What’s The Best Rowing Machine? – 2021 Buyer’s Guide

Updated: January 2021

You’re probably reading this because you’re thinking about buying or renting a rowing machine to improve your fitness or your kayaking technique. When buying a rowing machine, it’s important to choose one that suits your price range, ability and specifications.

Buying a rowing machine can often be a daunting or challenging process. This guide will help you out. Without wasting time, if you wanna find out what’s the best rowing machine… this is it!  🙂

The Best Rowing Machine: Concept2 D Review

Concept 2 Model D

concept2 d
Monitor Type:


  • Improved PM5 monitor better than the PM4
  • Basically indestructible
  • Trusted and used in all the professional gyms
  • The most complete body workout, at home

I have owned a Concept 2 Model D rowing machine for 2 years, and have been rowing on one for longer than 5 years.

During this time I’ve been thoroughly acquainted with this machine, I’ve rowed millions of metres, competed nationally and internationally and even broken a world record.

I don’t intend to sound dramatic, but Concept 2’s line of rowing machines have literally changed my life.

I feel like, at this stage, I can give a concrete judgement of the Concept 2 Model D.

Me and my friend rowed for a total of 52 hours, 2 minutes and 35 seconds to break the Tandem Longest Continual Time Records.

Concept 2 remains an industry leader by a large margin, and for a good reason. Since its debut 40 years ago, Concept 2’s ergs have been virtually unchallenged.

I believe the Model D is in a league of its own compared to the competition.

The rower provides a high quality, low impact full body workouts,  while accurately replicating the feel of rowing on the water. It benefits lower as well as upper body.

best rowing machine

The best thing about any workout on this rower is that it is acutely suited to any individual, whether you’re an athlete or a total beginner, a good rowing machine provides an excellent full body cardio workout.

Thanks to the Model D’s flywheel, any workout can be adjusted to make it as hard, or as easy as you want it to be.

While the price may be prohibitive to some, when you buy a Concept 2 rower, you’re buying quality.

These things are built to last after all, I’ve seen these things put up with years of punishment with no issue.

Due to their solid construction and finish, these things are pretty much indestructible, they’re designed to last a lifetime of wear and tear, my rowing machine has been through millions of meters, pulls of the chain, and it’s still as good as new.

Every part of the Concept2 rower is built to last.

In the unlikely event that you encounter an issue with your rower, they are easily serviceable, you don’t need to be a mechanic to repair these things, and if you can’t, the Concept 2 support team are incredibly helpful with any problem you may have with them.

On top of this, all Concept2 model rowers come included with a 5 year warranty, you probably won’t be needing this however.

The true icing on the cake here is the Performance LCD Monitor (or PM for short) which comes with every Concept 2 Erg.

The PM5 Display.

This screen displays your performance, and will most likely be what you’ll be staring at while rowing. Although to some beginners this screen may be a small bit confusing, it displays important information about your row, such as:

  • speed
  • distance time
  • stroke rate per minute (spm)
  • heart rate (requires a heart rate monitor)
  • calories burned rowing

My Model D came with a PM5, the newest model, however the model makes very little difference. The performance monitor can be programmed to perform both complex and simple workouts, such as rowing set distances, times, or amounts of calories burned.

The performance monitor also includes useful additional features, the screen quickly starts up as soon as you start rowing, allowing you to quickly get into your workout.

The PM5’s backlit display allows you to row in any set of lighting conditions.

One of my favorite features is the small selection of games available on the PM5, this is ideal if you have young children or just want to warm up.

My favorite of these is fish game, not only are these games fun, but they can give you a decent workout without you even realizing it.

On top of this, the PM5 comes  included with online functionality, allowing you to upload and log your workouts online, competing against other rowers worldwide, and to share your progress with others.

While Concept 2’s ergs are good on their own, there are a few handy accessories that I feel are worth mentioning, you can pick up a phone or tablet holder directly from Concept 2, this is handy for when you need to distract yourself during long distance rows.

Another accessory worth investing in is a seat cover, although I personally haven’t had any issues with the comfortability of the Model D, some people might feel more comfortable with a seat cover.

The seat is comfortable as it is, but you can purchase a seat cover as well.

In summary, the Concept 2 Model D/E is best home rowing machine money can buy today, while it usually costs in the region of 1000 dollars, it is worth every single cent.

If you are considering buying a rowing machine, I strongly urge you to buy this one.

The 2 Main Factors To Consider Before Buying A Rowing Machine

Regardless of which rowing machine you choose to buy, there are a few general rules which apply for buying each and every rowing machine.

The good thing about buying a rowing machine, is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of different models available for purchase. The bad thing is that the majority of these machines are frankly, not very good.

