Most people prefer a treadmill for a home gym, but I always recommend a rowing machine as one of the first pieces of exercise equipment.

The reason for this is that a rowing machine may provide a more full-body workout that might work particularly well for weight loss.

The problem is that there are many crappy rowers at the lower price range, so we set out to see if we could create a list of the best rowing machines for lower budgets.

Here’s what we found.

Our Top Budget Rowing Machines

1 - Sunny Health And Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine (Editor's Choice)

Sunny Health And Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

One of the best rowers we found is this Sunny Health And Fitness model. It might be particularly suitable for taller people, as the glide rail is quite a bit longer than standard.

Switching between the 8 levels of magnetic resistance is seamless and could make strength training more effective.

Resistance: 

  • Magnetic
Pros
  • A longer than standard rail may make it suitable for taller people
  • There are 8 different magnetic resistance settings for all fitness levels
  • The simple monitor seems to provide enough workout information
  • Positive reviews about the size being small enough to not take up much space
Cons
  • It doesn’t seem to display distance rowed

The only downside we noted is that the info it records doesn’t include distance, but that seems common on a budget rower.

2 - ShareVgo Smart Rower Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine

ShareVgo Smart Rower Folding Magnetic Rowing Machine

We saw in quite a few comments that this model was particularly easy to get set up, and the folding mechanism should make it easier to clear your workout space when you’re finished.

There’s also an app available that connects via Bluetooth to record more accurate training sessions to help you get to your fitness goals.

Resistance:

  • Magnetic
Pros
  • Comes with Bluetooth connectivity, to allow for integration with a smartphone app
  • The magnetic resistance may be set to 8 different intensities
  • Positive reviews that it’s easy to assemble without DIY skills
Cons
  • The LCD screen could be brighter with a few more details

Just keep in mind that the LCD display may be a bit difficult to read at a glance as it’s not the brightest.

3 - Fitness Reality Magnetic Rower

Fitness Reality Magnetic Rower

This home rowing machine is popular with folks who like to fold their equipment away quickly after their workout sessions.

The different levels of magnetic resistance seem to be easily adjusted, so you don’t end up with long interruptions in your rowing workouts.

The exercise data on the screen is helpful and not overly distracting, which may help you focus more on your rowing stroke technique.

Resistance:

  • Magnetic
Pros
  • Positive comments about the magnetic resistance being very quiet
  • The large display makes seeing workout info at a glance easier
  • Many buyers like the quick-fold system for easier storage
Cons
  • Users aren’t too impressed with the app functionality available for free

It comes with an app, but we noted quite a few folks saying that the free features might be a bit too limited.

4 - Sunny Health & Fitness Incline Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness Incline Rowing Machine

This inexpensive rowing machine mainly relies on your body weight to create resistance. With 5 incline levels, it should give you enough choices for a good cardio workout.

It might also be a good option for heavier buyers as this home rower may take a maximum weight load of 350 pounds.

Resistance:

  • Incline
Pros
  • Comes with a unique incline feature to adjust 5 settings
  • Seems to be favored by people with limited space
  • Has a good maximum user capacity of 350 pounds
Cons
  • The display is a bit small and not always clear to read

We just found the screen on this Sunny Health model to be too small to easily see when you’ve achieved your training goal.

5 - Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Home Rowing Machine

Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Home Rowing Machine

The Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 uses water resistance cylinders, and it seems to have quite a unique movement design.

This may provide a more natural arm movement that actual rowers prefer.

The advantage with hydraulic cylinder resistance rowers is that they tend to be the quietest types, which may make them more suitable for apartments.

Resistance:

  • Hydraulic
Pros
  • May provide a broader range of motion for your arms
  • It seems to be one of the quietest options if you don’t want to disturb neighbors
  • The hydraulic adjustments are easy to change with the tension knob
Cons
  • The small computer doesn’t measure mileage rowed

The thing we’re missing on this row machine is a distance measuring for your training data.

6 - Stamina ATS Air Rower

Stamina ATS Air Rower

The Stamina ATS Air Rower is the first air resistance model on our recommended list. With a solid steel frame, it should be suitable for people up to 250 pounds.

Some folks also prefer these types over magnetic ones because they may provide a more natural rowing motion.

