A microwave is an essential for any kitchen. Used for cooking, defrosting and reheating, these devices must be one of the most commonly used across the country. Of course, you don’t always want to pay over the odds, so this article is going to discuss the most affordable microwaves for your money.
We’ve researched countless microwaves to bring you the best of the best at the cheap end of the market. We’ve analyzed buying factors like reliability, ease of use, quantity and quality of features as well as, of course, value for money to bring you a full roundup of the best microwaves under $50.
At the price range of under $50 you’re at the bottom end of the market. But don’t fret, there are some kickass microwave ovens available for this price and this article is going to give you everything you need to choose the best one for you!
Best Microwave Under $50
Note: Prices do fluctuate so you’ll need to check the link to Amazon to see what the current price of each microwave is.
Impressive amount of features for such a cheap microwave.
Solid reviews and rating from previous customers.
The door can be a little tough to open.
The first on my list and first choice as best microwave under $50 is this 700W microwave by Sharp. Rated as 4.2* average on amazon this little baby proves that good things do come in small packages.
This oven has a 0.7 cubic feet capacity with a 10″ turntable, enough to fit most plates and bowls. That comes with a 700W power output, not outstanding, but respectable at this price point. You won’t be waiting all day for your pizza to reheat with this thing.
The Sharp offers an impressive amount of pre-programmed functions. Among others, you can enjoy “time defrost”, “auto defrost” and a lot of auto food options like one to easily cook popcorn.
The “+30 seconds” button is a super convenient way to add on a bit more time. Or to simply choose “2 minutes” with a few button pushes. All accessible by its snazzy keypad.
The only criticism I can find is that the door is a bit hard to open.
Gorgeous exterior design (bear in mind that the material itself is plastic and not stainless steel).
Ten different power levels for low power cooking.
Next up we have this model by Danby. A similar size and power as the Sharp, with volume of 0.7 cubic feet and a 9.5″ turntable paired with solid 700W power. This microwave is solidly reviewed on Amazon with an average of 4 stars at time of writing.
One nice feature of the Danby is its ten power levels of cooking. This gives you ultimate control of cooking, heating and reheating. For example, to soften butter it’s recommended to use precisely 10% power, not an option with every microwave.
The Danby is stainless steel colored and IMO the nicest looking oven on this list. Bear in mind the actual material is plastic. Perfectly safe, but not as “solid” looking. The keypad matches nicely with the rest of the oven too.
Good amount of pre-programmed settings for those who like to have the hassle taken out of reheating.
A few more reliability issues than others on this list.
Tons more useful features, the timesaving “sensor reheat” being a standout example.
The next model follows in a similar vein to the first two. Again, we’re looking at a microwave of 0.7 cubic feet capacity and 9.5″ diameter turntable and power output of 700W. Average review rating is 3.9 which I’ll discuss in a second.
This microwave has ten power levels so you have full control over how you cook and reheat food.
The LED and keypad are smartly laid out and easy to use, coming with six-button “one touch” cooking menu as you can see on the photo above.
The RCA has reports of reliability issues with reviews on Amazon claiming the oven stopped working after 1-3 months. Apparently customer support from the company was unhelpful, too.
These few complaints are, however, dwarfed by the large number of people who liked the microwave.
Cheapest microwave currently available as of time of writing.
Decent microwave all things considered in terms of ease of use and features.
Slightly let down by having more reliability issues than you would like.
Our next microwave is, as of time of writing, the cheapest of the lot. If you want a functional microwave for as cheap as possible, this is your best bet.
Although the difference is only a few dollars, my bet would be to go with one of the more reliable options further up.
The Commercial Chef is by a fraction the smallest microwave here, at just 0.6 cubic feet and 10″ turntable. It still packs a decent power of 700W so you aren’t suffering with slower cooking times.
Despite its price, the oven comes well equipped with ten power levels and six pre-programmed presets to cook with, along with weight and speed defrost settings.
Along with plenty of good reviews, this one has multiple reports of issues and faulty parts that bring its average rating down. Unless you’re strapped for cash, a few more bucks for peace of mind would be my suggestion.
Unique selling point of voice activation technology is a bonus for those who like the whole “smart home” thing.
A solid, if unspectacular, microwave otherwise.
The last entry on our list is a bit of a wild card as it’s produced by Amazon itself. Its standout feature is it can be programmed to function with Alexa.
If you’re all about that voice-activated smart home kinda stuff then you might love the idea of telling your microwave to “reheat for three minutes”.
The keypad itself is simpler than others in this list as you’re expected to use the voice recognition technology – possibly a drawback.
It finds its way onto this list because of its small size and affordable price tag. Like the other microwaves, we’re looking at a 700W power oven here that has capacity of 0.7 cubic feet and a 10″ turntable.
The downside? The price shoots up if you don’t already own an Echo Dot which is mandatory to use the microwave.
Other features are ten power levels, a kitchen timer, and a child safety lock, giving you a fair bang for your buck.
Lastly, a word from Amazon (and an idea of why they love getting people into the whole Alexa thing…)
“Automatically reorder popcorn when you run low and save 10% on popcorn orders—enabled by Amazon Dash Replenishment technology”
What you should know before buying a microwave under $50
A typical microwave will cost between $100-200. The ones on this list are much cheaper.
If you’re looking to grab something at a bargain basement price then you do sacrifice a couple of things. I’d like to talk about them now to make sure you’re ok with them.
The first is the power output, measured in wattage. All the microwaves listed here are 700W or below. This is at the low end and means your food will take longer to cook, longer to reheat, longer to defrost etc. If you’re used to rapid microwave times from a 1200W microwave then you might want to look elsewhere.
