Buying a rowing machine: what to look for? 10 expert tips

Buying a suitable rowing machine that is excellently made, costs little and still offers a realistic training feeling is not that easy.


Just because some reviews on various sales portals are relatively positive and the product is called “perfect”, it does not necessarily mean that it is also the right rowing machine for you, because many factors are important.


On our home page we touched on the topic of “Buying a rowing machine”. In this post we would like to go into the details in more detail. First of all, you shouldn’t blindly buy the first rowing machine you come across. Many negative customer reviews that we have read on various platforms are based on incorrect information and the bad purchase could have been avoided.

We have created this checklist so that this does not happen to you.

Resistance system

The resistance or braking system is, so to speak, the heart of a rowing machine. Each resistance has its advantages and disadvantages and is also a matter of taste. When buying a rowing machine, you should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages so that there are no bad purchases. 

So far, 4 resistance systems have prevailed:

On our homepage we have already explained the respective differences between the resistance systems a little. Here is an overview for whom which resistor is suitable.

Air resistance is suitable for people who want a very high and even resistance. If you want to train for performance, you can’t go wrong with air resistance. Usually the resistance is the loudest of them all. Rowing machines with air resistance are generally available from € 500.


With all four resistance variants, the sequence of movements is very pleasant and even, so that training is very gentle on the joints. Only the water resistance stands out a little, as the rowing feels softer.

We will not go into the hydraulic resistance because it is dying out and is not really reliable either. So: Stay away from hydraulic resistance with outriggers.

No recommendation – hydraulic resistance

Decisive for the volume is normally the braking or resistance system, the gliding ability of the seat and that of the pulling system. Rowing machines with an air resistance braking system have a very realistic training feel, but also have the disadvantage that they can get a bit loud (above room volume) at high intensity.

In contrast, rowing machines with a water resistance or magnetic resistance braking system are quieter and can also be used in a rented apartment without annoying the neighbors. There are now also rowing machines with a dual air brake system and a magnet. This combines the respective advantages of the resistors and is a little quieter than the air resistance.


But volume is relative. There are pleasant and not so pleasant background noise. The water resistance is, for example, very quiet and at the same time also has a very meditative effect when the water splashes in the tank.

So when you buy a rowing machine, be sure to pay attention to the braking system. But the point “volume” in our tests / product presentations is a good reference point for comparing rowing machines.

Training computer

Unfortunately, the training computer is too often underestimated when buying a rowing ergometer. A good computer is essential, especially when it comes to long-term motivation. The training computer should be an important criterion, especially for tech-savvy or ambitious rowers. We divide the training computer into four functional areas (basic display, pulse measurement, training programs & online function) to better explain the most important features for buying a rowing machine.

Basic display

Almost every rowing machine has a training computer. However, the computers differ significantly in terms of functionality and technology. First of all, it is important that the display is easy to read or even illuminated. Many rowing machines, especially in the low price sector, unfortunately fail here. In addition, the display should be tidy and not too cluttered. Too many values ​​simply irritate you.

Almost every rowing machine now shows the most important values ​​such as

The better equipped rowing machines show, for example, the following values:

But just while many values ​​are displayed, that does not necessarily mean that they are correct. With many low-budget rowing machines in particular, the technology was saved and some values ​​such as distance measurement or calorie consumption are utopian.

Heart rate measurement

In our opinion, measuring your heart rate during the training session is a very important factor when choosing the right rowing ergometer. You can train very precisely with it, since the heart rate indicates the degree of stress. This is the best way to train the cardiovascular system, endurance or targeted fat burning. And on the other hand, people with high blood pressure, for example, should always monitor their pulse values.

The Sportstech RSX500 comes with a free heart rate belt

If you buy a rowing machine, make sure that it has an integrated pulse receiver or that it can be retrofitted inexpensively. Almost every modern heart rate belt can also be linked to the heart rate receiver.

Exercise programs

You should also ask yourself if you need exercise programs. A wide variety of training programs allow you to train for different goals. For example, you can train according to many intensity techniques, with the stroke frequency increasing and decreasing. Or you can row over a distance of 500 or 2000m and compare your results with the Olympic pros. In addition, there are usually various time, calorie, watt, pulse and recovery programs that support your training.

We believe that training programs are very useful and can significantly increase motivation. It is very satisfying when you can follow progress and see positive results from it, such as an increase in fitness or a lower pulse.

Some computers have up to 40 exercise programs

People who want to row ambitiously or for a longer period of time should therefore definitely include the training programs in their purchase planning.

If you buy a rowing machine in the low price segment, you usually have to lower your expectations. In most cases, rowing machines do not have any exercise programs up to around € 300.

