With price tags ranging from $24 through to $400 in our latest toaster review, it can be hard to know what's a reasonable price to pay for a good toaster.
Our testing regularly reveals cheap products that deliver hot performance, and pricey products that are lukewarm at best.
In fact, in our toasters review, a $39 toaster was one of the top performers, outclassing products costing hundreds of dollars more.
So, since a $40 toaster will more than do the job for your breakfast each morning, what does the extra $360 buy you if you opt for the most expensive one?
"There really isn't a difference between a $400 toaster and a $40 one, performance-wise," says CHOICE small appliances expert Adrian Lini.
"The biggest difference is the finish, brand name and features. Cheaper toasters often have a plastic exterior, while buying a more expensive brand will get you a stainless steel or fancy finish with some bells and whistles."
So, are these extra features and fancy aesthetics worth the extra money? It really depends on what's important to you.
How much should you pay for a toaster?
While we can't give away all our secrets (these are available for CHOICE members, though), what we can tell you is that of the 12 toasters our experts recommend, five of them cost $100 or less – so clearly performance isn't linked to price.
Still not convinced? We took all the toasters from our June 2022 review and plotted their price against their CHOICE Expert Rating (our overall test score).
We found that there's no correlation between the price of a toaster and how well it scored – so there's definitely no way to tell if a toaster will be any good based on price alone.
Median cost of best vs worst performing toasters in our test
We also did a number-crunch of prices for the best and worst performers in our tests.
Cost of recommended toasters:
- Lowest price: $39
- Highest price: $315
- Median price: $139.50.
Cost of lowest scoring toasters:
- Lowest price: $39
- Highest price: $269
- Median price: $100.
As you can see, there isn't a vast difference in the median price between the highest and lowest scoring toasters.
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 toaster, or terrible performance from an expensive toaster with all the fancy features.
Do expensive toasters last longer?
Unless they completely failed our tests or are wildly unsafe, most toasters will do the job of cooking your toast. But when you're buying a cheaper product, there's a risk that it won't last as long, which can mean yet another appliance in landfill far sooner than it should be.
But, as with any product, it's not always black and white – sometimes cheaper products can last for decades and some expensive products might give up the ghost in a few short years.
Sometimes cheaper products can last for decades and some expensive products might give up the ghost in a few short years
"If it was possible to know that the $400 one would last 20 years and the $40 one only six months, then it would be easier to decide, but price isn't always an indicator of quality or lifespan," says Adrian.
Brand tax: Are you paying more for 'prestige'?
Certain brands will command higher prices. For instance, you can expect to pay more than $200 for a Smeg or KitchenAid toaster – but don't assume that the extra money will always deliver excellent performance.
If you look at the consumer comments on the toaster reviews on our site, you'll find mixed reviews from people who've bought these prestige brand-name toasters. Some of them are very happy with their purchase, but a number of others have complained about their reliability and longevity.
You'll find mixed reviews from people who've bought these prestige brand-name toasters
Comments on a $250 toaster ranged from "best toaster we have ever owned" to "just a step up from holding the bread on a big fork over a fire" – which just goes to show that experiences can vary widely.
To save yourself from spending too much on a toaster that won't give you years of fuss-free toasting, make sure you check our expert toaster reviews before you buy.
Which features will cost you more?
"For extra money, you may get extra features like a larger capacity (such as four slices versus two), and specific bread settings such as bagels, crumpets, fruit bread etc – which can be pretty nice if you're consistently eating those foods," Adrian says.
"But you don't need these specific settings to toast different products. It may just take a bit more practice and vigilance while you're toasting."
You don't need specific settings to toast different productsCHOICE toaster expert Adrian Lini
There are some extra features that you might find you need, depending on your kitchen habits.
"I personally prefer the long slot toasters because they can fit a great diversity of bread sizes, especially if you bake your own or buy more artisan bread," says Adrian.
And of course you'll pay more for a stainless steel toaster than a plastic one – and you can expect to pay more again for a toaster that's been designed with aesthetics in mind.
What else to look for in a toaster
Of course, there's more to a toaster than just its ability to warm bread. When we test toasters, we assess:
- how evenly they toast the bread
- how consistently they reproduce the same results
- how hot the external (surface) temperature gets – anything that's hotter than 78°C is unsafe and we can't recommend it
- how well it toasts frozen bread, multigrain bread and a single slice of bread
- how easy it is to use: is it easy to clean? Is the crumb tray difficult to remove? How tricky are the controls? Can you easily lock the bread carriage into position?
So, how do you choose the best toaster?
Our expert toaster reviews include information on all these tests, and you can filter by price, brand, number of slices and features to find the perfect toaster for your household.
It's worth putting in the time to research a product before buying. You don't want to splurge $400 on a toaster, only to find that it doesn't perform any better than a $40 one.
"If you can find a good balance between good quality construction and price, then look for a toaster that matches the style of your kitchen, has the features you're going to use, and go with a brand that's known to stand the test of time," says Adrian.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.