Let’s face it, exercise equipment are expensive, even those built for home use easily run into the hundreds. But when you compare them to getting a gym membership and having to travel back and forth each time for a session, the cost may be well worth it. In case you’re not ready to splurge on the high end rowers, a cheap rowing machine may be what you need.
The major difference between the high end models that cost $1000 and above and those that are priced under $300 or $400 often lies in the type of braking mechanism it uses as resistance.
At these prices, most equipment make use of hydraulic cylinders as their source of resistance. These cylinders are gas piston powered that use pressurized air to increase or decrease the level of difficulty. In contrast, more expensive models use a variety of magnetic, air and water resistance.
The Stamina 1050 Body Trac Glider is a compact rower that comes with oar levers that can move in a circular motion that’s similar to actual rowing on a rowboat. Less than 5 feet long and 3-1/2 feet wide it doesn’t take up much space and is light enough (39 pounds) to be lifted by one person and carried to another room if needed.
Easy storage is one of its main advantages as you can easily It is also low enough that you can fold it up and make it stand upright or just slide it under your bed or cabinet drawer.
The Stamina 1050 is powered by a single gas piston positioned under the sliding rail and saddle. The amount of resistance can be adjusted from 1 to 12 depending on your fitness level and whether you’re rowing for strength or endurance.
Very quiet in operation, it’s worth mentioning that regular maintenance of the gas shock and joints with lubrication (WD-40) will help keep them noise free and working longer.
At just under $250, the Stamina 1215 Orbital Rower is a little more than twice the cost of the Stamina 1050. One of the changes it brings is instead of one gas cylinder, the Stamina 1215 uses 2 individual gas pistons with one for each arm.
This provides for more resistance overall and the ability for the user to offset one side over the other where they use a higher resistance on the weaker arm or side of the body to make it work harder in order to correct any muscle imbalances.
This is useful since most of us aren’t ambidextrous which means we either use our right or left hand for majority of our tasks making it a lot stronger, than the less used side.
It has a space saving design at 50 inches in length, 32 inches wide and 31 inches high. This feature makes it easy to set down anywhere and workout compared to the larger machines that take up 8 feet of space. Assembly is quick and the machine is built with a durable steel frame with a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty.
Our top pick among the affordable hydraulic resistance rowing machines, theKettler Favorit Indoor Rower is German built and the quality shows. At $400 it is more expensive than the other models in our cheap rowing machine reviews as you will need to pay extra for the quality.
Like the others this is designed for home use. It has a 285 pound user weight capacity and takes about half an hour to put together. Users also get a lifetime warranty on the frame which is just a backup since the construction is good.
The Favorit uses two separate hydraulic pistons that allow you to choose between 50 resistance settings by sliding the connector between the hydraulic pumps and the oar levers. Both the pistons and seat rollers which are the most often weak points of hydraulic resistance rowing machines do well and don’t cause problems which is what sets this product apart from the lower cost models.
Another improvement is the large LCD screen that displays workout statistics including distance rowed, energy used, strokes rowed, speed, and pulse rate. The pulse rate keeps track of your vitals through the use of an earpiece sensor included in the package.
The HCI Fitness Outrigger Scull is unique in compare to our other cheap rowing machines due to its outrigger design as its name implies. Instead of the having the hydraulic pistons situated in front of the rower parallel to the users legs, the are positioned outrigger style outside the machine.
This is similar to outriggers where they have beams that hold the oars outside the boat in order to help balance the boat and keep it from tipping over.
By positioning the gas cylinders to the sides, HCI effectively changes the angle from which the resistance comes from. The gas pistons are commercial strength and it comes with built in workout programs which isn’t often seen in cheap rowing machines. The one drawback of this rowing machine design is it needs more room at the sides when in use.
The LCD screen uses a simple 4 button system that lets users adjust different views or scan through all the training statistics automatically. With a 275 pound user capacity the HCI Sprint Outrigger takes up larger space compared to others on this list as its oars move out to the sides spanning 68 inches. It does however fold up nicely into a small unit.
Priced just over $300, this is one of the easiest machines to put together, at less than 20 minutes. It has 12 levels of resistance and very comfortable to use.