It wasn’t so long ago that buying a rower for home use would set you back well over $1000. There weren’t any budget rowing machines on the market! Most people would have to go to a gym to reap the benefits of rowing unless they wanted to spend a ton of cash.
Fast forward a few years, and the market is crowded with budget rowing machines. We’re spoilt for choice, which is a good thing, but unless you know what you’re looking for, it can be confusing.
Build Quality Can Vary Hugely From one Company to The Next.
I’ve been reviewing rowers in this price bracket for years, and what’ surprised me the most is how much the quality of a rowing machine can vary from one company to the next, so you must choose carefully.
The last thing you want is to send back your new rowing machine because it’s poorly built and breaks in less than a week, which is very common with budget rowing machines.
On the positive, there are some great rowers in this price range built by reputable companies. All you need to know is what to look for, which is why I created this quick guide that will help any first-time buyer find the perfect low-cost rower for their needs.
How To Choose a Rowing Machine Under $300
One of the most important things you need to do when choosing a rowing machine is to make sure the company you are buying from has a good reputation and has been in business for at least a few years.
Customer service is essential when buying any piece of cardio gear, as should anything go wrong, you need the peace of mind that your issue will be dealt with and sorted out quickly.
There are a few companies I can recommend for you in this price bracket. Companies I know have great customer service and build high-quality rowing machines for people on a tight budget.
- Sunny Health & Fitness – These guys are the market leaders of affordable cardio gear. They specialize in low-cost, high-quality cardio equipment. They’ve been at the top of their game for over two decades now. I’ve reviewed many of their products over the years, and bang for buck, these guys always impress. They should be at the top of your list when looking for a budget rowing machine.
- Fitness Reality – Fitness Reality is another company that specializes in low-cost gym equipment. They’ve been around a long time and have always been popular with people on a budget. They mainly specialize in weightlifting equipment, but they make a couple of impressive rowers in this price bracket worth checking out.
- Joroto Fitness – A relative newcomer to the low-cost cardio market, but their products are excellent for the price point. I recently reviewed their budget rower and spin bike and was more than impressed with the build quality and low prices. User review ratings for their cardio gear is high 4.5/5, Joroto Fitness is a company to keep an eye on because they’re starting to make a significant impact in this price range, and their products rival the best in this price bracket.
Is the Weight of a Rowing Machine Important?
Surprisingly not many people consider the weight of a rowing machine when choosing, but it’s more important than you think. The weight of a rowing machine gives us a good clue to the overall quality of materials used in the build. Rowing machines in this price bracket are typically light, but a few are well built and heavy.
A budget rower can weigh anything from 40lb up to 70lb. If you can get anywhere near to 70lb, you’re doing well.
Also, the weight helps with stability, and it keeps the rower planted to the floor. The heavier, the better.
Resistance Type – Magnetic -Water or Air?
There are three main types of resistance systems utilized by rowing machines. The first and most popular is magnetic resistance, and the reason magnetic resistance is so popular is that its whisper-quiet in operation.
The magnets of the resistance system never have to make contact with the flywheel. Thus, it’s a frictionless resistance system, and no friction means no noise and little maintenance.
Magnetic resistance is cheaper to produce than air or water systems, so it brings down the cost of the rowing machine, which is always a good thing. And its one of the reasons we find magnetic resistance featured on so many budget rowing machines.
Magnetic resistance is the perfect choice for a home rower because it’s so quiet and smooth it lets you workout without being disturbed by the sound of the machine great for apperment living or anyone who doesn’t have a separate room to house their rowing machine.
Air resistance is the next choice, and it too can be found on budget rowers, but it’s mostly seen in commercial gyms.
Air resistance isnt so popular for a home gym because it uses a fan to create resistance, which makes it loud. This is okay for a commercial gym, but for home use, it’s not ideal.
One of the benefits of air resistance is that it mimics outdoor rowing more closely than magnetic, and thats because air resistance is dynamic; it only gets stronger the faster you row, just like actual rowing.
