Go for a test-drive.The best way to determine if a gym is right for you is to get a guest pass. Try the machines and check out the classes that you would want to attend. Make sure you work out at the times you would normally go, so you'll know if the gym gets very crowded then. Pay attention to the atmosphere and the people, and make sure it's a place where you'll feel comfortable.
Do a quick inventory of the equipment.Take a good look and see if there are enough treadmills, elliptical trainers and other popular machines to go around. Are there lines to use those machines? Are there time limits for the cardio equipment? For example, some gyms limit treadmill use to 30 minutes. If your treadmill workouts are usually more than 30 minutes, then the gym's restrictions obviously won't work for you.
Make sure the hours are convenient for you.Do the gym's hours fit your schedule? If the gym offers childcare and you're going to use it frequently, do those hours work for you?
Ask about additional fees.Some gyms have very low monthly membership fees, but they tack on additional fees for features you may think are included, such as cardio classes, locker use or even towels. Find out what other amenities are only available for an additional cost, so you don't end up paying much more than you expected later on.
Consider the location.If the gym is offering a great deal but the location is not convenient for you, don't join. Even if you have the best intentions, you'll eventually use the distance as an excuse not to go.
Study the staff.When you visit the gym, make sure there are staff members available to answer your questions, demonstrate exercises or show you how to use the equipment. Study the staff's interactions with members. Do they seem friendly and well-informed?
Inspect for cleanliness.Take a look around and see if efforts are made to keep the gym clean. Make sure that towels are available to wipe off the equipment, and watch to see if members and staff actually use them. Check out the toilets, sinks and showers to see that they're maintained.
More: How to Avoid Germs at the Gym