Best Cheap Ranges
Published on By Elizabeth Sheer
GE JBS55DM Review
(From $495.00 Best)
Best Electric Range. With its smooth cook-top and extra-large manual-clean oven, this budget range is feature rich. Users say it cooks and bakes evenly, and they appreciate the light indicating when a burner is still hot, even when turned off.
For a low-cost electric range, the GE JBS55DM (starting at $495, Amazon) delivers a lot. Chief among the notable features is the smooth cooktop. According to GE JBS55DM reviews, most home cooks wouldn't have it any other way. Several reviews posted at Lowe's mention the ease of cleaning and others commend the aesthetics, saying the ceramic glass surface looks far more attractive than the traditional (and some would argue, unsightly) electric coils. One user notes in a review at Home Depot that it's easy to forget this budget range is an appliance and to treat it like a countertop. (Note to consumers: This is not a good idea.) The cooking chops of the GE JBS55DM also earn a fair bit of praise, with many reviewers reporting that the controls are responsive (both boiling and simmering are easily achieved) and the oven browns and bakes evenly.
Some GE JBS55DM reviews, however, are somewhat muted. Detractors say the cooktop scratches easily and food takes a long time to cook, ostensibly because the heating elements don't get hot enough. A few reviews at Consumer Reports say the oven is slow to preheat and others assert it doesn't come up to the desired temperature. Grousing about the need for flat-bottomed pans and special cleaning solution occasionally pops up in reviews.
In addition to the flat cooktop, the GE JBS55DM boasts several appealing features. The oven is a large 5.3 cubic feet and sports a broiling element at the top that can be set to variable temperatures, a large window in the door, and a Sabbath mode setting, which keeps the oven going beyond the usual 12-hour safety shut-down. (The oven is not self-cleaning, a deficiency that slightly disappoints some users.) There are two 6-inch elements (1,500 watts each) and two 8-inch elements (2,000 watts each) and a hot-surface indicator light. The GE JBS55DM also features a digital temperature display and clock. It's available in white, black, stainless steel, and "clean steel" finishes and comes with the standard one-year warranty.
You won't find many bells and whistles on this electric range, but consumers are impressed with the overall quality and usability. For the price, it's hard to beat.
Frigidaire FGF348KS Review
(From $539.00 Best)
Best Gas Range. A five-burner gas stove with heavy, cast iron grates is a surprise at this price. The oven is on the small side, but consumers thrill to the extra oval-shaped burner, even cooking, and simple electronic controls.
The Frigidaire FGF348KS (starting at $539) is a relatively snazzy gas stove with a comparatively frugal price and estimable performance. Frigidaire FGF348KS reviews at Lowe's give this model points for the heavy, continuous cast iron grates; an oval, fifth burner at the center of the stovetop; accurate oven temperatures that yield evenly-baked foods; and steady heat output from the burners. Although one review quibbles that the high-power burner is insufficiently hot for Asian cooking, another says the flames burn hotter than the coils on an electric stove the reviewer had used previously. The sealed burners and grates (dishwasher safe) are easy to clean, assert reviews, and pots don't slip and slide on the cast iron. Cooks say the oval fifth burner is handy for breakfast items, stove-top barbecue, and oddly-shaped cookware.
The glitz of the stovetop is partially offset by a few compromises on the Frigidaire FGF348KS's oven. The oven on is only 4.2 cubic feet, which will require some juggling when feeding a hungry crowd, and there's no self-cleaning mode, although Frigidaire FGF348KS reviews assert oven cleanup is easy enough. The digital touchpad for the oven offers lots of settings (temperature levels can be moved up or down in 5-degree increments) but the timer beeps irritatingly until it's turned off; one review at the company website laments the absence of an automatic shut-off. The broiler is located in a low drawer beneath the oven, which may necessitate a lot of deep-knee bending.
The burners, meanwhile, offer cooks lots of versatility. There are two standard 9,500-BTU burners, one power burner with 14,000 BTUs, a simmer burner with 5,000 BTU, and the middle, oval burner with 9,500 BTUs. The Frigidaire FGF348KS also features a Sabbath mode. This model is available in white and stainless steel (the latter often priced beyond the Cheapism ceiling) and comes with a one-year warranty.
