The objective of this study was to determine an efficient way of detecting within-cultivar variation in rice varieties obtained from national and international germplasm collections. Seventy-one rice cultivars were evaluated for within-cultivar variation using a combination of phenotypic, RFLP, and microsatellite or simple sequence length polymorphism (SSLP). Variation between individuals within and accession and between duplicate accessions within a cultivar was detected even in cultivars that had been purified by phenotypic evaluation. Landrace cultivars were more heterogeneous and displayed a larger number of both RFLP and SSLP alleles than did modern cultivars. Microsatellite markers detected a greater number of alleles and were able to discriminate between even closely related individuals more efficiently than RFLPs. Some microsatellite markers were more informative than others for assessing genetic diversity. Single markers revealed 5.6-61.1% of the total variation detected by the 10 SSLP markers. Some marker combinations were complementary, providing more information than others. Several combinations of 4 SSLP markers detected as much as 94% of the total within-cultivar variation detected by the 10 SSLP markers. These results suggest that the use of four well-chosen microsatellites would be an efficient method for evaluating the heterogeneity of rice accessions.