Our 2020 Cooking Appliance Buying Guide is here to help you find the best ovens and ranges for your money, and we’ll do it by answering these two questions:
Appliances, like cars, have a cost to own beyond the sticker price. Once you factor rebates, utility costs, home-cooked meals, repairs, and replacement into the equation, the ultimate cost to you may be far more or less than you think.
We will draw on decades of experience as appliance service technicians, as well as an engineer’s understanding of how these appliances work, to help you shop for your next oven or range.
Before you start to narrow down your list of brands, first research the warranty service options available in your area (at the end of the guide, we provide a table with links to each brand’s service locator). Nothing is more frustrating than having an appliance break and discovering there are no options for getting it fixed where you live, or having to go through an especially difficult process to get the manufacturer to cover the repairs because you had to go out of network (think healthcare for your appliance).
To uncover the true cost to own any oven and range, next look at:
The generosity of the manufacturer warranty
Our guide ends with a table that includes grades for each brand’s cooking appliance warranty, so be sure to check out those grades. Additional warranty related items to consider include:
Yes, longer, more comprehensive warranties are better because they save you money by covering the cost of more repairs. More than that, a better warranty also indicates that a brand is more willing to stand behind its customers as well as its product.
Think of the warranty as an indicator of how much trust the manufacturer has in the quality of their engineering, the error-free nature of their production lines, and the reliability of their products. They wouldn’t offer so many years of coverage if they thought the appliance would be breaking down all the time.
BUYER BEWARE, do not be suckered into paying for coverage from an extended warranty company. Read why it’s almost never a good idea to buy an extended warranty here.
How often it will require service
We have data going back decades and know a thing or two about the reliability of these brands. You can check out the table at the end of the guide for our reliability grades, but here are a couple quick ways to spot reliability:
Be sure to check out our oven and range grades at the end of the guide.
Also, since we’re near the holidays, it’s worth mentioning: don’t use self-clean mode now. It stresses all heating elements and increases the likelihood that they’ll break at a critical moment during your holidays. Clean your oven often with a damp rag and mild cleaner and save the self-cleaning cycle for big stubborn messes.
The cost and availability of parts
Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to base your decision on broil element prices, because you honestly shouldn’t be thinking about that when buying an oven. Yes, higher-end models tend to have more expensive parts, but that’s because those parts are higher quality and rigorously tested, meaning they are less likely to break again. Replacing a $50 part twice is more expensive than replacing an $80 part once.
What you should be concerned with is the availability of parts. Low-end brands have a habit of discontinuing parts for older models. If something important breaks on your appliance, you are out of luck, no matter how few years it’s been since you purchased it. Which means it’s time to buy a new appliance.
The one exception is induction cooktops. Many gas range parts can be adjusted, cleaned, or replaced with equivalent parts if they break, but induction boards are highly model and manufacturer specific, and if they go discontinued, you’re sunk.
The average life span before it needs to be replaced
Ovens and ranges have the highest life expectancy of any appliance in your home, so what you buy will last you and your home a long time. According to available data, you’ll hear that electric ranges last 16 years on average and gas ranges 19. High-end models live an average of 25 years, and we’ve known some ranges to keep on cooking into their third decade.
Of course, cheaper models are going to survive for only two-thirds to three quarters as long as middle-of-the-road models, while top-end models may last nearly twice as long. As for induction ranges, we’d estimate only 5-7 years now, due to their high failure rate.
To further improve the lifespan of your oven, don’t heat your house with it. These appliances are built for intermittent operation; constant operation will cause their elements to expire far far more quickly.
As servicers, we know a product’s reliability isn’t just about expenses. Sometimes, just avoiding the headache and time suck that is a broken cooking appliance has value beyond dollars saved. Here are a few ways brands can make a product easier or harder to own:
We believe reliability is one of the most important considerations when buying an appliance, and we hope you agree. But we also understand that, at the end of the day, cooking appliances are there to cook food and cook it well.
The better the range, the easier it is to use and the better meals it produces. A great range will have you cooking more meals at home, saving you lots of money and letting you eat healthier. For a family of four, a home-cooked meal amounts to about $32 or less; takeout costs an average of $46.90; and dining out costs more than $50. Those meals out add up fast, meaning the value you get from being empowered to cook more at home easily eclipses any value you get out of owning a more reliable appliance.
The good news? The most reliable appliances are also the ones that make cooking easier and better.
So how do you pick the best oven or range for your needs?
Gas is the workhorse of the commercial kitchen, for its control and efficiency, and it should be the center of any serious home kitchen as well. The one exception is at low temperatures. While cheap gas ranges may still be able to produce a lot of BTU, they struggle with low temperatures, unlike their cheap electric counterparts. High-end models by brands like Wolf, Thermador and Dacor don’t have this problem and have electric beat on all counts.
When it comes to ovens, only the first benefit of gas cooktops holds. With ovens, the most important feature is the oven cavity and its ability to hold heat, followed by the ability to hit a consistent temperature. With high-end models, neither gas nor electric have a leg up on either. That said, electric ovens produce drier cooking environments (useful for a lot of oven cooking) with fewer reliability problems.
It’s for the above reasons that we highly recommend dual fuel ranges—gas cooktops with electric ovens, the best of both worlds.
Ovens and ranges do use a lot of energy when actively heating, but they will never be the biggest consumer of energy in your house. Still, if energy efficiency is a consideration for you in your search, here a few general insights beyond the ENERGY STAR® ratings.
Clearly, go for the ENERGY STAR product where you can — the drawbacks are by and large overblown — but don’t base your decision solely on ENERGY STAR ratings because they don’t tell the whole story of the product’s water and carbon footprint.
That’s right, appliances can be an investment in your home. A recent Zillow report showed that homes with professional-grade appliances had sale prices 29% higher than similar homes without professional-grade appliances.
Why? Well, for one, high-end appliances provide a lot of utility and value to homeowners. Cooking appliances that look beautiful and cook exceptionally well are much preferred by homebuyers. So it stands to reason that homebuyers would pay a premium for homes with professional-grade appliances.
And guess who else gets to enjoy these benefits as long as they own the house? You!
So if you’re considering some home renovations to increase the value of your property, just remember, replacing your appliances requires a whole lot fewer headaches and work than, say, remodeling a bathroom.
Some folks still get sticker shock when they see a range at $6,000, let alone the ones that cost $10,000, but we encourage you to think differently about that cost. Remember those average meal costs for a family of 4 (home-cooked meal = $32; takeout = $46.90; and dining out = $50)? If you buy a high-end range that makes cooking easier, more fun and produces better meals, and that gets you to cook just two more meals at home a week, over the course of its 25-year lifespan, you will save over $36,000.
On top of which is the fact that those high-end ranges come with a longer warranty and break down less, saving you money on repairs, and will live many years longer than their cheap counterparts. AND they’re making your home more valuable to own and sell. Trust us, you’ll be thankful you made the investment.