Finding the best rowing machine online these days is not easy, especially with so many rowing machine reviews giving different recommendations.
The last thing you want to do is buy a rowing machine that will sit and collect dust in the corner, especially if you are on a tight budget.
With that in mind, we have assembled a variety of rowers for a wide range of budgets.
Best Rowing Machines 2018 – Top 10 Picks
Arguably the best rowing machine on the market is the Concept 2 model D, however in terms of value for money we believe there are other machines that give it a run for its money.
Here is our list of the best rowing machines:
1. Concept 2 Model D Rowing Machine
For serious rowers, it doesn’t get much better than the Concept 2 Model D.
Designed to give you a complete full-body workout, the Concept 2 is very quiet and exceptionally smooth when in use.
Unlike most other air resistance rowing machines, the model D is surprisingly quiet. This is due to the flywheel design and spiral dampener which is used to adjust airflow.
To alter the resistance, there is a sliding lever on the side on the flywheel which either restricts or allows more air into the fan.
As a result, the resistance is harder when more air is allowed into the flywheel compartment.
Offering plenty of resistance it will have even a seasoned athlete working up a sweat.
Perfomance Monitor 5
The included Performance Monitor 5 sets this rower apart from others due to its unmatched accuracy.
While the PM5 tracks all your basic information such as, calories burned, pulse, speed, distance, pace and watts.
It also comes loaded with the ability to race other rowers and fun games to keep workouts interesting.
The backlit display is easy to read, and the included USB flash drive port allows you to export and store your data.
In addition, you can also connect a heart rate monitor wirelessly to the console for accurate heart rate workouts.
Furthermore, the display is mounted on an adjustable arm which allows you to position the screen where it is easy to view.
The ergonomic handle and 14” seat height make this rower comfortable to use. Also, the adjustable footrests will fit users of all foot sizes and ensure their feet stay secure while working out.
Built for commercial use, the Concept2 Model D can support users up to a maximum weight of 500lbs.
One potential drawback is that the overall length is 96” long.
However, when you’re finished with your workout, the rower separates into two pieces for easy storage. The front caster wheels also make it easy to push the machine into the desired position.
With unmatched monitoring, quiet operation, easy storage and the power to deliver a challenging workout, the Concept 2 Model D is easily the best rowing machine on the market right now.
To find out more, see our full Concept2 Model D Review.
2. WaterRower Rowing Machine
The WaterRower delivers a workout that’s as close to real water rowing as you can get.
As you can probably guess from the name, this rower users water resistance. A water flywheel and water tank mimic the feeling of rowing out on the water.
The water itself provides resistance – the faster and harder you row, the harder your workout will be. Therefore, this rower is great for HIIT training sessions as well as long steady rowing sessions.
Unlike the noise you get from an air rower, the swishing noise from the water resistance is almost serene to listen to as you row.
The Series 4 performance monitor accurately tracks your stroke rate, heart rate, duration, distance, intensity and “zone bar”.
Note: To use the pulse reading you will need to purchase the optional heart rate monitor, but it is well worth getting.
The monitor also comes equipped with a number of workouts programmed into the unit, helping to take your workouts to the next level.
In addition, it is also possible to create your own workouts and save them to the monitor.
With the USB functionality, you can connect to Netathlon, which enables you to row against other people over the internet on a virtual river.
Furthermore, you can also race against an avatar of your best time to try and beat it.
These features add an extra dimension to your workouts with the fun of a live race.
WaterRower has a unique design made of handcrafted ash wood which helps to absorb vibration and sound.
Hence, if you enjoy a smooth, quiet workout then the WaterRower is a good choice for you.
The only noise you will hear is the swooshing of the water tank.
As well as the frame reducing noise, it can also support a massive weight capacity of 1000lbs. This will easily support users of all shapes and sizes.
With the water tank full and a wooded frame this rower is heavy weighing in at 117lbs. However, it is surprisingly easy to move with the transport wheels fastened just in front of the water tank.
