Top 7 Best Rowing Machines Under $500 – Achieving Upper Body Efficiency

Rowing is among the most efficient ways of staying fit. The exercise itself engages your whole body, which is why many prefer it to cycling or even running. However, there is another reason why everyone should give rowing a try. 

It is quite affordable to get into. Naturally, we are talking about dry rowing. Today we will show you our top picks for the top 7 best rowing machines under $500. 

Some of these are among the best rowers on the market. Later, we will discuss what this category has to offer in terms of features, options and resistance systems.

Top 7 Best Rowing Machines Under $500

Water rowers are usually reserved for the higher price ranges. At least that used to be the case until fairly recently. Brands such as XTERRA did a great job at bringing this awesome of rower to those who don’t feel comfortable committing to a high end model.

XTERRA Fitness ERG600W is a great, lightweight water rower which brings you all of the benefits of this particular resistance system in a package that is quite affordable. The have done this by designing a pretty robust but simple frame which doesn’t affect efficiency nor functionality but does a lot to cut down the costs. The frame, rail and seat are all pretty solid. The frame sits on leveling feet, allowing you to set up your machine based on your conditions. Looking at the seat we see a solid plastic unit, but one which features an ergonomic design. It’ll remain pretty comfortable even after long hours of use.

Lastly, there’s the submerged flywheel which is what this rower is all about. It provides smooth, progressive resistance and allows you to increase or decrease the load by removing or adding water to the tank. Overall, this is one of the best rowers out there.

Air rowers are a becoming more and more popular these days, and for a good reason. Compare to most other types of resistance systems, air resistance seems to be quite smooth. The only other comparable setup are water rowers which are a fair bit more authentic.

However, if you aren’t worried about experiencing the authentic feeling of rowing through water, an air setup such as the Stamina X Air Rower is a great alternative. The main benefit of this system is its progressive resistance. There are no resistance settings or anything like that. Instead, the harder you row the harder it becomes. Stamina X sits on a very attractive, robust steel frame which offers good stability even when you go hard at it. They chose a nice red and black color theme and it really makes the whole machine look great.

The large fan at the front is directly linked to the handlebar and is quite smooth when you start using it. On top of that, you also get to track your progress using a built in display unit. Finally, this is a folding rower, which makes it super easy to store after use. That’s impressive for an air rower.

Sunny Health & Fitness is one of those brands that simply knows how to address the needs of budget users but also those want a good bang for their buck. This brand’s fitness equipment offers a great combination of performance, design and features. Case in point, Sunny Health & Fitness Obsidian SF-RW5713. Water rowers are rare under a grand, especially if you want a really good one.

However, there are exceptions. Sunny did a great job with this even though they had to cut a few corners. One of those corners would be the frame. But here’s the thing. Structurally, it is sound. As a matter of fact, it is sound in every way that matters. It’s just that you won’t get that traditional wooden frame which is synonymous with water rowers. If you can live with that, you can save yourself quite a bit of money.

The submerged flywheel in this model is rock solid. You’re looking at progressive resistance made possible by 3 Hydro Blades which do a good job emulating competitive rowing. Tracking your progress is made super easy thanks to the R2 fitness meter which is large, easy to read and navigate. Overall, this is a great machine.

Our next model also comes from Sunny Health & Fitness and it represents one of their more traditional designs. What we have here is a magnetic rower in a pretty standard configuration. Even so, it is slightly different compared to most of its direct competition. Sunny Health & Fitness often times adds their own spin to a design which usually gives them an edge.

They did the same with this one. What we are talking about here mainly has to do with the levels of resistance available. Where most other magnetic rowers offer up to 8 levels of resistance, this one offers 10. That may not mean much on paper, but once you spend months rowing, you will eventually feel the need for a challenge. One particularly interesting fact about this rower is that it features a very minimalist frame.

They have figured out a way to reduce the footprint of the machine without making it less stable. On top of that, it comes with a computer module which is integrated into the flywheel housing. That doesn’t really have much of a practical meaning to it, but it sure makes the whole machine look that much better. Some people might appreciate that.

Folding rowers are a privilege for some but a necessity for others. Either way, finding a good model that doesn’t cost much has become much easier than it used to be. These days we have brands such as Joroto which are designing and building awesome folding rowers which aren’t limited in performance due to their design.

On the contrary, you are getting a perfectly solid rower that will give you a proper challenge with good consistency. The Joroto MR30 we are looking at here is optimized for easier storage. That becomes apparent as soon as you take a good look at its frame. They have reduced the footprint of the frame to a point where it takes very little space. Best of all, when you fold it, it is super easy to store in tight spaces. All that aside, the main benefit of Joroto MR30 is its performance.

