The Best Cheap Microwave Ovens
Cheapism surveyed the market and read scores of reviews by experts and consumers to identify the best cheap microwaves. Most of our compact countertop picks cost around $100 or less and meet reviewers' expectations for features, thorough cooking or heating, and ease of use. In our full buying guide, we explain what we looked for and what potential buyers should consider in determining the best microwave for their budget.
Prices and availability are subject to change.
Our Top Pick
Toshiba EM925A5A-SS Review
- Moderately powerful 900-watt microwave.
- Cooks food very evenly, according to professional tests.
- Measuring just 19.2 x 15.9 x 11.5 inches, this compact microwave is ideal for tighter spaces.
- 10 power levels and 6 presets.
- Mute button to silence alert tones.
- Modern, attractive stainless steel finish.
- Some quality-control complaints.
- A few owners say it’s very noisy.
- 1-year warranty is on the shorter side.
Takeaway: Many experts, including reviewers at both Wirecutter and Good Housekeeping, recommend this countertop Toshiba microwave oven and say it strikes a good balance between size, power, and cooking performance in the kitchen. With just a 0.9-cubic-foot interior capacity, it’s on the small side, but there’s still room for a 10.6-inch turntable that can fit a 9-inch-square baking dish. In testing conducted by Wirecutter, the Toshiba performed very well, cooking and reheating a variety of foods and beverages to perfection; although, as with most cheaper microwaves, it didn’t defrost quite as well.
Most consumer feedback is quite positive, and owners appreciate features like the preprogrammed settings for everything from popcorn to pizza and multiple quick-start options (1 to 6 minutes). There’s even the option to program multi-stage cooking. Reviewers praise the sleek looks and chunky handle, which is easier to use than the push-button door openers on many small microwaves. However, there is a small but vocal minority of buyers who complain of appliances that either malfunctioned or quit working within weeks of purchase. We also read a number of complaints that this Toshiba microwave is particularly noisy. But even some unhappy owners concede that Toshiba’s customer support was generally helpful and, as reviewers at Wirecutter point out, Toshiba is one of the few manufacturers that doesn’t force the owner to pay for shipping a defective microwave for repairs. A black stainless steel model, the Toshiba EM925A5A-BS, is available on Amazon for just a bit more.
Hamilton Beach EM720CGA-PM Review
- 700-watt microwave covers the essentials despite the cheap price.
- At 17.3 x 13.4 x 10.2 inches, it’s a good size for an RV, mobile home, dorm, or apartment kitchen.
- Available in 3 colors — white, black, or red — to match decor.
- Door can be difficult to open, according to many reviewers.
- Control panel isn’t always responsive.
- Condensation is apt to form on the window, some owners say.
Takeaway: This Walmart-exclusive model gets very positive owner reviews — something that can’t be said of many other 0.7-cubic-foot microwave ovens this cheap. It’s a good fit as a “starter” appliance or a low-use unit for a small office kitchen or vacation home. Although it lacks the frills and fancy stainless steel styling of some models, it’s got the same range of basic features that pricier countertop microwaves have, including two defrost modes, six presets, and 10 power levels. With just 700 watts, cooking times tend to be longer than some users say they expect, although on the plus side, it won’t overload an RV’s power system. For simple tasks, like popping popcorn, cooking a frozen entree, or reheating leftover food, the Hamilton Beach performs as well as expected.
Small microwaves like this aren’t necessarily known for sturdy construction, and several owners say this unit is so lightweight they have to use one hand to open the door and the other to steady the unit. Others complain that the keypad requires a particularly firm touch. Early demises — and even internal sparking — also are not unheard of, and the one-year warranty offers scant coverage. But, given the incredibly low price, and more than a thousand 5-star reviews posted on Walmart’s website, the positives appear to outweigh potential negatives.
GE JES1145SHSS Review
- Named one of the best compact microwaves by Top Ten Reviews.
- Slightly more powerful and spacious than our top choice for best value, the Toshiba EM925A5A-SS, with 950 watts and a 1.1-cubic-foot interior.
- Heats and defrosts food well for a model this size, according to tests.
- 12.75-inch turntable can accommodate a mixing bowl or large dinner plate.
- Despite a wider footprint, measuring 20.3 x 15.6 x 12 inches, a low profile helps it fit under cabinets.
- Comes in 3 finishes, including stainless steel.
- Door-release button takes effort to use, some owners say.
- Control panel labels are prone to wear, according to user reviews.
- 1-year warranty is relatively short.
Takeaway: If you need something slightly larger but don’t want a full-size model in your kitchen, this 1.1-cubic-foot GE microwave oven is an excellent buy, according to expert reviews. The 950-watt cooking power is a bit low for a microwave of its size, but it’s a step up from smaller microwaves, and testers at Top Ten Reviews say the GE JES1145SHSS is among the top performers they’ve tried. With the usual 10 power levels, two defrost options (time and weight), and six auto-cook buttons (popcorn, frozen vegetable, pizza, etc.), where this microwave stands out is in its ability to capably handle nearly any task thrown at it. In testing it excelled at popping corn thoroughly and evenly and was able to heat up most frozen foods within the recommended time (baking potatoes, however, may take a bit of trial and error to achieve perfection).
Most consumers give this GE countertop microwave oven high marks as well, although we did see some complaints that it’s noisy when cooking and that the white-on-gray text on the control panel can be hard to read — both somewhat subjective critiques. If a stainless steel finish doesn’t suit your fancy, this microwave is also available in black or white.
Magic Chef HMM1611ST2 Review
- Very inexpensive for a microwave of this size and cooking wattage: 1.6 cubic feet and 1,100 watts.
- 13.4-inch turntable can fit baking dishes and large dinner plates easily.
