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Rowing Machine Buyer’s Guide

The different types of rowers to choose from.

This Rowing Machine Buyer’s Guide outlines exactly what you need to know to buy a new rower!

Learn how to choose the best piece of fitness equipment you can own!

Rowing simultaneously provides a great full-body workout and a killer cardiovascular workout.

Some people believe rowing machines are for off-season rowers only, but that’s far from the truth!

Anyone can start rowing and there is no previous experience required. Just watch a few tutorials and you are set to start rowing!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, owning a rowing machine is a no-brainer. With so many different benefits for the body, who wouldn’t want to buy one?

It’s not the benefits of rowing that are holding people back, it’s figuring out how to buy a rowing machine that fits a persons preferences.

But don’t worry, that’s why I created this rowing machine buyer’s guide. I want to help those that are in the market for an indoor rowing machine, but don’t know exactly where to start.

I’ll lay out all the steps below!

How to Choose a Rowing Machine: Three Steps

Step #1 – Figure Out If You Have Adequate Space

This may sound obvious, but it’s also a very important step.  What’s the point of trying to find the perfect rowing machine when after spending a lot of time researching, you find out you don’t have enough space to use it in the first place?

To avoid this situation from happening, do this step first.  A typical rowing machine has a similar footprint to a love seat sofa. Use this as a reference when figuring out your exercise space.

Also note, hydraulic-piston machines generally have the smallest footprint. Water and air resistance machines have the largest.  More information on resistance types in Step #4 below.     

Each of my reviews lists the footprint of each rower by ( Length x Width x Height ). Once you determine how much space you have, you can sort by length in my ‘Find A Rower Chart’.

Step #2 – Figure Out Your Budget (And Stick To It)

There are dozens of different rowing machines that range in price from under $100 to over  $3,000!

Figuring out how much you have to spend on a rower will help drastically narrow down the number of different models to choose from.

Sticking to your spending budget is also just as important because it prevents you from overspending on a model you “all of a sudden” fell in love with because it has the “latest and greatest technology”.

Like practically anything you buy, the higher the sales price, the higher the quality. Keep that in mind when determining your budget.

A lot of negative reviews on lower end rowing machines are from buyers who opted to purchase the lower priced model but expected the quality of the higher priced model. In the rowing machine world, you get what you pay for!

TIP:  If you don’t know how much to budget because you’re unsure of what your money will buy, here’s a quick estimate of quality and price:

  • ~$400 and under – “Low-End”
  • ~$400 – $700 – “Mid-Range”
  • Over $700 – “High-End”

NOTE:  Keep in mind, this is just a general rule of thumb and there are quality rowing machines in the “Low-End” and “Mid-Range” categories.

One of my most recommended rowers would be considered “Low-End” by this chart.

To find these great deals you will need to do research and I talk about that in Step #5 below.

Step #3 – How Will You Use The Rowing Machine?

The assumption is you’re going to be exercising on it, but there are some additional things to consider that may not have crossed your mind:

Is this for residential or commercial use?

All indoor rowing machines are ready for home use, but not all indoor rowing machines are ready to be used commercially in gyms, health clubs, and boathouses.

If you intend to use the rower for strictly home use, any unit you choose will be fine. However, if you plan to use it commercially, make sure to choose a machine that’s commercial-grade and built for heavy use.

Also consider how many people will be using the rower. If you have a family of 5 who will be rowing quite often, then you may want to opt for a semi-commercial rowing machine.

Rowing machines that are great for multiple users include any WaterRower model like the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine.

You can also choose the Concept2 Model D Home/Commercial Rowing Machine, which is both for home-use and commercial settings.

How to pick a rowing machine

Are You Looking for On-the-Water Simulation?

If you row on the water, you will need a rowing machine that best simulates on-the-water rowing.

It will be important to choose a machine that has a life-like rowing motion and variable resistance that mimics a boat in the water.

Most off-season rowers choose air and water resistance rowing machines (see Step #4 below for resistance type information).

Concept2 RowErg Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Monitor

The world's best-selling rowing machine. Adjustable air resistance & easy storage. Comes with a device holder for your smartphone. You can't go wrong with this rowing machine.

  • Best overall rowing machine on the market
  • Connects with heart rate monitors
  • 5 year frame warranty
  • Fan can be too noisy for some
  • Not the cheapest
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
05/21/2024 01:38 pm GMT

Are you going to share this rowing machine?

If you’re not the only person that’s going to use the rowing machine, it’s important to purchase a model that has varying resistance strength to accommodate the different levels of users.

Also, keep in mind that each rowing machine has a different weight and height capacity. Make sure you choose a rower that is suitable for all users.

