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Indoor rowing machines provide everyone from beginners to fitness veterans a fantastic way to get in a full-body workout. While many people are familiar with expensive models like the Ergatta, Aviron, or Hydrow, there are plenty of affordable rowing machines out there for budget-minded people.
I alone have been exercising on indoor rowers since I began doing CrossFit in 2012. Others on our team of product testers, including multiple certified CrossFit L1 coaches and personal trainers, have also been using the best rowing machines for years.
To find the best budget rowing machine, we took into account the dozens of rowers have have used. We whittled down the list and applied our in-depth equipment testing methodology, rating rowers on factors that include:
- Value: We looked at rowers at or under $1,000
- Construction: We chose machines that still offered durability and a quality build
- Ergonomics: We took into consideration the overall comfort and adjustability of the machine
We then settled on this list of the best budget rowing machines, highlighting the best inexpensive home rowing machines with different types of resistance.
Best Budget Rowing Machine Video Review
Best Budget Rowing Machines in 2024
- Best Budget Rowing Overall: NordicTrack RW600 Rower
- Best Budget Rowing Machine for Athletes: Concept2 RowErg
- Best Smart Budget Rowing Machine: ProForm 750R Rower
- Best Magnetic Budget Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Magnetic Rower RW5801
- Best Air Rowing Machine Under $1,000: Fitness Reality Air & Magnetic Rowing Machine
- Best Budget Water Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500
Best Budget Rowing Overall: NordicTrack RW600 Rowing Machine
Good for: Trainees who want a smart rowing machine with more tech capabilities, but don’t have $1,500 or more to invest
- Interactive rowing machine
- 10-inch smart HD monitor
- 26 levels of Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR), dual air resistance
- Two 2-inch digitally amplified speakers
- iFit compatibility with a 30-day free family membership
- Oversized adjustable foot pedals
- Auxiliary audio port, Bluetooth audio connectivity
- 250-pound max weight capacity
- Rower can be folded vertically to save space
- Two front-mounted transport wheels
Pros & Cons
- Hybrid resistance system (air and magnetic)
- Space-saving, folding design
- Interactive programming via iFit
- 30-day free iFit family membership
- Ergonomic feet
- Adjustable pedals
- Requires iFit membership past the 30-day trial
- Only supports up to 250 lbs
- Small touchscreen
Most smart rowing machines cost upward of $2,000 (as evidenced in our Ergatta Rower review). But the NordicTrack RW600 Rower sits at a palatable price point of about $1,000, yet retains most of the features people are looking for in a smart rower. When we put this machine through our rating metric, it received perfect or near-perfect marks in customizations, tech capabilities, dynamic programming, and ergonomics.
Our team has used the (more expensive) NordicTrack RW900 for a number of workouts. I, myself, got to take the RW900 for a spin and feel confident comparing it to the RW600.
The NordicTrack RW600 has a solid build—the hardware is good. It has a similar frame to the RW900. The slide rail features a slight angle to support good rowing technique, and it’s constructed primarily of aluminum and steel with some plastic parts.
The silent magnetic resistance is the same on both rowing machines, though the RW600 also has a flywheel for dual resistance. In testing, I really enjoyed moving along the different levels of resistance. I also used iFIT on the RW900, and the RW600 is also compatible with iFIT, which is one of the best rowing apps. In fact, the RW600 has a large, 10-inch touchscreen that streams live and on-demand workouts from iFIT.
One feature I really love about these NordicTrack rowers is the AutoAdjust feature, which means that during your iFIT workout, the resistance levels will automatically change. That’s a great feature on a machine that requires you to hold a handle during your workouts.
RELATED: The Best NordicTrack Rower
So, while this rowing machine may not fit your traditional idea of budget-friendly, it is certainly affordable compared to other smart rowing machines on the market.
