Should you buy an Aga?
By Patrick Gallagher
Providing heat, unrivalled cooking space and a four-figure price tag, the Aga is seen by many as the ultimate kitchen centrepiece.
Agas have become an iconic fixture of kitchens around the world since they were first invented in 1922. And it’s not just the design that has endured – the UK’s oldest working model dates back to 1932.
Today, a new Aga will set you back at least £5,000. But in return for this sizable investment you’ll get a versatile, spacious cast-iron cooker that provides heat and is always on and ready to go.
Read on for more on choosing an Aga, including key features, options and costs. And if an Aga isn’t right for your home or budget, see our guide to choosing a conventional range cooker instead.
What is an Aga?
An Aga is a spacious cast iron cooker with multiple levels, ovens and cooking options. Each Aga is built to order at the firm’s Shropshire factory, but all include a roasting oven, simmering oven and one or two hotplates. There are also models with three, four or five ovens, as well as the option to swap a hotplate for a gas or ceramic electric hob.
Agas are heat-storage cookers, which means that they generate heat in their core which is then transferred across the surfaces of each oven and hotplate. Traditional models are designed to stay on all the time, so they don’t have any dials or switches. All of this means that Agas also gently heat the room they are in.
The cast-iron body of an Aga enables heat to be efficiently stored and transmitted throughout the Aga’s various cooking zones. The radiant heat it produces is what gives an Aga its ability to cook food for long periods of time without drying it out or burning it.
Temperatures inside the ovens vary, but as a rough guide you can expect 250°C in the roasting oven, 190°C in the baking oven, 140°C in the simmering oven and 85°C in the warming oven. A thermostatic control inside the Aga maintains consistent temperatures.
You can buy Agas that run on electricity, gas or oil, as well as some dual-fuel combinations (such as gas ovens with electric hobs).
How much does an Aga cost?
Aga cookers don’t come cheap. Even the smallest model available costs twice as much as the most expensive Best Buy-rated range cooker we’ve reviewed. Below we round up what you get with each Aga model, how much they cost to buy new, and what other potential costs should you be aware of when thinking about buying one.
The price of a new Aga always includes delivery and installation.
Aga 60: from £5,695
At just 60cm-wide (the same size as a regular slot-in cooker) this model is aimed at those with smaller kitchens who don’t have room for one of the larger classic Aga models. It comes with two ovens – which remain on at all times – and a choice of electric hotplate or four-burner gas hob (two semi-rapid, one rapid and a wok burner). An optional programming setting is also available with the Aga 60 that allows users to automate use of the top oven. The 60 is available in the classic Aga design or with a more contemporary look.
Traditional Aga: from £7,245
The original, classic Aga is still a popular model and is available with two ovens as standard – one for roasting and one for simmering. Three and four-oven models are also available. The two and three-oven models come with the classic double hotplate top – one for boiling and one for simmering. The four-oven model also comes with the choice of a warming plate or a two-ring hob (gas or electric ceramic). The ovens and hotplates on a traditional Aga remain on constantly.
Aga Dual Control: from £10,595
Available in three or five-oven models, the Dual Control offers more flexibility than the classic Aga. Available in all-electric or dual-fuel, its hot plates can be controlled individually, or turned off completely, which can help to reduce running costs. The all-electric model also has a ‘low-energy’ setting, which means the ovens can be run at a lower rate, further reducing energy usage.
Aga Total Control: from £11,595
Also available in three or five-oven models, the Total Control gives users even greater flexibility in how they use their Aga. Each separate section can be managed via a touchscreen control on the oven, allowing users to turn sections on or off as suits their needs.
A hand-held controller is also included and allows the ovens to be programmed ahead of time for automatic cooking. The three-oven model is also compatible with a smartphone app that allows the ovens to be controlled from afar. This remote programming is also available via text message for when wi-fi is unavailable. The standard warming plate that comes with the five-oven model can also be swapped for a touch-control induction hob.
Optional extras to consider
There are lots of optional extras, from induction hobs and enameled hotplate lids to iTotal Control smart functionality. Adding these can bump up the price quite a bit.
Some people also buy an extra Aga module to sit beside their main Aga. As well as providing extra space for cooking, it can be used when your main Aga is completely switched off. This can be particularly handy on hot summer days when you may not want the heat of the full Aga further pushing up the temperature in your kitchen.
Adding an extra Aga module to your order of course requires extra space and money. Aga modules start from £3,450 and are available as electric or dual-fuel models. They include a slow-cook oven with a grill, a fan oven and a choice of gas or ceramic electric four-ring hob.
Can you buy a second-hand Aga?
Yes. Given the longevity of Agas and their high cost, there is an active second-hand market.
By shopping around it is possible to get a second hand Aga that’s been renovated to look like new, for far cheaper than the prices above. But if you do decide to go down that route, you will have to factor in dismantling, reconstruction, delivery and installation costs before working out how much of a bargain you’re actually getting.
Other costs to consider depend on what fuel type you’re after or if you want to have a boiler connected up to your Aga. If that’s the case then new piping and fitting a flue are just a couple of things you’ll need to keep in mind.
