When you shop online, you always find everything looks so intriguing and perfect and forget everything about “Buyer beware”.

Production description says that it has good design, high quality and helpful customer service staff who are always here to help you.

Good impression lasts until you have encountered crappy quality and unfriendly customer service after purchase. No one is there to help you. The only thing you can do is type “Buyer beware” on the review section.

Now, this “Buyer beware” article helps you avoid sad shopping experience when buying rowing machines.

Table of contents:

  • Common issues customers encounter
  • Reviews of flawed rowing machines
  • Rowing machine buying guide

To avoid purchase regret, it’s better to learn some lessons from other customers. Common issues are as follows:

  • Bad quality, such as footpads keep sliding down during rowing or seat cracks during rowing.
  • Flawed rowing machine design, preventing a complete full stroke. Design flaws include weird handlebar position, the lack of sliding footpads and weird footrests pivoting angle.
  • Poorly functioned monitor, which can’t track your progress correctly.

Following are some rowing machines with common issues mentioned above.

Before that, please allow me to say a few words.

First of all, I’m fully aware that all of the following rowing machine brands are quite excellent and famous. And they pop up in my mind when I write articles such as ‘best water/magnetic/air rowing machines..’.

But..after research, I find that some specific rowing machine model of those great brands do have issues (some issues are big deal-breakers). So I write this article in an intention to give you a kind warning.

But, I do have the confidence that those good brands will make improvements. Let’s wait and see.

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515

sunny Sunny health and fitness sfrw 5515 rowing machine

What does its description say?

Let’s first see how does seller describe this rowing machine.

Seller describes its monitor as “multifunctional digital monitor” and “easily tracking your progress”. Seeing this, you might begin to expect a monitor that is bluetooth enabled, WIFI compatible with accurate data tracking metrics, preset workouts and even more.

Now, don’t hold your breath just soon. Let’s take a look at how does the rowing machine really look like.

Buyer beware

Incomplete data tracking of the monitor

monitor of Sunny health and fitness sfrw 5515 rowing machine

The monitor on Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RW5515 shows data as follows: time, calories, count and total counts.

But, as you may notice, one important data is missing – distance.

The lack of distance value means you won’t be able to do time trials which is a great way to see how you’re improving. And simply, you just don’t know how much distance you have rowed.

Seriously, I have no idea of how it can “track your progress” without the distance data.

Not to mention it lacks SPM and watt.

Also, this “multifunctional digital monitor” lacks tons of features such as backlit, workout programs or heart rate data. Nor can it allow you to download the data.

Improper design

Apart from data tracking problem, it also has a very unnatural rowing motion because of two reasons: the location of housing and the design of footrests.

Firstly, its housing is quite near the footrest. So the forward motion stops even before you have bent your knees or tilted your back forward.

By contrast, on the pricier concept 2 rowers, there is plenty of room between housing and footrests/ handlebar, so your knees are fully bent and arms outstretched at the end of the forward stroke, which is much more like an actual rowing motion.

Apart from the rowing machine itself, its pivoting footplates also prevent a full stroke.

To take a fully compressed rowing stroke, the important part is to get your knees over your ankles for the most part.

But when you wanna compress to get your knees over your ankles, your toes end up pointing downwards, resulting a bad rowing form.

And if you consciously try to keep your heels down, you end up only getting 2/3 stroke.

Secondly, its footrests lack the sliding footpads, so they cannot accommodate different users of different height or weight properly.

Users also can’t adjust foot placement on footrests according to their weight or flexibility.

For example, if you are a barefoot rowing lover, raise your footpads higher as you don’t have the cushion or sole of shoes getting in the way. A video by dark horse rowing will give you a clear idea of how to row properly without shoes. Therefore, the lack of sliding footpads will lead to bad rowing form.

You can also see this video to have a clear impression of this rowing machine.

Pro-form Sport RL Smart Rower

proform sport rl smart rower

This rowing machine now is all over Costco. With its affordable price of $399, it indeed attracts many buyers.

Pro-form rower crazy is on the swing.

But is it truly worth buying? Let’s see.

What does its description say?

Let’s first see how does seller describe this rowing machine.

This magnetic rowing machines is described as featuring 24 resistance level and good monitor.

Buyer beware

Resistance setting

When it comes to resistance, there are three main issues.

The first issue is that stroke is not smooth from start. It feels clunky at the initial step of rowing stroke for this rowing machine needs some time to connect and you will feel a jerk at the start of pulling. And if you row on a high intensity, its straps/resistance pulleys can’t catch up and you will feel some slack.

The second one is that 24 resistance setting is more like a gimmick. There isn’t much difference between resistance 1 and resistance 24. This is something that you might need to consider if you seek for progress on the rowing machine.

Even worse, if you row hard enough, you might feel you can outstrength the resistance. It clearly doesn’t mimic the real rowing feeling on the water.

