fee into your monthly payments, you’re looking at about $23.99 a month, in theory. Why not pay $6 more to have access to the hundreds of clubs across the country, including any other locations in your city?
It’s a tempting choice – $6 a month doesn’t sound like a lot. Here’s the secret behind the gym industry, though – nearly 70% of members don’t actually use their membership. You read that right. Only 30% of us are using what we’re paying for each month.
With that in mind, we’d say upgrading to a multi-club plan doesn’t make a lot of sense, all probabilities considered. If you’re a business traveler, you might entertain a multi-club membership, but most business hotels provide enough workout equipment to keep up with your routine, even if it means cutting back some of your usual exercises in favor of more cardio work.
Related: Anytime Fitness Review
Overall, our belief is that the gym you want to join knows the odds are in their favor – you probably aren’t even going to use their location after a few months. Therefore, while they may want you to sign up for a multi-club membership, they’re happy to get your single-club membership, too.
LA Fitness’ website says pricing is different in their Signature Clubs and New York City, as well as the following states: Arkansas, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and all clubs in Canada.
LA Fitness’ “Free” Three-Day Pass
You might notice that your local LA Fitness website offers free three-day passes. I noticed it when I was doing research for a pair of gym articles I wrote in 2016.
When I showed up at the gym with the pass, I made a mistake I didn’t even know I was making. I told the sales rep I was doing research (which I was) so I could make a decision about gym memberships four or five months down the road (which I did).
The sales rep was more than happy to tell me about pricing – he even offered to buy out the payments on the gym membership I had at the time (about $60) – but when I said I wanted to use the pass, he got weird and insinuated that I should bring it back closer to the time I wanted my membership.
In other words, he didn’t want to let me in the gym with my pass unless he knew I was buying a membership. After getting texts from the rep for about two weeks (totally annoying), I gave up on LA Fitness. I thought maybe my experience was unique, but I found a similar story on Consumerist.
Basically, a customer came in saying she wanted to buy a membership but wanted to use her three-day pass first. Her sales rep gave her the runaround, threw out some “today-only!” discounts and then said she’d have to ask his manager about the pass. The manager came out – more runaround. She left and never got the membership.
Our advice? Prepare for a struggle if you want to use your free pass.
Are LA Fitness Prices Negotiable?
Glad you asked; yes, they are. Think of getting a membership with them like you would if you were buying a car … NEVER say yes to the sticker price. We found this Reddit thread pretty helpful; there are some great negotiation tips from customers who’ve managed to get their monthly fees as low as $14.99.
A basic summary of the tips would be to practice the art of saying, “No.” Doing so will get the sales rep to drop the price. Walking out the door after a negotiation can be effective, too. You may find that your sales rep or even the manager will chop down the initiation fee or monthly fee before you get out the door.
And, as I mentioned, if you are a member of a low-cost gym, the LA Fitness rep may even offer to buy out the remainder of your contract by subtracting from the initiation fee what you owe the other gym.
All LA Fitness locations, as far as we know, will include the following amenities:
- Free weights, weight machines and cardio machines
- Several free group fitness classes
- Heated lap pool, whirlpool & sauna
- Racquetball and basketball
Racquetball courts are first-come, first-serve. You’ll have to pay if you want to reserve a court, which we’ll cover in just a second.
Some locations – LA Fitness doesn’t list them on their site – have additional amenities that may or may not cost you an additional fee to use:
- Racquetball reservations: $10/month
- Juice bar
- Swim school
Because LA Fitness adjusts their pricing based on where the club is located, we can’t give you an exact quote on how much these services will cost. We did, however, give our local LA Fitness club a call and here’s what we found out:
- $10 per month to be able to reserve racquetball courts
- $10 per month for babysitting. Two-hour limit per visit. The general rule is one staff person per 10 kids, but that varies on the age of the kids.
So, for a single-club membership with racquetball-reservation privileges and childcare, you’re looking at $39.99 per month, which is pretty reasonable, in our opinion. You’ll be paying a $49 annual fee, though, so when that charge is spread out over 12 months, you’re tacking on an extra $4 a month, which brings your total to $43.99 a month.
As for equipment, videos from LA Fitness reveal they use LifeFitness stationary bikes and ellipticals along with Matrix stair climbers.
Pro tip: Prices may vary depending on where you live, so keep that in mind as you budget for your gym membership.
When we called LA Fitness, we discovered pricing for their personal training sessions. Those sessions are organized based on the fitness needs a free assessment done before your first session.
You have three ways to pay for your sessions: 6- and 12-month contracts or per-appointment. We weren’t able to get a per-appointment cost, but we did discover that the fee is $160 a month for once-a-week sessions. This price, though, will vary by location.
Remember, though these personal training sessions are contract-based, and you could be charged up to 50% of the price of your remaining sessions if you cancel your contract before it’s completed.
As for classes, we the gym’s website said that many classes are free but some are paid. We called another local LA Fitness and discovered that all classes at that location were free. We’re guessing that pricing and availability changes depending on where you live.
Whereas Planet Fitness has a clear “no-judgement” philosophy for their clubs, we don’t really find a specific philosophy or mission statement for LA Fitness clubs. Based on what we’ve read from their website, we think LA Fitness’ main goal is to provide state-of-the-art facilities.
