With price tags ranging from $20 through to $299, it can be hard to know what's a reasonable price to pay for a good kettle. And when a $20 kettle may well do the job (i.e. boiling water for your cup of tea), then what does the extra $279 buy you?
We looked at some data on the best and worst performers in our kettle tests to see what the numbers say. (Spoiler: more expensive doesn't always mean better.)
"If all you want your kettle to do is boil water so it's hot enough for a cup of tea, then a $20 kettle will do the job. Price only matters if you want the extra bells and whistles and care about the product's material," says CHOICE small appliances expert Adrian Lini.
"You're going to have to spend more if you want a stainless steel or glass kettle, or one with special design features such as raised patterns – or if you want temperature control settings for different drinks. The more expensive kettles not only have this function but also can get very consistent temperatures."
So, are these features worth the extra money? It really depends on what's important to you.
How much should you pay for a kettle?
While we can't give away all our secrets (they're available for CHOICE members, though), what we can tell you is that of the nine kettles our experts recommend, five of them cost less than $100 – so clearly performance isn't linked to price.
Still not convinced? We crunched the numbers of the best-performing and worst-performing kettles in our tests, and here's what we found.
We took a look at all our available kettle reviews as of February 2022, and compared their price to the overall test score.
As you can see from the graph above, there's no correlation between the price of a kettle and how well it scored – so there's definitely no way to tell if a kettle will be any good based on price alone.
We also did a number crunch of prices for the best and worst performers in our tests.
For kettles our experts recommend:
- Lowest price: $40
- Highest price: $299
- Median price: $99
For the lowest-scoring kettles we tested:
- Lowest price: $50
- Highest price: $299
- Median price: $75
All of this just goes to show that there's actually very little price difference between the knockouts and the dropouts. You can get great performance from a cheap, basic kettle, or terrible performance from an expensive kettle with all the fancy features.
So how do you choose?
"If you're just after something that will heat your water to boil, pretty much any kettle will do it," says Adrian.
"But the risk you're taking with cheap kettles is a shorter life span, which means yet another appliance that ends up in landfill sooner."
This is why it's so important to do your research before you buy – you don't want to get stuck with a kettle that costs a bomb but doesn't perform any better than a cheap kettle.
The risk you're taking with cheap kettles is a shorter lifespan, which means yet another appliance that ends up in landfill sooner.Adrian Lini, CHOICE small appliances expert
Of course, there's more to a kettle than just its ability to boil water. When we test kettles, we assess their accuracy, time taken to boil, noise levels and energy used. We conduct a dry boil test for safety, switching on the empty kettle and waiting until it switches off automatically.
We also assess how easy they are to use. Obviously most kettles can boil water, but how easy are they to fill and to pour from? How easy is it to see the markings, including water level? How comfortable is it to lift?
Our expert kettle reviews include information on all of these tests, and you can filter by price, brand, capacity, material and noise to find the perfect kettle for you.
Which features will cost you more?
Typically, the more expensive kettles have additional features, like pre-set temperatures, keep-warm functions and 'quiet boil' capabilities. But plenty of more basic kettles performed very well in our tests. So if all you need is an appliance to boil water for your cup of tea, don't be swayed by all the bells and whistles – a more simple kettle may be all you really need.
A lot of what pushes the price up is aesthetics: more attractive finishes such as stainless steel, vividly coloured plastics or 'matte' looks, or dual-wall styles that claim to be cooler to the touch.
The brand tax
Of course, you'll also pay extra for particular brands. Smeg, for instance, has a reputation for its 'designer'-esque appliances – with a price tag to match. The Smeg kettles we've tested cost $229 to $259 at time of purchase, but didn't exactly blow us away with their performance. Interestingly, the kettle with the fancier features – the variable temperature kettle – actually performed worse than the simpler model.
Not only that, but its preset temperatures were actually incorrect by between 1 and 8°C – so just because a kettle has fancy features doesn't necessarily mean that they'll work!
"If you take a look at the consumer comments on the kettle reviews on our site, you'll find that there are many unhappy owners of expensive kettles," says CHOICE expert Kim Gilmour.
"We regularly see cheaper kettles perform well, showing that price doesn't really make a difference to performance."
For instance, we've received feedback from many members about a kettle costing more than $200 that regularly fails after 1–2 years of use. Some comments about its performance include: "overpriced and unreliable", "totally unnecessary features", "after two years' use it can't be fixed", and "I would not recommend you spend your hard-earned money on it".
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.