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Splurge vs save – the cheaper toasters that rival expensive models

Don't get burnt paying too much for a toaster when a budget one may perform just as well.

toasters splurge and save smeg toaster sunbeam diamond collection
Last updated: 20 August 2021

Need to know

  • CHOICE experts rigorously tested more than 40 toasters in our labs
  • We highlight three cheaper toasters that perform as well as models more than twice the price
  • Do your research and see our reviews to make sure you're not paying too much for a toaster 

You know the saying, 'you get what you pay for'? Well, it's time to think outside the (bread) box – our expert reviews consistently show that it's not always the case.

In our latest product reviews, our expert toaster testers found a range of lower-priced toasters that performed as well as more expensive models. We'll show you three cheap (or cheapish) toasters that rival exxy ones to help you decide which are worth your dough. 

Check our toaster reviews to assess each product on its ease of use (including cleaning and controls), toasting consistency, multigrain bread score, and more.

toast shades

We rate how evenly and consistently the bread toasts after configuring the toasters for a B4 shade, as shown in this toast chart.

How we test toasters

Our expert testers painstakingly configure each toaster to brown each piece of bread to the optimal colour, according to a toast shade chart (yes, that really is a thing). Then we rate how evenly and consistently the toasters brown the bread to shade B4. 

We also test how well they toast multigrain bread, frozen bread and single slices of bread, as well as how easy each toaster is to use. 

After comparing all the toasters in our test, from chainstore cheapies to high-end models with more features than some cars, we've found that sometimes cheap is indeed cheerful. And with some toasters, you don't always get what you pay for. 

Which ones are worth the dough, and which ones are just plain crummy?

toasters splurge and save smeg toaster sunbeam diamond collection filler

Splurge vs save: the benchtop bling

If you're after a show-stopping toaster, a sleek black number can look a million bucks – but you don't need to spend that much to get good results. 

In fact, despite their significantly different price tags, these two toasters performed comparably when tested by our experts. They're both excellent at producing the same toast colour, cycle after cycle, but the Sunbeam is very good at toasting frozen bread, while the Smeg is only okay. 

The only feature you'll miss out on if you buy the cheaper Sunbeam is the crumpet/bagel setting, but with an extra $179 in your pocket, you can probably justify shouting yourself a cafe breakfast or two. 

The Smeg toaster also takes a full 1min 10 sec longer to toast, so not only will you save money by buying the Sunbeam, you'll also save yourself precious time in the mornings – winning!

toasters splurge and save cuisinart 2 slice kmart anko 2 slice toaster filler

The understated 2-slice toaster

Separated by only one percentage point in their final scores, but with one costing more than four times the price, these two toasters are virtually indistinguishable in appearance. 

They're also neck and neck in terms of performance, with the Kmart model just edging ahead for toasting evenness – it was rated 'good' while the Cuisinart was just 'OK'. However, the Cuisinart is just a nose ahead when it comes to toasting multigrain bread and toasting consistency. 

In a toasting race, the Kmart Anko toaster is first past the post, clocking a time of just 2 minutes 35 seconds – a full 20 seconds ahead of the Cuisinart model, and one of the faster toasters in the lineup. 

toasters splurge and save breville smart toast russell hobbs brooklyn 4 slice filler

The 4-slice toast Titan

Whether you're cooking for a crowd or just carb-loading, using a four-slice toaster can make short work of breakfast prep. But do you need to drop a couple of hundred dollars on a four-slice toaster to get results? Not necessarily.

Despite costing less than half the price of the Breville toaster, the Russell Hobbs model held its own in most of our toaster tests, even outperforming its expensive counterpart in some aspects.

Unfortunately, neither toaster particularly wowed our expert testers, performing just okay for toasting evenness. But when it came to toasting consistency, the cheap option outshone the exxy, scoring 70% where the Breville scored a lukewarm 35%.

Unfortunately, neither toaster particularly wowed our expert testers, performing just okay for toasting evenness

For $120 more for the Breville, you get a crumpet/bagel setting and 'smarter' features such as a motorised button to lower/raise your bread and a 'lift and look' option to peek at your toast's progress. It may be 'smart', but it doesn't make toast any better than the non-smart Russell Hobbs, which doesn't have these features.

You'll also have to wait longer for your toast: the Breville takes an agonising 3min 55sec to pop, while the Russell Hobbs takes just 2min 20sec to deliver your daily bread.

Neither toaster is a winner, but we can think of far better ways to spend $220 than on a Breville Smart Toaster.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.