Read our full NordicTrack RW600 rower review.
|87″ L x 22″ W x 47″ H
|Dual air and magnetic
Best Budget Rowing Machine for Athletes: Concept2 RowErg
Good for: Trainees who are serious about rowing and want the best bang for their buck (and a product they know will last a long time)
- Priced around $1,000
- Uses air resistance generated by the fanned flywheel
- Advanced PM5 Performance Monitor
- Low impact full-body workout fitness machine
- Lightweight and easily portable
- Can be broken down into two pieces for storage
- Can also be hung for storage
Pros & Cons
- Best-selling rowing machine in the world
- Easy assembly
- Accommodates users up to 6.6 feet tall and 500-pound weight
- Ergonomic seat and handlebar
- Seat is 14”
- 10-degree angle on handle for natural grip
- Adjustable airflow
- Performance Monitor 5 (PM5) monitor
- Nickel-plated steel chain
- Adjustable footrests
- Easy to store
- Limited 5-year warranty
- Priced around $1,000
- Few built-in workouts
When it comes to rowing machines, it really does not get better than the Concept2 RowErg (also known as the Concept2 Model D Rower). This isn’t just the best rowing machine our product testers have ever tried—it’s one of the best pieces of cardio equipment in general, hands down. The only reason it doesn’t top this list for us is because the price sits right around $1,000, making it the most expensive rower on our list.
Every single one of our product testers has used the Concept2 for years. Kate Meier, GGR’s head of content, has owned hers for about 5 years. “And it still works just as well today as it did on Day One,” she says. “The only thing I’ve ever had to do is change the batteries.”
When you try a Concept2 rowing erg, you’ll quickly realize that Concept2 doesn’t care about flashiness or high-tech specs (although the erg does look good, too). They care about making high-quality hardware with longevity. In truth: Some people in our home gym community are using Concept2 ergs from the 1990s and early 2000s. These things are built to last, which is why it receives a near-perfect 4.75 out of 5 for construction on our rating chart.
The RowErg sports a powerful wind-resistance flywheel with 10 damper settings, so resistance is virtually unlimited. The newer model features the PM5 monitor, which is Bluetooth-enabled and connects to a number of fitness apps. Even without connecting to an app, the PM5 tracks meters rowed, calories, time elapsed, 500-meter split time, intervals, and watts. The PM5 also has five basic built-in workouts you can choose from.
Concept2 RowErgs are known for providing great workouts. I, and many others on our team of product testers, can vouch for this after years of using RowErgs for CrossFit workouts and general conditioning.
I don’t have anything bad to say about this rowing machine, but if I had one callout, it’d be that it has quite a large footprint. With a length of 96 inches, it takes up a good bit of floor space, and it doesn’t fold. However, it has large front-mounted transport wheels that allow you to prop it up vertically. Or, you can disassemble it into two parts.
For more, check out our Concept2 RowErg review.
|About 57 lbs
|96” L x 24” H x 14” W
|5 preset programs
Best Smart Budget Rowing Machine: ProForm 750R Rower
Good for: People who want a smart rowing machine for under $1,000
Best Smart Budget Rowing Machine
- Magnetic rowing machine
- Powerful but quiet flywheel
- Sturdy aluminum and steel construction
- Device holder so you can stream live and on-demand rowing workouts with iFIT
Pros & Cons
- Easily folds to save space when not in use
- Works with iFIT programming
- Easy assembly
- Costs less than $1,000
- No integrated display (must use your own device)
- Only a 250-lb weight capacity
- Relatively heavy (116 lbs)
I personally used the ProForm 750R for several workouts. For a mid-tier smart rowing option, this packs a ton of tech features into an under-$1,000 price tag. I gave this a 4 out of 5 for its tech capabilities, which is one of the highest scores a budget rowing machine can get in this area. For example, this machine is under $800. A rowing machine like the Hydrow Rower scores perfectly for tech capabilities, but its price tag is north of $2K.
The 750R doesn’t have a touchscreen display, which is pretty much unheard of on a budget rowing machine. However, it is Bluetooth-compatible, so you can connect your own tablet to stream workouts. ProForm rowing machines work with iFIT, a leading workout programming app that offers hundreds of rowing workouts alone, not to mention strength training, yoga, and other types of exercise.
