7 Best Rowing Machines Under $500 in 2020

Best Overall Under $500

Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine

Our Score: 4.75 / 5

Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine
  • Ergonomic console allows for different height and intensity settings
  • Solid, durable build
  • 10 magnetic resistance levels allow for adjustability
  • Large LCD display monitors time, distance, count, calories, recovery, stroke, and pulse

Best Rower for Tall People

MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine

Our Score: 4.5 / 5

MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine
  • 16 levels of magnetic resistance allows for maximum adjustability
  • Extra-long slide rails make it ideal for tall people
  • Space-saving foldable design
  • High-quality build

Best Value for Money

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

Our Score: / 5

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine
  • Easy, straightforward assembly
  • Inexpensive
  • Quiet and smooth magnetic tension system for increased efficiency
  • Long slide rail makes it ideal even for tall people

Table of Contents

Torched calories and well-sculpted legs are only some of the rewards of long-term rowing. The good news is, you don’t even have to sail on clear waters to get the best out of this hardcore workout. With patience, dedication, and a compact rowing machine in your living space, you can paddle your way to a fitter and healthier you – minus the currents and the messy teamwork.

Ideal even for teenagers and senior citizens, an indoor rowing machine is a full-body cardio workout that serves as a great alternative for treadmills and bikes. Just like regular rowing, it puts all your muscles to work, making it an ideal piece of gym or home equipment.

But as a word of warning, our bodies have different needs and limitations, so it’s always important to find the equipment that matches your strengths and capabilities. This way, you can avoid frustrations and stay motivated as you reach for your fitness goals.

Also, rowing machines can be fairly expensive – so if you’re looking for the perfect entry point into rowing and equipment that won’t break the bank, then this is the article for you. To help you get started on the right foot, below is a compilation of the best rowing machines under $500.

Side-by-side product comparison - specifications & features

ImageProductRatingPriceWeight CapacityDimensionsTension SystemResistanceWarranty
Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine, gray, One SizeSchwinn Crewmaster4.5$800.00300 lbs93" x 21" x 32" Magnetic10 levelsFrame: 10 years
Parts: 3 years
Labor: 1 year
MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine Folding Exercise Rower 16-Level Tension Resistance Precise Display Panel with Storage Box Quite for Home UseSchwinn Crewmaster4.25$239.99243 lbs76.4" x 19" x 10.2" Magnetic16 levels2 years
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower w/LCD MonitorSchwinn Crewmaster4.25$251.61250 lbs82" x 19" x 23" Magnetic8 levelsFrame: 3 years
Parts: 6 months
Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower Rowing Machine with Extended Optional Full Body Exercises and Free AppSchwinn Crewmaster4.25$299.00250 lbs88.5" x 21.5" x 21.5" Magnetic14 levels1 year (or 5 years if purchased on FitnessReality.com)
ECHANFIT Rowing Machine Foldable Indoor Rower w/LCD Monitor with 16 Levels Silent Magnetic Belt System and Adjustable Console Angle for Cardio Exercise Workout at Home and StudioSchwinn Crewmaster4$259.99265 lbs75" x 19" x 33.5" Magnetic16 levelsParts: 1 year
MARNUR Water Rowing Machine for Home Portable Double Track Water Resistance Rower with Large Multifunctional LCD Monitor & Wide Seat Cushion for Men and WomenSchwinn Crewmaster4$409.99300 lbs-WaterWater level-
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622 Dual Function Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower w/LCD MonitorSchwinn Crewmaster4$299.00275 lbs72" x 21" x 18.5" Magnetic8 levelsFrame: 3 years
Parts: 6 months

#1

Best Overall Under $500

Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine

Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine

Our Score: 4.75 / 5

Editor's opinion:

A top-quality rowing machine that’s half the price of high-end products in the market, the Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine is quality, adjustability, and durability rolled into one.

Pros

  • Ergonomic console allows for different height and intensity settings
  • Solid, durable build
  • 10 magnetic resistance levels allow for adjustability
  • Large LCD display monitors time, distance, count, calories, recovery, stroke, and pulse

Cons

  • Size takes up a lot of space
  • Most expensive rowing machine in our list

Beating all other models on our list is the Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine, a winning workout masterpiece that replicates that in-water rowing experience via its solid build and highly adjustable console. While it may be a little more expensive than the other products in this list, it gives you enough reasons to justify its cost as it has high-end features comparable to other more expensive brands – precisely why this equipment is our top pick.