Also, the rower can be stored in an upright position which is very stable thanks to the weight of the water tank at the base.
In short, WaterRower have produced arguably the highest quality rowing machine on the market. It provides a comfortable workout without a much noise and mimics the feel of real water rowing.
However, as a result of this high-quality workmanship it does cost more than any other rower in our buyer’s guide. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic rowing machine that will last for years to come.
To find out more see our WaterRower Review.
3. Stamina ATS Air Rower
Our second-best air rowing machine is the Stamina ATS Air Rower. Although it doesn’t have the same level of features compared to the Concept 2. It does come at a much more affordable price while still providing a good cardiovascular workout.
The Stamina ATS is made using strong steel components, oversized steel rail, large footplates and an LCD display which tracks all the important data.
If assembling gym equipment is a daunting task to you, do not worry as this model was quick and easy to put together and took less than 30 minutes.
Although, there is the option to have the equipment professionally assembled for an extra $75.
As is to be expected with an air resistance rower, it does produce quite a bit of noise. However, it isn’t so noticeable that it will hinder your workout.
A minor downside is that the resistance can’t be altered like it could on the concept 2 model D. Nonetheless, as you row harder the resistance increases, which is great for high intensity interval training.
The console is rather basic with a small LCD display, however, it is easy to use and tracks the following functions:
- Calories burned
Although the console doesn’t have the vast array of options like the Concept 2 PM5, it does track the most important metrics and costs just a third of the price.
Unlike most other rowing machines on the market, the Stamina ATS’s seat is finished with vinyl upholstery. In addition, there is lots of padding making it very comfortable and ensures you can row for a prolonged period of time without a sore bum.
This is a nice change from the standard moulded foam you get with most other rowers that are often too firm and uncomfortable.
Further helping with comfort, there are oversized footplates with thick nylon straps to keep your feet firmly in position while rowing.
The steel rail is also oversized so that the rowing machine can accommodate tall users with ease.
Due to the rower’s steel frame, it has a maximum weight capacity of 250lbs.
Once the workout is finished the rail can be folded into an upright position. Which in turn reduces the length of the rower from 77” to 48”.
Furthermore, the Stamina ATS comes equipped with transport wheels which make the task of moving the 54lbs rowing machine much easier.
Stamina provide a 3-year warrant on the frame and 90-days on parts.
It would have been nice to see a warranty that was longer than 90-days for added peace of mind.
In conclusion, the Stamina ATS Air Rower is a very good quality rowing machine that comes at a third of the price of the Concept 2 Model D.
The console may be slightly basic, but it will give you a great workout from the comfort of your own home.
4. Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine
While the Kettler Favorit cannot be compared to the high-end rowers, it has rightfully earned its place in our top 5.
Kettler are quickly becoming one of the leading brands for providing affordable rowers full to the brim with features.
It comes equipped with an LCD display with 6 different functions, twin hydraulic pistons, 50 different levels of resistance, earlobe heart rate sensor and a weight capacity of 285lbs.
There are two hydraulic pistons which generate the resistance, one on each rowing arm.
Consequently, the rowing action feels very realistic as each arm can be moved independently of the other.
To alter the resistance, the clamps which attach the piston to the rowing arm must be loosened and moved either up or down the rowing arms and retightened.
Bear in mind, that the pistons can get hot during a workout, so do be careful when touching them.
The performance monitor tracks the following metrics:
- Total strokes
All the information is displayed on a clear LCD display which is easy to read.
In addition, the Kettler Favorit also comes with a pulse sensor which attaches to your earlobe. But, make sure that you rub your earlobe before using it and keep it out of direct sunlight to ensure accurate readings.
The ergonomically-designed seat is comfortable to sit on even during long workouts and the mounted running rollers allow for a smooth movement with each stroke.
Furthermore, the frame is strong and stable, able to hold a weight capacity of 285lbs which is above average for a rower in this price range.
Kettler have produced a very good quality hydraulic rowing machine that is ideal for beginners to intermediate users.
