Want the best rowing machine under 500? Go for the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus – it has 16 levels of magnetic resistance, a large LCD display and superior build quality.
Want more options?
Check our top picks below:
Best Rowing Machines Under 500$
1. Fitness Reality 1000 Plus – Best Under 500$
There aren’t many good magnetic rowing machines in the budget range. Fitness Reality is one of the few that are actually good.
It is common knowledge that magnetic rowers make zero noise. This holds true for the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus as well. It won’t disturb your family when you’re rowing hard at 6 am trying to get fit.
The magnetic resistance is quite impressive on this rower. With 14 levels of resistance, you can always find the right level to feel that burn in your muscles. The more the resistance levels, the easier it is to push yourself and get more out of each workout. So, 14 resistance levels is a huge plus in this rower. Such resistance makes it easy to do HIIT workouts as well.
The resistance is great for every day buyers. But if you are an athlete or fitness enthusiast with years of workout experience, you should invest in a rower with higher resistance. The resistance is harder than you would expect though.
The display monitor allows you to track workout data such as stroke count, time, distance, calories and strokes per minute. The LCD display is 3.5 inches and you can see the numbers large and clear, although there is no backlit. You can switch modes, and turn on the scan mode to have different stats displayed automatically to you. There is a smartphone holder too, which is great to listen to music or a podcast while rowing.
The distance rowed reading is not accurate. It is calculated by multiplying the number of strokes with ten meters, irrespective of how hard the stroke is. So you cannot calculate your time to 2k on the rower. However, this method of calculation is often seen in mid-range rowers.
Similarly, calories are calculated with a 0.1 or 0.2 increment for each time the seat glides through the sensor. If you are serious about performance tracking, it is better to purchase a dedicated fitness tracker.
The company has built an app, MyCloudFitness, to stay on top of your game. You can set progressive goals based on time, distance or calories. You can keep logs of your daily workout too. Most users loved the app for its utility and reported that it made rowing fun for them.
But the downside is that the distance and calories measured aren’t accurate, as explained earlier. So the app can’t serve you as well as it is supposed to.
Build and Design
This is a sturdy machine and all parts feel high quality. The machine stays whisper quiet during each workout. The only downside is that, since the parts are high-quality, the machine is also a bit heavy.
The inseam is 39 inches long and people with height from 4’9” to 6’6” will have full extension and enjoy a complete range of motion. There are floor stabilizer pads that help you place your machine in a position in which it doesn’t wobble. This is really an innovative feat since many budget rowers are prone to wobbling and creaking during workout. This rower is as stable as they come.
The company also claims that you can use the front stabilizer foot pads to do additional exercises such as curls, front raises, tricep extensions, side raises and more. However, this feature isn’t as practical or ergonomic as it sounds. It is better to use free weights or dedicated equipment to do additional exercises.
The seat is a bit hard, as they are in most rowers, and you may want to buy a seat cushion to avoid getting sore after workouts. However, it glides smoothly along the seat rail and is quiet during workouts.
This is one of the few rowing machines under $500 that can keep your feet from slipping during a workout. The foot plates pivot as you row, which gives you a more comfortable rowing movement and is less hard on the ankles. Anti-slip foot plates along with velcro straps are effective at keeping your feet stable during an intense workout.
Storage and Moving
The frame can be folded vertically for compact storage. The built-in caster wheels allow you to move the 63.6 lbs. rower with ease.
If you are looking for the best rowing machine under $500, the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus is a great choice. It has superb build quality, whisper quiet operation and strong enough resistance. Innovative features like front stabilizer pads are an added bonus. However, the workout stats including distance and calories aren’t quite accurate – so keep that in mind.
- Solid build quality
- Easy assembly with all tools included
- Crystal clear LCD
- Wider range of resistance
- Sufficient resistance for many experience levels
- Pivoting foot plates
- Folds for easy storage
- Front foot stabilizer pads
- Good for tall rowers
- No backlit
- Not for athletes or strong people
- Heavier than other mid-range rowers
- Inaccurate workout data
- Wheels could be better
2. Stamina ATS Rower 1403 Rowing Machine
The Stamina ATS Rower is different from most budget rowers since it works on air resistance. Air resistance is one of the best types of resistance and also preferred by professional athletes.
