Home cooks can choose among a few different types of cheap blenders: conventional countertop blenders, immersion or hand blenders, and increasingly popular single-serve or personal blenders. This buying guide covers all three types, but the best cheap blender for most consumers is a conventional full-size model. Countertop blenders in the under-$40 range are versatile appliances that can purée, crush, chop, and mix -- perhaps not with the abandon of pricier models but good enough for smoothies, soups, salsas, frozen drinks, and the like. Our analysis of specifications, user reviews, and tests by consumer-product experts turned up decent blenders for a fraction of the cost of a Vitamix.
Cheap Blenders Buying Guide
The two models that top our list are class stalwarts: the Hamilton Beach 58148 Power Elite (starting at $28) and the Oster 6694 Accurate Blend 200 (starting at $22). Some contrary reports aside, both garner support among consumers for their ability to process silky frozen-fruit smoothies, ice cream shakes, and hearty soups and to pulverize semi-hard foods. Standing in second place for similar reasons but with slightly fewer enthusiastic reviews is the Oster 6647 Simple Blend 200 (starting at $25). The Black & Decker BL1130SG FusionBlade (starting at $25) claims some fans but has been tarred by other reviewers for insufficient power and leakage.
None of these models is a universal winner. Cheap blenders are bare-bones kitchen appliances with a small motor, a blade with several tips, a container with a lid, and push-button controls. Although users are satisfied with the overall value, we didn't have to look far to find grousing about apparent lemons (total breakdown), undesirable texture (lumpy shakes or uneven crumbs), and parts that malfunction (cracked lids or gaskets, for example).
Blender Brands.Cuisinart, KitchenAid, and Waring make popular high-performance models with stronger motors and features such as electronic touch pads and variable speed. Still, they often earn about the same average ratings from users as the best budget blenders do. At the apex of the universe for home countertop blenders stands Vitamix, with the usual array of upscale features, plus a seven-year warranty and a favorable reputation among consumers. In the end, though, even some experts question whether the package is sufficient to justify a mid-triple-digit price tag. The entry-level end of the market is dominated by Oster and Hamilton Beach, each fielding multiple entries that boast more similarities than differences. Black & Decker and Proctor Silex are lesser presences and overall don't claim the same following among consumers.
Other Blender Types.An immersion (aka hand, stick, or wand) blender that's plunged into a pot, bowl, or canister excels at liquidy concoctions, puréed soups, dips, and baby food. It's convenient -- one less container to wash -- and small enough to store out of sight. The best entry-level immersion blender we found is the Hamilton Beach 59765 2-Speed Hand Blender (starting at $22).
Single-serve blenders are popular with smoothie addicts keen on afternoon pick-me-ups and blended drinks to carry on the go. The best value buy in this category is the Hamilton Beach 51101 Single-Serve Blender (starting at $15), which comes with a travel lid.
The hybrid Ninja Master Prep QB900B (starting at $30) features a pulse-control power pod with detachable blades that goes into a large pitcher or small work bowl. This cross between a conventional blender, an immersion blender, and a mini food processor appeals to consumers with a fondness for slushy frozen drinks. Reviews indicate it also does a commendable job puréeing vegetables, blending smoothies, and shredding cooked meats.
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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
What We Looked For
700 Watts of Power.Although other factors affect performance, generally the higher the wattage, the heavier the load a blender can handle. Consumers who plan to churn out viscous shakes and purées, mash softer foods, and pulverize cookies into crumbs should choose a blender with at least 700 watts of peak power. This zenith occurs the moment a blender whirs into action and then decreases, typically to 450 watts, as it blends away. Any less and the results are likely to disappoint, especially for things like hard nuggets of ice, frozen fruits and vegetables, powders, and cooked beans. High-priced blenders with double or even triple the power can take on heavy-duty tasks -- such as milking almonds for all they're worth -- that would shorten the useful life of an entry-level blender.
All three of our top picks put out 700 watts of power for that initial spurt of energy. By contrast, peak power on the Black & Decker FusionBlade is 550 watts, a level that users assert isn't often up to the smooth-smoothie challenge. The 400-watt motor on the Ninja Master Prep QB900 seems weak on paper, but scores of users report that the power pod handily crushes ice and bests conventional blenders for routine tasks, a performance that may reflect the pod's pulse action and top-down two-tier blade design.
Four-Tip Blade.The blade at the bottom of a conventional blender container should have four tips that are slightly tapered or serrated, with two curving upward and two curving downward. This arrangement helps to keep the contents churning without leaving ingredients sitting unprocessed at the top or sides of the container. All our top picks meet this standard. The Black & Decker FusionBlade uses a proprietary two-tip blade.
Glass Pitcher.Some blenders in the budget price range come with a plastic pitcher, but glass is generally preferred -- and included with all the countertop models among our top picks. It's quieter, easier to clean, more stable, and better able to accommodate hot liquids.
