A blender is one of the most versatile kitchen appliances, and if you play your cards right, it can be an affordable purchase. There are two basic types of blenders: Countertop and immersion, also known as a stick blender.

Of course, there are many variations on the two basics. When it's time to buy a blender, function is the first thing to keep in mind. If you'll be using a blender only to make milkshakes or puree soups, an immersion blender is probably all you need. But, if you're looking to make silky smoothies or frozen drinks, you'll need a countertop blender that has more power. How much power? Blenders start at about 200 watts — usually for the stick or personal countertop versions — and can go up to more than 1,000 watts.

Then there's cost. You're looking for the best option that fits your budget. After some general research and time spent looking at blender prices and ratings on Amazon, we've got some recommendations:

Best for light blending and small spaces: Immersion blender

It's amazing what you can accomplish with a hand-held immersion blender. It's great for milkshakes and ideal for pureeing hot soup. It can be used to make Bullet Proof Coffee and as a quick tool to aerate wine.

An immersion blender can do many things that heavier, more expensive pieces of equipment can do — think whipped cream, butter, mayonnaise, salad dressings, fruit smoothies, pesto, super-smooth mashed potatoes, sauces and baby food. It's a versatile tool, and it's a great space saver. So if space is an issue in your kitchen, it's an ideal substitute. Some models include attachments that can turn the blender into a mini food processor or a powerful whisk.

immersion-blenderBest inexpensive immersion blender: The Hamilton Beach 59765 2-Speed Hand Blender is well-reviewed and very affordable. The immersion blender has an average 4-star rating from 716 customers and is currently sold for $17.99. The immersion blender attachment is removable and washable, and a chopping bowl or whisk can be attached to the base, adding to the versatility of this inexpensive model.

kitchen-aid-immersionBest mid-priced immersion blender: The KitchenAid KHB2571SX 5-Speed Hand Blender is a brushed stainless steel hand blender that's rated very well with a four and a half star average rating from 417 customers. It has 8-inch and 13-inch removable blending arms as well as interchangeable bell blade attachments and a whisk attachment. It's currently selling for $120 on Amazon.

immersion-blenderBest high-priced immersion blender: The Calphalon 3-in-1 Immersion Blender features five speeds including a turbo button that provides an extra power boost when needed. Seventy-five customers have given it an average four and a half stars. It has a silicone protector at the bottom of the metal guard that makes it safe to use right inside of non-stick pans. It's current price is $210.96 on Amazon.

Best for heavy-duty blending: Countertop blender

The immersion blender is versatile, but it won't do everything, including blending ice or making silky smoothies with vegetables. For those tasks, and others, you'll need a more powerful countertop blender.

After you know your budget, the blender's power, speed and jar size are the most important things to consider.

The power of a blender is measured in watts. The higher the wattage the more powerful the blender should be. If you're looking for super smooth blending of hard items like ice, vegetables, and grains, purchase the highest wattage you can afford.

Blenders can have as many as 10 speeds, but not everyone needs that many. Unless you're looking to do something very specific with a blender and need a high measure of control over the speed, two or three speeds plus the ability to crush ice or put the blender in pulse mode are usually sufficient.

Finally, the size of the jar should be considered. The standard jar size is around 6 cups, but some run smaller or larger. A shorter jar with a wider top (or an overall wider base) is a good option for anyone looking for increased stability.

hamilton-beach-blenderBest inexpensive countertop blender: The Hamilton Beach Wave Crusher Multi-Function Blender has impressive reviews for such an inexpensive model. Currently $31.09, this countertop blender has an average of four stars from 560 Amazon customers. It has 700 watts of power, 14 blending functions and a unique mess-free pour lid. Reviewers say crushing ice is no problem, it makes great smoothies and it is easy to clean.

Breville-blenderBest mid-priced countertop blender: The Breville BBL605BSXL Hemisphere Control Blender receives an average of four stars from 912 Amazon customers. The blender has 5 speeds plus pulse, ice crush, and smoothie buttons along with specially designed blades to continually pull food from the top down to the bottom for even blending. Amazon is currently selling this model for $179.98 but says it normally runs $300.

vitamix-blenderBest high-priced countertop blender: The Vitamix 7500 Blender with Low Profile Jar has a big price tag, $528.96, but it also has a quieter, high-performance motor that propels the blade up to 240 mph to blend even the toughest ingredients. Customers give it a four and a half star average rating, and they say it pulverizes everything including seeds from fruits and vegetables. One reviewer says, "No matter what you feed it, it always comes out with zero solids."


Best for small jobs: Personal blender

Personal countertop blenders — ones with plenty of power and small jars that are perfect for creating one or two smoothies — are popular right now. They have smaller jars and often a smaller price tag than a larger blender with similar power. The small jar makes them less functional, though.

Hamilton-beach-personal-blenderBest inexpensive personal blender: You can take the cup of the Hamilton Beach 51108 Stainless Single Serve Blender with Travel Lid with you on your way to work or school. The stainless steel jar and blades are perfect for smoothies, icy drinks and shakes. It's priced for those on a limited budget - $21.99 — but its low price doesn't mean it has low quality. The 722 customers on Amazon who rated it gave it an average of four stars. Unlike more powerful models, it will need liquid to help blend raw fruits and vegetables, and ice needs to be put in last so it doesn't get caught in the blades.

cusinart-personal-blenderBest mid-priced personal blender: The Cuisinart CPB-300W SmartPower 15-Piece Compact Portable Blending/Chopping System does more than make smoothies. It comes with a 32-ounce blender cup, an 8-ounce chopper cup and a set of four 16- ounce "to go" cups. The chopping cup can chop and grind vegetables, herbs, nuts, and coffee beans; it can also smooth soups and turn cream into whipped cream. For $67.50 this personal blender seems like a good, versatile deal for the 1,600 customers who gave it a four-star rating on Amazon.

nutri-ninja-personal-blender Best high-priced personal blender: About 136 customers gave the the Ninja BL455 Professional 1000 watts Personal Blender an average of four and half stars on Amazon. The personal blender comes with three different sized cups — 12 ounce, 18 ounce and 24 ounce — and a recipe book for smoothies. It breaks down fruits and vegetables and the blades crush ice, seeds, skins and stems for a smooth, even consistency. Currently priced at $145, it can do a lot of what much more expensive full-sized blender scan do, just on a smaller scale.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.