If you’re looking for a blender that will weather years of wear and tear and can finely process nearly any ingredient you throw into it, you want the Vitamix 5200. At around $450, it’s an investment, but our testing shows that it blows the competition out of the water. We built on the research in our previous blender guide, adding 14 hours of research, 12 hours of testing nine blenders, interviews with experts, and hundreds of user reviews. The Vitamix 5200 was the only model we tested that could handle everything from emulsifying mayonnaise to processing silky-smooth purées and nut butters. As Vitamix’s most basic and popular model, it has a great long-term track record and also happens to be the least expensive model the company makes.
But we understand that, for many people, $450 may seem like an obscene amount to spend on a blender. If you just want to make the occasional smoothie, puree, or batch of margaritas—and you don’t mind chunkier consistencies—you’ll probably be more than happy with the KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender ($100), a good, all-purpose machine that’s small enough to fit on the counter or under most kitchen cabinets.
Or, if you don’t need the versatility of a Vitamix but do want to make silky green smoothies, we also like the Oster Versa 1400-watt Professional Performance Blender with Short Jar ($209) as a good alternative to our main pick. It has a powerful motor on par with the Vitamix, but we found it struggles to make emulsifications (especially mayonnaise).
Since our first blender review in 2012, new editorial reviews and blenders have come out. Our previous pick, the Vitamix Pro 300, was also recalled due to a faulty blade (which the company says it has since fixed). As such, we decided it was time to revisit this guide.
How we picked
We started by looking at our original review, by The Sweethome’s Seamus Bellamy, in which we’d tested three top-rated blenders: the Vitamix Pro 300, Blendtec’s Total Blender, and the Breville Hemisphere. There was a lively discussion in the comments section of our review, from which we pinpointed models that our readers were particularly curious about. We reread every editorial blender review cited in that article as well as several additional sources, including a new review by Consumer Reports (subscription required).
For professional advice, we turned to two blender experts: Julie Morris, author of Superfood Smoothies and the executive chef at Navitas Naturals, and Tess Masters, author of The Blender Girl cookbook and The Blender Girl blog. Combined, these women have tested nearly every blender on the market. (Full disclosure: Masters does have a working relationship with Vitamix—they’re paying for her upcoming book tour—but they do not pay her as an official spokesperson and she says Vitamix was her favorite before she was involved with the company.) Additionally, we combed through Amazon user reviews to get an idea of how different models held up over time.
We found that a great blender, at any price point, should be able to smoothly process tough things like fibrous kale, frozen berries, and ice without burning out the motor. It should also be durable and easy to clean, and the jar shouldn’t leak. What separates high- and low-end blenders is that the former are more powerful and process much smoother textures, and they’ll generally last a lot longer than the lower-end, less powerful ones.
Higher-end blenders—often called high-performance blenders—will also tackle things that you’d never want to try in a cheap blender, such as making peanut butter or milling grains. As Julie Morris told us: “Lower-end models market themselves to be able to do all the things that a higher-end one can, but they rarely can…or at least not for very long before breaking. High-end blenders are more of a machine than an appliance…a workhorse (and actually measured in horsepower).”
As Lisa McManus, a senior editor at America’s Test Kitchen, told Seamus Bellamy in our 2012 review, “Blenders have a really hard job to do in that little space. The motor is only so big. The blades have to be able to move the food through the jar and create a vortex, so that the food is sucked down through the blades and back up again. There’s a lot going on in a blender. It’s kind of a challenge, engineering-wise. If you make it do something difficult every day, a lot of them burn out. If it’s being put in the dishwasher every day, the jars can crack, things loosen up, they leak. It’s a lot of stress to put on a little machine. They’re either not durable enough or they can’t handle it in the first place.”
How we tested
We chose nine top-rated models—three high-performance blenders, five regular blenders, and one personal blender—and ran each through a range of common blending tasks.
In each blender, we made a green smoothie packed with frozen berries, kale, spinach, and celery, then ran each of these mixtures through a fine-mesh sieve to see how much fiber remained. The best blenders left just a thin scrim of seeds and pulp in the strainer, while the worst performers left chunks of unprocessed kale stems and even whole frozen berries.