From the makers of highly innovative cardio workout solutions, the Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine is all about quality and versatility. It allows you to submerge into a full-body aerobic workout via its fully adaptable console, which offers a wide range of adjustment features so you can exercise comfortably regardless of your height and resistance preferences. Exercise on your own terms right from the comfort of your living space – that’s Schwinn’s guarantee.

Some of its exemplary features include its 10 magnetic resistance levels, its over-sized, well-cushioned seats, and its powerful nylon transmission – all of which allow you to exercise conveniently, quietly, and persistently without having to worry about durability issues.

Our personal favorite is its large, readable display that helps you track important readings such as time, distance, count, calories, recovery, stroke, and pulse. This may be a small add-on for some, but this feature is actually what most of its competing models in this list lack.

The only major downside of the Schwinn Crewmaster Rowing Machine is its heavy and large build, which is not suitable for small living spaces. But then again, if you’re looking for a solid investment that’s half the price of high-end ergs, this product is worth the second look.

#2

Best Rower for Tall People

MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine

MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine

Our Score: 4.5 / 5

Editor's opinion:

Jam-packed with great, highly functional features, the MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine is the perfect muscle-building machine even for taller rowing enthusiasts.

Pros

  • 16 levels of magnetic resistance allows for maximum adjustability
  • Extra-long slide rails make it ideal for tall people
  • Space-saving foldable design
  • High-quality build

Cons

  • LCD only displays time, count, calories, total count; lacks readings on rowing distance and strokes
  • A few users complain about its durability

What looks like the Iron Man in the world of indoor rowing machines is the MaxKare Magnetic Rowing Machine Folding Exercise Rower, a sturdy and highly innovative rower that almost stole the top spot from Schwinn Crewmaster. It only takes a glimpse for rowing enthusiasts to know why this machine effortlessly climbed its way to the top.

Fitness knows no limits, and that’s what MaxKare’s extra long slide rails and magnetic resistance prove. With a rail length reaching up to 49 inches, this equipment is ideal even if you’re well over 6’ tall – quite a great bargain if you’d consider its price. Adjustability wise, it was designed with 16 levels of magnetic resistance, making it easy for you to create customized workout regimens with improved range and accuracy. Play with old and new exercise patterns – MaxCare makes workout switches possible for you.

Aesthetically speaking, MaxCare is easy on the eyes, thanks to its high-quality design and build. Add to that, its foldability also makes storage easy and convenient, so if that’s one of your considerations, you might want to check out this product.

If there’s something missing about this machine, it’s a full display of important workout data such as rowing distance and strokes. Also, a few users complain about the durability of their unit after using it for a few months. But overall, if these users are proven wrong and durability isn’t really an issue, this product is one of the greatest buys on our list.

#3

Best Value for Money

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine

Our Score: / 5

Editor's opinion:

Playing tug-of-war because of some issues with durability that go against its exceptional features, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 is still a winning rowing machine because of its quiet and smooth magnetic tension system and its extra-long slide rail, which are rare at its price point.

Pros

  • Easy, straightforward assembly
  • Inexpensive
  • Quiet and smooth magnetic tension system for increased efficiency
  • Long slide rail makes it ideal even for tall people

Cons

  • Lacks meter display; small digital monitor only includes time, calorie, and stroke display
  • Some users complain about its fragile build

Easy on the pocket but mighty on performance, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Magnetic Rowing Machine keeps you rowing towards your fitness goals through its quiet and smooth magnetic tension mechanism, which can be adjusted in 8 levels. Its easy-to-use tension knob allows you to make quick switches that regulate resistance and intensity levels so you won’t outgrow your machine even when your rowing skill gets an upgrade. Make different routines and workout patterns or stick to your regular program – SF-RW5515 enables you to do both.

The cherry on top: SF-RW5515 was built to offer you lasting comfort and convenience via its fully-cushioned seats, its non-slip, textured pedals, and its extra-long slide rails, which make rowing hassle-free even for taller people.

