Best Budget Rowing Machine: Options Under 500$

Last updated July 29, 2022
Best Budget Rowing Machine

Is there such a thing as a good quality budget friendly rowing machine? In a world where prices are going up all of the time, I investigated what you can get for less than 500 bucks.

To make your life easy (and not have to read a huge amount of text), I’m going to display much of the rowing machine information in a table format so you can easily digest it all.

When reading a review of a rower like the ones here, it’s important to remember they’re budget options, so you must compare them to others in their price range. You can’t expect to compare one with a Concept 2 and expect it to win.

So, without further ado, here are the best budget-friendly rowing machines…

1. HARISON Water Rowing Machine

As a combination of quality and price, the HARISON is, in my opinion, the best value budget rower. For the price (less than $370 at the time of writing), you get a well-built machine that offers a smooth action, a wide range of user specs, and great app support.

Size (constructed)80 x 20.4 x 37.4 inches (185 x 43 x 84 cm)
Weight70 lbs (‎31.75 kg)
Resistance TypeWater
Material‎Aluminum, Alloy Steel
ScreenLCD
Max user height6’6 (198.5 cm)
Max user weight330lbs (149.6 kg)

HARISON seems to have got the perfect combination of build quality and usability in this rower. The upper user limit of 330LBS (149.6kg) is in line with machines 3-4 times the price. 

Water rowers are a sensible choice at this price point because they don’t need as many moving parts and are simpler to build. This keeps the price lower and the reliability high. It also means there’s a consistent action for the rower. The downside is that the resistance is limited, so they’re not great for the most advanced users.

The HARISON rower comes complete with a LCD computer. Whilst it doesn’t compare to the higher end models, you’ll still be able to see time, calories, strokes per minute and distance rowed, which is more than others in the price range. There’s also a device holder, which you can use with a FITSHOW app - an immersive rowing app.

Advantages

  • Great build quality
  • Excellent app support
  • Fantastic value for money
  • Water rower means no issues with cables, magnets etc
  • Can be stored upright
  • Device holder in place
  • Suits a range of user sizes

Disadvantages

  • Limited upper resistance level

2. SNODE 2022 Water Rowing Machine

As a budget-friendly option, the SNODE is a great choice. It’s a sniff under 400 bucks, offers a water rowing experience similar to machines 5 times the price, is well built and perfectly suitable for home use, even in smaller rooms, thanks to the fact you can store it on its end.

Size (constructed)73 x 17 x 33 inches (185 x 43 x 84 cm)
Weight65 lbs (‎29.48 kg)
Resistance TypeWater
MaterialIron and plastic
ScreenLCD
Max user height6’6 (198.5 cm)
Max user weight300lbs (136 kg)

In our opinion the Snode rower has all of the features you need, without adding any expensive extras that you won’t use. 

With it being a water rower, there’s fewer issues with build quality and changes in resistance. It also offers a reasonable challenge for most beginners and intermediates. I wouldn’t suggest you train for the Olympics on one, but you get my point! It’s a solid entry-level rower for most people looking for something in their home gym.

The LCD computer is very basic, but you can get around this by using the FITLOG app supported by the rower. There’s a good warranty (2 years on the frame) in place, which also gives you peace of mind.

Advantages

  • Great build quality
  • Excellent app support
  • Fantastic warranty
  • Water rower means no issues with cables, magnets, etc
  • Can be stored upright

Disadvantages

  • Limited upper resistance
  • LCD screen very basic
  • Not suitable for people over 6’6 (198.5cm)

3. RUNOW Water Rowing Machine

In this review, I’m showing you rowers that cost less than $500, and this RUNOW machine creeps in just under that price… if you only buy the black model. So whilst this is a technicality, it still qualifies! This rower is a higher-end model at a cheaper price point, so is well worth your consideration, as you’ll find out…

Size (constructed)‎82 x 22 x 21 inches (208 x 56 x 53 cm)
Weight67.5 lbs (‎30.6 kg)
Resistance TypeWater
MaterialWalnut wood, plastic
ScreenLCD
Max user height6’6 (198.5 cm)
Max user weight350lbs (159 kg)

The RUNOW rower is a rock solid machine - it’s well built, sturdy and built to last. It’s the biggest and heaviest rower we’ll review here, and it’s up there with the best build quality. The smooth guide rails mean that the machine is quiet during operation and home gym friendly. It can also be stored on its end.

The LCD screen is basic, as you’d expect at the price point. Despite this, it tracks important statistics during your workouts like strokes per minute (SPM), workout duration, distance rowed, and calorie burn. The machine is let down slightly by the lack of app support - there’s also nowhere to store a tablet to make your workout more immersive.