Above all, the Kettler Favorit has one of the most realistic feeling rowing actions out of the models featured in our buyer’s guide.
If you have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment below or see our full Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine Review.
5. Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower – Best Magnetic Rowing Machine
The Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower is our choice for Best magnetic rowing machine in our buyer’s guide.
Built with a high quality-finish the rower comes with 8 levels of electronically controlled resistance, 12 built-in workout programs, is foldable and a 275lbs weight capacity.
As you probably guessed from the name, this is a magnetic rowing machine. There are 8 different levels of resistance to choose from which are controlled electronically via the console.
In addition, there are 12 pre-set workouts to choose from that automatically adjust the resistance to keep workouts interesting and effective.
The console tracks distance, pulse, time, calories and strokes per minute.
However, for the pulse function to work you will need to purchase the optional chest strap.
This enables the use of the pre-set heart rate workout which automatically adjusts the resistance to maintain your target heart rate.
As a result, you will burn as many calories as you possibly can in your workouts by maintaining a high intensity.
In total, there are 12 options to choose from which are as follows:
- 6 pre-programmed workouts
- 4 customization slots
- 1 heart rate workout
- 1 manual option
All the above information is displayed on the clear larger LCD display which is simple to use.
Built using a high-quality aluminium frame the rower can support users up to a weight of 275lbs.
Despite the aluminium frame the Velocity rower isn’t light, weighing in at 75lbs. However, as a general rule with magnetic rowing machines, the heavier the better.
This is because the heavier the magnet, the more resistance the rower can generate.
Nonetheless, people often make the mistake of assuming that the resistance should be so strong that they will build muscle like a bodybuilder.
This isn’t the case and users who want to build muscle should check out our top rated home gyms page.
In other words, this rowing machine has plenty of resistance to provide a great cardiovascular workout.
Despite, the rower’s weight it is easy to move thanks to the transport wheels located on the front of the rower.
In addition, the rower is also foldable which reduces its length from 80” to 43”.
All in all, the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower is built to replicate a commercial rower but at half the price.
There is only one minor drawback and that is the short 90-day warranty.
However, there is the option for additional protection if buying through amazon. For about $20 you get an additional 3 years of protection which is well worth the extra expense.
If you would like to find out more about this model, then see our full Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower review.
6. Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine – Best Budget Rower
Our most budget friendly option in our buyer’s guide is the Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050.
For a little over $100 you get a hydraulic rower with 12 levels or resistance, long seat rail for tall users, foldable design, performance monitor and a steel frame construction able to withstand a user weight of 250lbs.
As you can probably tell from the images, one of the main advantages of this Body Trac Glider is its compact design.
The rowing arms or “oars” fold in, allowing the rower to be stored in an upright position.
However, one drawback is that it doesn’t have transport wheels which an make the 40lbs rower feel much heavier.
Nonetheless, it is so compact that it could easily fit in a wardrobe.
Despite its compact design the rower can accommodate tall users with users 6 foot 4” and taller having no issues.
The console keeps track of the time, stroke count, total count, calories burned and scan to cycle through all the different metrics.
This is a no-frills console that gives you the basic information you need to help keep you progressing.
As a result, the display is also easy to use with just one button to press which cycles through the different functions.
For the price, it is hard to complain and if you are looking for a more advanced console then you should expect to pay more.
The rower comes with one hydraulic cylinder, which provides 12 different levels of resistance.
Altering the resistance is easy to do with a twist of the dial located on the gas shock underneath the rail.
Bear in mind, that the gas shock does get hot while the rower is being used. So, do be careful when altering the resistance while you are working out.
With free motion rowing arms, the Stamina Body Trac Glider allows you to find a grip that is comfortable for you.
The ergonomic shape of the seat prevents any soreness while rowing, even on long sessions. However, some users complained about their feet slipping out of the footrests while being used.
Nonetheless, this issue seemed to be easily resolved with the use of proper footwear which we would recommend anyway.
