The best budget rowing machines for 2024: Keep on rowing

Rowing makes for the best strength and cardio workout there is – but only with the right machine.

A selection of the four best budget rowing machines

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

Investing in one of the best budget rowing machines money can buy is a famously effective way of getting close to a whole-body workout. But, on the other hand, it can be a daunting prospect to part with a chunky sum of money in return for a piece of home gym equipment you aren’t sure about or familiar with. After all, we're talking about a real piece of precisely engineered machinery, not an exercise mat.

Budget rowing machines often make large claims and throw in lots of bells and whistles. But few live up to the hype, thanks to cheaper and flimsier parts. But our experts have discovered that finding a good rowing machine for well under £500 isn't an impossible task. With the right budget in mind, you might even have enough cash left over for extra kit, like a stepper machine or cleaning supplies to keep your machines shiny and safe to use.

Best budget rowing machines of 2024 at a glance:

• Best overall: Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205 rowing machine – View at Amazon
• Best budget JLL rowing machine: JLL R200 Luxury Home rowing machine – View at Amazon
• Best for tall users: Pro Fitness Air and Magnetic rowing machine – View at Argos

As with home treadmills, there's a massive choice of well-made budget rowers out there. They don’t come packed with features but put the emphasis on quality build and components instead. But which one will suit your available space and have the sort of features you prefer? You might be new to rowing machines and need to understand more about the type of machines that exist before you choose, or a seasoned rower who needs the most robust machine over electronic gadgetry.

Luckily, we're here to help with our run-down of the benefits of rowing machines, as well as answers to some of your frequently asked questions. And, of course, our pick of the very best budget rowing machines available this year to kick start your 2024 New Year's resolutions.

The best budget rowing machines of 2024:

All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

Best overall

Sunny Health and Fitness SF-RW1205 Rowing MachineAmazon/Sunny Health and Fitness

Rrp: $129.99

Price: $89.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$89.99View offer
DICK'S Sporting Goods$99.99View offer
Overstock$109.99View offer
Target$119.99View offer

A user-friendly rower at its most basic. Unlike lots of other rowing machines, this uses a hydraulic cylinder to generate all of its 12 levels of resistance. It's a sturdy, durable design that should suit most people.

There's a digital monitor too, and a wide, well-cushioned seat for comfort. The handlebars also have excellent non-slip covers, and the pedals have the obligatory adjustable strap. If you want something small that has the features you need, this is it.

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Sturdy construction as the machine is made from heavy-duty grade steel
  • Ultimate comfort with the pivoting foot pedals, foam handlebars and cushioned seat

Cons

  • Not ideal for 6ft+ people

Best budget folding rowing machine

Fit4home Air Rowing Machine for HomeAmazon/Fit4Home

If you need an excellent rowing machine that can fit into your home life, then look no further. The Fit4home does exactly what it says on the tin, it's foldable, light, and looks great. It's perhaps not the best choice if you're after high-demand, extreme workouts, as the resistance levels don't go as high as other machines.

The foldable design is easily one of its best features. It's no secret that rowing machines take up a lot of room, so we always appreciate it when one can be folded away for convenience.

Pros

  • Highly portable and convenient
  • Great for women

Cons

  • Not suited for intense use

Best budget JLL Rowing Machine

JLL R200 Luxury Home Rowing MachineAmazon/JLL

JLL is a leader in developing high-end fitness equipment, and its rowing machines set a great standard. With a range of equipment varying in price ranges, this 2024 model is one of the best you can pick up for the price currently. It’s easily assembled and a breeze to use. We only wish the seat was a little more on the comfortable side.

With 10 levels of magnetic resistance, using this will always feel like a premium workout. It's easy to adjust the levels too, just by using a dial.

Pros

  • Easy to put together
  • Well-built, sturdy

Cons

  • Seat could be more comfortable

Best budget rowing machine for tall users

Pro Fitness Air and Magnetic Rowing MachineArgos/Pro Fitness

The air and magnetic resistance on this rowing machine gives you eight levels of resistance to choose from by adjusting the air outlet. Though not as quiet as other machines, it isn't too bad. It's worth having in a closed-off dedicated space, however. It's almost two metres long which is noticeably more than those above, but it does allow for users over 6ft.

