A decade ago, there was only one air rower available for home use, and that was the Concept 2, an excellent air rower, but it was expensive, and it still is today, costing over $1000. Thankfully since then, a couple of companies have managed to produce a few decent air rowers with more affordable price tags.

You don’t have to spend a ton of cash anymore when looking for the Best Air Rowing Machine, the monitors may be basic, but for under $400, we can still find well-built air rowers.

Limited choice but three surprisingly good cheap alternatives to the Concept 2.

The choice is indeed limited in this price bracket, air rowers are more expensive to produce than magnetic, so it’s really only the larger companies that can build an air rower and keep the costs down. Still, out of those few, three air rowers make surprisingly good cheap alternatives to a concept 2.

All three air rowers in this review feature smooth dynamic resistance systems that mimic the feel of outdoor rowing. All include heavy sturdy frames, space-saving foldable designs, and are built by companies you can trust with great customer service.

These rowers are fuss-free well-built machines saving you money because they don’t come with all the bells and whistles.

 Best Air Rowing Machine Under $400 Compariosn Table


stamina x air rowing machine

1. Stamina X Air Rower

Stamina has been around for years; they are well known for their cardio gear, and their rowers are some of the best on the market. The Stamina X is the new air rower from these guys, and it’s pretty much a replacement for their popular 1405 ATS Air Rower. Its been given a new paint job and comes with a better monitor than the previous model.

The Stamina X looks great, it’s similar in design to the Concept 2 but comes at a third of the price. The Stamina X weighs 63lb which is a good weight for a rowing machine. That extra weight will help keep this rower planted to the floor, and it’s a telling sign this Stamina X is made from quality materials.

The best feature of this rower or any air rower is the resistance system as it’s dynamic, and by that, I mean the faster you row, the stronger the resistance just like rowing on actual water, and because it’s dynamic, there is literally a limitless amount of resistance levels.

There are no damper settings on this air rower. Only your workout pace can control resistance strength.

The rail of the Stamina X is a good length too, with a 38″ inseam, which means it can accommodate users up to 6’4″ at full leg extension, and don’t worry if you’re petite as minimum height is around 4’10”.

Although they improved the monitor, it is still fairly basic as it only tracks distance, calories burned, speed, and workout time, but they have added stroke per minute and total strokes.

Also, they made the monitor screen larger, and it’s now split into three segments so you can track three stats simultaneously without having to press a button to switch between different stats. Disappointingly there’s no way to monitor pulse.

Overall the Stamina X is a well-built study machine. It’s not going to feel cheap and unstable. It’s about as close to heavy-duty as you’re going to get for under $400. The Stamina is still a long way off the quality of something like a Concept 2 but costing three times less you’d expect it to be.

The Good

Steel frame – sturdy construction can handle 250lb

Dynamic resistance mimics the feel of a real rower

Long rail accommodates users up to 6’5″ (minimum 5ft)

Large LCD easy to read you workout stats while you workout

Extra smooth high grade rollers and ball bearings

Smooth rowing stroke

Chain drive system – durable should last a lifetime of use

Easy to assemble

Nice looking rower

The Bad

Loud: Its an air rower!

No way to monitor heart rate

Monitor isnt backlit making it hard to read in low light conditions


efitment aair rower

2. Efitment Air Rower ($299)

I reviewed the Efitment Air Rower when it first came out a couple of years ago and I was surprised just how good this thing is for the money. For around $300 you have a rowing machine that offers a smooth dynamic resistance system, a sturdy build, and one of the longest rails you’ll find on a budget rower.

The 60lb weight makes sure this budget rower is sturdy, we also have nice wide stabilizing feet and adjustable levelers built into the rear stabilizer. Adjustable levelers are a handy feature because they can be independently adjusted to keep the rower stable on uneven surfaces.

Because this is an air rower, there are no resistance levels. Just like the Stamina X, it’s the pace of your workout that determines resistance strength. The dynamic resistance system means the Efitment rower is suitable for most fitness levels, from beginners to more seasoned rowers.

Another impressive feature of the Efitment Rower is the perfectly contoured seat. A countered seat provides support, which is essential to prevent your butt from slipping in the push phase of the rowing stroke.

