How to Buy A Cheap Rowing Machine – Best Rowing Machines Under $500

Rowing machines, or indoor rowers, are modern fitness machines used to simulate the action of watercraft rowing. They have exploded in popularity because they are easy to use and have zero impact on the knees and ankle joints. The machine essentially makes it easy for beginners, rowing enthusiasts, and people recovering from injuries to gain fitness and be skilled at watercraft sports simultaneously.

Some of the best rowing machines can be pricey, but that is not to say that you can’t find excellent options if you’re on a tight budget. This guide will help you pick the best rowing machines under $500 that you can buy right now.

Best Rowing Machines Under $500

1. Circuit Fitness Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine

Circuit Fitness Deluxe Foldable Magnetic Rowing Machine with 8 Resistance Settings and LCD Monitor


  • It sports a display panel that is easy to read
  • Foldable design that is great for compact spaces.
  • Adjustable foot straps. 
  • Unique and durable injection-moulded seat. 


  • Seat wheels are not as durable as the rest of the machine.
  • The onboard computer can be finicky. 

Product Details

  • Material – Heavy-duty Steel and aluminium coated with plastic. 
  • Dimension – 91 x 20.5 x 31.5 inches.
  • Item weight – 90lbs.
  • Carrying capacity – 300lbs.
  • Resistance level – 8 levels. 

The Circuit Fitness Deluxe is a rowing machine featuring a heavy-duty steel build that gives it a strong feel. With this kind of build, this rowing machine from Circuit Fitness can carry up to 300 lbs of weight. The steel, plastic, and aluminum coating gives this rowing machine its 90 lbs weight. 

Additionally, it has 8 levels of magnetic resistance, a foldable design for easy storage, and an injection-molded seat design that improves user stability while rowing. Even with its budget price, the built-in display panel that shows the number of calories burned, temperature, distance, and strokes per minute (SPM) is very high quality.

2. Proform 550R Rowing Machine

ProForm 550R


  • Good display panel
  • Folds up in one step for easy storage. 
  • Strong build quality
  • 5 levels of magnetic resistance. 


  • There might be quality control issues.

Product Details

  • Material – Steel design.
  • Dimension – 26 x 23 x 47 inches.
  • Item weight – 104lbs.
  • Carrying capacity – 280lbs.
  • Resistance levels – 5 levels.

The Proform 500R sports a steel design for its frame which gives it a solid construction and allows a maximum weight of 280 lbs. It is compactly built with external dimensions of 26 × 23 × 47 inches and a foldable design. The seats and workout intensity are adjustable as well as the 5 levels of magnetic resistance.

Although it may not cater to professionals, it is more than capable for beginners and intermediate users looking for a budget rowing machine with no bells and whistles.

3. Sunny Health & Fitness SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness Multifunction SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine - SF-RW5941


  • Holder tray for a mobile device.
  • Designed with a cushion moulded seat. 
  • It comes with adjustable magnetic resistance. 
  • Foldable slide rail. 


  • Stroke counts mostly inaccurate. 

Product Details

  • Material – alloy steel. 
  • Item weight – 52.9lbs.
  • Item Dimension – 76.8 x 22.8 x 22.8 inches.
  • Carrying capacity –  250lbs. 
  • Resistance level – 16 levels. 

Sunny Health & Fitness SPM magnetic rowing machine is as minimalist as they come. It manages to cover all the basics while providing excellent value for money. It has a padded and adjustable seat that is comfortable to use, 16 levels of adjustable magnetic resistance, holders for a phone or tablet and water bottle, as well as a strong metal frame.

For the features that it offers, it is certainly one of the best rowing machines under $500, especially because it routinely retails at a sub-$200 price tag.

4. Circuit Fitness Water Rowing Machine

CIRCUIT FITNESS Circuit Fitness Water Rowing Machine 300 lb. Max. Capacity AMZ-167RW


  • As close to a premium rowing experience as possible for this price point.
  • It comes with a digital monitor.
  • It features a grooved foam padded seat.
  • Attached wheels for easy transport.


