Best Countertop Microwaves for $150 or Less

Low-cost, high-performing models you can rely on

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A microwave glowing from the inside Photo: iStock

When you’re upgrading your kitchen, you might want to invest in a high-end countertop microwave to blend in with your other appliances. But in other situations—say, when you’re shopping for a microwave for a student’s first apartment or for guest use in a vacation rental—you can spend a lot less and still get one that’s capable of serving up hot food in a timely fashion.

Many of the countertop models in Consumer Reports’ microwave ratings cost $150 or less. And a notable number do quite well in our performance tests and in our member surveys on microwave reliability.

Above the $150 threshold, you might pay a premium for bells and whistles you don’t need. So if all you want is a microwave that reheats leftovers, defrosts frozen food, or zaps a cup of coffee, you can save money by skipping those with the one-touch button for baking a potato, for example.

The countertop models listed below vary by a few inches in footprint and height. Once you’ve found one that fits your counter space, focus on the wattage. “The higher the wattage, the more energy is being delivered,” says James Dickerson, CR’s chief scientific officer. “More energy, in this case, allows your food to transform faster and will save you cooking time.”

Another feature worth noting? Most newer models are equipped with a sensor that monitors the amount of steam emitted from the food and shuts off the appliance when cooking is complete.

Here, in alphabetical order by size, are the best countertop microwaves for $150 or less that impressed in CR’s tests. Note that prices may differ from retailer to retailer, and availability may vary. For more guidance as you shop, see our microwave buying guide.

CR’s take: If cute and retro is your thing, this is the microwave for you. Bonus: It’s the best small microwave in our tests. That may not be saying much, because small microwaves are typically underpowered. The Galanz GLCMKA07BER-07 lags at heating speed and may try your patience, but once it gets going, it heats evenly and operates quietly. And it earns a Very Good rating for defrosting. Plus, it looks good and the price is right.

CR’s take: The Insignia NS-MW07BK0 performs better than most small models. In our tests, its heating evenness and defrosting earned Very Good ratings. And it’s very quiet. But if you’re in a hurry for your food, you’ll have to wait, because its score for speed of heating was Poor. Insignia countertops earn an Excellent score for predicted reliability but a Poor score for owner satisfaction in CR’s member surveys.

CR’s take: The midsized Galanz GSWWD11S1S10 doesn’t check all the boxes, but the price is reasonable and it earns a Very Good rating for both heating evenness and ease of use, meaning you don’t have to consult the owner’s manual to figure out how long to reheat a bowl of pasta. It also runs quietly, which is a plus for those midnight snacks. However, its heating speed and defrosting evenness are only so-so, CR’s lab tests found.

CR’s take: The midsized Hamilton Beach EM031M2ZC-X1 boasts a Very Good rating for heating evenness. Our testers found the machine’s controls easy to use and understand. Plus, this model is quieter than most countertop microwaves, earning top marks on our noise test. But there are some notable drawbacks: This model’s speed of heating and defrosting receive middling Good scores, and owners in CR’s surveys gave Hamilton Beach countertop microwaves only Fair satisfaction scores.

CR’s take: Though it isn’t the speediest microwave, the large Galanz GSWWD14S2S11 gets the job done if you exercise a little patience. It heats evenly, earning a Very Good on that test, and is pretty quiet. It’s a cinch to figure out the controls right out of the box, so if you fail to read the owner’s manual, no problem. Like many of the best microwaves, it has a sensor that detects when your food is done so that it doesn’t become dry and unappetizing.

CR’s take: When you run the numbers on the large Hamilton Beach P11043ALH-WTB, they add up nicely. The price is low and it scores high on most of our performance tests, including earning an Excellent rating for heating evenness, meaning your food heats thoroughly. It’s not the speediest model in our ratings, but it runs quietly and easily defrosted a pound of ground beef in our tests.

Mary H.J. Farrell

Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.