Air resistance is also used on the world’s best selling rowing machine, i.e. Concept 2. However, since the Stamina ATS Rower costs a fraction of its price, there is no adjustable damper setting in it. This is not disappointing since we don’t expect it on a budget rowing machine.
To increase the resistance, you just have to row harder. This works similar to rowing on water, where you can’t adjust the resistance manually, but have to row harder to feel more resistance.
It comes with a steel frame that makes it feel high quality. The seat has enough padding for comfort and the large foot plates make it quite ergonomic. Caster wheels make it easy to move it around. It also has rubber floor protectors that keep your floor undamaged and keep the machine stable. Handlebars are also soft to touch and don’t leave your hands sore after a workout.
The build quality is good, but the design is also as impressive. And the best part is, you get a sporty looking rower at an affordable price. The seating position is rather low to the ground, so people with back or knee issues may have problems getting on and off the machine. The overall quality is solid, but it has some plastic parts, like the flywheel cage, that feel flimsy.
You should note that the machine isn’t quiet as a mouse. It makes the same amount of noise as an old box fan. Also the warranty is 3 years on the frame and 90 days on parts. 90-days doesn’t signal much reliability, so one should consider this before buying this rower.
What we like is that the machine can be folded for compact storage. Not all budget rowing machines can be folded to save space, so this is a great advantage.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned rower, tracking performance is the only way to get better. The LCD monitor on the Stamina ATS rowing machine allows you to track time, speed, distance and calories burned. The LCD monitor doesn’t come with frills, though.
It also has the scan function that toggles through different metrics and shows them to you without the need to manually press any buttons.
The foot plates are comfortable and large velcro straps are able to keep your feet in place. The rowing motion is smooth as the handle also feels comfortable with its soft padding.
Seat is padded and comfortable for longer workouts. But the issue with it is that people with bigger butts will find it small in size. Although with time, one can get used to it.
Not for taller people
The rower’s inseam isn’t long enough for people 6 feet and above. If you are any taller, you won’t be able to extend fully on the seat rails.
If you want a no-nonsense budget rowing machine that gives you a solid workout each time, the Stamina ATS Rower is a great option. If you aren’t very tall and want a natural rowing experience, the Stamina ATS rower can be a great purchase.
- Air resistance is effective
- Rubber floor protectors
- Display Monitor to track performance
- Comfortable seat
- Easy assembly
- Satisfactory customer service
- Seat small for bigger buttocks
- Not 100 percent quiet
- Short warranty on parts
3. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 Rowing Machine
If you are looking for a budget rowing machine, you can’t ignore the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515. It doesn’t come with frills, but it is a smooth performer and ‘whisper’ quiet, so your family can sleep in peace while you’re working out in the morning.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 comes with eight levels of magnetic resistance. Magnetic resistance is great because it doesn’t vary based on how fast or slow you are rowing. The resistance also offers enough tension for high-intensity workouts. Even a 10-minute cardio on the rower will give your body the much needed recharge for the day.Check Price
The build quality of the SF-RW5515 is solid. Not only is the frame made of robust steel, but all the parts such as foot plates and seat are high-quality. However, since it is a budget machine, it isn’t high-tech. The performance monitor is basic, which we will talk about in detail later. Assembling the rower is easy as all parts are labelled and assembly can be done in four simple steps.
The RW5515 can support up to 250 lbs. of weight. The inseam is long enough even for the tallest people. A customer, who is 6’6”, reported that he could stretch fully on the rower with room to spare.
Storing this RW5515 rowing machine is easy. The seat rail can be folded up and when folded, the rower barely takes up any space. The caster wheels allow you to move it without any hassle.
Basic Display Monitor
The monitor is basic, but tells workout metrics such as time, count, calories and total count. It also has a scan feature which displays the metrics and shuffles them periodically so you don’t have to manually check them while working out. If tracking performance is a priority, then this may not be the one since it can’t track distance, split times and the calorie count isn’t accurate, as reported by many users.
If you are new to rowing and can spend a few hundred bucks for six to twelve months of use, this rower is among your best options. However, it isn’t reliable for the long-term. Many customers have reported that its parts, such as spring or pulley, broke after just a few months of use. So if you want brand reliability, look for other options below.
