If you had to purchase only one machine for your home gym to give you an effective, well-rounded workout, a rowing machine (also called a rower or ergometer) is arguably the best choice. Rowers can help you achieve a wide variety of fitness goals. This includes weight loss, cardiovascular training, muscle hypertrophy, endurance training, and more. Because rowing works all of the major muscle groups in your upper and lower bodies, it offers the kind of whole-body workout not provided by most other fitness machines.
But good quality rowers can burn a serious hole in your pocket, and most of us can’t afford to drop $1000 on a premium machine. Thankfully, there are plenty of top-quality machines available for far less that compare favorably to the expensive models. This article lists five of the best rowing machines available for under $500 that you’re definitely going to want in your home or garage gym.
Top Rowing Machines for Less Than $500 At a Glance
Best Rowing Machine Under $500 Overall
Fitness Reality combines affordability with the latest in technology. It effectively integrates Bluetooth into your workouts to enable efficient data tracking. This sturdy-framed rower is smooth and silent to use and can be folded up for convenient storage. In this category, the 1000 Plus is as good as rowers get.
Best Water Rower Under $500
MaxKare’s ergometer is among the most affordable water rowers on the market, and its versatility and range of features makes it a good choice for users of all levels of experience. Everything from its build quality, digital monitor, resistance mechanism, along with its various bearings contribute to an enjoyable and productive rowing experience that few others in this category can match.
The Best Rowing Machines for Under $500
|Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower||
|MaxKare Water Rowing Machine||
|ECHANFIT Foldable Indoor Rower||
|ProGear 750 Rower||
|Merax Magnetic Adjustable Resistance Rowing Machine||
|Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower|
|MaxKare Water Rowing Machine|
|ECHANFIT Foldable Indoor Rower|
|ProGear 750 Rower|
|Merax Magnetic Adjustable Resistance Rowing Machine|
Fitness Reality’s 1000 Plus Rower uses Bluetooth technology to provide seamless data tracking using your smartphone. Through the MyFitnessApp, you can track various statistics like how many calories you’ve burned, time, distance, and more. Furthermore, the app measures your data not just for individual workouts, but also all your past ones to help you measure your long-term progress.
The rower features a durable steel frame with an aluminum seat rail to ensure stability while rowing. A large, soft and smooth seat provides a comfortable rowing position. The rower also comes with a magnetic resistance mechanism equipped with 14 different levels of resistance. The magnetic resistance is especially handy if noise is a concern for you since it will avoid disturbing your neighbors and even allows you to watch television as you row.
As a minor disadvantage, the rower is slightly large (albeit foldable) with dimensions of 88.5″ L x 21.5″ W. The app can also malfunction on occasion, making your data inaccessible at random times.
- Effective use of Bluetooth technology
- Magnetic resistance is silent
- Quality seating
- Solid frame
The Not So Good
- Occasional issues with app connectivity
- Slightly large size
MaxKare’s Water Rowing Machine is a top-quality machine available at an absolute bargain price. This rower features a steel frame with additional stabilizers below each pedal, making for steady rowing even at high stroke rates. The water resistance system allows for both dynamic and manual resistance adjustment in that one can either row with varying intensity to feel a drag or change the water level. The footrests are spacious and keep your feet firmly in place, while the handlebar is nicely padded for comfortable gripping.
The rower also features an excellent (though somewhat small) digital monitor that not only tracks essential statistics, but keeps workouts interesting through its two exercise modes. Its race mode is equipped with 15 levels of difficulty that assesses how much distance you can cover in a certain time period. On the other hand, manual mode allows you to set workout goals through metrics like distance, strokes or calories.
The only feature that could use some improvement is the seating. Though large and smooth, the material is somewhat hard and unsuitable for long sessions.
