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Home rowing machines provide a compact way to achieve a whole body, cardiovascular, and resistance workout. For people with limited space, a rowing machine may be a good option for a home gym.

A quick look at 8 of the best cheap rowing machines

An indoor rowing machine, which people often call a rower, simulates the action required when rowing a small boat or dinghy. Competitive rowers may use these machines to help them train when they are unable to practice on water.

Rowers also provide a full-body cardio workout for other athletes and people who exercise. These machines are low impact and work muscles in the arms, legs, and back.

A rower’s type of resistance determines their classification. The four categories include:

These resistance types offer the same basic movement and provide similar rowing workouts for users. However, they may have subtle differences. For example, air, hydraulic, and fluid rowers can replicate the feeling of water when rowing, while magnetic rowers do not offer this sensation.

These machines may also vary in noise level: air resistance models are often louder than other types.

When selecting a rower, a person may wish to consider their:

  • resistance
  • size
  • their fitness goals
  • price

The size and storage ability of the machine can also play an important role. People with smaller living spaces may consider more compact models that take up less room or fold to store in tighter areas when not in use.

A person’s fitness goals can also factor in their decision. Competitive rowers who want a machine that simulates water should look for water-based resistance models. Others may prefer rowers with built-in programs and displays to help keep them motivated in achieving their fitness goals.

Lastly, rowing machines can range in price based on the company, size, resistance method, and the rower’s additional features. Less expensive models will typically offer fewer functions.

Medical News Today chooses fitness equipment that meets the following criteria:

  • Price: MNT chooses products available for a range of budgets.
  • Size and capacity: MNT selects products to suit people of different heights, weights, and strengths.
  • Connectivity: Where fitness equipment has fitness memberships or subscriptions, MNT ensures variation in classes and services that benefit a person’s health.
  • Materials: MNT chooses products that have safe and durable materials that are easy to clean and maintain.
  • Ease of use: MNT selects simple-to-use products that have clear instructions. If setup is complicated, MNT chooses brands that offer a setup or installation service.
  • Quality: MNT chooses companies that adhere to high quality manufacturing processes that ensure its products are safe for personal use.
  • Reputation: MNT chooses products from businesses that adhere to industry best practices and offer reliable customer service and support.

Rowing machines can range in price based on their features and manufacturer. People on a budget may want to consider some of the following models.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Best for hydraulic resistance: Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1060

  • Price: around $300
  • Advantage: foldable and easy to store
  • Disadvantage: some reviewers state the seat is uncomfortable

This product may suit those looking for a simple rower with hydraulic resistance that is easy to set up and is more affordable than some other options.

The Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1060 is an affordable option for many budgets. The rower features hydraulic resistance and a small, foldable frame. Some other functions include:

  • free access to müüv, a smart audio coaching app
  • electronic device holder
  • steel construction
  • padded hand grips
  • a molded seat

The company also offers a 1-year frame warranty and a 90-day parts warranty.

Standard shipping is free, but for an additional fee, a person can choose expedited shipping that takes 1–4 days. Individuals can return the machine within 30 days of delivery.

The rower has the following specifications:

  • Maximum user weight: 250 pounds (lb)
  • Machine weight: 35 lb
  • Size when assembled:
    • Length: 49.25 inches (in)
    • Width: 36 in
    • Height: 20 in

Best for air resistance: Concept2 RowErg

  • Price: around $990
  • Advantage: available in standard or tall leg options for different heights
  • Disadvantage: people must pay for shipping

The Concept2 RowErg is easy to assemble and has ergonomic handles and adjustable footrests. It uses air resistance and comes in either standard or tall leg options. Both models separate into two pieces for easy storage.

It has several technological functions, including connectivity to virtual team training and tracking performance apps. There is also an option to purchase a water simulator.

The company offers a 5-year limited warranty on frame parts and a 2-year limited warranty on all parts. Concept2 also provides a 30-day return period from the time of shipment, minus the costs of shipping. Delivery costs vary based on a person’s chosen method, but they start at $45 for standard shipping.

