Cost of a new microwave

Today we will be talking about the cost of a new microwave. Countertop microwaves usually cost less than the other types. Small models start as low as $50, and midsized models are typically in the $100 to $200 range. Over-the-range microwaves, or OTRs, can be had for as little as $200, but most we tested cost $400 and up. Models designed only to be built into cabinetry or a wall begin at $400 but can cost more than $1,000. Some countertop models are available with kits that give you a built-in look for less.

Space and Location
Think about where the microwave works best for you and about available space. Countertop models eat up counter space. For example, the top-rated midsized model is 22 inches wide and 18 inches deep. The best large microwave we tested is 22 inches wide and 19 inches deep. You’ll want to factor in height as well. Dimensions can be found on the model page for each microwave.

Type
Countertop models are the most widely sold. Over-the-range models are just that: They’re installed over the range. The built-in category includes models designed only to be built in—surrounded by cabinetry or built into the wall. Microwave drawers fall in this group and can be placed under the countertop or below a wall oven. And then there are some countertop models that can be converted to built-ins with a kit.

Which Type Is Right for You?

Depending on your kitchen, you can choose from countertop, over-the-range, and built-in microwaves. Note that the size of the unit doesn’t always translate to usable cooking space. Our research shows that usable capacity for tested microwaves is about 50 percent of what manufacturers claim. We measure the amount of space you can actually use. More watts typically mean more cooking power, but differences of 100 watts or so don’t matter much. Watts are noted in the Features & Specs tab in our microwave ratings. The prices, usable capacity, and wattages presented below are based on our tested models.

Cost of a new microwave

A countertop microwave oven.

Countertop Microwaves

Price and easy installation are appealing. Just plug into an ordinary outlet—use one dedicated to the microwave or it might trip the circuit breaker. Zero in on usable capacity in our ratings. Also note the microwave’s external dimensions, taking into consideration your available space. A stainless finish is common, and a convection feature is becoming available on more models.

Price
$60 to $150 for small
$70 to $500 for midsized
$120 to $550 for large

Usable Capacity
Most of the tested models in this category have a usable capacity of about 50 to 60 percent of what manufacturers claim.

0.4 to 0.5 cubic feet for small
0.5 to 0.8 cubic feet for midsized
0.7 to 1.5 cubic feet for large

Watts
700 to 950 for small
800 to 1,200 for midsized
900 to 1,250 for large

Shop Countertop Microwaves on Amazon

Countertop Microwave Ratings

An over-the-range microwave oven.

Over-the-Range Microwaves

Known as OTRs, these models free up counter space. But while they can be vented to the outside, don’t expect an OTR to vent as well as a range hood. Installation might require an electrician.

Price
$130 to $1,200

Usable Capacity
Most of our tested OTR models have usable capacity of about 40 to 50 percent of what manufacturers claim.

0.6 to 1.5 cubic feet

Watts
850 to 1,100Over-The-Range Microwave Ratings

A built-in microwave oven.

Built-In Microwaves

This category includes models designed only to be built in—surrounded by cabinetry or built into a wall. Microwave drawers, for example, can be placed under the countertop, removing them from sight lines, and glide out for easy access, or can be installed below a wall oven. The look is sleek and integrated. Some countertop microwaves can be built in with a kit. (We note that on model pages.) Information below is for models designed only to be built in, not for countertop models with optional built-in kits.

Price
$380 to $1,440

Usable Capacity
We haven’t yet tested enough built-ins to determine percentage of usable capacity compared with manufacturers’ claims.

0.9 to 1.1 cubic feet

Watts
950 to 1,100

Shop Built-In Microwaves on Amazon

Features to Focus on

As the price goes up, so does the number of features. One we find invaluable is the sensor, which measures the steam food emits and turns off the microwave at exactly the point when cooking is done. Here are other features to consider.  

Turntables and Trays

They keep food moving for uniform heating. Most microwaves have a turntable that rotates food. Some instead have a rectangular tray that slides from side to side (which might work better for large casseroles or platters).

Brands That Matter

Frigidaire

GEKenmore

LG

Maytag

Panasonic

Samsung

Sharp

Whirlpool

How to buy a microwave

Your Pizza Rolls deserve a good microwave. This countertop wonder, whose origins date back to the 1940s, is probably one of the most frequently used appliances in your kitchen thanks to its ability to reheat food fast (and cook a mug cake or two). There are a variety of options when it’s time to select a microwave, so we’ve broken down the options you have when you’re ready for a new microwave.

Location

The first decision you need to make about a new microwave is where in your kitchen you want to put it. The location affects the price, features, size and installation of the appliance. You have three main options:

Whirlpool_Microwave.png
Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Countertop

This is the most common type of microwave. They generally cost less and are significantly easier to install than other models. Just find a spot on the counter for it to sit, plug it into an outlet and you can use it right away.

The biggest issue with the countertop microwave is how much space it needs. If you have limited room on your countertop, you may either want to look at the smaller countertop models available, look into placing your microwave on a small cart, or consider another style of microwave.

