Countertop Microwaves vs. Built-In Microwaves

Microwaves have become essential cooking tools for nearly any kitchen. They’re a quick way to melt butter, boil water, or even cook entire meals with just the push of a button. There are two main types: countertop and built-in microwaves, but which one is right for you?


Designs for a countertop microwave vary quite a bit. Not only can you get a huge range of colors, but you can also buy different styles, sizes, and feature sets. A smaller microwave may fit perfectly on your counter, or you may be in search of a larger one that can cook a full-sized dinner in a fraction of the time.

Built-in microwaves have fewer options. Not all sizes and designs can be installed into a cabinet or wall. You have to consider the width of your range, the depth of your cabinet, and the ventilation over your stovetop. Those things aren’t always as standardized as you might hope


Installing a countertop microwave is one of the easiest things anyone can do. You just need to plug it in and set it down. (Does that even count as “installation”.)

Installing a built-in microwave is a lot more complicated. A built-in microwave should be bracketed into the existing cabinetry, and it’s always important to make sure it’s vented properly to prevent a potential fire hazard. You also need a dedicated 20-amp circuit built into the cabinet. Depending on what your current situation is, that circuit might not be there. You can take care of these things with the help of online tutorials and a positive attitude. But honestly, you may want to go ahead and hire a licensed contractor who can ensure that it’s done correctly.

Counter Space

The biggest drawback for a countertop microwave is the amount of cabinet space required to place the device. People with smaller kitchens may have limited counter space and may discover that these microwaves are not ideal for their situations, especially if they don’t use them on a daily basis.

A built-in microwave doesn’t take up counter space, which is perfect for smaller kitchens. It clears up the countertop to be used in other situations. It tends to go over the oven range, where it doesn’t even take up cabinet space.


Countertop microwaves are extremely portable, meaning you can unplug and move them anywhere in your home that has a plug and sufficient room. Plus, when a countertop microwave breaks, you can replace it with another without a convoluted installation process.

The limited capacity constraints and the fact that a built-in microwave permanently installed in the cabinetry means that replacement can be expensive. If a part stops working, you may have to replace the entire unit, which may mean calling somebody to remove the old unit and install a new one. (Though it’s worth noting that replacing a built-in microwave isn’t as hard as putting one in where there wasn’t one before.)


Countertop microwaves can be relatively inexpensive, but they have a huge price range. It’s easy to purchase a microwave for as little as $50 or as high as $350. A larger, higher wattage microwave will cost more than a smaller, low-watt microwave and will likely have more settings.

Built-in microwaves are much more expensive. A reasonable built-in microwave costs around $225-250, but you can spend $1,000 if you really want to. In fact, this microwave has goes for $1,000-$1,300 and is a Best Seller at Amazon. The owner will also have to pay for any bracketing, screws, sealant, and possibly the cost of hiring someone to install the microwave.