Water Rowing machines are the most desirable type of rowing machine on the market and until recently cost well over $1000 for a decent one. Thankfully prices have started to fall and we can now get hold of a high-quality water rowing machine for under $600.

Solid Oak & Steel Frame Water Rowing Machines.

I’ve been reviewing water rowers for the past few years and I’ve noticed just how fast their popularity is growing, we’re spoilt for choice with well-known fitness companies all producing their own impressive machines. Whether you want a steel frame water rower or solid oak we no longer have to look to one company for the best water rowing machine.

Dynamic resistance mimics the feel of outdoor rowing

Competition has bought down the price of these impressive machines which is always a good thing, because if you want that natural feel of outdoor rowing, indoors? A water rower is about as close as you’ll ever get.

Their dynamic resistance systems mimic the feel of outdoor rowing, and the whooshing sound of the paddles pushing through the water in the tank adds to the natural feel.

5 Impressive machines under $600

There are 15 water rowers priced under $600 available right now and out of those 15, there are 5 that really stood out from the rest. All 5 are featured in our Best Water Rowing Machine Reviews and all 5 are well-built machines with smooth rowing motions, sturdy builds, long rails, and quiet belt drive systems.

As well as the reviews I put together a quick buyers guide you might want to read especially if this is your first rowing machine as there are some handy tips in there. (scroll past the reviews for the guide)

Before we get on with the reviews let’s take a quick look at the Top 3 Water Rowing Machines comparison table.

Best Water Rowing Machine Reviews

woman rowing on solid wood water rower by runow.

1. Runow Solid Oak Water Rowing Machine

There are a few wood water rowers under $600 but most are cheaply built and made by companies with little experience.

The Runow is the exception it’s built by a company with a great reputation, and their rower is solid. It weighs close to 110lb (without water in the tank) thats 40lb heavier than its wooden competitors and it’s a telling sign this rower is built from high-quality materials.

Plus that extra weight is really going to help keep this water rower planted to the floor it won’t move around while you row.

The Runow water rower feels sturdy when you’re rowing on it, it doesn’t t feel like some cheaply built unstable machine. It feels like quality and thats what you want from any home rower.

Water resistnace & belt drive system

Another feature you have to love about this solid oak rower from Runow is its resistance system; water resistance is dynamic and by that I mean it gets stronger the faster you row just like it would when rowing on actual water. Plus you have the sound of the paddles pushing through the water in the tank making a soothing whooshing sound adding to that natural feel we’re all after from a home rower.

Also, we see a belt drive system featured on the Runow, belt drives are much quieter than the noisy chain drives that come with air rowers and they help keep the rowing motion smooth.

When you combine water resistance with a belt drive system you have a near-silent rowing machine, all you’ll hear is the faint whooshing sound of water which is soothing and won’t disturb others.

Comfy contoured seat

I like the seat of the Runow water rower its a good size and it’s perfectly contoured to prevent your butt from slipping in the push phase of the rowing stroke, a minor feature maybe, but an important one if you want to keep correct rowing form.

The seat padding is made from high-density foam and this is what I normally look for as it’s not too soft to cause stability issues nor too hard to be off-putting it’s just right.

Sadly the monitor isnt anything special, there are no advanced features on any of the wood water rowers in this price bracket. Still, basic monitors have their advantages they’re easy to set up and use and they dont require a power outlet.

The Runow monitor tracks all the essential workout stats you’ll need such as count per min, time, distance, count, calories, and scan. But here’s no way to monitor pulse.

This rowing machine is large which is a good thing because it means it has a long rail. It can accommodate users up to 6’4″ at full leg extension which is impressive for a water rower in this price bracket.

And lastly, the Runow rower stores vertically this saves more space than a folding system. When stored vertically the Runow rower takes up just 0.3 square meters of space.

Overall you won’t find a better wood rower than the Runow in this price bracket, this machine is very close to being heavy-duty which is surprising considering the price. Its the perfect alternative to the more expensive WaterRower®

The Good

Sturdy Build – Can handle up to 350lb

Solid oak looks great

Dynamic resistance system mimic the feel of outdoor rowing – suitable for any fitness level

Belt drive system – whisper quiet

Long rail accommodates users up to 6’4″

Premium ball bearings, high grade rollers allow the seat to glide smoothly

Contoured seat prevent slips in the push phase of the rowing stroke

Space-saving design – store vertically 

Smooth rowing stroke

Built in transport wheels, just tilt and roll to move

The Bad

No workout programs or BlueTooth

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

no way to monitor pulse


sunny health & Fitness obsidian surge water rower in showroom

2. Sunny Obsidian Surge Water Rower

Sunny Health & Fitness specializes in building high-quality affordable cardio gear. These guys have been at the top of their game for over two decades and their rowers are some of the best on the market.

