best microwave for van life
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What are The Best Microwaves for Van Life?

What’s the best microwave for use in van life? You should get something that fits your van’s countertop or a makeshift table. The back of the van is spacious, but not so spacious it could fit a standard microwave oven. Ditto with a recreational vehicle (RV) or camper.

So again, what’s the best microwave for van life? We’ve found about 7 of them that fit the bill. Keep on reading to find out which one is the best.

Buying Guide for Best Microwaves for Van Life 101

Long story short, the best microwaves for van life mostly depends on the specs. To be more specific, go look for a microwave that’s rated as 600 watts to 1 kilowatt or near that range. Also get something compact with a capacity of about 0.6 to 1 cubic feet or so.

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Benefits of Van Microwaves

A van microwave is supposed to make great-tasting food by heating or cooking if you have a convection microwave. It’s also capable of cooking food faster than regular ovens, heat up a cup to near boiling in a minute, and cook multiple dishes using presets or memory slots.

It uses radiowaves or radio-frequency energy to heat up and cook the food with literally its own juices or water. Meanwhile, the fans in the convection oven help circulate the hot air. A van microwave also has a set wattage to prevent overloading the van battery. It’s also the same deal with solar batteries.

An oven with too powerful a wattage can overload the battery.

Types of Van Microwaves

Here are the different types of van microwaves.

  • Solo Microwave Oven: A solo microwave oven mostly does simple cooking, heating, reheating, and defrosting. It’s mainly a compact type of oven that’s ideal for RV usage due to it being mainly having a 700-watt power and 0.7 cubic feet capacity.
  • Grill Microwave Oven: A grill microwave has a grill attachment and grill mode included with the microwave. It allows you to microwave food and also grills it by using the grill as a heating element.
  • Convection Microwave Oven: Convection microwave ovens offer the cooking features of grill microwaves while also allowing the quick heating of microwaves at the same time. They utilize a fan and heater fan to cook every food type.

While grill and traditional microwaves use metal boxes to direct radiowaves towards the food for cooking, convection microwaves instead push heat through a fan. It makes for a better cooking environment all-in-all. They’re the most expensive microwave type.

  • Over-the-Range Microwave Ovens: You’re less likely to use an OTR microwave because you need a gas stove range to use it. They’re made to be installed above a stovetop and you’re unlikely to have a full stovetop in your van since a van has less kitchen space than an RV.

They’re mounted on the wall with the stove. A van is less likely to have space on its interior for this oven type.

Further reading: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Microwave Oven that Best Fits Your Needs

Sizes and Capacities of Van Microwaves

Microwaves can range from 13 to 16 inches. It can also be available in heavy-duty models larger than 2 feet deep and wide.

As a rule of thumb, remember that your microwave should be at least 2 inches of clearance of all side for ventilation’s sake. That extra room will reduce your need for maintenance and extend the service life of the unit. To wit:

  • 3 Cubic Feet to 0.8 Cubic Feet: This capacity rate is able to fit in mugs, ramekins, small bowls and plates, and measuring cups. It can accommodate most small, oven-safe chinaware dishes and high-temperature food pans with ¼ and ⅙ sizes.

This is a mini microwave capacity that’s perfect for vans and RVs.

  • 8 Cubic Feet to 1.0 Cubic Feet: This capacity fits medium-sized plates, bowls, and microwaveable containers. It also accommodates most high-temperature food pans with ½ and ⅓ sizes as well as microwaveable plastic takeout containers.

This is the allowable limit of size for vans and RVs.

  • 1 Cubic Feet to 1.6 Cubic Feet: This capacity fits most standard pans, dishes, plates, and similar containers. It also accommodates most oven-safe plastic-safe muffin trays or full-size high-temperature food pans for baking purposes.

This is probably too big for use with vans and RVs.

Key Features of Van Microwaves

Here are the key features to look out for with van microwaves.

  • Power: The power of the microwave is measured by wattages. The watts typically range from 650 watts to 1,950 watts or 1.95 kilowatts. If you wish to get a microwave that cooks decently quickly, choose at least a 1-kilowatt model.

Some ovens have preset programs or memory slots that save settings for different meals. The microwave power level and convection temperature of a convection microwave tend to be on a fixed level.

Pick the model that enables you to pick your own custom settings to properly cook specific dishes, like meatloaf or something.

  • Capacity: The capacity varies from 0.6 to 2 cubic feet. For large families, get a unit with at least 1.2 cubic feet of capacity. For van microwaves though, you’re likelier to get a 0.7 cubic feet model, as outlined above.

For mobile or mini microwaves, you tend to use smaller dishes or even paper plates without metallic coating on it. When comparing models, you should check the height of the interior and the size of the racks after taking note of the capacity.

