Choose the Best Pickleball Machine for You: The only guide you need (Tutor, Simon, Lobster, Spinshot)

I’m sure you’ve seen tennis ball machines before, but you might not have seen a pickleball practice machine yet. My guess is if you haven’t you will see one soon. 

I dove headfirst into researching and comparing all of the available options out there and I think I’ve come up with one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date guides and comparisons available for pickleball machines.

Pickleball machines are great for practice and building muscle memory. with repetition of the same shot you can refine your technique.

They shoot balls towards you to simulate various types of shots: dinks, lobs, slams, volleys — you name it. Depending on the machine you get you can practice on a wide variety of shot options by adjusting the height, oscillation, speed and spin of the ball.

And they have added benefit of not requiring you to find a coach or partner to hit you balls endlessly!

If you’ve done any research at all, you will likely have come across three primary brands of pickleball machines (parent companies of which started out as tennis ball machine companies): 

  1. Tutor
  2. Simon
  3. Lobster

If you dig more you’ll also find: 

  1. Spinshot
  2. Playmate

Unless you are running high volume, serious pickleball training sessions, you likely won’t be interested in the Playmate. While generally superior to Tutor/Simon/Lobster the Playmate Pickleball Ball Machine cost is stratospheric in comparison: $3,500. I don’t have that kind of money!

And it weighs in at a whopping 69 pounds with a battery.  I’ll leave that one to the professionals. (For a quick overview: you do get a ton of control over every aspect of the shots it makes and it boasts 4-6 hour battery life.) If you do fall into that serious/professional need for a pickleball machine, check it out here.

(Some of the below links are affiliate links which means we get paid a bit if you click through and buy something — don’t worry it doesn’t add anything to your cost! Just helps keep the site running.)

How much does a pickleball machine cost?

On the low end machines cost around $900. So no matter what you will be spending a significant amount. The midrange is about $1,500 and the top end get up to $3,500. 

If you’re a coach or own a court or club, you can use the machine as a money maker to pay for itself. Machines can be rented out or used as a part of lessons.

Tutor Pickleball Machines

pickleball tutor spin

pickleball tutor plus

Tutor machines offer a wide range of options which is great because you can get the exact configuration you need but at the same time you have to dig in and make a bunch more decisions up front too. They are generally good, solid machines that have a great core set of capabilities and are some of the best selling machines on the market.

All of that configuration gets a bit confusing, so I’ve broken it all down here better than I think you can find anywhere else. You can price out how much each major feature is worth to you and configure the machine based on that.

pickleball tutor pickleball machine models and options
All of the possible options for Pickleball Tutor machine options

Note that you can use either outdoor or indoor balls, but indoor balls will shoot a bit slower. The manufacturer also notes you should try to use balls that are used as they will work better and brand new balls will leave more plastic film on the throw wheels and cause problems.

The ball hopper only holds 125 for the Spin and 110 for the Plus but that’s plenty in my book.

Another warning: make sure no one accidentally turns the machine on while it’s charging cause that could burn out the battery.


Tutor SpinTutor Plus
Speedup to 60 mphup to 65 mph
OscillationOptionalRandom comes standard. 2-line is optional
Feed Time1-10 seconds1-10 seconds
SpinSidespinTop spin/Back spin
Warranty3 years, 1 year on battery3 years, 1 year on battery
Standard Battery
time
3-4 hours3-4 hours
ElevationManual controlElectronic control
Delay10 seconds10 seconds
Ball capacity125110
Weight22 pounds w/out battery; 29 pounds with27 pounds w/out battery; 34 with
RemoteOptional for oscillation versions Optional
WheelsNo wheels but comes with a wheeled cart Built in small wheels
Cost$$$
BuyCheck price and configure on Oncourt OffcourtCheck price and configure on Oncourt Offcourt

Here is what you need to know about each option:

  • Oscillation: this allows for random oscillation of the ball thrown at the interval you set between your forehand and backhand.
  • Remote control: The remote control allows you to turn the machine on/off and to turn oscillation on and off. You do get a 10 second delay after starting the machine before it starts shooting balls, so you can live with out it. That said: if you want a remote with your Tutor machine you have to buy it when you order your machine. You can’t buy it after the fact.
  • AC Power supply: allows you to plug in and use battery powered versions of the machine.
  • External battery pack: can plug your charge jack into this external battery pack to add an extra 4 to 6 hours of usage.
  • Weatherproof cover: for keeping your machine dry.
  • Elevation: either controlled manually or electronically.

You can go to OnCourt Offcourt to check out the Tutor Plus and the Tutor Spin. They offer free shipping and throw in 25 pickleballs too!

Simon Pickleball Machines

Simon 2 (source)
Simon X (source)

As Simon likes to call out a lot these are sturdy “military grade built machines made of stainless steel and HD aluminum”.

The Simon was originally launched in 2014 but was updated as the Simon 2 in 2019.

