Understanding the difference between over-the-range microwaves and countertop microwaves from Whirlpool.

Countertop vs. Over-the-Range Microwaves:

What’s the Difference?

Get the mealtime flexibility you need

Between everything the family has going on after work and school — homework, errands, practice and games — dinner can be, well, an afterthought. Whirlpool® microwaves can give you the mealtime flexibility you need. But what style is right for your home: the freestanding countertop microwave or the over-the-range model situated above a range or cooktop (often called a microwave hood combination, MHC, but not to be confused with a built-in microwave).

Check out our microwave buying guide below to learn exactly what to look for. 

Countertop vs. over-the-range: which microwave to buy?


The benefits of countertop microwaves

Countertop Microwaves


No installation

When it comes to a countertop microwave, simply plug it in and get cooking. These models are ideal for kitchens with plenty of counter space, but they can fit just about anywhere.

*You can also use a trim kit to convert this model into a built-in microwave that sits in a wall (often above a wall oven) or custom cabinet (like a kitchen island) for a seamless, elevated look, more kitchen layout options and increased cooking flexibility.


One of this model’s key conveniences is its portability. Put it away in a cabinet or pantry when you’re not using it, or if her science project is spread out across the countertop, move it to a different spot to make room. And because it’s not built in to your cabinetry, you can easily take it with you when you move.


Since they sit on the countertop, these microwaves are always within easy reach. Some are even ADA compliant, so they’re recommended for use in households with special needs, providing better access to features like sensor cooking and other one-touch settings.

Easy to clean

Care can be messy. That’s why many countertop microwaves feature a finish that resists fingerprints with steel that’s easy to wipe clean. Forget constantly cleaning up after your family; these appliances were made for hands-on living.  

The benefits of built-in microwaves

Over-the-Range Microwaves



Over-the-range microwaves offer a two-in-one, space-saving solution for cooking and venting. Featuring external or exhaust venting and charcoal filtering, they remove smoke, odor and moisture from the air — so you can breathe easy. An added bonus? Most feature LED cooktop lighting so you can see what’s cooking.

Cleared countertops

Installing an over-the-range microwave frees up countertop space, leaving more room for your coffee pot, blender, toaster oven or other freestanding countertop appliances and kitchen decor.

Improved cooking flow

Over-the-range models create a smoother, easier cooking flow. With the microwave and the range both in one place, you can defrost in the microwave while working on the cooktop without having to cross the kitchen to check on either one.

Sleek design 

If your style is clean and modern, you’ll likely prefer an over-the-range model. Its fully integrated design gives your kitchen a sleek look, ensuring that it always says “welcome.”

Easy to clean 

Just like their countertop counterpart, many over-the-range microwaves feature fingerprint-resistant finishes. Better yet, they often have a non-stick interior that lets you clean up spills and splatters with just a swipe. 

What’s right for your family?

A countertop microwave vs. over-the-range: your decision really comes down to your kitchen layout, cooking needs and personal preference. No matter which style you choose, both deliver the capacity, flexibility and convenience you need to ensure dinner doesn’t always feel like rush hour.

Check out our top picks or shop all Whirlpool® microwaves.

Built in vs. countertop microwave: what's right for your family?

Top microwave picks to fit your kitchen style


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