- Published on
- By Maralyn Edid
Toasters are a fairly basic appliance, but they vary dramatically in price. The cheapest toasters retail for around $8, while designer toasters range from $50 to $120. (Restaurant-quality toasters cost upwards of $900!) The price differentials for the toasters that sit in your kitchen usually reflect the material and build quality, the amount of bread that can be toasted in an hour, and the presence of mechanisms such as heat sensors and automatic temperature adjusting. Fortunately, most consumers can get by with a cheap toaste. A two-slice toaster that boasts all the necessary features can be purchased for $30 or less; four-slice pop-up toasters cost a bit more.
Cheap Toasters Buying Guide
Familiar names in the cheap toaster category include Black & Decker, Toastmaster, Sunbeam, and Cuisinart, while brands such as Breville, DeLonghi, KitchenAid, and T-fal have also made a mark in the next pricing tier. To help you find the best toaster for your frugal budget, we've focused our research on the products in the $8-$30 range, and selected a few whose features and reliability make them good picks for their price.
Toast Slots.The standard for most cheap toasters is two or four toast slots, with the price varying accordingly. Keep in mind that the width of the toast slots affects what you can toast. Extra-wide toast slots, like those found on the Oster 6307/6309 2-SliceToaster (starting at $27) let you easily insert larger or wider items, such as bagels, buns, or hand-cut bread. The 1.5-inch slots on the Cuisinart CPT-120 Cool Touch 2-slice Toaster (starting at $26) automatically adjust to suit bagel or bun toasting. But most cheap toasters these days boast slots that are wide enough for most items you'd care to toast.
Toasters Bread Lifter.This feature, found on most toasters, ensures that smaller items like English-muffins or small buns pop up high enough so you don't have to poke around inside the toaster. Cheap toasters with this feature include the Black & Decker T2560B 2-Slice Toaster (starting at $22), Oster 6307/6309 2-slice Toaster, Cuisinart CPT-120 Cool Touch 2-slice Toaster, and Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605 (starting at $10). The T-fal Classic Avante 2-Slice (starting at $30) has a slanting front that eliminates the need for a high rack lift. Some cheap toasters, like the Oster 6307/6309, feature an anti-jam mechanism that should keep bread from getting stuck.
Crumb Tray.Bread and muffins tend to crumble and tear during toasting and on the way out, which means the crumbs collect at the bottom of the toaster, a situation that invites pests and poses a fire risk. To avoid such problems, choose a toaster with a crumb tray that's easy to pull out and empty. Removable trays are more convenient than the hinged variety, which require a bit more effort and planning. Most higher-end toasters feature a detachable crumb tray, and so do some cheap toasters, including the Cuisinart CPT-120, Oster 6307/6309, Black & Decker T2560B, and T-fal Classic Avante.
Toasters Browning Controls.People have different preferences about how dark they like their toast, and different types of bread require different amounts of toasting time. Raisin bread, for example, browns rapidly due to its high sugar content, while thick slices of bread or bread with lots of whole seeds and grains take longer to toast. The browning controls let you control the duration of the browning process. Digital browning controls are the most accurate but generally found only on high-end toasters; the Cuisinart CPT 120, with its nine-setting digital browning dial, is one low-cost exception. Inexpensive toasters generally rely on a dial or series of buttons; the Black & Decker T2560B lets you choose along a spectrum from light to dark, the Oster 6307/6309 gives you a choice of seven shade settings, and the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605 features five.
Cancel Buttons.In case the bread (or whatever) is toasting more quickly than expected, a cancel button lets you stop the toasting process. Not all cheap toasters sport a cancel button, so check. The super-cheap Proctor Silex 22605 doesn't have one, but the Black & Decker T2560B, Oster 6307/6309, T-fal Avante Classic, and Rival 2-slice toaster (starting at $11) do; the cancel button on the Cuisinart CPT-120 is electronic.
Toasters Bagel Settings.A bagel setting toasts one side of the bagel only, so you can choose which side to crisp. This is a reasonably common feature on cheap toasters, and you'll find it on the Black & Decker T2560B, Oster 6307/6309, and Cuisinart CPT-120. Among the toasters on our list, the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605 and the Toastmaster T100 (starting at $8) can accommodate bagel-sized bread but lack a specific setting for toasting bagels.
Toasters Housing.One downside of budget toasters is that the housing can heat up very quickly because of poor insulation or low-quality components. Fortunately, many low price toasters, such as the Cuisinart CPT-120, Black & Decker T2560B, Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605, and T-fal Classic Avante, feature stay-cool housing. Although consumers generally appreciate this feature, you have to be careful. Despite the cool-wall sides on the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605, for example, one user notes on Epinions that it gets pretty hot. And a consumer post on Amazon says the white plastic housing on the Cuisinart CPT-120 stays cool although the metal atop the slots really heat up.