To use iFIT, you’ll have to mount your own smart device on the integrated tablet holder. Also, because this is a magnetic rowing machine, it’s pretty quiet, so you can actually hear the instructors.
Not only does this Bluetooth-enabled rowing machine support iFIT programming, but it also features AutoAdjust, which allows your iFIT trainers to automatically and remotely change the resistance on your rowing machine during a workout. This means you don’t have to lean forward during a rowing stroke and can focus on the workout.
The 750R is just over 86 inches in length, but it has a space-saving design that folds up for storage when you’re not using it. The one thing I truly don’t like about this piece of gym equipment is the pivoting foot pedals. I prefer fixed pedals, but people with limited ankle mobility may appreciate this feature. All things considered, this is a solid, budget-friendly smart rower option.
Check out our full and in-depth Proform 750R Rower review.
|86.5” L x 22” W x 45.5” H
|5” LCD screen + device holder
Best Magnetic Budget Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Folding Magnetic Rower RW5801
Good for: Home gym owners who want a basic magnetic rowing machine they can fit in small spaces
Best Magnetic Budget Rower
- Costs less than $300
- Weighs just 50 lbs
- Easy to store
- Good entry-level purchase to find out if you enjoy rowing for exercise
Pros & Cons
- Costs less than $300
- Weighs just 50 lbs
- Easy to store
- Good entry-level purchase
- Folds for storage
- Shorter seat rail
- No preset workouts
- Lots of plastic parts
Looking for an entry-level rowing machine to find out if you enjoy rowing for exercise? I recommend the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801, which I evaluated at our Springfield, Missouri, testing center. I tested several magnetic rowing machines under $500 in comparison to this Sunny Health & Fitness one, and found this to be the best option for the price.
This came as no surprise to me, since Sunny Health & Fitness is known for making good budget-friendly fitness equipment. (Our team of product testers has reviewed several Sunny Health and Fitness treadmills and done an in-depth Sunny Health and Fitness Magnetic Elliptical review.)
This rower, though small, is pretty mighty. It features 16 levels of magnetic resistance, and at the higher end, I felt I could get a decent workout despite having pretty good rowing endurance and stamina. For someone who’s just starting out, the resistance on the RW-5801 rower is more than enough.
I rated this rower highest for its footprint and portability, giving it a 4.25 out of 5 on that metric. Though the wide padded seat and angled handles make this rowing machine comfortable enough for long workouts, I do want to point out that the slide rail is a mere 43 inches. This might be a problem for taller people. For reference, a slide rail between 50 and 56 inches is considered full-sized, and that’s what you’ll find on the Concept2 rower (54 inches to be exact). Some high-end smart rowers have even longer slide rails.
For the size and price of this rowing machine, I’m impressed with the 285-pound weight capacity.
Where this machine scores lowest is in its tech capabilities. I had to give it a 1 out of 5 because it has an extremely basic display. Although it doesn’t have pre-programmed workouts, it sports a handy device holder so you can stream your one of the best online workout programs or YouTube workouts.
Check out our full Sunny Health And Fitness SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine review.
|77” L x 23” W x 22.5” H
|LCD screen + device holder
Best Air Rowing Machine Under $1,000: Fitness Reality Air & Magnetic Rowing Machine
Good for: People who have Amazon Prime and want something similar to a Concept2 RowErg for about half of the price
Best Air Rower Under $1,000
- Featuring both magnetic and air resistance, it provides unique challenge for training
- Compatible with Bluetooth to work with MyCloudFitness app
- Lightweight and foldable for easy moving and storage
- Assembly takes less than 30 minutes with tools included
- Track progress by time, distance, and calories burned
- 14 levels of resistance available by dial
Pros & Cons
- High weight capacity (300 lbs)
- Easy adjustments
- Quiet and smooth machine
- Lightweight and portable
- Low cost for high quality (a good value)
- Soft and comfortable handle
- Can’t personalize tracking info
- App service requires subscription
- May have durability issues
If you’re itching for a Concept2 RowErg (our all-time favorite rower that’s consistently topped our guide to the best rowing machines through several updates) but don’t want to fork out a grand for one, check out the Fitness Reality Air & Magnetic Rowing Machine. With an Amazon Prime account, this rower costs around $250—a steal. However, that price fluctuates (we have seen it go up to $400), so keep an eye out for deals around holidays.