What most users don’t like about this product is its small digital monitor display that doesn’t provide accurate calorie readings and lacks meter display, too. Additionally, some units are said to be fragile, so make sure to double-check the warranty. If needed, you can get the 2-year extended warranty for an extra $25 just in case. While the SF-RW5515 is actually a steal considering its standout features, durability should never take the backseat, so we had to give it a 4.25 rating.

#4

Most Innovative Indoor Rowing Machine

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine

Our Score: 4.25 / 5

Editor's opinion:

It’s hard to merge technology and functionality, but Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower allows you to have both at a fairly reasonable price, making it one of our must-buys.

Pros

  • Designed with a free MyCloudFitness app, which works on both IOS and Androids
  • Smooth and quiet rowing mechanism
  • Readable 3.5-inch LCD display that monitors calories, distance, strokes, time, and total count
  • 14 levels of magnetic resistance allow for a wide range of adjustability
  • Comes with stabilizer foot pads that enable you to engage in non-rowing exercises

Cons

  • App can be inaccurate
  • Workout intensity is limited

Combining a sturdy build with innovative solutions is the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower, a powerful rowing machine that keeps you just a row – and an app – closer to your health and fitness goals.

For its price point, this indoor rower has a lot of advantages over its competing models, but let’s start with some of our favorites first. Contrary to other rowers that make connectivity the least of their concerns, the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rowing Machine makes connectivity its pivotal feature by helping you track your progress and your goals via a FREE MyCloudFitness app, which is compatible on both Android and iOS.

This, along with a 3.5-inch LCD display that monitors calories, distance, strokes, time, and total count, helps you accurately identify stages of your fitness journey so you can set exercise routines according to your present needs.

Most importantly, the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Bluetooth Magnetic Rower was built to offer you alternative workout options that can help you achieve targeted results. Each machine comes with 14 levels of magnetic resistance, which is paired with stabilizer foot pads that enable you to engage in other non-rowing exercises such as curls and front raises. Adjustable and versatile? It’s tough to beat that combo!

But just like other rowers, this equipment also has its fair share of ups and downs. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of this product is also its main feature – its app. While it aims to get you more in tune with your progress, many users have had a negative experience on the machine’s application because of issues with inaccuracy, so you may be slightly disappointed if you’re after real-time readings.

Also, while its rowing mechanism is quiet and smooth, it may not be an advisable rower for athletes who are looking for extreme workout intensities that other high-end models like the Concept2 Model can provide. But overall, this piece of equipment is a great contender if you’re just in the market for low to mid-priced rowers.

#5

Compact indoor rowing machine

ECHANFIT Rowing Machine

ECHANFIT Rowing Machine

Our Score: 4 / 5

Editor's opinion:

Space-saving and highly adjustable, ENCHANFIT proves that quality doesn’t have to come at an expensive price, making it one of the best buys in our list.

Pros

  • 16 resistance levels allow for maximum adjustability
  • Quiet and smooth magnetic tension system
  • Space-saving design

Cons

  • Lacks pulse reading
  • Build is not ideal for tall people

Enjoy seamless movements and unrivalled flexibility with ENCHANFIT Magnetic Rower’s tension system that enables smooth and quiet indoor rowing mechanisms. What makes this equipment a top contender in our list is its 16 resistance levels, which is definitely a great buying point if adjustability is one of your essentials. Mimicking the tension system used in magnetic upright indoor bikes, ENCHANFIT is engineered with a knob that controls its brakes. It just takes a quick clockwise or counter-clockwise twist to increase or decrease rowing resistance based on your preferred workout intensity.

Another feature that makes ENCHANFIT a great budget indoor rower is its ergonomic, space-saving folding frame design that makes storage the least of your concerns. Ideal for full-body cardio workout or recovery training, this indoor equipment brings comfort, adjustability, and quality straight to your doorstep.

Some of the areas it needs to work on, however, is its compact build, which is not really ideal for taller people, and its digital display that lacks pulse reading. But considering its remarkable features, this rower is definitely a great bargain particularly if you’re petite or average-sized.