The throw wheels are made of hard urethane and they should outlast other machine throw wheels – but even if they don’t you get a lifetime warranty on all throw wheels with Simon.

The Simon X boasts both the slowest and the fastest speeds of any machine soy you get a SUPER wide range of shot speeds with this machine. At 5MPH you can practice the really light short shots, touches and lobs. It also boasts the longest reported battery life of any machine: 10 to 12 hours.

And another great feature: with Simon X they have a “stealth” oscillation which means basically that you can’t see where is going to go. Unlike something like the Lobster with which you can see exactly where the ball is going to go.

Simon X is a great machine for a club or a coach but it might be too much machine for personal use. The weight alone (65 pounds) is a killer if you are using it often and have to transport it in and out of your car.

The company recommends 3 brands of balls: Dura Fast 40, Onix Pure2, Fuse G2 ball, or the Franklin X40.

Simon 2Simon X
Speed10mph to 60mph5mph – 70mph
OscillationOptional oscillation platformStealth oscillation
Feed Time1.5 to 10 seconds1.5 to 10 seconds
SpinNoneTop and Under Spin
Warranty3 year warranty, Lifetime for throwing wheels3 year warranty, Lifetime for
throwing wheels
Standard Battery
time
6 hours10 to 12 hours
ElevationAdjustable rampPatent pending Super
Ramp for instant and “infinite
ball height adjustments”
Delay20 seconds20 seconds
Ball capacity160 balls (extra attachment holds additional 90)120 (extra hopper increases to 180)
Weight32 pounds65 pounds
RemoteIncluded Included
Power optionsBattery onlyBattery and AC standard
Wheels1 set of wheels Set of 3: 3″, 4″, 5″ which are great for transport and for adjusting height
Cost$$$$$
BuyCheck price on Pickleballmachine.comCheck price on Pickleballmachine.com

Pros:

  • Sturdy, solid machines
  • Simon X has the slowest and fastest speeds of any machine
  • Simon X stealth oscillation keeps you guessing in terms of where the ball will be going

Cons:

  • Simon X is very heavy
  • More expensive than Tutor and Lobster machines
Simon X Control Panel (Source)

Lobster Pickleball Machines

Lobster is the newest entrant on the pickleball machine scene, having just started selling in 2018, but they’ve been selling tennis ball machines for decades.

These are truly made for portability with nice big wheels.

One quirk of the machine is that they advertise being able to hold 135 balls in the hopper which is technically true if you don’t turn it on, but as is evidenced nicely by this video, once you turn the machine on, the balls on the top will start to fall out.

The optional remote is 2 function, allowing you to turn the machine on and off and to turn oscillation on and off. The Pickle Two offers multiple power options in addition to just an internal battery. The non-battery version of the machine is also 8 pounds lighter which is a plus.

I don’t see this as a big issue though. 100 shots should be plenty in one go. It’s probably best for you to take a moment, rest your arm and reset after that many shots. I wouldn’t judge the machine negatively due to this limitation.

Remember to fully charge it before you first use it. When you’re ready to use it you can quickly and easily detach, flip over and re-attach the ball hopper.

In terms of which balls to you: you should aim to use all the same brand within the hopper to avoid any inconsistent throws.

If you’re interested in delving into the manuals for these: Lobster Pickle manual, Lobster Pickle 2 manual.

Lobster PickleLobster Pickle 2
Speed10mph – 60 mph10mph – 60 mph
OscillationRandom, Side to sideRandom and 2 Line
Feed Time2 to 12 seconds2 to 12 seconds
SpinTop and Back SpinTop and Back Spin
HeightManual knob to adjust
Warranty2 year warranty but only
6 months for battery
and server wheels
2 year warranty but only
6 months for battery
and server wheels
Standard Battery
time
2-4 hours6-8 hours
Charging time12 to 24 hours (1-3 hours
with premium charger $149)
12 to 24 hours (1-3 hours
with premium charger $149)
Elevation0 to 50 degrees
manual knob
0 to 50 degrees electronic
Delay20 seconds20 seconds
Ball capacity135 (but realistically: 110)135 (but realistically: 110)
Weight35 pounds42 pounds
RemoteOptional ($169)Optional ($169)
Power optionsOnly batteryInternal Battery,
External Battery, AC, AC/DC
Size29″x43″x15.5″
Wheels8 inches 8 inches
Cost$$$
BuyCheck price on AmazonCheck price on
Lobster Sports
The Lobster Pickle Control Panel (Source)

Pros:

  • Large wheels and provided cart make for easy transport

Cons:

  • Random oscillation is not that random since it moves back and forth at the same speed so you can figure out based on feed speed where/when the ball will be coming out
  • Doesn’t really hold the advertised 135 balls – more like less than 110
  • Must not let it go uncharged for more than a month
  • Plastic casing
  • Can’t have an external battery
  • Short battery time

Spinshot Player Pickleball Machine – Basic Info

Now, I am not going to review this machine because I have neither used it myself nor can I find any information or reviews of it aside from what is provided by the manufacturer.