If you are new to rowing and want a smooth rowing experience, the Sunny RW5515 is a great option. The magnetic resistance has enough tension to give you a solid workout. However, if you want a machine that will last 3-5 years, you’re better off investing in another option.
- Magnetic resistance has good amount of tension
- Easy to assemble
- High-quality parts
- Good for tall people
- Display monitor is basic – can’t measure distance, reports inaccurate calorie data
- Not reliable for long-term use
- No backlit
4. MaxKare Water Rowing Machine Under 500$
MaxKare water rowing machine is for those who want a water rower on a budget. Yes, you don’t have to spend a grand or more on an expensive Waterrower rowing machine.
With paddles moving through the water in the tank, you can forget your daily struggles and feel the excitement of rowing on real water.
There is a multi-blade impeller inside the water tank. With each rowing stroke, the blades move through water, pushing a certain volume to complete the motion. The faster you row, the more water there is to push through and hence the more is the resistance.
The sound of water is pleasant and therapeutic. Paddling through water gives a soothing feeling.
The water tank capacity is not mentioned by the manufacturer. But it is probably around 13-15 litres, as it is in similar rowers. However, you should fill it only to two-thirds of total capacity.
Build and Design
The first thing you will notice is how sleek it looks. An all-black look, long rails and a transparent water tank with a performance monitor positioned above it – the sight is as good as it gets. The MaxKare water rower is built with a solid steel frame.
The water rower can support people weighing up to 265 lbs. This is a step up from other rowers in the segment that can only support up to 250 lbs. The rower is longer than most budget rowers too. But this makes it less compact, so it may not be the best for small spaces.
There is a bottle holder too, for hydrating during workouts. Floor stabilizers in the back make sure the machine is always leveled.
Another thing to note is its weight. It weighs about 82 lbs, which is more than double of the weight of hydraulic rowers in this budget range. That said, there are wheels fixed on the front bar for easy transportation.
The seat is a sliding type for better rowing experience. It glides quietly which is another indication of quality engineering and design. The seat is well-contoured, so you will not get tired after a long rowing session.
This water rower can’t be folded, but it can be placed vertically and stored in a corner. When standing vertically, it takes about 76.2 x44 cm of space.
Even at its affordable price, the rowing machine has an adjustable LCD monitor that displays workout data. The monitor is easy to read and does the basic job of showing key workout stats such as time, strokes per minute (SPM), distance, strokes and calories. There is also a man-machine workout mode in which you can compete against a virtual rower to improve your performance.
We like that the company has shown a streak of innovation. The foot plates can be adjusted in length with five pairs of hole sites. The foot straps ensure your feet stay in place. Moreover, heel guards on the foot plates protect your feet and provide stability.
Handle and Strap
The handle feels quite soft as there is enough foam and padding on it. This helps with longer workouts as your hands don’t get sore when there is enough padding. The mesh strap is abrasion resistant and can handle the stress that comes from prolonged use.
Needs Better User Manual
One thing that needs improvement is the documentation. There is no information about how to maintain this water rower. Some people may find it difficult to understand nuances such as when to change the water or how to drain the tank.
Good for Tall People
Perhaps the most impressive feature is that this rower is a good fit for tall people. This makes it one of the best rowing machines under 500 bucks. Even if you are as tall as 6’5”, you will be able to extend your legs fully, enjoying a full-range rowing workout. The inseam is 43.3” or 110 cm, so you can accordingly calculate whether or not this rower will be long enough.
The MaxKare Water Rowing Machine is one of the best inexpensive rowing machines out there. It feels like rowing on water with therapeutic sounds supporting each stroke. It is an innovative and practical machine and a good budget rower even for tall people. It doesn’t get the common complaints that other machines get, including loose foot straps, creaking noise, boring display and short inseam.
- Water rowing on a budget
- Long enough for tall people
- Useful LCD monitor
- Length-adjustable foot plates
- Gliding seat
- Space saver
- Man-machine competition mode
- Smooth resistance
- Feet positioning is stable
- User manual not up to the mark
5. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5801 Rowing Machine Under 500$
The SF-RW5801 is a great rowing machine. It is compact, it offers ‘whisper’ quiet magnetic resistance and it is smooth. The quiet part is what you will really like since it allows you to watch a movie or listen to music uninterrupted while rowing.
