Shopping for an inexpensive ice maker?
You’ve come to the right place.
Is a Cheap Ice Maker Worth It?
Contrary to popular belief, inexpensive ice makers are not necessarily low quality. You can get a budget-friendly ice maker that works reliably and lasts a long time.
However, what you may not get at a low-price range are high production capacity and a large bin.
Inexpensive ice machines typically produce less ice and come with smaller ice bins.
That said, some low-cost ice makers may not last as long as a premium brand. But if you can get a couple of years of use out of it, it’s worth it.
As for the quality of ice, there’s usually no difference between a cheap brand and a more expensive one that makes the same type of ice.
Just make sure you buy from a trustworthy brand, and check customer reviews before you order.
What’s In This Buying Guide?
In this buying guide, we recommend the best inexpensive ice makers in different categories.
These include the best cheap portable ice makers, under-counter ice makers, nugget ice makers, and gourmet ice makers.If you are looking specifically for an affordable nugget ice maker, see our reviews of the best portable sonic ice makers.
If you run a bar or restaurant, see the best nugget ice machines in our commercial nugget ice maker buying guide.
Best Inexpensive Ice Makers
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1. Best Portable: Igloo ICEB26HNAQ Automatic Portable Ice Maker
If you are looking for a cheap ice maker that doesn't require a water connection, and which you can carry with you wherever you go, we recommend the Igloo ICEB26HNAQ.
The Igloo ICEB26HNAQ is a great choice if you are looking for a compact countertop ice maker.
We love the unique aqua finish it comes in,making it stand out in your kitchen. You can also select a black, white, or stainless finish.
The Igloo ice maker is not limited to the kitchen. Because it is self-contained, complete with its own water reservoir, allowing you to use it practically anywhere.
It even comes with an integrated handle that allows you to carry it around easily.
Once you add water to the reservoir, you just select a small or large ice size, and the machine is ready to go. It takes a quick 7 minutes for the first batch to be prepared.
The Igloo ICEB26HNAQ makes bullet ice. It comes out cloudy, and it’s soft enough to chew without hurting your teeth.
It can make up to 26lbs in a day, and the bin stores 1.25lbs of ice at a time. An indicator on the control panel will light up when the bin fills up.
If you don't collect ice immediately, it melts and is recycled to make more ice. So, you don't need to worry about draining the ice maker.
Issues & Limitations
The Igloo ICEB26HNAQ countertop ice maker is designed for individuals and small families.
It makes too little ice to meet the needs of a large family. The storage bin is also too small for larger families.
For large households, we recommend the 40lb capacity NewAir Countertop ice maker that we review further below.
The Igloo ICEB26HNAQ is best for: Anyone looking for an inexpensive, compact and portable ice maker.
Avoid if: You use a lot of ice in your household. The Igloo ice maker may not keep up with demand.
2. Cheapest: CROWNFUL Countertop Ice Maker
Shopping for the cheapest ice maker you can find? The CROWNFUL countertop ice maker is one of the most inexpensive ice machines we found.
It’s a portable ice maker, so you can set it up anywhere without worrying about water connection.
It’s a bit small for big families and parties, but it’s perfectly sized for individuals and average size households.
The CROWNFUL countertop ice maker makes the same amount and quality of ice as other portable ice makers, but it is much cheaper. It’s one of the best bargains you’ll find on an ice maker.
It produces 9 pieces of bullet ice in just seven minutes, and has a daily production capacity of up to 26lbs.
This makes it a great choice for individuals as well as small and medium-sized families.
The 0.8l ice basket holds enough ice for an entire family or a small party. The basket is positioned above the water reservoir, so any melted ice goes back into the tank to make more ice.
This eliminates the need to drain the ice maker. All you need to do is regularly add water to the reservoir.
The control panel alerts you when you need to add more water and when the ice basket is full.
The CROWNFUL countertop ice maker makes fairly soft bullet ice; the kind that’s cloudy and hollow at the center.
It’s not as soft as nugget ice, but you can still chew it without hurting your teeth. It also works great in frozen drinks such as smoothies and margaritas. It’s also easy to crush in an ice crusher machine.
Like most countertop ice makers, the CROWNFUL ice machine has a compact design that’s great for small kitchens. It measures just 9 inches wide and 12.2 inches deep.
