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Best Microwave For The Money  
Everything You Need to Know to Get a Great Microwave at a Great Price
Top Five for the Money (Based on our Frugal5 Formula)
How do we pick these products? We spend many hours doing unbiased research to only give you the highest rated products at the best price. We first come up with a list of features, which you can see below, that we feel the majority of people will need. We then look for the highest quality products with these features and only show you the top five with the best value. Our mission is to provide you with the best five options based only on the facts. Don't see the product you were thinking about getting? Click here to calculate it's frugal score.
GE JES1142SPSS 1.1 Cu. Ft. Stainless Steel CounterFrigidaire FFCM1134L 1.1 Cubic Foot Countertop MicPanasonic NN-H765BF GeniusPanasonic NN-H965WF GeniusPanasonic NN-SD762S
View At
Product Rating
Average Price
Cheap ($102)
Cheap ($92)
Cheap ($125)
Cheap ($144)
Cheap ($173)
Frugal5 Score
Additional Info
One Year Parts and Labor
One Year Limited
One Year Parts and Labor
One Year Parts and Labor
One Year Parts and Labor
Features Needed
1,000 Watts or Better
- 1,100 Watts
- 1,000 Watts
- 1,250 Watts
- 1,250 Watts
Rugged Construction
Shortcut Keys
Touchpad Keys
Features Not Needed
Child Lock
Convection Cooking
Cook Sensor
Exhaust Fan
Removable Rack
Slow Cooking
Stainless Steel
Steam Cooking
What You Need To Know In 5 Minutes

Of all the appliances in a modern kitchen, the microwave is probably used most often. Even the youngest family members learn to use the microwave quickly. When choosing a microwave, shop for a quality unit that will last for years. The trick to buying a great microwave is choosing a good size, with the right cooking capacity and wattage at the highest quality for the best price. Finding all this in one microwave is not an easy feat.

Size and Dimensions

Before shopping for a microwave, know the size you need. While size is often a matter of preference, few people would be satisfied with an 18” microwave. Few of us are likely to need one as large as 24”. So, the trick is to find a mid-sized oven of decent quality in a reasonable price range.

Remember that when looking at width of the unit, it includes the control panel, which usually compromises about 20 percent of the face of the unit. So 20” might sound really big, until you consider a 20” oven only gives you 16” in real cooking space. That might be enough, if the oven has enough height and depth. However, when buying microwaves, we have to look at the cubic feet capacity for cooking, and not the full dimensions the units occupy.

Capacity versus Countertop Dimensions

To understand microwave capacity fully, go over to the microwave you own now and open the door. Measure the dimensions (in inches) for height, width and depth. Multiply height x width x depth and divide the result by 1,728 (12” cubed) to figure the correct cubic space of a unit. Experts recommend capacity based on the size of your family. Obviously, bigger families need to cook bigger turkeys to make sure everyone is fed.

For most of us, medium capacity, or 1.5 Cubic Feet, is enough to make the oven versatile for every dish, but small enough to be affordable. The bigger is better mentality only goes so far because you could end up with a unit that is too big to fit between your countertop and the cabinets above. If you decide on higher capacity, check your cabinet height first. Most people will need a unit with dimensions 16” height or shorter and 20” deep or smaller. This keeps the unit well within standard kitchen countertop dimensions.


The power of your microwave will determine the type of meals it can prepare for you in a reasonable amount of time. If you only need to reheat foods, 600 watts will do. But for most families looking to cook meals, about 1,300 watts is a good number. Above that might be overkill. Under 1,000 watts is probably too weak. Whichever you choose, make sure you can adjust the power level to meet the needs of the meal you are preparing. Adjusting power ensures you can defrost, reheat or cook.


Countertop units are by far the most economical option for microwave options. Only the smallest units will mount well under a cabinet and drawer models are pricey installations. Units installed over the oven range that do double duty as vents look fabulous, but cost too much to justify the cost. On top of that, the vent doesn’t usually work all that well.


No matter the configuration, the most important feature for any microwave is rugged construction. A unit with flimsy safety latches and hinges won’t last you long. Consumers often overlook the most important feature when it comes to durability: the Open button. Instead of relying on a hard-to-pull handle that stresses the hinges, look for a unit with no handle at all. They rely on a button for opening that saves years of wear and tear.

The turntable should have a sturdy construction as well. Take the time to check the pricing on replacement turntables, usually made of glass, so you know what you’ll be spending when junior accidentally drops yours. You should be able to buy a replacement for $35 or less.


As with standard ovens, microwave ovens are available with convection technology. This is just a fan that moves air around for faster, more even cooking. Honestly, if a microwave doesn’t cook things fast enough for you, you may have issues that need a therapist’s attention. Convection adds unnecessary cost to the oven as well, so it makes sense to skip this feature.

Price and Brands

For a decent-sized new microwave, expect to pay at least $90. You might have to pay as much as $200 to get the best model for your family, but don’t pay more than that. Panasonic has the market cornered for affordable and reliable units. You might consider units from Kenmore as well, but they often sell out before you can get them because people recognize the brand as high quality at a great price. GE and Frigidaire have put out some affordable smaller capacity units worth a look.

Features You Need
1,000 Watts or Better, Rugged Construction, Shortcut Keys, Touchpad Keys, Turntable
Features You Don't Need
Child Lock, Convection Cooking, Cook Sensor, Exhaust Fan, Inverter, Removable Rack, Slow Cooking, Stainless Steel, Steam Cooking
What You Should Pay
Between $91.99 - $172.99
Top Of The Line Price
Over $500.00