What Other People Are Saying About Planet Fitness
The tough thing about researching reviews on a nationwide gym is that consumer opinions differ from club to club.
For example, a club in Los Angeles could get amazing reviews because their customer service is awesome and the gym is new. A gym in Portland, for example, may get horrible reviews because of rude staff and old equipment.
Knowing that, we try to stick with issues that seem to pop up regardless of location. The main consumer complaint against LA Fitness is the rigid terms of membership contracts.
The gym will not let you out of a contract once it’s signed, which is something we saw time and again among the more than 1,000 reviews on review website Consumer Affairs. Their unwillingness to bend on membership contracts carries over to their personal training contracts, too.
If you are going to sign up for a one- or two-year membership with a local gym, LA Fitness or otherwise, you have to remember it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Once you sign, you’re locked in and you can’t back out.
As for specific feedback about gyms in your area, head to Yelp or the gym’s Google page. The reviews there tend to cover the specifics of each location, including staff, equipment, and fellow members.
What the News is Saying About LA Fitness
Over the past few years, LA Fitness has been in several lawsuits.
In 2012, a New Jersey judge ordered LA Fitness to pay a $3.8 million settlement in a case in which it was accused of fraudulent billing practices.
In 2016, according to the company’s Better Business Bureau page, the New York Attorney General announced that LA Fitness and three other gyms reached a settlement in a case in which they were accused of having contracts that violated the New York State Health club Services Law and General Obligations law.
While the settlement was not an admission of guilt, the companies did agree to modify their contracts to appease state law.
These two court cases – there have been others – reveal a very important reminder: Always read your membership contracts line by line. If you don’t feel comfortable reading the contracts while you’re at the gym, then ask the sales associate to print a copy of it for you and take it home. Don’t sign anything until you’re clear on the terms of your contract.
Here’s some excellent advice we found in the New York Attorney General’s press release about the LA Fitness/Planet Fitness/Gold’s Gym/Curves settlement:
1. Become an educated consumer and visit or call more than one health club to earn about dues and when they must be paid, hours of operation, variety, and frequency of classes and ability to use multiple locations.
2. Do not give in to high-pressure sales tactics or feel obligated to sign a contract immediately. A reputable gym will give you enough time to read the contract thoroughly, tour the facilities, and check out other options before making an informed decision. Tell the health club representative you need time to think about joining the club and ask for free passes to determine if the club is right for you. Talk to other members.
3. Did you get everything in writing? Read the contract carefully and make sure that all verbal promises made by the salesperson are included. The terms of the contract are defined by the document you sign, so always be sure to get everything in writing.
Our Conclusions About LA Fitness
After reading through this review, we can understand why you’d be a little hesitant to sign up for an LA Fitness membership, or any gym membership, for that matter.
The Good Side to LA Fitness: Value
However, let’s take a step back and get an overview of the good and the bad. First, LA Fitness offers a lot of amenities for the price. While monthly dues vary from state to state and city to city, it’s really hard to beat LA Fitness pools, whirlpool spas and free group fitness classes for $19.99.
And, as we found out during our research, you can probably negotiate your sales rep down on the initiation fee or the monthly fee. The bargain could get even better if you apply some of the principles we talk about in our article on haggling at garage sales. Some of the content is garage-sale specific, but there are several points directly applicable to negotiating a gym membership.
The Bad Side to LA Fitness and All Gyms: Contracts
Once you’ve got the price you like, you need to do two things:
- Read the contract line by line and identify specific sections dealing with membership cancellation.
- Tell yourself it’s an all-or-nothing contract. Once you’re in, you can’t back out.
As we mentioned earlier, if you aren’t entirely comfortable poring over the contract while your sales rep sits across the desk from you, request a copy that you can take home.
Not only will this buy time, but it increases the chances your sales rep will offer you more discounts. He or she wants your business, and in many cases, they’ll do what it takes to get it.
Are You Really Ready for a Gym Membership?
If your membership costs you $20 a month and you sign a one-year contract, you’re investing $240 into something that most people who have the same kind of membership don’t even use. The odds are against you even before you’ve started.
We don’t say that to discourage you from getting a membership with LA Fitness, but to remind you that you’re going to have to do more than say you want to work out to actually take advantage of your membership.
For example, you’ve got to have an honest conversation with yourself about whether or not you really want to get fit or lose weight.
As Hollywood-based family and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish told us in our article about 17 tips for New Year’s resolutions, if your unconscious mind wants to lay on the couch, then, no matter how much you want that gym membership, you’re eventually going to end up on the couch again.
Should you find that you’re conscious and subconscious mind are ready to roll, then be ready to deal with failure and be clear about why you’re joining a gym. Is it merely because you want to fit in smaller clothes or get more compliments, or do you want to lead a healthy lifestyle? As you get to the root of your desires, you’ll make an emotional connection with your fitness goals and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
Our final bit of advice is to comparison shop, as the New York Attorney General suggested. Don’t be afraid to bargain for a lower monthly fee and then check out another gym in town, like 24 Hour Fitness. If money is an issue and you want to get the cheapest possible membership, Planet Fitness may be a good option for you.