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How to buy the best electric kettle

By Alice Williams

Narrow down your search for the best kettle with our expert buying guide

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As a nation of tea drinkers, our kettles are one of the most heavily used appliances in our kitchens. 

But choosing the wrong one could leave you waiting longer for your water to boil, having to put up with excessive noise, or wasting water and energy.

Read on for our top tips on choosing the best electric kettle.

In this article:

Just want to know the models we recommend? Head straight to our round-up of the best electric kettles for our top picks, based on our independent tests.

Video: how to buy the best kettle 

Our quick video guide explains the most important things to consider when you’re buying your next kettle.

Kettle types and features explained 

There are two main types of kettle: electric and stovetop models. We're focusing on electric kettles as these are the most popular type.

Electric kettles come in a vast range of shapes and sizes, but the basic design falls into two camps:

  • Dome/pyramid kettle - traditional domed shape with a handle on the top, like a stovetop kettle
  • Jug kettle - taller jug shape with a handle on the side

You'll usually find the water gauge is larger and easier to see on a jug kettle, and the lid can be a bit more fiddly to remove on dome models, although we've found Best Buy models of both types.

Kettle features to consider

From the essential to the optional, here are the key features to consider when choosing a kettle:

Minimum fill/one-cup boil

If you often make tea for one, or just want to save energy, look out for a kettle with a low minimum fill level (less than 300ml). Some kettles will force you to boil as many as four cups' worth in one go, leaving you waiting longer and wasting water and energy.

Water level indicator

Some kettles have hard-to-read indicators hidden behind the handle. Look out for a large, clear windows if you want to be able to see at a glance how much water is left. 

Quiet boil kettles

A loud whistling kettle can be really annoying, particularly if you have an open-plan kitchen/living area. Some kettles are marketed as being especially quiet, but this doesn't always hold true. 

Less than a third of the kettles we test are rated as notably quiet: we measure the noise level in decibels during boiling and note any unusually piercing or annoying sounds. 

Check our electric kettle reviews and filter for those that score four stars or more for noise if you’re after a quiet operator.

Multi-temperature kettles

These allow you to select a range of different temperatures to heat your water to. This is handy if you're partial to herbal or green tea, and coffee, as these drinks work better when brewed at slightly cooler temperatures. For our top picks, see our guide to variable temperature kettles.

Kettles with matching toasters

If you want a matching set with style to set off your kitchen, there are plenty to choose from. See our guide to the best kettle and toaster sets for a round-up of sets to suit different tastes and budgets. Make sure you also check our toaster reviews to get a matching set that scores well.

Whatever your design preference, there's almost certainly a kettle to match. Check our electric kettle reviews to filter by glass kettles, brushed steel or chrome kettles, copper kettles, geometric pattern kettles and a wide range of colour options including ever-popular black, red and cream.  

Kettles for hard-water areas

Hard water can wreak havoc on your kettle, damaging the element and shortening its lifespan. It's also no fun getting bits of scale in your brew. 

Some kettles have built-in water filters, although these can be slow to fill and need to be replaced fairly regularly. We test how effectively every kettle filters limescale, and how easy it is to clean. For kettles that hold up to hard water, check our Best Buy kettles.

Smart kettles

Smart kettles work with an app on your smartphone or tablet, allowing you to check how much water is inside, see how hot the water is and set it to boil remotely. 

However, they tend to be a lot more expensive than other kettles we’ve tested and you'll still need to fill the kettle (and actually make your tea). There aren't many around, but if you're keen, check our review of the Smarter iKettle 3 to see what we thought of the smart features - and if it gets the basics right, too.

Other key things to think about when buying a kettle

  • Speed Kettles with a 3kW element should be faster, but our tests have shown it’s no guarantee. The worst models can take more than twice as long to boil as the best kettles.
  • Size and weight Kettles can be quite heavy by the time you've filled them up with water. Plastic kettles tend to be lighter than stainless steel or glass - less than 1kg is nice and light. 
  • Ease of use Kettles are simple, right? Unfortunately, some manufacturers put looks (or cost) before functionality, and a clunky, poorly designed model can really grate when it's one of your most-used kitchen gadgets. 
  • Efficiency Some kettles boil for longer than necessary, or don't let you boil small amounts, wasting water and energy. We mark down the most inefficient models, so you don't pay the price when you get home.

We test all these factors, and more besides, so you can see how different kettles compare on the essentials. Check our Best Buy kettles to see our top recommendations, and our list of Don't Buy kettles for the disappointing kettles to avoid.

Are cheap kettles any good? 

  • Prices range from £5 to more than £100
  • We've found good and bad models at both ends of the price spectrum

You can buy a no-frills own-brand kettle for less than a tenner, so what exactly do you get when you pay more?

You're often paying for a premium style, materials and finish. You're also more likely to get extra features such as variable temperature settings. 

Cheaper kettles usually have a more basic metal or plastic design, and stick to the basic job of boiling water. It is possible to get stylish cheaper sets, though, such as the budget Argos copper kettle and toaster set (pictured above). 

Budget kettles are also less likely to have a one-cup boil feature, although some models buck the trend. 

We've found some brilliant cheaper kettles, and some terrible expensive ones, so paying more doesn't guarantee a good result. Check our best kettles page and sort by price to discover the best cheap kettles.

Which kettles last the longest? 

Kettles are one of the most unreliable household gadgets you can buy. More than one in five will breakdown in the first two years, but some brands have a better track record for reliability than others. 

See our round-up of the top kettle brands for our verdict on the most reliable kettles, and common kettle problems and how to prevent them. 

Regularly descaling your kettle will help it to live longer, particularly if you live in a hard-water area.

Hot water taps vs kettles 

An increasingly popular (and rather expensive) alternative is to install a hot water tap and do away with your kettle altogether.

Hot water taps dispense near-boiling water at the touch of the button. They’re a good way to streamline your kitchen surfaces and some claim to save energy as you’ll never have to pay to heat more water than you need.

However, we’ve found that the savings aren’t all that they seem. Hot water taps, while convenient and stylish, are expensive to buy and often have hidden ongoing maintenance costs which outweigh any potential energy savings. 

Find out more about the pros and cons, and how the different brands compare, in our guide to choosing a hot water tap.

Ready to buy your next kettle? 

Log in or sign up to Which? to unlock our independent kettle reviews.

You can compare scores for all the popular models, including Argos kettles, Dualit kettles, DeLonghi kettles, Morphy Richards kettles and Russell Hobbs kettles - and quickly and easily find the best option for your budget.

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