After researching the entire market for tennis ball machines I’ve created a list of the Top Five Best Tennis Ball Machines designed to improve your game.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the court over the years banging that little yellow ball around. Although I’m no Nadal, I can still hold my own with some really good players. I’ve also put in my share of time in front of a ball machine. When you can’t find an opponent they are the best thing going. Or if you just need to practice that backhand slice over and over again about a hundred times until you get it right, then nothing beats a ball machine.
When my wife became interested in the game I thought it would be a good idea to get her working on a nice new ball machine that could feed her a lot of the same shots with consistency. That way when I’m not able to hit with her, she can still improve when she has time during the week. And thus began my search for the best tennis ball machine.
I put a lot of time into my research because ball machines can be really expensive. So it’s important to understand all of the features and make sure you get something that matches your particular needs. I consider money spent on a ball machine an investment. It’s an investment in improving your game or if you are the pro or manager at a tennis club, it’s an investment in your business.
The machines on my list range in price from about $995 to $2,200, putting them solidly in the median range in terms of tennis ball machine cost. If you’re on a limited budget, then scroll down the page to check out the Best Tennis Ball Machines Under $1,000. Most of the machines on that list offer enough basic features to keep you challenged but not break the bank.
The tennis ball machines on both lists are ones that can be used by the full range of player abilities, from beginners to experts and can be used by individuals or small groups. I feel that these ball machines offer the widest range of options and the greatest flexibility thereby allowing all players to progressively improve their games. Also most of the machines on my list will provide enough practice challenges so that players will not outgrow the machine as they improve their skill levels.
I used the following important criteria to rank these ball machines.
- Oscillation – This is a key feature when analyzing tennis ball machines and one of the major factors affecting the cost. I looked at which machines offer random, horizontal and vertical oscillation. The tennis ball machines that best simulate the all over the court shots that a real opponent would make receive the best scores in my rating system. You can read more about oscillation in my Tennis Ball Machine Buying Guide article.
- Spin Control – Can a particular tennis ball machine fire balls with top spin and under spin and can you control the degree of the spin? This is another factor that I consider essential in a tennis ball machine, again because it simulates a real opponent.
- Weight – Is the ball machine easy to move and carry? If it’s designed to be portable, can the average person pick it up by themselves and put it into the trunk of a car?
- Dimensions – I looked at the size measurements of each machine on the list. Is it easily storable in the trunk of your car? The more portable and compact a ball machine is, the more positive I weight that criteria.
- Speed Range – How fast and slow can the ball machine fire tennis balls? If the lower speed range is not low enough, beginners will have a hard time handling balls shooting out of the machine. If the upper speed limit is not high enough, advanced level players will get bored quickly as the speed of the balls coming out of the machine will present little challenge to them.
- Ball Capacity – How many balls can the machine hold? If the capacity is not high enough then you’ll spend most of your practice time picking up tennis balls, which is no fun at all.
- Feed Rate – How fast are the balls fired out of the machine? A very fast firing time lets you practice rapid fire volleys at the net and a slower firing time allows beginners time to prepare and set up for the next shot or other players to change position on the court.
- Warranty -The longer the warranty the better as tennis ball machines can be expensive to repair if you happen to get a lemon.
- Price – Of the roughly 40-50 ball machine brands and models for sale in the market today, prices range from $230 to over $7,000. There’s even a machine that is $28,500 which uses Terminator style robotics technology. It’s a pretty amazing piece of technology if you can afford it. Just put it in your garage next to your Lamborghini.
- Customer Reviews and Ratings – I looked at reviews posted on a number of retail websites, blogs, and forums, where reviewers have purchased and used these tennis ball machines. By cross-referencing multiple sources I’ve been able to get a very good picture of overall general consumer opinion about the machines on this list.
- Extras – Many tennis ball machines will offer remote controls, additional power options, special battery chargers and covers that you can pay extra for. Some of these can be very helpful and I’ve factored that into my ratings.