We attempted to make mayonnaise in all of the blenders to see how well they would make an emulsification. Most of the blenders did a fine job emulsifying at a medium speed, but a few models failed to make mayonnaise at any setting.
We also used each blender to crush ice and lemonade to see if we could get a good blended margarita consistency. The winners created a fine slush, while the losers produced either grainy, hail-like pebbles or, worse, left big chunks of ice.
To see how well the high-performance blenders handled heavy tasks, we processed raw peanuts to see how well they made creamy peanut butter. Starting on low and then moving to a medium speed, each of the blenders did eventually make butter. We then compared the butters side by side to see if there were noticeable chunks left over.
In the regular blenders we made berry smoothies, packed with frozen raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, and judged the mouthfeel of each to see how well the blenders had processed skins and seeds. As the last test we made a white bean dip with raw kale mixed in to see if the regular machines could smoothly blend the ingredients without having to stop and tamp down the mixtures too often.
We noted how easy or difficult each machine was to clean, how noisy they were, if any of them produced a burning smell while running the motors, if the jars were difficult to attach to the bases, and how easy the interfaces were to use.
In our first round of testing, we were pleasantly surprised by all of the high-performance blenders, but less so by the regular blenders. We weren’t sure we liked any of them enough to recommend. They either didn’t perform blending tasks well, had some dealbreaker about the hardware, or we didn’t think they were worth the price tag. In the end, we called in an additional model that we’d originally discounted—the KitchenAid 5-Speed—which we found did everything we needed it to at a very reasonable price.
This blender was the best at pulverizing seeds, fibrous raw veggies, and nuts. If you’re in the market for a high-performance blender, you’re likely looking to make silky-smooth smoothies and purees and maybe even things like nut butters and nut milks. The Vitamix 5200 was the only blender we tested that could do all of that. While both Oster Versas we tested could make silky smoothies, they struggled making creamy peanut butter (and forget emulsifying mayonnaise!). The smoothies from the regular blenders had a chunky mouthfeel in comparison to the one from the Vitamix. We found that the Vitamix had the most efficient vortex and processed ingredients faster than all of the other blenders.
We like the Vitamix 5200’s simple, manual controls, which give more flexibility in blending and will wear better over time. Unlike many of the other blenders we looked at, the Vitamix has no preset speeds for smoothies, crushing ice, or other tasks. Tess Masters of The Blender Girl told us that she’s found that push-button controls tend to wear out after years of heavy use. “The Vitamix has exposed, raised dials and that old-fashioned style will last for years and years,” she said.
The Vitamix has a variable speed setting, which allows you to adjust the power with a dial so you can start blending slowly, then increase the speed. You should generally always start out on this variable setting, and if you need more power after increasing the dial to its limit, you can toggle the switch to the high setting for maximum blending. Although the high speed is often used for getting smoothies and purees really creamy, the blender can actually warm ingredients if run at this setting for several minutes. In the included recipe book for the Vitamix, there’s an entire section of recipes you heat in the blender, including soups and fondues.
The Vitamix’s tamper is round and seamless, so food doesn’t get stuck in any ridges or angles. The Oster Versas were the only other machines we tested that had tampers, and we didn’t love that theirs are cross-shaped. Tess Masters also told us one of the reasons she doesn’t like Blendtec machines is that they don’t come with tampers. “Vitamix is set apart for me because of the tamper,” she said. “I actually think it’s the genius of the machine, and it’s why other companies are coming out with tampers. It allows you to use the tamper to burst air pockets.”
The Vitamix jar was one of the easiest to fit on the motor base. It doesn’t click in, but simply rests on top. We like how easy it is to put on and take off. The Versas also have a similar design, but the Vitamix just fits more effortlessly. It’s a small detail, but noticeably nicer than clicking the jar onto the base as you need to do with some of the less expensive models. We also like that the Vitamix lid is made of soft, easy-to-grip rubber, with clips that keep the lid securely fastened to the jar.
