“You’re into table tennis, aren’t you? We’re thinking of buying a table for the house. What’s the best table tennis table?”, I’m asked.
“Well, that depends. What do you want it for?”, I reply…
This is a fairly regular conversation for me. Perhaps I should start charging for my advice and call it ‘consultancy’. No, that’s a silly idea, but here’s a blog post that should act as a solid compilation of all the conversations I’ve had over the years about buying table tennis tables.
And there’s a lot to cover! I’ll be writing about;
- Do you really need your own table tennis table?
- Cheap table tennis tables
- Expensive table tennis tables
- Second hand table tennis tables
- The importance of table thickness
- Table tennis tables for schools and clubs
- Robots for table tennis tables
- The best Indoor table tennis tables
- The best Outdoor table tennis tables
- The best Table tennis table tops
This is going to be a pretty massive blog post so feel free to skip to whichever sections are most relevant to you, or by all means read it from start to finish! Let’s get started. And the first question I’ve got for you is an important one…
Do you really need a table tennis table?
You’ve started playing table tennis and you are serious about wanting to get good at it. Your first thought is, “I should really buy a table if I’m actually going to go for this 100%”. But hold on a second. Even though having a table in your home can be a brilliant way to increase the quantity of your practice (we have done the majority of Sam’s Expert in a Year practice on the table in his flat kitchen) it can often become quickly forgotten about and stuffed away in a corner somewhere. There are a couple of things you should consider first;
- Do you have space for a table?
- Who are you going to play with?
I’ve been playing table tennis since I was about ten years old. My parents kindly bought me a table when I was about twelve I think. We only had a standard sized three-bedroom house so in order to get it out and play we would need to move all the living room furniture into one corner, or out in the hall, to create space. Even then, there wasn’t really enough space to play.
I started off playing with my dad but he doesn’t play table tennis himself and after a short while it became silly trying to play with him. Sure, we could have a knock around, but I wasn’t going to be able to do any serious practice with him. Perhaps I could invite a ping-pong-playing friend over to practice? But then I remember that there isn’t enough space. Mum suggests we wheel the table out into the garden, but you can’t play outside with the wind. It’s just not the same.
Over time the table was being used less and less. It became just another piece of furniture in the corner of our living room. Eventually, it was put on eBay and somebody came to collect it. For our family, in our house, and with the kind of level of table tennis I was playing at the time, having a table just didn’t make sense. If you are just a recreational player, playing for fun, and you just want a table to use from time to time, then it doesn’t really matter if space is limited and you don’t have anyone who can play to practice with. If you are trying to improve, and buying a table because you think it will help speed up your improvement, then you need to ask yourself these two questions first.
How much space do I need?
A full-sized table tennis table is 274 cm x 152.5 cm. If you are thinking of buying a table to use inside your house it is probably worth marking that out on the floor and seeing if it seems realistic to be able to play around it (you’ll need at least a metre on all sides even if you are just playing for fun).
- Recreational players probably need a minimum space of about 475 cm x 350 cm.
- Players looking to do actual training need a minimum of 600 cm x 400 cm (Sam’s kitchen is 6m x 4m and as you’ll see we get by doing the majority of our training there but that is the absolute minimum you can get away with. We also push the table into the corner of the room to give Sam extra space on his end and more room on his backhand side than forehand side so that he can go ’round the corner’).
- Really you’ll probably need 7m x 5m if you want to both have just about enough room to play.
- Local tournaments will usually give you a playing court which is 9m x 5m.
- At national level tournaments the court will be 12m x 6m.
- For international competition play, the ITTF stipulates a minimum court size of 14m long, 7m wide, and 5m high, according to Law 3.02.03.01.
Do you have enough space? If the answer is no but you are only wanting to play for fun then you can always get an outdoor table instead. If you are looking for serious practice then 6m x 4m is the absolute minimum and 7m x 5m is much better!
Who am I going to play with?
If you’re just playing for fun then you can play with whoever happens to be around; friends, family, dog. If you are looking for some serious practice then you’ll need to think about who you are going to play with. If you have the space there are plenty of options;
- Does anyone in your house play? If so, you’re golden.
- Do you have friends that live locally that play? Training with them in your home will save on club membership and practice fees.
- Can you afford a coach? The majority of table tennis coaches offering private coaching are happy to visit your house.
