The Best Budget Rowing Machines on the Market

woman using a rowing machine


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A full-body workout, a quality cardio machine and a price tag at or under $1,000? Yes, please! Gone are the days when you had to dip into your savings account to secure quality home workout equipment. Thanks to advances in technology and manufacturing, you can house one of the best budget rowing machines in your living room without sweating over the cost.

Our ACTIVE Reviews Team tested more than a dozen indoor rowing machines to find the best for your buck. We assessed the overall rowing experience and looked for high-quality features to determine our top picks for budget-friendly equipment.

Our Top Budget-Friendly Rowing Machines:

Editor’s Pick - Concept2 Model D Rower

Concept2 Model D Rower

There is a reason you’ll find the affordable Concept2 rower at the top of the best rowing machines list time and again. It’s indisputably the most popular and top-selling machine because it's the near-universal standard for athletes when it comes to crew training. And if you step into a CrossFit gym anywhere in the world, this is the rower you’ll find.

And the great news is it costs right around $1,000. Typically, the most respected machines will run you quite a bit more. But Concept2 has produced commercial-grade reliability, durability and stability at a price that isn’t hard to swallow. The Model D’s air resistance does the sport justice in terms of replacing the feeling of rowing a boat. Resistance will ebb depending on how fast you row, and despite Model D’s light weight and small footprint, it’s a sturdy machine that won’t quit on you. This rower also features a performance monitor to help you find your flow while sliding back and forth, with games and workouts released daily on the manufacturer website—all while tracking your performance.

What We Love:

  • Portable and stores vertically
  • Simple enough for beginners
  • Great value for the price

BUY: Concept2 Model D Rower, $1,022.20

Best Budget Water Rowing Machine - Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500

If a water rower is appealing to you but the typical four-figure price tag of one isn’t, we like the Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500. It's budget-friendly, coming in under $500 on Amazon when most water rowers will cost you two to three times as much. And like all water rowers, Obsidian’s resistance will adjust based on how hard you’re pulling. However, you can also manually change resistance by adding or removing water from the tank.

This machine features a light but sturdy steel construction that boasts a weight capacity of up to 300 pounds. On the LCD monitor, you get fitness tracking that covers the most clutch metrics, like time and strokes, and wheels make transport easy for upright storage. Keep in mind, though, that water rowers might require more maintenance than a magnetic rowing machine.

What We Love:

  • Water rowing simulates real-word experience
  • Priced under $500
  • Can be stored vertically

BUY: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine, $479.15

Best Foldable Rowing Machine - Xebex Air Rower 2.0

Xebex Air Rower 2.0

It folds, it’s lightweight and it’s on wheels—the Xebex Air Rower is ideal if you have to do your cardio workout in a small space. The unique fold-up design means you can tuck it away when not in use to save room in your home gym, which is made especially easy thanks to the machine weighing less than 100 pounds and includes wheels.

Beyond that you get a lot out of this space-saving home rowing machine: a wide range of built-in high-intensity workouts, a 500-pound weight capacity, a five-year warranty on the frame and air resistance to mimic the drag on the water. Also, the seat on the Xebex is extra padded for extra comfort during longer rows.

What We Love:

  • Unique folding design
  • Lightweight at 93 pounds
  • Wide range of built-in workouts

BUY: Xebex Air Rower 2.0, $749

Best Budget Magnetic Rowing Machine - Schwinn Crewmaster Rower

Schwinn Crewmaster Rower

Schwinn might be best known for exercise bikes, but the brand’s foldable Crewmaster Rower is proof you shouldn’t pigeonhole the cardio machine giant. The Crewmaster Rower uses 10 levels of dial-controlled magnetic resistance, which means it’s a quieter workout than air-resistance rowers. Also, magnetic resistance tends to need less maintenance than a water resistant or air resistant machine.

We also love that it folds in half and rolls away if your home gym requires compact cardio solutions. At the same time, it can hold up to 300 pounds. The LCD display screen is large and user-friendly enough for tracking your rowing workout stats. The Crewmaster has a large, contoured seat with plenty of padding and oversized, adjustable foot pedals.

What We Love:

  • Silent magnetic resistance
  • Low maintenance
  • Foldable design

BUY: Schwinn Crewmaster Rower, $499

Best Budget Rowing Machine With iFit - ProForm 750R Rower

ProForm 750R Rower

We love interactive programming, but we know the price tag isn’t always budget friendly. That's not the case with the ProForm 750R Rower, which is iFIT-compatible and priced under $1,000. You still get all the perks of interactive programming but at a more affordable price. How? The 750R doesn’t have the large display other high-end rowers have. Instead, you need to supply your own tablet or smart device with Bluetooth connectivity to stream iFIT.

