Over the Range vs Countertop Microwaves: Which Is Worth It?


Are you uncertain whether to choose an over-the-range microwave vs a countertop model?

Both types of microwaves offer a wide range of options and features, so choosing between them can be tricky.

Don’t worry, though – I’m here to help!

The main differences between over-the-range and countertop microwaves are their installation, ventilation, convenience, and price. Over-the-range microwaves can help you save space and remove smoke and cooking odors, whereas countertop microwaves are more portable and affordable.

Keep reading to learn all there is to know about these microwaves.

Why trust us? This article was written by Craig Anderson and James Blackford.

Craig has helped thousands of other homeowners repair their appliances since 2016. James is one of our resident appliance experts with over 16 years of experience. He currently works as a Master Technician for SquareTrade, and runs his own appliance repair business.

Over-the-Range vs Countertop Microwaves

Understanding the main differences between an over-the-range microwave vs a countertop model is crucial to ensure you’re making an informed decision.

In this section, you’ll learn all the important details that set these two types of microwaves apart.

#1 Space and Accessibility

In my opinion, the most important factor to consider when choosing between a countertop vs over-the-range microwave is space.

You see, over-the-range microwaves are installed under your cabinetry to save countertop space, making them ideal for small kitchens.

Over-the-Range microwave
Over-the-Range microwaves are convenient and great for saving space

To help you better understand the differences in space between over-the-range microwaves vs countertop models, I’ve prepared this quick pros and cons list:

Microwave TypeProsCons
Over-the-Range– They are installed under your cabinetry and save valuable countertop space.
– They declutter the kitchen.
– Hard for everyone in the home to reach.
– They can be dangerous when you’re handling hot food.
Countertop– They are easily accessible.– Take up valuable countertop space.
– Make a small kitchen look cluttered.

So, if you’re basing your decision on space-saving alone, I recommend getting an over-the-range microwave.

That being said, it’s important to note that not all over-the-range microwaves are suitable for every household. It could also be dangerous for someone to handle hot food in a microwave that they cannot reach properly.

Besides, a microwave is like your one-way ticket to freedom. If the kids can’t reach it and want to use it, they’ll call you back in the kitchen for tasks as simple as warming hot chocolate or reheating dinner. There’s no fun in that.

If you are basing your decision on accessibility alone, you should opt for a countertop microwave.

Countertop microwave
Countertop microwaves offer easier access due to their placement on the kitchen countertop.

#2 Cooking Convenience and Portability

When choosing between a countertop vs over-the-range microwave, it’s also important to weigh the cooking convenience and portability factors.

To help you make an informed decision, I’ve prepared a list of pros and cons highlighting the convenience and portability of both options.

Microwave TypeProsCons
Over-the-Range– Conveniently located for cooking– Not portable
Countertop– Portable– More likely to be small

Over-the-range microwaves can be more convenient than countertop models because they allow you to easily transfer food from the microwave to the stovetop just below, eliminating the need to carry hot or heavy dishes across the kitchen.

If you’re basing your decision on portability alone, then a countertop microwave is the way to go because you can plug it anywhere in the room. So you can feel free to switch things around in the kitchen as often as you like. An over-the-range microwave won’t give you the same freedom.

#3 Installation and Price

When choosing between an over-the-range microwave vs a countertop model, you also need to consider the ease of installation.

In my experience, countertop microwaves are much easier to install, as you only need to remove them from the box and plug them in.

On the other hand, over-the-range microwaves typically require a professional for the installation.

It’s also worth noting that countertop microwaves are more affordable than over-the-range microwaves due to their ease of installation and because they don’t have an exhaust fan.

Here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons regarding installation and price of both types of microwave:

Microwave TypeProsCons
Over-the-Range– You will probably need a professional for the installation.
– More expensive than countertop microwaves.
– Their starting prices are roughly $180.
Countertop– Easy to install.
– Generally cheaper than over-the-range microwaves. Their starting prices are roughly $50.
– Although they are cheaper, you won’t have access to as many features.

