The 12 Best Rowing Machines Of 2020 – Your Ultimate Guide


the best rowing machines of 2018

The best rowing machines, regardless of what type you’re looking for, will always share a few key characteristics: they’ll be able to provide a quality workout, and they’ll be built to last.

These high-end rowers should come with durable frames and heavy-duty components that can handle any workout you throw at it.

Regardless of what type of rower you’re interested in, it’s important to know what features and specs you should be looking for in order to find the machines that can do just that.

Finding these machines is all about knowing what to look for and where to look for it.

And that’s where we can help.

This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about rowing machines so you can find the right model to meet your fitness needs. After reading, you’ll be able to spot a lemon from a mile away.

Let’s begin.

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How To Buy A Rowing Machine

Rowing machines are a great option for folks looking for a different way to get their cardio in. When it comes to overall conditioning and cardiovascular exercise, they’re tough to beat.

They’re also a great option if you find treadmills or exercise bikes painfully boring, as many do.

If you’ve never used one before, it may be a good idea to try one out at your local gym or maybe even a sporting goods store to make sure it’s something you can see yourself doing realistically.

It’s a lot different than a lot of the other workout machines and it may not be for everyone.

It’s also important to make sure you’re rowing with correct form- especially for the folks with back issues. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself and not be able to use your brand new rower.

They aren’t that difficult to use correctly, but it does take a little practice to get the hang of it. If you have any questions about how to use a rowing machine, check out this article for some helpful tips.

Ok, let’s get to the good stuff.

The first thing you need to determine is what kind of rowing machine you’re looking for.

Type Of Resistance

There are 4 different types of rowers and they differ on how they provide the resistance:

Hydraulic Rowers

These machines use pistons (1 or 2 depending on make and model) full of air or fluid to provide the resistance. They tend to be smaller and cheaper than the other types of rowers out there.

Some have sliding seats, some don’t. Most have adjustable resistance. These are good for people on a budget or with space limitations.

Air Rowers

In these machines, the resistance is provided by a fan pulling against air. When you pull, a flywheel with fans attached, spins. This gives a feel closer to rowing a boat. Remember the old fan bikes (or the new awesome fan bikes)? Same idea.

The harder you pull, the more resistance you get. Air rowers are very popular and are even used in indoor rowing competitions because they can provide unlimited resistance and they feel very similar to rowing a boat on water.

The only real disadvantage of an air rower is that they do create a decent amount of noise.

Magnetic Rowers

These machines provide resistance with the use of a metal disc and magnets. Resistance is increased or decreased by moving the magnets closer or farther from the disc.

The biggest benefit here is that these machines are very quiet during use. But they don’t feel quite as realistic as the air or water rowers.

Some feel the resistance isn’t quite as intense either (which makes sense considering there’s no limit to the resistance an air rower can provide).

Water Rowers

These guys provide resistance with a flywheel spinning through water. They provide the closest experience to actually rowing a boat through water, because that’s what you are actually doing.

A water rower would be great for a competitive rower. They are quiet and the swooshing sound of the water is soothing. These models tend to be a little more expensive, but are by far the most attractive rowers on the market.

Weight Capacity

Regardless of what type of exercise equipment I’m looking for, the weight capacity is always one of the first specs I examine. And that’s because this value is really the only objective measure we have for how “tough” a piece of equipment is.

The weight capacity is the spec that’s going to give us a hint as to how durable the rower’s frame is. Machine weight is another spec that gives us a clue- more robust (heavier) machines should move and sway less during use.

Simply put- rowing machines that can handle larger users have to have more durable frames. If they weren’t heavier-duty, they wouldn’t be able to handle heavier users.

Most quality rowing machines have high weight capacities in the 250 – 500 lb range.

I realize this is a huge range, but it depends greatly on the type of rower you’re looking at. We can’t expect a compact hydraulic rower to have the same weight capacity as a full size water rower.

Personally, I like to aim for at least a 300 lb weight capacity on any machine I’m considering (I’m 6’1″ and about 200 lb).

This won’t always be doable, especially if you’re looking for a hydraulic rower, but as long as the weight capacity safely accomodates your body weight you should be good to go.