The Frigidaire FGF348KS is much admired by users, especially given the budget pricing. If you're looking for a cheap gas range and white matches the kitchen decor, this is the model to choose.
Where to buy
Kenmore 70402 Review
(From $360.00 Good)
Good Gas Range. This basic gas stove features a broiler in a drawer underneath the oven and four standard burners. It appeals for its simplicity but presents with some irksome design issues.
As a consumer once said about the Kenmore 70402 (starting at $360), this gas-fired model is no sleek foreign car, but a basic domestic that gets you where you need to go. Indeed, Kenmore 70402 reviews posted at Sears commend the simplicity and ease of use; who needs all those confounding features and buttons, anyway? ask several reviews. Users say the stovetop burners give out plenty of heat and the oven warms up quickly, although a few say the top part of the oven gets hotter than the bottom (a common critique of low-cost gas ovens). Cleaning, apparently, is a no-struggle affair.
But for all its positive attributes, several design elements drive consumers to distraction, according to Kenmore 70402 reviews. One is the placement of the oven vent, directly behind the burners and smack in the middle under the controls. Reviews contend it's easy to burn yourself when you need to change a setting while the oven is on. Another complaint concerns the burner grates, which users say are slick and high, so that pots slide around and a lot of heat is wasted. And finally, the broiler: located in a drawer below the oven with a tray that's difficult to adjust when the broiler is hot.
The Kenmore 70402 is relatively light on extra features. The oven requires manual cleaning and is just 4.2 cubic feet, a size that may present a challenge when preparing a large holiday meal for a crowd. There are four 9,000-BTU burners with pilotless ignition, a digital display clock, a timer, 105 oven temperature settings between 170 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit, and a beeper that signals the oven is fully heated. This stove is available in white, black, or stainless steel, and even the latter finish is priced within the Cheapism range. The Kenmore 70402 comes with the usual one-year warranty.
The awkward design elements give us some pause. If you can get past these irritants, however, the performance of this simple gas stove won't disappoint and the price will make you happy, indeed.
Where to buy
Hotpoint RB757DP Review
(From $404.00 Good)
Good Electric Range. This electric model stands out for its large self-cleaning oven, timed and delay bake, and even performance.
Hotpoint RB757DPWH reviews generally agree that this budget electric range is a worthy buy in terms of features and performance. A consumer products testing organization commends the heating abilities of both the electric coils and the oven, noting that water comes to a boil in short order, temperature-sensitive foods simmer without burning, and the oven browns foods evenly; the self-cleaning cycle also wins points for wiping out traces of sticky, gooey foods. Home users' reviews at Home Depot are likewise laudatory. They say the oven is devoid of hot and cold spots, such that pie crusts don't need to be wrapped in aluminum foil to assure a golden finish. The cooktop controls are responsive, according to reviews, and can hold stews and sauces comfortably below the boiling point.
On the other hand, a few Hotpoint RB757DPWH reviews grumble about the thin oven racks, the hard-to-clean drip pans beneath the electric coils, a storage drawer under the oven that must be pulled open from the side, and oven temperatures that don't rise to the desired setting.
Although the Hotpoint RB757DPWH (starting at $404, Amazon) is considered a basic, no-frills stove, it comes with several noteworthy features. There's a self-cleaning cycle, a timed- and delay-bake function, electronic oven controls, and a bell indicating the end of the pre-heat cycle. The oven cavity is a generous 5 cubic feet and the door sports a see-through window; the broiler is located in the oven. The cooktop holds two 6-inch (1,500 watts each) and two 8-inch burners (2,600 watts each). This model is available in white and bisque, both with black oven doors. It comes with a one-year warranty.