Magnetic resistance is constant, and the resistance only gets stronger if you manually change it via the tension knob or through the control monitor.
Lastly, we have water rowers. You won’t find many water rowers in the budget price range, as they are much more expensive to produce, if you do find any, expect the quality to be low.
However, water rowers mimic actual rowing more closely than any of the resistance sytsems because the resistance is dynamic, and you hear the sound of the blades going through the water, which makes them desirable. A decent one cost $500+
One common issue with budget rowers is the length of the rail. It’s not much of an issue for shorter users, but if you’re over 6ft, you’ll need to check the rail length before buying.
Most budget rowers typically have rail lengths of around 36″, which is suitable for users up to 6ft to achieve full leg extension.
It’s not all bad news. A handful of budget rowers boast longer rails of 40″ and over, which are suitable for users up to 6’5″.
Check the Sunny Health SF-RW5155 rower his has the longest rail in the price bracket and can support users up to 6’5″. Also, the Fitness Reality 1000 rower has an impressive rail length of 39″ and can accommodate users up top 6’3″ so to can the Joroto M35 rower and EchanFit Rowing Machine.
Smooth Rowing Stroke
A smooth rowing stroke is important, and to achieve one, there are a few features your rowing machine must include. The first is a decent weight flywheel as this will keep the rowing stroke smooth and uninterrupted. We dont usually find heavy flywheels in this price bracket, but there are a few rowers with premier weighted flywheels, so it’s a good idea to check if your rower has a premier weighted flywheel.
Also, we need a seat that glides effortlessly across the rail, look for high-quality ball bearings and rollers.
And lastly, an angled rail. An angled rail puts you in the best rowing position, and it intensifies the leg push phase of the rowing stroke and speeds up the recovery phase of the stroke.
Monitors in this price range are always basic, and they dont come with workout programs or any advanced features such as wireless heart rate monitoring, etc. Still basic isnt necessarily a bad thing. Basic monitors are easy to use and easy to set up, they track all the essential workout data such as distance, time, stroke count, and calories burned.
You save yourself a lot of money by choosing a basic monitor. Many people who buy rowing machines with advanced monitors never use half of the features, so they can be a waste of money.
Also, most budget rowers come with a tablet or phone holder, so you can, if you wish, download your favorite fitness app or watch Netflix listen to music while you exercise.
Folds For Storage
Rowing machines have large footprints so unless you have a place to store a rowing machine permanently? You’ll need a rowing machine with a folding system. Thankfully the majority of budget rowers fold for storage. However, the folding systems can differ, and some are more fiddly to fold and time-consuming than others. Look for quick-release folding systems that take just a few seconds to fold.
Built-in transport wheels are usually included as well, just tilt and roll to store.
I already mentioned the weight of the rowing machine plays a vital role in its overall stability. Still, there are a few more features we can look out for. The first is wide stabilizing feet. The front and sometimes rear of your rowing machine should include a wide stabilizer, and the wider, the better as it’s there to prevent wobbles.
Another handy feature are adjustable levelers. Adjustable levelers are excellent for keeping the rower stable on uneven surfaces. Not all budget rowers have these, but they are generally built into the stabilizer bars.
Also, a wide rail helps to keep the seat stable, plus the seat padding can also play a role in stability. A seat thats too soft will cause stability issues and affect your rowing form. Look for high-density foam padding for the seat. Thus stuff isnt too hard to be off-putting, nor is it too soft to cause stability issues it’s just right.
To Sum Up
When buying lost-cost cardio equipment, it does pay to do your research first, so I hope you found this quick guide to be helpful.
What’s most important is to buy from a reputable company. You’ll then almost be guaranteed to have a well-built product, then all you need to do is make sure the rower you chose suits your needs, such as rail length, resistance system, etc.
If you want to read full reviews of my favorite rowing machines in this price bracket I’ll leave links below:
Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine Full Review
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5155 Rowing Machine Full Review