Although it does take up a fair bit of room when in use, it folds away to make storage easier. It also features wheels that help move it around, so despite the size, it's rarely an obstacle.

Pros

  • Space-saving as it folds for storage
  • Great accessibility as it's good for most heights
  • Magnetic resistance system with 8-level tension control for individuals of all fitness levels

Cons

  • No AAA batteries are supplied for the screen

Best compact budget rowing machine

Gymax 4-in-1 Rowing MachineOnbuy/Gymax
Price: £99.95 (was £139.99)

www.onbuy.com

For those looking for a versatile machine, consider the Gymax 4-in-1. Whether it's rowing, reverse rowing, AB exercise or general fitness, you can use this machine for various exercises, helping you diversify your workout. It's fairly quiet, which is always a plus.

The Gymax 4-in-1 is a foldable rowing machine, so you can easily pack it up and take it with you anywhere. For those of us dedicated to a workout regime, portability is a fantastic feature. Unsurprisingly, since it's a bit on the smaller side, it's very lightweight as well, so it won't be a burden to take on the go.

Pros

  • Versatile, can be used for reverse rowing too
  • Fairly quiet
  • Foldable design makes it easy to pack away

Cons

  • Larger models have more features

Best super low-budget rowing machine

Opti manual rowing machineArgos/Opti
Price: £59.00 (was £119)

www.argos.co.uk

Offering 12 tension settings, this Opti manual rowing machine is a great option no matter your ability. It's one of the more compact options and can be folded up when not in use. It's suitable for anyone, regardless of their height too. A faux leather seat offers greater comfort, meaning you'll be able to exercise for longer.

A small console keeps track of your strokes, minutes, time and calories burnt, making this an excellent all-round option for beginners and those with little space to spare.

Pros

  • Console feedback including: scan, strokes, minutes, time and calories burned for real-time feedback
  • Faux leather seat for an enjoyable workout
  • Suitable for everyone as it has no height limit

Cons

  • Underwhelming weight limit (100g)

Best budget rowing machine for comfort

JOROTO Water Rowing MachineAmazon/JOROTO
Price: $299.99

Magnetic machines are smooth but rowers that use water resistance give the most realistic simulation of rowing. Like air machines, it's also very reliable. On this unit, the screen is adjustable to suit your height, and the wide seat is very comfortable. Adding to the comfort features here are some nicely adjustable pedals.

Just be aware that this is also a larger unit thanks to the water barrel, but it does have wheels at the end to make it easier to move. There's even an adjustable iPad holder.

Pros

  • Water Flywheel to replicate the experience of rowing in water, crafted to ensure a peaceful workout
  • Features a large padded seat and the best-in-class dual aluminium rail system for comfort while exercising
  • Minimal strain on joints and the lower back due to the rower's smooth, even stroke

Cons

  • Weaker display than many

Best budget rowing machine with tablet stand

Neezee Rowing MachineAmazon/Neezee

The Neezee Rowing Machine is a serious contender for one of the best budget rowing machines available. It’s easy to set up, and when it’s set up, it’s a sturdy bit of kit. For the budget, it offers an excellent tablet stand that can adjust to a range of tablet dimensions.

One of our few gripes is that the footplates are on the larger side, so smaller feet might struggle with strapping in.

Pros

  • Very sturdy universal tablet stand
  • Runs smoothly using actual water resistance

Cons

  • Foot plates might be too large for smaller feet

Best budget hydraulic rowing machine

Opti Multi Rowing MachineArgos/Opti

The Opti Multi Rowing Machine offers a comprehensive workout with multiple resistance levels, ensuring both beginners and fitness enthusiasts can enhance their cardiovascular health and strengthen muscles efficiently in the comfort of their own homes.

You're getting some serious value here, as well as an extremely unique home workout experience. The mini console is easy to use, and the extra comfort is something we always appreciate.

Pros

  • Superb value for money
  • Includes intuitive mini console
  • Ultimate comfort with the pivoting foot pedals, foam handlebars and cushioned seat

Cons

  • Not ideal for those over 6ft

Best budget rowing machine for burning calories

DOMYOS Folding Rowing Machine 100Decathlon/DOMYOS

The DOMYOS Folding Rowing Machine 100 is a compact, foldable option perfect for home gyms. It features adjustable resistance, ergonomic design, and a smooth glide rail, ideal for enhancing cardiovascular fitness and muscle toning with minimal space requirement.