We also like that the computer records quite a lot of data, including the distance. For longer-term training plans, that information might be very valuable.

Resistance:

  • Air
Pros
  • May provide a more authentic arm motion
  • Workout data includes speed, mileage, and time
  • The user weight capacity is 250 pounds
Cons
  • The air mechanism can be quite noisy

The main downside with air rowers is that they tend to make considerably more noise, so keep that in mind to avoid causing any disturbance.

7 - XTERRA Fitness Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower

XTERRA Fitness Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower

This is another budget indoor rowing machine that may provide enough flexibility with a good selection of different intensity adjustments.

It should work well to lose weight as well as for anyone looking to build up some strength in upper muscle groups.

The monitor also seems to be large enough to get the information you need with just a quick look.

Resistance:

  • Magnetic
Pros
  • 8 different power adjustments allow for more flexibility with fitness levels
  • The folding design makes it simple to move out of the way
  • Positive comments about the display monitor size making it easier to read
Cons
  • The straps on the foot plates could be easier to accurately adjust

What we noted in a few reviews is that people found the foot straps weren’t the easiest to adjust, especially for larger size feet.

8 - ProGear 750 Rower

ProGear 750 Rower

This inexpensive rowing machine provides some helpful adjustments that allow you to use it for a variety of other exercises like biceps curls.

People also like that having the two hydraulic cylinders may give you a more realistic motion while rowing.

Resistance:

  • Hydraulic
Pros
  • May be easily adjusted for targeted upper body exercises
  • Uses independent hydraulic cylinders for more realistic fitness training
  • May allow for different incline positions to increase the intensity
Cons
  • Some of the alternate exercises don’t support a full motion range

We just noticed in a few videos that some of the other exercise settings might not allow you to go through optimum body movements.

9 - Merax Magnetic Exercise Rower

Merax Magnetic Exercise Rower

The Merax option could be a good choice if you particularly like an easy to use resistance level mechanism. Online reviews say that this makes working out a lot easier.

We also noted that the machine makes very little noise, even when you’re going at full speed. That could be valuable if you have young kids at home or don’t want to upset neighbors.

Resistance:

  • Magnetic
Pros
  • Seems to have a very quiet mechanism and smooth rowing action
  • 8 tension controller settings provide good rowing workout options
  • Positive reviews about the seat rail angle providing a smooth motion
Cons
  • The monitor display is quite small, making it difficult to read

What we didn’t like is the size of the performance monitor, which might be a bit small to easily get the information you need while you’re working out.

10 - Marcy Foldable Turbine Rowing Machine

Marcy Foldable Turbine Rowing Machine

Here’s another good option if you have limited space at home and need something that may be quick and easy to fold up and move out of the way.

And adjusting the settings also seems to be easy enough to not cause interruptions while you’re working out.

It also has one of the larger monitors to show your training progress more easily.

Resistance:

  • Air
Pros
  • People like that it’s easy to adjust the resistance without causing too much interruption
  • The display may be large enough to show multiple data points
  • Foot pedals may be easily adjusted and seem to reduce slipping
Cons
  • This is possibly one of the loudest rowers we found due to the wind resistance design

Just remember that the authentic feel does come at the cost of having quite a noisy machine, especially at higher speeds.

Buyer’s Guide

buyers guide

1 - Resistance Type

The very first thing you need to make a decision on is the resistance system. You’ll find three main types, even in the budget range:

  • Hydraulic resistance
  • Magnetic resistance
  • Air resistance

The reason I listed them out this way is to give you an idea which ones are more expensive.

We found that the hydraulic ones tend to be more compact and cheaper, but they’re also very quiet.

The air rowers might feel more authentic and provide more flexibility, but they are more expensive and quite noisy. 

A happy medium is a magnetic system [1], which also happens to be our favorite. The tension resistance feels real, which should give you a good rowing experience without creating much noise.

2 - Resistance Levels

Resistance Levels

The number of levels of resistance is going to be another important factor for two reasons.

Firstly, the whole idea of using an indoor rowing machine is to gradually improve your fitness levels.

You might start at the lowest setting, but do you really want to stay there?

The more resistance choices you have, the more flexibility you will gain to increase your fitness levels and not outgrow your machine.