Aganomics: how much does it cost to run an Aga?
The running costs for an Aga cooker are so complex and debated that it has developed an economic subdiscipline that it calls ‘Aganomics’. With so many varied models and fuel types available, narrowing down the exact costs of running an Aga is quite a task. If you begin to factor in potential savings as well, such as the claim that an Aga’s multi-functionality eliminates the need for toasters, microwaves, radiators and some other appliances, you really enter a minefield of sums and costs.
Ultimately, figuring out how much an Aga costs to run depends on which model you have, what fuel source you are using and to what extent you will make use of any potential programming capabilities. The majority of Aga ovens now have some programming functionality that allows you to turn off plates and ovens when not in use, or put the Aga into slumber or holiday mode. There’s also a 30-amp two or four-oven cooker that draws electricity throughout the night when it’s cheaper, and releases it during the day, allowing for even more savings. Amid all these variables it’s difficult to find anything that could be considered ‘normal’ usage.
Below we give some estimated weekly running costs for three-oven models across the range. Costs are based on Aga’s own energy-usage claims for cooking a standard weekly menu.
- Three-oven electric Aga Dual Control: £21.08
- Three-oven gas Aga Dual Control: £10.69
- Three-oven electric Aga Total Control: £5.66
- Traditional three-oven 13-amp Aga: £39.40 (ovens and hobs on a 13-amp traditional Aga are on all the time).
These calculations are all based on a electricity cost of 16.41p per kWh and gas cost of 4.97p per kWh.
Servicing should also be factored in when considering the ongoing costs of an Aga. Oil-fuelled models need to be serviced every six months and gas-fuelled Agas every year. Electric models don’t need to be serviced, but to keep Aga’s five-year warranty valid they should also be checked every 12 months.
Conventional range cookers from Aga
If you love the workmanship and design of an Aga, but want the flexibility of a conventional range cooker, it’s worth taking a look at these models.
Aga S-Series Four Two (from £3,450) and S-Series Six Four (from £6,445)
At 60cm-wide the S-Series Four Two looks similar to a freestanding cooker, but Aga claims it has the versatility of a range cooker. It has a four burner gas hob, a programmable fan oven, an electric oven and a ceramic grill.
The S-Series Six Four has the classic enamelled cast-iron finish on the outside but two electric fan ovens, a simmering oven and a ceramic grill on the inside. On top there is a hob with a choice of six gas burners or six ceramic electric rings.
Masterchef XL (from £2,955)
The Masterchef XL is available with a six-burner gas hob or a five-zone induction hob. The 90cm model has a multifunction oven, a fan oven and a grill that glides out on telescopic runners. The 110cm-wide model has everything the 90cm model does with the addition of a slow-cooking oven.
Aga cookers vs conventional range cookers
Advantages of Agas over conventional range cookers:
- longevity and reliability – can last for decades when properly maintained
- superior quality cooking claims – Aga says the oven’s radiant heat locks in flavour and moisture, as opposed to the drying heat of a conventional oven
- multipurpose – installing an Aga can potentially remove the need for some other kitchen appliances and radiators
- generally have larger ovens
- provides heat to the room its in
- more fuel choices.
Advantages of conventional range cookers over Agas:
- more precise temperature control in the oven and on the hob
- much cheaper to buy
- multifunction ovens allow greater range of cooking options
- more styles to choose from
- generally easier to install
- tend to be cheaper to run.
Find out the latest Best Buy range cookers, as revealed by independent Which? lab tests.
What is a Rayburn?
A Rayburn is a range cooker with a built-in boiler that can provide hot water and, with certain models, heat up multiple radiators around the house. Made from cast iron with an enameled finish, they look like Aga range cookers, and are made by Aga at the same factory in Shropshire. They have a lidded hotplate top and come with two ovens – one for cooking and one for warming (models with two cooking ovens are also available).
Aside from their ability to provide central heating and hot water, Rayburns differ from Agas in that some models are compatible with solid fuels such as wood, peat briquettes or smokeless/bituminous coals. This makes them an excellent choice for people in rural areas, those looking to get off the grid or those just hoping to use a cheaper, more carbon-lean fuel source than gas or oil.
There are a wide range of Rayburn models, each offering varied heating and cooking capabilities, plus compatibility with different fuel types. Prices start from around £4,600 for cookers in the Rayburn 200 Series, which can heat two or three radiators, and go up to £9,000 plus for models in the 600 Series that are capable of powering approximately 20 radiators.
How to choose between an Aga or a Rayburn
If cooking is your key concern then you will want to go for an Aga, as they provide a few more cooking options with the option of four or five-oven models. If you have an existing heating system you’re happy with and a fairly modern boiler, then again an Aga is probably right for you.
If you need a lot of hot water and want to burn wood, cheap coal or peat then you’ll want to check out a Rayburn. If you need to run your central heating and cook from one system then go for a Rayburn. Live on a boat and want a cooker and heater? It’s a Rayburn for you (or another solid-fuel-burning range, such as Marshall or Stanley).