Tennis Tutor Plus – #1
My overall number one rated best tennis ball machine is the Tennis Tutor Plus Player Model. My rating criteria placed the Tennis Tutor Plus Player at number one because this fantastic ball machine offers a full array of rich features, and a top-notch customer rating, all for a very affordable price. Of all the ball machines I looked at, the Tennis Tutor Plus Player ball machine best mimics a real opponent’s shots, without the miss-hits of course, for a reasonable price. This type of drilling tennis ball machine is exactly what you need most to improve your game and not bust your bank account.
Sports Tutor manufactures three Tennis Tutor models, the standard Tennis Tutor, the Tennis Tutor Plus model, and the Tennis Tutor Plus Player model. In my detailed review of the Tennis Tutor Plus , I recommend moving up to the Tennis Tutor Plus Player Model because the additional features are a real bargain for the price.
The Tennis Tutor Plus Player Model has vertical, horizontal, and random oscillation, a multitude of spin control settings, compact size and weight, and the unique Player Mode Programming feature. The Player Mode feature is the ultimate in real life opponent simulation. You use a button on the Tennis Tutor to select beginner, intermediate or advanced levels. The Tennis Tutor then fires balls according to how that level of opponent would hit balls to you. For example, the beginner setting fires balls more towards the middle at a slower speed, whereas the advanced setting fires shots all over the court and at varying speeds, elevation, and spin.
Speed control settings top out at a blistering 85 mph which will certainly challenge the most advanced players. As will the incredibly fast maximum feed rate setting of 1.5 balls fired every second.
The Tennis Tutor Plus ball machine has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 with most reviewers saying that their tennis games have improved dramatically as a result of using this ball machine with all of its advanced features.
Lobster Elite 3 Ball Machine – #2
My number two rated machine is the Lobster Elite tennis ball machine Model 3. The Lobster Elite 3 offers a full array of standard features such as horizontal, vertical, and random oscillation, and spin control, as well as an awesome two-line narrow and wide oscillation feature. The oscillation feature lets the Elite 3 throw alternating balls to both sides of the court using a built-in indicator. This feature is useful for two players or two lines of players to use when working on a drill or for the single player wanting to practice alternating forehands and backhands. You can also practice doubles play as the machine will fire balls into the doubles court area. The Lobster Elite 3 is the only ball machine on the market to offer a two-line feature with variable depth settings.
Lobster is also one of the few tennis ball machine manufacturers to offer a two year warranty on all of their ball machines. Also, they have been in business since 1970, about twice as long as most of their competitors.
The Elite 3 has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.0 out of 5.0 with most reviewers commenting on how easy the machine is to use.
For more detailed information about the Elite 3 Lobster Ball Machine, you can read my full review.
SAM Tennis Ball Machine Model P4 – #3
The Model P4 SAM ball machine comes in at number three on my best tennis ball machine list. The SAM (Sports Action Machine) was invented by a computer robotics whiz with the help of a former Grand Slam tennis champion and offers cutting edge tennis ball machine technology. SAM was formerly known as the Price ball machine brand until January 2006 when all of the Prince tennis ball machines switched over to the SAM brand. All features of the two machines remained identical, just the name changed.
In addition to a full set of features, the SAM Model P4 is the only machine under $2,000 that includes a 10 function wireless remote control, which you can use to control speed, sweep, elevation, spin, and to turn the machine on/off. It also has 2-line and fully random horizontal and vertical oscillation as well as a 300 capacity ball hopper. The 300 ball capacity is a huge benefit for a ball machine under $2,000. I typically only see this capacity in commercial or high usage tennis ball machines.
The SAM P4 has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.0 out of 5.0 with most reviewers saying how the machine can really fire out the balls fast with a lot of spin at the higher settings, which really challenged their games.
I also have a full review of the SAM Tennis Ball Machine Model P4 so you can read more about it.