The RUNOW is a sleek-looking machine designed well for home use. It’s big, sturdy, and looks good. It’s built to last, and if you aren’t put off by the lack of app support or tablet holding option, it’s a solid machine for the money. Again, being a water rower, it’s more suitable for beginner and intermediate rowers.

Advantages

  • Great build quality
  • Highest upper weight limit in the review
  • Looks good
  • Water rower means no issues with cables, magnets etc
  • Can be stored upright

Disadvantages

  • Limited upper resistance
  • No app support
  • High price given the lack of some features

4. MBH Fitness Water Rowing Machine

This machine is the cheapest on review in the article, but that’s not to say it’s a bad machine - it outperforms many of its more expensive rivals. The machine is a great option for a home gym user because it’s cheap, well-made, easy to put together and you can be up and running in a short period of time. 

Size (constructed)‎‎79 x 20 x 19 inches (201 x 51 x 48 cm)
Weight77 lbs (‎35 kg)
Resistance TypeWater
MaterialStainless steel, plastic
ScreenLCD
Max user height6’6 (198.5 cm)
Max user weight330lbs (149.6 kg)

In terms of usability, MBH has done a good job. The LCD screen is pretty basic but gives you the information you need. There’s also app support (nice touch) and the ability to pay a little more to buy the machine with a tablet holder so you can use the app whilst you row. The usage is pretty quiet, and it’s easy to move and store the machine at home. 

MBH has designed this machine with cost in mind. It’s a little busy looking, unlike other rowers' simple designs. The handles are foam-padded, which probably won’t last for decades, but they’ll see you through the first few years. The metal guide rail is similar to the Concept 2 design, but the seat is slightly more basic (forgivable at the price point). The pedals are a nice touch, though, with a non-slip material design.

The high upper weight limit and the solid build quality mean this is a machine that will suit a wide range of people. The self-assembly nature of it is simple, so you’ll have it complete within 30 minutes or less for even a novice DIY’er. It’s the cheapest rower on review here, but it’s a good one.

Advantages

  • Versatile options - can be bought with or without a tablet holder
  • High upper weight limit
  • Good app support
  • Smooth and quiet action
  • Can be stored upright

Disadvantages

  • Limited upper resistance
  • Busy looking design
  • Longevity of the foam handle pads is a concern

Buying Guide: How to Pick the Best Inexpensive Rowing Machine

Type of Resistance

If you’re on a budget, your best bet for a quality rowing machine will be to opt for a water rower. These rely on a fan being dragged through the water to create resistance. The beauty here is there are fewer moving parts, so there’s less to go wrong.

On-budget rower's parts and components are where there’s an issue - cheap parts break quickly. There are also build quality problems, but they’re less common in a water rower because it’s less complicated than magnets or flywheels.

For more details on the different types of resistance, check out our guide here.

Connectivity

Apps are growing in popularity and are becoming more and more common. Budget-friendly rowers tend to have very basic LCD computers, so the connectivity is either very limited or zero.

If you use an app, opt for a rower with a tablet holder, or position your rower so you can easily access/see your tablet. This means you’ll be able to use your training app without disrupting your training.

Built quality

This is a big issue - build quality will determine the longevity of your machine and how well you can use it. Look for the quality of the materials and components here. The more metal, the stronger the machine is. The wooden machines are generally very high quality as well. The less plastic, the better.

The other clue as to the build quality and materials can be found in the upper weight limit. As a rule, the higher the upper weight limit, the better the build quality is. 

Size and weight capacity

If you are particularly tall or heavy, you have to consider whether or not a rower is going to fit you. As a general rule, most rowing machines (even budget-friendly) will cope with people up to 6 '5 - 6 ’7. If you are taller than this, you may have to spend extra money on a Concept 2 machine.

Regarding weight, most machines will cope with 300lbs (136KG), and the strongest machines will cope with 350lbs (159KG). Always think about the heaviest potential user when buying a rowing machine. 

The final word

It’s important to remember to judge budget-friendly rowing machines next to their competition rather than the wider market. Expecting a $400 rower to be as well made and feature-heavy as a $2000 is rather naive. 

As proven in this article, there are a few good budget-friendly rowing machines around. If you’re willing to spend up to $500, you can get a pretty solid machine that will let you row at home.

About Steve Hoyles
Steve Hoyles is a personal trainer and weightlifting coach with two decades in the industry. He is the owner of MyGym, a strength and conditioning facility in the UK. His fitness copywriting has been featured in magazines and websites all over the world.
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