The included features vary a lot from rower to rower and price plays a big role. I doubt you’re very surprised to hear that more expensive models usually come with more bells and whistles.

That said, rowing machines don’t usually offer a lot of the hi-tech goodies other types of fitness equipment offer. Comparatively speaking, rowing machines tend to be a little simpler.

Most rowers come with a monitor. What that monitor can do depends on the model. A basic monitor will display time, distance, and speed of rowing.

More advanced features include calculations of calories burned, power output (watts), and preprogrammed workouts.

Some of the nicer monitors can save your stats and let you race against yourself. Or race against a pacer boat. These are fun features, but may not be necessary for you.

Some rowing machines come with a heart rate monitor, many don’t. Some monitors are compatible with heart rate monitors even if they don’t include them.

Some monitors have a USB port for storing workout data. Others may be compatible with workout apps that make it easy to record and view workout stats.

If you’re not too concerned with the console features, you may be able to save a little money. The rowing machines with nicer monitors usually cost a little more.

Sometimes the only reason one machine costs a few hundred dollars more than another is the amount of features the console comes with.

Some monitors look better than others. Most are dark colored, some offer color. Size and location can vary. Some allow you to adjust the location of the monitor.

You should consider the usability of the display screen when comparing products. After all, comfort is important- if you’re rowing machine isn’t comfortable to use, odds are you won’t use it for long.


This spec goes directly hand-in-hand with the different types of rowing machines we started with. Realistically, your workout space may play a big role in deterring what type of rower you end up with.

It’s a good idea to know exactly where you’re putting your rowing machine before you purchase. If space is limited, I would get a tape measure and physically measure out your spot to see how much square footage you’re working with.

These rowers can take up a lot of space.

Full size rowers (air, magnetic, water) can take up spaces as large as 9′ x 4′, although there is some variance between models.

The smaller, hydraulic rowers usually take up spaces of around 4′ x 2′ (a prime example as to why these rowers work so well in small homes and apartments).


Last, but not least, is price. I put price last, but let’s be real- most of us are going to consider price first. Hey, I get it. You gotta find something that fits your budget.

Knowing your budget ahead of time is key. This will help focus you in with your search. Don’t worry, regardless of your budget you will be able to find a quality machine. I promise.

You may even be pleasantly surprised- you may not have to spend as much as you think to get a nice rower. You should never feel pressured to spend more than you are comfortable with.

In reality, you can expect to spend between $100 – $1500 for your rowing machine. There’s a really big difference between the $100 rower and the $1500 rower, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But it really comes down to what you need and how much you plan on using it.

If it makes you feel better, the most popular rower in the world costs less than a $1000. Not bad for a machine that’s used to train Olympians.


The Best Hydraulic Rowing Machines

#1 Kettler Kadett Rowing Machine


The Kettler Kadett is a bulldog of a rower- this thing is tough and mean in all the best ways. For the folks who thought all hydraulic rowers were cheap and junky, the good people at Kettler are here to teach you otherwise.

What stands out most about this rowing machine is how much more robust the frame and moving parts are when compared to most hydraulics.

The Kadett, with its high carbon steel frame, weighs roughly 51 lb and can hold users up to 285 lb- giving it one of the highest weight capacities I’ve ever seen on a hydraulic rowing machine.

I also like that this rower utilizes dual pistons, which doubles the overall resistance it’s capable of providing. Each moving arm is attached to its own piston, and each piston has 12 levels of adjustable resistance.

Speaking of moving arms, the arc of movement on the Kadett is a lot wider than most. This is because the arms are designed to mimic the wider arc of rowing with oars on a boat.

The arms also have a rotation aspect of movement, giving the rowing motion a more fluid and natural feel.

This rowing machine does come with a monitor. It’s not the fanciest display you’ve ever seen or anything, but it’s compatible with chest strap heart rate monitors and there are a few included goal oriented workout programs.

The piece de resistance is the warranty: Kettler backs their Kadett with a lifetime warranty on the frame and with a 3 year warranty on parts. This guarantee blows most other hydraulics out of the water.