- Stable frame
- Allows for both manual and dynamic resistance adjustment
- Excellent digital monitor
- Can be stored vertically
The Not So Good
- Cramped console can be hard to read
- Uncomfortable seating
ECHANFIT’s indoor rowing machine is a simple machine that will get the job done for most users. This ergometer utilizes a frame that combines steel with ABS – a hard but light plastic – to ensure durability without making the machine overly heavy. Its magnetic resistance system comes with 16 different levels of intensity and works on batteries rather than a power source. The maximum resistance offered here is approximately 20 lbs (9 kgs) which is suitable for all but the most experienced rowers. As the name suggests, it can also be folded for convenient storage after use.
This rower features a fairly basic digital monitor that will track all your essential data. Metrics include time, distance, calories burned, and RPM. However, the tracking on some units has been found to be inaccurate. The seating is comfortable and made of foam padding that glides smoothly on the seat rail. It can also hold users weighing up to 265 lbs. However, the machine can be slightly uncomfortable to use for anyone who is taller than 6’-6’ 2″.
- Solid steel and ABS frame
- 16 levels of magnetic resistance
- Convenient for storage
- Battery operated system
The Not So Good
- Inaccurate data tracking
- Unsuitable for users taller than 6’2″
The ProGear 750 is an incredibly compact machine. Its small size and ability to fold up make it ideal for cramped spaces. With dimensions of 53″L x 26.5″ W, this rower should fit into most home or garage gyms without any significant issues. Besides rowing, this machine supports as many as 10 other exercises including bicep curls, bent over rows, pec flies, shoulder presses, ab rollouts, and more.
This rower features a steel frame with a rear stabilizer for additional sturdiness during workouts. However, unlike some of the other models on this page, this rower comes with a hydraulic-piston resistance mechanism that is equipped with 3 levels of resistance. Though these are just as quiet as magnetic resistance systems, they can only be used for around 20 minutes at a time before the pistons overheat. The machine is also impractical for anyone weighing above 220 lbs. As such, this rower is most appropriate for those looking to introduce themselves to rowing rather than athletes with extensive experience.
- Extremely compact size
- Easy to store
- Stable frame
- Supports 10 exercises besides rowing
The Not So Good
- Low maximum weight
- Workouts are restricted to 20 minutes per session
This rowing machine by Merax is yet another ergometer worth considering if you’re new to the world of rowing. It features a nice steel frame with two rear stabilizers that not only make the machine stable but also fairly light and compact in size (73″L x 16″ W). Its magnetic resistance system comes with 8 levels of resistance and runs on batteries. While the maximum resistance may be somewhat low for advanced users, the inclined seat rail adds some tension that makes the rowing motion slightly more challenging, yet smooth and controlled. The rower can also be folded for convenient storage.
The included digital monitor is simplistic in that it provides users with estimates of basic metrics like time, calories burned and the row count. While it isn’t fancy, the quality is on par with most rowers in this price range. The maximum weight on this machine is 264 lbs, while users as tall as 6’ 2″ can also use it comfortably. However, one small caveat here is the design of the foot pedals. The pivoting design means that your feet don’t remain stable while rowing, which can be inconvenient for some users.
- Compact size
- 8 levels of magnetic resistance
- Secure frame
- Easy to store
The Not So Good
- Basic monitor
- Unstable footrests
Should You Get a Rowing Machine for Less Than $500?
Rowing is a terrific exercise that suits a variety of fitness goals and works out almost your entire body in one motion. However, not everyone is fond of rowing, and purchasing a low-cost rower is the perfect way to experiment with the exercise before considering a more advanced option. If you meet the average maximum weight requirement of approximately 250 lbs that is common for rowers in this category, a good quality ergometer under $500 can help you determine whether rowing is an exercise you want to incorporate more extensively into your workouts given its many benefits.
Even if you’re skeptical about rowing, these machines are ideal for those returning from injuries and looking to get back into shape. This is especially true for women. Rowing is a low-impact exercise, meaning it places relatively low-impact force on your joints. This reduces the incidences of debilitating and painful injuries caused by wear and on the connective tissue in and around joints. It also allows you to recover quicker and more fully. Not bad for a machine that forces you to sweat it out in a full-body exercise that works a plethora of muscles, such as your core, back, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings simultaneously.