Before diving into the specs of this air rower, I want to come right out and say I’d encourage everyone to save up for a Concept2 RowErg instead of handing over nearly $250 for this one. But if you want an air rowing machine right now and you don’t have $1,000, this is a solid choice.
One of Garage Gym Reviews’ freelancers, Roger Lockridge, owns this rower. “It is a solid machine to train on for beginners as well as those who have been training for a while,” he says.
The Fitness Reality Air & Magnetic Rowing Machine and Concept2 RowErg have an extremely similar build and share many of the same specs. For example, this rower has an impressive 300-pound weight capacity, and its monitor is a basic LCD screen. It’s also light at under 50 pounds and incredibly easy to move, according to Roger.
The Fitness Reality also has a few built-in workouts. “The display is easy to read, but the numbers are based on the ‘average’ user, which isn’t defined in their manuals,” Roger says. “You will need to connect it to My Cloud Fitness for a more personalized experience.”
In terms of footprint and portability, this rower gets a 5 out of 5 from us: it folds in half for easy storage.
Check out our Fitness Reality Rowing Machine reviews.
|About $250 (with Amazon Prime, when on sale)
|About 44.2 lbs (in box)
|23″D x 70″W x 26″H
|Air & magnetic
|Some preset workouts
Best Budget Water Rowing Machine: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500
Good for: Home gym owners who want a good-looking water rower for a low price
Best Budget Water Rower
- Water based resistance with a flywheel and 16 hydro blades intended to mimic true rowing
- Durable frame with a slide rail length of 42 inches and a maximum user weight of 300 pounds
- Features a sweat resistant handlebar and high-profile molded padded seat designed for comfort and functionality
- Rubber transport wheels make it simple to move the rower when not in use and it can be stored upright to save space
Pros & Cons
- Smooth slide
- Budget friendly
- Works well for tall individuals
- Solid frame supports up to 300 pounds
- Compatible with ANT+ heart rate monitors
- Adjustable floor stabilizers
- Swivel designed footplates interfere with form and stability
- Water reportedly leaks for some users
Water rowing machines are typically large, heavy, and expensive—not the Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500!
Although our product testers haven’t been able to work out on this rowing machine just yet, we’ve tested plenty of Sunny Health & Fitness rowers (and other cardio equipment), so we can confidently recommend the Obsidian Surge 500 as the best budget water rower based on our past experiences and research.
The Obsidian Surge features a large water tank with a 16-blade fan for resistance. With water rowers, your pace determines the resistance, much like on a real paddle boat—the faster you paddle, the harder it gets.
For a budget-minded product, this erg tracks many metrics, including: calories, time, distance, strokes per minute, total strokes, and 500-meter split time. However, customer reviews from experienced rowers report that the erg does not accurately track meters.
One review states that the erg only counts meters when the nylon strap is being pulled, and not while the flywheel is still spinning. The real-world equivalent of this would be assuming a canoe comes to a dead stop in between paddle strokes, which obviously isn’t the case. If you’re just looking for low-impact exercise and aren’t worried about stats, this isn’t problematic.
Worth noting: There is a smart version of this rower (model name SF-RW5713) that costs about $100 more. It’s Bluetooth-enabled and connects to the SunnyFit app, which has guided workout programs. You can connect the smart version to a heart rate monitor, too.
|Around $500 ($350 if you have Amazon Prime)
|80” L x 22” W x 34” H
|15 preset workouts
Other Budget Rowing Machines We Researched
Here are some other budget-friendly rowing machines that we’ve tried and/or researched.
