Determining which rowing machine is best is a difficult question to answer!
Mainly because the answer is different for everyone!
People have different preferences, budgets, experience levels, etc.
Choosing what type of rowing machine to buy is truly a personal preference.
It’s the reason why some people give a rowing machine a 5-star review and others give it a 1-star review!
The more appropriate question to ask is “which rowing machine is best for you”.
There are hundreds of different rowing machines made by over a dozen different manufacturers, so you’ll need to narrow down the long list by asking yourself a few questions.
Continue reading my full post below to see what you should be asking yourself when you think, “what rowing machine should I buy?”
I have created an improved version of this post as my “Start Here” page. It goes through the same questions below in a more well organized and detailed format. Feel free to continue reading this post or visit my “Start Here” page now.
What is your budget?
There are a lot of different rowing machines to choose from ranging from ~$100 – $2,000+.
Figuring out how much you have to spend on a rower can narrow down the list of rowing machines dramatically. Of course, this won’t be the case if you don’t have a budget and can spend $2,000!
If you don’t have a budget but you’re interested in saving money (who doesn’t like saving money), think about what you need versus what you want. This could mean the difference between spending a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.
Here are some things to think about:
- Fitness monitors are a major factor in price. The more expensive the rower, the better the monitor.
- Basic monitors will track time, calories burned (inaccurately), number of rowing strokes, and speed.
- The more advanced the monitor, the more data and features it provides. Some will have features like games, heart rate monitoring, power output, and different rowing graphs.
- Advanced monitors can also be connected to different 3rd party rowing software like LiveRowing.
- The more advanced the monitor becomes, the more accurate the data, and the more expensive the rower.
- Do you plan to use the rower a few times a week or everyday?
- Lower-priced rowing machines are good for a few times a week and shorter periods of time (sessions under 30 minutes).
- Higher priced rowers are the best for using everyday and for long rowing sessions (1+ hours).
What resistance type do you want?
Choosing a resistance type can help narrow down your choices the most. There are technically 5 different resistance types, meaning you can narrow down the choices by 80% by picking one!
The different resistance types have different features which makes picking one a little easier.
- There are 4 resistance types: air, water, magnetic, hydraulic-piston. (Also air/magnetic combo rower). Read more about the different resistance types here.
- Air rowers and water rowers are ‘variable’ resistance. Meaning – the faster you row, the more resistance you feel. Check out my air vs. water resistance type article.
- Magnetic rowers and hydraulic-piston rowers are ‘adjustable’ resistance. This means users can adjust a knob or the monitor to control the resistance strength.
- I have an article comparing magnetic and air rowers as well.
- You will want to narrow down which resistance type you want and then a price range for that resistance type. This can narrow down your options to just a handful of models.
How do you plan to use the rowing machine?
Besides answering “exercise”, there are a few questions you can ask yourself that will help narrow down the choices to which rowing machine is best for you.
Will the rower be used for home or commercial use?
- All rowing machines for sale can be used in the home but not all rowing machines are classified for commercial use.
- If you need a commercial grade rower there are only a handful that can take this kind of abuse.
- Even 2-3 people using the same rowing machine can justify needing a commercial grade model (depending on number of days and hours used).
- If you need a commercial grade rower, you will need to look in the higher price range.
How many people will use the rower?
- If you’re going to be the only person using it, no problem, you can use the questions above to narrow down your options.
- If multiple people will be sharing the rowing machine, then you will have to consider their needs as well. You will need their opinion on resistance type, their height and weight capacity, monitor features, and desired resistance strength.
- Some monitors allow multiple users information to be stored in the monitor. You may want this feature if you have 2-3 people using the same rower.
Will the rower be used for general exercise or off-season rowing training?
- If you’re planning on using it for off-season rowing, you want a rower that best simulates rowing on water.
- Out of the different resistance types available – air and water rowers mimic the feel of on the water rowing the best.
- The two best options are the Concept2 Model D and any WaterRower Model.
- If you just need a rower for general exercise, you can use the questions above to guide you on resistance types and price ranges.
How much space do you have for rowing?
Rowers typically have a footprint of a basic love-seat sofa, but size can vary depending on resistance type.
Hydraulic rowers are usually compact, making them ideal for people with minimal workout space.
Air and Magnetic rowers are both about the same size. Both are long and can fold up for storage. Water rowers are long and can usually stand upright for storage.
With the increased popularity of rowing, there are some budget air and magnetic options that now have a fairly small footprint.
Make sure you have sufficient space before buying a rower including space for your arms to stretch out and leaning backwards during the stroke.
Believe it or not – I’ve read reviews from people who purchased rowers that didn’t fit in their designated workout areas! Don’t let this happen to you!
Which rowing machine is best for you?
Now that you answered the above questions, you should have a fairly good idea of which rowing machine you are looking to buy.
At this point you know:
- How much money you’re willing to spend (high-end, mid-range, budget)
- What kind of fitness monitor you need (basic or advanced)
- Your preferred resistance type (air, magnetic, hydraulic-piston, water)
- If you will use it for home or commercial use (build quality)
- If you will use it for general exercise or off-season rowing (basic or advanced)
- How many people will be using the rower (build quality and monitor)
The next thing to do is to research the rowers to find out which rowing machine is best for you.
Since you already did a lot of the work of filtering out what you don’t need, this step is much easier compared to just blindly reading reviews without thinking about what you need first.
Here are the next steps in your search of which rowing machine to buy:
- Let me help you find which rowing machine is best for you through my Rowing Machine Concierge Service.
- Visit my rowing machine comparison chart and find rowers by price, resistance, rating, etc.
- I’ve also created a bit of an upgraded version to this post which is the Start Here page. It will walk you through the steps to finding a rowing machine and have all the important links.
I hope you are now better equipped to answer the questions, “what type of rowing machine should I buy?”
Remember to leave a comment with any questions and I will do my best to help find the right answer!