All-in-all, a good quality, inexpensive rowing machine is an investment you’re unlikely to regret since you won’t have to spend much to get acquainted with one of the most versatile exercises you can perform.
Choosing the Right Sub-$500 Rowing Machine
Amongst the many features of indoor rowers, the two you must prioritize before making a purchase are its build quality and the smoothness of the rowing motion. The most durable rowers in this category are generally made of steel with stabilizers placed at various points for added sturdiness. Not only will this ensure that your machine will survive long-term use, but also that it remains stable during intensive workouts at high stroke rates.
A rower’s smoothness depends on many factors, such as the resistance mechanism used, the bearings of the seat rail and more. Rowers in this range generally have either magnetic or hydraulic-piston mechanisms. The former provides a smoother motion since it doesn’t rely on friction for generating tension. They also make minimal noise, which is ideal for use in apartments.
Besides these two characteristics, the comfort of parts like the seat and footrests are also important factors to consider. Some machines might come with small or uncomfortable seating that can make rowing unpleasant, while some footrests have Velcro straps that come loose or cause your feet to slip while you row. If you’re cramped for room in your home or garage gym, size is a third factor to consider before making a purchase.
Lastly, rowers under $500 do not generally feature sophisticated digital monitors, with basic data tracking being the extent of their intended purpose. If you’re looking for features like pre-designed workouts, you might want to consider some of the higher priced models.
Frequently Asked Questions About Inexpensive Rowers
If you’re doing your due diligence in your hunt for a sub-$500 rowing machine, then you’ve likely got a bunch of questions. We’ve got answers to the most commonly asked questions about inexpensive ergos.
Are low-cost rowing machines worth it?
As long as a rower simulates the rowing action closely, works your body in much the same way that on-water rowing does, and are a made to decent standard of quality, then yes they’re worth it.
Rowing is a very unique and effective exercise that works large portions of your body simultaneously. Any machine that can transfer the benefits of rowing can be a worthwhile investment.
While all of the products in this list should simulate the rowing action closely enough to provide its benefits, they’re not premium rowers. They’re not made for people that are serious about rowing. If you think you’re going to be rowing frequently and for long periods, then you’ll be lucky if a lower cost rower lasts more than a 3 – 6 months.
What is the best inexpensive rowing machine?
In our view, The Fitness Reality 1000 and MaxKare Water Rower are your best options.
The three main factors that separate expensive, good quality rowers from cheaper models are:
- The type of resistance mechanism used
- The quality of its frame/components; and
- The sophistication of its console
For instance, expensive models generally include resistance systems that are dynamically adjustable and offer a wider range of tension to suit different users, while the build quality is designed to guarantee protection against wear and tear from long-term use. The included consoles are also equipped with an array of features that help users improve their workouts and fitness.
The way to choose among the best inexpensive models is to find the ones which compromise on the above three features the least. We think the Fitness Reality and MaxKare rowers do that the best.
We’ve also written extensively about the best budget rowers (under $200) that also do that. So, if you’re really looking to stretch your investment, then check those out. If you’re looking for rowers that are higher quality than true budget options, but still a little less dear than the ones on this list, we’ve also reviewed the best rowing machines under $300.
Are air rowers better than magnetic rowers?
The answer to this depends on your personal preferences. While air rowers have dynamically adjustable resistance, they also make more noise. Magnetic resistance mechanisms are more silent, but require manual resistance switching that will need you to interrupt your workout. Some also find air rowers to be smoother, but the difference can often be negligible and air rowers generally take up more space than magnetic rowers. Lastly, air rowers more closely resemble the motion of outdoor water rowing, but this is less important if you don’t intend to engage in rowing as a sport.
Well, there you have it: The Best Rowing Machines for Under $500.
Rowing is undoubtedly one of the most flexible and versatile exercises one can perform. And, buying a cheap rowing machine is the best way to dip your toes into the sport without opening your wallet too wide. If you want the rowing machine that will provide the most bang for your buck, go with the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus. However, all five options on this list are worthy options for the money you’ll be spending on them.