  • Size: Microwaves come in multiple sizes, from mini countertop models to much larger commercial-grade units. An RV has a limited amount of kitchen space, and this goes double (or triple) for a van.

Regarding commercial units, they come in the following three variants.

  • Light-Duty Microwaves: A commercial microwave of up to 1 to 1.1 kilowatts. It can be used 50 times or less daily.
  • Medium-Duty Microwaves: A commercial microwave of up to 1.2 kilowatts to 2 kilowatts. It can be used 150 times daily.
  • Heavy-Duty Microwaves: This is the most expensive commercial microwave. It’s about 2 kilowatts or more of power and it can be used 200 times daily. They’re the fastest cookers for restaurants.

The size of the oven door should also be considered. Because van microwaves tend to be on the small size, maximizing the capacity and even door size is key. You also want wide-opening doors to make it easier to remove hot and heavy dishes.

This is particularly important for those with mobility or strength issues as well as arthritis. The drop-down doors of OTR units can hold hot dishes while they’re opened up a la a conventional oven.

  • Automatic Sensors: Investing in a microwave with sensor controls is worth it. You might think since you’re saving money on interior space, power, and so forth, you might as well not bother with sensors.

However, having a quick alert that your food is sufficiently cooked is always welcome. These sensors work by measuring the amount of vapor or steam in the oven, thus making it a humidity sensor that alerts you of cooked food to prevent it from becoming a burnt meal.

  • Child Lock: You should have a child lock feature in your convection microwave in case you’re traveling in your van, RV, or camper with your family composed of children. Kids tend to poke around with reckless abandon, so having a child lock is necessary for their safety.

The child lock also prevents strangers from operating the microwave or switching it on accidentally, which can lead to it overheating the glass turntable to the point of breakage or overheating the oven itself.

Reviews of the 7 Best Microwaves for Van Life

1. A Decent Microwave with Extra Power than the Average Van Microwave Plus a 2-Toaster Function

Features:

Power900 watts
Power Levels10
Capacity0.9 cubic feet
Size19 x 14.5 x 11.5 inches
Weight23.9 pounds
MaterialStainless steel (black)
User InterfaceElectronic touchpad LED
Type by UsageLight duty

The GE JES1095BMTS or GE Appliances JES1095BMTS is a good van or RV microwave due to its 900 watts or almost 1-kilowatt power. It’s bordering the limits of what a van battery can take but that extra 200 watt makes the difference in terms of heating or cooking speed.

What’s more, it comes with various functions on its touchpad, such as buttons to mute, start or pause, cancel or off, the timer on or off, set the clock, cook time, add 30 seconds, power level, clock display, reheat, defrost, pizza, dinner plate, potato, popcorn, beverage, and vegetable.

What’s special about the GE Appliances JES1095BMTS is that it’s a 2-in-1 appliance that has a 2-slice toaster mode. All the same, it has a nice array of features and preprogrammed settings that make it perfect for the van life.

2. This More Compact G.E. Turntable Light-Duty Microwave Option is More Van Suitable

Features:

Power700 watts
Power Levels10
Capacity0.7 cubic feet
Size17.25 x 13 x 10.13 inches
Weight24 pounds
MaterialStainless steel (white)
User InterfaceElectronic touchpad LED
Type by UsageLight duty

The GE JEM3072DHWW or GE Appliances JEM3072DHWW might be weaker and smaller. However, you actually want a compact and less powerful microwave in your van way of life due to the load limitations of your van, car, or RV battery when push comes to shove.

It specifically has a 0.7 cubic feet capacity and 700 watts of power. It shares features with the GE JES1095BMTS LED electronic touchpad, from clock settings and kitchen timer to the add 30 seconds button and preprogrammed settings.

This mini solo microwave is slightly smaller than the other microwave at 17.25 x 13 x 10.13 inches. Those fewer inches can mean the difference between using other RV or van countertop appliances (such as a toaster, a conventional oven, and/or a coffeemaker) or not.

3. Voice-Activated Alexa Microwave by Amazon You Can Use while on the Go with Your Van

Features:

Power700 watts
Power Levels10
Capacity0.7 cubic feet
Size17.3 x 14.1 x 10.1 inches
Weight21.9 pounds
MaterialStainless steel and glass
User InterfaceNumerical keypad and Alexa voice commands
Type by UsageLight duty

Few things epitomize the van life quite like the AmazonBasics Microwave—also known as the Amazon Basics Microwave—exactly because it’s paired up with Amazon Echo (particularly the 3rd Gen Echo Dot) and Amazon Alexa. In other words, it’s voice-activated and allows hands-free operation.