Sunny Health & Fitness Rowing Machines
Sunny Health & Fitness produces an absurd number of rowing machine models. Aside from the two we included in this guide—the RW-5801 and Obsidian Surge 500—our product testers have also tried some other magnetic rowing machine models from this brand, including the SF-RW5515 and SF-RW5987.
We also did thorough research on other Sunny Health & Fitness models and ultimately decided that the RW-5801 and Obsidian Surge 500 were the best fits for our guide to the best budget rowing machines.
Sunny Health & Fitness also makes rowers with hydraulic resistance, which are typically even less expensive than rowers with magnetic, air, or water resistance, but in testing, we’ve found they don’t provide as good of a workout.
Stamina Rowing Machines
Stamina Fitness is another brand with a ton of cardio equipment. We tried the Stamina ATS Air Rower and didn’t find it to perform well enough to justify the price point of about $340. Additionally, our testers researched the Stamina Body Trac Glider, Stamina DT Rowing Machine, Stamina Wave Water Rower, and more. But, because we haven’t tested them and didn’t have a great experience with the ATS Air Rower, we don’t recommend them.
Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Magnetic Rowing Machine
The Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is a popular budget rowing machine on Amazon. We haven’t tried it, but based on the product specs and price point, it seems to be a good value.
Merax Water Rowing Machine
The Merax water rower has good reviews on Amazon (4.6 out of 5 stars at the time of writing), but our product testers haven’t tried it and don’t have any experience with other products from this brand, so we’ll refrain from recommending it until we know more about the brand and the product.
XTERRA Fitness ERG220
A magnetic rowing machine, the XTERRA Fitness ERG220 simply doesn’t match up to our pick for the best budget magnetic rowing machine. For instance, the ERG220 has just eight resistance levels, while the Sunny Health & Fitness RW-5801 has 16.
How We Chose The Best Budget Rowing Machines
Our product testing team has spent hundreds of hours on rowing machines, from the fanciest options to the downright most basic ones available. Our experience with rowing machines spans several years—collective decades—and includes many different forms of rowing workouts.
To bring you this guide to the best budget rowing machines, we ordered and tested several rowing machines and rated them on a scale of 1 to 5 on a set of criteria, including:
Price and Value
Our goal was to find rowers that were less than or right around $1,000. We also looked into factors like if financing were available and if shipping is free.
Collectively, we know what to look for on a quality rower in terms of construction. We want a metal slide rail, a well-constructed chain or belt, and a solid resistance system.
To earn at least a 3, the rower must demonstrate little to no uncomfortable shifting or shaking during the workout and a weight capacity of at least 250 pounds.
Footprint and Portability
For a machine to receive at least a 3 in this category, it must be easily stored in smaller spaces, and one person should be able to move the machine around with ease. Bonus points for folding rowers and rowers that can be stored vertically.
Comfort and Ergonomics
Here, we evaluate factors such as the rower’s ability to accommodate users between 5’2” and 6’4” and having adjustability on the feet holders. We rate rowing machines highest when they can accommodate most users.
To get a 3 on our rating system, we look for at least some built-in workouts, like standard 500-meter row or 2,000-meter row. Rowers that offer more dynamic programming, such as interactive workouts displayed on a touchscreen, score higher.
In order to score at least a 3 here, we look for a small console that displays metrics such as time, distance, calories, and splits. We rate machines higher when they have Bluetooth capabilities, large touchscreens, and heart rate monitoring.
Delivery and Setup
For a 3 in this area, we look for curbside delivery and an assembly process of an hour or less.
We pull this number directly from the brand’s website, or if they don’t have ratings there, we check third-party retailers for reviews. We think it’s important to give our opinion of a product but know that other people may have important experiences to call out.
Warranty and Returns
A good warranty on a rower would be about 5 years on the frame and a few years on parts.
