Cheap Rowing Machines: Balancing Price and Quality

Shopping for cheap rowing machines is one way to save money while you get yourself into better physical shape, but are you really saving money by spending a bit less on the machine?

In some cases, the answer is “yes.” It largely depends on what price point you consider cheap and what features you need or want when you compare inexpensive rowing machines. Being prepared and knowing what you’re willing to spend is half the battle.

What Do Cheap Rowers Cost?

The prices for indoor rowers vary widely depending on the brand name, the complexity of the model, and the materials used to make the machine.

You can find a simple rowing machine that gives you an upper body workout for as little as a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, professional grade rowing machines can sell for well over $2000.

What Features Are You Looking For?

Investing in cheap rowing machines can lead to disappointment if you don’t carefully compare several makes and models in order to find the ideal machine for your needs.

You’ll need to determine which features you can’t do without and which ones you’re willing to give up for a lower price tag. If you’re looking for a basic workout, you may be willing to forego the bells and whistles often found on indoor rowers.

Also consider convenience factors, such as whether you want to be able to move or fold up your indoor rower when it isn’t in use. Decide whether you want an inexpensive rower that’s purely functional, or if a hardwood frame would appeal to you, even at a higher price.

Once you’ve determined what your “must haves” are, you can start comparing prices on models that meet your needs in order to determine what you will need to spend.

If the prices still seem too steep for your budget, consider buying a cheaper, reconditioned or used rowing machine or consider giving up some features.

Some Styles Are Cheaper Than Others

There are several styles of cheap rowing machines on the market, but some types are less expensive than others. In general, hydraulic rowers are the cheapest because they are the most basic.

Some models have stationary seats, which mean you aren’t getting the lower body workout you might be looking for. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in the cardio benefits, a basic, inexpensive hydraulic model may be ideal, particularly since you can get a sturdy one for $400 or less.

In the mid-range are magnetic resistance rowers and air rowers. These both offer full body workouts and are generally well made. The price difference you see will depend on such issues as the materials used in manufacturing, the quality of the parts, how many features are included on the console, and the company reputation and warranty.

Although there are exceptions, water resistance rowing machines are not going to be considered cheap rowing machines. They offer an exceptionally realistic ‘feel’ when rowing and are often crafted by leaders in the industry.

The materials are more costly and most are manufactured in the United States, increasing their price considerably in some cases.

The Basics vs. the Extras

Most basic rowing machines offer consoles with simple functions like speed, time and distance monitoring. Extras might include a heart rate monitor, additional exercise variations, the ability to do other exercises on the machine, a hardwood frame, and padded, adjustable seats.

You can save a few hundred dollars just by foregoing the padded seat for a molded plastic one!

Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a few cheap rowing machines you’re interested in, be sure to read plenty of consumer and professional reviews. Compare the individual machines on several criteria, including:

  • The style of rower. Do you prefer a water resistance model or will an air resistance rower be just as good?
  • The company reputation. Generally, a $500 rower made by a company with good consumer reviews will hold up better than an $800 model by a company that is plagued with design problems and poor reviews.
  • Warranties. Cheap rowers with only a 90 day warranty may not be a good choice. On the other hand, if you get a two to three year warranty, you’ll most likely get a great return on your investment.

What's the Best Cheap Rowing Machine?

Once you know what you’re really looking for, you can find cheap rowing machines at any number of online sports equipment stores, or you can shop around locally. Either way, make sure you choose an inexpensive rower that will truly fit your needs so that you don’t give up after a few weeks of use.

You can look through our best pick under $500 as well as our top choice under $300, or look through our Best Buy lists.

You can also find a wide selection of inexpensive rowers at Amazon, which carries popular, low-cost rowers from Stamina, Sunny Health, Avari, Soozier and other under $500 models.

Read through some of our reviews as well as those from customers, and that will help you deicde which is the best cheap rowing machine for your needs.  

And remember, it's a good idea to get an extended warranty if it's available, as the coverage on less expensive models tends to be subpar.

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