And because it doesn't need to be plumbed in, you can set it up anywhere you want.
Issues & Limitations
While the softer ice from the CROWNFUL countertop ice maker is great for chewing, it’s not so great for premium drinks that you don't want to dilute.
That’s because it melts faster. If you want ice that chills your drink without diluting it, get a gourmet or clear ice maker like the Luma Comfort (reviewed further below).
Another issue to keep in mind is that the CROWNFUL ice maker doesn't make much ice, so it may be inadequate for large families or if you like to hold big parties.
The CROWNFUL countertop ice maker is best for: Anyone looking for a bargain countertop ice maker.
Avoid if: You want slow-melting ice, or you use a lot of ice in your home.
3. Best Under Counter: Euhomy IM-02 Commercial Ice Maker Machine
Is a small countertop ice maker not adequate for your ice needs? What you need, in this case, is a bigger under-counter or freestanding ice maker.
One of the best ones is the Euhomy commercial ice maker. It’s priced very affordably, and can make 100lbs of ice a day.
The Euhomy IM-02 is designed for commercial use, but it’s also perfect for large families that want lots of ice.
It makes up to 100lbs of ice in a day, more than enough for most families. The ice bin can hold up to 30lbs of ice, so you always have plenty of ice on hand.
The Euhomy IM-02 ice maker produces clear ice cubes. These ice cubes are harder and melt slower than the bullet ice made by portable ice makers.
We don’t recommend it for chewing. The upside is that the ice melts slower in drinks.
You can adjust size thickness, with the largest size being ideal for premium drinks where you want the ice to melt very slowly.
The Euhomy IM-02 has two installation options. You can set it up under the counter, or freestanding on the floor.
Whichever option you choose, make sure you have access to a water source and drainage.
That’s because the Euhomy IM-02 requires plumbing. A water hose supplies water to the ice machine, and a drain hose carries away meltwater from the ice basket.
Note that you need to buy a drain pump if the drainage is at a higher level or you want to drain the machine into the sink.
Issues & Limitations
The main downside of a high-capacity ice machine like the Euhomy IM-02 is that you have to plumb it in. Installation takes longer, and in some cases, you may need to call a pro.
Another downside is the price. While the Euhomy IM-02 is cheaper than comparable ice makers, it’s still about twice as expensive as a compact portable ice maker.
The Euhomy IM-02 is best for: Big families looking for a high-capacity, but affordable under-counter ice machine.
Avoid if: You want a portable ice maker that doesn't need any plumbing.
4. Best for Big Families: NewAir Countertop Clear Ice Maker
If you want an ice maker that makes lots of ice, but don't want a bulky plumbed-in under-counter unit, we recommend the NewAir countertop ice maker.
It’s compact enough to sit on your countertop, doesn't require any plumbing, and makes 40lbs of ice in a day.
If compact portable ice makers make too little ice for your needs, but under-counter and freestanding units are too big and expensive, the NewAir ice maker is a good middle ground.
It’s affordable, but makes lots of ice (40lbs per day) for big families.
It doesn't make cloudy ice like most smaller portable ice makers. It produces restaurant-quality clear ice that melts slowly in drinks.
The NewAir ice maker requires no plumbing. Simply set it on your counter or where it’s convenient, and add water to the reservoir. The first batch of ice will be ready in 15 to 20 minutes.
The ice basket is insulated, so it keeps the ice solid for several hours. When the ice begins to melt, it goes back to the water reservoir to make more ice.
So, you don't need to drain the ice maker. But there’s still a drain plug at the back for when you want to empty the ice maker for cleaning or storage.
The NewAir ice maker is also quiet, something you can’t say about most countertop ice makers.
The only bit of noise you’ll hear is the water flowing and ice dropping into the basket. But even those are not loud.
Issues & Limitations
The main issue with the NewAir countertop ice maker is the small ice basket. The manufacturer does not state its actual capacity, but users say it holds only about 1-2lbs of ice.
If you want lots of ice at hand, you have to store it in your freezer.
The other issue is the size of the NewAir countertop ice maker. It’s a space saver compared to full-sized ice machines, but it takes up more space on your counter compared to other portable ice makers.
If you have a cramped kitchen, you may struggle to find space for the NewAir ice maker.