With a good range of resistance levels, you are guaranteed to find a challenge. On top of that, it is super quiet thanks to Joroto’s advanced design. Last but not least, they’ve installed a very legible and easy to use display module which features contrast lighting and shows all of the parameters.

Compact folding air rowers aren’t that common compared to their magnetic counterparts. That’s just the fact of the matter. However, brands like Stamina are working hard to change that. Stamina 35-1402 ATS Air Rower is an exceptional air rower which is affordable, extremely compact and designed in a smart way.

Stamina did a great job at keeping the footprint of this machine as tight as possible, which makes it great for those who are working with limited space. Once you fold it, it really isn’t an issue in terms of storage. The machine itself is pretty robust. Stamina went with a robust aluminum frame which inspires confidence and gives you that much needed stability even during heavier workout regimens. The seat is a flat, padded design which makes it universality comfortable to a certain extent.

When it comes to the resistance and the fan drive, you are looking at a pretty solid setup. The fan is smooth under load and fairly silent as well. That is, as silent as this type of machine can be. Monitoring your progress is made easy thanks to a built in array of displays. Instead of using one display, you have three smaller, dedicated ones.

Last model on our list for this category comes from Tunturi. It is a simple rower which is all about being affordable, reliable and compact all while giving you the performance necessary for a good workout. Tunturi had to cut a few corners, but they chose to do that in a way which doesn’t affect the general performance of R30 rower.

Starting with the frame, we see a pretty light aluminum design which sits on leveling feet. The lightweight nature of the frame is great considering that this is a folding rower. In order to get it into its upright position, all you have to do is disengage the pushpin at the front of the rail. The magnetic resistance settings on this machine go from 1 to 8, which is quite normal for this price range. Resistance at all levels is pretty smooth while the machine itself is quite silent.

This rings true even at higher speeds and heavy loads. Selecting resistance is done by manipulating the resistance selection knob. One thing that we would like to point out is that R30’s display module features a neat media shelf. That way you can enjoy some entertainment while you work out.

What Do $500 Rowing Machines Offer?

No matter which type of fitness machine you are after, the mid range segment of them market is usually where you get the best bang for your buck. Same applies to rowers. Investing around $500 into a rowing machine and being smart with your choices is a great way to end up with a very capable machine which will serve you well for years to come.

The key is to know what to look for. As always, the fact that something comes with a decent price tag is no guarantee of quality. We have gone over the market and found what we feel are the best models you can get for this kind of money. The next tangible upgrade to these is going to cost you quite a bit.

Think rowing machines that cost $1000. The very first thing you will see in this price range compared to the budget rowing machines, is the abundance of different designs. Where most affordable rowers mostly utilize magnetic resistance, rowers that cost around $500 will offer all kinds of resistance systems.

There is everything from air rowers to water rowers, all of which are quite well made and far above the bare minimum of quality. That much is obvious if you take a look at our list.

How To Choose The Right Rower For you?

The abundance of different options and features is great but it also adds a level of confusion to the process of finding a good rower. It is very easy to get lost in all of the information and end up with something that is less than optimal to put it lightly. 

Because of that, you need to figure out a few things before you pull out your wallet. If you do your homework, chances of you ending up disappointed are slim to none. Here are just some of the things you should keep in mind when shopping for a decent rower.

Fixed Resistance Or Progressive Resistance?

This is probably going to be the most influential decision you will have to make. Rowers, no matter the type, can be divided into progressive resistance models and fixed resistance models. Progressive resistance rowers are your water and air rowers. 

In other words, there are no resistance settings. Rather, the machine produces more resistance the harder you row. On the other hand, you have your magnetic rowers or elastic cord rowers with fixed resistance settings. The thing is that both of these have their pros and cons.

Do You Need A Folder?

Folding fitness gear is making a great impact on the market at the moment. Just about any fitness machine category has a folding segment which is great for those who have very little space to work with. However, such machines often times only come in the magnetic variety. 

This ties into our first point. Figure out if you need a folder because if you do, chances are that you will have to stick with a magnetic rower.

The Ver(ve)dict

Getting a $500 rower is a great way to end up with a reliable piece of fitness equipment that will last you a long time. The models listed above are definitely some of the best out there. 

We did our best to find a good cross section of what’s available, but also include a good variety of different resistance systems as well as prices. That way you are almost guaranteed to find something that fits your needs, preferences and style. 

At the end of the day, no matter which rower from our list you choose, you definitely won’t be disappointed.