This rower comes with a 250lbs weight capacity which shows that despite the low price you still get a good quality rower.
At a very budget friendly price, you get a great rower for beginners that is comfortable to use and tracks the basic information required for a good workout.
You can see our detailed Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 review here.
7. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 – Best Rowing Machine Under $250
Sunny Health & Fitness produce a wide range of popular rowing machines with the SF-RW5515 being our choice for Best Rowing Machine under $250.
The 5515 is a magnetic rowing machine that comes with 8 levels of resistance, LCD display, oversized rail for tall users, large foot pedals and a 250lbs weight capacity.
There are 8 levels of magnetic resistance which can easily be altered by turning the dial knob located beneath the display.
As a result, it is quick and easy to change the resistance even while you locked in rowing.
Due to the magnetic resistance this rower is very quiet when being used with a smooth, fluid motion.
However, the rower doesn’t generate a huge amount of resistance, but it does still provide a great cardiovascular workout.
The LCD display has picked up a few complaints as it is quite small and has no backlight, which can make it harder to see without good lighting.
Nonetheless, it does the job and displays your calories burned, time rowing, stroke count, total count and scan.
It would be nice if the rower tracked your speed, distance and pulse, but for under $250 it would be expecting a bit too much.
Looking on the positive side, the small display does prevent you clock watching, which makes each minute feel like a lifetime.
Sunny Health & Fitness design their equipment so that the assembly process is easy to follow. All components are split up into bags for each phase of the assembly process.
Therefore, even if you dread any DIY task, this should be manageable.
The SF-RW5515 has been designed to accommodate tall users with an oversized rail which can support a maximum user weight of 250lbs.
In addition, the foot pedals are also oversized with an anti-slip finish that helps keep your feet secure while rowing.
Once the workout is over, the rower is easy to move thanks to the transport wheels located on the front main frame.
Furthermore, the oversized rail can be folded into an upright position to save space.
Included is a 90-day warranty which we feel should be longer.
Nonetheless, Sunny Health & Fitness have a good customer servicer reputation.
They have been known to help users fix any issues, free of charge outside of the warranty.
Overall, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is a good all-round rowing machine. It is comfortable to use, quiet and gives you a great workout.
This is why we chose the 5515 as our best rowing machine under $250.
Learn more about this rower in our Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 review.
8. Merax Indoor Magnetic Rowing Machine
A relatively new arrival in the market is the Merax Indoor Magnetic Rowing Machine.
It comes with 8 levels of magnetic resistance, transport wheels, foldable design, 15-degree rail and LCD console.
There are 8 different levels of resistance to choose from which can be selected via the knob located just beneath the display.
The lowest resistance is fairly easy, but the maximum level is adequate to give you a good workout.
As we often see with magnetic rowing machines, it is nice and quiet when in use. Therefore, this will be good for someone that lives with other people and doesn’t want to disturb the neighbours.
While the display is on the basic side, it tracks the following functions:
- Stroke count
- Total strokes
When compared to the Velocity magnetic rower, the biggest drawback for Merax is the console. The display is small and doesn’t have half the features of Velocity.
Nonetheless, it can be bought for just under $250 which is half the price of the Velocity model.
One of the most noticeable features about the Merax indoor rower, is that the rail is set on a 15-degree angle.
As a result, you are forced to engage a little extra leg drive while rowing. Consequently, this will help improve your rowing form and create a fluid rowing action.
The seat is moulded to support your glutes and back as you row and there were no issues with soreness even after 30 minutes of rowing. In addition, the footplates pivot and come with a thick nylon strap for comfort and support.
As this is designed for home use, transport wheels and a foldable seat rail are included. This reduces the length of the rower from 73” down to just 26” when it is folded.
In conclusion, Merax have managed to produce a very good quality magnetic rowing machine at a reasonable price of about $240.
If the console had a few more features it could even be competing with the Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower.
Merax has impressed us in the past, making an appearance in our adjustable dumbbell buyer’s guide and we have not disappointed with their rowing machine.
9. Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Exercise Rower
The Stamina Avari comes packed with a lot of features like we saw with the Velocity rower earlier.
It has 12 workout programs, LCD backlit display, aluminium seat rail, chest strap heart rate monitor and a comfortable ergonomically designed seat.
The Avari uses magnetic resistance which can be altered electronically via the console. There are plenty of resistance levels to choose from, and users of all experience will be able to find a resistance that suits them.
As we have seen before, the magnetic resistance helps to keep the noise level to a minimum and won’t disturb your whole household.
The built-in electronic performance monitor displays and tracks the time, calories, resistance level, strokes per minute and distance. All the information is easily visible on the clear backlit LCD display.
In addition, there are 12 workout profiles to choose from including:
- 6 cardio profiles
- 4 programmable profiles
- 1 manual profile
- 1 heart rate profile
These profiles help to keep your workouts interesting and effective which will ultimately help you reach your fitness goals.
The Stamina Avari comes with a strong and extra long aluminium rail to support tall users. Furthermore, the rail can be folded up to save space while the rower is not being used.
In addition, the rowing machine has a maximum weight capacity of 275lbs.
It also comes fitted with transport wheels to easily pack the rower away in-between sessions.
The ergonomic design of the seat is comfortable and shaped to offer extra support. As a result, there was no problems with a numb bum while rowing.
Although the Stamina Avari is one of the top magnetic rowers on the market today, it does have one major drawback and that is the price.
It is a good rowing machine that is a good option for users that want features such as the chest strap heart rate monitor.
However, in terms of value for money, we feel it comes up short when compared to other rowers in our guide.
Nonetheless, if you are interested in this model and want to find out more, then see our Stamina Avari Review.
10. ProForm 550r Rower
Last but not least, is the ProForm 550r Rower. It comes with ergonomic seat and handle, 5 levels of resistance, large LCD display and a compact design when folded.
The 550r uses air resistance which can be adjusted to 5 different levels. Due to the air resistance, you can expect this rower to be quite noisy.
Similar to the Concept 2, the resistance is altered by a sliding lever on the side of the flywheel. Therefore, it can be awkward to alter the resistance once you have already started rowing.
Nonetheless, the resistance is substantial and provides a great workout especially if performing high intensity interval training.
The console has a large, clear LCD display which tracks the following features:
- Strokes per minute
- Total strokes
While the rower does track the basic information well, for a rowing machine that costs about $350 we were expecting a few more options.
The 550r comes with an oversized seat rail which makes it comfortable for tall users. In addition, the seat has an ergonomic shape for extra comfort while rowing.
Furthermore, the foot pedals can accommodate feet of all sizes and are highly adjustable to make sure your feet feel secure.
Equally important, the foot plates pivot which helps to improve your range of motion while rowing.
Despite its oversized features, the 550r is very compact when folded and has transport wheels making it easy to move around.
The high-quality frame can support users up to a weight of 250lbs and comes with a 5-year warranty. However, there is only a 90-day warranty on parts which seems short for a $300+ rowing machine.
While the ProForm 550r Rower might not quite have the quality and features you get with a Concept 2. It does have its good points such as its compact foldable design.
Nonetheless, when you consider that this rowing machine costs in the region of $350 there are better options available.
For more information, see our in-depth ProForm 550r rower review.
First Time Buyer? : Read This…
Not all models are created using the same technology. In fact, workouts are drastically different depending on what form of resistance the rower uses, whether that is water, hydraulic, air or magnetic.
In addition, the price will also be significantly different. For the typical user, water-resistance flywheels may be too expensive. However, they do provide a great workout and may suit more advanced rowers.
The following resistance types are available.
Quiet and smooth. Magnetic rowing machines are ideal for precise measuring of a workout and provides very accurate resistance.
The downfall of these models is that they are often heavier and larger than other resistance-types.
Furthermore, some of the cheaper magnetic models often don’t have the level of resistance that you may be expecting. Nonetheless, they do still give you a great cardiovascular workout.
