Best buys for your first flat

Our top picks to kit out your flat without breaking the bank.

Carrying a box into a new flat.

It’s exciting times – moving into your first flat with your mates. But setting it up can be expensive. There’s a bond to pay, rent in advance and kitting it out.

To help ease the financial burden, we’ve trawled through our tests to find quality products that are perfect for flatting and won’t break the bank.

Tip: Organise it so you and your flatties put different appliances on your Christmas lists.

What to know

  • Our prices are the average ongoing price, but most appliance stores have rolling sales – often with 50% off small appliances. Shop around and you should be able to bag a bargain.
  • Consumer recommended recommended
  • worth considering worth considering

Kettles

Early morning coffee before you rush to your first lecture, late night study cuppa, weekend debrief – the jug in your flat will get a lot of use. So you don’t want one that’s too noisy, especially if your kitchen and living area is open plan.

Anko 1.7L Cordless Kettle WK8321

Anko 1.7L Cordless Kettle WK8321, $9
Anko 1.7L Cordless Kettle WK8321, $9

Price: $9
Overall score: 74% / test results
Availability: Kmart only.

For $9, this no-frills plastic kettle from Kmart offers great bang for buck. It’s fast to boil a litre of water and isn’t too noisy. However, it’s a bit fiddly to use – the lid requires a bit of effort to open and close and water comes out in an uneven stream.

Living & Co 1.7L Glass Kettle JK-108 Consumer recommended

Price: $49
Overall score: 77% / test results
Availability: The Warehouse only.

This glass kettle gets to the boil very quickly – it takes about three minutes to boil a litre. It’s not too noisy and is very easy to fill with a push-button opening lid. While the glass might look more stylish than the budget Anko, it’ll need regular attention to keep looking sharp, so might not suit if your flatties run a mile from cleaning.

Slow cookers

Even the most novice cook can throw some ingredients into a slow cooker and flick a switch. Dinner done – a lifesaver during exam time. Slow cookers are also great at turning inexpensive ingredients, such as beans and cheaper cuts of meat, into culinary creations.

You don’t need to pay top dollar for a quality slow cooker. These three models were all excellent at slow-cooking, cost less than 40 bucks and are big enough to feed the flat and any hangers-on.

Anko 5L Slow Cooker 42662839 Consumer recommended

Anko 5L Slow Cooker 42662839, $25
Anko 5L Slow Cooker 42662839, $25

Price: $25
Overall score: 83% / test results
Availability: Kmart only.

Living & Co 5.7L Slow Cooker Stainless Steel 240W Consumer recommended

Price: $29
Overall score: 81% / test results
Availability: The Warehouse only.

Adesso 5.5L Slow Cooker XJ-13220C0 Consumer recommended

Price: $39
Overall score: 83% / test results
Availability: Countdown only.

Microwaves

Great for defrosting, reheating meals and cooking ready meals, a microwave is an asset in any flat kitchen.

These three models, which all cost less than $130, are very good performers. Our tests put them through their paces cooking broccoli, defrosting mince and chicken and reheating quiche. But, with a bit of trial and error (and reading the instruction manual), they can let you do much more. For example, automatic cooking programmes or multi-stage cooking lets you set the microwave to do a sequence of functions, such as defrost then cook.

Anko 20L Microwave SKU 42681229 Consumer recommended

Anko 20L Microwave SKU 42681229, $59
Anko 20L Microwave SKU 42681229, $59

Price: $59
Overall score: 85% / test results
Availability: Kmart only.

Sharp R210DW Consumer recommended

Price: $115
Overall score: 80% / test results

Living & Co 900W 30L Microwave LM900B Consumer recommended

Price: $129
Overall score: 82% / test results
Availability: The Warehouse only.

Blenders

A blender is a kitchen essential, letting you crush everything from ice to nuts, or whip up soups and smoothies. We’ve found a recommended benchtop and hand-held model priced at $100 or less.

Anko 1.5L Digital Multi Blender XJ-12412 42273691 Consumer recommended

Price: $59
Overall score: 85% / test results
Availability: Kmart only.

This benchtop blender is excellent at ice-crushing and chopping. It's also easy to use but the jug is plastic so may stain.