If you’re looking for a tough hydraulic rower that’s got enough muscle to handle more strenuous workouts, the Kettler Kadett is a great choice. Easily the best hydraulic rowing machine available. See full review.


#2 Kettler Favorit Rowing Machine

Yup, another Kettler rower made the list. What can I say- they make the best. The Kettler Favorit is another high-end hydraulic rowing machine, but there are a few key differences that set it apart from the Kadett up above.

This rower also comes with 2 hydraulic pistons, one for each arm. However, the resistance settings are set differently. Instead of turning a dial (like you do on the Kadett), you adjust the height of where the piston attaches to each arm.

This gives you a lot more control (with 50 different resistance adjustments), to control your workout intensity, but it’s a little more labor intensive to do so.

But as a dual-piston system, it’s still capable of providing twice the resistance as all of those single piston rowers.

The monitor on this rowing machine is pretty solid. It can track time, distance, energy, strokes, heart rate, and frequency throughout your workouts.

The Kettler Favorit also includes an earlobe clip-on heart rate monitor. This is great for tracking heart rate during your workout to ensure you are in your zone for optimal cardiovascular exercise.

This is a nice feature because few machines come with a heart rate monitor, especially in this price range.

The rower has a gliding seat to offer a total body workout, excellent for cardio and strengthening. The seat has a thick cushion, however some users still complain of the seat being uncomfortable.

The Favorit also has a 285 lb max user weight capacity, indicating superior frame quality and durability.

Kettler backs this rowing machine up with the same awesome warranty they gave the Kadett: lifetime frame, 3 year parts.

If you like the Kadett, but are looking to save a couple hundred bucks, the Favorit is a good choice. It’s designed with the same attention to detail and high standard of quality.

The only downside is that adjusting resistances can be a little awkward. See full review.


#3 EFITMENT Total Motion Rowing Machine


EFITMENT’s Total Motion Rowing Machine is the only single piston system to make this list. Although it may not be able to provide as much resistance as the previous two machines, it makes up for it in other areas.

Most notably in the frame strength and length departments.

Hydraulic rowers are known for being compact- and to some extent that’s the point. These rowers are smaller, allowing them to work in areas that may not be able to fit a full size rowing machine.

This is convenient for some, but can be a problem for larger users.

EFITMENT’s rower is a smart choice for larger folks because it has a solid steel frame that can hold up to 350 lb. It also has a longer rail than most hydraulic rowers, making it more comfortable for the taller crowd to use.

Back to the piston. The single piston does come with 12 levels of adjustable resistance, but the manufacturer recommends that you limit rowing to 20 min at a time because the piston will heat up (as do many in this price range).

Speaking of price, this rower is by far the most affordable on this list, so if your budget is tight, this model might be your best bet.

The Total Motion rower (as the name implies) also uses a wider arc of motion for the handles. Although you can also row with a more standard, narrower grip.

The warranty on this model isn’t as impressive as the warranties we saw on the Kettler machines, but in this price any warranty is a victory. EFITMENT backs this rower up with a 3 year frame warranty and a 90 day guarantee on parts.

If you’re looking for a budget friendly hydraulic rower that can offer a solid workout, this is your best bet (especially for the larger and taller rowers). See full review.


For more awesome machines, check out my complete hydraulic rowers guide.

The Best Air Rowing Machines

#1 Concept2 Model E Indoor Rowing Machine

 If you’ve been researching rowing machines for awhile, odds are you’ve run across Concept2’s Model D rower before. Last time I checked, this was the most popular indoor rowing machine in the world and is even used by Olympic rowers when doing indoor training.

Well, the Model E is the less famous, bigger brother of the Model D.

With this rowing machine, Concept2 basically took the awesome design of their Model D and made it a little stronger. So in my mind, the Model E is actually the best air rowing machine in the world.

As an air rower, it uses a fan to provide the resistance, so there’s no adjusting resistance levels or any of that jazz. If you want to feel more resistance, you simply pull harder- the harder you pull, the more resistance you get.

This rowing machine does have a damper for the flywheel, which changes the airflow. Opening or closing the damper allows you to fine tune the feel of your workout.

