Whiteware Washup: New Vs Secondhand Microwave

Millie asks: Hi Jo! I’ve been considering getting a microwave to replace my old one. My only problem is the new ones cost a fortune! Do you think it is alright to purchase a used microwave? 

Microwaves have become such an integral part of our day-to-day lived. You don’t realise how often we use them until you’re in need of a new one. Unfortunately, retailers realise how important microwaves are to us. Because of this, they can afford to spike up the prices unjustifiably so.

Whether you decide to buy a microwave new or secondhand, there are a few things you should know before you buy. It helps you decide where you want to put your microwave. Did you know a decision as simple as microwave placement can seriously impact its price, features, size and ease of installation? Your main three options are countertop, over-the-range and Built-in according to CNET.

Countertop microwaves are the most common type. They are the cheapest and are incredibly easy to install. They usually cost between $40-$700 brand new. However if your kitchen is small on space (moment of sympathy for those living in Auckland apartments) then this type won’t work well.

Over-the-range microwaves are built-in and hang over your range saving counter space. They also have vent systems to take the place of the oven hood. If you have $190-$1300 I’d definitely consider getting an over-the-range microwave.

Built-in microwaves look like the material of the future. Really. Here’s a built-in microwave from SharpUSA if you don’t believe me:


I won’t go into much depth about these kinds of microwaves as they are incredibly expensive and you are looking for something cheap.

Sometimes purchasing a used microwave can feel like a round of Russian Roulette. You don’t know if it’ll be a success or failure until the trigger is pulled – or rather, the button is pushed! There’s always a risk with buying something secondhand that the seller wants to get rid of the product because it is seriously faulty.

Secondhand microwaves are no exception. Older models especially may cook unevenly or not work at all. However not all secondhand microwaves are not cooking up to standard. Many people sell used microwaves simply because they want to update their old model. Or perhaps they renovated their kitchen and the old microwave doesn’t suit. (FYI  if you’re interested in kitchen renovations, here’s how to hire a renovations contractor.)

Don’t just look for a cheap price. In fact, if the microwave is $10 or less, consider it a warning sign. Shake the sellers hand and leave before they try selling you a $500 car which “may or may not be legal to drive.”

So what exactly should you look for? Here’s a good checklist from WiseGeek:

  • Fair price
  • Appears clean inside and out
  • Operates well during a demonstration

What’s that about a demonstration? you may ask. It is a very good idea to ask for your microwave to be demonstrated. Don’t feel embarrassed about this. If the seller won’t demonstrate it to you, that could be an indication that the microwave is faulty. A very good indication.

Also when looking at a microwave, keep in mind that older models may not have all the features that you want. This comes down to personal preference. An older model may not have a digital display or keypad. Most of the new microwaves stocked will have these features. Then again, so will some secondhand models!

If you decide that a secondhand microwave is too risky or it pigeonholes you, then a new microwave may suit your tastes more. The great thing about buying a new microwave is that you have a lot more options. It also helps in terms of insuring it. And when’s the last time you’ve had to worry about a new microwave having someones moldy pizza in it? Probably never!