Close up image of a black microwave


If you’re looking to replace or buy a new microwave, you’ll want to make sure you choose a microwave type that works best for your kitchen and cooking needs. A traditional countertop microwave is a freestanding unit that is usually placed directly on the kitchen counter. However, microwave ovens also come in a built-in and over-the-range style. If you're not sure whether to choose a built-in, over-the-range or a countertop microwave, this microwave buying guide will help you make a decision.

Steam escaping a pot on a gas range under a Maytag® over-the-range microwave Steam escaping a pot on a gas range under a Maytag® over-the-range microwave

Built-in vs. Over-the-Range vs. Countertop Microwaves: What’s the Difference? 

The main difference between built-in, over-the-range and countertop microwaves is their installation type and location. Another main difference between the three microwave styles is their purpose. Built-in and countertop microwaves function only as a microwave, while over-the-range models double as a hood vent for kitchen stoves.

Each configuration offers different advantages based on your kitchen and cooking style, and understanding these advantages can help you find the right option for your home.

What is a Countertop Microwave? 

Countertop microwaves are freestanding units that usually sit on your kitchen counter. They do not require any venting hookups or special installation. These options offer flexibility in installation and are easy to relocate in your kitchen as the need arises, making them a great option for renters.

Shop the latest deals on select Maytag major appliances   Shop Now

Shop Maytag® Countertop Microwaves

With innovative features like Sensor Cooking and a selection of colors and finishes to match your kitchen, Maytag brand has the right countertop microwave for you.

Black Maytag® over-the-range microwave and a black range Black Maytag® over-the-range microwave and a black range


Over-the-range microwaves are installed above a range or cooktop, saving kitchen counter space. These microwaves function as both a microwave oven and a hood vent. They provide kitchen venting and air circulation, as well as overhead lighting. 

Shop the latest deals on select Maytag major appliances   Shop Now

Shop Maytag® Over-the-Range Microwaves

Over-the-range microwaves from Maytag brand free up counter space and keep your cooking appliances centralized. Browse select models with features like EvenAir Convection, Sensor Cooking and Dual Crisp to get the most out of your microwave.


Built-in microwaves, as opposed to over-the-range microwaves, are usually installed in a wall or among cabinets for a more flush look. They can also be installed in other places in the kitchen, including below a countertop. However, they do require professional installation—an additional consideration when exploring microwave options.

Can You Use a Countertop Microwave as a Built-in? 

Yes, you can mount your countertop microwave on a shelf or in a cabinet for a built-in look that frees up counter space in your kitchen. This is a great option for anyone looking to add more counter space without requiring a complete kitchen remodel.

Maytag® trim kits allow you to close any gaps around your countertop microwave to create the seamless appearance of a built-in appliance.

Is it Worth it to Have a Built-in Microwave?

Whether a built-in microwave is right for you depends on your cooking needs and your kitchen configuration. For kitchens with limited counter space or multiple countertop appliances, you may want to consider a built-in microwave to keep your prep space open.

Maytag® countertop microwave
Maytag® over-the-range microwave

How to Choose a Microwave Oven

Knowing what to look for in a microwave will help you narrow down your options. Keep the following things in mind when choosing between a built-in vs. countertop vs. over-the-range microwave.


If your kitchen already has a vent hood installed, you can replace it with an over-the-range microwave as a space-saving solution. Over-the-range models feature built-in exhaust venting and charcoal filtering to help remove odors and fumes out of your kitchen. If your kitchen is not equipped with a vent, an over-the-range microwave can also recirculate the air.


Installing a built-in vs. countertop microwave leaves more kitchen space for your coffee pot, bread maker, toaster oven or other freestanding countertop appliances.

3. Your Cooking Style 

If your microwave oven is fully integrated into your cooking “flow,” you’ll likely benefit from an over-the-range model. With the microwave and the range both in one place, you can defrost in the microwave while cooking on the range top without having to cross the kitchen to check on either one.


Some microwaves feature a non-stick interior to easily resist stains and splatters. These interiors tend to be easier to clean, usually requiring only a simple wipe down.


Some countertop microwaves are ADA compliant and are recommended for use in households with special needs, providing better access to features and other one-touch settings.

6. Cooking Convenience Features

Beneficial features can help you decide which microwave is right for you. Sensor cooking microwaves from Maytag brand measure moisture released from food as it cooks and adjust for the ideal time and power settings automatically. Select microwave models may include features and settings that help you complete a range of meal prep duties like reheating, defrosting and more.

With the Dual Crisp feature from Maytag brand, you can handle crisping, baking and browning without using a range. Watch it in action.

Black Maytag® over-the-range microwave over a black range in a classic kitchen Black Maytag® over-the-range microwave over a black range in a classic kitchen

Shop the latest deals on select Maytag major appliances   Shop Now

Shop Maytag® Microwaves

A good understanding of your kitchen layout and cooking needs will help you decide whether a Maytag® over-the-range, built-in or countertop microwave is right for you. No matter which style you choose, you are sure to find plenty of capacity and powerful cooking in the Maytag® microwave lineup.


Sign in to unlock special savings

More appliance shopping info

Was this article helpful? Pass it on