A couple of months back, I posted about all the best cardio exercises you can do from home that don’t involve hitting the pavement or leaving your house. I listed rowing as one of my go-to forms of cardio.
That’s because I’ve been supplementing my cardio with rowing workouts for a few months now, and it’s been fantastic! In addition to increased cardiovascular health, it’s also a full-body workout.
But, I get that finding the right rowing machine can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to rowing and on a budget.
Just about anyone will tell you that the Concept2 is one of the best home rowers on the market – including me! It’s the one that I have, and I love it. (If you’re interested in the Concept2, check out my full review!)
The only problem is it’s a little on the expensive side.
Fortunately, there are cheaper options that will still get the job done well.
But what is the best budget rowing machine under 500 bucks? Today I wanted to share with you the best inexpensive rowers, based on my research. And you can find all of these on Amazon!
We’ll start with an overview of the top budget rowers, and from there we can narrow down which rowing machine is best for you, as well as how to use your rower, and where to find the best rowing workouts.
If you’re in a hurry, you can take a gander at the overview below or scoot down to the FAQ near the bottom.
**I was not paid to write this review. However, this post does contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn a commission on purchases you make after clicking on those links. (At no extra cost to you!) These are my own opinions and honest thoughts after using the app. Full disclosure here. **
Table of Contents
- 1 | Overview of the Best Budget Rowers Under $500
- 2 | Best Overall Rower
- 3 | Best Budget Rower Under $100
- 4 | Best Budget Water Rower
- 5 | Best Budget Air Rower
- 6 | Best Foldable Rower
- 7 | Quietest Rower
- 8 | Best Multifunctional Rower
- 9 | How to Choose the Best Budget Rower
- 10 | Is the Rower Worth it?
- 11 | How to use a Rower
- 12 | Rowing Workouts
- 13 | FAQ
- 14 | Conclusion
1. Best Overall – Women’s Health Men’s Health Bluetooth Rower Rowing Machine
2. Best Rowing Machine Under $100 – Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rower
3. Best Water Rowing Machine – MaxKare Water Rowing Machine
4. Best Budget Air Rower – SereneLife Rowing Machine
5. Best Budget Foldable Rower – MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine Folding Exercise Rower
6. Quietest Budget Rower – JOROTO Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine
7. Best Multifunctional Rower – Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine
Best Overall Rowing Machine Under $500
14 levels of resistance makes this magnetic rower suitable for both seasoned rowers and beginners alike. If noisy equipment is a pain point for you, you will love this rower as it’s one of the quieter ones on the market.
The LCD screen tracks your distance, calories burned, time, and more. It also has Bluetooth capabilities and you can use that to track your workouts with the MyCloud Fitness app. (The app also has a monthly subscription you can opt for that includes guided workouts, if that’s your thing!)
This rower boasts zero lag time resistance to make for a smooth rowing experience.
As far as budget rowers go, this one ticks all the boxes, which is why it wins as the best budget rower under 500 bucks.
- Free workout tracking with MyCloud Fitness App
- Bluetooth capability
- Sturdy build and easy to assemble
- Right at the tippy-top of your rower budget
- Some users find that the range on the “catch” is limited compared to that of more more expensive rowers
Best Budget Rowing Machine Under $100
You’ll have a tough time finding a cheaper rower than this one that still gives you a good workout.
But, the price tag matches its appearance – you’ll notice right away there isn’t much to this little machine.
That said, it does come with 12 levels of resistance, a digital monitor to track your progress, and an ergonomic build designed for comfort.
It’s also the most compact machine on this list, which makes it ideal for apartments and small spaces.
One downside is that the handle that you pull towards you is on a metal arm attached to the base, rather than a air rower, on which the handles are used to pull a chain or cable attached to a flywheel.
Because of that, you can’t quite pull in a straight line in a natural rowing movement.
Nevertheless, you can’t beat the price and can still give you a great workout.
- Good quality rower for rock-bottom price
- Super compact, ideal for apartments
- Some users find it’s only suitable for smaller/shorter people
- As a hydraulic rower, it doesn’t give you quite the same workout as a true rower
Best Budget Water Rower
This water rower is designed to simulate the feel of outdoor rowing, because the resistance comes from the drag of the flywheel through water.
The MaxKare water rower is designed to be ergonomic and durable, and suitable for handling weight up to 264 lbs.
It also comes with a water bottle holder and a decent-sized LCD monitor for progress tracking.
The computer is very basic and there have been some complaints that it isn’t entirely accurate or that it could stop working.
- Water resistance creates an outdoor rowing experience
- Sturdy and suitable for higher weight than most budget rowers
- Some complaints have been reported about the LCD tracker not being the sturdiest
Best Budget Air Rower
This rower is similar to the Women’s Health Men’s Health rower but is a little more inexpensive. It too also comes with an LCD screen to track your calories burned and distance.