The Model E comes with Concept2’s sophisticated PM5 monitor, which is the most impressive monitor you’ll likely see on a rowing machine.

The PM5 can track all your workout stats and it also comes with preprogrammed workouts to choose from. It even comes with a few competitive games to make your workouts more interesting. It’s also ANT+ and bluetooth compatible for data tracking.

One of the biggest differences between the Model E and Model D is the rower height: the Model E is 6 in higher. A common complaint by many is that getting on and off rowing machines is too difficult (due to the low seat).

Concept2 fixed this issue by giving the Model E an extra 6 in of height, making it a lot easier to access.

The Model E is also built like a tank. The solid, welded steel frame can hold users up to 500 lb and a steel chain is used to connect the handles to the flywheel.

What do you get when you take the best rower in the world and make it a little better? The Concept2 Model E.

Overall, this rowing machine is a beast of a rower that is built to handle the most strenuous workouts you can throw at it. Highly recommended. See full review.


#2 BodyCraft VR500 Commercial Rower


This rower is constantly being compared to the Concept2 Model E. I guess when you’re the gold standard in rowing, that comes with the territory.

The BodyCraft VR500 is a great rowing machine in its own right though, and can stand toe to toe with the Model E in most categories (but it does come with a bigger price tag).

I’m including this rower with the air rowers because it technically does use air resistance, but this model is actually more of a hybrid rower- the resistance is a combination between air and magnetic.

This combination is designed to give you the benefits of both: you get the power associated with air rowers, but the quiet and constant resistance associated with magnetic rowers.

The VR500 has 32 levels of magnetic resistance. Users love the fact that you can increase or decrease the resistance level straight from the handlebar during use (one of my favorite features on this rower).

The long rail and robust frame (weight capacity of 350 lb) make this is a smart choice for larger users, as does the taller seat height (19″).

This rowing machine also comes with a more sophisticated monitor than your average home rower. Although it’s not quite as impressive as the PM5, it does come with 12 workout programs, 4 user profiles, and heart rate monitoring.

A big difference users seem to really like about this rowing machine is how comfortable the seat is, even more so than the Concept2.

Rower seats are kinda notorious for being uncomfortable (much like spin bike seats)- they typically are hard, but the VR500 has some extra padding to make it more comfortable.

The VR500 comes with an amazing residential warranty: lifetime frame, 7 year parts, 1 year wear items, 2 year labor. It’s also rated for light commercial use (up to 5 hrs a day).

Overall, this is an elite home rower designed to provide and withstand the most intense workouts you can throw at it. If you’re looking for a quiet rower that should last forever, this is a great choice. See full review.


#3 Stamina ATS Air Rower 1399

The Stamina ATS Air Rower is a more affordable option than the 2 previous rowing machines. I’m not going to say that this machine can play in the same league as those 2, but it’s a quality machine for the price.

I like the simplicity the air rower provides. I think this is one of the biggest reasons I prefer air rowers to magnetic rowers. With a traditional air rower if you need more resistance, you simply pull harder.

There’s no fumbling with buttons trying to adjust resistance as you row.

That’s what the Stamina ATS is here to provide. Nothing fancy, just good ol’ fashioned air rowing at a reasonable price. If you’re looking for solid air rower that won’t break the budget, this is a good choice.

The seat is padded and fairly comfortable. It glides smoothly along it’s track, offering a comfortable feel as you row. The steel frame is stable and won’t wobble as you exercise (a common complaint on budget rowers).

The footplates are large with adjustable straps, user’s report they work effectively and are easy to adjust.

This rower does come with a simple monitor that will track speed, calories, time, and distance. You know, the basics.

The Stamina ATS only has a 250 lb weight limit, so it’s not appropriate for larger users like the previous 2 rowers are. I would like to see that a little higher, but for this price range it’s fairly average.

A nice feature this rower provides are floor protectors. These will help protect your floors and keep your equipment from moving. You can probably do without an exercise mat since the included floor protectors should do the trick.

All in all, a nice rowing machine for the price. This air rower would best suit a beginner or moderate rower. Serious rowers should consider upgrading. See full review.


