Microwave Oven Buying Guide

A Guide To Discover The Best Microwave Oven for Your Kitchen

The Greatest Appliances Microwave Oven Buying Guide shares all you need to know to make an intelligent decision before buying your next Microwave.

Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide will teach you plenty. One thing you will learn is that it does not matter whether you enjoy cooking, have to rush around to throw dinner together, or relish heating up frozen dinners everyday.

A microwave oven is now an essential kitchen appliance in most households. The most common ways people use them are to defrost and reheat food and drink, however, our testing reveals that some microwaves just don’t do all that great at either task. If you already know all about microwaves and just want to find the best one to meet for your needs, be sure to check out our Microwave Oven Reviews. You should also check out all of our Appliance Buying Guides.

image of a cuisanart microwave oven buying guide

At Greatest Appliances we purchase each and every microwave oven we test. Our reviews include mid-sized and large countertop microwave ovens, over-the-range microwaves, and a couple of built-in units that integrate sleekly into their surrounding decor.

Throughout the course of testing, we discovered some major differences in overall performance. To check out the heating functionality, we heat up mashed potatoes, and we use frozen chicken to try out the defrost function. We also checked the speed of heating, noise levels, and reviewed how easy the models are to use. We also measures usable capacity as well—manufacturers sometimes include space you’ll learn that you have no use for. And finally, we checked to see how well over-the-range model ventilation performed.

Our Microwave Oven Guide Lists The Things to Consider

Available Budget

Countertop microwaves are normally cheaper than the other types, and mid-sized models start at about $70. Over-the-range microwaves, or OTRs, can be purchased for less than $200, but most of the ones we reviewed are north of $400. Models that were designed just to be built into a wall or cabinetry start at around $400, but kits can be purchased for some countertop microwaves that provide you with a built-in cheaper.

Location and Space

Consider your available space and where the microwave will work best for you. Obviously, countertop microwave ovens will tend to eat up a ton of counter space. As an example, the best-rated mid-size model is 22 inches wide and 17 inches deep.  The top-rated large microwave we reviewed is a whopping 24 inches wide and 20 inches deep. You are also going to need to consider the height of the unit and your available space too if you plan to tuck your microwave under kitchen cabinets. You can easily locate the dimensions on the model page for each microwave oven.


The most popular model are the countertop microwave ovens. The over-the-range microwaves are exactly that, they get installed over the range. The built-in model are those that are designed to be either built into a wall or surrounded by cabinets. There are also some countertop microwaves that are capable of being converted to built-ins with a specific kit. Finally, microwave drawers can be located under a countertop or beneath a wall oven.

Our Microwave Oven Guide Helps You Find Out Which Type is the Best for You?

The best type of microwave for you depends largely on your kitchen. You can select a countertop, built-in, or an over-the-range model. Keep in mind that the unit size will not always equal cooking space that you’ll be able to use. Our testing shows that usable capacity is around 50 percent of what manufactures say. We checked the amount of space you will actually use to reheat and defrost. Typically, higher wattage equals increased cooking power, however differences of 100 watts or so is not a big deal. You can find the watts in the Microwave Oven Specifications.

image of an LG countertop Microwave OvenCountertop Microwaves

Cost and ease-of-installation are very appealing. Just plug into a plain outlet—keep that outlet dedicated to just the microwave or it may trip the circuit breaker. These microwaves chew up a lot of space on the counter, so a big fat zero in usable capacity in our reviews. Also take note of the microwave’s dimensions, selecting the biggest capacity for the available space. A stainless finish is typical, and a convection feature is increasing in availability on more models.

$70 to $500 for mid-sized
$105 to $650 for large

Usable Capacity
The majority of (80%) tested models in this category have usable capacity at around 50-60% of what manufacturers state.

0.5 to 0.8 cubic feet for mid-sized
0.6 to 1.5 cubic feet for large

800 to 1,200 for mid-sized
900 to 1,250 for large

image of GE over the range microwave ovenOver-the-Range Microwaves

Also known better as OTRs, these models open up available counter space. But while they can be vented to the outside, don’t expect an OTR to vent as good as range hoods. Installing this may require an electrician.

$170 to $1,300

Usable Capacity
Most (85%) tested over-the-range microwaves offer usable capacity about 40-50% of what manufacturers state.