The SF-RW5801 has magnetic resistance. Magnetic resistance works with a magnet that goes closer or farther from the metal flywheel. There is a dial that lets you adjust the resistance. Rowers like magnetic resistance because it makes the least amount of noise. Quiet rowers are great when you want to workout early in the morning and don’t disturb your family members with the noise.
There are eight resistance levels to choose from. And once you set a resistance level, it stays fixed at that level and doesn’t change with the speed of rowing, as it does in air or water rowers.
Keep in mind that its resistance will not be enough if you are a professional athlete or have comparable stamina. Also, professional athletes prefer air rowers since they mimic the natural rowing motion, in which resistance increases as you row harder.
Build and Design
The build quality is good with a solid steel frame and a capacity of 285 lbs. The seat rail can be folded up for easy storage. The front base has sturdy transport wheels that make it easy to move it around. The total unit weight is 42 lbs. which is not that heavy. So one can single-handedly assemble and set up this machine.
The machine has rubber pads on the parts where it touches the floor. It keeps the machine stable and also protects the floor.
The foot plates pivot as you row. This means they slightly change angle as you move back and forth on the rowing machine. This especially helps people with weak ankle flexibility or ankle issues by reducing the angle between the shin and the foot.
Heel Guards Protect Your Feet
The foot plate surface is non-slip and the plates have heel guards too. Heel guards prevent your heels from hurting by rubbing against the rough plate surface. Adjustable straps let you stabilize your feet in the most suitable position and prevent them from slipping.
However, the velcro straps are loose and not high-quality, and they can’t keep your feet in place.
Low to the Ground
One thing you should know is that the machine is positioned a bit low to the ground. So people with back or knee problems may have a hard time getting off and on the machine.
The pulling handle has a soft grip that ensures your hands don’t get sore after a long workout. The design is a straight bar type, as seen in most rowers. It is connected to the rower with a nylon strap which is strong enough to last a long time.
The seat is larger than usual on the RW5801. The seat has 14 inch width and 11 inch depth. It has enough padding to make long workouts comfortable. It glides back and forth as you row without creaking or any weird noises.
There is high density foam on top and it is ribbed and concave which gives you a tight grip while rowing hard.
Performance Tracking Console – Not a Basic Monitor
The display monitor is nothing like the basic ones that come on cheap rowing machines. It has many attractive features such as goal setting or count down. The goal setting feature lets you pick a target in terms of time, calories or stroke count. Once set, the monitor counts down from your number to zero. This helps in outdoing your previous workouts and building stamina.
Basic displays don’t even show an accurate stroke count. But this display monitor is far from basic. It shows not only stroke count, time, total count and calories, but it also tracks distance and RPM, which basic monitors often don’t track.
Our only gripe is that the monitor cannot read pulse. Even with a heart rate monitor attached to your chest, it can’t read it because it isn’t telemetric.
The scan mode toggles through a new performance metric every six seconds. This helps in knowing the workout data without having to manually press buttons. However, you can turn the scan mode on or off too, which will display a single metric all the time. The monitor starts automatically when you start rowing and stops four minute after there is no activity.
Assembling the rowing machine is easy and takes about twenty minutes. The manual is helpful and all tools needed are there in the package.
The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW5801 is a great machine for those who want to strengthen and tone their body, lose weight and build stamina. However, it isn’t the right fit for professional athletes as it doesn’t have high resistance. However, it is whisper-quiet, can support 285 lbs. and has plenty of cool features on its performance monitor.
- Solid build, can support 285 lbs.
- Compact, folds and stands vertically
- Adjustable Resistance
- Heel guard in foot plates
- Comfortable Seat
- Monitor can count down from your target metric
- No backlit
- Console can’t be connected to a heart rate monitor
6. Sunny SF-RW5713 Water Rowing Machine Under 500$
If you are looking for an excellent budget rowing machine, the SF-RW5713 is a rower you shouldn’t overlook. It comes with a set of useful features and provides a smooth and pleasant rowing experience.
We really liked the all-black look with a sleek water tank at the front.