Online mode

The two big manufacturers WaterRower and Concept2 each have an online mode, in which it is possible to connect a computer / notebook, a mobile device (smartphone, tablet) or the training computer directly to the network.

This makes it possible to use the online functions of the respective manufacturer with additional software. The advantages are:

Online mode is an important factor when it comes to long-term motivation. For many, the online functions are also a main argument, which is why the choice of rowing machine can be narrowed down to the Concept2 and the WaterRower.

Info: The Concept2’s online community is significantly larger and, at the moment, a little more mature.


In many rowing machines, the running rail is significantly shorter than initially assumed. It is therefore essential to pay attention to the maximum user size specified by the manufacturer. This criterion is not necessarily relevant for smaller people. However, people over 1.85 m should pay attention to this. In the worst case, you buy a rowing machine where you cannot perform the entire sequence of movements and reach the rear end of the rowing machine prematurely.

As a result, not all muscle groups are stressed equally and training is significantly impaired. Not only is a lot of training potential lost, the risk of injury also increases.


Many rowing machines in the low-budget range are very compact and have the disadvantage that only people up to 1.85 – 1.90 m can row on them.

But in the middle class, 2.00 m are the rule. In very special cases, some manufacturers, such as Concept2 or WaterRower, can also contact support directly for an extended running rail.

In our comparison table, you can easily see the maximum user size of the respective rowing machines and, if necessary, compare them.

All rowing machines in comparison
maximum load

Another very important point when buying a rowing machine is the specification of the maximum load capacity. In my experience, roughly speaking: the more expensive the device, the more weight it can withstand. The higher the quality, the higher the price.

The value of the maximum load capacity is therefore also a good indicator of the stability of the rowing ergometer. Logically, this also has an impact on longevity. If you plan to use the rowing machine relatively intensively for a longer period of time, then you should definitely pay attention to the evaluation of the processing and information on the maximum load capacity.

A positive example is the Concept2 Model D with a maximum load rating of 227 kg. It is not for nothing that professional competitions are held on this rowing machine.

Concept2 Model D – Particularly stable
Space requirements

Before you buy a rowing machine, you should definitely pay attention to the dimensions of the rowing machine. Some rowing machines, especially those in the upper price segment, are up to 2.50 m long and do not fit into all rooms. In contrast, most low-budget rowing machines are in most cases very compact, so that the training can also be carried out in a small space. In our tests / product presentations you will find the respective dimensions (L x W x H cm) for each rowing machine in the training and storage condition. So you can compare the rowing machines directly with each other.



In most cases, the rowing machine is folded up after the training session and placed in a suitable location. You should also pay attention to the dimensions. Just because a rowing machine is foldable doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t take up much space.

But there are also rowing machines that do not have a folding mechanism. That’s not necessarily a disadvantage. The best example is the WaterRower. This can simply be tilted vertically for storage. The WaterRower only needs as much space as a chair. If the height allows it, this storage method is even the better.

But the rowing machines from the manufacturer Sportstech also have a guarantee period of 5 years.

Support also plays an important role. For example, if the drawstring tears and you order a replacement from the manufacturer, this should normally not take longer than 3 days. You should therefore avoid dealers from outside the EU. Spare parts are often not available or sending them takes an eternity.


Think carefully about how much money you want to spend on a rowing machine. We all know the saying “If you buy cheap, you buy twice”. Inexpensive rowing machines are often only limited to the essentials and have relatively less resistance, which in turn means that the training potential cannot be fully exploited if you are already at a good fitness level.

There are really a lot of rowing machines in the low price segment that offer a very great price-performance ratio and are totally sufficient for many people. But if you are already relatively fit and after a few months of training you notice that the resistance is too weak or the stability is not sufficient, the motivation evaporates very quickly and the rowing machine collects dust in the basement.

A rowing machine is usually a long-term investment and a bad buy wouldn’t be a nice thing.

Therefore, ask yourself the following questions:

Especially when it comes to health, I wouldn’t save on the wrong side. With a good mattress or an ergonomic office chair, you probably wouldn’t do that either.

Among the best rowing machines
Conclusion – buy a rowing machine

As you can see, it is not that easy to find the right rowing machine. Every rowing machine has its advantages and disadvantages, which vary depending on body type, performance level and personal preferences.

But if you use this guide as a guide in addition to the test reports and product presentations, then there is a very high probability that you will buy your ideal rowing machine.

I hope that this information will help you when choosing a rowing machine. I would be happy to refer you to our comparison table , which clearly shows the most important differences to all models at a glance.

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