Are over-the-range or built-in microwaves better? 

Microwaves have become a necessity in most modern-day kitchens. They are great for cooking instant meals, defrosting frozen dishes and reheating beverages. Despite all the benefits of owning a microwave, they do take up a lot of space. Built-in microwaves were created to get around using up valuable counter space on a microwave. 

Two popular options are over-the-range microwaves, which are installed above the stove, and built-in microwaves, which are built into a cabinet, wall or island and remain completely separate from the oven. Both options come with pros and cons, and factors like the size of the kitchen and quality of the ventilation system will decide which option is better for you. 

Over-the-range microwaves

Over-the-range microwaves are installed in cabinet space above the kitchen oven. This is typically where the range hood is located, but an over-the-range microwave replaces the range hood and acts as a vent and air filtration system. The microwave has a built-in fan and ventilation system in the bottom of the unit that blows the old kitchen air outside then cycles in clean air.

Sharp 1.6-Cubic-Feet 1000W Over-the-Range Microwave Oven

Over-the-range microwaves do not ventilate as well as a traditional range hood, but some microwaves like the Sharp 1.6 Cubic Feet 1000W Over-the-Range Microwave Oven have ventilation speed settings that attempt to make up for the deficit. 

Space saver 

The biggest pro to getting an over-the-range microwave is that you free up counter space in the kitchen. People who love to cook and acquire a number of appliances know just how valuable kitchen real estate can be. The over-the-range microwave oven takes up zero space on the counter and sits right above the oven, dedicating just a single portion of your kitchen to necessary cooking appliances. 

Double as a microwave and hood 

The other big pro to an over-the-range microwave is that it acts as both a microwave and a vent. The bottom of the microwave contains a fan and ventilation system that allows you to recycle stale kitchen air with fresh air from outside. However, it is worth noting that the average range hood vents air at an average of 400 to 500 cubic feet per minute, while the average over-the-range oven vents at around 300 CFM. Despite this setback, over-the-range microwaves have been very trendy during the last few decades, and many people like the dual functionality they offer. 

Best over-the-range microwaves 

Top over-the-range microwave 

FRIGIDAIRE FGMV17WNVF Over The Range Microwave Oven

The FRIGIDAIRE FGMV17WNVF Over The Range Microwave Oven is one of the best available, thanks to its large size, 1,000-watt capacity and the number of presets and sensors it has. It is great for large families and for the LEDs that do a great job of illuminating the cooktop.

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Top budget over-the-range microwave 

Black+Decker 1.6-Cu.Ft Over-the-Range Microwave

The Black+Decker 1.6-Cu.Ft Over-the-Range Microwave is one of the most affordable microwaves. Despite the lower price, it still runs at 1,000 watts and comes with a decent ventilation system and tons of presets. It is slightly smaller than the other microwaves on this list.

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Worth checking out 

GE JVM7195SKSS Microwave

The GE JVM7195SKSS Microwave is a larger, pricier option with a stainless steel design. It comes with a powerful 400 CFM fan and tons of presets and even boasts a steam clean option. It is much pricier than a lot of the competition though.

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Built-in microwaves 

Built-in microwaves are similar to over-the-range microwaves, except that they don’t sit above the oven, and they do not replace a range hood. Instead, built-in microwaves can be placed on an island or mounted on a wall or cabinet. They allow you to save counter space and keep the range hood as your ventilation system. 

Despite these benefits, a larger kitchen space is needed to accommodate having both a range hood and built-in microwave. People with smaller kitchens probably won’t have enough space for a built-in microwave.

Get a built-in microwave and a hood 

A built-in microwave won’t sit above your oven, meaning that the range hood will stay put and act as your kitchen’s ventilation system. Instead, a built-in microwave will occupy other cabinet or wall space elsewhere in the kitchen. This setup gives you a safer, superior ventilation system, as well as taking up no counter space. 

More microwave choices and locations 

Over-the-range microwaves need to be built specifically for that location, but regular built-in microwaves don’t need additional fans and vents added to them. This gives you far more options to choose from when it comes to the microwave itself. You can even convert a countertop microwave into a built-in microwave. 

They can be installed in lower or higher cabinets, which is great for shorter folks, and they tend to take up slightly less space than over-the-range microwaves. 

Best built-in microwaves 

Top built-in microwave 

FRIGIDAIRE Built-in Microwave Oven

The FRIGIDAIRE Built-in Microwave Oven is a great product for the price. It runs at 1,200 watts and comes with nine power settings and 30 cook options. It takes up 2.2 cubic feet, making it an ideal oven for families and larger kitchens.

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Top budget built-in microwave 

Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN686S

The Panasonic Microwave Oven NN-SN686S costs less than $200 and runs at 1,200 watts. It is smaller, but still capable of cooking small dishes. There are tons of presets and cook settings including patented inverter technology that defrosts and cooks food more evenly.

Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Sharp SMD2470AH 24

The Sharp SMD2470AH 24 is a great option for shorter people since it features a drawer design and can be installed in lower cabinets. It runs at 1,000 watts and takes up less space than many other built-in microwaves. It is very expensive and taller people might not be fond of the idea of bending over or crouching to use it.

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Should you get an over-the-range microwave or a built-in microwave? 

Both types come with serious pros and cons that make recommending one or the other very situation-specific. 

People that want to save space and have smaller kitchens will be better off with an over-the-range microwave since it takes up less space and replaces the need for a range hood. This is also a good option for parents who do not want young children using the microwave by accident. 

Those with a larger kitchen would be better off opting for a built-in microwave so they can keep the range hood and utilize its superior ability to ventilate the kitchen. Built-in microwaves can be installed anywhere there is space, so they can be more accommodating to shorter people and children. 


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Stephen Morin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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