Rowing Machine Buyers Guide

This Rowing Machine Buyers Guide aims to help you make the right decision in choosing an Indoor Rower which is right for you and will last!

So what should you be looking for and thinking about when you’re shopping for an Indoor Rowing Machine?

What type of rowing machine is right for you depends on a number of factors. These include:

  • Your available space?
  • Height and body shape?
  • Budget and exercise requirements?
  • What level of functionality you require?
  • Different Types of Rower
  • Warranty
  • Build Quality
  • Maintainability

This Rowing Machine Buyers Guide looks at these factors and more, and aims to point you in the right direction in choosing an Indoor Rower which is right for you.

If you’ve arrived at this Rowing Machine Buyers Guide and already have a good idea what you are looking for or just want to see what Rowing Machines are available for 2015, then why

Rowing Machine Buyers Guide

not have a look at our Best Rowing Machines Comparison 2015 Guide.

The Best Rowing Machines 2015 Guide gives you reviews and a comparison table on the Top 5 Best Rowing Machines for 2015 based on the many reviews from previous customers and our experience here at RBR Fitness.

Indoor Rowing Machines and Space

Your choice of Indoor Rower will very much depend on how much space you have available and how tall you are.

Let’s talk about your height first!

If you’re really tall then you’ve probably got long legs? Not always the case but more often than not.

If you’ve got longer legs then you will need a rower with a good long seat rail. Unfortunately, this one fact can eliminate quite a few of the cheaper more ‘portable’ rowers straight away.

You shouldn’t have much of a problem with any of the mid to higher budget range machines but the cheaper (and smaller) models will probably be a waste of money for you. Common sense time here, but if you’re not sure and can’t try one for size at a local fitness center or superstore, then our advice straight away is to stay away, you’ll just be disappointed.

Of course, if you’re not so tall then you have more options available for rowing machines with shorter seat rails. There’s no height guide here as such because even some tall people will manage quite well on a rowing machine with a shorter seat rail, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind when you’re shopping around.

About available space!

Regardless of your height, if space is an issue, then this can eliminate some types of rowers.

Some of the more expensive models which have some fantastic features, can take up quite a bit of space because they frequently have larger seat rails, ideal for the taller rower but not very good for your small bedroom.

If you have got the space for such a rowing machine then the longer seat rails and additional functionality will make for a better rowing experience.

If space is a real concern, then some rowing machines are even designed to fold away for storage. This can be a excellent option when you intend to use the rowing machine in a small room or basement that has limited space available.

Rowing Machine Resistance Types

There are a number of ‘Resistance’ options available to you depending on your overall requirements and budget of course.

These include:

Magnetic Resistance Rowers

Magnetic rowing machines use Electro Magnetics which help to give you a smooth rowing aRowing Machine Buyers Guidection. Magnetic rowers are also very quiet to use and extremely suitable where you need to use one but don’t want to disturb others.

The rowing stroke on Magnetic Resistance Rowers is full and fluid and the resistance is easily adjusted to simulate a softer or harder row.

They don’t necessarily give you the ‘magic’ feel of an actual rowing boat but are ideal for general fitness as an indoor piece of exercise equipment.

Air Resistance Rowers

Air resistance rowing machines have their resistance controlled by how hard you row and by the pace you row at. You have a lot more control over your workout with an Air Resistance Rowing Machine and this makes it especially ideal for more serious rowers. Worth noting is that they can be quiet noisy machines, especially when compared with Magnetic Resistance Rowers and might not be suitable for shared and confined spaces.

Some Air Resistance Rowing Machines, such as the Concept2, also include a ‘Damper Setting’ feature which allows you to change how the row actually ‘feels’. The Damper feature does

Rowing Machine Buyers Guide

not actually control the resistance of these machines though, that is purely controlled by how hard you pull.

With the Concept 2 Rowing Machine as an example, with the Damper set between levels 1-4, the indoor rower feels like a slick, small racing boat. As you increase the Damper Settings, the indoor rower starts to feel more like a slow and heavy rowing boat.

Good Air Resistance Rowing Machines tend to be the choice of professional boat rowers but can attract quite a high price.

Water Resistance Rowers

As the name suggests, a Water Resistance Rowing Machine uses water as it’s resistance medium.