The consensus opinion of the Hotpoint RB757DPWH: a good, reliable electric stove at a good, affordable price
Where to buy
Frugal consumers won't sacrifice much by opting for a cheap range. To be sure, more money spent on top-end labels such as Viking, Electrolux, and Bosch will get you more powerful and specialized burners, more precision controls and electronics, more oven racks and rack positions (and perhaps a convection mode for the oven), and lots more heft (as in weight). But even at the lower end of the market, there's value to be had in terms of features and performance. The big names in this segment include GE, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Maytag, Amana, Frigidaire, and Hotpoint, and users of the best of these inexpensive ranges are more than satisfied with the meals produced, the ease of use, and the set of features.
Cheap Ranges Buying Guide
If you're in the market for a cheap range, the first and most critical decision involves the type of heat. Assuming you have a choice -- and in many homes, you don't -- there are two options: gas or electric. In our search for the best cheap stoves, we scoped out both types. Gas ranges usually cost more upfront but are cheaper to operate and give cooks more precise control over the heat under the pots and pans. Electric ranges are often easier to clean, especially if they have a smooth cooking surface, and oven temperatures tend to be more even.
Regardless, there's no need to spend more than $600 for a good inexpensive range. The winners are all basic models that give consumers value for their money. Our top electric stove picks include the GE JBS55DM (starting at $495), with its smooth cooktop, huge oven, and good price-to-performance ratio; and the Hotpoint RB757DP (starting at $404), the opposite of snazzy but a stalwart performer, nonetheless. Among gas stoves, our favorites are the Frigidaire FGF348KS (starting at $539), another solid yet simple range that gets the job done but is burdened by a few design quirks. We kept an eye out for low price ranges that truly disappoint consumers and ultimately decided to forgo that quest because there was no strong consensus among reviewers. (Note that model numbers/letters may vary slightly from those indicated in our buying guide depending on the color, or the finish, of the unit you're looking at.)
Although budget ranges are short on frills, there is some product variation. Take the finish, for example. Stainless steel is a big seller but adds about $100 to the bottom line -- plus, it's harder to keep clean. Cheaper options are black, white, and bisque, the latter two colors less prone to tell-tale streaking and smudging.
The stove-top burners are another distinguishing characteristic. Four burners are standard for budget stoves, but occasionally a model features a fifth. The very best cheap gas stoves come with a high performance burner and/or a simmer burner, but most provide four all-purpose burners. The burners on gas stoves are either open or sealed, the latter arrangement simplifies cleanup by preventing spills from seeping under the burners. Electric ranges almost always come with two small and two large burners that suit cookware of different sizes. The biggest divide among electric ranges concerns the heating element: coiled and situated atop the stove's surface or ribbon-like and sealed underneath a flat ceramic glass surface. The price gap between these two electric modes, once quite wide, has narrowed considerably and smooth cooktops are increasingly consumers' technology of choice.
One factor that frugal consumers won't have to agonize over is the outer dimensions of the stove. The standard width of a stove is 30 inches, and How Stuff Works notes that most kitchens are designed to accommodate stoves of this size. If you need to go smaller, good luck; stoves narrower than 30 inches are hard to find. If you prefer a larger model, be prepared to shell out bigger bucks; most are priced deep into the four-digit zone. The interior dimensions of the oven on a stove, however, are up for grabs. Ovens with at least 4 cubic feet of cooking space are the norm in the budget segment, and on some cheap stoves, the interior cavity exceeds 5 cubic feet. Some low priced stoves now come with a self-cleaning cycle, but this feature may add to the price.
Ranges are available in several configurations, including freestanding, drop-in, or slide-in. (Professional-style ranges attempt to replicate the cooking performance and appearance of restaurant ranges but are way, way beyond the Cheapism niche.) But here, budget-minded shoppers don't have much choice. Freestanding stoves with fully finished sides and a backsplash holding the controls are the cheapest, and all the models we researched are freestanding. Slide-in ranges lack finished sides and fit flush between two cabinets, and cost more than double what you'd pay for a freestanding model. A drop-in range has no backsplash and sits atop a cabinet baseboard for a very built-in look; drop-in ranges are also priced far higher than the cheap ceiling.
Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Finding the best cheap stoves proved quite a challenge due to the paucity of range reviews for current models. As with most major and minor appliances, manufacturers discontinue models and introduce new ones all the time, although many replacements differ from their predecessors by little more than a tweak here or there.