But some people report that the tracking mechanism isn’t the most accurate.
It’s sturdy, made of steel metal alloy and well built to accommodate up to 250 lbs.
Other than that, it’s best selling point is probably the fact that it’s easy to assemble and store. It folds up which makes it great for apartments.
- Quality rower for the price
- Folds and stores easily
- Tracking device on rower may not be accurate
Best Foldable Rower
This another one of the more inexpensive models out there that’s designed to work in smaller places like condos or apartments. It has 16 levels of tension resistance and can hold up to 250 lbs.
It also boasts a long slide rail, which means if you’re on the tall side, this might be a good choice for you. The rower comes with a basic LCD screen for tracking calories and strokes.
At only 64 lbs, it’s one of the more lightweight options and easily folds up whenever you need to tuck it away for storage.
Because it is so lightweight, some users find it shifts a little too easily on bare floors. But this is a problem easily solved by putting a durable exercise mat underneath.
- One of the more inexpensive models on this list
- Lightweight and easy to fold and store
- Long track accommodates height up to 6’5″
- May need to be used on carpet or an exercise mat to prevent shifting
- Some people find it isn’t as quiet after using it a while
Quietest Budget Rower
This rower comes with a large, quality aluminum flywheel to offer a magnetic resistance workout. The no-touch resistance makes for a near silent workout.
Another cool things about this model is that the display has an phone holder, so if you want to do a rowing workout via an app on your phone, you can easily lock your phone into the holder to follow along.
It has 10 levels of resistance and a large, contoured seat.
It also features floor protectors on its feet to help prevent damage to your floors. (Always a good idea to get an exercise mat to go under your equipment though!)
- Super quiet
- Phone holder included on the display
- Sturdy/well built
- Flywheel is exposed, which could be a safety hazard if you have small pets/children
- Handle bar may not be as comfortable as some of the other models
Best Multifunctional Rower
This is another magnetic rower that can be used for traditional rowing workouts, but it also has special foot plates that provide extra functionality.
The rower comes with 8 levels of resistance, but some people have noted that the highest setting isn’t quite as challenging as they’d prefer. As it uses magnetic resistance, it is also pretty quiet.
By standing on the footplates and using your bodyweight to hold the machine down, you can then use the handles for standing lat pulls or tricep extensions.
It also folds up and comes with wheels for portability.
The rower’s display is a bit on the small side and quite basic; it tracks calories, strokes, and time, but not distance.
- Multifunction feature offers variety in your workouts
- Display is very small and basic
- Resistance may not be as high as with other rowers
How to Choose the Right Budget Rower
Now that we’ve gone over all the best budget rowers under 500 bucks, how can you determine which is the best one for you?
While the best overall rower one this list is probably the ideal pick for most people, there are other factors to consider based on your personal preferences and needs, so its worth drilling down on these a bit more, such as:
Yes, all of these rowers are less than $500, but there is still a $400+ difference between the least and most expensive ones.
If you are really strapped for cash then the lower cost models will be the way to go. Keep in mind also that depending on the model you choose, you may want to also invest in an exercise mat to go under the rower.
Your home environment really matters when deciding on a rower.
How much space do you have? If you have a small apartment or need somewhere to store your rower when you’re not using it, a lighter, foldable, more portable rower is the way to go.
When you work out it plays a part too. For example, if you’re working out at night after your kids go to bed, you might want to go with a magnetic rower that is quieter to use. Or if you want to watch TV while you row.
If you just need a sturdy, no-frills rower that will give you a good workout without a lot of bells and whistles, then you don’t need to worry as much about the rowers display and tracking capabilities.
If you intend to use your rower with an app, make sure the rower you get has somewhere to prop up or hold your phone.
Then there’s the rowing experience itself; if you want a workout that is most similar to rowing in an actual boat, go with a water rower. If your goal is just to sweat and burn calories, than even a hydraulic rower will be fine, if not true to a real rowing experience.
Is the Rowing Machine Worth It?
Even if you find the best budget rowing machine, you might still on the fence if its really worth adding a rower to your home gym.
The truth is, a rowing machine is one of the best pieces of home equipment you can invest in. I would recommend it over a treadmill, for example, unless you specifically want to train for endurance running.
If you just want to burn calories with cardio and get in shape, you really can’t do much better than a rower. Here’s why:
The problem with traditional forms of cardio like running and aerobics is that it tends to be a high-impact activity.
Over time, endurance cardio that is also high-impact, repetitive movements can increase the risk of injury. (Personally, I haven’t been able to do long-distance running in years due to injuries flaring up whenever I get into a running routine.)
