Dealing with dirty laundry is a lot of work, but the right washing machine can make this chore a lot easier. Newer models not only offer improved performance and convenient features, but they use less water and energy. Before you shop, consider these factors.
Types. The two main types of washing machines are traditional agitators and high efficiency (HE) models. While washers with agitators are less expensive and faster than HE models, HE washers offer many benefits, including water savings and improved cleaning. Also, they aren’t as harsh on your clothes and fit larger loads. HE washers come in top loaders and front loaders. Front-loaders perform better and use less water than their top-loading counterparts, but they do run longer and cost more. They also spin faster, which means that clothes dry faster, but it can also lead to vibration. Another issue with some front loaders is mold and mildew growth around the door.
Capacity. The best capacity for your needs depends on the size of your average load of laundry. Most washing machines range from 3.3 cubic feet to 6.2 cubic feet. As a reference, a 6.2-cubic-foot washer accommodates 28 bath towels, while a 3.3-cubic-foot model fits about 14. If you have a large family, go for the largest model that your space and budget allow. If you plan to wash a king-sized comforter, you’ll need at least 4.5 cubic feet.
Size. Measure your laundry space. As a general rule, if you plan to put a dryer next to your washer, you need an inch buffer between them. You also need to include an extra 6 inches of depth to provide space for water hoses.
Tip: Don’t just measure your laundry space — check doorways and any stairs you’ll bring the washer through when you move it in.
Noise and vibration. If your washing machine will be near a living area, research operating noise and vibration. Consumer Reports is a good resource. Front-loading models tend to vibrate the most.
Helpful features. Extra rinse buttons, customization options, and automatic dispensers are nice features. Because HE machines use less water, the extra rinse can help get rid of hair, debris, and detergent residue. Customizable settings help you optimize cleaning, fabric care, and energy/water efficiency based on what you’re washing. Automatic dispensers let you set up your detergent, bleach, and fabric softener in advance. Some models even let you store enough for multiple loads.
Budget. A washer is a major investment that will cost anywhere from several hundred to a few thousand dollars. Agitator models cost the least of all washing machines with prices ranging from $400 to $900. Top-loading HE washers range from about $400 to $1,500. Front-loading washers generally start at $600 and can cost up to $2,000 dollars.