- Could you buy a robot? If you don’t have anyone to play with you could always invest in a table tennis robot.
In conclusion, if you are looking for serious training then you need to make sure you’ve got enough space and you have somebody to play with. Once you’ve got that sorted we can start thinking about what kind of table to buy.
Cheap Table Tennis Tables
I want to briefly write a little bit about cheap table tennis tables. Lots of people think that a table tennis table is a table tennis table and therefore they just look at a load of tables and pick the cheapest one. If you look somewhere like Argos you’ll see tables going for just over £100. Why spend a few hundred when you can just get one of those?
The problem is that these tables play really bad. They often wont even tell you the thickness of the table top. The cheapest tables are usually only 12mm thick and even a recreational player can tell that the ball doesn’t seem to bounce very well. Trying to play on a 12mm table tennis table really isn’t worth it. Steer clear!
If you are on a really tight budget and don’t have much money to spend try to at least make sure you get a 16mm table. These still aren’t amazing when it comes to bounce but they are a big improvement on the virtually unplayable 12mm tables. Ideally you are looking for 19mm plus.
Expensive Table Tennis Tables
On the flip side, if your table tennis table isn’t going to be used for elite level play you don’t need to spend a fortunate on it. Argos also sell the Butterfly Centrefold table for £1199.99! It’s a really nice 25mm table that is amazing to play on but if you are buying tables for your school, club or home then you really don’t need to be paying this much. You are unlikely to notice much difference once you hit the £500-600 range, unless you are a top player and are used to training and competing on only the best tables.
If you have the money to spend and want some really good quality tables then you should do fine in the £500-600 ball park. Make sure you are getting a 22mm or 25mm table top though. Occasionally, branded tables will sell for about £500 and they are still only 19mm. This is a bit of a rip off and definitely something to avoid.
Second Hand Table Tennis Tables
A good quality table tennis table should last for years and years. That means that many second hand tables can be an absolute bargain. Buying tables second hand is a great way to either get a top of the range table for £200-300, or an average table for just £100. You can look on places like eBay and Gumtree.
When I started coaching at a school that only had three tables I suggested to the staff in charge that it would be a good idea to buy another couple. They said that they school didn’t have the budget, assuming that a table would cost about £500. I went home and had a look on Gumtree and managed to find someone selling two Butterfly 25mm Space Saver tables, that if bought new would cost about £800 a piece, for £300!
There are definitely some good bargains to be had and for most people have sparkling new tables really isn’t that important. All you will have to arrange is a van to go and pick up the tables, usually the owner isn’t able to delivery them, and then you are good to go. You may have a buy new nets for them too.
The importance of table thickness
If you got to this point in the post I’m sure you’ve already noticed my main concern when it comes to table tennis tables…
This is the key variable. Forget about how nice it looks and what brand it is (and everything else) and focus on table thickness. This is what you are paying for. It costs a lot to make a 25mm thick table tennis table. That’s why they cost so much.
I want to briefly cover all the different table thickness’ available, again, and give my thoughts on each.
- 12mm – The cheapest tables. Avoid at all costs!
- 16mm – Not a great bounce. Only buy if money is tight and don’t pay too much.
- 19mm – Ideally the minimum. Will cost £250+ but don’t pay more than £400.
- 22mm – Pretty much perfect bounce. Shop around and you can get one for £400+.
- 25mm – The best but similar to 22mm. Will cost £500, up to £1,500!
- Please don’t buy 12mm tables. They’re not worth it. You’ll be disappointed.
- Try and steer clear of 16mm ones too. I guess they are fine for recreational use but that’s it.
- Don’t pay £500 for a 19mm table. You’ll kick yourself later on. Many schools end up doing this.
- A 22mm table is good enough for any club or tournament, in my opinion.
- Even if you want the best kind of table you don’t really need to spend more than £600 to get a 25mm one.
Table Tennis Tables for Schools and Clubs
If you are looking to buy a number of table tennis tables, because you are a school/club or similar, then you don’t need to pay the RRP. And you shouldn’t. Contact some table tennis equipment providers directly and ask them to make you an offer. There is a good chance you’ll be able to save a load of money.
I really like Thornton’s Table Tennis for schools and clubs and would always use them when I was making orders for schools. The owner of the business, Bill Thornton, is great at making you offers when you buy in bulk. You also wont need to pay any VAT if you are a school or community club, so things are even cheaper!