The Best Magnetic Rowing Machines

#1 Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine (SF-RW5854)

Sunny Health & Fitness (SHF) does a great job of making affordable home fitness equipment that works better than most, but they do an awful job of naming their products.

Ha, kidding aside, they offer several magnetic rowers and they all basically have the same name. The only way to really discern them is to look at the model numbers.

The SF-RW5854 (catchy, I know) is their most advanced magnetic rower and it comes with some pleasantly surprising upgrades that are rarely seen in this price range (under $500).

One such upgrade is the programmable monitor. SHF enlarged their monitor so you can see all your workout stats at the same time during your workouts.

Instead of having to wait for your preferred metric to scan across a tiny LCD screen, you’ll be able to access all the key data simultaneously without having to push any buttons.

The monitor also comes loaded with 7 different workout programs to choose from. Again, this is a feature rarely seen in rowers this budget friendly.

This magnetic rower comes with 16 resistance levels to choose from and instead of manually turning a dial to select, you digitally adjust from the monitor. This is another welcome upgrade over the 8 resistance levels most magnetic rowers offer.

SHF bulked up the frame a little too, allowing this rower to hold users weighing up to 300 lb, which is significantly higher than the 250 – 285 lb capacities most affordable rowing machines come with.

The SF-RW5854 comes with a 3 year frame warranty and 180 day parts warranty. This guarantee is a little on the short side, but it’s still better than most in this price range.

Overall, SHF has a nice magnetic rower on their hands with this model. The more advanced monitor is a welcome upgrade. If you’re looking for a quiet, affordable rowing machine this one’s tough to beat. See full review.


#2 Velocity Exercise Magnetic Rower

Velocity Exercise is part of the CAP home fitness brand and this is the only magnetic rower they provide. I guess that makes it ok to have such a generic name.

Boring name or not, this rowing machine has more to offer than you’d expect for the price.

The most impressive feature in my book is the surprisingly sophisticated monitor. Not only is the monitor larger and easier to read than most of its competitors, but it also comes loaded with 12 workout programs to choose from.

Having this many workout options should help keep your workout routine a little fresher and more interesting, which will hopefully keep you more motivated to actually use said rower.

The aluminum frame is pretty solid and can fold vertically for easy storage. This rower comes with a 275 lb max weight capacity which isn’t quite as sturdy as the rower above, but still better than a lot of the budget options.

The biggest downside is the short warranty- only 90 days on the monitor and 30 days on parts (but 5 years on the frame).

But if you’re looking for a smooth, quiet magnetic rower with a lot of workout programs, this model by Velocity Exercise is a solid choice.

Oh, I almost forgot- the monitor is chest strap compatible and they include one with your purchase. For those looking for a more advanced monitor, this is as good as it gets in this price range. See full review.


#3 Stamina Avari Programmable Magnetic Rower

The Stamina Avari rower is a moderately priced rower that should please anyone looking for a solid, easy to assemble magnetic rowing machine.

This rower has the nicest monitor of the 3 magnetic rowers discussed in this guide. The LCD backlit monitor makes it easy to track your calories, stroke count, time, distance as well as watts and heart rate.

This rower also comes with a chest strap heart rate monitor which is always a nice bonus.

The Stamina Avari offers 12 total workout programs, including custom options and cardio workouts designed to work with the heart rate monitor.

The resistance on this rower is adjusted with up and down arrows on the monitor, a little more sophisticated than a simple knob adjustment. Users love how quiet and smooth this rower feels during use.

Unlike the Velocity, users have nothing but good things to say about the Stamina customer service.

One of the biggest disadvantages with the Avari is the warranty. Stamina only backs this rowing machine with a 3 year frame and 90 day parts guarantee (a little disappointing for the price range).

This rowing machine also only has a 275 lb max user weight limit, making it more appropriate for smaller users.

This rower is easy to move- it folds and has transport wheels, so you could easily store when not in use (which comes in really handy for small workout areas).

The biggest advantage of choosing this rower is its upgraded monitor and more advanced programs. Otherwise, you’d probably be better off with one of the 2 models mentioned above. See full review.


