Rowing Machine Buying Guide – What To Look For When Buying a Rower

Last Update:
GymCrafter is reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn More.
rowing machine buying guide featured image

Are you tired of the same old boring gym routine? Want to switch things up and try a new way to get fit? Look no further than the humble rowing machine!

Not only does rowing provide a full-body workout, but it also simulates the experience of rowing on water without the hassle of pesky waves or wet clothes. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to feel like a badass rowing champion as they glide back and forth on their machine?

But before you dive into the world of rowing, it’s essential to know what to look for when buying a machine. Do you want air resistance, magnetic resistance, or water resistance? Do you have enough space for a larger machine, or do you need something compact? And most importantly, does it have a cup holder for your post-workout beverage?😋

By following our comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to find the perfect rowing machine for your fitness goals and budget. So what are you waiting for? Row your way to a healthier, fitter you, and let everyone know you’re the captain of your fitness journey!

Our Recommended Rowers

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of what to look for when choosing the perfect rower, let’s get one thing out of the way –  we’ve already done the hard work for you!

We’ve scoured the seven seas (okay, maybe just the internet) to bring you our top recommendations for rowing machines that will have you feeling good about yourself and your purchase.

People using rowing machines

But don’t worry; we won’t be leaving you high and dry. We’ll also be giving you the rundown on everything you need to consider when making your final choice.

So buckle up, grab an oar, and let’s get rowing!

My Favorite Rowing Machine – Sole SR500

Retail Price ~ $749.99 | Click Here To See The Current Sale Price

Sole sr500 rowing machine

Looking for a rowing machine that won’t break the bank? Look no further than the Sole Fitness SR500! This machine has been gaining popularity thanks to its affordability and sturdy build. It’s like the Toyota Corolla of rowing machines – reliable, affordable, and gets the job done.

The SR500 combines both air and magnets in its resistance mechanism, providing a realistic rowing experience without the need for manual adjustments. Plus, with 16 resistance levels, it’s perfect for heart rate and interval training. And if you’re a taller user, there is no need to worry – the long beam can accommodate even the lankiest of legs.

But wait, there’s more! The Sole monitor comes with ten pre-set programs, including two heart rate training programs. And with a large color screen and easy-to-use buttons, you won’t have to struggle with complicated tech just to get your sweat on. However, if you’re looking to connect your workouts to your PC, you’re out of luck.

Overall, the Sole Fitness SR500 is a fantastic value for larger, taller users looking to burn fat and get fit. And with a price point that won’t break the bank, you’ll have plenty of money left over to treat yourself to some fancy workout gear. Who said fitness had to be expensive?

Best Budget Rower – Xebex Air Rower 2.0

Retail Price ~ $799.00 | Click Here To See The Current Sale Price

Xebex air rower 2.0

If you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line rowing machine at a great price, the Xebex Air Rower is the real deal. With a frame that could probably support a small elephant, this machine is built to last. And with a 55″ monorail providing a smooth and consistent rowing motion, you can focus on your workout without feeling like you’re riding a bucking bronco.

The Xebex Air Rower isn’t just about brute strength. It’s got brains, too, thanks to its customizable drag feature and comprehensive console. With tracking for time rowed, meters, strokes per minute, calories, and heart rate, you’ll have all the info you need to crush your fitness goals. And with pre-built programs for quick start, competition racing, interval/Tabata, and more, you can switch things up whenever you need to.

And let’s talk comfort. Because what good is a rowing machine if your butt falls asleep halfway through your workout? Luckily, the Xebex Air Rower has got you covered there too. The seat is extra-padded and ergonomically shaped, so you can row your heart out without any discomfort.

Plus, with a one-touch foot adjustment and a fold-up design, you’ll be able to set up and store the machine with ease.

What about durability? This bad boy has been tested with 1,000,000 pulls from robotic arms without failure! Yes, you read that right. A million pulls. So even if you’re rowing your heart out every day, you can rest assured that the Xebex Air Rower will be able to keep up with you. Plus, its extra weight provides added stability during use, making for a safer and smoother rowing experience.