Sponeta table tennis tables are a good choice because they are usually much cheaper than their branded counter-parts and they are identical! Sponeta is actually the European company that makes the majority of the top brands tables. That means that you can get a Joola or Donic table for a cheaper price just because it says Sponeta on it instead of Joola or Donic.
So if you are a school or club buying Sponeta tables, in bulk, is definitely the way to go. In the UK you can get them from Thornton’s and you’ll be able to find your own dealer in your country by searching online.
Robots for Table Tennis Tables
Finally, going back to a point I made at the start of the post about who to play with, I’m going to quickly talk about table tennis robots. A robot is basically just a ball feeding machine that sits on one end of the table and feeds you balls to hit. They can be an excellent training tool, especially for beginners learning strokes or intermediate players trying to tweak their shots. It’s kind of like multiball practice but using a machine instead of a coach.
I have written a post all about the best table tennis robots where I cover some of the top options in all the price brackets in lots of detail. If you are wanting to buy a table but you don’t think you will have someone always available for you to play against then getting a robot could be a good idea. I would encourage you to look into it and factor it into the price of your table.
Now for my recommendations…
The Best Indoor Table Tennis Tables
If you have enough room inside your house then you’ll want to get an indoor table. Indoor table tennis tables are the best quality and most like those you’ll use at clubs and tournaments. Here are a selection of tables that I think are good value for money at a variety of different price points.
Butterfly Table Tennis Tables
I really like the brand Butterfly. Butterfly are like the Nike of table tennis and you always know that their equipment is going to be great quality, although sometimes that comes at a price. They have quite a few 16mm and 19mm tables for the recreational player to purchase
Butterfly Junior Table Tennis Table (3/4 size)
The Butterfly Junior table is a three quarter size table which is suitable for home and school use. It has a green 12 mm playing surface and strong protective edging trim. Two separate halves with dimensions of 206cm long x 115cm wide x 77cm high, with legs folding in for storage. There are two wheels on each half for easy movement. Ideal for limited playing area and stores away in minimum space.
If you’re struggling for space and still want to get a table then the Butterfly Junior is a good choice. It’s made by Butterfly, so you know it’ll be good quality, and it can be stored away really easily, taking up next to no room when it isn’t up. It also comes with a net, bats and balls. I doubt the bats and balls will be very good but it’s nice not to have to buy a net.
If you want to play serious table tennis that the Butterfly Junior probably isn’t for you. If you’re just looking for a table for fun, and particular for young children, then it’s a great option.
Butterfly Fitness Table Tennis Table
Butterfly’s cheapest full-size indoor table is the Butterfly Fitness. The Butterfly Fitness is a 16mm table, which is the thinnest available, but has a very good rollaway system making it easy to put up and down, and store away.
If you are used to playing club-level table tennis on thicker tables then you may be a little disappointed by the performance of the 16mm table top. If you’re just looking for something cheap to play some ping-pong on it’ll be fine.
Butterfly Easifold Table Tennis Table
The next model up from Butterfly is the Easifold, a 19mm table tennis table that is definitely worth paying an extra £35 for! You will notice the difference between the 16mm and 19mm table surface (the 19mm one with give much better bounce and feel) and also the Easifold has a much more substantial undercarriage that is less likely to break or bend under use.
If you are looking for an inexpensive Butterfly table tennis table then the Easifold 19mm is almost certainly your best option.
The Kettler Spin Series
Kettler have a range of really good value indoor table tennis tables, starting at £219.00 (for the Kettler Spin 1.0) and going all the way up to a still reasonable £509 (for the Kettler Spin 11.0). Use the table below to compare models and work out which one best suits your needs.
Unless you are on a really tight budget I would avoid the Kettler Spin 1.0, simply because it only has a 16mm table top. I’ll talk more about the importance of table thickness later. A 19mm table top is not the best but it is certainly good enough for most players. If you are happy with a 19mm table then I would go for the Kettler Spin 3.0.
Kettler Spin 3.0 Indoor Table Tennis Table
The Kettler Spin 3.0 is £100 cheaper than the 5.0 and they seem pretty similar to me. If you are looking for a table tennis table to have at home, that is easy to put up and down, and will be durable enough for regular use then something like the Spin 3.0 is perfect. You’ll notice the difference between a 19mm and 16mm table top and, in my opinion, it’s definitely worth paying a little bit more for a 19mm one. The Kettler Spin 3.0 is shown below.
