A blender in Consumer Reports' test kitchen.
Photo: Brian Finke

Invented as a way to whip up malted milks in the 1920s, blenders have remained a kitchen staple for almost a century. But the range of what this countertop appliance can do has widened considerably in just the past decade—far beyond the classic milkshake.

Certain newer models boast wattage equivalent to 2 to 3 hp—as much power as a 50-cubic-centimeter engine on a moped—which means they can pulverize ice, fruit, vegetables, and most other foods in less than a minute. Some can also perform culinary feats that the average blender can’t, such as grinding nuts into nut butters and heating up ingredients as they’re being transformed into soup.

For example, Vitamix models, which are considered “pro style” or “high performance” blenders, have dominated our ratings since we began testing the brand in 2006, earning a score of Excellent in many of the metrics we test. They’re built to last, too; Vitamix models well outlive their five- to 10-year warranties.

More on Blenders

In fact, Vitamix is the only blender brand that garners Excellent ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction out of 11 brands included in CR’s most recent member survey. That may be partly because its blenders use high-quality materials—its blades are made of hardened stainless steel, and its jars are Eastman Tritan copolyester (one of the best materials money can buy)—to withstand lots of torque.

But that kind of power, design, and functionality—while certainly impressive—comes at a premium price. The Vitamix home-use models we rate start at $350 and go to $650. Plus, they’re overkill if you mainly want to blend the occasional smoothie after a workout or serve up a batch of homemade frozen drinks to friends.

“Currently, all full-sized blenders go through the same tests in our lab, regardless of wattage,” says Emilio Gonzalez, who oversees CR’s small-appliance testing. But as blenders continue to evolve, more high-powered models are entering the market, performing well in our tests—and subsequently burying conventional budget-friendly blenders further down in our ratings. “But those middle-of-the-pack blenders might be ideal for someone with more modest needs,” Gonzalez says.

In other words, a blender that costs less than $100 and does well in our tests could be a perfectly solid choice for the average home user.

But if you plan to use your blender regularly for dishes that go beyond the basics and you can afford it, then by all means, buy our chart-topper. You’ll have the creamiest smoothies, silkiest soups, most finely milled whole grains, and glossiest nut butters, and your crushed ice will look like freshly fallen snow.

Be aware, however, that some pricey upgrades have nothing to do with performance per se: wireless connectivity, blender-base finishes such as stainless steel and shiny enamels, programmed presets, and touch-screen interfaces. Another counterpoint: A few stripped-down models even outperform many high-end blenders in our tests.

To help you to explore beyond the top of our ratings and find the right blender for your culinary lifestyle, we’ve compiled a broad explanation of what you get (and what you don’t) within four distinct price tiers. And below, a quiz that—based on your expectations, budget, and more—will help you find the perfect pick. Use our guide to find the very best blender for your buck.

Take our quiz to determine the best blender for your needs.

$35 to $50 Blenders

Budget blenders generally have glass jars with removable blades and smaller, 5- to 6-cup capacities. Wattage is on the lower end, from 450 to 700. These models can handle lower-intensity blending tasks, such as fresh fruit smoothies and shakes, but save the more strenuous tasks, such as grinding nut butters, for higher-wattage models.

See our full blender ratings to find the best models in this price range. (You can filter the chart by price using the left-hand menu.)

$75 to $150 Blenders

If you see a model in this price range with less than 700 watts, you may be better off opting for a less expensive one. More wattage helps, and it’s a good indicator of the machine’s strength, but only up to a certain point before the excessive heat it generates hinders performance. What’s more important than a powerful motor is an efficient one that is combined with a well-designed blade and jar.

Because of the increase in torque and speed, shatterproof plastic will replace glass jars. Typically, blenders with 1,000 or more watts can handle larger-capacity jars and can complete tasks faster. You may also be paying more for premium finishes and accessories, such as personal-sized cups for to-go smoothies.

See our full blender ratings to find the best models in this price range. (You can filter the chart by price using the left-hand menu.)

$200 to $400 Blenders

In what are considered “high performance” models, you’ll find improved motors, with wattages equivalent to 2 hp or higher (1 hp is 746 watts). These also have the speed and torque to handle nut butters, whole-fruit juicing, and other heavy-duty blending tasks. Also expect thicker plastic jars (Eastman Tritan copolyester ones are most durable and are BPA-free), sturdier blades (often permanently attached to the jar), and metal drive sockets for added durability.

Those factors also mean that a replacement jar can cost more than $100. Most will come with a tamper to help push thick ingredients down into the blade, but because of the large and wide containers, you may need to buy additional blender cups for smaller jobs.

See our full blender ratings to find the best models in this price range. (You can filter the chart by price using the left-hand menu.)

$400 to $650 Blenders

These top-tier picks might not outperform models in the $200 to $400 range, but they boast features such as microprocessor-controlled presets that take the guesswork out of blending, plus LCD touch screens, vacuum attachments, wireless connectivity, and more.

See our full blender ratings to find the best models in this price range. (You can filter the ratings chart by price using the menu ont he  left-hand side of the page.)

Editor's Note: 
This article also appeared in the August 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.