Zip 3-in-1 421, $100
Zip 3-in-1 421, $100

Zip 3-in-1 421 hand-held blender Consumer recommended

Price: $100
Overall score: 81% / test results
Availability: Briscoes only.

Excellent at chopping and processing, this hand-held blender also comes with grinding and whisk attachments.

Toasters

When the food budget is running low, you can always live on toast right? If you’re all on the same lecture schedule, a four-slice toaster will be your best bet.

Sunbeam Gallerie Collection TA2640 Consumer recommended

Sunbeam Gallerie Collection TA2640, $94
Sunbeam Gallerie Collection TA2640, $94

Price: $94
Overall score: 74% / test results

This four-slice toaster is excellent at consistently toasting bread from run-to-run – perfect for a weekend big brekkie with all the flatmates in tow. It’s very good at browning bread evenly and OK at toasting Burgen bread. It has four short slots with separate toasting levers and controls. Separate levers means you can toast in just one pair of slots, and separate browning controls means you can toast to different levels of “done-ness”.

We’ve also tested cheaper four-slice toasters but none were great performers. Although this model is a bit pricey, you can probably find it in a weekend sale.

Kambrook 2 Slice Wide Slot KTA120WHT Consumer recommended

Price: $70
Overall score: 76% / test results
Availability: Farmers only.

If you want to save a few bucks, you can still get a quality toaster. But you’ll be limited to a two-slice. This model is a good performer – good at toasting consistently and evenly – but just OK at toasting Burgen bread.

Other useful appliances

Sandwich maker or press

The humble toastie can be a quick lunch on-the-go, lazy dinner or late night snack. Your options are two- or four-slice – the latter means you can make more toasties at once. A sandwich press is more versatile because its toasting plate can fit bread of various sizes and thicknesses.

Rice cooker

Don’t overlook the rice cooker. Instead of risking a gluggy mess, you can get perfect rice with the flick of a switch. Once finished cooking, it switches to warming mode for any latecomers. You can pick up a basic model for about 20 bucks. If there are a lot of mouths to feed, choose a model that can handle cooking up to 10 cups at once.

All the rice cookers we’ve previously tested do a decent job, so we don’t test them anymore.

Cleaners

If you’re a stranger to cleaning the bathroom and dunny, you’ll want products that get the job done. These cleaning products get our recommended tick and won’t break the bank.

Strike Bleach Toilet Gel Consumer recommended

Price: $3.50
Overall score: 71% / test results
Availability: Countdown only.

Mr Muscle All Purpose Fresh Consumer recommended

Price: $4.99
Overall score: 91% / test results

Earthwise Multi-Surface Cleaning Spray Citrus & Mint Consumer recommended

Price: $4.99
Overall score: 87% / test results

Keeping warm and dry

Your landlord has to provide a heating source in your living area, but there are no guarantees about how effective it’ll be. If you’re lucky there might be a heat pump, but at the minimum there should be an electric heater. However, it’ll be cold comfort if your bedroom’s an ice-box, you’ll need to buy your own.

Your best bet is a convection or oil-column heater. Convection heaters warm the air near the element or body of the heater and it circulates warmth by natural convection throughout the room. Many have a fan to provide more even heating and faster warm-up.

Oil columns are quiet and provide background warmth – but are slow to heat a room and produce uneven heating.

Tip: To get the right size heater for your room, check out our calculator.

Living & Co LCH2000B Convection electric heater Consumer recommended

Living & Co LCH2000B Convection, $39
Living & Co LCH2000B Convection, $39

Price: $39
Overall score: 74% / test results
Availability: The Warehouse only.

This budget heater is very quick to heat a room and very good at controlling the room temperature. It has a thermostat but no fan.

What about a dehumidifier?

If your flat is damp, you might want to consider a dehumidifier. They also warm the room as they dehumidify, bonus! Good ones don’t come cheap though, so before you buy one consider where the moisture is coming from and do everything possible to reduce the dampness. Check out our 20 dehumidifier test results.

Tip: Drying your clothes inside on a clotheshorse isn’t a healthy option – all the moisture from the washing ends up in the room. Here are our tips for the best way to dry laundry in winter.