If you’re looking for a competition standard table then you’ll want a 22mm or 25mm thick table. Most tournaments will be played on 25mm tables but I don’t think you can really tell the difference between 22mm and 25mm. The Kettler Spin 9.0 and 11.0 are both 22mm tables and are very similar in price (£465 and £509 respectively).
Kettler Spin 9.0 Indoor Table Tennis Table
The Kettler Spin 9.0 is fairly similar to the 3.0 model but as I’ve already mentioned it importantly has a 22mm table top, instead of a 19mm one. You can also see, from the photo below, that it looks slightly sturdier and more durable. The frame and undercarriage is more substantial, the legs are much more solid and even the wheels look to be better quality. Sometimes you get issues with flimsy frames bending and breaking, especially if a table is being put up and down regularly and by lots of different people. You’re much less likely to has issues with the Kettler Spin 9.0 than the 3.0. If you are going to be careful and use the table at home then the 3.0 will be fine. If you are going to have it at a youth club or school and lots of different people will be trying to put the table up and down, then the Kettler Spin 9.0 is probably a better choice.
The Kettler Spin 9.0 comes with a net attached, which is a good thing for some people and a bad thing for others. It certainly makes the table quick to set-up and the net less likely to get damaged. The only problem is when the net eventually does break you’ll need to get a Kettler net and can’t just swap it for any net.
Kettler Spin 11.0 Indoor Table Tennis Table
The Kettler Spin 11.0 table is kind of the same as the 9.0 model except it has a completely different undercarriage. Instead of being one piece that you can put up and wheel around all together the Spin 11.0 table is two halves that can be put up and taken down separately. This can make the table slightly more difficult to setup if you are on your own but it also means there is less to go wrong with the table and it is easier to get the legs at the perfect height so that the table is completely flat. Even though they can be a bit of faff to put up these are always my favourite type of tables.
If you are looking for a really nice competition-standard table, at a very reasonable price, then the Kettler Spin 11.0 is brilliant. These kinds of tables famously last for years and years (as there isn’t really anything to break) and they do have wheels for transportation, they are just tucked away in the centre of the table, the area directly under the net when it is setup.
I’m actually really impressed with this whole range of Kettler tables. The prices are brilliant and they have a model for every situation.
If you are on a really tight budget and just want the cheapest table you can get… go for the Kettler Spin 1.0
If you’re looking for something that is a slightly higher quality, but at the same time doesn’t need to be competition-standard… go for the Kettler Spin 3.0
If you want a 22mm+ table that is easy to setup… go for the Kettler Spin 9.0
If you are looking for the best quality table that will last for years… go for the Kettler Spin 11.0
The best outdoor table tennis tables
If space is tight but you still really want a table tennis table then you’ll need to buy an outdoor table. You’ll also need an outdoor table if you are going to have a table in your garage or shed. Indoor tables can warp, even when kept in a garage. This is important!
Indoor and outdoor tables are very different. Indoor tables are made from chipboard. They give the best bounce and are most similar to competition-standard tables but are not suitable for any outside use or storage. They will suffer if they get wet, damp or even encounter direct sunlight. They are built for indoor use only. Outdoor tables are usually pretty weather-resistant and can even be left outside year-round and not have any problems. They will have a table top made from anti-corrosion materials and can handle rain, snow, sunlight, anything really. The table tops are usually much thinner (4mm – 7mm) but still provide a solid bounce. You’ll notice the difference in play between and indoor and outdoor table though with the indoor table feeling nicer to play on.
So don’t get an outdoor table if the table is going to be 100% used indoors (because indoor tables are much nicer to play on) but also don’t buy an indoor table if you are planning on using or storing the table outside, even only occasionally, as it could damage the table. Here are the outdoor tables I recommend.
The Kettler Smash Series
Kettler also have a range of really good value outdoor table tennis tables, starting at £379.99 (for the Kettler Smash 1.0) and going all the way up to a still reasonable £549 (for the Kettler Smash 11.0). Use the table below to compare models and work out which one best suits your needs.
|Table Top Thickness||22mm||22mm||22mm||22mm||22mm|
The first thing you’ll notice is that they all have the exact same table top, a 22mm weatherproof ALU-TEC composite top. The table top is the most important part of every table. The fact that they all have the same top means that you won’t notice a huge amount of difference between the cheapest table (the 1.0) and the most expensive (the 11.0). So should we all just buy the Kettler Smash 1.0 and save ourselves some money? Not so fast!