The NewAir ice maker is best for: Large families looking for a portable/countertop ice maker that produces lots of ice.
Avoid if: You want an ice maker that holds a lot of ice. Get an ice maker with a bigger ice basket if you don't have freezer space to store ice.
5. Best Nugget Ice Maker: KBice Self Dispensing Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
Nugget ice, also called sonic ice, is the best if you want soft chewable ice. It also goes well with frozen and mixed drinks such as cocktails, soft drinks and margaritas.
The best inexpensive nugget ice maker is the KBiceself-dispensing nugget ice machine. It’s affordable, makes lots of high-qualitySonic-style ice, and it’s self-dispensing.
Our top recommendation for anyone looking for a portable or countertop nugget ice maker is the GE Profile Opal. But it’s a bit pricey.
The KBiceself-dispensing nugget ice maker is a cheaper alternative, and it makes more ice than the Opal.
KBice makes 30lbs of nugget ice per day. It’s true Sonic-style ice - the kind that feels crunchy and melts easily in your mouth.
The best part is that this is a no-scoop ice maker. Instead of an open ice bin that you scoop ice from, it conveniently dispenses the ice for you.
This is more convenient, and hygienic especially for households with kids.
The KBice ice maker doesn't need any plumbing, meaning you can set it up wherever you want.
Just plug it in, add water to the reservoir, and it’s good to go. The first batch of nugget ice will be ready in 30 minutes.
Issues & Limitations
If you are shopping for a budget portable ice maker, the KBice may not be what you are looking for. It costs more than conventional ice makers.
It’s also bigger, measuring a foot wide, and 16 inches deep. You need another foot of clearance on the right side and 2 inches at the back. You’ll need to clear quite a bit of space on your counter.
The KBice is best for: Anyone looking for an affordable countertop nugget ice maker.
Avoid if: You prefer conventional ice cubes.
6. Best Gourmet Ice Maker: Scotsman CU50GA Undercounter
Gourmet ice is clear, hard ice that melts slower than conventional ice cubes. It’s great for premium drinks like whiskey, where you don't want any dilution.
True gourmet ice makers are expensive, and typically made for commercial users.
The most inexpensive one we could find (though it still costs over four figures) is the Scotsman CU50GA Undercounter gourmet ice maker.
Don’t confuse gourmet ice makers with clear ice makers. Several of our picks like NewAir and Euhomy IM-02 make clear ice, but that’s not gourmet ice.
Gourmet ice is crystal clear, and most importantly, melts very slowly. Its dense slow-melting nature makes it suitable for premium drinks.
If you drink whiskey, scotch or carbonated beveragesoften, the Scotsman CU50GA is a great addition to your kitchen or home bar because it’s designed primarily for commercial use; it makes lots of ice - 64lbs a day to be precise. The ice bin is also big; it can hold up to 26lbs of gourmet ice at a time.
The Scotsman CU50GA is a built-in ice machine. Measuring 15 inches wide and 34 inches high, it fits easily under most under-counter spaces.
You’ll need to plumb it to a water source and drain.
For best results and longevity, use filtered soft water. It’ll be easier on the machine and ensure the best quality gourmet ice.
If you have to use hard water, don't worry, the Scotsman CU50GA ice maker can handle it.
A built-in water quality sensor monitors water hardness and purges the hardness minerals after every cycle.
Issues & Limitations
Compared to other gourmet ice makers, the Scotsman CU50GA is inexpensive. That’s why we’ve included it in this buying guide.
But if you are shopping for a low-budget ice machine, this is probably not it. While all our other top picks cost under $500, the Scotsman CU50GA is in the four figures.
But if you want to enjoy bar-quality gourmet ice at home, this is the best and most affordable ice maker you’ll find.
The Scotsman CU50GA is best for: Anyone looking for a gourmet ice machine.
Avoid if: You are shopping for a cheap ice maker. Also, not suitable if you don't drink whiskey, scotch and similar drinks since for most standard beverages, regular ice cubes from a cheaper ice maker are fine.
Budget Ice Maker Buying Guide
What to Expect When Buying an Inexpensive Ice Maker?
An inexpensive ice maker will obviously have some downsides compared to a more expensive one.
