Difference Between Over the Range and Built-in Microwave

In recent years, microwaves have become a staple of most kitchens. They make life easier by providing an option for convenient cooking.

Different microwaves are designed to cater to different needs. And in this post, we’re going to unravel the differences between over-the-range and built-in microwave ovens.

The main difference between the 2 models is that an over-the-range microwave is installed over the range/cooktop and doubles as a vent. It functions as two appliances in one. On the other hand, a built-in microwave is a microwave designed to be built in a cabinet or into a wall.

If you belong to the group of those people that find over-the-range and built-in models quite confusing, worry no more.

Here, you’ll learn every detail regarding how each works, the purpose they serve, and the features they come with.

Differences Between Over-the-Range Microwaves and Built-in Microwaves at a Glance.

FeatureOver-the-Range MicrowaveBuilt-in Microwave
WattageOver 1000 watts.Over 800 watts.
Cooktop LightsHas cooktop lights.No cooktop lights.
VentilationProvides enough ventilation.No ventilation.
InstallationInstalled directly
above the range.
Installed in a cabinet/wall
PriceModerately priced.Expensive.
FunctionalityFunctions as a microwave
oven and a range hood.
Functions as a
microwave oven only.
Ease of reachA little high for
short people’s reach.
Everyone can reach
the unit with ease.
Difference Between Over the Range and Built-in Microwave

Over the Range Microwaves/OTR Microwaves

Over-the-range microwaves are a combination of a microwave oven and a range hood. An OTR microwave will make a great choice if you have a smaller kitchen without a range hood.

An over-the-range microwave enables you to save space in your kitchen now that it works as a 2 in 1 device. It offers convenient cooking and efficient ventilation.

These appliances are designed to be built above the cooktop. Thisway, the unit can remove all the smoke and odor, which occur as you cook.

Different OTR microwaves come with different venting options to suit every kitchen. For instance, some models come with an external venting that captures all grease and smoke from the kitchen.

Some OTR microwaves come with a recirculating venting filter that filters out the polluted air and release clean air into the kitchen.

Others come in a convertible design that helps to transform the ducted venting into a recirculating one.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Over-the-Range Microwave


As aforementioned, an OTR microwave makes an excellent alternative to a range hood. It not only costs you less but also saves space.

For the best results, get an OTR unit with a high CFM.Such models offer both recirculating and ducted ventilation. They work better than microwaves with only one venting option and allow you to change the venting system to suit your needs.

Also, the grease filters of such microwaves are durable and easy to clean.


Size is of the essence when selecting an over-the-range microwave. And to get the right size, you need to consider the size of your oven as well. Remember, you’ll place the microwave above it.

The best over-the-range microwave should match your kitchen range in size anddimensions. Getting the right size helps remove smoke, grease, and oil perfectly.

Work Surface

Did you know that over-the-range microwaves come with LED lights? These lights are energy-efficient and enable you to prepare and cook your meals with ease. The lights brighten your kitchen.

Cooking Options

Over the range microwave ovens feature a convection fan and sensors to boost their functionality. With the sensor feature, the unit can automatically detect the steam produced during cooking to control the cooking time.

The convection fan plays a significant role as well. It circulates hot air for roasting and baking. Thanks to this feature, you can bake tasty birthday cakes for your loved ones and prepare a roast chicken for your family.

Advantages of Over-the-range Microwaves

  • Come in a 2 in 1 design hence suitable for small kitchens
  • External and recirculating options available
  • Designed for both cooking and ventilation
  • Come with a convection fan for advanced cooking options
  • Feature built-in lights for convenience
  • Come in different sizes and wattage
  • Boasts smart sensor and pre-heating options

Disadvantages of over-the-range microwaves

  • Fans have low capacity than ventilation hoods.
  • Not easily accessible for shorter people and kids
  • Difficult to replace

Built-in Microwaves

Built-in microwaves have the same capacity as other microwaves but are designed for installation in cabinetry or wall. The units save a lot of counter space; hence the best for you if your kitchen has limited space.

To install a built-in microwave, you need to measure the space you intend to fix it carefully. This will help you find the model with the exact size.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Built-in Microwave

Size of the Cabinet

You need to measure the size of the cabinet you intend to fit the microwave in first. Remember that since you will install the microwave in the cabinet or wall, the sizes should match.

Don’t worry if you notice some little gaps between your microwave and the cabinet/wall; the trim kit will fill the gaps.

Cooking Options

And just like with over-the-range models, the built-ins feature the sensor cooking technology. The sensors detect when your food is done and automatically turn off the unit.

These microwaves also feature a convection fan that enhances baking and cooking.

Note that not all built-in microwaves come with these features. Those that include them come with higher price tags.


If eyeing a built-in microwave, know that you’ll pay for it handsomely. These units are actually more expensive than a countertop and over-the-range microwaves.

Built-ins boast aesthetics that go with the whole kitchen décor and can also be added hardware to avoid heating. Such features contribute to the high price tag.

Advantages of a built-in microwave

  • It comes with various heating methods
  • Has various pre-set options
  • Saves valuable worktop space
  • Available in different sizes and wattage
  • Durable design
  • Integration into cabinetry improves kitchen aesthetics.

Disadvantages of built-in microwaves

  • You’ll have to fixa  separate range hood
  • Expensive than over-the-range and countertop microwaves
  • Difficult to replace

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you install an over-the-range microwave under an island cabinet?

Yes. But to install an over-the-range microwave over an island, you need to purchase a cabinet-mounting kit.

Why are built-in microwaves more expensive?

Built-in microwaves are more expensive because of the installation cost. You need to get a professional to help you install the unit.

Do you need to vent a built-in microwave?

Generally, you only need to vent a microwave if you install it above the range. Microwaves that go beneath the range require no venting. They use built-in fans instead.


The best microwave oven for your kitchen is one that meets your specific needs. And since both built-in and over-the-range microwaves are designed to meet different needs, each shines in its own way.

We, however, think that over-the-range models make the best options. These units function both as a microwave oven and a range hood, are not as expensive as the built-ins, and come with lots of features(1).

If your kitchen has a tiny counter space and you don’t want to spend more on a range hood, this unit will work better for you.