#6

Our favorite water rower under $500

Marnur Water Rowing Machine

Marnur Water Rowing Machine

Our Score: 4 / 5

Editor's opinion:

Marnur Water Rowing Machine gets you close to rowing on actual waters via its water tank, which serves as water storage for different workout intensity needs. Built to mimic the outdoors, this rowing equipment is hard to beat.

Pros

  • Tightly-sealed water tank fills up to 18 liters of water
  • Mimics natural outdoor rowing experience via its water-regulated resistance levels
  • Movable pulley allows for easy movement and storage
  • Digital watch that tracks time, calories, distance, and strokes can be adjusted for maximum visibility

Cons

  • Resistance and workout intensity levels are not controlled by easy-to-use knobs
  • Assembly can also be challenging

Want to hit the water without stepping away from home? The Marnur Water Rowing Machine has you covered. Built with a water tank that fills up to 18 liters, this home rowing machine aims to offer you the complete outdoor rowing experience by adding actual water into the equation.

This machine’s mechanism is quite simple. Its 22.63-inch deep water tank is designed to hold different water levels, which directly affect workout resistance and intensity. A water pipe and an injection port allow you to conveniently replace and change water levels according to your own preferences. But aside from water levels, the intensity of your routine is also dependent on speed. As a rule of thumb, low to medium rowing speed builds up muscle endurance, while faster speeds aim for power.

Other than replicating an actual rowing experience, this product is also a winner because it claims to put less pressure on the joints, making it ideal for senior citizens or those with minor knee conditions that need to engage in-impact exercise.

Plus, the Marnur Water Rowing Machine also comes with a movable pulley that allows for easy movement and storage, along with an adjustable digital watch that tracks time, calories, distance, and strokes. Talk about convenience!

Now, unlike other models that come with a control knob, this product’s resistance level is based on water level settings, so your workout intensity may not be as easy to control. Also, assembly may come as a challenge, especially if it’s your first time using an indoor rowing machine with a water tank.

#7

Multi-functional indoor rowing machine

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622

Our Score: 4 / 5

Editor's opinion:

Focus on your core or your hamstrings – the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622 Dual Function Magnetic Rowing Machine allows you to do both by giving you more stand-up and sit-down workout options in one reasonably-priced equipment.

Pros

  • Dual functionality allows for a wide range of upper and lower body exercises
  • 8 levels of adjustable resistance for varying workout intensities
  • Cushioned seats offer maximum comfort and support
  • Versatile equipment at a reasonable price

Cons

  • Durability issues reported by some users

Hitting two birds with one stone, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622 Dual Function Magnetic Rowing Machine helps you create a holistic approach to achieving upper and lower body fitness via muscle-toning and sculpting exercises that you can perform in either a sitting or standing position.

Its main highlight: this rowing machine easily converts into an upper body-building equipment that successfully targets the muscles in your shoulders and biceps, making it easy for you to achieve all your fitness goals in just one space-saving equipment. Torn between circuit training and rowing exercises? You don’t have to choose one because SF-RW5622 Dual Function is here to help you do both.

How? Simple. Sturdy metal pads allow you to stand upright and therefore you can engage in a wide range of exercises that focus on your upper body muscles such as bicep curls, front shoulder raises, or overhead tricep extensions.

From rigorous rowing exercises to bicep curls, the SF-RW5622 gives you all the support and features you need.

Rowing wise, just like its top-performing sibling, Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515, this equipment is also designed with an 8-level adjustable resistance, which regulates intensity based on your needs. Its wide, cushioned seat also offers unparalleled comfort and support, making it a great indoor rower even without the ‘dual’ feature.

A fairly common complaint that users seem to have is that the tension is relatively weak. Stronger rowers or people looking for a more intense workout might feel a bit underwhelmed by the adjustable tension.

If, however, rowing for endurance on a lower setting is your thing, then we don’t see any problems for you, as there are no user complaints of the tension at the lower end of the scale.

The best under $500 rowing machine: buying guide, tips & tricks

A cheap rowing machine is your bridge to a low-impact, full body workout that doesn’t just tone your muscles, but also improves your overall endurance – pretty much what you should aim to achieve in every workout regimen.

But while these machines are a great alternative to biking or jogging, not all rowers are created equal. And, unfortunately, buying one that doesn’t match your needs and capabilities can be disappointing.