Worry not! With the help of this guide you’ll easily be able to separate the good from the bad and select the rowing machine that’s best for you.

1. Rowing Machine Price

The first factor one must consider when purchasing a great rowing machine is the price, you either have the money to buy one, or you don’t.

Thankfully, there is the right rowing machine for everyone’s price range, the only problem with this is that low cost and high quality often don’t go together. Many cheap rowing machines ($200-$300 or less) are often shoddily made, and not worth the price that you’ll pay for them.

These rowing machines are usually sold to entice buyers looking for a nice bargain, but often don’t live up to expectations, I’m not saying that good, low cost rowing machines don’t exist, but that they’re often very difficult to find.

If you can buy a decent rowing machine (Concept 2/RP3) second hand, I strongly recommend that you look into doing so.

Quality, Concept2 rowing machines are almost indestructible, even machines with plenty of mileage will still hold up quite well. Due to this, they also tend to keep their value quite well, this can benefit you if you want to buy one, but aren’t quite sure about keeping it.

Be warned however, if you see a rowing machine that you think is too good to be true, in a lot of cases it is, so it’s important to stay vigilant and keep your eyes open for scams while buying second hand.

The Concept2 Model D

2. Type Of Rowing Machine

The second most important point to consider while researching rowing machines is the type.

While most quality rowing machines share the same characteristics (go up and down a slide, pull the handle, etc.) the main difference between rowing machines is how it replicates the feeling of taking a stroke, while this may seem like a small detail, I can assure you, it’s far from it.

How a rowing machine replicates (or tries to replicate) the feel of an oar going through the water is key to the overall experience and benefits of the machine.

You’ll potentially be taking thousands of strokes on whichever machine you choose, so it’s very important to get the feeling of the stroke right!

Why I Do Not Recommend Hydraulic Rowing Machines

First off, let’s start off with the types of rowing machines that I wouldn’t recommend.

I’m not trying to say that you shouldn’t buy these rowing machines, but I would generally advise against it. The only case in which I’d recommend you buy any of these is if you are working on a low budget and can’t afford to buy a top of the range model.

Even still, it might be worth searching for some second hand models, although its rare, you can occasionally profit off the stupidity of others, keep an eye out for any machines listed for well below their usual asking price!

While Hydraulic rowing machines may seem as a decent, low budget alternative to some of the more expensive brands on the market, trust me, they are anything but. When you buy a hydraulic rowing machine, you well and truly get what you pay for, hydraulic rowing machines are, for the want of a better word, bad.

They are truly the worst rowing machine money can buy.

The main issue with hydraulic rowing machines is the fact that they don’t accurately replicate the rowing experience.

I recommend against hydraulic rowing machines.

They don’t feel enjoyable to use as the movements aren’t as fluid as regular rowing machines. On top of that, many users have reported overheating issues after as little as ten minutes of rowing


+Good for limited use

+The cheapest option in many cases

+Not that bad if you aren’t serious about rowing


Janky, uncomfortable movements

Usually very basic, no screen or controls

Not good for tall or heavy rowers

Low build quality

Water vs Air Rowing Machines

For the most part, water rowers aren’t seen much in gyms or rowing clubs, they are however a viable purchase for those looking to row from home. In fact, you usually find the concept2 model D or E in gyms.

The most commonly used water rower is the aptly named WaterRower, it’s all in the name really.

The water rower comes closest to replicating the feel of water by using water as part of its internal drag wheel.

For this reason, kayakers usually tend to gravitate towards it. Do not to worry about the water however, as it is tightly sealed inside to avoid leakage.

A water rowing machine is very suitable for home use as the water movement is relatively silent compared to other rowing machines on the market.


+Accurately replicates the feeling of the water

+Solid sleek design paired with excellent build quality




Not as accurate as other rowers

Slight risk of water leakage

The Best Ergometers: Air Rowers

Concept 2 Model D

concept2 d
Monitor Type:


  • Improved PM5 monitor better than the PM4
  • Basically indestructible
  • Trusted and used in all the professional gyms
  • The most complete body workout, at home

Air based rowing machines are, by and large, the most common variety of rowing machine, they can be found in many gyms and rowing/kayaking clubs.

These machines use air to create resistance levels, usually this works quite well, however this doesn’t mean that all air rowers are perfect. One of the most widely used air rower is the Concept 2, this is effectively the industrial standard, so it’s particularly difficult to compete with.

There are many substandard air rowers, but in general, they usually serve their purpose well enough.

My Concept2 Model D Air Rower


+Most widely used type of rower, for a reason.

