Gas grills costing $500 to $1,000 tend to earn the most praise for their balance of features, durability and value. However, most people spend about $250 or less on a new grill. You won't get the most durable components at that price, but if cost matters more to you than durability, a less expensive grill can meet your needs. Experts say grills in this price range generally hold up for at least three or four years without major repairs, although owners don't always agree.
Rust, which many warranties will not cover, is a common problem with grills made of lower-quality metal. Treating an inexpensive grill carefully can help extend its lifespan; experts recommend using a cover, storing it in a sheltered area, and following the manufacturer's maintenance instructions. For example, About.com's Derrick Riches warns that the connectors on the Kenmore 4-Burner LP grill w/ Searing Burner PG-40402SOL (*Est. $330) are prone to rusting. However, this grill beats out dozens of more expensive models in one respected organization's tests.
The similar Kenmore 4-burner LP grill w/ Steamer 464224411 (*Est. $500), swaps the aforementioned model's searing burner for a steamer and costs more, but doesn't receive better expert critiques. In his review of the $500 steamer model, Riches questions why the manufacturer would want to introduce extra moisture inside something that's already prone to rust.
In terms of cooking, the Kenmore grill receives excellent marks for grilling at both low and high temperatures. It has four burners for a total of 34,000 BTU, a primary cooking area of 493 square inches and an electric ignition (this feature requires AA batteries). This particular model also comes with a 13,000 BTU side burner (for warming sauces, for example) and an 8,000 BTU searing burner; a rotisserie attachment (*Est. $50) can be purchased separately. Experts say that porcelain-coated, cast-iron cooking grates, which this Kenmore grill features, are highly effective at distributing heat evenly within the grill.
Riches warns that this grill's components are thin and lightweight, but if you're intent on purchasing a grill for less than $400, other reviewers say the Kenmore grill with searing burner is a good choice. About three dozen owners posting reviews at Sears.com say it cooks quickly and evenly, but a few complain that some of the grill's panels arrived with dings and other minor damage. The Kenmore comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Reviewers say the Brinkmann 810-2410-SB (*Est. $200), is a good alternative to the Kenmore, although it lacks a searing burner. It's only sold through the HomeDepot.com website. The Brinkmann 810-2410-S is the corresponding model you'll find in Home Depot stores. The Brinkmann 810-3420-W (*Est. $160), available at Walmart.com, is similar in size and heat output, but has fewer features and lighter-duty cooking grates. The Home Depot version comes with a five-year warranty on the stainless-steel burners, three years on other stainless-steel parts, and one year on everything else. The Walmart version is advertised as simply carrying a limited one-year manufacturer's warranty.
One expert voices concern about the Brinkmann 810-2410-SB's construction materials, and users report that some of this grill's parts were damaged straight out of the box. However, this Brinkmann gas grill's features are still very attractive for the price. The Home Depot version (the 810-2410-SB) has four burners with a rated output of 48,000 British thermal units (BTU), a primary cooking area of 497 square inches, and a 141-square-inch warming rack. A 12,000-BTU side burner is a convenience for non-barbecue cooking. Testers say shelf space is ample, and the grills have a warming rack that can be used to defrost hamburger or hot dog buns, or hold cooked food while you continue grilling other items. The two Brinkmann gas grills even come with a bottle opener and a beverage holder. A thermometer, however, is not included.
If you're willing to cook on a smaller grill in exchange for much better durability, the Weber Q-300 (*Est. $350) and Q-320 (*Est. $380) are both extremely popular with users. Both grills come with two stainless-steel burners for a total output of 21,700 BTU. One burner runs straight across the grill, while the other runs around the grill's perimeter; this allows you the option of turning one burner off and cooking indirectly with the other.
Both Weber grills also have 393 square inches of primary cooking area, although the Q-320 also includes a 69-square-inch warming rack. One owner complains that the warming rack actually gets in the way, because it doesn't leave much clearance for maneuvering food that's cooking beneath it. The other major difference between these two models is that the Q-320 has an electronic ignition, while the Q-300 uses a push-button ignition system.
Both the Q-300 and Q-320 are theoretically portable but they each weigh 83 pounds without fuel, and reviewers say these grills are probably better suited to a patio or other permanent or semi-permanent setting where space is limited. Both models can be bolted to Weber's Q-series cart (*Est. $90). Although the cart is made of plastic, owners say it's quite sturdy and accommodates a standard 20-pound propane tank.
Weber's reputation for sturdiness and customer support is a big plus. The manufacturer also keeps parts on hand for discontinued grills; as one happy customer says, "When you need a part in 10 years it will be available." Interestingly, users seemed to find assembling the Q-320 to be slightly more challenging than assembling the Q-300, although they don't say why.
A couple of smaller gas grills in this price range also get relatively high marks, although they don't quite measure up to the Webers in terms of construction and durability, or to the Kenmore and Brinkmann grills in terms of size and accessories: the Ducane Affinity 3100 (*Est. $375) and the Char-Broil Red Patio 463250212 (*Est. $270), which replaces the Char-Broil Red Infrared Urban 463250211. Ducane grills are made by the Weber-Stephens Products Company, which also makes Weber grills. The Ducane models feature Weber designs and are backed by Weber's 24/7 customer support, but are made with less expensive materials to keep the cost down.