Air rowing machines use a flywheel to push air as you are rowing.
Some models may come with a resistance tension option to make a workout more difficult. This is done by altering the amount of air allowed to pass into the flywheel.
The downfall with this resistance type is usually produce quite a lot of noise.
However, even the basic air rowers produce enough resistance for intense workouts like sprint training.
As close to real rowing as an indoor rowing machine can get. Using water as resistance, these models simulate rowing in actual water.
There is a lack of resistance adjustment as you have to alter the water level in order to produce more drag.
However, this is the case with all water-resistance rowers, but rowing faster will produce further resistance.
These models are often heavy due to the water tank and they are often very expensive.
Hydraulic-resistance often includes handlebars that provides a nice rowing movement.
Resistance adjustment is an option with hydraulic-resistance, and these models are often able to be folded for further space-saving benefits.
The downside is that hydraulic-resistance provides less range of motion, however if you are looking for a cheap rowing machine, this is most likely the type of resistance you will want.
As you can see, all of the resistance types have their own benefits and downsides.
Maintenance will allow you to get the most out of your rower and extend its lifespan as a result.
The model that you choose may or may not come with a regular maintenance schedule and outline that needs to be followed.
A general maintenance checklist will be:
- Examining and tightening any loose screws or bolts monthly
- Lubricating the chain (attached to the rowing handle) on some models
- Wiping down your machine
- Tightening the seat to ensure it is secure
- If you own a water resistance rower, changing the water weekly will ensure no algae growth occurs
You will also need to check for any wear and tear of movable parts. Seat cushions can need to be replaced or hydraulic pistons may exhibit signs of wear.
What are the Benefits Compared to Other Exercises?
Rowing has been one of the most popular forms of cardio for decades.
Not only is it great for burning fat, but it’s also easy on your joints and can be done no matter your age or fitness level.
Because you’re seated while you row, there is little chance of you falling or becoming injured.
With immense safety benefits seen over the likes of a treadmill, elliptical or treadclimber, rowing is starting to be the preferred method of cardio and exercise.
The benefits of rowing do not stop there. Let’s take a look at what you can expect when rowing on a regular basis.
It is no coincidence that reviews are full of people stating that they have lost weight after rowing regularly.
Users can expect to burn different amounts of calories based on their weight and the intensity of the workout.
Studies show that, on average, rowing will burn 11 calories per minute.
This equates to 660 calories burned in just 60 minutes or over 300 calories burned in just a half hour.
Compared to other pieces of equipment, rowing is on par or ahead of the competition.
The best part about rowing is that you will be utilizing all your major muscle groups, resulting in a full body workout.
Understanding what muscles are needed to row properly will require you to know the two phases of rowing: The catch and drive.
- Catch: The catch takes place when you are starting a row and your knees are fully bent into an almost-squat position.
- Drive: The drive is the movement needed to go from the catch into a fully extended position where your legs are straight, and your arms have moved the rowing oars.
The catch phase will engage the following muscles:
- Upper and lower back muscles
During the drive phase, the following muscles will also be used:
- Gluteus Maximus
- Forearm extenders
When done correctly, a proper rowing motion will utilize all of these muscles providing a full body workout. Various other smaller muscles will also need to engage during rowing exercises.
Indoor Rowers vs Other Equipment
Compared to other equipment, there are a variety of benefits that indoor rowing will provide. These benefits include:
- Full body workout
- Muscle toning and strengthening
- Cardiovascular workout
- Minimal stress on knees and joints
- Little space required
Many rowers are light enough to be moved from one room to another, and some even fold up for easy storage purposes.
If you live in a small space, this is ideal because you won’t have the space in your living room for large equipment like a power rack.
With no excuse not to workout, you can row and get a full body workout that will keep you in tip-top shape without needing to step foot in the gym.
For the stay-at-home mom that needs to watch her kids all day or the business executive that has little time to spare, rowing is the ideal choice.