Why buy a Concept 2 rower, anyway?

Well, there are good reasons.

Concept 2 air rowers are hands-down the most popular rowers right now (and for the last several years). Unlike some cardio equipment, rowing can be be done intensely enough for high intensity interval training, or at a more moderate pace for steady cardio.

Rowing is a movement that works most major muscle groups in your body, unlike running or bike riding.

If you’re lucky, you can find a Concept 2 rowing machine used and save a few bucks.

The Concept2 was already a top rower in professional rowing circles, with many Olympic teams already using them in the 90s. From about 2006 on, Crossfit popularized it and brought rowing into the mainstream. Now you can find them at gyms everywhere, giving you a choice other than the typical treadmills, bikes and ellipticals.

The Concept 2 still beats out other air rowers after all these years as #1. The parts are almost all from overseas, but some assembly is done in the USA.

Benjamin’s large garage gym that we featured includes a Concept2 rower as one of the last additions.

Concept 2 models – Quick list

Models you may encounter:

ModelYears MadePMNotes
Model A1981-1986NoneExposed flywheel, no drag adjustment. Primitive, but still usable if you’re desperate.
Model B1986-1993None or PM1A nice upgrade over the old A, with an enclosed flywheel. No drag adjustment.
Model C1993-2003PM1 or PM2Not the newest tech but still a good upgrade over the B. Adjustable drag. A good choice if you can’t find a D.
Model D2003-presentPM3, PM4
or PM5
Most popular current model. They have upgraded it a few times since 2003.
Model E2006-presentPM5Similar to D. It is raised up higher off the ground for immobile users and built heavier to compensate so that it remains stable.

Model C, D, or E are all usable, as far as the rowing parts themselves. People buy these models used all the time and are generally happy.

Which performance monitors to avoid

The performance monitor (PM) is what they call the electronic display that keeps track of your distance, speed and other stats.

If your PM fails, a new PM5 will run you about $200. It is therefore the most expensive component to be concerned about. Everything else can be replaced too, and at a lower cost.

The performance monitor is currently at version 5. Here is a comparison:

all the concept 2 performance monitors: PM1, PM2, PM3, PM4 and PM5

The later models have more functions. Other than that, as you can see, there’s nothing wildly different about them as far as basic usage.

How much does a used Concept 2 rower cost?

To know how much money you’re saving, check the current retail prices of current models at a reputable site like concept2.com or Rogue Fitness.

What you’ll find is used Concept 2 rowers do not sell far below the retail price, especially a model D. They can sell for only 20% less than retail, and they don’t stay on the market for long.

The manufacturer is very careful about the dealers they work with, making sure that nobody cheapens the image of their rowers by advertising them at less than retail. They don’t offer their dealers a very big margin, either. These units sell so well that the volume makes up for it.

Where to Buy a Used Concept 2

Several places!

Local rowing clubs

Check with your local rowing clubs (search for “rowing club” on Google Maps). They might have some older models they’re replacing. They aren’t as likely to be replacing a model D, because it’s the current model, everything on it can be replaced at a reasonable cost, and the machine lasts for years and years.

Local marketplace sites/apps – Craigslist, OfferUp, letgo

Keep scouring Craigslist, either bookmarking your search or using a free service like NotiCraig to get alerts when a new one pops up.

Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp and letgo are popular apps for stuff for sale locally.

row2k is a competitive rowing site that has a used marketplace. Not many listed, but still active.

I’ll warn you now: You have to be quick. They can easily be snatched up within a few hours. Don’t ask the seller questions at first, or you’ll miss your chance. Just ask when the soonest time is that you can come see it, and then once you arrive you can evaluate it to your satisfaction.

eBay

See the eBay listings for Concept 2 rowers. These are tough to find as good of a deal on, considering all the eyeballs on these auctions over a period of several days. For those of you in rural areas, it might be your only option.

Be careful about buying a rower on a place like eBay, because you’re buying it sight unseen. You don’t have a chance to do all the checks I go over in this article. So make sure you ask the seller all the questions you need to.

As you can see at the link, there are also lots of parts for sale on eBay if you ever need them.

FRAUD ALERT: Do not buy a Concept 2 rower through an Instagram ad or an unknown online store.

Given that so many people are out looking for a used Concept 2, scammers have seized the opportunity to sell Concept 2 rowing machines online for great prices and never deliver it. No reputable source is going to have crazy good prices for new rowers, and likely not even for used rowers. There’s no reason to sell a legit Concept 2 rower for so cheap when anyone out there can sell it for more.

For the same reason, you can’t really find refurbished Concept 2 rowers. Sellers don’t need to refurbish them to be able to sell them, because the market is so hot for ones in decent used condition.

Always test it!

Always ask to try it out. When you’re buying on eBay, that isn’t an option, unfortunately. If you have a chance to look at it in person, there’s no excuse not to spend a few minutes evaluating it.

Check the PM

As with all electronics, the main issue is time and repeated use. Electronics fail. For this reason, an old PM is more likely to fail on you than a new PM.

Bring AA and D batteries (only the PM2 uses AA batteries) with you just in case the owner is stupid and has none. Browse through the menu and test all the buttons.

Check the battery compartment for leaked battery acid.

To be really thorough about inspecting an older PM, unscrew the cover of the PM and inspect the circuit board’s capacitors. Below is what one looks like.

failing capacitor on concept 2 PM circuit board

Back in my PC repair days, customers brought in their PCs with weird problems. It was sometimes a blown capacitor from heat buildup. When it wasn’t under warranty, it was time for a new computer.

Some people advise looking up the total meters rowed in the PM menu, but that doesn’t really matter. A Concept 2 rower could have hundreds of thousands of meters on it and still be fine. That’s how rugged they are. Plus, I’ve heard that the number could be reset from a firmware upgrade.

Check the other parts

Sit and do some pulls for a minute and make sure all parts move good and the performance monitor is tracking.

Look over these critical parts in particular:

  1. Rail – Check for pitting that will hinder smooth sliding. You can feel this when you do test rows. Expensive to replace. Deal breaker.
  2. Chain – Check the cleanliness, showing it’s been oiled occasionally and generally taken care of, if needed. There isn’t much you have to maintain on these besides the chain oil.

Don’t worry about worn foot straps. They’re cheap. Handle pads too. The reality is you won’t have a chance to be picky about little parts that have questionable life left in them. Someone else will snatch it up while you decide.

Getting used parts

This is a big reason why they are so popular. No matter what fails, you can replace it. That’s why you shouldn’t be too picky with grabbing a used one. The big exception is the PM, which will cost you $200. Other than that, with the conpany’s 40 year history in business you can probably count on getting parts forever. Rowing is more popular than ever, and if nothing else they will keep supplying Olympic teams, which is how they got established.

Concept2.com has parts lists. You have to contact them to order.

eBay has many parts for sale at better prices.

Sportsmith has a lot of parts listed online with prices.

If you’re coming up dry

If you can’t get a hold of a used C2 for a price far enough below retail (currently $900), you can always get a new one from Rogue Fitness or Amazon.