If you’re looking for a rowing machine that can handle anything you throw at it, the Xebex Air Rower is the way to go. Just be prepared to fall in love with it.

Best Bang For The Buck Rower – ProForm Pro R10

Proform Pro R10 Rower

Retail Price ~ $1,400.00 | Click Here To See The Current Sale Price

proform r10 rowing machine

If you’re in the market for a top-notch rowing machine that will take your fitness journey to the next level, the ProForm Pro R10 is a great choice. Not only is it sturdy and durable, but it also has some pretty impressive bells and whistles that will keep you engaged and motivated.

Let’s start with the 10-inch touchscreen display that streams iFit workouts. It’s like having a personal trainer right there with you, adjusting your resistance levels and pushing you to your limits. And the best part? The flywheel is almost silent, so you won’t disturb your roommates or family members while you sweat it out.

But wait, there’s more! With iFit integration, you’ll have access to a seemingly endless library of workouts, as well as the ability to create your own. And if you’re sharing the machine with others, up to five profiles can be created to keep track of everyone’s progress. Plus, the variety of classes available – from running to yoga – will keep your workouts fresh and exciting.

And let’s not forget about the ProForm Pro R10’s durability. With a sturdy steel frame, ergonomic seat, and adjustable pedals, this machine is built to last. And when you’re done with your workout, it conveniently folds up and can be moved around easily with its two front wheels.

If you’re looking for a rowing machine that will make you feel like you’re rowing in real locations all around the world while keeping your neighbors happy with its near-silent operation, the ProForm Pro R10 is the one for you.

Best Premium Rower – Nordic Track RW900

Retail Price ~ $1,999.00 | Click Here To See The Current Sale Price

Nordic Track rw900 rower

Looking for a high-tech indoor rowing machine that won’t wake up the neighbors? Look no further than the NordicTrack RW900 Rower! With its magnetic resistance system, this rower is as quiet as a mouse, perfect for those living in shared spaces or those who want to row without disturbing their sleeping cat.

And let’s talk about that 22” touchscreen display! It’s not just for showing you your progress or tracking your workout – this baby can pivot and tilt for off-rower workouts, making it a versatile addition to any home gym.

Plus, the NordicTrack RW900 Rower is compatible with the iFit training app, which offers thousands of classes led by inspiring instructors. You can even take virtual river excursions all over the world! Talk about a workout that will take you places!

But it’s not all about the tech – the NordicTrack RW900 Rower is also built to last. Its oversized steel monorail and stabilizers keep it steady and stable during use, while the adjustable foot pedals keep your feet in place with velcro straps. And if you’re worried about storage space, don’t be – this rower can be stored upright when not in use.

If you want a top-of-the-line indoor rowing machine that’s as comfortable as it is high-tech, the NordicTrack RW900 Rower is the way to row.

How Did We Pick Those Models?

There’s a lot to picking out the perfect rower. We selected the above models based on not only years of experience using rowers but also based on a variety of features and benefits.

To show you exactly what to look for, we’ve put together a detailed and complete buying guide. We’ll give you the rules for picking out a rower you’ll love and use regularly! We’ll explain the technical mumbo jumbo so you know exactly what you are looking at. And we’ll make it so easy you’ll be ready to order your new rower today!

Rule Number One – Budget & Price

The first thing to consider when buying a rowing machine is how much you’re willing to spend. The good news is that there are plenty of options out there for a range of budgets. You can find rowing machines that are as cheap as a bottle of rum or as expensive as a yacht. Okay, maybe not quite that expensive, but you get the idea.

How Much Does a Good Rowing Machine Cost?

A quality rowing machine for your home gym will cost around $1500. Low-quality units can be found for as little as $300, while premium models can cost thousands. $700-$800 is where you’ll find good build quality and features start, and some very good values can be found in that price range.

What Features Are Essential VS. Nice-To-Have?

