I've looked at many rowing machines on the Internet. Now I do a lot of walking and some cycling (outdoors in good weather) but want to have an alternative to the treadmill and outside walking at home, particularly one that exercises the body as well as provides a cardio workout. I'm 75, have been in cardiac rehab for a year now, but am in good health and fitter than I was a year ago. Price is an issue, but anything less than $1,000 will be considered.
As a competitive rower, I think I can answer your question. I’m required to use an indoor rower in the “off-season” to improve my cardio fitness. There are several factors to consider when selecting a rowing machine (also Ergometer, or, “erg”). I’ll highlight what you should consider in making your decision and provide my recommendation (I have no affiliation with the company I recommend, but, I do own one of their rowers).
First, indoor rowers use different mechanisms to provide resistance. They range from air (fan wheel), piston, water, etc. Each one has its own “feel” with subtle differences. If you can, you should try each rower you are interested in to see how it "fits". Some more easily accommodate the training space where they will be used. For example, most fan wheel types can be stood on end vertically while not being used. I don’t think you’d want to stand the water version on end. You should also consider the support and community that is behind the rower you choose. Does the rower have a large base of users? Does the company provide tools, videos, training to use your rower? These are all things to consider.
Now, my recommendation. The recognized leader in the rower industry is Concept2. Their rowers are used by many clubs, colleges and universities. They’re not cheap and only available through Concept2. As of this post, the current price for a new model D rower is $900. However, it’s a machine that’s built to last with features that make using it enjoyable. It comes with a software enable monitor that can provide incentive and the ability to track your progress. Additionally, you can attach a heart monitor (available from Concept2) to it and display your bpm on the progress monitor. The rower can be stored vertically when not in use. I find that important because it takes up less space. The company’s web site provides a portal for you to record your progress and a forum to discuss and meet other users of their machines.
Lastly, if you haven’t already, I would recommend you check with your doctor before beginning to use a rower. If you’re interested in the Concetp2 rower, there tend to be used versions available as users upgrade their models.