The Vitamix was also the only machine we tested in which you can mill grains. This is a handy feature if you’re gluten-free or want to start using fresh, whole grains in baked goods. For this, you’ll need to purchase the 32-ounce dry grains container ($144), which has blades specifically designed to process grains into flour.
If you’ve been shopping for a Vitamix, you may know that there are many different models available, including “classic” blenders with tall jars, like the 5200, and models with shorter jars that Vitamix calls their “next generation” line (this was the line recalled last year because of the faulty blades). The specs on many of the blenders look identical and choosing between them can get confusing. Tess Masters also told us that many retailers like to have their own special retail number. Masters receives hundreds of emails from readers asking which blender to buy, and she always recommends the Vitamix 5200. “I think it’s still the best machine they make,” she told us. It says a lot that both Masters and Julie Morris have used the Vitamix 5200 in their own kitchens for years.
If $450 is too rich for you, you may still be interested in a refurbished Vitamix. The company sells their certified reconditioned series on their site. For $329 you can purchase a reconditioned 5200 from the company with a five-year warranty (or upgrade to a seven-year warranty for an extra $75).
If you’re interested in blender-specific recipes, the Vitamix comes with a nice cookbook that includes things you’d expect—such as cocktails, dips, soups, and sauces—and more unusual offerings like bread and sorbet recipes. There’s also a nice section in the back of the book on techniques for chopping, grating, and shredding ingredients in the blender jar.
Who else likes it?
The Vitamix 5200 was the favorite of most of the editorials we read.
It was at the top of the most recent review by Consumer Reports, who gave it a rating of 91 points and said, “Besides acing our frozen drinks, puree, and ice crush tests, it’s one of the few models that makes hot soup and blitzes whole fruits and vegetables into smooth, creamy juice. While you’re paying a premium, there are even pricier blenders on the market, from Vitamix itself as well as other manufacturers.”
In its January 2014 Review, America’s Test Kitchen chose the 5200, yet again, as their top-rated machine: “Years of hard-core test kitchen use have not compromised this blender’s superior performance. Its hummus and milkshakes weren’t as silky-smooth as others, but its 1,380-watt motor propelled it through most tasks with ease.”
Good Housekeeping give the Vitamix 5200 an A rating, saying it was, “Exceptional at grinding coffee beans, and making margaritas and smoothies” and “Jar is easy to place on base and is designed for lefties and righties.” Reviewers did find that this machine ran a little on the loud side.
Real Simple chose the Vitamix 5200 as the “best superpower” blender of 52 blenders they tested, saying, “This ultra-versatile splurge can blend sauces or turn kale and (whole!) apples into juice with hardly a smidgen of pulp. Plus, with no base to unscrew, cleanup is a snap.”
Flaws but not dealbreakers
We don’t have any complaints about the way the Vitamix 5200 operates. It is a bit tall (20 ½ inches), which could be an issue if you want to keep your blender on the counter under your cabinets.
The 5200 is also a bit louder than some of the newer Vitamix models. For example, the Vitamix Pro 300 is supposed to be about 40 percent quieter than the 5200. We don’t mind the noise level of the 5200, and it was actually much quieter than some of the less expensive blenders we tested.
And, of course, there is the cost. If you just plain don’t want to spend that much, we have another recommendation for you…
The (cheaper) runner-up
The Versa has a powerful 1400-watt motor, as well as a seven-year warranty, which tells us Oster is willing to stand behind this machine. Among the competition, only Vitamix and Blendtec have warranties that long. When we called Oster’s customer service, we found them easy to reach, pleasant, and able to answer our questions.
Where the Versa stumbled was in making emulsifications. We tried blending mayonnaise four times but the Versa couldn’t handle this relatively simple task. Even most of the cheap blenders we tested could make mayo, but the Versa just splattered the ingredients against the inside of the jar without ever thickening them up, no matter how slowly we poured the oil. We looked to the included recipe book to see if there was a trick, but it didn’t include a mayo or vinaigrette recipe. We’re not sure why this happened, but suspect is has something to do with the jar’s shape and air incorporation from the blades.