The foldable rower features 24 levels of digitally adjustable magnetic resistance. And if you’re unsure how to tinker with the intensity levels, don’t sweat it. With iFIT, a coach can take the wheel and adjust the machine’s resistance for you. Just note that without a continued iFIT subscription, you won’t even have simple pre-programmed workouts to follow on the 5-inch display screen. However, the display will still track stats like time, distance and estimated calories burned.

What We Love:

  • Compatibility with iFIT
  • 30-day free trial of iFIT
  • Foldable design

BUY: ProForm 750R Rower, $999

Best Rowing Machine Under $500 - Stamina ATS Air Rower

Stamina ATS Air Rower

The Stamina ATS Air Rower is an affordable rowing machine ideal for a beginner who aren't quite ready to take the plunge on a high-tech (or high-priced) rower. Yes, it’s light on features, but it has everything you need for a full-body workout: air resistance, a display monitor and a comfortable seat. Plus, when not in use, the Stamina ATS conveniently folds in half for easy storage in the home.

Because this machine is priced at just over $300, we aren’t surprised at the 250-pound weight capacity (machines with higher capacity cost more due to sturdier construction). Still, if you want to dip your toe in the water, this is a great place to start.

What We Love:

  • Very affordable at just over $300
  • Folds in half
  • Full-body workout for people of all fitness levels

BUY: Stamina ATS Air Rower, $339

Budget Rowing Machine Factors to Consider

There are so many distinctions you can make from rower to rower. When it comes to a budget-friendly machine, you want to know that you can still get in a great workout without draining your bank account. Expensive models aren’t the only ones to have features like durable steel frames, interactive programming and adjustable resistance.

But just like affordable treadmills and ellipticals, budget rowers do have to make some sacrifices to keep prices low. So how do you know if you’re buying the right one? Here are some considerations that might help.

Resistance

Air, water, magnetic—nope, these aren’t reinvented Zodiac elements but rather types of resistance for a rower. Here’s what you need to know about each:

  • Air rowers use a flywheel, and your resistance relies on how hard you pull. The faster and quicker your intervals, the more resistance you’ll stimulate. Air rowers do a decent job replicating the "real" rowing action, although they are louder than other resistance types.
  • Magnetic rowers typically use rotating magnets to create resistance, which can be adjusted digitally. The zero-friction system makes rowing smooth and near-silent.
  • Water rowers use paddles that churn through a water tank. Like an air rower, the harder you pull, the greater the resistance.

Also, you might want to consider whether a machine has adjustable levels of magnetic resistance. For some people, magnetic rowers tend to be better because they allow you to pick the resistance, whereas water and air machines rely on how hard you’re working.

Ergonomics

Rowers are fantastic for low-impact exercise that works upper body and lower body muscle groups through full range of motion. However, being in a seated position for a long time could take a toll on you if you pick uncomfortable home gym equipment. That’s why the ergonomics matter.

Check out the seat and handlebar for ergonomic shaping; some people may prefer a padded seat for added comfort. Also, look at the footrests—there should be some comfortable foot straps to keep you in place and provide stability during your workout. Lastly, examine the slide rail. The rail length matters, especially if you are taller. Brands often list on the description what inseam length the rail is best for.

Durability

There are several things to look at when taking into account the durability of fitness equipment. First, you need to make sure the indoor rower can accommodate the user weight of anyone using it by checking the weight capacity. Secondly, what materials are used in the actual construction of the rower? If there is a lot of plastic, it may not hold up as well as machines that use steel.

Lastly, as you should ask with any exercise equipment, what is the warranty? If it’s a year or less, think twice before investing a lot of money into the machine.

Programming

What kind of programming do you need? Some people can just hop on a rower and go for 20-30 minutes, getting everything they need from steady-state cardiovascular exercise. Others like having a program to follow, and others actually want a trainer to push them.

Thanks to technology, you have options. Many rowers today come with built-in workouts to guide you as you exercise. And some of the best rowers have fancy LCD screens and even digital monitors with personal trainer-led programs to help you reach your goals. You can find programming that has live and on-demand classes, HIIT options and more for your home workout.

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