Best rowing machine under 500: Our top picks in 2023

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Finding the best rowing machine under 500 dollars or pounds can be challenging when it's not always clear what sort of quality and features you're getting for your cash.

Fortunately, we've compiled a list of our top budget picks to help you level up your home cardio setup based on price, reviews, and any features we feel take these inexpensive cardio machines to the next level.

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You could argue opting for one of the best exercise bikes is a better use of your space and money if you only have room for one cardio machine at home.

However, we'd argue that a rowing machine offers both an amazing cardio workout and an effective way of building muscle in your upper and lower body, thus making it one of the best exercise machines for weight loss in our opinion.

This is supported by a study by Park et al. who found body weight and fat mass decreased whilst lean body mass increased from consistent rowing.

With this in mind, if you're searching for an air-driven machine, like this Stamina ATS Air Rower, or something foldable, like this Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5606r, then we've got you covered.

We've also answered some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding rowing machines to the best of our ability to help you figure out whether a rowing machine is right for you and your cardio setup. With that in mind, let's get into it...

Best rowing machine under 500

Best all-round rowing machine under 500 - Fitness Reality 100 Plus

Best rowing machine under 500 Fitness Reality product image of a silver and black machine.
Fitness Reality
Brand: Fitness Reality | Max Weight: 250lbs | Resistance: Magnetic

This Fitness Reality 100 Plus rowing machine looks to be a great bit of kit to upgrade your home setup for less.

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As you make progress toward your fitness goals, you will be able to maintain engaging workouts with this machine's 14 levels of dual-transmission magnetic resistance.

Additionally, the rowing machine includes six months of access to the MyCloudFitness app, offering you a selection of pre-made workouts and scenic routes to change up your sessions and keep your workouts interesting.

It's also foldable, making it a great option to consider if you're limited to space. All in all, a strong contender that we believe deserves a place on our list.

Best foldable rowing machine under 500 - Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5606

Best rowing machine under 500 Sunny Health & Fitness product image of a grey framed machine.
Sunny Health & Fitness
Brand: Sunny Health & Fitness | Max Weight: 220lbs | Resistance: Elastic Cord

Sunny Health & Fitness is a brand synonymous with excellent budget cardio equipment, but this foldable rowing machine is what we're interested in for this list.

It comes with dual directional resistance with 4 levels of adjustable tension, so you can alter the difficulty of your workouts whenever you need to up the intensity or difficulty to suit your fitness levels.

You also get an LCD display that gives you your time, count, total count, calories burned, and count per minute, so should be a great option for those who like to know their workout stats to keep track of progression.

Ultimately, if you're looking for a foldable bit of kit on a budget, then we feel this Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5606 is well worth considering.

Best air-driven rowing machine under 500 - Stamina ATS Air Rower

Best rowing machine under 500 Stamina product image of a silver and black, air-driven machine.
Credit: Stamina
Brand: Stamina | Max Weight: 250lbs | Resistance: Air

We've featured Stamina before in our list of the best cross trainers, and it appears it's struck gold again with the Stamina ATS Air Rower.

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As its name suggests, the ATS Air Rower creates its resistance through the blades coming into contact with the air, much like an air bike. According to Stamina, this helps provide a smoother rowing stroke.

Furthermore, it features a monitor which displays your speed, distance, time, and calories burned, helping you to keep track of how hard you're working during exercise.

It's also worth mentioning you get free access to Müüv, a smart audio coaching app designed to give you training tips and advice if you're new to rowing.

All in all, a solid option to consider if you're after an air-powered machine.

Best hydraulic rowing machine under 500 - XTERRA Fitness ERG600W

Best rowing machine under 500 XTERRA Fitness product image of a black, water-driven machine.
Credit: XTERRA Fitness
Brand: XTERRA Fitness | Max Weight: 300lbs | Resistance: Water

The XTERRA Fitness ERG600W looks to be one of the best rowing machines on the market right now with what looks to be its premium build and unique design.

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What we like about this machine is that it's water-driven, using impellers to actively move through the water tank with the intent of recreating the peaceful sounds of real rowing.

Additionally, this machine comes with an adjustable 5.5" LCD console, plus 6 resistance levels which are determined by the amount of water inside the tank and can provide some variation to the intensity of your workouts.

Ultimately, we feel this water-driven machine is a strong contender for consideration, especially given its relatively inexpensive price.

Best rowing machine under 500 for live workouts - SNODE WR100

Best rowing machine under 500 SNODE product image of a black and red, water-driven machine.
Credit: SNODE
Brand: SNODE | Max Weight: 331lbs | Resistance: Water

The SNODE WR100 looks to be a great rowing machine, with its defining feature being the interactive personal training videos you can access via the free FITLOG app to help keep you motivated whilst exercising.