It was a little rougher blending peanuts in the Versa than in the Vitamix, and the resulting butter was also chunkier. If you want to make super creamy nut butters, you may not be totally satisfied.
The blending jar, lid, and controls on the Versa also feel cheaper compared to the Vitamix. But given that this machine is almost $300 less, we’re comfortable with the lower-quality hardware. As with the Vitamix, the Versa’s jar is made of BPA-free Tritan plastic.
The Versa also comes with two cookbooks that are about on par with the one included with the Vitamix. The first is larger and hardbound, and it’s organized by dips and spreads, soups and sauces, main and side dishes, soups and drinks, and desserts and sweets. The second is more health-oriented, with a variety of smoothie and soup recipes including nutritional information.
Although we didn’t find it in any editorial reviews, the Oster Versa 1400-Watt Professional Performance Blender with Short Jar gets consistently great Amazon user reviews (4.6 of 58 reviews). This model hasn’t been out long, so we’re holding onto it for long-term testing and will update this guide over the coming months.
If you just want a basic blender
In our smoothie tests, the KitchenAid easily blended frozen berries and kale. It left a much more pulpy texture to the smoothies than the Vitamix or Versas (you could noticeably feel the texture of the unprocessed berry seeds, for example), but was about on par with the Breville Hemisphere (which costs $100 more).
The vortex on the KitchenAid is really impressive. In our white bean test, the blades easily pulled beans and kale down into the blades, blending everything into a smooth puree without stopping the motor to tamp down any ingredients.
It took longer to make mayonnaise in this blender than in the Vitamix, but ultimately it produced a fluffy emulsion. Because of this, we think the KitchenAid 5-Speed is more versatile than the Oster Versa, if not as powerful.
The KitchenAid also took a little longer crushing ice, but not so long that it resulted in excess meltwater. The shavings were fluffy and cocktail-worthy.
To be clear, this is no Vitamix, but for a fifth of the price it does a good enough job. The other blenders we tested in this price range were either cheap-feeling, very loud, or produced a gross burnt motor smell while running. We didn’t love the hard plastic lid on this blender, and the way the jar clips onto the base took some getting used to, but beyond that we have no complaints.
This blender does not come with a recipe book. Like the Vitamix and Versa, the KitchenAid jar is also made of BPA-free Tritan plastic.
Some Amazon reviewers say their KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender leaked from where the blade is bolted into the bottom of the blending jar.
That said, nearly all of the regular blenders we looked at received user reviews complaining about broken and leaking jars and motors quickly burning out. Proportionally, the KitchenAid user reviews aren’t any worse than the other blenders we tested. On Amazon, 69 percent of the KitchenAid’s reviews gave it four or five stars (with an overall 3.8 stars of 1,067 reviews). A lot of the negative comments go something like “great blender until it dies.” If you use it heavily, the KitchenAid may not last you many years, like the Vitamix, but we think it’s the best in its price range.
The Sweethome’s Lesley Stockton has also used this blender for years (six in the test kitchens at Martha Stewart and for a year in her own kitchen) and highly recommends it. Tess Masters also recommends the KitchenAid 5-Speed, and Real Simple rated this as the best overall blender of 52 models they tested, saying, “This model boasts a robust but quiet motor, and its compact size (16 inches tall) makes it a cinch to store.”
The KitchenAid 5-Speed comes with a one-year limited warranty.
The Breville Hemisphere ($200) was The Sweethome’s prior budget pick, and we still like this machine. It has a really nice control panel, with buttons that light up, an LCD timer, and five speed buttons. The vortex was very efficient and it passed all of our blending tests. At this price point, though, we think the Oster Versa gives you more bang for your buck. Although the hardware on the Breville is nicer than on the KitchenAid 5-Speed, we thought the two machines blended about on par. The Breville Hemisphere is recommended by America’s Test Kitchen and Consumer Reports, and received 4.2 stars of 484 Amazon user reviews.