  • Foot pedals do not fit properly and are often slippery. 

Product Details

  • Material –  Heavy duty steel frame with foam and plastic coatings. 
  • Item Dimension – 78 x 22 x 42 inches.
  • Item weight – 56.2lbs.
  • Carrying capacity – 300lbs. 
  • Resistance level – Dynamic water resistance system.

First off, this Circuit Fitness water rowing machine can hold up to 300 lbs of weight and has a water-based resistance. Once you fill the water tank with up to 5 gallons of water, your workout cannot be any more enjoyable. The sound of squishing water is as close to an outdoor rowing experience as it gets.

The seats are super soft and comfortable for longer periods of use and it has a digital display that is more advanced and intuitive than most other rowing machines under $500. Two small attached wheels for easy movement between locations is a bonus, and it is easily foldable if you have a small workout space.

5. XTERRA Fitness ERG220 Rower

XTERRA Fitness ERG220 Rower, Black


  • 8 levels of magnetic resistance.
  • Good LCD monitor.
  • Double extruded aluminium seat slide rails. 
  • Transport wheels for movement.
  • Adjustable strap foot pedals for an easy fit. 


  • Seats not too comfortable with thin padding

Product Details

  • Material – steel. 
  • Item Dimension – 80.3 x 19 x 29 inches.
  • Item weight – 62lbs.
  • Carrying capacity – 300lbs. 
  • Resistance level – 8 levels.

The Xterra ERG220 Rower does a bit more than the typical budget rowing machine. It has an overall solid steel construction that can carry up to a maximum of 300 lbs. On the workout side, it has 8 levels of adjustable magnetic resistance and adjustable seat and foot pedals. The built-in LCD monitor shows some decent exercise records such as time, pulse, stroke per minute (SPM), and calories burned.

The molded seats are large enough for most people, but the padding is a little too thin and might be uncomfortable after prolonged sitting. Notwithstanding, the Xterra ERG220 rowing machine is a solid pick if you’re on a tight budget.

6. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622 Rowing Machine

Sunny Health & Fitness Dual Function Magnetic Rowing Machine w/ Digital Monitor, Multi-Exercise Step Plates, 275 LB Max Weight and Foldable - SF-RW5622


  • 8 levels of an adjustable magnetic system. 
  • Non-slip grip and fully padded seat.
  • Digital monitor. 
  • Adjustable foot straps.


  • Rubber pedal straps are easily breakable. 
  • Seats could use more padding

Product Details

  • Material –  steel.
  • Item Dimension – 872 x 21 x 18.5 inches.
  • Item weight – 64.2lbs.
  • Carrying capacity – 275lbs max. 
  • Resistance level – 8 levels. 

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5622 rowing machine is more impressive than the name suggests. It is solidly built, having a steel construction that can carry up to 275 lbs. 8 levels of adjustable magnetic resistance provides a pleasant challenge for rehab to pro users.

It sports a digital monitor where you can see your exercise data such as the number of calories burned, the speed, the pulse, and the stroke per minute (SPM). It also features non-slip grip handles, padded adjustable seats, and adjustable foot straps.

What to consider when buying a budget rowing machine under $500

When purchasing a rowing machine for under $500, some key factors you can consider to ensure that you get the best bang for your buck (which we considered in this buying guide) are;

1. Price 

Rowing machines range from as low as $200 to as high as $3000. Therefore, figuring how much you have at hand to spend will help to narrow down your choice. Practically, more expensive machines will pack more features and have better overall quality than cheaper ones.

It is important to keep in mind when determining your budget that some of the lesser-priced rowing machines are poorly made. That is not to say that you won’t be able to find very good quality rowing machines under $500.

2. Rowing Machine Longevity 

An important factor to consider is the number of years that you intend to use the machine. Most people invest in an expensive rowing machine only to use it for a couple of months and then keep it away where it will gather dust for decades to come. 

