Used Rowing Machine Buying Gude: What You Need To Know

Rowing machines are a popular choice for anyone looking to get a full body workout, so it’s no surprise that these machines tend to end up on the used and secondhand market.

As the original owner either moves to a different machine or no longer finds that a rowing machine is right for them, they’ll often offer up their expensive investment for a more than reasonable price.

However, rowing machines aren’t indestructible, and not every machine is going to last as long for a second owner as it did for the first. With quite a few moving parts required to work at maximum capacity to provide the full body workout the rowing machine promises, there’s similarly a lot of room for error.

While any rowing machine will provide for both moderate and vigorous exercise, not all rowing machines are also not all created equal. Depending upon the way your prospective rowing machine operates, you could be dealing with chains, flywheels, fans, or motors.

Putting aside the difference in the workout, without proper guidance and research, you can easily find yourself with a very expensive, very heavy paperweight.

We’ll be going over what you need to know about purchasing a used rowing machine, as well as what sort of products to look out for and how to best care for your investment. The more time you spend getting to know your new machine, the longer you can hope to achieve that full body workout often promised by the rowing motion.


Choosing the Right Rowing Machine

Using Rowing Machine

There are quite a few variants of the tried and true design of a rowing machine, and we’ll need to understand which one is which before making a purchase. Some of these variants last longer than others as well, so choosing the right one for your situation will benefit your workouts in the years to come.

The most common type of rowing machine will rely on a flywheel for resistance. This flywheel attaches to the belt and handle of the rowing machine and usually requires periodic lubrication. Flywheel rowing machines are often some of the easiest to work on, since they function similarly to most machines with simple flywheels and motors, like a stationary bike.

Flywheel rowing machines are also some of the most compact models, so if space is a concern, it’s not a bad choice to stick with a flywheel machine and store it when not in use.

Hydraulic rowing machines are not as common, but more easily recognized. While all other types of rowing machines rely on a single best and T-strap to provide resistance, these machines use two handles that more closely resemble oars.

These machines are as compact as flywheel machines but pose a bit of a difficulty in repairs due to the hydraulics. Likewise, the range of motion on hydraulic machines is often far smaller than in the other variants you may find.

Magnetic resistance rowing machines are another great option—as they provide for a near-silent rowing experience. The magnets that press upon the flywheel for resistance are also never in contact with moving parts, which can help the unit last longer.

Air resistance rowing machines are perhaps the most simple design you can expect from a rowing machine. The “flywheel” in question is often a large fan. When completing a stroke, the fan forces air around and provides resistance by having you do all the work. A simple solution, but not one that often provides enough control over the workout.

Finally, there are the unique and analog water rowing machines. These contain flywheels that operate with water and provide an auditory experience that’s not unlike rowing across actual rivers and lakes. These water rowers are often the most expensive out of all options on our list—but generally one of the most beloved.

With so many variants of rowing machines, it can be understandably difficult to keep up with the best and worst parts of each. If you’re in the market for a used rowing machine, here’s a short list of pros and cons to remember about each type:

  • Flywheel machines and fan-powered machines tend to be the easiest to maintain
  • Magnetic resistance machines and water rowers are popular and premium
  • Hydraulic machines are compact but limit workouts

The Importance of Warranties

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5
  • Low impact workout that engages all major muscle groups; work legs, core and arms with a smooth, high calorie-burning...
  • Track your progress with real-time reliable data; the Performance Monitor 5 (included) self-calibrates for comparable...
  • Designed to fit most users: 14-inch seat height, adjustable footrests and ergonomic handle.

While warranties don’t often come up in discussion in any used market, rowing machines are unique in that many feature warranties that do not stop with the initial buyer.

For example, the ever-popular Concept2 rowing machine comes with a limited 2 and 5-year warranty that makes no specifications about the owner of the machine. Therefore, if you’re able to acquire proof of purchase of your specific rowing machine, you’ll still be able to get free or discounted repair on some of the most vital portions of the machine.

The operative term here is “proof,” and for good a reason. When searching for a rowing machine with a limited warranty, make sure that the supplier or private seller that you’re going through has the sufficient documentation necessary to prove the age of the machine. Without that proof, it won’t matter if the previous owner claims the unit is 2 years old or 20.

Not every rowing unit will come with a warranty either, and it’ll be important to do your research beforehand and find out if a warranty is something you’d be interested in having for your investment. Before purchasing, keep a close eye on the warranty for your prospective model covers the types of problems you’re hoping to avoid.


Features to Look For

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5

Now that we’ve gone over warranties and the different types of machines you can purchase let’s look at features you may be interested in for your workout.

While almost all rowing machines are simplistic by design, not every rowing machine is going to give you the same experience. Generally speaking, it’s best to either have prior experience with rowing machines or use one near you to see how these features play out for you.

While it may not be considered a feature, the issue of length and height is something to keep in mind. To complete a stroke, you’ll need a full range of motion and a few feet of track to run back and forth across.

The more compact rowing machines tend to be too limited for taller users, so if you’re purchasing from a private seller, try to perform a few strokes on the machine if possible. This will allow you to see if the motion range is large enough for your size—as well as give you a bit of experience with the resistance mechanism.

Getting metrics from your new rowing machine is important for many first-time rowers. Many rowing machines will keep up with your stroke count, calories burned, and even playback music.

These features tend to be on more expensive machines, and the added electronics can often break down over time. These features are also not often covered by warranties, so they’ll need to be checked out personally. Be sure to check out whether or not your prospective machine will require batteries, wires, or outlets to operate.

Finally, there’s the issue of maintenance. Regardless of what others may claim, it’s best to lubricate each moving part on your machine as soon as you purchase it. Many online manuals are available to aid in this process, so be sure to make sure you’re following any instructions available to you.


Final Thoughts

woman exercising

With all of the small details to remember when purchasing a rowing machine, it’s easy to forget just how effective these machines are at working out your body. Not only do rowing machines affect and work out the back, abdomen, pectoral muscles, arms, and legs, but can also aid in scoliosis.

By narrowing down your desired type of machine and understand the pros and cons of that specific design, you’ll be able to narrow down what you need to be prepared for regarding maintenance and usage.

Warranty information and product features will also help you further narrow down your search and know what is and is not important for your exercise machine. If you play your cards right, you may be able to purchase a rowing machine and send parts in for a replacement for little or no cost to you.

We hope that we’ve given you few things to keep in mind when trying to pick out a gently-used rowing machine. By knowing your purchase inside and out, you’ll be able to keep your used rowing machine working long past its sell-by date.

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