Firstly, let’s completely write off the Kettler Smash 3.0 because it is just too expensive. Even if it was a bit cheaper I would probably avoid it, along with the 1.0, just because they look a bit flimsy to me. The cheapest outdoor tables often have very flimsy legs and undercarriage which can end up bending or breaking. If this happens it’ll cost a fortune to get it repaired properly, probably as much as the table is worth, as it’ll require welding. Because of that I’m going to personally recommend the 5.0, 9.0 and 11.0 as your best options. They don’t really vary that much in price as the 11.0 is only £90 more expensive than the 5.0!
Kettler Smash 5.0 Outdoor Table Tennis Table
The Kettler Smash 5.0 is a great outdoor table at a pretty good price. It’s relatively sturdy, with a 35mm profile frame and even comes with a free protective table cover. If you want a table that you can keep outdoors, or in a garage, all year round then this one is great.
It also comes with a five year warranty on the table top and a 12 month warranty on the undercarriage. This means that you can rest assured that it isn’t going to warp or bend. And if it does it’s covered and you can get a new table.
Kettler Smash 9.0 Outdoor Table Tennis Table
For an extra £40 you can upgrade to the Kettler Smash 9.0 outdoor table. You are basically paying £40 for a slightly more substantial undercarriage. It’s probably worth it. If you are paying close to £500 for a decent table you might as well pay £40 extra and get a sturdier undercarriage that you are less likely to have issues with.
It does seem a bit odd that Kettler have so many different models of outdoor table that are almost identical. They could probably have got away with just having two or three different models instead of five!
Kettler Smash 11.0 Outdoor Table Tennis Table
If space is an issue then the Kettler Smash 11.0 is a great option because it is built in two halves and can be stored away taking up very little space. This is the same storage system used for the Kettler Spin 11.0 indoor table and I really like it. It makes it slightly more difficult to put the table up and down but it is usually the best playing experience and easiest to store away.
So there are three great options for outdoor tables. I would probably go for the Kettler Smash 9.0 or 11.0 depending on my situation. Both are about £500 which isn’t too bad for a high quality outdoor table that comes with a five-year warranty.
Remember that if you want to use your table outdoors (or keep it somewhere like a garage) you will need an outdoor table because the indoor ones can warp. If you only want to use your table inside, and store it inside, then an indoor table is best as they offer the best bounce and performance in general.
Table Tennis Table Tops
And that leads me nicely on into table tennis table tops. You don’t have to buy a full table tennis table. You can also just buy the top and put it on another table. This might sound a bit silly but it really isn’t. In fact, the table tennis table we have been using for the Expert in a Year challenge, in Sam’s kitchen, is just a table tennis top placed on top of their dining table!
I guess you would need to make sure that the table you are going to put it on is the correct height. I think most tables are pretty much the same height. Sam’s table, with the table top on, is a few mm lower that a standard table but this doesn’t really make any difference and it hasn’t seemed to effect him in any way.
If you want a full-size table then make sure you go for a 9ft one. Other than that you are looking for the same thing as always, table thickness.
Butterfly Table Tennis Table Top
This is the table top that we have been using in Sam’s kitchen. When I first saw it I have to admit I was skeptical. I’d never played before on just a table top and thought it was going to play horribly. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised and it was fine. We have been playing on it for almost a year now and I don’t have any complaints.
Sam leaves it out all of the time and they all use it as a dining table and desk. It is very easy to pick up and put away though and can be stored up against a wall or in a large cupboard. The fact that is doesn’t have any undercarriage or anything other than the table top means that it takes up hardly any space when stored away.
Before I played on Sam’s I wouldn’t have considered a table top as a genuine option for people but now I think it’s perfectly fine for home use and could even be a better option that buying an actual table!
And that’s it!
I said it was going to be a pretty massive blog post and it certainly was. This must be my longest post to date at almost 5,000 words.
I hope that I have made the process of buying a table tennis table that bit simpler for you. I will keep this post updated regularly so that the tables and prices stay current but the majority of the information here should be relevant for a long time.
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