When working with a limited budget, it’s essential to prioritize which features are essential and which ones are nice-to-have. Consider the following features:

Essential features:

  • Resistance type (air, magnetic, water, or hydraulic)
  • Weight capacity
  • Comfort and adjustability of the seat
  • Size and storage
  • Display screen and tracking features

Nice-to-have features:

  • Pre-set workouts
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Built-in fan

Long-Term Value

While it can be tempting to opt for a cheaper rowing machine, it’s important to consider the long-term value.

Investing in a high-quality machine may be more expensive initially, but it could save you money in the long run.

Cheaper models may wear out quickly, require frequent repairs, or have limited features.

Rule No. 2  – Know The Features You Want

Rowing machine makers are guilty of using fancy jargon to make their products seem more impressive than they actually are.

But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered!

We’ll help you navigate through the fluff and highlight the essential features you should look for in a rowing machine so you don’t get caught up in their marketing hype.

1. Type of Resistance

Rowing machines use different types of resistance to provide a challenging workout. Here are the most common types of resistance you’ll encounter:

  • Air Resistance
  • Water Resistance
  • Magnetic Resistance
  • Hydraulic Resistance

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Type

Each type of resistance has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from each:

Air Resistance

diagram of air resistance in a rower.
The internals of an air resistance rower courtesy of

Air resistance is created by a flywheel that spins as you row, which creates wind resistance. This type of resistance provides a smooth and natural feel, with the resistance increasing as you row harder and faster.


  • Smooth and natural feel
  • Resistance increases as you row harder and faster
  • Provides a full-body workout


  • It can be quite loud
  • It may require regular maintenance 

Water Resistance

Water resistance rower diagram
The internals of a water resistance rower courtesy of

Water resistance uses a flywheel that spins in a tank of water, creating resistance that is similar to rowing on actual water. This type of resistance provides a realistic rowing experience and a smooth, quiet motion.


  • Realistic rowing experience
  • Smooth, quiet motion
  • Adjustable resistance


  • It can be quite large and heavy
  • It may be more expensive

Magnetic Resistance

Magnetic resistance rower diagram
The internals of a magnetic resistance rower courtesy of

Magnetic resistance uses a magnetic brake system to create resistance. This type of resistance provides a quiet, smooth motion and allows for easy adjustability of resistance levels.


  • Quiet, smooth motion
  • Easy adjustability of resistance levels
  • Low maintenance


  • It may not provide as much resistance as other types
  • It can be more expensive

Hydraulic Resistance

Hydraulic resistance rower
Here you can see the old-school, piston-driven hydraulic resistance rower.

Hydraulic resistance uses pistons or cylinders filled with fluid to create resistance. This type of resistance is often found on compact, portable rowing machines.


  • Compact and portable
  • Affordable
  • Adjustable resistance 


  • Can be noisy
  • It may not provide as much resistance as other types
  • Outdated technology
  • Not like real rowing
  • Only comes on cheap machines

A Note on Hybrid Resistance Rowers

There’s a new type of rower showing up here and there that uses “hybrid” resistance. This is a combination of water and magnetic resistance. These machines offer a really nice blend of the realism of a water rower with the fine adjustability and smoothness of a magnetic unit.

At this time, we don’t recommend this type of rower as the technology is very new, and there are still some bugs to work out. Once you see major rower manufacturers implementing this type of resistance, it’s a safe bet that it’s worth the try!

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Resistance Type

When choosing a resistance type for your rowing machine, consider the following factors:

  • Noise level
  • Smoothness of motion
  • Adjustability
  • Price

By carefully considering these factors, you can choose a rowing machine that provides the right type of resistance for your fitness goals and preferences.

Pro Tip: As it’s hard to get a good description of how each of these resistances would feel if you haven’t used them already, we recommend going to a local gym and trying each of these resistance types out so you know which one you like the most.

2. Size and Design

When considering the size and design of a rowing machine, there are a few important factors to keep in mind.

These include the space you have available in your home or gym, the type of design that will best suit your needs, and the level of comfort you require while using the machine.