Water resistance is good since you get the feeling of rowing on real water with the pleasant sound of water supporting you with each stroke. Water resistance is also smooth on this Obsidian RW5713 Rower, so you will enjoy each workout.
As it is with water rowers, you can change the resistance in two ways. First, you can row harder to increase the resistance. As you row harder, there is more water to push through with the suspended paddles, and hence the more resistance there is.
Second, you can add more water to the water tank. But this stop is manual and isn’t practical when you’re in the middle of a workout.
Build and Design
As mentioned earlier, the all-black look of the RW5713 is impressive. But it is not just about the looks. The sturdy steel frame and sixteen stainless steel hydro blades will convince the most discerning buyers. The polycarbonate plastic water tank looks strong enough to last a long time. Overall, there is nothing flimsy about this rower.
The inseam is long at 38 inches. So if you are about 6 feet, you will be comfortable. However, if you are very tall, say 6’5” or more, this rower will be short for you.
The display monitor shows a variety of workout data and is anything but basic. You can check strokes per minute, total strokes, distance, calories burnt, room temperature, time and 500 mm split time. With a heart rate monitor attached, the monitor can even show heart rate. Using your heart rate, the monitor is able to calculate how fast you can recover after a workout.
The monitor also allows you to set workout targets in terms of time or distance. The ‘race’ option lets you row a digital boat to the finish line. Our only gripe is that the monitor is not backlit. However, it may not matter to some people.
Seat and Foot Plates
The padded seat is comfortable and where it excels is the height. Because the height is more than average, people with back or knee issues will find it especially comfortable. It comes with pivoting foot plates, which is good for people with less ankle flexibility or ankle issues.
Storing and moving it is easy. The wheels at the bottom help you move it from one spot to the other. And when you want to store it, it can stand vertically keeping its weight on the front. Its weight capacity is 300 lbs., which is decent for most people.
If you want a water rower on a budget, that is not just smooth but also smart enough to track performance, the Sunny Health & Fitness RW 5713 is a great choice!
- Display monitor is great
- Water resistance is smooth and pleasant
- Solid build
- Sleek design
- Tall seat
- 300 lbs. Capacity
- 90-day parts warranty isn’t long enough
- Not for very tall people, 6’2” and above
7. Merax Magnetic Rowing Machine Under 500$
The Merax Magnetic Exercise Rower is an impressive machine you can have at an affordable price. If you’re looking for the best rowing machine under $500, it definitely deserves your attention.
It has eight levels of magnetic resistance, which you can adjust using a simple knob located at the end of the seat rail in the front. This is handy and allows you to change intensity without getting off the rower.
Also, the resistance doesn’t change depending on how fast or slow you row. Once you adjust the knob, it stays at the same level. Out of the eight resistance levels, the company suggests the following utility for each resistance range:
- Level 1 to 3: For strengthening the heart and lungs
- Level 4 to 6: For body-shaping and fat burning
- Level 7 to 8: For effective muscle building
Note that the resistance isn’t enough if you are strongly built or an experienced rower. The machine offers mid-level resistance.
Assembly is a breeze with this one. Once set up, it is amazing to see how quietly it works. Its smooth operation combined with its decent build quality make it a great buy for a quarter of the price of top rowers.
The machine can support up to 264 lbs. The only gripe though is that the seat could be a little more comfortable. Also many parts are made out of plastic, so durability in the long run is a concern.
The hard seat is an issue with many rowers. A good solution is to buy a seat cushion to prevent any pain after a workout.
Folding and Storage
Folding the Merax rowing machine is easy. Just take the locking knob from the center of the rail out, fold the seat rail up and put the locking knob back in place. In addition, there are built-in wheels to help you move this without any hassle.
Foot Plates – It is a Slippery Slope
The foot plates are larger than usual, which should support your feet while rowing. The foot plates are multi-angle, so they change angle while moving. Pivoting foot plates are good for people with low ankle flexibility or ankle issues.
Note that the foot plates aren’t good at keeping your feet in place. So you may have to purchase an anti-slip tape or velcro straps to fix the issue.
Is it Good for Taller People?
If you are taller than 6’1”, then the seat rails will most likely be too short for you. That is, you won’t be able to extend your legs fully and enjoy the full range of rowing motion. The good thing is that you can remove the rear leg end cap to have a longer inseam.
