SIZE, function and power are just some of the things to consider when choosing the best cheap microwave to fit your budget.
We explain what to look for and round up some of the best ones on the market.
Just because a microwave is on the cheaper end of the spectrum doesn’t mean it’s not as good.
In fact, some have just as many functions as the higher end ones but without the price tag to match.
But how do you choose the best cheap microwave for you?
What size microwave do I need?
Cheaper microwaves often have a smaller capacity, which may well be a good thing if you only have a small kitchen.
But the capacity of a microwave and its size might not always match up so double check the external dimensions to make sure it will fit where you want it to.
Remember, you also need to give microwaves room to “breath” as they have vents to release the heat produced during cooking.
In terms of capacity, if you’re only planning to use it to reheat leftovers or to cook ready meals, you don’t need a huge microwave.
Smaller “solo” ones that are around 15 to 20 litres are more than enough. For bigger families, you’ll want one that’s over 20 litres – but only if you’re planning to do more with it.
The internal dimensions of the microwave are important too.
Some microwaves are taller and narrower while others are wider but have low ceilings so you need to choose one where most of your containers will fit inside.
An easy way to do this is to measure your plates up against the size of the turntable plate – but if you’re using it to heat up jugs or bottles then you’ll need to consider the height as well.
Best cheap microwaves to buy now
We’ve rounded up some of the most popular cheap microwaves that are available online. They’re grouped by price, split between under £50 and under £100.
Microwaves under £50
1. Essentials C17MB20 solo microwave
- Essentials C17MB20 solo microwave, £39.99 from Currys – buy here
With a 17 litre capacity and 700W power, this is a great starter microwave and it’s also available in white.
You have five power settings, including defrosting, all controlled via a dial on the right hand side.
Underneath it is a second dial for the timer, which goes up to 35 minutes.
2. Cookworks standard microwave P70B
- Cookworks standard microwave P70B, £49.99 from Argos – buy here
The Cookworks standard microwave is another budget-friendly alternative that’s also available in silver, black and white.
The digital panel means you can control precise cooking times and there are 10 different power levels to choose from.
This 17 litre device also comes with a child safety lock.
3. Ikea Tillreda microwave
- Ikea Tillreda microwave, £49 from Ikea – buy here
Ikea’s freestanding microwave is a 700W machine with a two-year guarantee.
The compact model is designed for smaller kitchens and can be placed just about anywhere.
The power and cooking times are controlled using two knobs on the right hand side of the door.
4. Dunelm manual microwave
- Dunelm manual microwave, £39 from Dunelm – buy here
This 700W microwave has a 20 litre capacity, which makes it the biggest of the ultra-budget friendly options on our list.
It has six different power settings, including defrost, and the timings are all controlled via a knob.
The door is manual so you have to open it by hand rather than at the push of a button.
Microwaves under £100
1. Panasonic NN-E28JBMBPQ compact solo microwave
- Panasonic NN-E28JBMBPQ microwave, £79 from Currys – buy here
The Panasonic NN-E28JBMBPQ compact solo microwave is a powerful 800W machine with a 20 litre capacity.
The timing and power is programmed via a control pad and there are three preset functions – auto defrost, auto reheat and auto cook – that are adjustable depending on the amount of food you’re cooking.
When we tested this model, we found that it was straightforward and easy to use. When we defrosted some salmon for example, it did it in less than 10 minutes without cooking the fish in the process.
The function we were most impressed by was multi-stage cooking, which lets you set three different times and power levels for one continuous program, great if you're cooking an entire meal.
2. Russell Hobbs RHMM701R 17L microwave oven
- Russell Hobbs 700W microwave, £59.97 from Appliances Direct – buy here
This compact microwave from Russell Hobbs has a 17 litre capacity and a 700W power.
The six power settings, including defrost, are controlled using dials – the dial for the timer is directly above it and goes up to 30 minutes.
The door is manual open only and you can also get the same model in cream, black and silver.
3. Kenwood K25MB20 solo microwave
- Kenwood K25MB20 solo microwave, £74.99 from Currys – buy here
For bigger households, this Kenwood microwave would be perfect.
It has a 25 litre capacity and 900W of power, enough for most kitchen tasks.
The control pad lets you select 11 different power levels and there’s even a preset program for warming plates.
4. Sharp YC-MG01U-S microwave
- Sharp YC-MG01U-S microwave, £69.99 from Amazon – buy here
This 800W microwave has a 20 litre capacity with five different power levels.
But even better – it also includes a grill with four different settings so you can crisp up foods as well.
All the functions, including power levels and to toggle between the microwave and the grill, are controlled using the knobs on the right hand side of the device.
What power microwave do I need?
In terms of power, most microwaves are between 700W and 900W.
A more powerful microwave will cook your food faster, saving you time, especially when you're cooking larger quantities.
It can also cook the food more evenly, reducing the chances of a charred exterior and uncooked interior.
However, on a defrost function where you have to lower the power level anyway to avoid cooking the food, it won’t make much of a difference.
How to clean a microwave
We’ve all been there – that moment when the bowl of food we’re heating up unexpectedly explodes all over the inside of the microwave.
But cleaning the microwave is actually quite easy.
All you need is some water and a couple of slices of lemon or a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar – combine these in a microwaveable bowl and heat on high power for a couple of minutes until the water comes to a boil and steam is produced.
Leave the mixture to cool in the microwave with the door closed for a few minutes – it needs to be cool enough to touch but not completely cold.
When ready, you just need to wipe down the interior of the microwave with a clean cloth and any stubborn, stuck on food should come away easily.
When was the microwave invented?
The microwave oven was invented by accident in the 1940s by American Physicist Percy Spencer.
He was working on magnetrons – a vacuum tube that produces microwaves and is used in radar – when he realised the chocolate bar in his pocket was getting hot and started melting.
After some experimenting, the microwave oven was born.
The design was patented in 1945. However, it wasn’t until 1946 that the first commercially available microwave ovens were produced by Raytheon, Spencer’s employer at the time.
At more than five foot tall, it was so big and expensive that its first customers were actually restaurants.
For more gadgets to help reduce the time it takes to cook dinner, read our guide to picking the best pressure cookers.
Check out our pick of the best sandwich toasters to make the perfect toasties.
We also put the Proscenic T21 air fryer to the test.
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