Their water rowing machine the Sunny Obsidian Surge is their flagship water rower it outsells every other water rowing machine on the market and theres good reason why? It offers everything a well built solid oak water rower does but with a much lower price tag.

Steel frame water rowers are generally much cheaper than wood rowers and thats mainly because steel is less labor-intensive to work with than wood. But it doesnt mean steel rowers are less impressive? The Sunny Obsidian Surge is a beast at 92lb it’s heavier than most wood rowers. It’s a sturdy heavy-duty steel machine.

The Sunny Obsidian Surge boasts one of the longest rails I’ve seen on a steel rower accomadating users up to 6’4″ at full leg extension and dont worry if you’re petite because mimium user height is around 4’10”.

The seat slides smoothly thanks to the high-grade rollers and ball bearings, and thankfully Sunny has contoured the seat to prevent slips in the push phase of the rowing stroke. The padding is made from high density so it’s comfy, but not too soft to cause stability problems.

The monitor on the Sunny water rower is slightly better than what we see on many of the wood rowers as it includes a few workout programs and wireless heart rate monitoring; Great for those of you who love to train in your chosen heart rate zones.

And something else I like about the monitor is that its height adjustable so you can adjust it to the perfect height to suit your size, and the screen is large and easy to read.

While the weight of the Sunny is impressive and will help keep things stable, we also get an extra stability feature with the Sunny, and thats the adjustable levelers.

Adjustbale levelers are a handy feature because they can be adjusted independently to keep the rower stable on uneven floors. We also have nice wide stbailizeing feet to help prevent any wobble.

The Sunny water rower stores vertically saving a ton of space and has built-in transport wheels, just tilt and roll to move.

Overall an Impressive steel frame rower from Sunny Health & Fitness – It looks great, I love the sturdy heavy-duty frame, it’s quiet thanks to the belt drive and water resistance systems, and the monitor incudes a few advanvced features.

For $500 it’s unbeatable. Bang for your buck, easily the best steel frame water rower out there.

The Good

Sturdy build can handle 300lb

Dynamic resistance system mimics the feel of outdoor rowing

Good length rail can accomnadate users up to 6’4″

Can be stored vertically against a wall – takes up less room than a folding rower

Wide stabilizers and adjustable levelers help with stability

Great looking rowing machine looks more expensive than the price tag

Contoured padded seat

Decent monitor with wireless capabilities

Quiet & smooth rowing motion

The Bad

Monitor isnt backlit so its hard to read in low light conditions

Some users found it tricky to assemble 

No hear rate chest strap included they cost around $30 for a good one 


woman rowing on merax steel frame water rowing machine

Merax Water Rowing Machine (inclined tank)

There’s something a little different about the Merax water rowing machine? Its water tank is inclined.

An inclined tank is supposed to provide extra resistance as the inclined tank slows the water down faster between pulls thus increasing resistance. Many people have mentioned they can feel a slight difference when comparing a flat and inclined tank but it’s nothing to shout home about.

The main way to control resistance with any water rower is through the pace of your workout. The faster you row and the stronger the resistance. And you can fill the tank up with more water to create some extra resistance.

Usually adding extra water to the tank is more than enough for most users. But if you’re a seasoned rower and require even more resistance than I guess an inclined tank might be for you?

Other impressive features of this steel frame rower from Merax include a study build, not quite up there with the Sunny the Merax weighing 72lb, but not bad. A fairly long rail acconmdatong users up to 6’2″ and the maintenance-free belt drive system,

Merax has all the essentials right with this rower, and the monitor is very similar to the Sunny Obsidian monitor in that it includes heart rate monitoring and the recovery feature plus 500/m goals workout modes which is good to see.

Priced at just under $500 is fair for the Merax rower, and when you consider the other inclined water tank rowers cost around $700 and don’t offer anything more than the Merax, you start to realize that this machine is a priced comeptively.

The Good

Dynamic resistance system mimics outdoor rowing & is suitable for all fitness levels

Inclined water tank for stronger resistnace

Smooth quiet belt drive system

Decent length rail, should accommodate users up to 6’3″

Study build can handle up to 330lb

Contoured seat for comfort and prevents slips in push phase of rowing stroke

Monitor includes wireless pulse monitoring & race mode – good for price point

Space-saving design- stores vertically

Easy to assemble

The Bad

HR chest strap not included

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

Some users complained no instruction manual was included when item was delivered


woman rowing on xterra erg600 water rowing machine

4. Xterra ERG600 Water Rowing Machine

Xterra was one of the first companies to make steel frame water rowers so these guys know what they’re doing. And the ERG600W has all the essential features I’d expect to see from a steel frame water rower in this price bracket.