Here are some of the key stats and features:

Pros:

  • Unique feature: comes with a free phone and watch app (iOS and Android) that allows you to program speed, spin, height, angle and feed rate
  • Patented de-jam design (Not sure what this is!)
  • External power modules/batteries
  • Programmable with 6 sequential shots
  • 12 pre-programmed drills come with is and are adjustable
  • Not made of plastic

Cons:

  • It weighs in at a pretty heavy 42 pounds
  • It’s more expensive than any of the other recommended machines.
  • Narrowest range of speeds: 18mph to 56 mph
  • 2-3 hours of play with standard battery

If anyone has any experience with this machine, please drop me a line.

Common Questions about Pickleball Machines

What are the benefits to a pickleball machine? 

  • Practice the same shot over and over as you refine it.
  • Set random settings to keep nimble and practice the surprises you’ll get in a real match. 
  • There’s no need to rely on someone else to stand there endlessly hitting you balls.
  • Practice exactly what you need to work on by narrowing in on the weakest part of your game to improve it and develop muscle memory.
  • Improve your endurance. You can practice hitting against a ball machine for far longer than any single point would be in a real game. 

What to consider when buying a pickleball machine – a complete buyer’s guide

  • Price – as mentioned you’re going to pay minimum of $800 to $900. And if you want extra options or a mid-range machine, you’ll pay over $1,400.
  • Weight and portability – there’s a really wide range of weights for these machines. Ranging from 29 pounds all the way up to 69 pounds. Some of these beasts aren’t meant for lugging around too much while others are really made to be mobile.
  • Battery life, power options and charging time – a key decision is whether you will be using the machine near a power source that you can plug into or if you need a battery powered one. There’s, again, a wide range of battery life options from around 3 hours to 10 hours or more. And each also takes a different amount of time to recharge. If you’re using it for personal use that shouldn’t be much of an issue. But if you need high availability, consider a more expensive version that lasts longer or get an external battery pack.
  • Warranty – since this is a large purchase, take special care about the warranty. Some are limited warranties and some are longer than others.
  • Spin options –
  • Speed of the ball – note these are manufacturer provided speeds so take with a grain of salt. I am not able to confirm or deny these speeds myself. Also: once you get up to 50+ miles an hour that ball is going fast!
  • Oscillation options
  • Height adjustment options
  • Throw wheels
  • Remote control options
  • Ball capacity – but in my opinion it’s less of an issue. even the smallest ball hoppers will give you 100+ hits and that is a lot to do in one go without a break. also, you’ll be swimming in balls all around you at that point. 
  • Intervals between shots

What about all of those balls!? You’ll probably need a ball-picker-upper.

There is one significant drawback to using a pickleball machine with such high volumes of balls: picking them all up after you run through the drill! Unless you are fine with bending over repeatedly to gather up all the balls spread around, I would highly recommend also getting one of the below to speed up the process significantly– and save your back.

MultiTube from Oncourt Offcourt from Oncourt Offcourt

Can you rent a pickleball machine? 

Yes you can rent a pickleball machine. You do need to find one though. Here are some prices to give you an idea: $30 a day: https://cspickleball.com/rent-the-pickle-machine/ This location lets you rent it for 5$ extra during your court rental time period. https://monmouthpickleballclub.com/resources/lobster-ball-machine

Is it possible to make a homemade or diy pickleball machine?

Well, anything’s possible. I personally haven’t done this and I don’t think the cost-benefit is worth it.

One option is that you could fashion something along the lines of a leaf blower powered tubing set using PVC piping, like these guys have:

DIY Pickleball Machine Source

I would guess, though that you would get wildly different results each time it fires. Further, since you’d have to have someone standing there feeding one ball at a time anyway, why not have them just hit you ball after ball? Seems a lot simpler than building a contraption that may or may not do the trick.

Here’s something that’s much easier, cheaper and more likely to yield good results. This guy modified an MLB pitching machine (Amazon link). I’d say great initiative and better than nothing but you get what you pay for. You can see this in action here.  

Where can you find a pickleball machine for sale? 

Amazon, Dick’s, Pickleball Central, OnCourtOffCourt

Our pickleball club can’t afford a machine, what should we do? 

Pickleball tutor has a great set of recommendations you could use to raise funds for and justify buying any pickleball machine for your club or courts. Ideas on fundraising to buy one, how to promote the usage of the machine once you have it and ideas on how best to use it to its full effect. 

How do you clean the throw wheels if they start slipping or getting stuck?

The main issue you’ll run into is that plastic residue from the balls will build up over time.

Simon: grab some duct tape and use it around both wheels to clean off the reside. That said, if it is irreparably broken, simon comes with a lifetime warranty replacement on the throw wheels.

Tutor: to clean the wheels you’ll need 100 grit sandpaper or sponge and lightly run it around the entire throwing wheel 2 or three times.

Last update on 2020-08-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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