Most and Least Reliable Microwave Brands

How to pick a model that lasts based on CR members’ reports on almost 147,000 over-the-range and countertop units

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Person Using the microwave Photo: iStock

Of the four appliances in the typical kitchen suite, the microwave is the least expensive. So you might not give it as much thought as you would when buying a refrigerator, range, or dishwasher.

But buying a microwave from a reliable brand increases the likelihood that it will last longer. That means you won’t be prematurely putting a broken countertop model on the curb or tearing out an over-the-range microwave that no longer works.

Consumer Reports has identified the brands of microwaves most likely to last—and those most likely to develop problems or break—based on our members’ experiences with 71,245 over-the-range (OTR) microwaves and 68,902 countertop microwaves purchased new between 2011 and 2021.

Six brands of countertop microwaves and four brands of OTR microwaves received top marks for reliability from our members. And based on their experiences, we can’t recommend six brands of countertop microwaves and three OTR brands.

To calculate predicted reliability, we survey our members about the products they own and use that data to make projections about how new models from a given brand will hold up over time. We also survey members on how likely they are to recommend their microwave, with that question serving as the basis for our owner satisfaction rating. Models from brands that receive a Fair or Poor rating for reliability aren’t eligible to be recommended no matter how well they perform in Consumer Reports’ tests.

More on Microwaves

To come up with the Overall Score that you’ll see in our microwave ratings charts, we factor in both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction with the results of the performance tests we conduct in our labs. For microwaves, that includes marks on all the tasks you’d expect from your appliance: fast and even heating, even defrosting, controls that are intuitive and easy to use, and quiet operation.

“Calculating an Overall Score for microwaves that includes reliability and satisfaction offers consumers a clearer direction of what to choose,” says Simon Slater, CR’s associate director of survey research.

Here are the details.

Over-the-Range Microwaves

An over-the-range microwave is a strategic choice if you’re short on counter space and like the fact that it doubles as a range hood (though typically an underpowered one). Replacing an OTR model can be a bit of an ordeal because you have to unbolt it from the wall and cabinets. So when your old one breaks, you’ll want to install a new one from a reliable brand.

OTR microwaves from Electrolux, Jenn-Air, and Samsung will likely develop problems or break at a higher rate than their competitors, according to our survey. “Because of this, none of these brands can be recommended by Consumer Reports at this time,” says Tian Wang, a survey research associate.

Better bets are OTR microwaves from Hotpoint, Ikea, Sharp, and Whirlpool, brands that earn an Excellent rating for predicted reliability. Of the 20 brands rated in our survey, six other brands earn a Very Good reliability rating. Seven more get a Good reliability rating, which is high enough to retain their eligibility status to be recommended by Consumer Reports. (CR doesn’t currently test models from each of the brands listed in our survey.)

Two brands earn a Very Good rating for owner satisfaction: Monogram and Sharp. No brand earns an Excellent rating on that measure.

Most Common OTR Flaws

The most frequently reported problems with over-the-range microwaves? Excessive noise, control panels that don’t work properly, and doors that don’t lock correctly. Five percent of the OTR microwaves in our survey had a problem with noise and 4 percent had a broken or faulty control panel and/or door.

After that, the most common problem reported for OTRs by our members was a failure to heat food evenly. Members also reported problems with turntables, interior lights, exhaust fans, and cooling fans, but they affected only 1 to 2 percent of the microwaves.

Electrolux in particular stands out as one of the brands more likely to have problems with control panels, malfunctioning doors, noise, and interior lights.

Other brands that stand out in our survey as being more likely than usual to have specific problems include:

  • Jenn-Air and Samsung, for faulty control panels.
  • Magic Chef, for being too noisy.
  • Ikea, for heating slowly.

We also asked our members what they liked about their OTR microwaves. We found that the attributes that most affect overall satisfaction with OTR microwaves were reliability, how well it heats food, ease of using the controls, appearance, noise, variety of features, and venting capabilities. Regarding appearance, seven brands rose to the top: Bosch, Café, Dacor, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Monogram, and Sharp. Bosch, Café, Jenn-Air, Monogram, and Sharp also got a thumbs-up for quiet operation.

Consumer Reports tests microwaves for performance, including whether or not a model heats evenly and how noisy it is when operating on the highest setting. To avoid problems, opt for one that aces those tests. There are plenty to choose from.

What's Next for OTR Owners?

Nearly 4 out of 5 CR members who currently own an OTR microwave said the next microwave they purchase will also be an OTR. Only 3 percent said they would switch to a countertop model. The top considerations cited for their next microwave purchase were reliability, performance, appearance (finish/color), and repairability. The factors that didn’t matter as much were brand, recyclability, and special features such as convection, grilling, and WiFi.

Countertop Microwaves

Countertop microwaves don’t require installation like OTR microwaves do, but they take up a fair amount of kitchen real estate. Large countertop microwaves are typically about 2 feet wide, 1 foot high, and about a 1.5 feet deep. Models with a smaller footprint tend to be underpowered and usually don’t perform as well in our tests.

Microwaves from Breville, Hamilton Beach, Insignia, LG, Proctor-Silex, and Signature Kitchen Suite stand out as the most reliable brands; all six brands earn an Excellent rating. Seven of the 32 brands in our survey earn a Very Good rating.

Of the six most reliable brands, only Breville earns an Excellent for owner satisfaction. Panasonic, which earns a Very Good rating for reliability, also receives a Very Good rating for owner satisfaction.

Six brands of countertop microwaves—Avanti, Café, KitchenAid, Monogram, RCA, and Whirlpool—receive a Fair rating for predicted reliability and as a result aren’t eligible to be chosen for our recommended list.

Most Common Countertop Microwave Flaws

Complaints about countertop microwaves are similar to those about OTRs. Failure to heat food evenly and excessive noise top the list. Each affects 5 percent of the countertop microwaves owned by our members.

The next most common are doors that don’t close properly, turntables that stop turning, and microwaves that are slow to heat up food or liquids—or both. But overall, these problems plagued only 3 percent or less of the countertop microwaves in our survey. 

Here are the brands highlighted in our survey for being more likely than usual to have specific problems:

  • Amazon Basics, for being slow to heat up food and liquids.
  • Insignia, for being slow to heat up food.
  • KitchenAid and Whirlpool, for doors that don’t close as they should.

Reliability, ease of using controls, how well microwaves heat food, speed to heat, and the variety of features or controls were the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction with countertop machines. Appearance was also a consideration.

As a group, countertop microwaves tend to be a bit noisier than over-the-range models, although in our microwave tests, none earn a Poor rating. In our heating evenness tests, most countertop models earn an Excellent or Very Good rating, although there are few outliers including several small microwaves, which earn mediocre scores at best.

What's Next for Countertop Owners?

About 75 percent of the owners of countertop microwaves said they plan to stick with that type when they replace their current model. Only 5 percent said they will switch to an over-the-range model. As with OTRs, consumers are looking for reliability, good performance, a reasonable price, energy efficiency, and oven capacity. Considerations lower on the list were recyclability, brand, and special features.

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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.