Best Countertop Microwaves for $150 or Less

Six low-cost, high-performing models you can rely on

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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, like a microwave for a student's first apartment or for an Airbnb, 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 80-plus countertop models in Consumer Reports’ microwave ratings cost $150 or less. And a notable number do very well in our performance tests and in our member survey 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 microwaves 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, 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 turns off the microwave when cooking is complete.

Here, in alphabetical order, are six countertop microwaves for $150 or less that earn Very Good ratings in our performance tests as well as favorable reliability ratings, per CR’s annual member survey. Note that prices may differ from retailer to retailer. For more info as you shop, see our microwave buying guide.

CR’s take: The midsized Farberware Black FMO12AHTBSG delivers a lot of cooking performance for the price, including an Excellent rating for cooking evenness. Heating speed and defrosting evenness are also impressive, and our testers find the controls easy to use and understand. Perhaps best of all, this model is quieter than most countertop microwaves and earns top marks on our noise test. According to data from our member survey, Farberware earns an average rating of Good for predicted reliability but only a Fair rating for owner satisfaction.

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 throughly. It’s not the speediest model in our ratings, but it runs quietly and easily defrosted a pound of ground beef in our tests. Hamilton Beach countertop microwaves earn an Excellent for predicted reliability in our member survey but only a Fair for owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: Magic Chef tends to make low-priced microwaves, but they don’t skimp on performance. The large Magic Chef MCM1611ST earns Very Good ratings for speed of heating and defrosting evenness, although it gets middling marks for heating evenness. That means you may have to stir your food midway through cooking. It operates quietly, and our testers found the controls to be straightforward. In our member survey, Magic Chef earns a Very Good rating for predicted reliability and a Fair for owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: With an Excellent rating in heating evenness, the midsized Oster OGCMDM11S2-10 is a great choice for a college student. Speed of heating is average, but you’ll appreciate how well it defrosts frozen food, especially if you don’t plan your meals ahead of time. This Oster runs very quietly, so if you're in a shared dorm or apartment, you won’t wake up roommates when heating up a midnight snack. Oster microwaves earn a Good rating for predicted reliability and a Fair rating for owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: For the price, you can’t go wrong with the midsized Panasonic NN-SN67HS. Speed of heating and defrosting evenness are both superb, notching Excellent ratings on both tests. It evenly heats a dish of cold mashed potatoes, and our testers find it easy to operate without reading the manual (because most people don’t). It is a bit noisy when running on high. In our member survey, Panasonic countertop microwaves earn an average rating of Good for predicted reliability and an Excellent for owner satisfaction.

CR’s take: The well-priced Panasonic NN-SN946W has a lot going for it. The large microwave aces three of our tough tests, including speed of heating, heating evenness, and defrosting evenness. It runs quietly, earning a Very Good rating on our noise test, and our testers found little need to consult the manual to learn how to operate it. This model is equipped with a sensor that shuts off the oven when the food is hot enough.

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.