Benefits Of Budget Rowing Machines
There is no shortage of benefits to rowing for exercise: They’re a great tool to help you reach your fitness goals. Some of the benefits of rowing include:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Better endurance
- Increased musculoskeletal health
A rowing machine works your lower body and upper body, and can contribute to sustainable weight loss over time if you’re consistent with it. Plus, rowers are versatile, efficient, and relatively accessible to all fitness levels.
The Sport Journal1 conducted a study that shows that rowing actually recruits nearly 85% of all muscles in the body. If we break that down, the quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings push during the first part of the rowing stroke. Then, upper-body muscles in your back, arms, and shoulders pull the cable during the second part of the stroke. Throughout the exercise, the muscles in your core like your abdominal muscles are responsible for stabilization.
Rowing machines typically cost less than a treadmill or a very high-quality exercise bike, and because they target so many muscles you’re getting much more bang for your buck.
RELATED: Rowing for Weight Loss
How To Use A Rowing Machine
If you’re going to start rowing, it’s important to understand the proper technique. A rowing stroke involves four steps: legs, lean, pull, reverse. Some people call these steps the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. To learn more about how to use a rowing machine, check out our in-depth guide to rowing machine technique with a video demonstration and free sample workout.
What To Look For In A Budget Rowing Machine
Consider these factors before hitting “add to cart.”
If you’re reading a guide to the best budget rowing machines, you’re careful with your dough and want to make sure you’re getting a good value. Price is an obvious factor when deciding on a budget-friendly rowing machine: Set your limit first, and then set out on your search.
Construction and Durability
Just because something is comparably inexpensive doesn’t mean it should crumble under pressure. Look for rowing machines with aluminum and steel construction where it matters—the slide rail and main frame—and durable plastic for other parts, like flywheel housing and caster covers. Particularly when looking at low-cost rowing machines, check the maximum user weight capacity. Often, cheaper rowers don’t have a fully steel frame.
There are three main types of rowing machines: air, water, and magnetic. They’re all good and provide similar workouts, but it’s important to choose the best type for you. Magnetic rowers have defined resistance levels and are usually very quiet; air rowers have unlimited resistance but are louder; and water rowers also have unlimited, user-dependent resistance but require more maintenance.
Monitor and Programming
Every rowing machine should at least have a basic LCD monitor that tracks basic metrics, such as time elapsed and meters rowed. In the budget-friendly category, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a perfectly accurate monitor, but I want to stress that it doesn’t matter if you’re just looking for a machine to get some moderate exercise on.
Space and Dimensions
Measure, measure, measure! I can’t stress enough the importance of checking product dimensions and accurately measuring your space before buying something. This is especially pertinent for small home gyms. Check the folded dimensions, too, if you plan on storing your rower differently when not in use.
Adjustability and Ergonomics
The slide rail length, handle angle, seat contour, foot cradle adjustments, and monitor angle all make a difference in your overall rowing workout experience. Most people will want a slide rail of at least 42 inches; taller people will want something around 50 inches or more. Foot cradles should have multiple adjustment options to accommodate different-sized feet and shoes.
Best Budget Rowing Machine FAQs
What is the best rowing machine?
After thoroughly testing more than 20 rowing machines, our product testers think the Concept2 RowErg is the best rowing machine overall. You can find our other top picks in our guide to the best rowing machine.
Which type of rowing machine is best?
Our team is a fan of air rowers, but magnetic rowers and water rowers have their benefits. The key is figuring out which characteristics of each would benefit you. Then, choose the type that best suits your needs.
How do I choose a rowing machine?
When choosing a rowing machine for your home gym, make sure to factor in things like price, construction, warranty, flywheel type, metrics, monitor, programming, space, and adjustability.
What is the best rowing machine for a beginner?
The budget-friendly and versatile Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine is our pick for beginners looking for a rowing machine.
Is a budget rowing machine worth it?
Absolutely! Rowing machines target nearly every muscle in the body and provide excellent cardiovascular workouts. They’re one of the most high-value exercise machines on the market.
- Academy USS. Relationships among muscle characteristics and rowing performance in collegiate crew members. The Sport Journal. 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 10].
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