The Best Water Rowing Machines

#1 WaterRower Club Rowing Machine (with S4 Monitor)


I’d like to start the water rower section with a real piece of art. The WaterRower Club Rowing Machine is a gorgeous piece of equipment. I think it looks more like a centerpiece for a room than something that belongs in a gym.

But don’t be fooled, this rower is legit and can hold it’s own with any other rowing machine around.

As a water rower, the flywheel spinning through the tank of water provides a feel that closely mimics the sensation of rowing with oars on a boat.

It also produces a water swooshing sound, much like you might here if you were actually on a lake somewhere. It’s quite relaxing.

The Club Rowing Machine’s frame is pretty special. The entire frame is constructed out of Ash- an extremely hard wood that can withstand high loads without splintering (think baseball bats, tool handles, and furniture).

The hardwood design looks amazing and is incredibly durable, but the wood also absorbs a lot of the sound and vibration coming from the water tank, making for a quieter workout than you’d normally expect from a water rower.

The Club model also comes with a pretty sophisticated display monitor (the S4) that comes with built-in workout programs as well as the ability to track advanced metrics. It’s also heart rate monitor compatible (one not included).

Looking past it’s good looks, this rowing machine is really built for durability. It’s designed for heavy, commercial use. It has a 700 lb weight capacity without the hi rise attachment (with it, it goes down to 600 lb).

Either way, these huge weight limits indicate how sturdy and well-built the hardwood frame really is. It also means users of any size can safely use this machine.

This is a large rower and can’t fold due to the hardwood frame. Luckily, it can be stored vertically when not in use.

There are several different finishes for the WaterRowers at different price points. The hi rise attachment is also optional- it brings the rower an additional 8″ off the ground, making it easier to access (especially for folks with stiff joints).

Overall, this is a fantastic rowing machine that works as great as it looks. If you’re looking to mimic the feel of rowing a real boat, there’s no better option. See full review.


#2 First Degree Fitness Newport Challenge AR Indoor Rower


A significantly more affordable water rower, the Newport Challenge AR Rower would be a great selection for your home gym if you’re looking to save a few bucks.

It doesn’t offer the same style and class as the WaterRower above, but let’s be real- few can. At this price though, it’s a good option if the WaterRowers aren’t in your budget.

As a water rower, you have the same unlimited resistance depending on how hard you pull and the same, soothing sound from the turning water.

But what’s different about this machine is that you can easily adjust how much water is in the tank to change the overall resistance and feel during use.

Technically speaking, you can do this with any water rower. But on the Newport Challenge, you can do it instantly by turning the resistance dial on top of the tank.

With the dual tank system, water is adjusted between the storage tank and the active tank to make your resistance more or less depending on what your fitness needs are.

The handle on this rower is ergonomically designed to reduce strain on your arms- it is bent slightly to make for a more comfortable feel. Users seem to agree it helps.

Assembly on this rower is easy and this machine weighs much less than the WaterRower above, making it easier to move.

This rower can also be stored vertically to save room when not being used. This will come in handy if your gym space doubles as your children’s play area like mine does.

This rower has a monitor that’s large and easy to read, but there aren’t any workout programs. It’s only compatible with heart rate monitors provided by First Degree Fitness and you to purchase from them separately.

The Newport Challenge is a durable machine with a solid frame and a 300 lb weight capacity. It also comes with a nice warranty: 5 year frame, 3 year tank, and 1 year parts.

Overall, a very nice water rower at a decent price. The adjustable water resistance mechanism is very clever, making the task of changing the water level much less tedious. See full review.


#3 Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian Surge Water Rowing Machine

At almost half the price of the Newport Challenge Rower, the Obsidian Surge offers a significantly more affordable option for folks looking for a quality water rower (this rower is well below $500 on sale).

This might actually be the cheapest true water rower I’ve come across. I can’t say that for certain, but I do know there aren’t many water rowers in this price range.

But that’s how Sunny Health & Fitness roles. They’ve specialized in creating budget friendly fitness equipment that works exceptionally well.

This water rower is no different.

The first thing that stands out to me about the Obsidian Surge is the steel frame. Most budget rowers come with weight capacities in the 250 – 265 lb range, but this rowing machine is solid enough to hold users up to 300 lb.