No, it’s not like you’ll be making French toast or reheating coffee while driving or anything using Alexa. However, with Wi-Fi or Echo Dot, you should be able to do more than just basic functions on the keypad thanks to Alexa’s assistance, suggestions, and ability to update itself.

It works for “nomadic” travelers living the van or RV life as well as senior citizens and the handicapped easily working the microwave by voice commands instead of the keypad and buttons.

4. Make Your Van Life Easier with this Solo Microwave with Express Cooking and Defrosting Option

Features:

Power700 watts
Power Levels10
Capacity0.7 cubic feet
Size17.75 x 12.91 x 10.1 inches
Weight21.4 pounds
MaterialBlack metal and plastic
User InterfaceKeypad and buttons
Type by UsageLight duty

The Farberware FMO07ABTBKA is a classic all-black solo mini microwave you can use in vans, RVs, campers, work trucks, camping in general, and small apartments or college dorms in general. It fulfills the basics of van microwave specs—it has 700 watts of power and 0.7 cubic feet of capacity.

Furthermore, the FMO07ABTBKA also offers many van microwave requisites like a safety lock feature, express cooking for 6 programs (for beverages, frozen vegetables, popcorn, pizzas, and dinner plate meals), and a unique feature where it defrosts based on time and the weight of the item.

Basically, its presets allow you to cook or reheat anything at the push of a button.

5. What Your Van Life Needs is a Compact and User-Friendly Rotary Dial Microwave

Features:

Power600 watts
Power Levels6
Capacity0.6 cubic feet
Size17.75 x 12.5 x 10.25 inches
Weight23.1 pounds
Material18-8 steel and glass
User InterfaceRotary dials
Type by UsageLight duty

The Commercial Chef CHM660W has a classic or retro rotary dial scheme because its makers are aware that it’s easier to work a microwave oven or conventional oven with a knob instead of multiple button presses. This is especially great when cooking, eating, and reheating on the go.

It has a simple and nostalgic design, thus it’s also easy to operate at a glance. Its display is also easier to understand. We particularly like how much more affordable and smaller the CHM660W is than many of the appliances on this list.

This white countertop small microwave oven includes a 9.5-inch turntable, 30-minute timer, and 6 cooking power levels.

6. The Safest Microwave to Safeguard Your Van from a Potential Fire Hazard

Features:

Power700 watts
Power Levels6
Capacity0.6 cubic feet
Size19.5 x 14.4 x 12 inches
Weight25.4 pounds
MaterialStainless steel and glass
User InterfaceRotary dials and buttons
Type by UsageLight duty

Impecca CM0674 is one of the safest microwaves out there. How is it safe exactly? Well, the users on Amazon particularly rave over its elegant construction, sophisticated controls, and its 30-minute timer. By limiting y9oru cooking to 30 minutes, it prevents your items from getting overcooked.

It’s also simple to operate just like the Commercial Chef CHM660W exactly because it also has rotary dials and buttons. It’s not perfect—many users complain about how poor a job it does at moisture evacuation. It’s another unit that harkens back to the rotary age of appliances.

Nevertheless, it has an old-timey toaster design with digital operation underneath, allowing you to work with it care of time dials and its six incremental power levels.

7. A Truly Nostalgic Microwave That Somehow Works with the Classic Van or RV Life

Features:

Power800 watts
Power Levels5
Capacity0.9 cubic feet
Size19 x 17.9 x 11 inches
Weight30 pounds
MaterialStainless steel and glass
User InterfaceRotary dials and buttons
Type by UsageLight duty

Nostalgia RMO4AQ, true to its name, is a nostalgic microwave. You have the usual tandem of rotary dials and buttons. However, that’s not all. Its design itself harkens back to yesteryear, with more rounded edges and a less boxy or modernist look all-in-all.

It accomplishes a lot on both the aesthetic and functional fronts. However, it’s like a Volkswagen Bug transformed into an electric car. Even though it has a retro microwave look, from underneath it’s a modern microwave complete with multiple power levels and 12 preprogrammed memory slots.

It’s borderline a smart microwave with a retro-style dial system to allow the microwave to survive the fast-turnaround van life where people inside the van have to quickly eat and drive away every time.

At the End of the Day

The best van microwave on this list is Nostalgia RMO4AQ. This is followed by Impecca CM0674 and then Commercial Chef CHM660W.

At the end of the day, the best microwaves for van, RV, or camper use range from 600 watts to 1 kilowatt. It should also be rather small in order to have a mobile appliance with a small footprint instead of a cumbersome metal box that hogs all the countertop or van space.

Through the years, the microwave oven has become a standard appliance for all homes. It is safe to say that there is no home without a microwave oven. If you are looking for a microwave oven that best fits your needs, You find the right website.

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