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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 or Hydrow, there are plenty of affordable rowing machines out there for budget-minded people. In our guide to the best budget rowing machines, we highlight the best inexpensive home rowing machines with different types of resistance. 

More Than 10 Years Of Rowing Experience

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 coaches and personal trainers, have also been using various rowers for years. On top of that, we have more than a dozen rowing machines in our equipment testing facility. 

Best Budget Rowing Machines in 2022 

Best Budget Rowing Machine Overall: PowerBoostConcept Rowing Machine

Good for: People who have Amazon Prime and want something similar to a Concept2 RowErg for about half of the price

Best Budget Rowing Machine
PowerBoostConcept Rowing Machine
PowerBoostConcept Rowing Machine

Have you always wanted a Concept2 RowErg but don’t have $1,000 to fork over? Well, if you have Amazon Prime, you’ll be thrilled to learn about the PowerBoostConcept Rowing Machine that costs less than $400 with Amazon Prime. (Yes, you must be an Amazon Prime member to get this awesome deal.) The PowerBoostConcept rower features a wind-powered flywheel and a small LCD monitor with a few built-in workouts. It has 10 damper settings, a contoured seat, and front casters for easy transport. The LCD monitor tracks meters, calories, watts, time, intervals, and more.

Pros:

  • Costs less than $400 with Amazon Prime
  • Similar design to Concept2 RowErg
  • Powerful air flywheel with 10 damper settings
  • Bluetooth-enabled
  • Foldable frame
  • Financing available with Amazon credit card

Cons:

  • Testing of a similar model revealed signs of lack of durability 
  • Customer reviews report poor packaging
  • Customer reports of inaccurate monitor tracking

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 PowerBoostConcept Rowing Machine. With an Amazon Prime account, this rower only costs $370—a steal. 

Coop tested a super similar rower, the Murtisol Air Resistance Rowing Machine, and found, overall, that it didn’t seem as durable but performed well during various types of rowing workouts and felt a lot like the Concept2 rower. He expects, however, that buyers would spend more on maintenance or even have to get a whole new rower after a few years. The Murtisol rower is unavailable on Amazon as of this writing, so we’re recommending the PowerBoostConcept, which is nearly identical, instead. 

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 $400 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. 

The PowerBoostConcept Rowing Machine and Concept2 RowErg have an extremely similar build and share many of the same specs. Like the Concept2, the Strongkick features a powerful air flywheel with 10 damper settings and a small LCD monitor that tracks various stats, including calories, meters, time, and strokes per minute. 

The PowerBoostConcept also has a few built-in workouts, although I couldn’t gather from the product listing or other reviews of this machine what exactly those rowing sessions entail. If it’s like the Concept2 RowErg, I imagine they include basic interval training and distance-for-time workouts.   

PriceAbout $370 (with Amazon Prime)
Product WeightAbout 70 lbs (in box)
Dimensions‎56” L x 22” H x 16.5” W
Weight Capacity500 lbs
Resistance TypeAir
ProgrammingSome preset workouts
MonitorLCD screen

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
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rower
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rower

Looking for a small-space-friendly and budget-friendly rowing machine? Check out the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Magnetic Rower, which features 16 levels of magnetic resistance and a comfortable seat for less than $300. In addition to its palatable price tag, this rower has a space-saving design with a slide rail length of just 43 inches and a total length of 77 inches (most rowers have a total length between 86 and 90 inches). This rower also folds up when not in use so you can store it out of the way.Keep in mind that a shorter seat rail means this rower might not be a good fit for taller people, as they may not achieve full extension of the legs. Still, for the average person, this rower will get the job done.The RW-5801 has a basic LCD display that tracks time, calories, and distance. It also has a device holder so you can stream your favorite rowing workouts on different apps or YouTube.

Pros:

  • Lightweight: only 50 lbs
  • Costs less than $300
  • Folds up for easy storage in small spaces
  • Easy to move around on the front-mounted casters
  • Financing available with Amazon credit card

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have any preset workouts
  • Basic LCD screen
  • Monitor tracking isn’t as accurate as more expensive rowers

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 tested 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. 

using sunny rower

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 loves many of their treadmills and elliptical machines.) 

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. 