Toasters Extras.Some high-end toasters have transparent walls or they can be mounted on your kitchen wall. But several cheaper toasters may catch your fancy due to their unusual features. One example is the hard-to-find Chromo 2-slice Logo Toaster (starting at $12), which toasts a smiling sun on one side. The Back to Basics TEM-500 Egg & Muffin 2-slice Toaster (starting at $29) simultaneously toasts bread and poaches or boils an egg. Although many people store bread in a bread box or in the fridge, freezing bread is a common practice. A defrost function can help prevent the wait that comes with defrosting bread on the counter or in the microwave, both of which take time and leave you with soggy bread. Toasters like the Black & Decker T2560B and Cuisinart CPT-120 have defrost options for frozen bagels and frozen bread, but this is hardly essential. Toast tends to cool quickly, and a reheat function that warms already-toasted bread without further browning or charring is another take-it-or-leave-it feature that's rarely found on cheap toasters; the Cuisinart CPT-120 and T-fal Classic Avante are exceptions.
As with many low-cost appliances, users' experience with any given cheap toaster varies. According to toaster reviews, some consumers are satisfied with the toast that emerges and the toaster's overall functionality while other users of the same model gripe about uneven toasting and durability issues. But if your new cheap toaster doesn't meet expectations in its first outing, try heeding the advice of experts, who say cheap toasters may need a short break-in period. In the end, though, our research indicated that most users of the toasters on our list appreciate the good performance for the budget price and many of those who think they bought a defective model note that replacing an inexpensive lemon is not a big deal.
Low-cost Toasters Design.Aesthetics are not at the top of our list of important features, but certain design features can enhance or reduce the functionality of a cheap toaster. Take the cord, for example. Some models, like the Black & Decker T2560B (starting at $22) and Cuisinart CPT-120 (starting at $26), have slots around which the cord can be wrapped to save space. But users note in toaster reviews on Amazon that some cheap toasters, including the Oster 6307/6309 (starting at $27), have extremely short cords that limit where you can put the toaster. Other users posting on Amazon grumble about the front-side placement of the cord on the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605 (starting at $10). The placement of dials and buttons also elicits some negative comments. A review of the Cuisinart CPT-120 on Epinions, for example, says the lever for the bread lifter is too close to the hot metal top, so your fingers get burned. If the toaster lacks a cool-touch housing, notes a user of the Toastmaster T100 (starting at $8)on Amazon, the sides get extremely hot and will burn your hands. Users also grumble about toast slots that are too short or narrow. Some reviews on Amazon report that the T-fal Classic Avante 2-Slice (starting at $30), with its slanted front, doesn't sufficiently toast an entire slice of unusually-sized bread. Poorly-calibrated toasting controls are another common critique. Users note in reviews of most models that the browning settings aren't accurate and you may need to experiment until you find the one that delivers the shade you prefer; users often suggest you start out with the lighter shade or lower number markings and then cautiously adjust upward for darker toast.
Toasting.Burned and/or under-toasted bread is the bane of every consumer who likes their toast just so. Toasting speed is associated with the degree of browning you choose, and the degree of browning varies by model even if it's set to "light" or a low number. According to toasters reviews of the Black & Decker T2560B on Epinions, this model toasts quickly and evenly, the settings are accurate, and the lift lever rarely jams. Reviews on Viewpoints note that it's easy to burn toast with the Cuisinart CPT-120, so the best bet is to choose one of the lower settings; most users posting reviews on Overstock.com report even and consistent results and one consumer is especially pleased with the defrost and bagel settings.
Users posting toasters reviews on Amazon are generally satisfied with the toast the emerges from the Proctor Silex/Hamilton Beach 22605, but some grumble that toasting takes a long time and you can't stop the process midstream (if the toast is getting too dark) without pulling the cord from the outlet. The settings on the Oster 6307/6309 run dark and sometimes the toast is uneven, say reviews on Amazon, but others report results that satisfy their hunger for toast.
The Toastmaster also T100 gives better results at low settings, according to toasters reviews on Newegg, but toasts unevenly and needs to cool down before making a second batch. Toasted tops or bottoms, one side or the other -- but not both -- annoys users of the T-fal Classic Avante who posted reviews on Amazon.
Toasters Maintenance.In general, users report their toasters are easy to clean and maintain, particularly if the toaster boasts a removable crumb tray. Users posting reviews on Epinions favorably comment on the Black & Decker T2560B's removable crumb tray, although a few users report that crumb trays on some models tend to be poor at catching crumbs. For example, one review on Viewpoints says the removable crumb tray in the Cuisinart CPT-120 is handy but its shallow depth means crumbs still wind up on the counter.
Toasters Longevity.Given that we're looking at low-cost toasters, the durability of the product might seem questionable. An expert review on How Stuff Works notes that pop-up toasters are prone to breaking, partly because of their economical build and partly because food often gets stuck and messes up the mechanicals. Some reviews by consumers confirm the experts' assessment. One user comments on Viewpoints that the lever on Oster 6307/6309 failed after six months, so the toast didn't pop; a similar complaint is lodged against the T-fal Classic Avante, according to reviews on Amazon. Users also mention problems with heating filaments burning out on the Oster 6307/6309 and in reviews on Viewpoints and Amazon, respectively. Occasional reports also surface about casings that tarnish or discolor over time, but many users note they've owned their cheap toaster for several years without problems.
The warranty for cheap toasters varies by manufacturer.