This relatively short product cycle complicates the hunt for the best cheap stoves. We found that cheap stoves with lots of consumer feedback have disappeared from vendors' inventory and widely available newer stoves aren't yet the subject of many range reviews. We also noted that big-box retailers exhibit a fair amount of brand loyalty, such that Lowe's sells Whirlpool but Home Depot doesn't, and Sears is the exclusive on-the-ground purveyor of Kenmore ranges (although you may find a unit here and there online); local, independent retailers may be equally brand-centric. As a result, range reviews posted online are both limited in number and tend to cluster under the umbrella of just one or two sites.
Because range reviews for easy-to-find models are in short supply, our conclusions are based on a smaller number of user comments than we would otherwise prefer. Even so, the small sample of reviews suggests that consumers are relatively satisfied with their purchases: They like the value pricing and the overall performance. A few users even assert that their budget stoves compare favorably to upscale models. Chief among consumers' expectations are stoves with consistent and easy-to-control heat. Reviews also reveal that thrifty consumers favor ovens and electric burners that heat up quickly (gas burners reach the desired temperature almost immediately), oven temperatures that are true, and stoves that are intuitive and a breeze to clean. The stoves on our list hit all these notes, at least most of the time.
Based on the range reviews we read, the smooth-top electric GE JBS55DM (starting at $495) is a star performer. Consumers' comments at Best Buy cite even cooking and baking temperatures, the two high-powered 2,000-watt heating elements, and food that simmers without burning as supporting evidence. A few reviews posted on other sites, however, gripe about slow heating with the smooth ceramic glass cooktop and oven temperatures that run colder than the setting. Our second choice electric range pick, the Hotpoint RB757DP (starting at $404), earns kudos for what reviews at Home Depot describe as responsive controls, coil heating elements that actually keep food at a simmer, and perfectly baked desserts and casseroles. A consumer products testing site also notes that a large pot of water set atop one of the 8-inch burners quickly comes to a near boil. Another electric model we researched, the Kenmore 90112 (starting at $391), falls short of the other two. Range reviews at Sears consider its performance average, with some saying it heats evenly and quickly and oven temperatures are accurate, while others report that preheating takes forever and heat from the coils is uneven; the broiler, however, apparently produces a mean steak.
We identified two stand-out gas ranges, as well. The Frigidaire FGF348KS (starting at $539) wins over users with what they describe as precise controls, accurate oven settings, and heat a-plenty; one user claims a pot of water reached a boil in 90 seconds (no details on the size of the pot), although another gripes in a review at Lowe's that the flames aren't up to the demands of Asian wokery. Enthusiasm for the Kenmore 70402 (starting at $360) is a tad cooler, largely due to design issues that are discussed below. Range reviews at Sears say the oven and burners do what they should within the time specified in recipes, and for the price, it's hard to complain. The Amana AGR3311WD (starting at $385), another no-frills model we researched but didn't add to our list, disappoints some consumers. Several reviews, including one at AJ Madison, grouse that the heat can't be turned down to a simmer although other users seem to like the powerful burners.
Self Cleaning Ovens
Range reviews reveal that consumers appreciate user-friendly ranges. In other words, they don't want to feel as though they need a private tutor to figure out how to operate their stove. The models on our list generally pass this test, probably because bells and whistles are rare at the budget end of the market. Purchasers write of ranges for vacation homes or rental units (little can go wrong), for aging parents (intuitive operation), and for themselves (little time for, or interest in, fancy meal prep).
The GE JBS55DM, an electric range, has all the necessary (i.e., basic) features, say reviews, as well as dials that are easy to read and an indicator light that lets you know the surface is hot. The large window in the oven door of the Frigidaire FGF348KS pleases cooks, but the feature most often cited in users' comments about this gas ranges is the oval, fifth burner at the center of the stove top. Consumers report using this extra source of heat for pancake breakfasts, cookout-like burgers and steaks, and homemade tortillas. Users like the audible signal at the end of the preheat cycle on the electric Hotpoint RB757DP and the automatic unlock at the end of the self-clean cycle, according to posts at Home Depot; one writer, however, grouses that the oven control requires an extra step (that is, pressing "start") after the temperature is set.