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. 

moving sunny rower

For the size and price of this rowing machine, I’m impressed with the 285-pound weight capacity. And although it doesn’t have pre-programmed workouts, it sports a handy device holder so you can stream your favorite fitness apps or YouTube workouts. 

PriceAbout $250
Product Weight50 lbs
Dimensions77” L x 23” W x 22.5” H
Weight Capacity285 lbs
Resistance TypeMagnetic
ProgrammingNone built-in
MonitorLCD screen + device holder

Check out my full Sunny Health And Fitness SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine review.

Best Smart Budget Rowing Machine: Echelon Row Connected Rower

Good for: Trainees who want a smart rowing machine with more tech capabilities, but don’t have $1,500 or more to invest 

Best Smart Budget Rowing Machine
Echelon Row Connected Rower
Echelon Row Connected Rower

Smart rowing machines typically come with a high price tag. The Echelon Row Connected Rower costs much less than most high-tech rowing machines available at just under $1,000. But, you still get all of the features you’d expect in a smart rowing machine, including Bluetooth connectivity, digital resistance, on-location virtual rowing workouts, instructor-led classes, and app compatibility. The reason for the Echelon Row’s low price is that you’ll need your own device to stream workouts. This rower lacks the big HD touchscreen found on other smart rowers, but it has a sturdy device holder to support tablets of many sizes. 

Pros:

  • One of the least expensive smart rowers available (about $1,000)
  • Device holder can support large tablets
  • Folds to save space when not in use
  • Device holder swivels 90 degrees
  • Bluetooth-enabled and works with Echelon Fit app
  • Financing available

Cons:

  • No integrated display
  • Heavy, weighing more than 100 lbs
  • Echelon Fit app needs some fine-tuning

Most smart rowing machines cost upward of $2,000 (see Hydrow, Ergatta, and Aviron). But the Echelon Row Connected 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. 

side view coop using echelon rower

Those features are: Bluetooth connectivity, digital resistance, scenic waterway rowing workouts, live classes and on-demand workouts, and a companion app with cross-training workout options. 

The reason this rower costs less than its more expensive competitors is the lack of an integrated display. Other smart rowing machines boast beautiful, big, HD touchscreen displays for streaming workouts. But here’s a pro tip: You don’t need one of those if you already have a tablet of any sort. Thanks to Bluetooth connectivity and a handy device holder, you can create your own fancy display just by mounting a device you already own. 

monitor echelon rower

Smart features aside, the Echelon Row Connected Rower has a solid build—the hardware is good. It has the same frame as the Echelon Row-S, which our product testers completed many workouts on. The slide rail features a 1.7-degree angle to support good rowing technique, and it’s constructed primarily of aluminum and steel with some plastic parts.  

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.

PriceAbout $1,000
Product Weight106.5 lbs
Dimensions84” L x 21” W X 45” H
Weight Capacity300 lbs
Resistance TypeMagnetic
ProgrammingEchelon Fit app
MonitorNone – tablet needed 

Best Smart Rowing Machine Under $1,000: ProForm 750R Rower

Good for: People who want a smart rowing machine for under $1,000

Best Smart Rowing Machine Under $1,000
ProForm 750R Rowing Machine
ProForm 750R Rowing Machine

The ProForm 750R Rowing Machine is a magnetic rower that works with an iFIT subscription. It's certifiably mid-tier as far as rowers go, clocking in at around $800 but still packing plenty of features. It has a full-length slide rail that folds when not in use, plus a console that adjusts vertically to accommodate different heights and preferences.This rower doesn't have a large display like some other fancy smart rowing machines, but it does have a sturdy device holder that can support a full-sized tablet. So, to stream workouts, you'll need your own device, but that makes the 750R a great option for people who already have a tablet. Because there's no big touchscreen, you can store this rower vertically if you need to.The 5-inch high-contrast display shows basic rowing metrics, including time elapsed, estimated calories burned, distance rowed, and pace.

Pros:

  • Smart rower that costs just $800
  • Folds to save space when stored
  • Works with iFIT programming
  • Financing available
  • Adjustable resistance 
  • Small digital monitor and large device holder

Cons:

  • Must use your own tablet to stream workouts
  • Low weight capacity (250 lbs)
  • Weighs more than 100 lbs
man using proform 750r rower

For a mid-tier smart rowing option, take a look at the ProForm 750R Rower, which packs a ton of tech features into an under-$1,000 price tag. 

