What to Consider When Buying a Rowing Machine

By Sayed Hamed Hosseiny

While it is easy to buy a rowing machine at first glance, it is foolhardy to do so without some research. Several considerations guide the purchase of a rowing machine including budget, space, and warranty factors. To find the best model for your needs and home, you need to prioritize these qualities. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered! Read our detailed rowing machine buying guide and buy an indoor rower of your dreams!

The Ultimate Rowing Machine Buying Guide


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When shopping for a rowing machine, your budget takes precedence over everything else. Be it a rowing machine or not, the first thing that comes to mind when buying anything is price. Suffice it to say that budget goes hand in hand with the price of rowing machines. You want to ensure that the price of the rower is tailored to your budget. There are a thousand and one rowing machines in the market with different price points and working out your budget will narrow down the list.

Also, when you have a specific budget you will be less tempted to buy on impulse or overspend. As with everything else, the higher the price the better the quality (however, there are rare exceptions where low-budget rowers perform better than high-end models). Here’s an estimate of rowing machine prices to help you make the best choice:

$300-$500 and below − Entry-level/ low-cost rowers
$500-$1000 and above – High-end rowing machines

Bear in mind that these prices may not be a true reflection of market prices as prices may vary across locations and vendors. This simply gives you an idea of what to expect so you can work out your budget.


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Once you’ve figured out your budget, the next focal consideration is “space”. This may seem inconsequential, but the last thing you want is to buy a rowing machine that is painfully oversized for your space. So rather than waste hard-earned money and time, it is wise to first gauge your space and then proceed to research rowing machines that meet your space specifications. The good news is, rowers have nearly the same size dimensions with little variation. They are generally lengthy and narrow in size. However, hydraulic rowers are an exception to the norm.

They are shorter in length partly because of their lack of a slide rail and sliding seat. Some models are wider though. This puts them below the ranks as rowers with slider rails are most preferred. The slide rail often translates to the machine’s ability to fold up for storage. Hence, they conserve storage space and are ideal for small spaces. You can always find a spot to work out and then stow it away when not in use. So yes, it is best to put your money on a rowing machine with folding capacity.


Though very important, a rower’s resistance type is one factor that isn’t conspicuous to an amateur buyer. The resistance of a rowing machine determines its feel and impact. Here’s a lowdown of the various resistances associated with rowing machines:

Air rowing machines: Air resistance generates resistance via a fan. It is often progressive and depends on the user’s effort to produce a considerable effect. Air resistance has a natural quality to it and the faster the user rows, the higher the resistance produced.

Magnetic rowing machines: In this case, resistance is generated by a magnetic brake connected to the machine’s flywheel. It is remarkably easy to maintain but it doesn’t have much natural feel as water and air.

Air + Magnetic rowing machines: Combines magnetic and air resistance qualities for supremely good resistance. It has a natural feeling like the components it is made of. However, it is not as quiet as magnetic-based resistance rowing machines.

Water resistance rowing machines: Here, a fan blade powers through a liquid which creates resistance. Like air, it has a natural-like feeling but with better control. It also produces less noise than water

Hydraulic: Hydraulic-based resistance creates resistance by navigating a piston in an oil-filled tube. On the downside, it lacks a sliding rail which causes poor movement patterns. However, it is relatively smaller than most rowers and offers good resistance control.

Your fitness needs and goals will determine your choice of resistance. Air resistance rowers are best for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is great for burning calories within short periods. Magnetic-based resistances are incredibly easy to maintain and provide smooth rotations and minimal noise volume. Hydraulic rowers are good in terms of size and resistance control (though seasoned athletes may find their maximum resistance lacking). And so forth!


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Noise can be a pretty big deal to some users and not-so-much of a deal to others. But one thing is for sure; if you live in a residential setting, then you should consider a rower’s noise level before clicking the order button. A rower’s noise volume largely depends on its resistance type. On that note, air-based resistance rowers produce the most noise. Although it is not unbearably loud, it is loud enough to mute the sound of the television or voices. Liquid resistance also produces a considerable amount of noise, because the rowing action moves a fan blade through the water. However, it produces lesser noise than air resistance.

Some people prefer the noise produced by liquid resistance as it has a calming and meditative effect. Be that as it may, the quietest rowers are magnet and hydraulic rowing machines. They are not completely noiseless but they are not loud enough to disturb others or drown the sound of your TV. It is also important to note that hydraulic rowers may develop some squeaky sounds at some point if not properly maintained. Magnetic rowers on the other hand don’t need as much maintenance.


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A rower’s warranty is a measure of the manufacturer’s confidence in their product. This means you can gauge the machine’s longevity by the provided warranty terms. However, bear in mind that some rower’s warranties are not a true judge of their quality; they may surpass or fail to meet your expectations.

But beyond that, a good warranty is an assurance that you can return the rowing machine (within a specified time frame) if it fails to live up to your expectations. Considering that rowing machines hardly come cheap, it is good to have a warranty to back up your purchase when things go south. That being said, ensure to get a product with long-term warranty coverage than those with short-term coverage.

Ease of Maintenance

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Maintenance is another core factor that can’t be overlooked when shopping for a rowing machine. Typically, rowing machines with many detachable parts are easier to fix when necessary, because you only need to replace the affected part. On the flip side, those with complicated parts ( such as chain and fan elements) may need a professional touch.

In this regard, magnetic rowers with belt-driven mechanisms are the easiest to maintain. They don’t need constant lubrication like chain-driven rowers and neither do they have water to be changed (periodically) like water rowers.


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While the standard features offered by a rowing machine may suffice, extra features can take your rowing experience to another level with flawless performance results. Also, your fitness goal may demand a specific feature that is not inclusive of a rower’s standard features. Extra features you may need on a rowing machine include:

Advanced Console: Though most rowing machines come with a standard console, they are usually without advanced features. Generally, low-cost models offer a pretty basic console while medium to high-end models come with smart consoles that are akin to a tablet. These smart consoles offer everything in the book from performance statistics to heart rate monitoring to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity − that allows users to sync with rowing workout apps and entertainment channels.

Connectivity: This is somewhat connected to the console; high-end rowers are furnished with connective elements like a USB port and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. This allows for accurate workout tracking and premium entertainment.

Workout Presets: There’s nothing quite like having the liberty to effortlessly customize your workouts. Advanced rowing machines provide this on a golden platter, where you have the option to customize your workout before you start rowing.

Phone and Water bottle holder: A phone/tablet holder guarantees a secure and easy-to-view space for your mobile devices. While a water bottle holder provides users with adequate hydration by reserving easy-to-access storage for users’ water or drinking bottles.

Wheels: You’d have to move your rowing machine at some point − whether from the delivery truck to its designated spot in your home or from one spot to another. Either way, a rowing machine with porting wheels come in handy. By transferring the bulk of the machine’s weight to the wheels, it makes it easier to transport.

Folding Capacity: Rowers with a folding ability helps conserve storage space. You can easily stow it away for storage when not in use.

In a Nutshell

Buying a rowing machine can be a daunting task, considering the many available options. If you don’t play your cards right, you may end up with an inferior-quality rower or a product that isn’t suited to your fitness and residential needs. Thus, you should take a timeout to perform due diligence before buying a rowing machine. Aside from the right rower, you would also need proper indoor rowing clothing to exercise comfortably. We hope this buying guide is a step in the right direction!

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