Here’s what to expect in terms of features, build quality, capacity, and ice quality.
Ice quality: Most low-budget portable ice makers make cloudy bullet ice, which is easy and quick to make.
The ice is softer and melts faster in drinks. Pricier ice machines make clear ice which is harder and melts slower.
Capacity: Inexpensive ice makers produce less ice than pricier ones. Most cheap portable ice makers have a 26lbs/day production capacity.
In contrast, under-counter and freestanding ice makers can make 100lbs or more of ice in a day. Also, expect inexpensive ice makers to have a smaller ice bin.
Build quality: Cheap ice makers do not automatically have poor or average build quality. Build quality depends mainly on the brand.
Some manufacturers are known for their well-built and long-lasting ice makers. If you want a reliable and durable ice maker, go with a trusted brand like Igloo, Scotsman and others.
Portability: Where cheap ice makers win out over pricier ones is portability.
Most inexpensive ice machines require no water or drainage hookups, and are small enough to move around easily.
Here’s the bottom line: Sure, you’ll have to give up a few things when buying a cheap ice maker.
But you can still get an inexpensive ice maker that makes good quality ice and serves you well for a long time.
What To Look For When Buying an Inexpensive Ice Maker
Production capacity refers to how much ice an ice maker can produce over 24 hours. The right capacity depends on how much ice you use at your home.
If you don't use much, a portable ice maker with a 26lbs capacity is adequate. For bigger families, a 40-60lbs countertop or under-counter ice maker will better meet your consumption.
If you often hold many big parties at home, get an 80lbs+ freestanding or under-counter ice machine.
Check the size of the ice bin. A big ice bin ensures you always have plenty of ice on hand.
If the ice maker you want has a small ice basket, you can get around it by storing extra ice in the freezer.
Just know that the ice will clump together in the freezer, but you can break it apart again by hitting it with a mallet.
Type of Ice
The most basic type of ice is bullet ice that most portable ice makers produce. It’s soft enough to chew, and hard enough to chill drinks.
If you want slower-melting ice, get a pricier ice maker that produces clear ice cubes. These are denser, harder, and take longer to melt. It’s the best type of ice for most drinks.
If you love the chewable ice sold at Sonic outlets, get a nugget ice maker. Nugget ice is great for frozen and mixed drinks. It’s soft, crunchy, and melts easily in your mouth.
If you don't want to dilute your whiskey or scotch, you need gourmet ice, a type of super-clear ice that is very dense and melts slowly. The only problem is that gourmet ice makers are pretty pricey.
Finally, check the setup requirements of the ice maker.
First, decide whether you want a countertop/portable, under-counter, or freestanding ice machine.
Countertop and portable ice makers are the cheapest. They are also great for small spaces and people who don't want a plumbed-in ice machine.
Undercounter and freestanding ice machines are great for families that need lots of ice.
Check the dimensions of the ice maker to make sure you have the space for it.
Also check whether it needs a water line, or if it comes with an integrated water reservoir. What about drainage? Do you need to connect it to a drain line or does it recycle meltwater?
Pros and Cons
Frequently Asked Questions
Are portable ice makers cheap?
Portable or countertop ice makers are the cheapest types of ice makers. You can get a good one for as little as $100, and most sell for under $200.
Do ice makers stop when full?
All ice makers have a sensor that detects when the bin has filled up with ice, and stops the machine from making more ice until you scoop it out or some of it melts.
Is there a cheap ice maker that makes crushed ice?
Ice makers do not make crushed ice. If you want to make crushed ice, get a cheap ice maker and a cheap ice crusher.
Use ice from the ice maker to make crushed ice. The cloudy bullet ice from cheap ice makers is especially great for making crushed ice.
Is there a countertop ice maker that keeps ice frozen?
So far, we haven’t seen one. The storage bin in ice makers is insulated to keep the ice from melting too quickly, but it’s not refrigerated.
If you leave the ice in the bin long enough, it’ll start to melt. The meltwater will either be drained or it will go back into the water reservoir.
Final Verdict: What is the Best Inexpensive Ice Maker Sold Today?
The Igloo ICEB26HNAQ is the best inexpensive ice maker for most people and families.
It makes enough ice for most families, it’s from a reliable brand, and it’s a breeze to set up and use. We also think it looks great.