The 750R doesn’t have a touchscreen display, but 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. 

proform 750r row monitor

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. 

PriceAbout $800
Product Weight116 lbs
Dimensions86.5” L x 22” W x 45.5” H
Weight Capacity250 lbs
Resistance TypeMagnetic
ProgrammingiFIT
Monitor5” LCD screen + device holder

Most Versatile Budget Rowing Machine: Whipr Rower

Good for: People who want an all-in-one solution to train for many different sports

Most Versatile Budget Rower
Whipr Rower
Whipr Rower

The Whipr Rower is a portable row machine which allows users to bring their workout anywhere they go. It is one of the few, if only, rowers that can be transported in something as small as a backpack. While the Whipr Rower, it is not intended for high-intensity workouts, it is a solid option for the casual rower short on space. The maximum resistance is just 850 knots with a split time of 1:35 for every 500 meters which will likely be insufficient for more experienced rowers. 10 levels of resistance for this cardio machine stem from a planetary gearbox and flywheel. However, users report that the resistance is weaker than you would find on a traditional rower. The Whipr Rower features a handle for portability, an anchor, and onboard ERG system which provides real-time fitness metrics including strokes per minute, split time, time to complete, average watts, and calories burned. The Whipr Rower comes with a base unit and one row accessory but is compatible with any handle that uses a carabiner. Unique to the Whipr design is its ability to function as a rower, ski erg, stand up paddle and mimics swimming thanks to the simple carabiner attachment. 

Pros:

  • Supports rowing, skiing, paddle boarding, swimming, and kayaking
  • Works with Holofit (virtual reality workouts)
  • Very portable and lightweight

Cons:

  • Doesn’t provide a smooth rowing experience
  • Does not have any wheels for transportation
  • Not intended for sprints or professional rowing

The Whipr is an interesting product and, truthfully, not one I’d recommend to everyone. This is a very unique product serving a distinct type of customer who it’s well worth the price for. If you’re someone looking for a multi-functional erg that supports training for rowing, skiing, swimming, paddling, and more: keep reading. If you only want a rowing erg, keep scrolling. 

amanda using whipr rower

Whipr is a modular piece of equipment. It all starts with the base unit, which is a teensy 6-inch-by-6-inch-by-6-inch cube with a pull cord system inside of it and a damper and basic LCD monitor on the outside. 

To the base unit, you can attach a number of accessories to turn the cube into a rower, ski erg, paddle erg, and more. The base unit costs $420 at the time of writing, and there are various packages available ranging from about $650 to about $1,300. For the aforementioned target customer, this price range is a steal, considering that buying individual ergs for all of these sports would cost several thousand dollars. 

Frankly, the Whipr is not the best rowing machine out there. It feels rather shaky during use, and there’s a bolt in the slide rail that interferes with the smoothness of the ride. Whipr even says on the website that this erg is not intended for sprints or professional rowing. It’s just not built for much more than moderately paced endurance rowing.

However, versatility is what sells this product, plus the tech capabilities. The erg itself doesn’t have built-in workouts, but it’s Bluetooth-enabled and compatible with a number of fitness apps, including Holofit, which is a virtual reality workout platform. (You’d need an Oculus or other VR headset for this, though.)

whipr rower foot strap
PriceStarts at $420
Product Weight6.6 lbs (base unit only)
Dimensions79” L x 6.6” W x 20” H
Weight Capacity350 lbs
Resistance TypePull cord
ProgrammingCompatible with many apps
MonitorLCD

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
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine

Water based resistance rowers are a good, low impact cardio option but often come with a high price tag. But, the Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine, makes it possible to buy a quality water water rower at an affordable price. Resistance is dynamic and linked to the amount of water used. The more water in the machine, the greater the resistance. The water-based flywheel features 16 hydro blades designed to mimic competitive swimming. It may be a good choice for those who love the feel of rowing on open water. The sturdy frame, constructed from alloy steel, feels durable and supports weights up to 300 pounds. The molded padded seat and sweat resistant handlebar are both ergonomic and efficient. While the fitness meter display is minimal, it provides the basic fitness metrics you would want to monitor while working out. The Surge 500 boasts a 42 inch slide rail making it a solid option for taller individuals which is not typically seen at this price point. Users appreciate the smooth slide and quiet flywheel.Where this machine falls short is in its footplate design. These footplates swivel which can interfere not only with the feeling of being stable or secure but also with overall form. Several reviewers felt it encouraged poor mechanics so created their own fix by bolting the plates to prevent movement. The Surge 500 can easily be stored upright when not in use.