Another pleasantly surprising feature is the R2 monitor that comes standard on the Obsidian. Not only is this monitor large enough to see clearly during your workouts, but it has both manual and race modes.

The manual mode allows you to workout for preset distance or times. Race mode allows you to race against the monitor at a pace that you set.

The fact that the Obsidian’s monitor offers any type of programming is impressive, considering the price.

The monitor is also heart rate monitor compatible and even has a “recovery” mode that will measure how long it takes for your heart rate to return to baseline following your workouts.

The Obsidian has decent foot plates and straps that should keep you stabilized while you row. The pull of the handlebar and glide of the seat are smooth and comfortable.

Sunny Health & Fitness even offers a respectable warranty on this rower: 3 year frame, 180 day parts. Considering the price, I think this is a generous guarantee (considering some of the most expensive rowers around  only offer 5 years on the frame).

Overall, if you are looking for an entry to moderate level water rower at a great price, the Obsidian Surge is a no brainer. You’re not going to find a better cost-to-quality ratio. See full review.


Final Thoughts

Rowing machines are impressive in that they can offer a total body strengthening and cardio workout simultaneously. They also work great for home gyms because they can be very affordable and quiet (depending on the style you choose).

Speaking of style, I suggest you decide on what type of rowing machine you want at the beginning of your search. It will make the whole process a lot easier if you can hone in on the type of rower you want from the get go.

All of the different rowing machine styles have their own advantages and disadvantages- the key is figuring out which type will work best for your home.

Hydraulic rowers work great for small rooms or for those looking for nearly silent operation. Magnetic rowers are also very quiet, but they take up a little more space and usually cost a little more.

My personal favorite are the air rowers. These are great for folks looking for a strenuous workout and don’t mind a little extra background noise.

Water rowers offer the most realistic rowing experience because they utilize water to provide the resistance. Water rowers are usually more expensive, but as the Obsidian Surge demonstrates, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Once you know what type of rower you want, then it’s all about comparing features, warranties, and prices and finding the model that offers the best combination.

Well, that about does it.

In my opinion, the 12 rowers mentioned above are the best the market has to offer this year. I hope you found this guide helpful and I hope it helps you find the right rowing machine for your home.

If you have any questions or comments (or know of some impressive rowers that didn’t make the list) please leave a message and I’ll get back to you soon.









  1. My gym has multiple concept machines and I really like them. I don’t row daily, but I do a few short sessions weekly to warm up for lifting and then usually one 30 minute session for a better cardio workout. In general I find the air machine works really well for me as an amateur but dedicated rower.

    There’s also the added perk of it keeping you a bit cool as air blows out of the front of the fan resistance area. You’re working for your own breeze!

    • That’s right. I prefer the air fans too, I like being able to adjust the resistance for each stroke simply by exerting more effort. Those concept machines are awesome. Thanks for reading.

  2. This is a great amount of helpful information. Rowing is a great form of exercise and I love how this guide gives you an affordable range of prices to consider for all the best of the update machines on the market. Thank you!

  3. Hi Will,
    Very detailed. I actually never even thought of having rowing equipment as a part of my home gym, but after reading this it makes a lot of sense. For me personally, I think that the Stamina BodyTrac Glider 1050 is a good starting point. After watching the video you posted the link to it seems solid.

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together!

    • Thanks Barry, my pleasure. Yeah, the BodyTrac is a pretty cool machine, that rowing motion is unique. Great product.

    • I haven’t done a formal review of the Octane RO, but at first glance it looks like a very sophisticated rower. Octane is a great brand, specializing in commercial grade equipment. The monitor looks pretty awesome, I like that it has built-in workouts to choose from. It also looks like a heavy-duty model. As a commercial grade rower, I’d expect a pretty heft price tag, but it does look like a nice rowing machine.

  4. So I noticed you did not include the newer Hydrow in any of these rankings…is that mostly due to cost?

    • Cost is part of it, but when I wrote that guide I tried to organize the rowers in different categories and I realize I didn’t include a smart rower category (something I’ll have to remedy when it comes time to update). That said, I think the Hydrow is pretty amazing. Check out my Hydrow review for more info.

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