Despite an overall consensus among thrifty consumers that the no-frills stoves on our list are straightforward, grumbles about design issues that interfere with usability occasionally surface. The Kenmore 70402 is a gas stove that takes a few hits for awkward design decisions: an oven vent directly under the controls at the back of the stove that spews very hot air (one consumer stresses the importance of wearing an insulated mitt if you need to adjust the controls while the oven is on), a drop-in broiler tray in a drawer near the floor that's tricky to pull out and return while the broiler is going, and high burner grates that waste heat. Slippery burner grates, hard-to-see temperature settings on the oven dial, and the lack of a window in the oven door on the Amana AGR3311WD, another gas stove, irritate some users. And for all the appeal of the smooth ceramic cooktop on the GE JBS55DM, some consumers chafe at having to use flat-bottom pans and special cleaning products on this electric stove
Ranges Cleanup.Ease of cleaning crops up occasionally in consumer reviews, and when it does, our top picks post impressive scores. The smooth ceramic cooktop on the GE JBS55DM, with its under-the-surface heating elements, is a big draw for consumers all too familiar with the drudgery of cleaning coils and drip pans on traditional electric stoves. Most reviews of this model posted on Best Buy say cleanup is a breeze, although several claim that boil-overs bake on and require a spot of elbow grease to remove. Not surprisingly, several reviews of the Hotpoint RB757DP assert that cleaning the metal drip pans is a chore and others report they stain easily and need frequent replacement; one user recommends buying porcelain-on-steel drip pans instead and running them through the oven's self-cleaning cycle.
Self-sealed gas burners of the type found on the Fridgidaire FGF348KC and Amana AGR3311WD are a housekeeping boon. Many gas stoves now feature this design, which keeps crumbs and spills on the surface and turns cleanup into a relative picnic. Although the Kenmore 70402 features open burners, users insist it's easy to clean.
Self-cleaning ovens, once a frill reserved for high-end ranges, are increasingly common in the budget segment. Among the models on our list, only the electric Hotpoint RB757DP boasts a self-cleaning oven; one cook reports on Viewpoints that this feature leaves the oven sparkling. The other electric stoves and gas stoves we researched all require manual cleaning, but the task doesn't seem to be onerous. One user of the Kenmore 70402 writes that a dab of oven cleaner made quick work of pie filling that ran over, and a user of the Frigidaire FGF348KC writes in a post on the company website that cleanup is accomplished in a matter of minutes. Still, a number of reviewers of these models say they would have preferred a self-cleaning oven, although its absence wasn't a deal-breaker.
Range Electric controls, Size and Durability
Electronic controls are among the standard range features on most ovens, including those in the budget segment. All the cheap ovens we researched, but for the Amana AGR3311WD, feature an electronic touch pad for the oven. One virtue of an electronic touch pad is the large number of possible oven-temperature settings; the Kenmore 70402 and Kenmore 90112, for example, offer 105 options between 170 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit (as with the cheap oven in the Frigidaire FGF348KS, settings can be changed in five-degree increments). One frequent complaint about the Amana AGR3311WD is that the dial for the oven temperature is marked in 50 degree increments, which makes for lots of guesswork when a precise oven temperature is called for. Do note, though, that if the electricity goes out, you won't be able to operate any part of an electric stove, including the cheap oven; on a gas range, you'll at least be able to get the top burners going with a match.
Additional range features, such as automatic oven shut-off and time delay, give cooks lots of flexibility. But these are rare features in the bargain stove market. Among the models on our list, only the Hotpoint RB57DB boasts a timed- and delayed-bake function. Both the GE JBS55DM and Frigidaire FGF348KS feature a Sabbath mode on the cheap oven, which overrides the automatic shut-off so that the oven will stay on for more than 12 hours.
Range Size.Most kitchen layouts are designed for cheap stoves that measure 30 inches across. All the freestanding ranges we researched meet this standard.