  • Maximum user weight: 500 lb
  • Machine weight: 57 lb
  • Shipping weight (standard): 70 lb
  • Shipping weight (tall): 97 lb
  • Length: 96 in
  • Width: 24 in
  • Seat height (standard): 14 in
  • Seat height (tall): 20 in

Best for magnetic resistance: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

  • Price: around $400
  • Advantage: provides a quiet workout
  • Disadvantage: no app connectivity and not compatible with smart devices

The foldable Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine offers eight levels of magnetic resistance, providing a quiet, full-body workout.

This machine has a steel frame, floor stabilizers, padded grips and footrest, and a large, cushioned seat. The machine also features wheels for easier portability.

While this rower cannot connect to related apps or incorporate a smartphone or tablet holder, it has a large LCD console for viewing workout statistics.

This machine has the following specifications:

  • Maximum user weight: 250 lb
  • Machine weight: 60.9 lb
  • Shipping weight: 70.8 lb
  • Size when assembled:
    • Length: 78 in
    • Width: 19.1 in
    • Height: 23.2 in
  • Size when folded:
    • Length: 37.4 in
    • Width: 19.1 in
    • Height: 53.5 in

The company offers free standard shipping and a 30-day return policy. Sunny Health also provides a 3-year warranty on the structural frame and a 180-day warranty on all other parts.

Best for automatic, speed-dependent resistance changes: Stamina ATS Air Rower

  • Price: around $329
  • Advantage: dynamic resistance that automatically changes as people row
  • Disadvantage: some reviewers state the fan is loud

The Stamina ATS Air Rower offers air resistance rowing for a more affordable price. It is foldable, while the company claims it is easy to assemble. The rower has dynamic resistance that automatically changes based on rowing speed.

The machine also features an LCD monitor to track workout statistics, along with a padded seat, footrests, and grips.

  • Maximum user weight: 250 lb
  • Machine weight: 54 lb
  • Size when assembled:
    • Length: 77 in
    • Width: 18.75 in
    • Height: 22 in
  • Size when folded:
    • Length: 48 in
    • Width: 18.75 in
    • Height: 28 in

The rower comes with a 3-year frame warranty and a 1-year part warranty. Shipping costs vary, but Amazon offers free delivery.

Best for a machine with compact storage: Merax Magnetic Rowing Machine

  • Price: around $250
  • Advantage: folds compactly for easy storage
  • Disadvantage: some customers state the batteries fall out of the display easily

The Merax Magnetic Rowing Machine offers 14 levels of magnetic resistance in a foldable frame.

Some features include a padded footrest and seat, wheels for portability, and a display that tracks workout progress. The rower also folds for easy storage.

  • Maximum user weight: 264 lb
  • Size when assembled:
    • Length: 73 in
    • Width: 16 in
    • Height: 21 in
  • Size when folded:
    • Length: 26 in
    • Width: 16 in
    • Height: 49 in

When buying through Amazon, a person can add a 2-year protection plan for $25. The cost of shipping varies.

It also only comes with a 1-year warranty.

Best for a free iFIT trial: ProForm Pro 750R Rower

  • Price: around $700
  • Advantage: comes with a 30-day iFIT trial
  • Disadvantage: people must pay to continue using iFIT after the trial

The Pro 750R is compatible with iFIT, a training and exercise application. iFIT allows people to synchronize their training metrics, access classes, and exercise in virtual locations around the world.

People can access the application via the device’s display. While the company provides a 30-day free trial, a family subscription can cost more than $39 per month.

This machine has 24 resistance levels, an inertia wheel, and transport wheels for easier storage. It also comes with a 5-year frame warranty and a 1-year parts and labor warranty.

  • Maximum user weight: 250 lb
  • Size when assembled:
    • Length: 86.5 in
    • Width: 22 in
    • Height: 45.5 in

Best for more resistance levels: Echelon Smart Rowing Machine

  • Price: around $1,000
  • Advantage: offers 32 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Disadvantage: more expensive than other options on this list

This rower offers 32 levels of magnetic resistance, ergonomic handlebars, and a foldable design. It also has a device holder that people can swivel and flip for additional exercises.

The machine offers access to a 30-day free trial of Echelon Premier Membership. This subscription provides live and on-demand fitness classes for up to five users, including rowing, kickboxing, yoga, and Pilates.

