What’s the Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Microwaves?

As I began researching a replacement microwave I noticed a huge difference in price. Some microwaves are $50, while others are over $500. I then began to wonder “what is the difference between cheap and expensive microwaves?”

In general, there are six factors that make up the difference between cheap and expensive microwaves. Those factors are microwave oven capacity, microwave oven power, construction type, features, microwave type, and brand name.

Continue reading as I discuss these factors, provide examples and help determine if there is really a difference between a cheap and expensive microwave.

Microwave capacity

Microwave oven capacity is the amount of food that you can cook in a microwave at one time. In the United States, this number is based on cubic feet (cu. ft), while in other places you may see the number in liters. In general, the higher the number (cubic feet or liters) the more food that can be cooked at one time. 

While looking online for a new microwave, I noticed the larger the oven capacity, the higher the cost. Let’s look at some examples.

Here are three microwaves with a capacity of less than 1 cubic foot:

  • Tobshiba microwave oven – 0.9 cubic feet: $86.42
  • Hamilton Beach Microwave oven – 0.7 cubic feet: $50.89
  • Kenmore Microwave – 0.7 cubic feet: $73.92

The average price of these three microwaves is $70.41

Now, let’s take a look at three microwaves with capacities over 2 cubic feet:

  • Kenmore Microwave – 2.2 cubic feet: $245.87
  • Panasonic Microwave – 2.2 cubic feet: $199.35
  • Westinghouse microwave oven – 2.2 cubic feet: $224.38

The average price of these three microwaves is $223.20

As you can see the larger average price of the three larger microwaves is three times or expensive than the average price of the three smallest microwaves.

What about different capacities within the same brand?

To take the size comparison a step further, I compared the prices of different capacities within the same brand. For this example, we are going to compare three sizes within the Kenmore brand. All three of these microwaves are countertop microwaves.

  • Kenmore 0.9 cubic feet: $94.99
  • Kenmore 1.6 cubic feet: $169.54
  • Kenmore 2.2 cubic feet: $245.87

As you can see, there is at least a $70 dollar price increase as you increase the capacity of the microwave. 

Because Kenmore is considered a premium brand in appliances, I also compared Westinghouse, which is considered to be an off brand. While Westinghouse doesn’t have a microwave over 2 cubic feet, they do have a number of microwaves in the lower tiers, here is what I found.

  • Westinghouse 0.7 cubic feet: $66.11
  • Westinghouse 1.1 cubic feet: $89.97

As you can see, there is also a difference between the two sizes of the Westinghouse microwaves.

Microwave oven power

Another factor to consider when identifying the difference between a cheap and expensive microwave is the microwave oven power. The microwave oven power, measured in watts, is how your food cooks in the microwave. In most cases, the higher the wattage in your microwave, the better your food will cook.

Also, the higher the wattage, the more expensive the microwave will cost. Most microwaves will have a wattage between 600 – 1300 watts. Let’s look at some examples of the price of high and low wattage microwaves:

Here are the prices for three low wattage microwaves:

  • Westinghouse – 600 watts: $61.74
  • Daeowoo – 700 watts: $79.99
  • GE – 700 watts: $88.99

Two things to note with these three microwaves. First, all three of these microwaves have a capacity of less than 1 cubic foot. Second, the average price of these three microwaves is $76.91

Now, let’s take a look at three microwaves with the highest wattage:

  • Westinghouse – 1200 watts: $224.38
  • GE – 1100 watts: $598.99
  • Panasonic – 1200 watts: $133.34

Just like the low wattage microwaves, the three microwaves with the highest wattage also had the most cubic feet for cooking. Also, the average price for these three microwaves is $318.91.

The higher wattage average is over 4 times more expensive than the lowest wattage microwaves. 

What about different wattages within the same brand?

To further illustrate that wattage matters, I decided to compare difference wattages within the same brand. This time, I’m going to compare the watts and prices of three Toshiba microwaves. Below are the results:

  • Toshiba – 900 watts: $86.92
  • Toshiba – 1100 watts: $118.98
  • Toshiba – 1250 watts: $177.99

As you can see, the more watts the higher the price, and the price per watt increases dramatically as the price increases:

  • 900 watts = $0.096 per watt
  • 1100 watts = $0.108 per watt
  • 1250 watts = $0.14 per watt

It might be better in the long run to purchase a lower wattage microwave because it may provide the best value. 

