Best Rowing Machine on a Budget

Do you want the convenience of having a rowing machine at home without breaking the bank?

While setting up a home gym is a good step to kickstart your fitness level, or maintaining it, buying a machine can be a huge investment.

But you do not have to spend a fortune to get a decent one. In fact, there are plenty of budget-friendly rowing machines available.

So if there is no good gym around where you live or if your time is limited, a rowing machine could provide you a large ROI!

Why Rowing Machines?

A rowing machine is nothing like other “cardio machines” and they are not for the faint of heart 😉

Rowing is actually an efficient low impact aerobic exercise, which means you can work major muscles like the back, arms, abdominal region, legs and glutes without causing strong joint friction.

Rowing is an effective way to:

  • strengthen core muscles
  • burn calories
  • increase VO2 Max
  • increase basal metabolism

All these benefits coming from a single machine!

One of my best friends have managed to stay fit and seemingly retain his muscle mass over long periods of time from mostly rowing.

Product Comparison Table

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through a link on this page and make a purchase.

Name (Pricing) Pros Cons
Stamina ATS ($$$)
  • Foldable, wheels
  • A bit loud
GOPLUS ($$)
  • Quiet
  • Adjust resistance
  • No wheels

SF-RW1205 ($)

  • Very affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Small size
  • Issues with resistance

Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

As the name implies, the Stamina ATS uses air as the resistance. This gives you a progressive/dynamic form of resistance, meaning the harder you row the harder the resistance gets.

The noise produced from the fan in the machine will also get louder the harder your pull. It is not extremely loud, but it could wake up your family if you are rowing early in the morning.

The rower comes with a basic LCD monitor that can track speed, distance, time and calories burned. 

It has a padded seat and adjustable footplates, so you can get a more comfortable seat while rowing.

The rower weighs 54 lbs / 24 kg and has a maximum capacity of 250 lbs / 113 kg. It can be folded and has wheels so you can easily store it away if necessary. The size when assembled is: 77” x 18.75” x 22” / 195 x 47 x 55 cm (L x W x H).

The size when folded is:  48” x 18.75” x 28” / 122 x 47 x 71 cm (L x W x H).

Comes with a 3-year warranty on the frame and a 1-year warranty on the parts. 

Pros

  • It is foldable and has wheels making it easy to move around and put away if necessary
  • LCD monitor with various metrics
  • Good warranty

Cons

  • A bit loud
  • Dynamic resistance offers less adjustability

GOPLUS Magnetic Rowing Machine

The magnetic tension system of the GOPLUS rower has 8 levels of adjustable resistance. It is equipped with a simple LCD monitor which displays time, repititions, estimation of calories burned, etc.

With magnetic resistance, you usually get both a quiet and smooth rowing machine, and the GOPLUS is no exception.

The machine has a sturdy steel frame and uses a high-quality aluminum beam that should withstand wear and tear long-term.

It has large anti-slip foot pedals with adjustable straps. The top parts of the machine can be folded and the whole thing can be tilted to a horizontal position to take up less space.

The rower weighs 49 lbs / 22 kg and has a maximum capacity of 220 lbs / 99 kg. The machine dimensions are 70″ x 21″ x 19″ / 170 x 53 x 48 cm ( L x W x H), when folded the height is 49″ / 124 cm.

Pros

  • Very quiet when rowing
  • Easy to adjust resistance

Cons

  • No wheels

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205

This rower from Sunny Health & Fitness is as really as cheap as they get. While it is lacking in several areas, it can still be a decent machine if you are just looking to burn some calories while watching TV.

It uses a piston and has 12 levels of adjustable resistance. However, a common complaint with the machine is that the resistance will weaken as the piston gets warmer even on the highest setting.

It is also not suitable for people with larger frames since the machine is not that big and you could hurt your knees.

It does a have a very basic LCD monitor that can display a count of repetitions and estimation of calories burned.

The rower dimensions are 54″ x 20″ x 23″ / 137 x 50 x 58 cm (H x L x W). The machine only weighs in at 23 lbs / 10 kg and should sustain a maximum of 220 lbs / 100 kg.

The machine comes with a 90-day warranty.

Pros

  • Affordable machine for light use
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Issues with resistance
  • Not suitable for people with larger bodies

A Brief Guide On Rowing Machines

A rowing machine is essentially an exercise machine that will mimic the activity of rowing a boat.

two people rowing

It might mimic the rowing, but it will never be the same as the real thing…

But, there are many ways that can be achieved which is also why you can find so many different kinds of rowing machines.

Here are the most important things you need to keep in mind.

Type of Resistance

Without resistance, you wouldn’t really be rowing…

Rowing machines use different kinds of resistance and they each have their unique “feeling” pros and cons.

The resistance can either be 1) fixed or 2) progressive.

With fixed-resistance rowers, you can easily adjust the level of resistance, e.g. magnetic or hydraulic/piston.

With progressive resistance, there is no real option to adjust the level of resistance. Instead, the resistance gets tougher the harder you row, e.g. air or water.

Air and magnetic resistance are known to produce the smoothest resistance, and air resistance typically requires the least maintenance.

Build Quality

Most rowing machines (even the cheap ones) are built using a sturdy steel frame, and even with frequent use, it should you last many years.

However, when it comes to attachments or moving parts like handles, foot straps, seats, etc. the quality varies.

A handle or a foot strap might break or fall off if you are being careless with the machine or just due to wear and tear.

It seems to happen more often the cheaper the machine gets and it is a complaint you can often read in the customer review section on large online retailers like Amazon.

In my opinion, this is just a compromise you will need to accept when choosing a budget machine. If you do your homework before buying e.g. choose one machine in this review, you should be able to steer clear of the more problematic machines.

If you want to use your rowing machine frequently for many years without any issues, it might be a better decision to spend more money.

The rowing machines from Concept2 come at a much higher price, but there is a reason why the brand is well-known around the world. If you plan on rowing frequently for more than 3 years, then the money is well spent.

Even more so if other people in your household would like to row as well.

LCD Monitor Display

Many rowing machines will come with a small LCD monitor that will display time, an estimation of the distance rowed, estimation of calories burned, speed, strokes per minute etc.

Using this monitor can be great to measure your progress over time, e.g. you can compare how far you can row within certain time frames.

Storage

Storage space can be a real challenge if you want to have a rowing machine at home. Some rowers can easily be put in a vertical position or even folded and take up much less space that way.

Rowing Tips From The Pros

In this video, Giri Nathan from Deadspin.com talks with the US Olympic rowing team about how to use a rowing machine effectively as well as some beginner-friendly tips.

 

Making The Buying Decision

Both the Stamina ATS and the GOPLUS are great machines for the price.

If noise and adjustability is a concern, then GOPLUS is your best choice. If you would rather have a dynamic resistance and be able to store away the machine easy, then the Stamina ATS is the best choice.

If you are just looking for a cheap rowing machine, the machine from Sunny Health & Fitness is a good option as long as you are not too tall.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through a link on this page and make a purchase. Read more here.

About the author: My name is Marcus, I am a lawyer (LL.M.) and the founder of this website. Besides sometimes doing lawyer stuff, I like to write about fitness and health and share what I have found “works” for people like YOU. If you want to know more about me and my vision for this website then you can click here.

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