Just My Humble Opinion!
For more than 10 years the Total Gym has been selling through an infomercial featuring Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkly. Total gym products have been sold successfully because they are legitimate exercise machines. Used by more than 7000 hospitals, rehab clinics, and fitness centers world wide, the Total Gym is one of the few infomercial products I can say is worth the money.
The idea behind the Total Gym is an exercise machine that allows its user to isolate each of the body's muscle groups. The basis behind the Total Gym is resistance training on an incline/decline bench. Increasing the incline angle increases the effort. Unfortunately the maximum effort can only be 60% of your body weight without adding extra weight. Though it is a great machine for overall fitness, it is neither a great weight training machine nor a great aerobic machine. It's sort of an all around fitness device and not very suitable for serious body building or serious aerobic training.
For the average person however the Total Gym can be a very effective fitness device since it basically allows you to "kill two birds with one stone". In other words, with a little practice, it is possible to develop a workout that will build strength, aerobic endurance and flexibility in the shortest amount of workout time.
There are many different models and options to choose from. I could not locate a single source that listed all of them. The models that I am aware of are the 1000, 1500, 1700, 2000, 3000, 14000, 26000, GTS, & Supra. The price range for the various models can vary significatly. Model 1500's and Supra's can be purchased for $249.95 but other more serious versions can cost upwards of $3,000.
For most men (or seriously devoted women) I would say that the best value lies with the 1500 or 1700. Both run about $349.95. These two models have an extra bar mounted on the sliding board which allows the user to add standard weight plates. This feature enables the user to utilize much more than the normal maximum of 60% of a person's body weight. In fact it would be quite easy for even the strongest man to add more weight than they could ever hope to utilize.
For most women I would say that the 1000 and the Supra would be more than adequate. These models will set you back about $249.95. They are lighter than the 1500 and 1700 and will not allow the user to add extra weight. There is no reason why even the frailest person could not still utilize the 1500 or 1700 so one might consider the upgrade if you are planning for more than one person to utilize your Total Gym.
My experience has been that when you call to order the Total Gym from the infomercial phone number they will sell you one of the more significantly expensive models. I do not feel these type models are worth the money. The one I own is the cheapest model and I have used it rigorously for years and it still functions well. In my opinion your best bet is to locate a Total Gym supplier locally and make your purchase there. In most cases you could try the machine out in the show room and by purchasing it there, avoid any additional shipping charges. It also makes it much more convenient to return the product for a refund if you are not satisfied. I personally have seen Total Gyms for sale at Sears and Walmart but virtually any store that sells fitness equipment will probably carry the product.
Also remember that the mark up for products sold via infomercials is usually quite extreme. This is because the manufacturer must find a way to recoup all their advertising costs. There is nothing dramatically unique or complicated regarding how the Total Gym functions. Generic versions are available at less than half the price. Amazon.com sell one of them called "Ultra Gym". If you do a search on the Amazon.com you should be able to find it easily. The last time I checked you could buy this version for $99.97! Other generic products can be found by doing a Google search for "Total Gym".
There are some drawbacks to the Total Gym which I haven't yet mentioned. First, the unit is quite heavy and cumbersome. Although it does fold up, you'll find that this is not accomplished easily, especially for most women. It is best if you can leave the Total Gym set up and ready to go at all times.
Another drawback is that it is still exercising! The infomercial can lead someone to believe a workout will be fun. I can assure you that it will not be. It is a brutal, tiring experience and after several weeks it will become extremely boring as well. This is not the fault of the machine it is a fact of life. Exercise is hard and takes discipline. If you're unwilling to use the machine at least 3 days a week for an extended period of time you'd be better off not buying it in the first place. Taking a 30 minute walk is free and a good alternative.