Electric blankets

Living & Co Fitted Queen (SRO8223) worth considering

Living & Co Fitted Queen, $55
Living & Co Fitted Queen, $55

Price: $55
Overall score: 86% / test results
Availability: The Warehouse only.

If your flat is cold, at least you can sleep warm with a toasty electric blanket. This blanket was a very good performer and only costs $55 for a queen-size. It’s very fast at heating and has three heat settings (but no timer). It’s also easy to clean because it can be machine washed.

Staff picks

Scoopy Condensation Squeegee, Price: $22
Scoopy Condensation Squeegee, Price: $22

Scoopy Condensation Squeegee

Price: $22
Availability: Community Energy Action or Sustainability Trust for $29.90.

If you have crying windows every morning, Scoopy is a cheap fix. A bit like a window cleaner, you run the squeegee up the window and it funnels water into its hollow handle. Head of Testing Paul Smith said the Scoopy holds 150ml of water, and on a bad Wellington morning he filled it three times drying all the windows in his house. “While it doesn’t reach the bottom of the windows (the sills get in the way), a quick wipe with the supplied microfibre cloth finishes the job.”

Sunbeam Pizza Bake & Grill BT530

Sunbeam Pizza Bake & Grill BT530, $149
Sunbeam Pizza Bake & Grill BT530, $149

Overall score: 62% / test results
Price: $149

Maggie bought this benchtop oven for her son when he went flatting. In our test it was good at cooking a pizza and OK at roasting a chicken, but just OK at grilling toast. It wasn’t good enough to be recommended, but Maggie said it was really useful in the flat. “We’ve now inherited it back and with just two of us at home, we seldom use our large oven.”

Dirt Devil Bandit DDBBC worth considering

Dirt Devil Bandit DDBBC, $100
Dirt Devil Bandit DDBBC, $100

Price: $100
Overall score: 72% / test results
Availability: Bunnings only. Get in quick – this vac is being discontinued.

The Dirt Devil is a good all-rounder – OK at cleaning carpet and very good at getting into the corners and edges. Erica bought the budget vac for her flat and said it was amazing. “I’m stoked with it – and the best bit is it only costs 100 bucks.”

The Warehouse Express Cooker

The Warehouse Express Cooker

The Warehouse Express Cooker

If you’re short on space and only cooking for one, an express cooker could be the answer. The Warehouse Express Cooker is an easy way to cook, and is compact enough to tuck away in a drawer.

Read our full review

Beating the bills

Once your flat’s kitted out, you’ll be stung with monthly power and broadband bills. To make sure Christchurch flatmates Caitlin and Nicole were on the best deal for their four-person flat we used our powerswitch.org.nz and consumer.broadbandcompare.co.nz websites.

Power

Powerswitch is a free service that helps you work out which power company and pricing plan offers the best price. It’s easy to compare plans and find the cheapest deal where you live.

These South Island flatties are lucky – they have a heat pump to keep them warm in winter. An electric hot water cylinder heats their water, and the flat has ceiling insulation. So how does their current electricity supplier Trustpower stack up?

The bad news is not that well. When we compared prices, we found seven electricity providers that could provide a cheaper deal. By switching to Electric Kiwi they could save nearly $300 a year on their power bill.

Broadband

Consumer.broadbandcompare.co.nz features more than 1300 plans from over 130 internet providers. To use it, you simply enter your address and tick what plan attributes are important to you – for our flatties it was having unlimited data, a free router and a fast fibre connection.

Their current broadband plan is with Trustpower and costs about $60 a month. Could we do better than that?

Not this time. We looked at open-term and 12 month offers and over a one-year period the cheapest deal was Slingshot’s Unlimited Fibre Gig 12-month plan at $75 per month. The flat would have to pay a $250 break-fee if they end the contract before the 12 months is up.

Insurance

If you’re flatting, you’ll also need contents insurance and it pays to shop around. When we compared policies for a Christchurch renter wanting $35,000 cover, premiums ranged from $385 per year at TSB (with an excess of $500) to $733 at Kiwibank (excess $250).

If you’re studying a profession, such as medicine, law or engineering, MAS is worth checking out. Its premiums are below the median and it rates highly in our insurance satisfaction surveys – it’s our People’s Choice Award recipient for insurance.

You can compare contents policies for Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin to see which company offers the best deal.

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