Rowing Machine Buyers Guide - Water Rowing MachinesThese rowing machines are right at the top end of the market and attract very serious rowers for one good reason, they simulate the actual ‘feel’ of the oar breaking through moving water.

In short, they provide a very natural, smooth and realistic rowing action.

The ultimate in indoor rowing if your budget and available space allow for it!

Console & Workout Feedback

Your options for workout feedback are very much dependent on what your budget is.

At the more more modest end of the market, you can expect a basic LCD Console which displays speed, distance, time, and calories burned.

For most this will probably be enough, but if you want extra functionality then you need to consider some of the more mid-range or higher budget models.rowing machine buyers guide - Concept 2 PM3 Monitor

Using the Concept2 Model D as an example again, this rowing machine has a PM3 type monitor which will display all the rowing performance data that you need. It also has Heart Rate Monitoring compatability, individual user settings, a log card which can be accessed by USB cable and some fun games which can add something a bit different to your workout!

Other higher end rowers have their own performance monitors which carry out similar functions but as general rule, you pay for this functionality.

Build Quality and Maintainability

With most fitness equipment, build quality is directly associated with budget range. This is very true with Indoor Rowing Machine market as well.

If you’re after a basic rowing machine which will be used on an occasional basis to ‘get fit’, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t opt for a lower budget model machine.

If however, you are interested in using a rower on a more permanent and frequent basis then it makes sense to buy the very best you can afford. For us at RBR Fitness, the very best continues to be called the Concept2!

For this Rowing Machine Buyers Guide and as a quick personal recommendation, I’ve had a Concept 2 Model D in my garage for 5 years now. It’s easy to maintain, just needs a clean and some oil once a fortnight, and has been subjected to constant extremes of temperture (think bad winters and hot summers!).

Rowing Machine Buyers Guide - Best Rowing Machines 2014

I’ve been unable to break it! They just need a bit of love and care and they’ll probably last a lifetime.

Now that’s a rower at the upper end of the budget but if you can’t afford that then there is always the second hand option, definitely worth considering and personally I’d rather buy second hand top spec than brand new and cheap!


  • If you are looking at other types of rowing machines then for build quality we recommend the following:
  • Have a read at what the manufacturer has to say about the build quality of its product
  • If possible, have a look at the rowing machine in a fitness superstore
  • Read what others have said about this machine after buying it! A good source of information on this is at where you can read the customer reviews on the product

So what about maintainabilty?

With some rowers (Concept2 again!) it’s easy. Even without actually touching the rower you can see that oiling the chain and general maintenance isn’t going to be a problem.

With other machines, especially at the lower end of the budget, maintenance can become tricky when plastic starts to hide the working parts! Again, worth having a look at Previous Customer Reviews to see what comments they had about maintenance.


If you’ve bought a cheap ‘occasional’ use rowing machine, then this might not be so important to you but if you’ve spent anywhere near $1000 or more! then you need to ensure that your new machine comes with a decent Warranty.

For the higher quality rowing machines, you should ensure that they come with at least a two years warranty or more.

Also, and this author is as guilty as the next man, please remember to keep your warranty safe and if required, register your product online or by post!


If you’re spending a lot of money on a piece of fitness equipment, your deserve good support and aftercare.

For this Rowing Machine Buyers Guide, I’m not going to mention the companies name again, but if you want an excellent example of post-purchase support, spares availability and product community, then you just need to have a look here.

If you use this level of support as a guide to measure other Rowing Machine manufacturers then you shouldn’t go wrong.

Rowing Machine Buyers Guide Summary

We hope this Rowing Machine Buyers Guide has given you plenty to think about?

With some types of fitness equipment you can get away with being too tall or not having enough space but not so with a Rowing Machine. Please make sure that the Rower is right for you before making that purchase.

And we’ll say it again, one of the best ways to see if a rowing machine is right for you, apart from actually trying one of course, is to check out the Customer Reviews of previous customers.

You can also take a look at the Best Rowing Machines 2015 Guide which has reviews, comparisons and links to the Customer Reviews on the Top 5 Best Rowing Machines for 2015.

If you want any help in deciding which Rowing Machine is best for you or just want to discuss about anything on the site, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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