It’s a well-built steel frame rower weighing 83lb. This machine is solid, and many users have commented how good they feel rowing on the ERG600. The rowing motion is smooth thanks to its water resistance and belt drive systems. Also included are high-grade rollers and bearings adding to the silkily smooth feel of this rower.

The monitor is pretty good as it comes with a couple of advanced features, such as wireless heart rate monitoring, and a recovery button which is a nice feature to see at this price point as it allows you to monitor how quickly your pulse returns to normal after your workouts.

And the ERG600W boasts adjustable levelers for keeping the rowing machine stable on uneven surfaces. But thats about it. The Xterra doesn’t offer anything more than the Sunny in fact it offers less, the build quality isnt as high and it costs $100 more.

When the Xterra first appeared on the market this rower was impressive for the price as it was half the price of a solid wood water rower, but since then prices have come down, and companies like Sunny Health, Snode, and Merax have built machines just as or more impressive than the Xterra.

I like this water rower but if Xterra wants to compete with the best they either need to lower the price of the ERG600W or upgrade it.

The Good

Sturday build can handle up to 300lb

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

Quiet belt drive system

Smooth rowing stroke

Good length rail accommodates uers up to 6’2″

Great warranty

Decent monitor for price range includes pre-set programs & pulse monitoring

Takes up little space when stored vertically

Easy to assemble

The Bad

The monitor isnt backlit making it hard to read in low light conditions

Poor footrest quality – a common issue with low-cost rowers

No interactive training


Marcy Pro water rower

5. Marcy NS-6070RW Water Rower

I’ve always liked Marcy because these guys never fail to deliver in the lower price brackets. You can usually expect high-quality gear from them at great prices. I’ve reviewed a ton of their stuff over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed. 

Their water rower is very similar to most steel frame water rowers as it includes a nice heavy steel frame, so it’s sturdy. Also the rail is a good length with a 39″ inseam accomadating users up to 6’3″ which isnt bad considering this is the cheapest water rower in this guide.

The rowing motion is smooth and many users have mentioned it feels as good as the commercial-grade rowers they use in their local gym.

It’s another quiet machine thanks to its belt drive system and seat that glides silently across the rail on its high-quality ball bearings and rollers. It boasts a high-density foam padded seat, great to see on a budget water rower, plus it’s contoured for comfort and stability.

I was also surprised to find that Marcy includes a monitor with wireless heart rate capabilities, but it doesn’t come with the recovery button. Still a decent monitor for a $450 water rower.

Another feature I like about the Marcy is its angled rail. I prefer angled rails because they intensify the leg push phase of the rowing stroke ‘great for the legs’ and speed up the recovery phase plus put you in the best positions to row from. The Marcy is the only steel frame water rower to include an angled rail.

Overall it’s a surprisingly good steel frame rower from Marcy that includes all the essential features you need from an indoor water rower. The quality might not be as high as the Sunny or the Merax but it’s not far off. An impressive machine for $450

The Good

Heavy-Duty frame can handle up to 300lb

Dynamic resistnace system suitable for any fitness level – mimics the feel of outdoor rowing

Space-saving design can be stored vertically 

Good monitor for the price point with workout programs and pulse monitoring

Smooth rowing stroke

Contoured seat with high density foam padding

Adjustable levelers to keep rower stable on uneven surfaces

Pretty easy to assemble

The Bad

HR chest strap isnt included

The monitor isnt backlit, making it hard to read in low light conditions

Some users had issues getting the monitor to work


Buying Tips & Info

If this is your first time purchasing a water rower it’s always best to do a little research first so you know exactly what to look for. I’ve put together a quick buyers guide that should help you choose the right water rower for your needs and explain a little bit more about these impressive machines.

Are water rowers complicated to set up and use?

It’s a myth that water rowers are any more complicated to set up and use than any other rowing machine. There’s nothing more complicated about a water rower than there is an air rower you may have used in your local gym.

A water rower usually arrives on your doorstep in two separate packages. One package is the front end of the rower the other is its rail.

The complicated stuff like the drive systems and water tank and its frame come pre-assembled. All you need to do is connect the rail to the front part of the rower attach the seat to the rail, attach the stabilizers, footrests, and monitor. Usually takes around 30 minutes. Then you need to fill the water tank.