If you are looking for a quick and temporary fix to holiday pounds, invest in a lower quality rowing machine under $500. On the other hand, someone who is diligent about working out can invest in a solid model that can last for decades.  

3. Resistance type 

Users must focus on the resistance type when buying their rowing machines. But it is important to know that the cheapest rowing machine does not mean it is the best deal.  However, there are good rowing machines under $500 with good resistance. Rowers are usually available in four main resistant types, which include:

  • Air. 
  • Magnetic. 
  • Hydraulic.
  • Water. 

4. How the machine will be used

Indoor rowing machines are made for home use. Not all indoor rowing machines can be used commercially in places like gyms and health clubs. If you intend the machine for home use, any unit chosen will do. However, if you plan to use it for commercial purposes, be sure to choose a rowing machine under $500 built for heavy use. 

Also, if the machine is meant to be shared, consider buying a rowing machine with more resistance levels to accommodate the needs of different users.

How many calories can I burn with a rower? 

A proven effective method to get your heart-pounding to burn calories happens to be the use of the rowing machine. This incredible machine copies the motion of rowing on the water. The use of rowing machines for workouts offers exciting and challenging workouts. 

Calories can be burned in as little as 20 minutes per session. Although the intensity and duration can impact the number of calories burned. A recent study by Harvard Health Publishing states that an average-sized person can burn around: 

  • 255 calories in 30 minutes of moderate rowing.
  • 316 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous indoor rowing.

Which muscles do the rowing machine work on. 

Full body workout with the rowing machine takes care of cardio and strength training. It ensures that you will get a build-up in the strength of several muscles simultaneously. Rowing machines help tone, sculpt and build muscle mass, particularly shoulders, back muscles, and glutes. 

Most persons believe that rowing only strengthens the leg but this is far from the truth.  If you want to have a better understanding of what a rowing machine workout aims at. Read more on the four phases that make up a stroke; The Finish, The Drive, The Catch, and The Recovery.

Which rowing machine is the quietest?

The major reason why a rowing machine is noisy has to do with the seat sliding along on the rail. Also, the intensity or speed at which you row the rowing machine can lead to noise. Lubricating the seat correctly helps by reducing that type of noise, and also, if you can focus and control your strokes, it helps in noise reduction.  

In terms of less noise, the magnetic rowers would serve your need best. Most air rowers and water rowers, although not irritatingly loud, are noisier than magnetic rowers. 

How long should you use a rowing machine?

The duration users of a rowing machine spend on it depends on the fitness level of the user. The fitness goal the user has set also affects the duration. When trying out rowing, a steady 20 minutes workout per day is sufficient. It can gradually be increased by 5 minutes per session as the week comes around. 

As a beginner new to rowing, it is advisable to row approximately 500 meters in 7 minutes. You can do two 500 meters sessions with breaks in between, and this should not take more than a maximum of 12 minutes. 

Is the rowing machine good for abs?

Rowing is generally an entire body workout. Multiple muscle groups are used when you row with poise, balance, and proper technique. When you contract and engage your core muscles, you are working on your abdominal muscles. When you keep the tension on the front and midsection, it helps in strengthening the abs. 

An appropriate way to work on your abs with a rowing machine is to add other abdominal workouts. To do this, you have to get off the rower, do some press-ups, then get back on the machine carrying on with the session.

Bottom line

Choosing a budget rowing machine under $500 can be a tricky task if you don’t know where to begin. At the lowest end, I would recommend the Sunny Health & Fitness SPM Magnetic Rowing Machine for those who are new to rowing and want a minimalist machine.

On the other hand, if you’re a rowing enthusiast and want the absolute best for your money, consider the Circuit Fitness Water Rowing Machine which has a water resistance mechanism and packs for features than other indoor rowers under $500.

Last update on 2024-07-22. Affiliate links and images from Amazon product advertising API