You can also find monitors on the advance rowing machines that have different user profiles to store workouts and programs for each user.

Step #4 – Learn About The Different Resistance Types

Rowing machines have four different resistance types. Air, hydraulic-piston, magnetic, and water (also air/magnetic combination rowers).

Each type has its own set of characteristics along with advantages and disadvantages. Knowing about the different resistance types gives you a basic understanding of how rowing machines function.

In addition, knowing which type you prefer will help you narrow down your search drastically. If you know you want an air rowing machine and have $400 to spend, you may only have 2 options to choose from.

I believe choosing a budget and resistance type are the two most important steps in the ‘Rowing Machine Buyer’s Guide’.

Below is a brief summary of each resistance type:

Air Resistance Rowing Machines:  

The most common resistance type in gyms/ health clubs. The resistance level is determined by the user’s rowing intensity. More intensity equals more resistance; less intensity equals less resistance.

The fan blades used to create resistance make a fair amount of noise but the rowing motion on these rowing machines are very smooth.

Hydraulic Piston Rowing Machines:  

Compact and easy to store away when not in use. Resistance is usually adjustable and the hydraulic pistons used to create resistance are very quiet.

These are the lowest-priced out of all resistance types.

Magnetic Resistance Rowing Machines:  

These are quiet rowers due to the magnetic breaking system used to provide resistance create no noise. The rowing motion is smooth and resistance is usually adjustable.

Resistance is sometimes less than what is found on air and water rowers. However, when rowing slowly you can still feel strong resistance on magnetic rowers as opposed to air or water.

These models are very durable and requires virtually no maintenance.

Water Resistance Rowing Machines:  

Water rowers provide a realistic rowing motion that feels and sounds like you’re rowing on water. They are similar to air resistance because resistance is determined by the user’s rowing intensity.

The paddles/blades that move through the water and create the resistance make a fair amount of noise, but it’s tranquil since it resembles noise heard when rowing outdoors.

These are typically the highest-priced rowing machines out of all the resistance types.

To find more detailed information about the resistance types including price range and user profile, visit my resistance types post.

Step #5 – Start Reading Rowing Machine Reviews

By the time you reach this step, you may have a general idea of what rowing machine you’re interested in buying. You should have a general idea of a resistance type and price range.

The next step is to read rowing machine reviews to find out which model is best for you based on your preferences.

When reading reviews, it’s important to find out specific details about the machine you’re researching.

You should be able to read about:

  • The rowing machine’s build quality and material?
  • Performance monitor – what workout data it records and other special features?
  • How comfortable (or uncomfortable) are the seat, handles, and footrests ?
  • Whether or not it makes weird noises while in use?
  • What other users/ owners think about the machine?
  • What are the storage capabilities?
  • Much more!

If you are looking for further help buying a rowing machine you should check out my Start Here Page.

Rowing Machine Buyer’s Guide – Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, the manufacturers are biased and the retailers  just provides product information and not enough detail.

I had a difficult time finding thorough rowing machine reviews during my search, which is why I started this website. I wanted to help people find the perfect rowing machine without them pulling all of their hair out!

Each rowing machine review goes over every detail including build quality, resistance type, performance monitor, comfort, user capacity, warranty, pros and cons, and much more. If you’re looking for thorough and unbiased rowing machine reviews, you found the right website!

So either visit the “Start Here” page I linked to above or visit the Compare rowing Machine Models Page. Then sort by price, resistance, space, warranty, etc.

I also created a Rowing Machine Concierge Service. Basically you input your information and I recommend the best model based on your preferences.

The process of buying a rowing machine isn’t easy, but hopefully this rowing machine buyer’s guide will help make things easier for you and lead you one step closer to finding the perfect rower!


  1. Have you thought about reviewing the Spirit CRW 800 rower? I have been using Concept2 model D for years and recently decided to purchase a machine for hoe which Naturally was going to be a Concept2. Until I tried the Spirit CRW 800. Very similar smoothness when performing the rowing action since it is a air rower but also has magnetic feature also that you can adjust on the fly while rowing right on the handle. I looked on your page for info before buying one but didn’t see a review. Just thought would pass this on since your page has helped me many other times.

    Thank you
    TJ Georgitso

    1. Hi TJ,

      Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it! The CRW800 has been on my list of models to review but I just haven’t got around to it. I also like to gather as much info from experienced people who have used one before writing anything up.

      What are the major pros and cons of the model? Also, the main question I get from people when a rowing machine is a bit more than the C2 is why should they spend $300 more to get the CRW8000?

      I’d appreciate any feedback you have on the model! You can respond here or send me an email (edwin@rowingmachineking.com). Thanks!!!

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