“Aerobic exercises are endurance-type exercises that increase a person’s heart rate and breathing rate over relatively long durations. Anaerobic exercises are exercises that involve short bursts of intense activity.”

 

- Jon Johnson, Writer at MedicalNewsToday.com

Secondly, being able to gradually increase the intensity during a full-body workout may get your heart rate up while still performing a low impact exercise.

It’s less strain on your body, allowing you to easily transition between aerobic and anaerobic [2] phases for better fitness results.

3 - Height And Weight Capacity

Rowing Machine Height and Weight

This is mainly important for tall folks or those that might be carrying a bit more weight.

If this is the case for you, then check out the specifications of the slide rail length. This is where the seat is attached to, and the longer it is, the more suitable it might be for taller athletes.

You’d also want to make sure that it’s made from strong steel [3]. You’ll find that all models have a weight specification, and you’re always better off not getting too close to the limit.

This is mainly important for tall folks or those that might be carrying a bit more weight.

If this is the case for you, then check out the specifications of the slide rail length. This is where the seat is attached to, and the longer it is, the more suitable it might be for taller athletes.

You’d also want to make sure that it’s made from strong steel [3]. You’ll find that all models have a weight specification, and you’re always better off not getting too close to the limit.

4 - Digital LCD Monitor

Rowing Machine Digital LCD

With the more expensive models, you’ll notice some very fancy displays that show you way more things about your workout than most folks actually need.

Personally, we recommend staying with a simpler LCD monitor that limits what it shows you.

It’s less distracting, and as long as the numbers are large and clear enough to read, you’ll still get a good idea about your progress.

I would suggest getting a rower that records the following:

  • Number of strokes
  • Calories burned
  • Mileage

5 - Foldability and Easy Storage

Unless you have a large dedicated room or garage for your home gym, you’ll need to avoid buying something large and bulky.

In most cases, you’ll want to focus on rowing machines that are small enough to start with and may be easy to fold up.

When it comes to folding a rower, you want to make sure this doesn’t involve using tools and spending a lot of time on making the adjustment. Ideally, there should be hinges and safety bolts that you can pull out so that you’re set up in seconds.

6 - Safety Features

When you’re looking at different models to choose from, then it’s always a good idea to check out the safety features.

Here are a couple of things to focus on:

  • Solid slide rail with more weight capacity than you need
  • Secure and adjustable foot pedals with safety straps to stop your feet from slipping
  • Anti-slip feet and floor protectors to stop the whole rowing machine from slipping

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FAQs

Can You Lose Belly Fat on a Budget Rowing Machine?

Yes, you can lose belly fat on a budget rowing machine. Just like other cardio machines, you’ll be able to adjust the speed and resistance to get yourself into those fat burning heart rate zones [4]. Yes, you can lose belly fat on a budget rowing machine. Just like other cardio machines, you’ll be able to adjust the speed and resistance to get yourself into those fat burning heart rate zones [4].

Are Cheap Rowing Machines Worth It?

Yes, cheap rowing machines are worth it even for advanced performance athletes. The main difference to the more expensive machines is the resistance types and a computer that allows for pre-programmed training routines.

Is a Rowing Machine Better Than a Treadmill?

Yes, a rowing machine may be better than a treadmill as it could give you more options than cardio workouts. It’s also easier to target muscles in your whole body by adjusting your rowing technique.

Does Rowing Tone Your Arms?

Yes, rowing will tone your arms as well as your shoulders, back, and core. With the right rowing form and different workout programs, you might achieve some great results for your whole body.

So, What The Best Budget Rowing Equipment?

We put it to a vote and decided that we would settle on one of the best magnetic rowers.

The Sunny Health And Fitness has a high-quality frame, a good choice of resistance, and a monitor that covers the most important stuff you need.

It’s the best rowing machine if you have a limited budget but still want to have a good range of features available.

Order yours today, and then let us know how it worked out for you.

Sunny Health And Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

Sunny Health And Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine

Our #1 Recommendation

  • A longer than standard rail may make it suitable for taller people
  • There are 8 different magnetic resistance settings for all fitness levels
  • The simple monitor seems to provide enough workout information
  • Positive reviews about the size being small enough to not take up much space
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