Space Considerations

Before purchasing a rowing machine, it’s important to consider the space you have available in your home or gym. Rowing machines can range in size from compact models that can be easily stored in a closet or under a bed to larger, more substantial machines that require a dedicated workout space.

If you have limited space, a compact, foldable rowing machine may be the best option for you. These machines can be easily folded up and stored away when not in use, freeing up valuable space in your home or gym. On the other hand, if you have ample space and are looking for a more substantial machine, a non-foldable model may be a better choice.

It’s possible that you could install your rower on your second floor too. We wrote a guide to when it’s okay to install a treadmill on a second floor, and everything in that article applies to rowers too.

Foldable vs. Non-Foldable Design

Folding Rowing machine
A folding rower.

Foldable rowing machines – These are becoming increasingly popular due to their space-saving design. These machines can be easily folded up and stored away when not in use, making them a great option for those with limited space. However, it’s important to note that foldable machines may not be as sturdy as non-foldable models, so it’s important to choose a high-quality machine that can withstand regular use.

Non-foldable rowing machines – These are typically more substantial than their foldable counterparts and are designed to be a permanent fixture in your home or gym. These machines tend to be more durable and sturdy, making them a good choice for serious rowers or those who plan to use their machines regularly. With fewer moving parts, they’ll last longer too!

Ergonomic Design

When using a rowing machine, comfort is key. Look for a machine that has an ergonomic design with a comfortable seat, handle, and footrest. The seat should be padded and contoured to provide support for your lower back, while the handle should be comfortable to grip and easy to hold onto.

The footrests should be adjustable to accommodate a range of foot sizes and should have straps to keep your feet securely in place while rowing. Look for a machine that has a smooth, fluid motion that is easy on your joints and muscles, and that allows you to adjust the resistance level to suit your fitness level and goals.

3. Monitor Features

Let’s face it – working out on a rowing machine can be a tedious task. But what if we told you that adding the right monitor features to your machine can make all the difference?

The monitor isn’t just a screen; it’s a game-changer! It provides you with all the necessary feedback to track your progress, set goals, and beat your personal best. So, before you hit that “buy now” button, let’s dive into the world of monitor features and what to look for when buying a rowing machine.

Display Options

When choosing a rowing machine, the display options are important to consider. There are two types of displays: LCD and LED.

concept 2 rower lcd screen
Here you see the very limited options on a basic LCD screen. This lack of options is why we no longer recommend the Concept 2 rower.
Nordic track rower touch screen
Here you see the 22″ touchscreen that comes on a Nordic Track rower. This type of screen significantly improves your workouts!
  • LCDs use liquid crystal technology and provide a clear, easy-to-read view of your data. However, they can be harder to see in bright sunlight. These are usually minimal, single-color displays that only show your basic stats.
  • LEDs use light-emitting diodes and are more vibrant and easier to see in bright sunlight. They are also more energy-efficient but may be more expensive. You may know these as a touchscreen or “tv” attached to the front of the rower. These allow not only detailed metrics but also show live or prerecorded training sessions through services like iFit.

When selecting a rowing machine, consider your needs and choose the display that will work best for you.

Metrics Tracked

When shopping for a rowing machine, it’s important to consider what metrics it tracks. These metrics can give you a better understanding of your workout and help you track your progress over time. Here are some common metrics that rowing machines track:

  • Stroke Rate – Stroke rate refers to the number of rowing strokes you take per minute. This metric is important because it can help you maintain a consistent pace and adjust your intensity level.
  • Distance – Distance refers to the total distance you have rowed during your workout. This metric can be helpful if you have a specific distance goal in mind or if you want to track your progress over time.
  • Time – Time refers to the length of your workout in minutes or seconds. This metric is important because it can help you track your progress over time and ensure that you are getting enough exercise.
  • Calories Burned – Calories burned refers to the number of calories you have burned during your workout. This metric can be helpful if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It’s important to keep in mind that this metric is never accurate and usually overstated. It’s an okay guide, but nothing that should be taken literally.
  • Heart Rate – Some rowing machines come with a heart rate monitor that tracks your heart rate during your workout. This metric can be helpful if you want to make sure you are working out at an appropriate intensity level.
Sinus rhythm heart rate
Tracking heart rate is a very desirable feature.