To help you stay on your course, we’ve summed up some of the best practices in buying indoor rowing machines – especially if you’re looking for a lower-priced model under $500.

What are the best rowing machines for home use?

There is no such thing as a perfect rowing machine because every rowing enthusiast has their own needs and preferences. When shopping for one, make it a habit to read reviews from verified buyers and make comparisons when possible. This way, you can make great investments without going over the budget.

Are air rowers better than magnetic rowing machines?

Both air and magnetic rowers demand physical strength and stamina, but they do so using different mechanisms. As the name implies, air rowers use air resistance via a flywheel that’s connected to a tension setting, which controls resistance levels. Besides the setting, the intensity of your workout is also influenced by your rowing speed. As a general rule, low row speeds generate less resistance, and vice versa. This is where air and magnetic rowers greatly differ.

Unlike air rowers, the resistance setting of magnetic rowers are completely reliant on its magnetic break and control. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast you row here as your workout intensity follows your preferred settings.

Between the two, an air rower is the bigger winner in terms of mimicking an outdoor rowing experience, thanks to its ability to respond to your rowing movements, which its magnetic counterpart lacks.

What should I look for when buying a rowing machine?

Innovative features come last when it comes to buying an indoor rowing machine, especially if you’re under a tight budget. Rowing machines under $500 may have some innovative features, but most don’t. What you need in a cheaper rowing machine are a few key features set out below. Here are some of the ‘non-negotiables’ when comparing rowing machines:

  • Size: Is the rowing machine compact enough for your living space? If so, does its size allow you to fully stretch your legs and maintain proper form during rowing exercises? 
  • Resistance level: Directly proportional to your workout’s intensity level, resistance levels are controlled via different mechanisms, which include air, water, hydraulic, and magnetic systems. 
  • Seat: Is the seat large enough and sturdy enough to offer you support while allowing you to maintain the right form? 
  • Maximum weight capacity: Is the equipment capable of supporting your full weight? Not only that, how is the stability with your weight on it (you don’t want any shaking or wobbling).
  • Portability: Not all living spaces can make room for an indoor rowing machine. If your space is quite packed, look for features that allow for portability like movable wheels. Also, you might want to consider a foldable rowing machine so you can just fold and stow your equipment when it’s not in use. 
  • Display: The best models feature monitor displays that help you keep track of time, distance, count, calories, recovery, stroke, and pulse. 

Rowing vs exercise bike vs treadmill?

Every gym equipment is built to address targeted fitness goals, but to give you a more comprehensible comparison, below are the significant differences between a rowing machine, a stationary bike, and a treadmill.

Rowing Machine Exercise Bike Treadmill
Low impact, full-body cardio exercise Low impact, lower body exercise Low to high impact, lower body exercise (impact depends on walking or running pace)
Burns the least calories during workout sessions (unless intensity increases) Burns more calories than a rowing machine, but burns less calories than a treadmill Burns the most calories during workout sessions
Ideal for those with joint conditions that need to engage in low weight-bearing exercises Ideal for those with joint conditions that need to engage in low weight-bearing exercises Not ideal for those with joint conditions that need to engage in low weight-bearing exercises

Should I pay more than $500 for a rowing machine?

Rowing machines under $500 may not compare to high-end models, but there are a lot of decent brands out there that can get the job done without asking you to go over the budget. But then again, when shopping for a rowing machine, it all boils down to three things: your budget, your fitness goals, and your preferences.

If, for instance, you are a professional athlete, a $300 rowing machine may not be able to meet your need for intensity. But if, on the other hand, you’re just getting started on your fitness journey and you’re here to test the waters, going for a decent, budget-friendly brand that keeps all your needs in check is most definitely a wiser choice.

Final verdict

Indoor rowers under $500 offer a variety of features that can diversify your cardio routines. While these machines can’t compare to high-end models twice or thrice the price, there are decently-made brands that can help you achieve your fitness goals without breaking the bank. It’s all a matter of finding one aligned to your individual needs and preferences.

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Katie Smith
Katie Smith

Katie is a researcher and writer at Painless Movement. Her talent lies in digging through the internet to find the best products for your well-being.

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