Rowing Machine Buyer’s GuideMy rowing machine buyer’s guide outlines exactly how to purchase a rowing machine – arguably the best piece of fitness equipment you can own!

Rowing simultaneously offer a great full-body workout to strengthen the entire body while providing a killer cardiovascular workout!

To find out more about what a rowing machine does for your body read my post here.

Most people believe that 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.  

There are so many benefits to rowing machines that I had to highlight them in this entire article.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, owning a rowing machine is a no-brainer.  It’s figuring out how to buy a rowing machine that poses a challenge.

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 just don’t know exactly where to start.

I’ll lay out all the steps below!

Step #1 – Figure Out If You Have Adequate Space

This may sound so 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 so use that for reference when figuring out your workout space.

For reference, hydraulic piston machines generally have the smallest footprint, while 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 Spending Budget (And Stick To It)

LifeSpan Fitness RW1000 Rowing Machine StorageThere are dozens of different rowing machines that range in price from under one hundred dollars to over four thousand dollars!

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 so 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 that this is just a general rule of thumb and there are quality rowing machines, based on what’s ideal for your preferences, 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 Be Using 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.

Are you an off-season rower looking for a machine to train on? 

If you row on the water, you will need a machine that best simulates conditions you’re used to and one that will enable you to train on.

It will be important to choose a machine that has a life-like rowing motion and adjustable resistance.

Most off-season rowers choose air and water resistance rowing machines (see Step #4 below for resistance type information)Rowing Machine Buyer's Guide

Are you going to share this rowing machine?

If you’re not the only person that’s going to use the machine, it’s important to purchase a machine that has adjustable resistance to accommodate the different strength/ fitness levels for all users.

Most rowing machines have adjustable resistance but make sure to double check.

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

Step #4 – Learn About The Four Different Resistance Types

Rowing machines have four different resistance types; air, hydraulic piston, magnetic, and water. 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 choose which machine you’re interested in and drastically narrow down your search.

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:


Stamina Air Rower 1399 StorageMost common resistance type in gyms/ health clubs. Resistance level is determined by the user’s rowing intensity. More intensity, more resistance; less intensity, less resistance.

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

Hydraulic Piston:  

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.

This is the lowest-priced out of all resistance types.


Quiet rower due to the magnetic breaking system used to provide resistance.  Rowing motion is smooth and resistance is usually adjustable.

Resistance is usually less than what is found in air and water rowers.

Very durable and requires virtually no maintenance.


Most realistic rowing motion, feels and sounds like you’re rowing on water.  Similar to air resistance because resistance is determined by the user’s rowing intensity.

The oar 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.

This is typically the highest-priced out of all 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 have a general idea of what rowing machine you’re interested in and you know roughly how much you’re willing to spend for one.Rowing Machine Buyer’s Guide

The next step is to read rowing machine reviews to find out which rowing machine 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 machine’s build quality and material
  • The performance monitor- what workout data it records and other special features
  • How comfortable (or uncomfortable) the seat, handles, and the footrests are
  • Whether or not it makes weird noises while in use
  • What other users/ owners think about the machine
  • 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 manufacturer’s website is biased and a retailer’s website just provides product information and not enough detail.  I had a difficult time finding thorough rowing machine reviews during my search and that’s why I started this website, to help people like you find the perfect rowing machine without pulling all of your hair out!

I go over every detail with each rowing machine I review including build quality, resistance type, performance monitor, comfort, user capacity, warranty, pros and cons, and much more so if you’re looking for thorough and unbiased rowing machine reviews, you found the right website!

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!

Here are rowing machine reviews based on the various categories:

> Browse All Reviews

> Compare Rowing Machines

> Rowing Machine Reviews by Resistance Type

> Rowing Machine Reviews by Brand

> Rowing Machine Reviews by Price


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