And lastly, you have a belt drive system. I prefer a belt drive system for an indoor rower because they create fewer vibrations than a chain drive. Plus, they’re maintenance-free. A belt drive helps keep everything smooth, and they work great when combined with a dynamic resistance system.

I’ve been reviewing rowing machines for years, and there’s never been much out there for $300, especially air rowers, which is why it was a pleasant surprise when Efitment released this sturdy machine a few years ago. The monitor is basic, but the quality of the build more than makes up for it. Overall, you won’t find a better air rower for around $300.

The Good

Well built – sturdy rower

Dynamic resistance system – mimics the feel of outdoor rowing and is suitable for any fitness level

Quiet smooth maintenance free belt drive system

folds for easy storage

Adjustbale levelers to keep rower stable on uneven surfaces

Long rail

Smooth rowing motion

Transport wheels – just tilt and roll to move

The Bad

Louder than a magnetic rower because of the fan resistance system

No workout programs

No way to measure pulse


stamina 1399 ats air rower

3. Stamina ATS 1399 Air Rower ($299-$329)

The Stamina 1399 Air Rower has stood the test of time; it was released over five years ago, and is selling just as well now as it was back then. It’s Stamina’s best-selling rower, and for a good reason, because for around $300, you get a lot of bang for your buck with this impressive machine.

Its sturdy steel frame is one of its main selling features, with many users commenting how stable this machine feels when rowing. And the rowing motion is smooth thanks to its silky smooth resistance system and belt drive system.

You also have a well-padded seat that isn’t too soft to cause stability problems or too hard to be off-putting, and the seat runs on high-grade rollers and ball bearings, keeping the rowing motion smooth and uninterupted.

Again we are treated to a long rail with this budget rower from Stamina with an inseam of 37″ its suitable for users up to 6’3″ which is impressive for the price point. And best of all the rail is agnled. An angled rail will intensify the push phase of stroke  ‘great for the legs’ and help speed up the recovery phase plus puts you in the best position to row from.

The Stamina 1399 boasts a simple pull pin folding system that takes just a few seconds to fold and halves the rower’s overall footprint. The built-in transport wheels allow you to move the rower easily. Just tilt and roll.

Overall another well-built rower from Stamina. It’s not as heavy-duty as its bigger brother, the Stamina X, but it’s an excellent choice for your first rowing machine, and it’s one of the only rowing machines you’ll find with a dynamic resistance system for under $300.

The Good

Decent build quality for a budget air rower

Dynamic resistance system mimics the feel of outdoor rowing and is suitable for any fitness level

Smooth rowing motion

Belt drive system – vibration free and no maintanance

Pull pin folding system – halves rowers footprint

Long rail – 37″ inseam can accommodate users up to 6’3″

3 yr frame warranty

Built-in transport wheels – just tilt and roll to move

The Bad

Monitor screen isn’t backlit making it hard to read in low light conditions

Seat is only slightly contoured so doesn’t provide much support

No workout programs 

No way to monitor pulse


Buying Tips (Budget Air Rowers)

If this is your first rowing machine, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly research first before buying. I’ve put together a quick buyers guide which points out the main features you should be looking for and the ones you should avoid.

How Important is The Weight of a Rowing Machine?

The weight of a rowing machine is more important in this price bracket than any other because there are so many cheaply made rowers we need to be careful. Lightweight air rowers weighing 30-40lb will be made from cheap, low-quality materials. And because they are light, they typically suffer from stability problems.

Look for a rowing machine weighing over 50lb which we can find in the price bracket.

A rower weighing over 50lb will ensure the quality of materials is acceptable, and the rower will also be durable. That extra weight will also help keep the rowing machine planted to the floor. Yes, we won’t find heavy-duty machines for $300, but if you hunt around, there are some well-built rowers, both air and magnetic, in this price bracket.

stamina air rower ats fan wheel

Monitor/Control Console

In the budget price ranges ($300-$500), monitors are nothing special. They rarely come with any built-in workout programs or workout apps. Most track only the essential data such as distance, time, strokes, calories burned, etc.

