They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how much would you pay to have your bread perfectly toasted every morning? $50? $100?
What about $500?
No, really. Our experts recently put two toasters that cost just shy of 500 bucks in the hot seat to see if their performance is on par with their price tag.
They aren't quite the Ferraris of the toaster world – although with prices that high you could be forgiven for thinking so. Rather, they're more like the Teslas of toast: environmentally friendly, but a big upfront investment.
They may cost a lot, but these two toasters are designed to be completely repairable. So instead of having to chuck your toaster when the element dies or the lever stops working, you can just have the part replaced or repaired and then continue on your merry toasty way.
Both companies claim the toasters will last a lifetime, so you'll be preventing the tens of toasters you would otherwise buy over the years from ending up in landfill.
Both companies claim the toasters will last a lifetime, so you'll be preventing tens of toasters from ending up in landfill
It's the equivalent of buying good-quality clothes and repairing them rather than buying fast fashion and throwing things out when they inevitably wear out sooner than they should.
So are these toasters worth 500 bucks? It really depends on your priorities – and your budget. For many of us, a $500 toaster just isn't affordable.
However, if you've got cash to burn but don't want the planet to, it might seem like a good investment in the future.
Four of the five toasters recommended by our experts cost less than $100, so clearly you don't need to spend a fortune to get great results.
However, there's no guarantee that they'll last long, which means you may have to replace them after a couple of years. That's a lot of toasters going into landfill!
According to our research, a regular toaster will last anywhere from two to six years, depending on how much you spend on them – higher-end toasters do tend to last longer, while cheaper ones often have a shorter lifespan. (Of course, even expensive toasters can fail before their time, and cheaper ones can kick on for years; this is just a rough guide.)
Could an expensive toaster actually be cheaper in the long term?
When you add up how much you could spend on toasters in your lifetime, $500 actually doesn't sound like much. You'll have to factor in the cost of replacement parts and labour, but you could still end up ahead if you invest in a repairable toaster.
Let's say you're buying toasters for around 50 years of your life. If you buy a mid-range toaster at $100, it should last you around four years, so that's $1250. A cheap $30 toaster will likely need to be replaced every two years, so over your toaster-buying lifetime, it'll add up to $750*.
When you add up how much you could spend on toasters in your lifetime, $500 actually doesn't sound like much
When you look at those figures, a $500 toaster starts to look like a reasonable price to pay – especially when you consider how many toasters won't be going into landfill.
And can you really put a price on your environmental impact?
(*These numbers will vary based on market circumstances. For instance, inflation might push those numbers higher, or they could go lower if toasters become cheaper to manufacture.)
Spending almost $500 on a toaster is a serious investment, so how does the Milantoast stack up?
It can last a lifetime
The biggest selling point of the Milantoast is that it's repairable. The company says that its two-slice toaster "will last forever" because all its parts can be serviced or replaced.
If you live near a Milantoast repairer, they'll come to your house to fix your toaster, but if you don't, they'll send you a prepaid box to post the toaster back to them for repair. (After five years there's a $20 postage fee.)
There's a five-year warranty for parts and a 10-year warranty for labour. Considering that most of the toasters we've tested only have a one- or two-year warranty, Milantoast's offering shows that the company stands behind its product and service.
The $490 Milantoast will apparently "last forever", according to the manufacturer.
It's hard to get good toast out of it
We rate how evenly and consistently the bread toasts after configuring the toasters for a B4 shade.
Unfortunately, the Milantoast didn't actually perform very well in our testing – it was the fourth-lowest scoring toaster overall and only out-scored a $29 Kmart toaster by a miniscule one percentage point.
Our experts rated it as "poor" for toasting multigrain bread, and "very poor" for toasting evenness.
But one of the most noticeable issues with this toaster was toasting consistency. To test toasting consistency, our experts run four cycles one after the other to see how well the toaster can reproduce the B4 colour pictured.
Unfortunately the Milantoast didn't actually perform very well in our testing
The Milantoast produced inconsistent results in our test.
Even using the company's suggested method, the results were still far from consistent.
Plenty of cheap toasters aced this test, but the way the Milantoast works makes consistency an issue. It is designed to save energy by holding the heat from the first toasting cycle, which means it doesn't need to run as long for subsequent cycles.
This means that the first cycle takes significantly longer, and then you need to reduce the cooking time for the next cycles (or you could end up with burnt toast).
In our toasting consistency test this meant that in the first run, it produced undercooked toast, and then its residual heat meant that the remaining cycles produced inconsistent results.
Our testing method is based on real-world use, but considering the Milantoast's special design, we also tested the toaster using their suggested method, which involves reducing the toasting time for subsequent cycles.
While this produced slightly better results, the toast was still very inconsistent.
It may not fit your favourite sourdough
The Milantoast isn't as versatile as some other toasters because the toast slots are relatively small, so it's difficult to fit larger types of bread such as artisan sourdough.
It can be tricky to use
Both the Milantoast and the Dualit use analog controls, meaning they use an old-fashioned timer dial, and when toasting is complete, you'll need to manually raise the toast out of the carriage using a lever (although this does help keep it warm).
"Getting good results with a manual toaster like this requires a lot of trial and error – and probably plenty of under or overcooked toast," says CHOICE appliance expert Kim Gilmour.
"You can get better results but you'll need to persevere. It's a learning curve."
All of this begs the question: do you really want a toaster that lasts forever if it's actually not very good at toasting?
Another repairable toaster, the Dualit NewGen can also be pulled apart and repaired. It's $9 more than the Milantoast, but is it worth the extra money?
The Dualit delivered far more even and consistent results than the Milantoast.
Better performance and more toast slots
For around the same price as the Milantoast, you'll get four toast slots (the Milantoast only has two), a five-year warranty – and far better performance.
It did well on many of our tests, particularly on toasting evenness and consistency.
It also toasts faster. And since time is money, maybe you'll recoup some of the money you dropped on buying it?Cons
Not good for frozen bread
Regardless of how good it looks on a kitchen counter, it does have some weaknesses. While it performed well in our testing overall, our experts found that it isn't great at toasting frozen bread.
Tricky to use and difficult to clean
Its simplicity is a big drawcard in that it makes the toaster easy to repair, but it can also be a drawback – its manual design means that you'll have to be more involved in the toasting process and our testers also noted it was "significantly difficult to clean".
That's not likely to be an issue for engaged home cooks, but if you're not a morning person you might be better off sticking with a toaster that'll do all the work for you.
The Dualit also costs almost $500 but it's a four-slice model, while the Milantoast is only two.
If you have $500 to spend on a toaster and sustainability is important to you, then one of these toasters could be a good investment. But for some, the upfront cost will be too much.
However, over a lifetime they will potentially cost you less than buying a new toaster every few years.
If the $500 price tag is out of reach for you, you're probably better off buying a good-quality toaster that you shouldn't need to replace too quickly.
And since you'll hopefully be toasting with it for five to six years, you'll want to make sure it works well: check our reviews to find the best toasters.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.