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Within the app, you can also find many tutorials which may be helpful if you're and a beginner, and you can even set training plans to help you keep on top of your fitness regime.

On the performance side, it comes with a water-driven resistance mechanism, designed to simulate the real rowing experience as accurately as possible.

On the whole, if you're looking for something to keep you motivated, then this relatively inexpensive rowing machine could be the equipment for you.

Frequently asked questions about rowing machines

Rowing machines can sometimes come with a lot of questions, but we're here to clear up a few common queries to help you make your purchase.

Is a rowing machine worth it?

A rowing machine is a great option to have for the winter months for indoor cardio-based training, however, it also makes for a great option all year round as rowing in real life is not as simple as putting on your shoes and stepping outdoors.

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This is one of the reasons why we feel a rowing machine is worth having in your home gym, but we also think it's a great way of working out your whole body whilst also improving your cardio as well.

In fact, a typical rowing stroke is said to consist of 65–75% leg work and 25–35% upper body work according to the American Fitness Professionals Association.

How do you use a rowing machine?

A rowing machine is a great bit of kit for cardio, but it's important to get the technique right to maximise your efficiency and avoid injury.

To properly use a rowing machine, you must first secure your feet in and sit on the sliding seat so that your knees are bent at a 90° angle. This is then your starting position as your arms are locked out straight.

Then, drive back with your legs until they are fully extended. At this point, lean back slightly and bend your arms towards your ribs before straightening them back out and leaning forward until you return to the starting position so you're ready for the next rep.

Can you lose weight using a rowing machine?

A rowing machine offers an extremely effective way of burning calories and, therefore, a great option for weight loss in our opinion.

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In fact, a study conducted by the University of Roehampton compared running on a treadmill to rowing on a machine and found participants burnt 300 calories whilst rowing.

The results also showed that rowing activated more muscle groups than running, making it an efficient way of improving your cardio whilst also exercising your entire body.

To further support this, a study by Ka-Young Shin et al. found participants who rowed 5 days a week for 6 weeks significantly reduced their fat mass and total body fat percentage, thus supporting the idea that rowing is a great tool for losing weight.

How long should you use a rowing machine?

There is no universal answer to this question as it will vary depending on your fitness levels and how often you plan on exercising.

That said, Livestrong recommends, if you're working out for health, you use a rowing machine for 30 minutes a day at a moderate intensity, or 15 minutes per day at a vigorous intensity.

It is important to incorporate rest days into your week though in order for you to allow your body to recover. We'd recommend rowing between 3 to 5 days a week in order to maximise your health benefits.

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Is a rowing machine better than a treadmill?

We've previously discussed whether treadmills are better than rowing machines and, in said article, we conclude that a rowing machine is a great choice for an all-around full-body workout.

In fact, a 2015 study into rowing machines found that rowing 5 days a week for 6 weeks led to a significant decrease in fat mass and total body fat percentage which, we feel, is a strong indication of the benefits of rowing.

The choice is yours though, so keep that in mind when exploring some of the best treadmills around.

Is a rowing machine good for building muscle?

A rowing machine is an extremely versatile bit of kit as it is an effective way of improving your cardio and building muscle because you utilise almost your entire body during the movement.

That said, a rowing machine isn't as effective when it comes to building and sustaining muscle mass over time as you're often limited by the resistance.

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Therefore, we'd recommend checking out some of our best back and shoulder exercises for mass to accompany your cardio-based rowing machine training.

Is a magnetic rowing machine better than an air rowing machine?

Generally speaking, both magnetic and air rowing machines are relatively well-matched as they offer a smooth, strong rowing stroke that is excellent for all types of workouts.

Most air-driven machines feature damper settings. This essentially involves a lever that allows more air into the flywheel housing, thus allowing you to control the resistance of your workout.

Magnetic machines also usually feature adjustable resistance levels; however, they're widely regarded as much quieter and smoother than air rowing machines.

That said, they perhaps don't replicate the feeling of rowing on the water in quite the same way as an air-driven machine does.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to you and your personal preference as we feel there's an argument to be made for both types of machines.

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Is a rowing machine easy to assemble?

This can vary depending on the machine, with some potentially being more challenging than others.

However, any machine you pick up should come with clear instructions to guide you through the assembly process, and some may even come pre-constructed.

The beauty of a rowing machine once built is that it should be suitable to use for years thereafter and they tend not to require much maintenance. As a result, they can be particularly great for long-term use.

Read More: Best recumbent bikes available now