Buying from one of the Most reliable microwave brand increases the likelihood that it will last longer, so you won’t be prematurely putting a broken countertop model on the curb or tearing out an over-the-range microwave that no longer functions.
Consumer Reports has identified the brands of microwaves most likely to last—and those most likely to develop problems or break—based on our members’ experiences with 57,712 over-the-range (OTR) microwaves and 49,866 countertop microwaves purchased new between 2009 and 2019.
Most reliable microwave
Six brands of countertop microwaves and three brands of OTR microwaves received high marks for reliability from our members. And based on their experiences, we cannot recommend three brands of countertop microwaves and four OTR brands.
When looking at the most reliable microwaves out there, we can see that there is a clear correlation between a reliable microwave model to a good quality microwave model. We can see users numerous users testifying that the machines that last the longest are often of outstanding quality. Users are–overall– delighted with these units and feel that they have a high value.
The microwaves rated highest for reliability are all countertop models, and their price range varies. Convection models have reduced reliability. Users chose Danby and RCAas the most reliable microwave brands.
In our top reliable microwaves list, we also calculated overall satisfaction levels and the price tag to bring you the best options of reliable microwaves.
Microwaves Rated Highest for Reliability
The Microwaves Rated Highest for Reliability were determined by an in-depth analysis of the collected opinions. Buzzrake took into account how frequently users mention reliability positively or negatively.961. Farberware 1.1 Cu.Ft. MicrowaveUsers chose the Farberware 1.1 Cu.Ft. Microwave as the #1 most reliable microwave oven.
This microwave features a 1.1 Cubic Feet of cooking capacity and 1100 Watts of output power. It uses Smart Sensor technology to monitor the temperature and the amount of steam coming from the food to auto-decides how long it should continue heating. It also features Express Cooking, Memory function for customized settings, 30-Seconds button, ten power setting levels, and Child Safety Lock function. The Blue LED display and Interior LED lighting makes this microwave easy to use.
Though this product comes with many advanced features, opinions show that it is durable and will not fail or break after a short period. This microwave’s quality ratings are high compared to other microwaves. Opinions show that this reliable model also has good looks.
942. Avanti 0.7 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave OvenUsers rank the Avanti 0.7 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave Oven the #3 most reliable microwave oven.
It produces 700 Watts of power and has Seven auto-cook programs. With dimensions of 19.5 x 14 x 11.5 inches, this compact microwave will fit well in any kitchen. This microwave is pretty simple but also very durable. This microwave’s quality ratings are much higher than average. Owners say that they would probably repurchase this product, knowing what they know now. Also, consumers feel that they are really getting their money’s worth with this product, and it receives high above average value ratings.
With average pricing and simple functionality, this seems to be the best choice for a reliable small kitchen microwave.
933. LG 0.9 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave OvenAccording to users, the LG 0.9 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave Oven is the #3 most reliable microwave.
This product includes an EasyClean interior feature that is assisted by Anti-Bacterial coating. This coating resists stains and buildups, makes that task of microwave cleaning so much easier than other models. On the exterior, you can find the smooth surface easily wipes clean. This durable model features the SmoothTouch glass controls that makes operating your range so much cooler with just a touch of your finger.
Owners report that they would probably buy this product again, knowing what they know now. Owners find that they are getting their money’s worth with this product, and its value rating is above average. However, it is not very quiet during operation
934. BLACK+DECKER 1.1 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave OvenThe BLACK+DECKER 1.1 Cu. Ft. Countertop Microwave Oven is considered the #5 most reliable microwave oven.
It features ten different power levels for you to choose from and time or weight defrost feature. It also comes with an Auto-menu function for popular foods like Popcorn, Pizza, Frozen Vegetables, and more. This product dimensions are 22.9 x 18 x 14 inches.
Owners say that they would probably recommend it to others. Owners feel that they are getting their money’s worth with this durable product, and it receives high above average value ratings. However, it is not very quiet during operation.
925. Farberware 0.7 Cu.Ft. Countertop MicrowaveThe Farberware 0.7 Cu.Ft. Countertop Microwave is the #5 most reliable microwave.
With dimentions of 17.8 x 12.9 x 10.1 inches, this microwave comes with nice digital controls and LED display for clock and kitchen timer. It features 10 power levels and an Express cooking quick start controls (1-6 minutes). This Fareberware microwave also includes 6 one-touch cooking functions for popular foods such as pizza, dinner plate, beverage and more.