However, people will need to pay to continue to access this feature after the first 30 days.

  • Maximum user weight: 300 lb
  • Size when assembled:
    • Length: 86.45 in
    • Width: 20.47 in
    • Height: 43.7 in
  • Size when folded:
    • Length: 40 in
    • Width: 21 in
    • Height: 60 in

Best for a water rower: Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge 500

  • Price: around $500
  • Advantage: resistance varies depending on how fast a person rows
  • Disadvantage: some customers state that the water tank may break

This machine has a flywheel and 16 fan blades that may provide a more realistic water rowing experience. It also has a fitness tracker, non-slip handlebars, and a wider seat.

The company states that the water tank provides adjustable resistance. The faster a person rows, the more resistance they will feel.

People can store this rowing machine upright when it is not in use.

  • Maximum user weight: 300 lb
  • Size when assembled:
    • Length: 80 in
    • Width: 22 in
    • Height: 34 in

The following table provides a comparison of the rowers in this article.

Maximum user weightProduct size (in)Price
Stamina BodyTrac250 lb49.25 x 36 x 20around $300
Concept2500 lb96 x 24 x 14

96 x 24 x 20 (folded)
around $990
Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic250 lb78 x 19.1 x 23.2

37.4 x 19.1 x 53.5 (folded)
around $400
Stamina ATS250 lb77 x 18.75 x 22

48 x 18.75 x 28 (folded)
around $329
Merax264 lb73 x 16 x 21

26 x 16 x 49 (folded)
around $250
ProForm250 lb86.5 x 22 x 45.5 around $700
Echelon300 lb86.45 x 20.47 x 43.7

40 x 21 x 60 (folded)
around $1,000
Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian300 lb80 x 22 x 34around $500

Rowers are a common feature at many gyms and health clubs, though they are often not as popular as treadmills, stationary bikes, or ellipticals. Unlike some other fitness machines, they offer a full-body, low-impact cardiovascular workout, making them accessible to many people.

According to the American Fitness Professionals Association, indoor rowing machines work 25–35% of the upper body and 65–75% of the legs.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) notes there are three main benefits of a rowing machine workout:

  • they are low-impact and non-weight bearing, which reduces stress on the body and joints
  • they activate multiple muscle groups
  • they provide a combination of strength and cardiovascular work in one activity

In a 2014 study, researchers found that using rowing machines helped improve several areas of measured fitness after 8 weeks. These include flexibility, muscle strength, body composition, endurance, explosive power, agility, and muscle reaction.

A rowing machine can also help a person achieve the recommended amount of weekly exercise. The American Heart Association (AHA) says that individuals should aim for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense cardiovascular exercise each week. They also note that people should incorporate strength training into their exercise routine.

Rowers are also accessible to most individuals. In a 2015 study, researchers showed that people living with visual impairment benefited from using these machines. The scientists also noted improvement in body composition and overall fitness levels.

Fitness professionals and organizations, such as ACE, generally consider rowers safe. This is chiefly due to their low impact design that does not place a lot of pressure on the joints.

However, before purchasing a rowing machine, a person may wish to speak with a doctor, physical therapist, or other healthcare professional. They can help assess their fitness levels and make recommendations based on their goals and current ability.

Here we answer some common questions about these machines.

Is rowing enough exercise?

Rowing uses muscles in the upper and lower body and can increase cardio fitness and physical strength.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults do 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise and two days of muscle strengthening exercises each week. Rowing can form part of these exercises.

What are the different types of rowers?

The most common types of rowers are magnetic, air, hydraulic, or water rowers.

People should consider customer reviews and the space they have to store rowers before purchasing.

How long should you row for?

The AHA recommends exercising at a moderate level for at least 150 minutes per week.

People can row for as little or often as they would like. However, it is important to stop rowing if they experience pain or injuries.

Rowing machines provide a full-body, low impact cardiovascular and strength workout.

Affordable home rowers are available for people interested in rowers with minimal added features.

When purchasing a rower, individuals should keep their goals, space, budget, and resistance type in mind.

Please note: Medical News Today does not imply warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or endorse any of the mentioned applications. These apps have not been evaluated for medical accuracy by Medical News Today. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them unless otherwise indicated.