There is also a rubber stopper underneath the seat rail, which can be removed to have more space on the seat rail. However, removing it is dangerous since its very function is to stop the seat from falling off the rowing machine.
Display is Basic
If you want an efficient display that lets you set progressive goals or is rich with features, this isn’t the right rowing machine for you. Some users reported that the display isn’t good at all. It may not function properly, so you might be disappointed if a monitor was on the top of your list. However, the display tracks time, count, calories and total count.
On the product page, there is a picture of a muscular model sitting on the rower, which seems to be quite long. The picture doesn’t look squashed, so it is most likely photoshopped. So be aware of such misleading elements while buying a product online.
If you want a smooth rower with adjustable resistance that doesn’t depend on how fast or slow you row, the Merax Rowing Machine is a nice option. The build quality of some parts could be improved, but the quiet and smooth rowing experience keeps you going the entire day.
- Adjustable Magnetic Resistance
- Good build quality, except the foot plates
- Great for beginners
- Easy to assemble
- Folds for easy storage
- Caster wheels
- One year warranty
- Display monitor doesn’t work
- Seat is hard and uncomfortable
- Footplates are cheap
- Resistance not enough for strong people
An honorable mention: Stamina Body Trac Glider 1050 Rowing Machine
Buying Guide – Best Rowing Machines Under 500$
You need a machine that is built to last. If you are a beginner, it is okay to spend a few hundred bucks on a rower that will last one to two years. But if you want to row long-term, it’s better to invest in a more durable rowing machine.
Different resistance types have different advantages, so know the benefit you’d like to have. Magnetic resistance allows you to row at a fixed resistance despite rowing speed. Air and water resistance increase in magnitude as you row faster. Hydraulic resistance rowers are quiet and affordable, but hydraulic pistons tend to get hot quickly and don’t offer high levels of resistance.
Your feet should stay firmly in place while rowing or it could cause unnecessary stress. If your ankles aren’t quite flexible, rowers with pivoting foot pedals will be the best. The velcro straps should hold your feet in place.
Most budget rowing machines have basic display monitors. They show metrics such as time, count, total count and calories. Many budget rowers don’t measure distance and many of them can’t calculate a couple metrics accurately. If you are looking for an affordable rowing machine, finding a superb display monitor will be hard.
Rowing machines under $500 get a lot of praise. But they usually have slightly different design. If you pay attention to the position of the handle, you will notice that it is positioned right above the footplates in such rowing machines.
On the other hand, if you look at any branded rowing machine, such as the Concept2 or Waterrower, the handle is located far beyond the footplates to extend the range of motion.
Now this isn’t something to lose your mind over, since many rowing machines that cost less than $500 have this flaw. For example, the Fitness Reality 1000 plus or the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 also have the same flaw.
Frequently Asked Questions – Best Rowing Machines Under 500$
1. What are the benefits of a rowing machine?
A rowing machine gives you a full body workout, working 86 percent of the muscles in your body unlike treadmills or ellipticals. It is a low-impact workout that doesn’t put high levels of stress on your joints. It also strengthens your cardiovascular system, improving all bodily functions.
2. Does rowing burn fat?
Rowing is an excellent exercise to burn fat. According to Harvard Health Letter, rowing can burn over 300 calories in just 30 minutes.
3. Is rowing machine good for cardio?
Rowing provides a low-impact workout. As compared to other forms of exercise, it works on a larger range of muscles. It allows you to set precise fitness goals as you row more strokes per minute or increase your count for each workout. Not only you get cardio, you also strengthen and tone your back, shoulders and arms.
4. Does rowing build muscle?
Yes. Since 86 percent muscles of the body are involved, muscle size, strength and power increases with rowing. However, the primary benefit is cardiovascular strength and stamina.
5. Does rowing work abs?
Yes. Since you have to use your core for a proper rowing stroke, your abs lose fat and get toned with rowing. Concept2 has acknowledged that abs are an integral part of the rowing stroke.
There are many high-quality rowing machines under 500. The right one depends on your choice of resistance and other preferences.
Our number one pick is the Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Rowing Machine. It has a crystal clear LCD, pivoting foot plates, front foot stabilizers and an impeccable build quality.