Owners say that they would probably rebuy this product, using it and knowing what they know now. Opinions show that users feel that they are getting great value-for-money worth with this product, and it is rated highly for value. However, with 700-Watt, some users are disappointed with this unit’s performance.
The Safest Countertop Microwaves for 2020
Microwave ovens offer one of the most energy-efficient ways to cook food, but like any cooking method, there are some safety issues to consider. I’ve already written about how to choose a safe microwave oven, including a look at who regulates microwave ovens and how to use a microwave oven safely. This time, I’ll look at some known safety issues with microwaves, the brands you might want to avoid, and the safest microwaves for 2020. You can read about our unique research process here.
Below, we offer our top picks by category for the safest countertop microwaves. For more detail, scroll down for extensive reviews.
Best microwave for big families – Panasonic NN-SN966S Stainless Steel Microwave
The Panasonic NN-SN966S Stainless Steel Microwave (View Price on Amazon) is a high-powered, high-capacity (but relatively compact!) microwave that’s perfect for big families or anyone who loves cooking bigger items. It can work as a countertop unit or a built-in, offers 1250 W of power, and has 2.2 cubic feet of space in a pretty small footprint. This is thanks to clever design with less space used for electronics and more space dedicated to interior capacity. This attention to detail also helps make the unit lighter than similarly sized models. This Panasonic microwave also features inverter technology, meaning a constant stream of energy rather than the pulsing on-off at lower temperatures seen with most microwaves. This enables more even cooking, especially for foods that need to simmer or melt slowly.CHECK PANASONIC NN-SN966S STAINLESS STEEL MICROWAVE PRICE ON AMAZON
Best microwave for mid-size families and couples – Panasonic NN-SU696S Stainless Steel Microwave
Once again, Panasonic get my top rating for safest microwave oven, this time for mid-size families and couples. This is because their NN-SU696S model (View Price on Amazon) has all the safety features of the larger 2.2 cu. ft. model with just a little less power (1100 W) and a little less capacity (1.3 cu. ft.). This smaller Panasonic model has 7 preset autocook settings, a 12.4 inch diameter turntable, +30 second cooktime, a keep warm feature, and the child safety lock and delay start and timer.CHECK PANASONIC NN-SU696S STAINLESS STEEL MICROWAVE PRICE ON AMAZON
Best microwave for singles, dorm rooms, and small spaces – Panasonic NN-SD372S Stainless Steel Microwave
In danger of sounding like a broken record, one of the best options for a safe microwave for dorm rooms, small spaces, the office, or those who mainly use their microwave for mug cakes is… a Panasonic. The NN-SD372S (View Price on Amazon) is a 0.8 cu. ft., 950 W model with the Genius Sensor and inverter technology that make this brand a go-to for microwave ovens in any size. This one features the same delay start function as the larger models. As such, you can set your cook-time and then step away from the microwave to almost entirely eliminate the risk of radiation exposure. It also has a child safety lock feature, turbo defrost, quick minute timer, preset menu items, and easy power adjustment.CHECK PANASONIC NN-SD372S STAINLESS STEEL MICROWAVE PRICE ON AMAZON
While researching this piece for Leaf Score, I confess, I went and unplugged the microwave languishing in the corner of my kitchen. I don’t use this more than once or twice a month, so it was wasting energy anyway, but the reports of self-starting made me look a little differently at this machine that was here when I moved into the house last year.
So, consider this your timely reminded that accidents happen and even proper use of the microwave could inadvertently cause a fire. If you’re concerned about the risk of self-starts, arcing and sparking, consider unplugging the microwave whenever it’s not in use.
You might also want to consider installing the Safe T Sensor. This product plugs into your electrical outlet and your microwave plugs into the sensor, allowing the sensor to interrupt power to the microwave oven at the first sign of smoke. You can also take the step of simply unplugging the microwave when it’s not in use, and never letting the microwave run unattended (as with any cooking appliance).
The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) reports 6,700 average house fires annually caused by microwave ovens between 2011 and 2015, resulting in 10 deaths, 120 injuries, and $33 million in property damage every year. Per fire, there was an average financial loss of $4,900. So, spending a little more on a better quality microwave and some batteries for your smoke alarm, plus a Safe T Sensor, seems like a bargain in comparison.