0.7 to 1.4 cubic feet

850 to 1200

image of fotile built in microwave ovenBuilt-In Microwaves

This type includes models made only to be built into a wall or surrounded by cabinetry. Microwave drawers, for example, can be installed under the countertop, getting them out of the line of sight, and glide out for quick access, or can be installed under a wall oven. They look well integrated and sleek. Some countertop microwaves can be built in with a kit.

$350 to $1500

Usable Capacity
We have not tested enough built-ins yet to figure out the average percentage of usable capacity in comparison to the claims of the manufacturers.

0.9 to 1.1

700 to 1,100

Our Microwave Oven Guide Lists The Features to Consider

As the number of features increase, so does the price. One that we feel is an invaluable microwave feature is the sensor, measuring the steam food produces and will turn off the microwave at the exact moment the cooking is done. Pretty slick. Below you will find more features to consider.

Turntables and Trays

These are what keeps food moving to ensure uniform heating. The majority of microwave ovens have a turntable that rotates food. Some have replaced the turntable with a rectangular tray, which slides from side to side (this may actually perform better for large platters or casseroles).

Quick Keys

A 1 minute or 30 second key needs only a tap to extend the preset cooking time, remaining at whatever power level was chosen. It also lets you make quick adjustments to settings you’d made previously—pushing the button more than one time multiplies the extension of time.


These racks allow you to speed things up, cooking multiple dishes at one time. They might also be used to improve convection cooking by letting the heat reach below the cooking dish. But you may have a difficult time fitting even a coffee mug in some models unless you take the rack out, so check when shopping.

Shortcut Keys

Get rid of the guesswork when cooking popular foods such as popcorn and frozen vegetables, and some models provide shortcuts for other foods such as oatmeal, pasta, stew, and grits.

Convection Cooking, Grilling, and Browning

These features offer the appeal of a secondary oven. However, none of the models we tested could consistently provide the results we’d gotten from a grill or a regular oven.

Child Lock

If you have children in the home, a lockout function aids in keeping them safe.

Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide Lists the Brands That Matter

Frigidaire is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

The Frigidaire microwaves, which are manufactured by Electrolux, sell products in the countertop, built-in, and over-the-range categories. Frigidaire models are sold for $80 to $450 at retailers nationwide.

GE is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

General Electric is one of the larger brands in the industry, and sells countertop and over-the-range (OTR) models.The ovens can be purchased in all big-box retailers and independent appliance dealers nationally. GE countertop models vary in price from $70 to $300, and OTR models range from $250 to $1,000.

Kenmore is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

This brand, sold at Sears, offers a wide range of countertop and over-the-range (OTR) microwave ovens, with prices that range anywhere from $70 to $350 for countertops, and $250 to $800 for OTR models.

LG is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

LG sells both countertop and over-the-range (OTR) microwaves. The prices vary from $150 to $300 for countertops, and $300 to $800 for OTR models. They can be purchased at Home Depot, Sears, and large regional and independent appliance dealers nationally.

Maytag is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

This brand provides a small choice of countertop models, but a larger range in over-the-range (OTR) category. Prices vary from as low as $100 up to more than $600, and products are sold at such big box stores as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and independent appliance retailers nationally.

Panasonic is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

This company offers a wide assortment of countertop microwave ovens in the U.S. market, which range from mid-level to high-end. A lot of Panasonic countertop models are convertible to built-in with a kit you can buy. Models vary in price from $100 to $800 and are available in many major retail stores.

Samsung is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

Samsung provides products in both countertop and over-the-range categories. The products range from basic to fully featured and are available nationally at all major retailers. Prices vary anywhere from $150 to $600.

Sharp is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

Sharp produces both countertop and over-the-range (OTR) models. They can be purchased from such retailers as Target, Best Buy, Lowe’s, Sears, and Wal-Mart. Price can cost anywhere from $70 to $800. Sharp also produces built-in microwave drawers that cost anywhere from $900 to $1,500.

Whirlpool is a Favorite of Our Microwave Oven Buying Guide

Whirlpool provides basic to multi-featured countertop and over-the-range models. The ovens can be purchased at most major retailers and cost anywhere from $300 to $800.

Other Brands

These are the other brands that make appearances in our reviews: Amana, Bosch, Electrolux, Haier, Hotpoint, KitchenAid, Magic Chef