It is important to note that not all rowing machines track all of these metrics. Some machines may only track a few of these metrics, while others may track additional metrics such as power output or pace. Make sure to consider which metrics are most important to you when choosing a rowing machine.

Connectivity Features

Connectivity features, though are a luxury feature, are pretty worth it, some of the common connectivity features include:

  • Bluetooth: Connect to a smartphone or tablet to access fitness apps or share workout data.
  • Wi-Fi: Access advanced features like live coaching, personalized workout recommendations, or streaming video content.
  • USB: Download workout data onto a USB drive and transfer it to your computer for further analysis.
  • Compatibility With Fitness Apps: Track progress, set goals, and compete with other users using popular fitness apps like Strava or MyFitnessPal.

When considering connectivity options, it’s important to check the compatibility of your rowing machine with different devices and apps. You may also want to consider the ease of use of different connectivity options, as well as any additional costs or subscriptions that may be required. Ultimately, the right connectivity options for you will depend on your fitness goals and personal preferences.

4. Durability and Maintenance

When it comes to purchasing any fitness equipment, durability is always a key factor to consider. This is especially true when buying a rowing machine, as it’s a high-intensity workout that can put a lot of strain on the machine’s components.

Here are the key factors to consider in terms of durability:

Frame Materials

The material of the frame is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a rowing machine.

A wood rowing machine
A wood-framed rowing machine.

The most common materials used for frames are steel, aluminum, and wood. Steel frames are the most durable and can withstand heavy use over time. Aluminum frames are lighter in weight but still very strong and durable. Wood frames are less common but can provide a unique aesthetic and are also very durable. Wood usually comes at a price premium.

Weight Capacity

Another important factor to consider is the weight capacity of the rowing machine. You want to ensure that the machine can support your weight, as well as the weight of anyone else who may use it.

Most rowing machines have weight capacities of 250-300 lbs, but some models can support up to 500 lbs. Make sure to check the capacity of the machine you are planning to buy and use your actual (not goal) weight for this determination.


A well-built rowing machine will come with a long warranty. A cheaply made one will not. This is probably the easiest way to tell how well-built your rower is. If it has a 90-day warranty, it’s probably better to find another option. If it comes with a 20-year warranty, you are in great shape!

5. Maintenance – Don’t Skimp!

Keeping your rowing machine in good condition is crucial to its longevity and effectiveness. Neglecting maintenance can cause the machine to break down, which can be costly to repair or replace. Here are some key maintenance factors to consider:


Keeping your rowing machine clean is essential to prevent the buildup of dirt and sweat. Wipe down the machine after each use with a damp cloth and mild soap, and make sure to dry it off afterward. We have a complete guide to treadmill maintenance that applies about 75% to rowers that you can read here.

Also, we have an exclusive discount code for Wipex fitness and screen wipes. It’s important NEVER to clean your LCD or LED screen with glass cleaner. Only use screen wipes. You can find our preferred kit here. And remember to use the code “Gym-Crafter-Exclusive” for 10% off your order!

Damage to treadmill console from cleaning with glass cleaner
This is what happens when glass cleaner is used. The scratches are from using a paper towel instead of a soft cloth. The spots are permanent and come from the glass cleaner.


Regular lubrication of the moving parts is essential to keep your rowing machine running smoothly. Use a silicone-based lubricant to keep the chain and other moving parts lubricated and prevent rusting.

Replacement Parts

Like any machine, parts on your rowing machine may eventually wear out or break. It’s important to make sure replacement parts are readily available for your specific model so that you can quickly and easily fix any issues that may arise.


Why should I consider buying a rowing machine?

Rowing machines provide a full-body workout and simulate the experience of rowing on water. They also offer a low-impact form of exercise that is easy on the joints.