Pros:

  • A fraction of the price of other water rowing machines
  • Stores upright to save space
  • 16 hydro-blades for resistance
  • Can change resistance by adding or removing water, or changing your pace
  • Financing available with Amazon credit card

Cons:

  • Monitor does not accurately track meters
  • Short slide rail (42 inches)
  • Small performance monitor

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-RW5713SMART) 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. 

Price$500
Product Weight92 lbs
Dimensions80” L x 22” W x 34” H
Weight Capacity300 lbs
Resistance TypeWater
Programming15 preset workouts
MonitorLCD

Best Value For The Money: 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)

4.36
”Best
Concept 2 Model D Rower
Concept 2 Model D Rower

The Concept 2 Model D Rower is perhaps the most popular rowing machine on the market, found in commercial gyms and home gyms around the world.  It  provides a low-impact, full-body workout and uses air resistance generated by a fanned flywheel.  The Model D has an adjustable damper setting from 1 to 10 allowing you to move with ease or with more resistance and intensity.The Model D comes with adjustable foot-rests, a 14-inch seat height with an aluminum l-beam monorail and stainless steel track for a smooth back-and-forth slide.  This is a light cardio machine with wheels, which means you can move it with ease around your space. Also, for storage, the rower can be easily broken down into two segments, hung on a wall with a Rogue wall hanger, or simply tilted upright and stored vertically.  The PM5 Performance Monitor gives instant feedback on pace, watts, calories, distance, and rpms.  The monitor is easily adjustable, Bluetooth-compatible, and can easily connect to a heart rate monitor or the ErgData app.  

Pros:

  • Gold standard in air rowing machines
  • High-performance monitor 
  • Some built-in workouts
  • Financing available with an Amazon credit card
  • Expert assembly available for an extra cost
  • Durable: some people are still using Concept2 rowers from the 1990s

Cons:

  • Costs more than $1,000 (on Amazon)
  • Air flywheel might be too noisy for some people
  • Doesn’t fold, but it stores vertically or separates into two pieces 

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. 

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. 

Woman using the Model D Concept 2 Rower in her living room

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. 

Price$1,100
Product WeightAbout 57 lbs
Dimensions96” L x 24” H x 14” W
Weight Capacity500 lbs
Resistance TypeAir
Programming5 preset programs
MonitorLCD display

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 that cost less than $1,000 and judged them against a set of criteria, including: 

  • Price (obviously) 
  • Construction
  • Durability
  • Footprint 
  • Portability 
  • Comfort
  • Ergonomics 
  • Workout programming 
  • Tech capabilities 
  • Delivery and setup 
  • Value 
  • Customer reviews 
  • Warranty and returns 

We took detailed notes as we tested the products you see on this list and tested many of them in direct succession for head-to-head comparison.

Benefits Of 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, endurance, and musculoskeletal health. They work 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.

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 Rowing Machine

Consider these factors before hitting “add to cart.”

Price 

I think I can safely assume that 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 for your hard-earned dollars. 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, which affects the weight capacity greatly. 

Resistance Type 

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.

Further reading

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Jocko Willink is someone who has really inspired me and continues to inspire through his podcast and content. One thing I've always wanted to see more of was his garage gym. Through following him on social media, I've tried to piece together what equipment he uses as well as his training style. Read more

Roll Recovery R8 Review 2022: Digs Deeper Than You Probably Want It To Cover Image
Roll Recovery R8 Review 2022: Digs Deeper Than You Probably Want It To

Does this strange-looking muscle roller really work or is it a gimmick? Find out in our Roll Recovery R8 review. Read more