Why Is The YMCA So Expensive [Fees & Alternatives]

You are looking for a basic gym membership for one adult to keep in shape. So naturally, you head to the local YMCA to check out their rates, expecting them to be low because the Y is a non-profit organization.

However, depending on where you live, you may find that the membership rates are higher than you anticipated. This higher rate may make you wonder just why the YMCA is so expensive.

The YMCA membership rates may seem expensive until you consider all of the amenities and services that come with membership. The Y is more than just a gym.

With a Y membership, you have access to 10,000 Y locations nationwide, a wide variety of free or low-cost classes for kids through retirees, exercise equipment, swimming pools, and saunas, and child care.

The Y also works to provide support to underserved community members and to help direct positive growth among children and teens. If a YMCA full family membership is too expensive, you can apply for financial assistance through the Y. 

On the other hand, if you don’t want to pay for all of the Y’s amenities with their full membership, you can look at a gym membership with another company like Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, or Crunch Fitness.

Each company has amenities that might better suit your needs without breaking the bank. 

Continue reading for an explanation of the costs behind the YMCA’s membership fees, as well as a breakdown of amenities at other comparable gyms.

YMCA Gym Membership

YMCA Membership Costs

While the YMCA is a non-profit organization, that does not mean they don’t make money. It means that what money they make beyond maintaining their facilities and paying the staff supports the community. 

You may think their pricing is high because you are only focusing on one amenity like access to the pool or the gym machines.

Your gym membership provides you access to so much more and helps others in your community in ways you haven’t considered.

Location, Location, Location

You know this truth about real estate, and the same holds true for membership prices with the YMCA. If you live in a small town, the price will be lower than the membership price in a large city.

For example, a city of 120,000 people in Texas has a joining fee of $50 and a monthly fee of $71 for a full family membership.

A nearby large city of 1.3 million people has a joining fee of $95 with a monthly rate of $93 for an entire family. 

Talented and Trustworthy Staff

When you go to the Y or any gym, you want to have a staff committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment.

The team at your local Y is trained to instruct classes, maintain equipment, see to the safety of the members, provide childcare and mentoring, and more.

The staff must be paid to continue to provide these services.

Maintenance and Upkeep

As is the case with any business, the YMCA has to pay for overhead costs. Buildings and grounds need maintenance. Members want air conditioning, up-to-date workout machinery, and electricity.

The Y also has to pay for insurance and other legal business concerns. Part of your membership fee supports these needs.

Maintaining a Swimming Pool

One feature that many YMCAs provide that other gyms don’t have is a pool. These extensive facilities require high expenditures for maintenance. 

Wide Range of Classes

The Y offers many classes geared toward different groups of people. Some classes start at 6 am for those who are heading to work in the morning.

Midday classes are offered for retirees, and evening classes are geared toward parents and families.

Some classes are included with the Y memberships, while others have an additional but discounted fee. 

Youth Sports Programs

The Y is not just for adults. They offer sports programs for kids as young as 4-5, such as soccer, baseball, tennis, and gymnastics. Many kids learn to swim through programs at the Y.

These programs are discounted for members but open to any community members who want to participate.

They also ensure that any child or student who wants to participate will be able to, regardless of their income.

They have financial assistance programs for kids who can not afford a regular membership. 

Youth Sports Programs

Childcare and Camps

Speaking of kids, the Y offers childcare, and not just while parents are working out. They have after-school programs, often picking up students from their schools and bringing them to the Y until their parents get off work.

They also have summer camps so that kids can be engaged and supervised throughout the day while their parents or guardians work.

Nationwide Access with Membership

When you purchase a YMCA membership, you also have access to any YMCA across the country. There are about 10,000 branches in 48 states. 

Community Outreach

The YMCA is a lot more than just a gym. This organization is committed to building healthy communities in both the physical and emotional senses.

The Y offers mentorship programs that connect retirees with children and teens to foster a sense of connectedness and purpose.

They also offer programs to help children and teens through courses like anger management and accountability.

Many of these programs are free to anyone.

YMCA Membership is a Quality Investment

The YMCA offers many programs, services, and amenities to its members. This family-oriented organization doesn’t simply provide a place to work out, but it becomes a place to grow into an active and healthy community.

The more you use your membership, the more you get out of your investment.

I Want to Use the YMCA, But I Can’t Afford It

Talk to the staff if you want to be a member at your YMCA, but the posted membership cost is out of your ability to pay. They have scholarships available to make memberships manageable based on income. 

Other Ways to Save at the YMCA

Check with your local Y and ask if they have a membership drive when they reduce or remove the joining fee. The Y doesn’t require a contract, so you can pay one month at a time as you can afford it.

However, they do offer a discounted rate if you pay the whole year in advance. 

Another option is to check with your employer or insurance company. Some companies have agreements for adjusted membership rates with the YMCA and other gyms so that employees and members can improve their baseline health through exercise.

In the event that you don’t intend to use all of the services and amenities included with full membership, check with your local Y to see if they offer an a la carte menu for partial memberships.

Alternatives to the Y

Look around for other businesses that offer the same services. If all you need is access to gym equipment and occasional classes, you may be better served by joining a different gym.

Likewise, check into other local leagues if your child wants to play basketball or soccer, but you don’t need all the other amenities from the Y.

Read on for a summary of some nationwide gym chains with monthly prices lower than a typical Y membership.

Crunch Fitness

Crunch Fitness has about 300 locations nationwide. They offer a wide assortment of gym equipment and free weights. You can use their mobile app to choose from their diverse variety of classes.

The regular franchise locations do not have pools or saunas, but the Crunch Signature locations offer extended amenities.

The basic membership to one site is an easily affordable $10 per month, while access to the nationwide network and the classes will cost $20 per month.

The Crunch Signature membership with the added luxuries those locations offer may be as high as $135 a month.

Anytime Fitness

One of the main benefits of Anytime Fitness is literally that you can go in anytime. You have a keyfob that allows you to access the building at whatever time is convenient for you.

The disadvantage to this model is that there may or may not be staff there when you arrive.

Membership at Anytime fitness averages about $35 per month, with discounts as you buy more extended contracts.

There are approximately 3000 locations in the US and another 1800 worldwide, so if you travel, this may be a great choice. However, the variety of machines and classes may vary widely at each location.

Blink offers low-cost memberships and quality equipment. Memberships average $30 per month and include access to workout machines and personal trainers in some areas. These basic locations do not offer amenities such as pools or saunas, or classes.

Planet Fitness

Planet Fitness offers a highly accessible membership at only $10 per month. Most locations are filled with exercise machines, while their free weight areas are on the smaller end.

Planet Fitness promotes itself as a “judgement-free” zone, and the staff is trained in kindness and acceptance. 

Planet Fitness

Orangetheory Fitness

If you prefer a class structure to a free workout, Orangetheory is for you. All of their workouts are group classes with encouraging leaders. This can become problematic at peak times when classes are crowded.

Final Thoughts

As with anything, you get what you pay for. If you only want access to workout machines and maybe some basic classes, you can definitely find a more affordable option than the Y.

On the other hand, if you and your family commit to using all the amenities that the Y has to offer, your investment in your health and your community will genuinely pay off.

Few of the other nationwide gyms offer everything from swimming lessons for kids to mentoring programs to include local retirees. 

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