This is said to be a super calorie burner, offering the perfect platform for those intense sessions. It'll make a great addition to the home with its ergonomic and purposeful build.

Pros

  • Built for efficient and maximised home calorie-burning
  • Lightweight and highly portable
  • Comfortable and easy to live with

Cons

  • Resistance bands could be stronger

Best budget rowing machines for 2024: Buyer's guide

Consider the right functions and features for you

Make yourself familiar with what components really matter on a rowing machine. If you're a beginner, it isn't overly important how many programs and functions a rowing machine has. What you want is a machine that is ergonomic to use and is built well. For example, taller people over six feet will need to make sure the slide rail is long enough for them to row comfortably. A great way to do this is to read buyers' reviews.

Space to store and while using

If you're on the hunt for a rowing machine, you've probably earmarked space in your house for it already. If you haven't, best to do that before you buy. If space is at a premium, you might already be looking at various solutions like under-desk exercise machines. Thankfully, many rowing machines fold up for compact storage, but you won't want to be doing this after every use because it becomes a chore.

It's best you have a dedicated zone for a rowing machine, with about half a metre of free space on all sides so you can row with the proper technique. We've included dimensions in the specifications of each machine.

Understand the benefits of using the best budget rowing machines

The benefits of using a rowing machine occur all over your body. Different muscles are used throughout different stages of each stroke (see the diagram below). But because the action of rowing is simultaneously aerobic and anaerobic, rowing machines help build cardio and stamina, as well as muscle strength. Much like home cross trainers, rowing machines are also kinder on your joints than weights, because of the smooth action and absence of severe weight resistance. Therefore, rowing machines are great for injury recovery, too.

Diagram of muscle groups used on a rowing machine
The four stages of rowing ©Photo: Getty Images

This diagram also helps to show you how to use a rowing machine. You begin with bent knees, with your back as straight as you can, and grip the handle with palms down. As you drive, you simultaneously straighten your legs and pull the bar in a smooth action. Your finishing position consists of fully extended legs, shoulders back, and the bar pulled to your stomach/upper abs. In the recovery, your arms straighten, your legs bend, and the seat slides down the rail to the catch position.

Much like with home exercise bikes and other machines of this type, it's advisable to keep to lower resistance settings, particularly in the early stages of using a rowing machine while your muscles tone and strengthen as they get used to the exercise. It's also crucial to stretch beforehand. Too much resistance and failing to warm up prior to a workout can very easily result in muscle strains and injuries. Take it easy, focus on technique, and enjoy the benefits of greater fitness.

FAQs

What is the best budget rowing machine?

As always, this is going to come down to the things you value the most in your home gym equipment. Some will prefer to spend more on high-tech features whereas others shopping in the budget category prefer to put their money into the overall robustness of the build. If you can push your budget a little further to get the perfect combination of features you want plus comfort and build quality, you're onto a winner.

Is rowing better for weight loss than running?

These two forms of exercise are both excellent cardiovascular workouts. Running does tend to burn more calories though, due to having to support your own weight. That said, where the arms and torso are concerned, rowing is a much better fuller body workout.

How long should a beginner spend on a rowing machine?

As with all forms of exercise, it's better to start with small, achievable goals and work upward from there at a gentle pace. 10 minutes or so for the first week or two is a good rule of thumb. Never over-exert yourself and always stop if you feel unwell.

Which is better, air, water or magnetic rowing machines?

This is down to personal preference. If it's realism you're after, water rowing machines are your best option. They offer a more natural feel to the resistance as you row. Magnetic rowers emulate this quite well, but have a more linear feel to them. They are, though, easily adjustable. Air rowers are a great budget option as they're cost-effective to manufacture. The resistance offered by air is, again, a different feel to the other two. If in doubt, visit a local gym to test these different rowing machine technologies out before you buy.

Chris Williams is an Automotive Content Writer, writing across Parkers and CAR Magazine and contributing to What’s The Best.

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