Monitor and iFit app

Firstly, the monitor is poorly functioned.

It shows SPM, calories, stoke number, distance, time and watts. But it lacks split time. And some data, such as calories and watts are far from accurate.

Plus, this monitor doesn’t allow you to program workouts.

Now, let’s talk about the iFit app.

When you buy this rowing machine, it comes with a one-year-free membership iFit card. And you need to, or correctly, must, sign up for the iFit. Without registration, the monitor won’t work and you even can’t row on a manual mode.

Can iFit app make up for the useless monitor?

Well, it depends. If you are new to rowing, it might be helpful to give you some basic idea of rowing.

But, if you are an advanced rower, this app might be too basic for you, for it doesn’t have some progressive instruction.

Plus, after the first year, you need to continue to pay your iFit membership.

So how much does iFit cost?

It depends. There are three options: a yearly family plan is $396/yr, a monthly family plan is $39/mo, and a yearly individual plan is $180/yr.

Here is a video that gives you a clear idea of its weirdness.

Maxkare Magnetic Rowing Machine – buyer beware

Maxkare compact rowing machine

Buyer beware

Flawed rowing machine design

a sketch map of a woman rowing in incorrect postures with Maxkare magnetic rowing machine

The rowing forms in its official pictures are totally incorrect, especially the catch position posture.

In the picture, at the catch stage, the model’s feet are flat, which is a very unnatural rowing motion. The forward motion stops even before you have bent your knees or tilted your back forward. If the model continues to bend forward in order to get your knees over you ankles, her toes will end up pointing downwards.

The wrong rowing form is the result of flawed design.

There isn’t enough space between housing and footrests. Thus, your handle grip cannot extend past your feet and the forward motion stops even before you have bent your knees or tilted your back forward.

correct indoor rowing postures in the catch, drive, finish and recovery phases

The picture above shows the correct rowing form. You will notice that rower’s feet keeps a upward position all the time. If your feet point downwards, you can’t drive with your legs at the drive stage.

Stamina ATS Air Rowing Machine

stamina air rowing machine

Buyer beware

Flawed design

Firstly, as you can see from the picture, the location of housing is too near the handlebar, which means rowers cannot get fully compressed at catch position and during recovery.

Another design flaw is its footrests. Footrests pivot during rowing, which is not good for beginners, who might have trouble finding the right footrests angle. But if you have flexibility issue, such design is good for you.

The real problem is that its footrests don’t have sliding footpads, thus preventing users from adjusting foot placement according to their height, weight or specific needs.

For example, if you are a barefoot rowing lover, raise your footpads higher as you don’t have the cushion or sole of shoes getting in the way. A video by dark horse rowing will give you a clear idea of how to row properly without shoes.

And for those who suffer knee pains, raising footpads up a little bit might a good idea. This will relieve strain on the Achilles tendon. This video might give you a better explanation of why adjusting footpads will help relieve knee pain.

Check the articles of rowing machine specific features to learn more about the importance of sliding footpads.

Fitness Reality 1000 Plus Magnetic Rowing Machine – buyer beware

Fitness reality 1000 plus magnetic rowing machine

What does its description say?

Its large 3.5” LCD displays distance, time, total count, calories burned, strokes/min, and scan.

Buyer beware

Inaccurate monitor data

As its desciption says, it truly does show the data mentioned above. However, the data produced by the console are completely fake except for the stroke count and the timer. What’s point of showing inaccurate data?

Data such as distance and calories are fake and are unrelated to the amount of effort exerted during exercise.

The machine increments the distance count by 10 meters every time the seat passes back and forth by a sensor. It has NOTHING to do with how hard, fast, or long you pull the handle. Thus no matter what effort you are doing, whether you are tall or short, the distance is simply proportional to the stroke count.

The same thing happens with the “ergometer” that measures calories.

This value is incremented by either 0.1 or 0.2 every time the seat passes the sensor back and forth whether you pulled on the bar or not. Pulling on the bar but not moving the seat does not register any caloric use. Thus this number is also fake and does not come from a true ergometer.

To measure the calories consumed during exercise you have to take into account the effort in pulling on the bar and the tension setting. But, this machine lacks this mechanism.

But, apart from this issue, this rowing machine does have some good features, such as offering diverse workouts. To learn more about Fitness Reality 1000 Plus rowing machine, read the article of best rowing machines around $500.


Apart from the specific rowing machines mentioned above, there is a common problem that most rowing machine brands have: the rowing form in the video on their websites or Amazon is not professional.

Correct rowing form looks as follows:

A man wearing black clothes row with a rowing machine

Correct rowing form is, honest, difficult to learn. Read the article of guide of rowing technique to grasp.


All-in-one rowing machine buying guide

Now it comes to a new question: how to find a rowing machine that will serve you right in many years to come?

Rowing machine buying guide and reviews might come in handy.