Price: $40 to $700

External dimensions: From roughly 10 by 18 by 14 inches for compact models to roughly 14 by 24 by 20 inches for larger models

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

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Some of GE’s stoves and over-the-range microwaves are connected via Bluetooth.Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Over-the-range

You install this style of microwave above your range, which will save you some counter space. These models have vent systems that take the place of the oven hood and lights to illuminate your cooktop.

Price: $190 to $1,300

External dimensions: Usually wider than countertop models, about 16 by 30 by 15 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

Sharp_builtin_microwave.jpg
Sharp

Built-in

Built-in models that you place among custom cabinets or paired with built-in, full-sized wall ovens are the most high-end (aka expensive) types of microwaves. Some microwaves in this category are even designed specifically as drawers with a compartment you pull out for your food.

Price: $500 to $5,000 and up

External dimensions: This varies widely depending on type, and drawers tend to have more depth than countertop or over-the-range models, hitting about 15 by 30 by 26 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

Size

It’s important to find the right-sized microwave that will meet your food needs and fit in the space you have for it. First, you want to measure the counter or other space where you plan to put your microwave. Then, measure the height, width and depth of any model you’re considering to find out if it will fit on your counter top, over your range or in a custom spot. The external dimensions can vary a lot, from 10 by 18 by 14 inches on the smaller side to 14 by 24 by 20 inches on the larger side.

Then there’s also the internal capacity, which can range from less than 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. There doesn’t seem to be any set rule for how internal capacity correlates to size (like 1 cubic foot = small, 1.5 cubic feet = medium, etc.), but here’s an attempt to break it down:

Compact: Under 1 cubic foot

Midsize: 1 to 1.5 cubic feet

Full-size: 1.6 to 2 cubic feet

Extra-large: More than 2 cubic feet

Most microwaves are somewhere around 1.4 to 1.8 cubic feet. Still not sure which size you need? If you’re out shopping, bring in a plate or bowl from home that you plan to use often to make sure that it fits inside the microwave.

Still in doubt? Measure everything, take notes and check with your appliance retailer for help deciding what would work best. For over-the-range and other built-in models, you most likely won’t be the one installing your new microwave, so you can always avail yourself of their expertise.

Wattage

Microwave wattage equals power. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Most microwaves sit somewhere between 600 to 1,200 watts. Larger, more expensive microwaves tend to have a higher wattage, so this is a price and size consideration that can strongly influence microwave cooking performance.

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This GE microwave has scan-to-cook tech via a related app.Chris Monroe/CNET

Features

Many microwaves share common functions. Here are some microwave cooking essentials: cook time, defrost, power level and timer. Each one requires your direct input, but they are usually very easy to set. Most microwaves have touch panel controls and a rotating carousel to spin your food for more even cooking.

Default settings

Many microwaves come with preset cooking modes so you only have to press one button to automatically cook a dish. For example, many microwaves have a “popcorn” button that will cook your bag based on factory settings. This can be handy for common dishes you heat in the microwave, but you’ll have to figure out if the microwave’s default cook times work for your own food. Other common presets include: baked potato, pizza, beverage, frozen dinner and reheat.

Broil

Manufacturers are increasingly including features in microwaves that mimic what we see in full-size ovens, such as a broiler. This is a good addition for finishing off a dish or cooking something for which you’d prefer more direct heat.

Convection

A convection fan that’s built into the back of a microwave oven circulates the heat around the food to cook things more quickly and evenly. (Many new full-size ovens come with at least one convection fan.) However, microwaves with convection fans are generally more expensive than those without.

Inverter technology

Inverter heating is another option available on some high-end models. If you want to heat something at a 50 percent power level, most microwaves actually switch between 100 percent power and 0 percent power to average in at 50 percent power. This doesn’t yield great results if you want to heat something on a lower heat and achieve an even result. So, some models now use inverter technology, which maintains a consistent 50 percent power. That way, you can poach salmon, make a fluffy omelet, etc.

Other advanced features

In addition to new heating technologies, higher-end models usually have more presets than just the basic pizza, popcorn and baked potato standard. Some use moisture sensors to detect food doneness. And we’ve started to see models include LED lighting on the interior.

“Smart” technology, i.e. options that connect microwaves to the internet and other products, aren’t as widespread in microwaves as we’ve seen in other kitchen appliances. However, we’ve seen GE Appliances include Bluetooth technology in some of its over-the-range microwaves. This connection, which GE calls “Chef Connect,” pairs the microwave with compatible GE ranges so the light and fan beneath the microwave automatically turns on when you turn on a burner.

More options

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Will the June Intelligent Oven become the next microwave?Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Other small appliances have started to make a case for forgoing the microwave, such as steam ovens that use water to cook for more moist heating or the basic toaster oven that mimics a full-size stove. These options promise to cook more effectively than a microwave, but it might take longer to reheat your food.

Smart countertop ovens have also started to become an option. The June Intelligent Oven uses facial recognition technology to identify food and cook it automatically, and the Tovala Smart Oven will scan packaged meals for automatic cooking, including frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. These options are promising, but the technology is too new to determine whether or not these will become kitchen staples.

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