- 11 power levels provide customization.
- Kitchen timer is a nice extra.
- 8-year warranty on the magnetron is longer than average (1 year on all other parts).
- Many owners complain of noise.
- Gray interior and dim light makes it hard to see food, some reviewers say.
- A handful of reviews claim the microwave stopped working after a few months.
Takeaway: If you and your family use a microwave oven on a daily basis, this MagicChef countertop model is a relatively powerful option that strikes the right balance of price and performance, reviewers say. There’s plenty of space inside, making even casserole prep an easy chore, and users appreciate its simple functionality.
While the previous version of the Magic Chef HMM1611ST earned very solid marks from owners, earning an average of 4.4 stars from more than 1,000 consumers on Home Depot’s website, the brand recently gave this unit a facelift, making some cosmetic changes to the door and control panel and lowering the height by an inch so it fits in tight kitchen spaces more easily. Magic Chef also upped the number of power levels from 10 to 11. But key features were left as is, like the previous roster of presets (six) and defrost modes (three, although one is technically just 30% power), so we expect this version to prove just as capable — and popular — as its predecessor. A Home Depot exclusive, this Magic Chef microwave oven measures 21.8 x 19.2 x 12.8 inches and is available in both black and stainless steel.
Panasonic NN-SN736 Review
- 1,250 watts and 1.6 cubic feet of interior space make this a formidable cooking appliance.
- 15-inch turntable can accommodate 9-by-15-inch baking dish.
- 10 power levels and 14 sensor cooking modes.
- Lots of extra features — like turbo defrost, delay start, keep warm, and multi-stage cooking — not found on cheaper models.
- Can be mounted on a wall or in a cabinet with an optional trim kit.
- Struggled to fully cook a baked potato and had some issues with thawing in Wirecutter testing.
- A handful of owners say the microwave died within 2 years.
- Like most microwaves this powerful, it takes up a lot of counter space, at 21.9 x 19.4 x 12 inches.
- Unlike most pricey microwaves, comes in only black and white; no stainless steel option.
Takeaway: In terms of power and size, this Panasonic countertop microwave oven dominates all other models in our review. It’s also big on features, with a host of conveniences meant to make quick and easy work of food prep. Steam sensors allow the microwave to automatically adjust cook time and power output for best results, and Panasonic’s proprietary Inverter Technology is supposed to modulate cooking temperatures better and cook more evenly than conventional models.
While professional testers at Consumer Reports and Wirecutter are a bit divided on this microwave oven’s performance — reviewers at Wirecutter are a bit more skeptical of its cooking and defrosting capabilities (they say it overcooked meat set to thaw) — a majority of buyers at Amazon, Home Depot, and Walmart give the Panasonic an enthusiastic thumbs-up. In fact, among Panasonic NN-SN736 owners, the most consistent gripes have little to do with how it cooks food and more to do with quality: We saw reports of turntables that rotated unevenly; microwave doors that were hard to open or felt cheap; and a control panel that was difficult for some to use. This Panasonic microwave oven carries a one-year warranty on parts and labor and five years on the magnetron.
Daewoo KOR07R3ZE Review
- Controls are simple and intuitive, according to reviews.
- Streamlined vintage-yet-modern design and color options are appealing, buyers say.
- Covers the basics with 5 power levels and 5 auto cook options, as well as a dedicated popcorn button and 2 defrost modes.
- Energy saving: Automatically shuts off when not in use.
- Fewer features than other, cheaper microwaves.
- No clock.
- Feels flimsy to some owners.
- Short 1-year warranty.
Takeaway: Owners say the real appeal of this Daewoo microwave, the latest in the brand's retro series, is its looks. They insist that the sleek “vintage” design and quirky cream, red, minty aqua, and "city blue" color options (no stainless steel here) add a welcome dash of flair to their kitchens. As with any 700-watt microwave, cooking times are longer than they would be with more powerful models, something several otherwise-satisfied reviewers of the previous model complain about. It also lacks the ability to fine-tune power levels and other settings to the same extent as other cheap microwaves — and don’t even think about sophisticated sensor cook options.
With a capacity of just 0.7 cubic feet and a 10-inch turntable, this microwave oven won’t accommodate oversize dinner plates. But for a dorm room, a vacation home, or a cramped city apartment, this compact model (17.6 x 12.8 x 10.2 inches) is sufficient for small kitchen tasks like reheating leftovers or cooking soup. And, judging by its many fans, it’s clearly big on charm.
Cuisinart CMW-200 Review
- Relatively low price for a convection microwave oven (but still not cheap).
- Rack allows two items to be cooked at once.
- 9 preset cooking options and 8 different cooking functions including grill mode; can be programmed for multi-stage cooking.
- 3-year warranty is longer than average.
- Defrosts unevenly and slowly, according to some reviews.
- More than a few owners complain about build quality and poor customer service.
Takeaway: Convection microwaves combine wave-based and heat-based technologies to cook foods faster and more evenly inside, while at the same time browning and crisping the outside of food — something conventional microwaves can’t do. Convection models also tend to be more expensive, regularly selling for $300 or more. Price alone makes this Cuisinart microwave a winner for some frugal consumers, even if its overall performance is only so-so.
The 1,000-watt microwave oven itself gets good marks for being powerful and speedy, but the convection function takes a long time to heat up, some owners grouse, and a few people note that frozen foods have proved a particular challenge (a baking sheet helps, other reviewers say). It has a generous 1.2-cubic-foot capacity, and the 12-inch turntable can easily handle a medium-size baking dish or a large dinner plate, yet its exterior dimensions (21.2 x 19 x 12.2 inches) are compact enough to fit in some boats and RVs, according to owner reviews we read on Amazon.
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