Construction type

When I say construction type, I mean the products that are used to make the microwave. For example is the microwave made with a hard plastic finish, or did the manufacturer use stainless steel? Does the microwave have see through glass so you can watch your food cook? 

Below is an example comparing two Kenmore countertop microwaves, one with a stainless steel finish, and one without. 

  • Kenmore 0.9 cubic feet 900 watt without stainless steel: $94.99
  • Kenmore 0.9 cubic feet – 900 watt with stainless steel: $115.00

Just by adding stainless steel to the same microwave increased the price of the microwave by $20.00. 

Microwave type

Another important indicator of price is the type of microwave you want to purchase. Currently, there are three types of microwaves: solo, grill, and convection. The difference between these three microwaves is what they can safely cook. Below is a brief description of each type, and what they can cook safely.

Solo microwaves

Solo microwaves are standard, entry-level microwaves. They come with few bells and whistles, and they are best used for reheating cold pizza, popcorn, and coffee. These microwaves tend to come in a variety of sizes but will be the cheapest of the three listed.

Grill microwaves

Grill microwaves are a step up in both price and functionality. In addition to reheating leftovers and Ramen, grill microwaves have the ability to grill certain foods. Grill microwaves can grill just about anything you can place on an outdoor grill, including chicken, beef, and vegetables.

In general, gill microwaves will be more expensive than solo, but don’t be surprised if you see a high-end solo microwave out-price a lower end grill microwave.

Convection microwaves

Convection ovens are the premium microwave type because of there abilities, price, and components. Convection microwaves, which could be considered microwave ovens, take advantage of a special fan and heating element that the solo and grill microwaves don’t have. 

In addition to cooking minute rice, grilling chicken, convection microwaves can bake cakes, pies, and pizzas with ease. Because of there flexibility, convection microwaves are going to the most expensive of the three types. 


Another difference between cheap and expensive microwaves are the features that are included. In general, the cheaper the microwave, the fewer the features. Basic/ cheap microwaves will have the following features only:

  • Cook time
  • Defrost
  • Power level
  • Timer

In addition to these standard features, more expensive microwaves may include the following features:

  • Smart capability
  • Auto cook
  • Preheat
  • Light
  • Fan
  • Individual buttons for popcorn, beverage, etc.
  • Child lock
  • Turntable

And more. 

To Illustrate this point, I compared four microwaves that have the same wattage (110 watts) and similar cubic feet. Below are the results:

  • Panasonic 1.3 cubic feet, 1100 watts: $111.11
  • Westinghouse 1.4 cubic feet, 1100 watts: $104.61
  • GE 1.4 cubic feet, 1100 watts: $119.44
  • Westinghouse 1.4 cubic feet, 1100 watts: $125.84

All of these microwaves are basically the same, so why the large price difference? The most expensive microwave had the most features see below:

  • 10 cooking power levels
  • 6 one-touch buttons
  • Auto weight defrost
  • One minute function that lets you cook at full power for one minute
  • Child safety lock

While the other microwaves had a few of the features, none of them had all of these features. So, features play a major role in the difference between cheap and expensive microwaves. 

Brand name

Brand name plays a smaller but important role when determining the difference between cheap and expensive microwaves. When all other factors (watts, features, microwave type, capacity) are the same, the name brand will be a bit more expensive than the off brand. One interesting thing to note is that traditional brand names may not carry the same weight in the world of microwaves. 

One example if Westinghouse. When I began researching microwaves, I assumed that Westinghouse was a second or third tier brand. However, I found that their prices were near the top on most of their products.

Another thing to consider is that not all brands operate in all levels of microwaves. I found that microwaves have different tier two and three brands as the cubic feet decrease. 


To conclude, there are at least six factors that contribute to the difference between cheap and expensive microwaves. What do you think? Did I miss and important factors? Have you purchased a microwave recently?

Comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

Additional questions

How much does a good microwave cost?

If you are looking for a good countertop microwave, you can expect to spend between $150 – $200 for a good microwave. A good microwave will have a large cubic footprint, high wattage, and a number of features. However, just because it is expensive, doesn’t make it good. A good microwave will meet all of your needs at a price you can afford. 

What is a good wattage for microwaves?

microwave wattage ranges from 700 – 1300 watts. In general, the higher the watts the better. Lower wattage microwaves may take long for your food cook, and your food may suffer from poor taste and cold spots.