Other ways to stay safe include registering your microwave with the manufacturer, so you can be informed of any recalls or safety issues. Know where the unit is plugged in and how to cut the electricity supply should there be any problems with the microwave. It’s also a good idea to have a multipurpose fire extinguisher close by and to make sure everyone who might use it knows how to use it safely.
Choosing a safe microwave
Microwaves are typically a heck of a lot cheaper than an oven range, dishwasher, or refrigerator, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think hard about where to spend your money. Getting a subpar microwave may mean you have to tear it out from over your range, get it repaired, or even replace it after a short time. This isn’t good for you bank balance or for the environment, even if you do take your old microwave to be recycled.
Finding a microwave that is reliable, performs well, and meets or exceeds safety standards is best. How do you do that? Here’s a checklist to get your started:
- Check for the safety certificates that come with most microwaves
- Look for safety recalls as listed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- Run a quick search online for any known safety issues with any model you’re considering
- Look specifically for reviews mentioning issues with door seals and locking, or other safety concerns
Top tip – if you buy or acquire a microwave secondhand, check the CPSC for any safety recalls!
My other top tip is to look for a microwave with a ‘delay start’ feature. This is a way of ‘safety-hacking’ your microwave to get it to start after you’ve already stepped away from the unit. Yes, it takes a little more programming, but all you need to do is make sure the clock is set, then set the oven to start cooking a minute after the current time. Press ‘start’, then step away to a safe distance (at least 50 cm). Don’t be tempted to use this feature to set the microwave to start cooking while you’re out of the room, though. Unattended cooking appliances are the number one cause of home fires, so always monitor your microwave when it’s in use.
One last thing to note: when choosing a microwave, consider the likelihood that you’ll move house in the next few years. Why? Because built-in and over-the-range microwaves are much harder to relocate, compared to a countertop model. Also, countertop models generally have better ventilation potential, reducing the risk of overheating and damage to cabinetry, or a full-on housefire.
The most reliable, high-performing, safest microwave ovens
At Leaf Score we’re concerned both with safety and with the environment. As such, it’s maddening that the average lifespan of a microwave has dropped by nearly seven years over the last 20 years – from more than a decade to six-eight years – according to a report out of the University of Manchester, UK. By 2020, 16 million microwaves are expected to be discarded each year and barely any of the embedded value in these machines will be reclaimed.
The same report also noted that microwave use in the European Union is responsible for the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of two coal-powered power plants every year. The best way to reduce such emissions is to use microwaves more effectively, including choosing shorter cooking times rather than blasting food unnecessarily.
So, consider safety, reliability, and performance when choosing you new microwave, and make sure to take your old microwave to a local recycling depot where possible.
The best microwave brands
In all honesty, after days of research, there’s very little to distinguish any particular brand from another when it comes to microwave ovens. Almost all brands have their ardent fans and their passionate detractors. Looking at research from Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, Ethical Consumer, and a range of other professional review sites suggests a few top brands, however.
Panasonic and Toshiba feature time and again in lists of top picks, which is unsurprising given the sheer number of happy customers who love their microwaves from these brands. Panasonic offer a range of sizes, while Toshiba seem to specialize in more compact microwaves.
Other brands to look out for include Black & Decker, a company I also favor for lawn mowers because of their environmental policies. Miele are a top pick in terms of ethics, but are a high end brand with a price out of the range of most consumers.
Frigidaire, Hotpoint, Kenmore, and Ikea (yes!) are arguably the best bet for an OTR microwave as these seem to be more reliable and perform well. I also like Ikea’s ever-improving approach to sustainability and environmental awareness.
For countertop models, the best options seem to be those from Avanti and Farberware, both of which seem reliable and perform well.
Before I give you my top picks for microwave ovens, take a moment to consider the size of microwave you might need. Most countertop microwaves range from around 0.5 cubic feet (which can fit most 10-inch dinner plates) to just over 2 cubic feet (which may accommodate plates with a 15-inch diameter). For most homes, a microwave with 1-2 cu. ft. is more than enough. And, the more power and more capacity, the more resources and electricity your microwave will use and the more space it takes up in your kitchen.
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.
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:
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.