The Oster Beehive Blender ($70) did a pretty good job at making green and berry smoothies. It left a good amount of pulp behind, but was about on par with the Ninja Master Prep. We kept having to open the lid to tamp down ingredients for our bean spread and ice tests. Overall, if you have less than $100 to spend on a blender, we think this would make a good choice. This machine is super loud (and at a really annoying frequency). We do like that it has a glass blending jar and looks very retro. The Oster Beehive was recommended by Tess Masters, Good Housekeeping gave it an A+, and it received 3.8 stars of 552 Amazon user reviews.
The Oster Versa 1400-watt Professional Performance Blender with Tall Jar ($250) performed about on par with the Versa with the shorter jar. The motors look identical. We preferred the feel of the shorter jar to this model’s tall jar. We also don’t like the hard plastic lid on this version, which is more difficult to remove. This Versa did make mayo, although we had to pour the oil very slowly and we found the emulsification broke easily. This Versa has 4.7 stars of 87 Amazon user reviews.
In its most recent review, Consumer Reports rated the Ninja Master Prep Professional ($65) just as highly as the Vitamix 5200 (giving each 91 points). For the price, it’s a pretty good machine, but we don’t think it compares to the Vitamix. The Master Prep did a surprisingly good job at smoothies, bean spread, and blending margaritas, but the design fails at making mayonnaise. The motor is top-mounted, so you can’t actually drizzle anything into the jar. The Master Prep comes with three blending jars in various sizes. We felt like there were too many parts and they would just end up cluttering our cupboards. Overall, the machine feels really cheap. The Master Prep received 4.4 stars of 466 Amazon user reviews.
The Ninja Professional Blender ($100) did not blend as well as the Ninja Master Prep or the Oster Beehive. For green smoothies, it left a weird confetti-like texture to the greens. Every time we ran it, there was a strong burning-motor smell. The jar is hard to get on the base and the lid is finicky to clamp on. The mayo it made was super loose, which means more air was getting whipped into it . The base is big and clunky as well as cheap-feeling. We really didn’t like this one. The Ninja Professional was also recommended by Consumer Reports.
The Magic Bullet ($60) was the only personal blender we tested. It didn’t blend the kale in our green smoothie (there were big chunks of stem left over), and it left chunks of frozen raspberries and strawberries in our fruit smoothie. It did not emulsify mayo or blend the ice in our margaritas. It was a struggle to blend our bean dip (we had to shake the bullet to get things to process). This is probably an okay machine if you just want to make really simple smoothies with the convenience of taking the blending jar with you in your car, but it doesn’t really compare to an upright blender. It received 3.7 stars of 1,004 Amazon user reviews.
Other blenders we looked at but dismissed for testing
Blendtec’s Total Blender – We tested this blender (Blendtec’s most popular model) in our review from 2012, but found that it didn’t compare to the Vitamix we tested. The lid felt flimsy and its panel controls seemed cheap. We opted not to test it again.
Blendtec Designer Series Wildside – This gets good editorial reviews, but not higher than the Vitamix 5200.
Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender – Doesn’t look like it will blend ice, and didn’t receive higher user reviews than those we tested.
Vitamix 6000 – Didn’t get high enough reviews to seriously consider for this review.
Ninja Ultima - Although CNET highly recommends this blender, it doesn’t have as good a warranty as the Vitamix or Versa.
Hamilton Beach Commercial Tempest HBH650 – Didn’t get high enough reviews to seriously consider for this review.
Oster 6706 6-Cup Plastic Jar 10-Speed Blender – Received too many user complaints to seriously consider for this review.
Vitamix Pro 750 – Does not get better editorial or user reviews than the Vitamix 5200 and is almost $200 more expensive.
Vitamix Pro 300 – We tested this in our last review and like it, but the Vitamix 5200 is almost $70 less and gets higher editorial and user reviews.
Waring Pro MX1000R – Didn’t get high enough reviews to seriously consider for this review.
L’Equip RPM Professional – Didn’t get high enough reviews to seriously consider for this review.
What makes a good blender?
As with food processors and immersion blenders, a blender should create a good vortex. How efficiently a blender does this depends on a combination of blade length and position, the shape of the mixing jar, and motor strength. All three of these elements affect how food is brought down around the blade and chopped up.
