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Low-priced kitchen cabinets with top-drawer features

Low-priced kitchen cabinets with top-drawer features

New cabinets can make a huge impact on your kitchen—and an equally huge dent in your budget. Consumer Reports’ surveys have shown that readers who hired contractors paid an average of roughly $9,000 for new cabinets, with about a quarter of them spending more than $15,000. It’s usually the biggest single investment you’ll make in your project. The good news: Many once-premium features, such as dovetail joints, have moved down to lower-priced stock cabinets, available as near as your local big-box store.

Even basic stock cabinets offer a growing number of options, and mid-level and premium semi-custom lines include dozens of styles and storage features. Choices also go far beyond traditional oak finishes and include tight-grained maple and cherry. Here’s what you’ll find on the market today.

Just the basics
Best for those who don’t need the size and storage options offered by custom and other high-end cabinets. Often called stock, these off-the-shelf units include ready-to-assemble cabinets packed in flat containers.
But: You get fewer style and trim options, sizes, and features overall. Cabinet boxes are often thin-veneered particleboard rather than solid plywood. Many models use frameless construction, with the doors and door fronts hiding the frame.
Price: About $250 to $350 for a typical 21-inch-wide base and 30-inch-tall wall cabinet duo.

Mid-level cabinets
Best for most kitchens. Includes lower-priced semi-custom models that offer many made-to-order choices in size, door style, materials, finish, trim, and accessories. Many use face-frame construction, where part of the frame shows between doors and drawers.
But: Features and quality for this group varied most in our tests. Cabinet boxes still tend to be veneered particleboard, despite the higher prices.
Price: About $400 to $900 for a typical 21-inch-wide base and 30-inch-tall wall-cabinet duo.

Premium cabinets
Best for those who want the most style and storage options short of made-to-order custom cabinets. Includes higher-priced semi-custom models with plywood boxes and other premium materials and hardware. Widths can come in finer, ¼-inch increments rather than the typical 3 inches.
But: Some can cost almost as much as made-to-order cabinets without offering as many options.
Price: About $600 to $1,000-plus for a 21-inch-wide base and 30-inch-tall wall cabinet duo.

Of course, new cabinets deserve new appliances. To find the best performing refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges and cooking gear, check the results of our appliance tests.

Adapted from the Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide.

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