+Satisfying to use, feels very similar to actually kayaking on water

+Wide variety of machines to choose from


Occupies a large area, mightn’t be suitable for small houses or apartments

Good models can be rather expensive

Fan noise is quite loud, not ideal if you have thin walls or neighbors you don’t get along with.

The most important thing to take away here is the fact that there is a wide variety of great rowing machines to choose from, if you put time and effort into it, it isn’t difficult to find a rowing machine that matches your budget and specifications.

No matter which rowing machine you choose, it will provide an excellent workout regardless.

What makes a rowing machine unique is its exhaustive uses and benefits.

Anyone can master the basics of the ergometer and use it to full effect.

Be it to lose weight, get fitter, improve cardiovascular health or just have fun!

Mastering the CORRECT Rowing Machine Technique

So now after spending your hard earned cash on a rowing machine, what do you do with it?

Many people buy a rowing machine out of the hopes of getting fit or improving their endurance, but fail to put it to use correctly.

The last thing you want is your newly bought rowing machine gathering dust in some corner of the house right? For this reason it is important to know what you’re going to do on a rowing machine, but also how you’re going to do it.

So, What is the correct rowing machine technique?

1. the 1st step to using a rowing machine is sitting on the seat, this is the easiest part, after this it gets a bit more complicated.

2. After you have sat down, secure your feet firmly in the foot straps. Make sure to adjust these to prevent your feet from flying out.

3. Grab the handle, lean forward and bend your knees so you move up the slide towards the main unit of the rowing machine, on a concept 2 rowing machine, you should be roughly face to face with the screen.

This is the beginning of the rowing movement on a Concept2 machine

4. Then, push back with your legs first, making sure not to pull your arms back until your legs are as straight as you can get them, then, firmly pull back into your chest.

Push back with your legs FIRST
…Until your legs are straight…
THEN firmly pull back the handle into your chest.

5. Once you do that, you should find yourself sitting upright with the handle touching your breastbone, then the most important part, stretch out your arms and lean forward BEFORE you bend your knees.

Stretching my arms out BEFORE I bend my knees
Leaning forward BEFORE I bend my knees
THEN finally bending my knees and going back to the initial position 🙂

Go ahead and reread that last part a few times, it is one of the most common mistakes I see beginners make on any rowing machine.

Even if you get all the other steps wrong, if you get that step right, you’re doing ok.

There are plenty of good videos online that can help you master rowing technique, they’re probably much easier to follow, I highly recommend that you check them out!

So, now that you’ve mastered the technique, you need something to do on your rowing machine.

Rowing Machine And Kayaking: Common Misconceptions

One of the main reasons you might use a rowing machine could be because you can’t get out on the water kayaking or rowing, because of adverse conditions or time constraints.

One important thing to note is that while a rowing machine is an excellent way to get fit, it is not able to replace a kayaking session on the water.

One thing I see many people struggle with is technique. It may seem simple, however due to the differences between kayaking and rowing, it can often be confusing for beginners.

Many beginners tend to focus on the arms while using a rowing machine. This is a very common misconception among kayakers and most other people, after all, you move the oar with your arms right?

In rowing, there is a very strong emphasis on the legs, however arms still play an important role in rowing technique.

Last Words On Choosing A Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is versatile, easy to use, efficient for those with little free time to workout, even if you can work out for just a few minutes per day, the benefits will be enormous. It remains an invaluable asset for people of all ages and capabilities. It has deeply changed my life for the better and I wholeheartedly recommend you get your hands on one. You won’t be disappointed.

When deciding on what model you wish to purchase you must first consider a few things I didn’t mention so far.

Unless you are a rowing or kayaking athlete you will most likely want to steer clear of a “dynamic rower”.

This has all the same benefits of a normal rower, however the flywheel at the front of the machine which is stationary in a normal ergometer (that’s right you guessed it) moves independently in this more complex version.

This serves the purpose of simulating the feeling of being out on the water, helping rowers and kayakers to further improve technique and consistency.

I would not recommend this for anyone other than seasoned professionals, as it takes a very long time to learn how to use it properly and the normal model gives all the same benefits and is even more versatile.

All rowing machines work the same way and they all fulfill their purpose, the main differences between a cheaper model and a top of the range one are small but can be noticeable depending on how you are planning on using them.

The very best rowing machine that money can buy is undoubtedly a Concept 2. Period.

This is the newest model made by Concept and can be found in every rowing club, gym and fitness fanatics garage around the world! The industry standard C2 rowing machine is the most versatile and powerful ergometer and so is a clear first choice.

But… If you feel uneasy splashing the cash on a C2, that’s perfectly fine. As I said before, The most important thing is to get rowing, and most decent rowing machines will be okay for beginners ???‍

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