Another indicator of size is oven space, measured in cubic feet. Experts at CNET correlate oven size with the number of people living in the home: 2 to 3 cubic feet for one or two people; 3 to 4 cubic feet for three or four people; and more than 4 cubic feet for four or more people. Even so, a small family with a big baking habit might want to opt for a larger cheap oven. The good news for frugal shoppers is that all of the 30-inch ranges on our list provide at least 4 cubic feet of oven space; the GE JBS55DM boasts the largest cavity (5.3 cubic feet) and the Kenmore 70402 has the smallest (4.2 cubic feet).
Ranges Durability.Durability rarely surfaced in the reviews we read for cheap ovens, perhaps because users were posting about newly acquired stoves. But according to the experts at ATD Home Inspection, the life expectancy of a gas range slightly exceeds that of an electric range (15-17 years compared with 13-15 years). We did, however, note a few reports about a faulty electronic ignition on the Amana AGR3311WD, which apparently sparked but didn't light the gas flame. The smooth ceramic cooktop on the GE JBSDMWW presents a durability quandary of sorts. Some consumers grouse about the high cost of replacement if it breaks -- an unlikely but occasional occurrence. One consumer reports at Lowe's that a dropped bottle shattered the cooktop and the repair almost equaled the price of a new stove.
Additional Products We Considered
(From $341.00 )
There's not much beyond the basics on the gas-fueled Amana AGR3311WD (starting at $385, Amazon), and there's not much to commend it, either. Amana AGR3311WD reviews at Home Depot give it a pass for the price and the simplicity. Users say heat from the burners is consistent and powerful and food cooks evenly (including whatever is put in the oven). Reviews also indicate that cooks value the easy-to-clean sealed burners and white finish and the user-friendly, bare-bones package. One purchaser happily reported that converting it for use with propane was a simple process.
What consumers don't like, according to Amana AGR3311WD reviews, are the slippery burner grates, the awkward placement of too few temperature markings (in 50-degree increments) on the bottom of the oven dial, and a fickle electronic ignition that sometimes shoots out sparks instead of lighting the stovetop flames. A post on AJ Madison notes that the unit was returned because the burners couldn't be turned down to a simmer.
The Amana AGR3311WD is about as simple a stove as you can get. There are four 9,500-BTU burners, a 4.4-cubic-foot oven with two racks and five rack positions, and a drop-down broiler located under the oven. There is neither clock nor timer -- the only electronics are found on the ignition -- and there's no window to check the oven's progress. The controls are positioned at the front of the stove, making it ADA-compliant. This model is available in white only and comes with the standard one-year warranty.
The price of the Amana AGR3311WD falls clearly within the cheap bracket. For just about the same investment, though, you can find gas ranges with more features and more reliable performance.
Where to buy
(From $391.00 )
Most Kenmore 90112 reviews say the quality of this cheap electric stove is passable, as is the overall value. Although some reviews posted at Sears say the oven takes a while to preheat and is not always accurate, others report it heats evenly and bakes up a storm. And without a self-cleaning cycle, a few consumers gripe that the oven is hard to clean. Carping about uneven heat on the electric coils crops up in a couple of reviews, but others say they work fine.
Aside from its low price, the Kenmore 90112 (starting at $391) draws in consumers with its simplicity (limited electronics) and flexibility (burners in two sizes). The broiling function and high and low heat settings on the stovetop earn a nod from a consumer products testing organization. One user post on Sears, however, says that any temperature setting above the fifth of 10 options leaves the coils burning too hot.
The Kenmore 90112 comes with a standard, and basic, array of features. There are four coil elements (two 8-inch elements with 2,100 watts each and two 6-inch elements with 1,250 watts each), and a (large) 4.9-cubic-foot manual-clean oven. A digital panel controls the oven, which offers 105 temperature settings between 170 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit. There's also a timer with a buzzer but no automatic oven shut-off; some users contend the buzzer beeps too low to hear from even a short distance. The broiler is located in the oven and there's a storage door underneath. This model is available in white, black, and stainless steel and is backed by a one-year warranty.
The Kenmore 90112 is one of the few stoves so inexpensively priced that the stainless steel version costs less than $500, even when not on sale. Without a strong consensus about it, however, other models may be safer bets.