Tennis Tower Ball Machine – #4
Another ball machine from Sports Tutor (also the manufacturer of the Tennis Tutor) makes my top five best tennis ball machine list. The Tennis Tower ball machine is larger than most portable machines and geared more towards clubs, camps, and home court owners, however it’s so packed with features I had to include it on my list. The Competitor, Club, and Professional Player versions each offer all of the basic features I look for in tennis ball machines and each model steps up with additional features over the previous model.
In my analysis I found that if you are buying for a club or high usage situation, then the Club model and the Professional Player models are both excellent fits. If you are looking for a ball machine for individual or family use, then the Tennis Tower Ball Machine Competitor model is the way to go. If you have the money though move up to the Club model which includes a two-function remote as a nice bonus.
The Tennis Tower ball machine has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 5.0 out of 5.0 with most reviewers saying how easy the machine is to use.
My full review of the Tennis Tower ball machine discusses which model is right for your particular situation and which ball machine offers the best value based on your needs.
Wilson Portable Ball Machine – #5
The Wilson ball machine is also manufactured by Sports Tutor, which makes Tennis Tutor and the Tennis Tower models, two other machines on my Best List. The Wilson ball machine offers random horizontal/side to side oscillation. It does not offer vertical oscillation, which means the machine does not automatically fire balls at multiple depth settings, close to the net, and in the backcourt. You have to go over and manually adjust the machine to get different depths. My preference is for tennis ball machines that offer all types of oscillation automatically so that you can truly get the most shot variety from your ball machine. It is also the best way to simulate a real opponent.
The Wilson ball machine however does offer a two-line feature that fires from side to side. In my opinion, if you plan on having two people use the tennis ball machine at once you definitely should have the two-line feature, which makes the Wilson ball machine a very good option.
The Wilson tennis ball machine has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.5 out of 5.0. Many reviewers say how reliable the Wilson ball machine is and that they enjoy the various settings to control ball speed, and spin.
For more detailed information about the Wilson ball machine, you can read my full review.
The machines on this list range in price from about $700 to $995. All of these tennis ball machines offer great value and a variety of features for a very affordable price. If you are on a tight budget or looking for an entry level ball machine then this is the list for you.
SAM Tennis Ball Machine Model P1 – #1
The number one ball machine on my list of the Top 5 Tennis Ball Machines Under $1,000 is the SAM Model P1. This feature packed rocket of a ball machine runs about $995 retail, coming in just under $1,000. It is the only machine on my list, and the only one under $1,000, that offers random and horizontal oscillation, spin control, and a whopping 300 hopper ball capacity. The Model P1 SAM ball machine is the type of drilling tennis ball machine you need most to improve your game and not bust your bank account.
The SAM Model P1 was formerly known as the Prince Portable Model 1 until the brand name switched to SAM in January 2006. SAM stands for “Sports Action Machine” and is owned by Master Sports Inc, which produces seven other tennis ball machine models. The SAM P1 is battery powered and has an optional AC converter so that you can also use electric power. The P1’s firing speed range is between 10 and 75 mph which makes it perfect for beginners as well as advanced players.
The SAM P1 has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.1 out of 5.0. Many comments mention how durable and strong the SAM P1 is. A few players said that the P1 was great for intermediate and below level players but not powerful enough for expert level. So if you are an expert level player you may want to consider one of the machines on the list above. But if you’re an expert player on a budget, then for the price, the SAM P1 can still give you a good work-out, and is a great buy.
You can read even more information about the SAM tennis ball machine Model P1 in my full review.
Tennis Tutor – Standard Model – #2
My rating criteria placed the Tennis Tutor Standard at number two because this fantastic ball machine offers a full array of rich features, and a top-notch customer rating, all for a very affordable price.