Still, a basic monitor isn’t always a bad thing as they are easy to set up and use and don’t require a power outlet. Also, because the monitors are basic, they keep the price of the rowing machine low, which is always a good thing.

Whats Best? Air or Magnetic Resistnace?

Im often asked which resistance system is best for an indoor rower, the most popular being air and magnetic. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

The main benefit of an air rower is that it mimics the feel of outdoor rowing as the resistance strength is determined by the pace of your workout, just like rowing on actual water.

If you want a natural feeling rowing experience at home with a limitless amount of resistance levels, then an air rower is a great choice.

The downside to owning an air rowing machine is the fan’s noise. This noise can be loud at a high stroke rate, and if you haven’t got a spare room to house your rowing machine, you will disturb others around you.

On the other hand, magnetic is whisper quiet in use because the magnets of the resistance system never have to make contact with the flywheel; thus, it’s a frictionless resistance system. Frictionless resistance systems are the quietest resistance systems you’ll find for any cardio machine, and because there is no friction, there’s no wear and tear.

The downside to magnetic resistance is that it’s constant; you can only change the resistance strength when you select a level of resistance either from the monitor or from a tension knob.

Constant resistance doesn’t feel as natural as a dynamic resistance system. It doesn’t mimic the feel of rowing on water as the resistance stays this same strength no matter how fast or slow you row.

If you want that natural feel from your home rower? An air or water rower is your best choice. If you want a whisper-quiet rowing machine because you don’t have a spare room or live in an apartment? I’d recommend getting hold of a magnetic rower. Even though you lose that natural feel with a magnetic rower, it still provides an excellent workout.

woman sittin gon contoured seat of air rowing machine

Seat Padding & Shape

Always look for a contoured seat when choosing a rowing machine. Many budget rowing machines do not come with a contoured seat which is a big mistake because a contoured seat prevents your butt from slipping in the push phase of the rowing stroke and helps you keep the correct rowing form. Flat seats provide no support.

The padding is also important. It would be best if you stayed away from seats that are too hard. Some padding is needed but not too much. High-density foam is the stuff to look for. High-density foam isn’t too hard to be uncomfortable or too soft to cause stability issues. And can be found on a select few rowers in this price bracket.

Rail/Beam Length

If you’re a tall person, rail length should be the first feature you check when choosing a rowing machine. The length of the rail is important because we want to be able to achieve full leg extension on our rowing machine to make the most out of each workout.

Cheap rowing machines are plagued by short rails, with some rowers only accommodating users up to 6ft. The good news is there are a few air rowing machines ‘all featured in this review’ with long rails, some with inseams of 38″, which should allow users up to 6’4″ even 6’5″ to achieve full leg extension.

Stability – What Features To Look For

As I already mentioned, a rower’s weight usually determines how sturdy the thing feels, but there are a few other features worth looking for. Some budget rowers come with adjustable levelers built into the rear stabilizer bar. Adjustable levelers are an excellent stability feature because they help keep the rower stable on uneven surfaces.

Also, look for wide stabilizer bars as these are great for preventing wobbles.

A contoured seat is another stability feature that gives your butt support and prevents it from slipping.

And lastly, a cheap rowing mat is always a good idea. A rowing mat will prevent the rower from slipping when you’re rowing. They’re also great for absorbing vibrations, particularly important if you live in an apartment and don’t want to disturb your neighbors.


To Sum Up

There isn’t such a large selection of air rowers as magnetic rowers in this price bracket. Still, even with fewer affordable air rowers on the market, there are a couple of air rowing machines I’m happy to recommend. The first is the  Stamina X Air Rower this machine has a heavy-duty feel. The sturdy steel frame is its main selling point, and its smooth dynamic resistance can easily provide enough resistance for intense cardio workouts. It’s not a concept 2, but as an alternative for $400, you can’t really go wrong with this air rower. Just remember it has a chain drive, so it will be noisy.

I was most impressed with the Efitment Air Rower; this machine costs just $300, and it’s surprisingly well built. A 60lb air rower in this price range is impressive. It’s an air rower that has got all the essentials right, including one of the longest rails you’ll find.