Filling the water tank

Most water rowers come with water level marks on their water tanks, usually 6 levels. You need to think of these levels as people in the boat with you. Filling your water tank to level 1 is like rowing in a boat on your own. Filling to level 3 is like rowing in a boat with 3 people in it and so on.

Most people find filling the water tank to level 3 or 1/4 full if your tank doesnt have any watermarks, provides a medium resistance strength.

Still remember it’s the pace of your workout that primarily determines resistaance strength, adding extra water just gives you a little extra resistance

xterra water rower water tank reistnace levels

Rowing machine weight & stability

The weight of any piece of cardio equipment is important as it’s the weight of the machine that usally determines how sturdy its going to feel. The weight of a machine also gives us a good clue to the quality of materials used in the build. The heavier the better.

The good news is that most water rowers are large heavy machines. The heaviest machines are always the ones with the highest price tags. We wont find 150lb water rowers in this price bracket but we can get pretty close. Anything above 80lb is going to feel sturdy and shouldn’t move when rowing.

Also if you’re going to choose a solid wood rower those things are low profile in design, and that low center of gravity will always help with stability.

Other stability features to look for when choosing a rower include wide rails or oversized rails as these help keep the seat stable. Also, wide stabilizing feet on either end of the rower help prevent wobbles. And lastly, look for a contoured seat as this prevents your butt from slipping in the push phase of the rowing stroke.

Adjustable levelers are a great feature for keeping a rower stable on uneven surfaces but you won’t find them on wood rowers. Only steel frame water rowers have the adjustable levelers.

sunny hydro phantom rower monitor

The Monitors Are Basic

We’re not going to find monitors with tons of workout programs and HD screens in this price bracket.

Nearly all water rowing machine monitors are dated even high-end water rower monitors are nothing special. Water rowers in general come with basic but easy-to-use monitors.

Still, if you’re lucky your water rowing machine may come with wireless heart rate monitoring and a few workout programs, but thats about it. And of course, they track all your essential workout data such as time, distance, SPM, total stroke count, 500m and some include a clock.

It’s not just water rowers that suffer from poor monitors, air rower monitors are also basic. It’s only magnetic rowing machines that come equipped with the more advanced monitors because their resistance systems are constant, and can be controlled by the monitor, thus you get more workout programs and apps.

The good thing about a basic monitor is they take no time to set up you can just jump on your rower and get going, and they don’t need a power outlet so you can use your rower anywhere.

Water rowers – dynamic resistance

Water-resistance is dynamic, it has a limitless amount of resistance levels as the strength of resistance is determined by how fast or slow you row. People prefer this type of resistance system for a rowing machine as it mimics the feel of outdoor rowing.

Magnetic rowing machines use a constant resistance system. The resistance strength doesn’t change unless you manually select a different strength of resistance via a resistance knob or from the monitor. It doesnt matter how fast all slow you row on a magnetic rower the resistance strength always stays the same (constant)  While magnetic resistance has its advantages such as being whisper quiet, it won’t give you the natural feel like a water rowing machine.


Water rowers are usually heavy machines with large footprints. You need to make sure you measure out a space where you can row comfortably on your rower. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a separate room or space to house a rowing machine permanently so we need a rowing machine with a space-saving design.

Most water rowers store vertically which is great news as they take up little space when stored vertically against a wall. Just 0.3 suqare metres of space. Still, you need to be careful as there are a few rowers that can not be stored vertically and do not even have a folding system.

Look for a rowing machine that includes a folding system or a vertical storage design.

To Sum UP

What sells water rowers is their dynamic resistance systems, the natural feel this resistance system creates is unmatched, and when combined with the sound of the blades going through the water you get a rowing experience that almost feels as if you were rowing in a boast on actual water.

And the good news is water rowers are no longer expensive. A solid oak rower like the Runow that’s study and heavy-duty can now be bought for under $600 yes the monitor isn’t great but you save yourself a ton of cash by opting for a rowing machine with a basic monitor.

The Runow Water Rowing Machine is my favorite water rower right now in this price bracket. Its wood finish will look great in any home and its heavy build will ensure it feels solid when rowing, additionally it’s suitable for any fitness level because of its dynamic resistance system.

Steel frame rowers are just as impressive in my opinion and while they may not be as aesthetically pleasing as solid wood rowers. A high-quality steel frame water rower like the Sunny Obsidian Surge will deliver the same silky smooth rowing motion but won’t set you back as much money.

The Sunny Obsidian Surge is an excellent machine, it’s a heavy-duty, steel frame rower that’s built to last.  Great to see the more advanced monitor on this rower and the whisper-quiet belt drive system. I think it looks great too. If you only want to spend $500 on a water rowing machine the Sunny Obsidian Surge is the best choice right now.