What should I do to maintain my rowing machine?

Regular cleaning, lubrication, and ensuring replacement parts are readily available are key factors in maintaining the longevity and effectiveness of your rowing machine.

How do I choose the right resistance type for my rowing machine?

Consider factors such as noise level, smoothness of motion, adjustability, and price when choosing the resistance type for your rowing machine. Trying out different types of resistance at a local gym is also recommended.

If you aren’t able to go try them, stick with the units recommended in this article. We have thoroughly tested all of them, and they all work really well!

The Verdict

In conclusion, buying a rowing machine is a great investment in your fitness journey. When choosing a machine, it’s important to consider your budget, the type of resistance, the size and design, monitor features, connectivity options, durability, and maintenance.

By taking the time to carefully consider these factors, you’ll be able to find a rowing machine that suits your needs and helps you reach your fitness goals.

So go ahead and row your way to a healthier, fitter you – and don’t forget to hydrate with your post-workout beverage!

Photo of author


Shayla Whitters is an experienced fitness writer with degrees in exercise science and health and wellness. She is certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a sports nutritionist (CISSN). Her passion is writing about fitness so as to inspire others to change their lives for the better.

10 thoughts on “Rowing Machine Buying Guide – What To Look For When Buying a Rower”

  1. Wait… not even a mention of Concept2?!? As an actual rower, the gold standard is Concept2. This makes me doubt everything on this site.

    • Great point, Oliver! I’m very familiar with the Concept 2. It’s been around longer than just about any other rower and is the standard in any CrossFit gym. Here is why it’s not on this list…

      -It hasn’t changed at all since being released. While it used to be the industry standard, it’s fallen behind in many ways.
      -It has the most minimal LCD screen of any rower. Regular folks are able to train longer with interactive workout programming, so for home gyms, we recommend a more full featured readout.
      -It doesn’t use the best, most natural type of resistance.
      -If you look at any professional rowing studio, they no longer use Concept rowers. Turns out that like Rogue, Concept rowers invested huge amounts of marketing dollars to be used in the CrossFit games. That meant that all the boxes bought Concept 2 rowers to better prepare their athletes for the games, not because it was the best option.

      All that said, lots of people are happy with their concept 2, and it’s in no way a bad machine. We just feel that there are better options at this point.

      HOpe that clarifies things!

  2. I agree that Concept 2 should be on this list! I’ve used one for years and love it. Honestly, I haven’t tried anything else, but that’s because I like the Concept so much!

    • I agree that the Concept 2 is a great rower, no doubt! But the answer to your comment is in the comment itself. Most people that tell me the concept 2 is the best haven’t actually used anything made in the last 10-20 years. Do yourself a favor and try some of the newer machines, I think you’ll see why the Concept, as good as it is, didn’t make the list.

  3. Should we put a mat under the rower? We have one under our treadmill, but the guy at the store said we don’t need one under the rower.

    • Your rower won’t walk across the floor like a treadmill will, so you don’t need one for that reason. But I’d still use one. It will protect your floor and will keep things a little cleaner. It’s not a must like it is with a treadmill, though.

    • As someone with chronic low back issues, I’ve looked at this deeply and it’s the exact same answer as any other exercise. Done with proper form, it will actually strengthen your lower back. The problem is that once fatigued, people’s form goes out the window. If you can be disciplined enough to execute properly on all reps, it should help you. If not, and you get lazy, you could also injure yourself. Same as every single other exercise you could do! That said, I opted for a treadmill because I know myself well enough to know that I’d get lazy and hurt again. And as always, I am NOT a doctor and this is not qualified medical advice. You should see your doctor before any new training regimen.

    • Yes! Look for rowers that list a maximum inseam size, not height. The length of your legs is what determines whether or not you’ll fit on a rower. I use a Waterrower partially for this reason as I’m 6’6″ with a 36″ inseam. The Waterrower fits up to a 38″ inseam.


Leave a Comment