Plastic pitchers are lighter and less prone to breaking but can crack, stain, discolor in the dishwasher, and absorb food odors. For compact single-serve machines, a plastic container is the norm -- and safer for travel. Many consumers look for plastic containers that are BPA-free, and the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender and the Ninja Master Prep meet this criterion.
40-Ounce Capacity.The preferred pitcher capacity clearly depends on the intended purpose. Choosing a conventional blender that can hold at least 40 ounces (5 cups) ensures flexibility: Use the appliance to make one serving or several, purée soup for the family, mix frozen cocktails for a crowd, or experiment with DIY mayonnaise. Among our top picks, the Oster 6694 Accurate Blend 200 has the largest capacity: 48 ounces (6 cups). The Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender holds 14 ounces.
One handy feature of all the conventional models we researched is a removable cup or hinged cap in the lid that leaves an opening to add ingredients while the blender is running. The cups typically contain measurement markings to help when adding small amounts of ingredients.
What We Ignored
Speeds.Entry-level countertop blenders feature multiple speeds and/or settings. Standard functions include stir, mix, crumb, whip, chop, blend, liquefy, purée, and so on. Some sport an ice-crush mode and an easy-clean setting, and most include pulse. (The hybrid Ninja Master Prep is pulse-only.) At this end of the market, experts and consumers say there's little difference from one speed to the next, although having options with a span from low to high (plus pulse) is critical. In other words, it doesn't matter much whether there are 10 speeds or 14. That said, the primary difference between Oster's Simple Blend 200 and Accurate Blend 200 is the number of speeds, and we saw fewer positive reviews for the 10-speed Simple Blend 200 than for the 14-speed Accurate Blend model.
To make our final picks, we relied primarily on blender reviews posted by consumers on retail sites such Amazon, Best Buy, Sears, and Walmart, as well as testing by the Good Housekeeping Institute. Budget blenders don't get much attention from experts, however, even in a nearly exhaustive review of the market by a leading consumer-product testing organization. As a category, cheap conventional blenders receive mixed reviews for performance and durability. Many can handle small pieces of vegetables and greens, with appropriate amounts of liquid thrown in, but grinding foods such as raw meat or coconut generally is not recommended. There is consensus that all the small kitchen appliances we researched are easy to clean and user-friendly, although the countertop models, in particular, seem noisy. Inexpensive blenders may last years or just months depending on frequency of use, the tasks imposed on them, and just plain luck. Pushing a blender beyond its capacities likely will lead to an early demise.
Blending Performance.The true test of a blender's worth is how well it executes. Does it blend thoroughly? Can it grind nuts finely, chop carrots evenly? What about turning ice cubes into snow? For the most part, the answer to those questions is "yes" for the best cheap blenders, although a minority of reviewers assert that our picks fail at even the most rudimentary blending jobs. It's possible, however, that results depend partly on the user: Did he or she follow the manufacturer's instructions to, say, add cool water to the container when chopping raw vegetables or limit the amount of coffee beans for grinding to 1 cup? The answer to this is unknowable and complicates the assessment of any blender's performance.
Taking the reviews at face value, though, this is what we found: The Hamilton Beach Power Elite earns 4 or 5 stars from more than 70 percent of nearly 2,000 reviewers on Amazon, many of whom proclaim it whips frozen fruit smoothies (even with added extras, such as oatmeal or protein powder) to a veritable froth and makes mincemeat of ice cubes. The Oster Accurate Blend 200 merits similar accolades from scores of reviewers on sites such as Walmart, while the Oster Simple Blend 200 wins praise for solid performance overall. We came across occasional griping about all these machines for lumpy results and vibrations or shaking. Relatively more complaints are lodged against the Black & Decker FusionBlade for such failings.
Cleanup.If you have time to hand wash a blender instead of putting it in the dishwasher, do so. Despite manufacturers' assertions that some blenders are dishwasher-safe, experts say the rubber gasket may shrink or warp over time from frequent exposure to the high heat and drying cycles in a dishwasher. Fortunately, most blenders offer no-fuss cleanup. In several blender reviews we read, consumers say pouring in soapy water and whirring the blender for a few seconds does the trick.
Durability.All the conventional blenders on our list come with a warranty of at least two years. Although some churn merrily away without mishap, early breakdowns (sometimes within days of purchase), cracked lids, and leaking from the bottom are reported for each model. This latter flaw shows up comparatively more often in reviews of the Black & Decker FusionBlade than for the others.
Replacement parts are available for some budget blenders. Oster, for example, charges $10 for a new glass jar that fits the Accurate Blend 200, and Hamilton Beach asks $13 for a new blade assembly for the Power Elite model. Some consumers take advantage of the spare parts, but others say they'd just as soon buy a new blender given the minimal cost, especially after factoring in shipping for the parts.