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Here Are The Best Rowing Machines Under $500 [By Resistance Type]

There’s something incredibly awesome about row machines. Something primal. Something raw. It’s truly man vs machine. Upper body, lower body, and cardio. It’s a wonder why more people don’t choose rowing as their go-to cardio workout. It’s low-intensity, easy on joints, effective, compact, and typically way more affordable than other cardio equipment.

Choosing the right rowing machine

Price isn’t the only factor that you should consider when buying a rowing machine. People typically want rowers that are compact and can fit in indiscreet places, like under the bed or in the closet. You also have to consider the resistance type.

Types of Resistance


Water resistance tends to be more true to the experience. After all, real rowing is done in the water. Water machines use variable, or progressive resistance – so you cannot control resistance with a dial. The faster you try to go, the harder it becomes.


  • Quiet and even peaceful sounding
  • Smoother and more consistent drag
  • Low maintenance


Air resistance rowing machines use a fan-based flywheel to create resistance.

These machines are known for their high-intensity workouts and are often used by athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Some
Machines also have vents that blow cold
air back at you.

Air, like water, uses progressive resistance. The
The amount of resistance is dependent on their rowing intensity.

The harder the handle is pulled, the faster the paddles spin, the more resistance the rower feels.


  • Easily maintainable with little wear and tear
  • Smooth and consistent
  • Air circulation can cool you down


Magnetic resistance rowing machines use magnets to create resistance. These machines are known for their quiet operation and precise resistance adjustment, making them a popular choice for home use. They aren’t as “realistic”, but it’s nice to have control over the resistance level.


  • the most quiet, perfect for a crowded house or late night rows.
  • Can easily change resistance without increasing cadence or intensity.


Hydraulic resistance uses hydraulic shocks to create resistance. Hydraulic rowers use arms instead of row belts and are typically pretty quiet and compact. People who choose hydraulic do so for the convenience and the price.


  • low-cost
  • affordable
  • quieter than flywheel machines


Best Air Rowing Machines Under $500

Fan Ergometer Rowing Machine Air Rower by Sunny Health & Fitness.

Top Features

Fan Powered, Compact, Comfortable

This great product features a large, eight blade fan that adds smooth resistance. In my opinion it’s more preferable and responsive than a magnetic rower. The digital monitor tracks all your metrics like watts, calories, distance, and time.

One of the nicest things about fan rowing machines is you can control air vents to blow cold air during your workout.

SereneLife Smart Rowing Machine

Top Features

Sleek Design, Fitness App Included,

This one is just plain fancy. A nice black, sturdy design with a handsome frame. A sleek LCD monitor really breaks the mold of the traditionally dated looking ones. What’s really neat is it combines air and magnetic resistance, give the benefit of being able to adjust resistance, while working with a more realistic feel.

The machine comes with a free subscription to the FitShow App, which allows you to track progress and goals so you can focus on improving.

Best Water Rowing Machines Under $500

RIF6 Water Rowing Machine

Top Features

Easy to Assemble, Quiet, Smooth Ride

The RIF6 Water Rowing Machine is a sturdy, and silent row machine that can provide a great and enjoyable workout. Complete with 3 workout modes, an adjustable and comfortable seat, and digital display.

The water rowing machine boasts a 28.7 lb water tank capacity, allowing for a customizable workout with 6 levels of water resistance. The varying water levels in the tank provide a range of resistance options, from the lowest level 1 to the highest level 6. Enjoy the added motivation of the paddles moving in the water as you row, making your indoor rowing sessions more enjoyable.

Obsidian Surge 500 Water Rowing Machine by Sunny Health & Fitness

Top Features

Smooth hydro fan, Sophisticated meter, Sturdy

This water resistant row machine creates a smooth ride with a wide range of resistance options. The R2 fitness meter is perhaps the most sophisticated of the bunch, compatible with ANT+ Heart rate technology, as used with chest bands.

Real rowing is done in the water right? This 16 blade hydrofan mimics the feeling of the water.

FITNESS REALITY 5000X Bluetooth Vertical Tank Water Rower Rowing Machine

Top Features

Customizable HIIT Workouts, Bluetooth Connectivity

Achieve your fitness goals with the FITNESS REALITY 3000WR Bluetooth Water Rower. It features 3 customizable HIIT workout intervals and supports a weight capacity of 300 lbs. The angled water tank provides better resistance for each stroke than flat-position models, and it has a large 4.5″ LCD display, 6 water resistance levels, 13 race options, 5 standard workout goals and a cushioned seat for comfort. 

The pivoting console post allows for a good view angle, and the included MyCloudFitness app allows you to set workout goals and track your progress

Best Hydraulic Rowing Machines Under $500

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing Machine

Top Features

Crazy affordable, compact, easy to assemble

Can you get a highly rated rower for $100? Heck yah, you can. The SF-RW1205, is a compact hydraulic row machine you can assemble in minutes. Do your rowing in any space, any time!

This machine uses a single hydraulic cylinder with a 12-level resistance adjustment. A no-frills digital monitor gives you most of the metrics you’ll care about. It does the job, and it does it well.

We recommend being on the smaller side for this one. Basically anyone over 5’11 or 200 pounds might have a hard time.

Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 Hydraulic Rowing Machine

Top Features

Affordable, Free Coaching Membership

The most affordable of the group, this simple, compact, and efficient rower uses hydraulic resistance. While not as smooth as water, it is a trusted substitute.

The hydraulic cylinder makes it easy to adjust resistance. An LCD monitor counts calories, strokes, and cadence.

This rowing machine uses rowing arms instead of the traditional single handle, so it can take some getting used to.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5639 Full Motion Rowing Machine

Top Features

Sturdy, Excellent Range of Motion, Affordable

Looking for another affordable hydraulic rower that’s a little more sturdy? This rower features the two side flanking arms and supports a maximum weight of 350 lbs.

The hydraulic piston is fluid filled and supports a smooth ride. Even though range of motion is somewhat restricted by the nature of the arms instead of the belt, they are highly adjustable.



Rowing machines are one of the most affordable and effective pieces of cardio equipment. In the comfort of your home, you can enjoy a great, fat-burning workout. Whatever resistance type suits you best, you’ll find an affordable rower.

1 thought on “Here Are The Best Rowing Machines Under $500 [By Resistance Type]”

  1. Pingback: Ultimate Cardio Throwdown. What’s better? Treadmill, Stationary Bike or Row Machine? – Healthy Dad Project

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