In many households, the most-used appliance is the washing machine. Picking the right one means that it’ll last for a long time and be capable of taking care of your laundry.

Take your time shopping for a washing machine, and ask friends and family what models they have and what they like or don't like about them. Visit large chains and smaller appliance retailers to find the best deals; ask about floor models, scratched or dented items with discounted prices, or discontinued styles that may need to be sold quickly to make room for newer designs. A washing machine is a workhorse in most homes, not a design statement—a few dents, dings, or outdated door handle may mean significant savings.

What should I consider before buying a new washing machine?

Before you start shopping, answer the following questions:
  • What is your budget?
  • What style do you want?
  • Where will the washing machine be in your home?
  • Do you have any size restrictions?
  • Do you need specialized wash cycles?
  • How often do you do laundry? 
Some of these questions are obvious, but others are easy to overlook. Some machines are noisier than others: If the washing machine is located next to your bedroom and you prefer to run it overnight, you’ll want a quiet machine; if it’s in the basement, you may not care about noise level. Will the machine be in an open space or a laundry closet? The size of the closer may mean you need a top-loader because a front-loader won’t be able to open all the way. 

What are the different washing machine styles?

There are two standard washing machine styles. Read on for information, as well as some pros and cons of each style.

Front-load washing machine
True to their name, front-load washers feature a door at the front of the machine and make up the majority of washers on the market today. These styles are more energy-efficient due to faster spin cycles, are generally better at getting out tough stains and balancing large loads of laundry, and sometimes have steam cycles for hygienic purposes. Front-load washers are also stackable and some models have reversible swing doors, so they’re accessible from both sides. 

Since the door is on the front, it’s difficult to air out the drum between cycles, which means it’s easier for an odor or mold to develop due to lack of evaporation. The door also locks during the wash cycle to prevent leakage, but means you can’t add items once started. Front-load machines also tend to be more expensive and require more maintenance than top-load machines. 

Standard size range for front-load washing machines:

  • Exterior width: 24–30 inches
  • Height: 33–42 inches
  • Depth: 20–34 inches
  • Capacity: 1.7–2.3 cubic feet (compact), 2.1–2.5 cubic feet (medium),  2.7–3 cubic feet (large), 3.1+ cubic feet (extra-large)
Amount of wash cycle options: 4–5
Temperature setting options: 3–6
Average cost of front-load washing machine: $675 – $5,000

READ: Buying a Dryer: What to Look for in a New Dryer

Top-load washing machine
Though most washing machines on the market today are front-load due to their energy efficiency, top-load machines are still an option. They tend to be less expensive, are easier to load, have shorter wash cycles, and are less likely to develop mold than their front-load counterparts. Top-load washers may also use less water if they feature agitator mechanisms (as opposed to impeller). 

Unlike front-loaders, top-loaders can be rough on delicates and cause clothes to become tangled due to the impeller (a cone or disc that spins/rotates to rub clothes against each other to get them clean). They can also imbalance frequently with large loads, resulting in loud noises and shaking, and improper washing and drainage. And, of course, top-load washers aren't stackable, which limits the spaces they can be installed. 

Standard size range for top-load washing machines:
  • Exterior width: 24–28 inches
  • Height: 36–45 inches
  • Depth: 24–30 inches
  • Capacity: 1.7–2.3 cubic feet (compact), 2.1–2.5 cubic feet (medium), 2.7–3 cubic feet (large), 3.1+ cubic feet (extra-large)
Amount of wash cycle options: 4–15
Temperature setting options: 3–6
Average cost of top-load washing machine: $495–$1,800

How do I buy an energy-efficient washing machine?

When deciding what type of washing machine to buy, look for an Energy Star-certified model, which uses 25% less energy and 33% less water than other options. In addition, if you're replacing and recycling a washing machine, you may be eligible for a rebate or qualify for a discount on a new one.

In addition to your washer being energy-efficient, a high-efficiency model is also a money-saving option. These models will cost more upfront but will save money over the years because they use less water and electricity. They require special laundry detergent, denoted by an "HE" symbol on the label. 

How do I measure for a new washing machine?

Choosing a washing machine is as much about the size of the space available in your home for your washer as it is about function. Measure the location where your new washer will go for depth, width, and height. Whether you want a top-loader or front-loader, make sure the door can open—and stay open—completely. If you have a laundry closet, check that the closet doors will close all the way. 

Are there additional features to consider with a washing machine?

These are available on some top- and front-loading models. While they'll likely come at an additional cost, they may be of value to you: 
  • Wi-Fi capability
  • Alexa connection
  • Google assistant option
  • Apps for smartphones
  • Cycle end notification sound
  • Digital controls
  • Fingerprint resistance
Other washing machine options that work in compact spaces are a combination washer/dryer or a portable washing machine that can be carried from place to place but has a minimal load capacity.

Ready to build the home of your dreams? Get started today.

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