#4 Ventilation

My usual advice when choosing between an over-the-range microwave and a countertop model is to consider the ventilation.

Over-the-range microwaves have an exhaust fan and filters that remove smoke and cooking odors, which is great if your kitchen doesn’t have ventilation. Countertop microwaves do not have integrated ventilation systems.

Keep in mind that while the vent is a great feature for the microwave, it will not be as powerful as your normal exhaust vent. You see, the average dedicated exhaust vent vents air at a rate of 450 cubic feet per minute. But, the average over-the-range microwave vent vents air at a rate of 300 CFM, meaning it will take the microwave vent longer to clear the air of smells and steam.

The over-the-range vent can also be noisier than a dedicated exhaust vent. But it is still a great option for kitchens with limited ventilation.

If you decide to go for an over-the-range microwave, it’s important to remember that regular filter cleaning is necessary to prevent grease buildup and unpleasant odors. From what I’ve seen, is best to clean the filters once a month if you cook every day or fry food a few times a week.

Additionally, over-the-range microwaves have a hidden filter behind the plastic vent above the door, which also requires cleaning. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s manual for specific instructions on how to remove both filters.

Over-The-Range Vs Countertop Microwave: Which Should You Buy?

If you’re still unsure whether to buy an over-the-range microwave or a countertop model, my advice is to consider your budget and living situation – whether you rent or own a home.

These factors can play a significant role in making the right decision. Let’s delve into the details.

Budget Buys

If you’re on a budget, a countertop microwave is definitely the way to go. They’re way more affordable than over-the-range microwaves.

There are so many different countertop microwaves to choose from with many features. With smaller microwaves starting at just $50, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that suits your budget.

Renting a Home

Are you renting your home? Then you probably don’t want to spend a lot of time and money installing an over-the-range microwave.

In such cases, I recommend getting a countertop microwave instead. You can choose from a variety of models that are long-lasting and that you can take with you wherever you go.


You should get an over-the-range microwave if you own your home or are designing a new layout for your kitchen.

An over-the-range microwave will help you free up kitchen space and be more convenient for cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Size Over-The-Range Microwave Do I Need?

The answer to that question will greatly depend on your particular situation.

Ideally, you’ll want to get an over-the-range microwave that covers the entirety of your cooktop both in width and length to ensure that the appliance catches all the smoke released while you cook.

Now as great as over-the-range microwaves work, they’ll never be as good as an actual range hood, so if you want the best smoke control solution, these microwaves might not be it.

What’s the Average Price Range of an Over-The-Range Microwave?

This varies depending on factors such as brand quality, features, size, and more. However, the average price range for a decently-equipped over-the-range microwave is between $200-500.

What’s the Average Lifespan of a Countertop Microwave?

There’s no cookie-cutter answer to this, as the lifespan of a countertop microwave will be greatly determined by user habits, maintenance rate, and overall timely repairs.

Under good conditions, and if you stick to your manufacturer’s recommendations, your countertop microwave should last up to 10 years.

How Much Power Does a Microwave Consume?

Depending on the size and cooking program you select, you could be looking at anywhere between 600-1,200 watts.

It’s important to note that the cost of running a microwave is usually not expensive.

Click here to use our free calculator and estimate your microwave running costs!


Choosing between an over-the-range and countertop microwave can be hard, as both have great but distinct features and pros and cons.

Here’s a quick summary of the main differences between an over-the-range and countertop microwaves:

Over-the-Range Microwaves are…Countertop Microwaves are…
– Great for space-saving
– Possibly hard to reach
– Convenient
– Complicated to install
– Less affordable
– Available with a vent
– Countertop space consuming
– Easy to reach
– Possibly inconvenient when cooking
– Portable
– Quick to install
– More affordable  

I hope this article has helped you see which microwave model is best for you.

If this article has helped you, then why not take a look at some of our other articles and free guides? You could even sign up for our email list.

Have a great day!


I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more