Sports Tutor manufactures three Tennis Tutor models, the standard Tennis Tutor, the Tennis Tutor Plus model, and the Tennis Tutor Plus Player model. In my detailed review of the Tennis Tutor ball machine, I discuss all three of the models. In the review I recommend moving up to the Tennis Tutor Plus Player Model because the additional features are a real bargain for the price, however the price difference between the models is about $600. For the extra money you get spin control and elevation control on the Tennis Tutor Plus and a Player Mode simulation function on the Tennis Tutor Plus Player model. Generally I feel the extra expense is worth the price, however if you are looking for a high quality, feature-rich, economy model under $1,000, then the Standard model is what you want.
The Tennis Tutor Standard ball machine has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 with most reviewers saying that their tennis games have improved dramatically as a result of using this ball machine with all of its advanced features.
iSAM Model 1 Tennis Ball Machine – #3
The iSAM Model 1 is third on my list and the second SAM ball machine. The iSAM tennis ball machine is a reasonably priced, feature-rich entry level model geared for beginner to intermediate level players. It is also the cheapest tennis ball machine on my list, coming in at just under $700.
The primary differences between the iSAM and the SAM Model P1 ball machine (number 1 on this list) are that the iSAM does not offer spin control, its speed setting ranges from 15-60 mph versus 10-75 mph for the Model P1, and it has a 250 ball capacity versus 300 for the SAM Model P1. The price difference between the two models is about $300. I generally would say go on and pay the extra $300 to get the top spin and under spin settings offered with the P1, but if you are on a tight budget and at the intermediate level or below, then you can go with the iSAM. You won’t be disappointed.
The iSAM Model 1ball machine has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.2 out of 5.0 with most reviewers saying how much their games have improved using this machine. Almost everyone seemed very happy with their purchase.
If you’d like to learn more check my full review of the iSAM tennis ball machine Model 1.
Hybrid Model 301 Lobster Tennis Ball Machine – #4
The Lobster Hybrid 301 is the only pneumatic powered tennis ball machine to make my list. I include the Hybrid 301 Lobster here simply because it is a durable, dependable tennis ball machine that offers basic features for a reasonable price.
At one time in the past, all tennis ball machines looked like this; a cannon attached to a reverse vacuum cleaner, electric powered and using pneumatic pressure to fire tennis balls. Since then, there have been numerous advances in tennis ball machine technology that offer many options in spin and speed control. However, the older style models still exist and the Lobster Hybrid 301 is one of the best.
The Hybrid 301 is ideal for high usage situations such as camps, schools, and clubs, or for those individual players that are out on the court frequently for hours. The Lobster 301 was designed strong, and will not wear out easily. Plus, it’s really cheap, coming in under $800.
The Hybrid Model 301 Lobster tennis ball machine has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.6 out of 5.0. Most reviewers talk about how versatile the 301 is for a ball machine at such a low price. There were no negative comments, which is very rare for any tennis ball machine I’ve reviewed.
Check out my detailed review of the Hybrid Model 301 Lobster tennis ball machine to find out more.
Lobster Elite Freedom Tennis Ball Machine – #5
The last tennis ball machine to make my list of the Best Under $1,000 is the Lobster Elite Freedom Model. This is the second Lobster ball machine on my list, with the Hybrid Model 301 at number four. The Elite Freedom Lobster tennis ball machine is a great entry level ball machine for beginners and intermediates.
The Elite Freedom is battery powered and offers random horizontal oscillation, a 10-70 mph (16.10-112.65 kph) speed range, a 150 ball capacity, and a feed rate of 2-10 tennis balls fired per second. The Lobster Elite Freedom comes with a two year warranty.
The Elite Freedom has an overall customer satisfaction rating of 3.9 out of 5.0. Most reviewers talked about how reliable the machine is and how it gave them a great work out. There were a couple of negative comments about mechanical issues with the Freedom model, but these were a small percentage of the overall comments.
You can learn more in my Elite Freedom Lobster tennis ball machine review, and see what great features the Freedom has to offer.