Rowing is a fantastic alternative. It can still be high-intensity (see calorie burn section below!) but is much easier on your joints.
Offers a full-body workout
Running and Cycling are great cardio exercises but don’t do much for muscle tone, especially where the upper body is concerned. Rowing is not only great for your legs and bum, it’s a full-body workout that can help tone your abs, shoulders, back and arms.
Helps improve posture
If you’re a desk jockey like myself, you know how easy it is to let your posture suffer after all those long hours at a computer.
Because rowing works out lots of muscles in your back, abs, and shoulders, many people find their posture improves after they’ve been rowing for a while. Some people also find it helps relieve neck and shoulder pain.
Great calorie burn
Half an hour of vigorous rowing vaporizes between 255 and 377 calories, depending on your weight. But even moderate rowing yields a decent calorie burn for your time invested.
Part of why it’s so effective is there’s no way to be “lazy” with your rowing workout. Yes, you can do lower-intensity but you’re still working out even second you’re engaged in the workout. Whereas with cycling, you can rely a little more on momentum to keep going.
How to Use a Rower
In order to reduce your risk of injury and maximize your results, it’s important to learn the proper form with your rower. Fortunately, it is pretty simple and after a little practice it should feel pretty natural!
The rowing motion consists of four phases: The Catch, The Drive, The Finish, an Recovery.
Start off in the Catch position, leaning forward with bent knees, straight back, and weight on the balls of your feet. Arms should be straight out in front holding the handle.
Your grip on the handle should be light, and closer to the outside of the handles. (If you are feeling pressure in your hands or forearms during your workout, you are likely gripping too tightly.)
For the Drive, Keep your back straight and your abs engaged, then push off with your feet. As your legs become full extended, pull the bar straight towards your chest (or slightly below your chest) by bending your elbows out to the side and using your upper back muscles. (Not your biceps.) This is the finish.
For the recovery, release your arms straight first, then bend your legs back to the starting position.
There are some good tutorials on YouTube that can provide a more visual explanation!
When starting out, take it slow and focus on form. As the rowing movement become second nature, you can gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.
You can totally freestyle your rowing workouts and get in shape that way! Even if you do 10-15 minutes a day, it can make a big difference on your daily calorie burn and fitness level.
However, if you are doing endurance rowing or rowing every day, it can get a little boring.
Fortunately you can find some rowing workouts to use with your rower to make it more exciting!
Here are a few apps and online workouts you can try:
We briefly covered this app as it is designed to be used with the Women’s Health Men’s Health Bluetooth rowing machine.
This is a subscription based app but you get the first 30 days free. MCF boasts hundreds of workouts with new content being added every month. In addition to rowing workouts, they also offer cycling/biking workouts.
It also includes customized training programs based on the questions you answer upon signing up.
This rowing-specific app features on-demand rowing workouts. It is designed to work with the Concept2 as then you can track workouts with it and challenge your friends. But you can just follow along without the tracking.
You can even simulate rows down famous rivers and do live rowing sessions with trainers.
And of course, you can find a variety of free rowing workouts on YouTube. The downside is that there’s no way to really keep track of your workouts unless you manually write it down somewhere or use some other form of activity tracking app. And there’s no structured plan to follow.
But you’ll still get a good sweat session in and hey, you can’t beat the price!
Budget Rowing Machine FAQ!
Our top pick for the best budget rowing machine under 500 bucks is the Women’s Health Men’s Health Bluetooth Rower Rowing Machine, which offers a lot of features for the comparatively low price tag.
Try the MyCloudFitness app or Row Vigor app to add more challenge and variety into your rowing workouts.
Despite what you may have heard, there is no workout in the world that will burn fat specifically from your belly. But high-intensity rowing will facilitate fat loss from all over your body, including your belly.
Running usually yields a higher calorie burn than rowing. However, rowing targets more upper body muscles than running does and is better for a full-body workout.
Air rowers offer a slightly more realistic experience to outdoor rowing, but magnetic rowers are much quieter and make far less noise than an air rower.
I would start with 3 days a week and work up to 5 days a week. It’s important to have at least one or two days of rest each week to give your body a chance to rest and repair.
If you’re a beginner, start with shorter sessions and work your way up. How long you end up rowing for depends on your target calorie burn. If you watch your eating habits you can see results even with 20-30 minutes a day.
If you can’t swing a high-end rower, there are still plenty of budget models that will still give you a quality rowing workout.
Although purchasing a rower – even a budget one – can seem like a big investment, you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands, in pricey gym membership fees, it really ends up saving you a lot of money.
Not only that, but you’ll be able to get a quality, full-body workout in the comfort of your own home.
Now that you have all the tools and information you need to find the best budget rowing machine under 500 dollars, which will you choose?