The second is extra features. On the lower end of the price range, pre-programmable options, child safety locks, keypads, auto-defrost and more advanced stuff like sensor technology and “inverter tech” is sadly absent.
The third is size. The turntable for all these microwaves measures 10″ diameter which will not fit all containers and dinner plates. Make sure this is acceptable for what you’re planning to use.
Buyer’s Guide For Best Microwave Under $50
Your first and most important decision when choosing a microwave is to decide what amount of watts is necessary. The wattage of a microwave is a measure of its power, or more simply, how fast it cooks.
Generally speaking, the more the better. A higher wattage cooks things more quickly, a huge advantage whether you’re preparing a meal for ten people or just reheating yesterday’s leftovers.
The upper end of microwaves at around 1300W are almost twice as fast as the 700W or 800W microwaves you might be used to.
One caveat is that instructions and cooking times on packaged meals are for microwaves in the 700-900W range. However, you can simply reduce the power for most microwaves or just work out the time difference.
For example, a cooking time of 3 minutes (180 seconds) at 900W can be converted into 1200W using the following equation.
You might wonder why anyone would get a low wattage microwave. The technology used in microwaves gets exponentially more expensive to produce those higher wattages. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the extra power is worth the cost.
Dial or keypad
Microwaves use either a rotating dial or a keypad for input.
The keypad is the modern option. You have an LED display showing the remaining time and a plethora of buttons that offer different features or preset options.
A dial-based microwave is more simple and provides less information. You spin the dial to the amount of time you want. It’s tricky when doing smaller cooking times and doing increments of 30 seconds is often a guessing game!
Although nowadays you see some modern microwaves offer a dial input and LED display.
This option is useful for those who might have issues with a button-based input such as the disabled or elderly.
Size / Capacity
The standard measurement for size of microwaves in the USA is using cubic feet. Personally, I find this clunky and unhelpful. Here’s a rule of thumb to make sense of this measurement.
0.7 cubic feet – small microwave
1-1.5 cubic feet – normal-sized microwave
1.7+ cubic feet – larger microwave
It’s easier to judge size based on the diameter of the turntable on which you place your food. All microwaves I have reviewed have this diameter in the listing for your convenience.
To work out if a microwave will fit in your kitchen, it is best to use the dimensions of length, width, and height. These are available on any Amazon listing you can find by clicking on the links in the article.
The materials that make up the inner components of the microwave oven are standardized across the industry. For example. the inner panels of the microwave are made from stainless steel which reflects the radio waves (or microwaves) and prevents them from leaving the oven. They are the same in all microwave ovens.
Typically, the outside body of the microwave is made of aluminum which is strong and cheap. In terms of buying a microwave, you don’t need to think too deeply about the material it is made from.
You won’t always want to use your microwave at full power. For example, one neat trick you can do with the microwave is to run it at 10% power to make beautiful and warm melted chocolate. Some microwaves give you more control over power settings than others.
The standard in modern microwaves is to have ten “power levels” where a five corresponds to 50% and a nine to 90% and so on. This gives you a lot of control.
On the other hand, you also come across microwaves that simply offer “medium” and “medium-low” heat, sometimes without even telling you the percentage of the full power that it’s using.
Older and cheaper microwaves have a peculiar quirk when using low power modes. For example, when using a 50% power they will not run at 50% power but will alternate between 100% power and then 0% power. This shortcut is not ideal and can lead to unevenly cooked food.
The issue is that the magnetron, the “engine” of a microwave, can either be turned on or off. Creating a microwave that can produce a steady stream of lower power requires a touch of tech wizardry.
You need to decide if it’s worth the investment to have this “inverter technology” for low power modes like defrosting, softening, melting and so on.
Sensor heating is one of the highlights of modern microwave technology and takes the guesswork out of cooking and reheating.
Essentially, the microwave can detect moisture levels in the food and use this to calibrate precisely how much cooking time is needed. You select the type of food as different foods have different moisture profiles.
No need to put in an amount of time. In fact, some microwaves tell you how long is left before your food is ready.
Sensor technology can be used for reheating but also for cooking some foods from scratch. A valuable feature you may want to splash the cash for in your new microwave oven.
The “keep warm” feature can be a lifesaver for a busy cook trying to juggle cooking five different things at once. Put this setting on and the microwave will keep gravy, soup, desserts or anything else at a steady heat, giving you room to manage the finer points of the meal.
Power saving / eco mode
An “eco mode” offers a reduction of up to 50% of the power used in standby mode, helping you to take a little off your electric bill and do your bit for the environment.
What an “eco mode” cannot do is reduce the amount of power used to cook food. The magnetron uses power at the output of the wattage itself and cannot be made more efficient.
Child safety lock
A microwave with a child safety lock will allow you to “lock” the microwave from being turned on when not in use. This can stop children from fiddling with a potentially dangerous appliance.
Sound on/off option
A “sound on/off” button will turn electric sounds off when selecting options or time and also when the food is finished. Handy for those who share living arrangements to mute the constant buzz of sounds.
A “soften” or “melt” button on a microwave allows you to soften butter or melt chocolate with a single touch. All microwaves have this capability with their low power modes, but a standalone button takes the guesswork out of it.
A microwave with an in-built convection oven offers a great all-in-one appliance for those in dorms or with small kitchens where a separate oven is not an option. It can fulfill almost all the functions of a traditional oven but will rarely be as powerful. The cost is bumped up a fair bit, too.