According to America’s Test Kitchen, a good vortex is formed when the blender’s blades have a “wingspan” that comes close to the sides of the blending jar. If there’s a big gap between the tips of the blades and the jar, chunks of food end up missing the blades. America’s Test Kitchen also found that blenders with a curved bottom, rather than a flat 90-degree bottom, created a better vortex. And, of course, a more powerful motor created a better vortex.
A good blender should also be durable. Vitamix, Blendtec, and Oster Versa models all come with seven-year warranties, and—at least for Vitamix machines—I’ve read plenty of user reviews about them lasting 20 years. You can’t really expect that level of performance from cheaper brands, which is probably why most of them only come with one-year limited warranties. At the same time, some budget models can last for several years of heavy use. Julie Morris told us that she used a Cuisinart blender daily in college and liked it so much that when it burned out after a year, she just bought another one—it was still cheaper than buying a Vitamix.
After testing nine blenders, we quickly realized that a tamper—basically a small plastic bat—separates the good from the great. When a blender is really cranking, air pockets tend to form around the blade, and a tamper allows you to burst these without having to stop the machine. Blenders that come with tampers have a removable opening in the lid to slide the bat through, so you don’t have to take the lid off. This is a safety feature and also helps reduce splatters. All of the Vitamix models and the Oster Versas come with a tamper to push food down toward the blade.
As far as high-performance blenders go, Vitamix and Blendtec are the biggest names and each have devoted fans. Thanks to the superfood smoothie craze, more companies are developing these types of powerful blenders. The lower-priced brand Oster has introduced two versions of the Versa, and Tess Masters said Omega and Breville will be coming out with high-end blenders at some point in the next year.
As for regular blenders, almost every small appliance company makes them, from Hamilton Beach and Black & Decker on the low end to Breville and KitchenAid on the high end.
Most of the blenders we tested come with BPA-free plastic jars. The Vitamix 5200, Oster Versas, and Breville Hemisphere jars are made of Tritan plastic, which is very durable and has some flexibility. Many of the lower-end blenders don’t advertise what material their jars are made of, beyond being “BPA-free.” But the majority of these are probably made of polycarbonate, which is more rigid than Tritan but also very strong. Both materials will crack if heated too high, which is why these jars should not be washed on very hot settings in the dishwasher.
In fact, it’s probably not a great idea to wash plastic jars in the dishwasher at all. As has been recently reported, even BPA-free plastics may leach estrogenic chemicals and heat causes even more leaching. You’re better off hand-washing the blending jar with warm soapy water rather than running it through the dishwasher (this may also help the jar last longer). And don’t store liquids in the jar for extended periods of time.
If you’re really concerned about chemicals leaching, you may want to go with a blender with a glass jar.
Care and maintenance
Both Tess Masters and Julie Morris told us that keeping a blender on the counter is the best motivation for using it. We’ve also found that appliances tucked away in cupboards get much less use than if they’re sitting ready on the counter. Tess Masters keeps the base of her Vitamix on the counter, but stores the blending jar in a cupboard. This seems like a nice compromise.
In our own testing, we found that the best way to clean a blender jar is to use a bottle or scrub brush. Don’t try to use a sponge or you may cut your hand on the blender blades. Processing water and a little soap in the blender jar will help loosen up tough ingredients like peanut butter, and the brush should do the rest. You can use a toothbrush to get gunk out of the controls, as Tess Masters does.
Wrapping it up
If you’re a regular smoothie-maker and like using a blender for soups, sauces, and even margaritas, we think you can’t beat the Vitamix 5200. Its powerful motor, high-quality components, and proven track record make this a machine you should be able to get decades of good use from.
Blender Reviews, Consumer Reports
Blenders, America's Test Kitchen
The Best Blender for your Kitchen, Real Simple,
Blenders Reviews, Good Housekeeping
From smoothies to pesto: Seven blenders reviewed, CNET, October 29th, 2013,
The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics, Mother Jones, March/April 2014,
Senior Editor at America's Test Kitchen, Interview,