In general, buying a dryer is much simpler than buying a washer; they're less complex and there are usually fewer options available. Since the washer is the more difficult decision, consider starting your research in our washing machines report (assuming you need both pieces, of course). Several of the top-rated washers we identify there have matching dryers that are also well regarded. We discuss dryer options for all of our Best Reviewed washing machines in this report. In addition, we cover laundry centers -- models that combine a washer and dryer in one unit -- in our report on washer-dryer combos.
The most basic clothes dryers cost between $400 and $700. Higher-priced dryers add features such as additional drying cycles or stainless-steel drums. Stainless-steel drums can be less prone to rust than porcelain or painted metal drums (which are found in basic dryers), but there appears to be little difference between the two in actual drying performance.
When it comes to choosing the best clothes dryer, consumers have two choices: gas or electric. Electric clothes dryers, which require a 240-volt wall plug, are less expensive to buy than comparable gas dryers by anywhere from $50 to $150 on average. However, since gas rates are generally lower than electric rates, gas dryers are much cheaper to operate. ConsumerReports.org notes that over their expected lifetime, the savings in energy costs with a gas dryer will more than make up for the difference in purchase price.
Despite this, ConsumerReports.org says that about 80 percent of clothes dryers sold today are electric. That tracks with our own research and we found far fewer user or professional reviews for gas dryers. Tests show little difference in performance between gas and electric versions of the same dryer, so we include the corresponding gas dryer for each model covered in our report.
ConsumerReports.org offers the best information on clothes dryers, with comprehensive and credible ratings. Editors test about 138 electric dryers and 131 gas models, and rate them on drying performance, noise, convenience and capacity. Discussion is brief, but includes lists of high points and low points.
Reviewed.com has only been reviewing laundry appliances, including dryers, for a few years, but has a well-established record of competent testing and fair -- albeit sometimes tough -- assessments. The site does not test nearly as many dryers as ConsumerReports.org, but provides more in-depth discussion of each machine.
The Good Housekeeping Research Institute also conducts thorough tests of both gas and electric dryers, but their results are less detailed than those at ConsumerReports.org and Reviewed.com. Although each dryer is rated with a letter grade, the write-ups accompanying these grades are brief. The editors list pros and cons for some of the tested dryers, but others have only a short paragraph listing their highlights. Significantly, Good Housekeeping does not appeared to have tested a dryer since 2011. As a result, most of the dryers discussed there are discontinued, though some can still be found at retail stores.
Professional tests can evaluate a dryer's performance, but not its long-term reliability. To gauge customer satisfaction, we consulted the 2014 Laundry Appliance Satisfaction Study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. While this survey records the opinions of more than 6,600 consumers on numerous dryer bands, evaluating each on such factors as performance, features and price, it doesn't compare specific dryer models. ConsumerReports.org provides survey information on brand reliability.
A host of retail and user-review sites give owners a chance to weigh in on their clothes dryers. While such reviews rarely approach the depth and knowledge of the pros, many offer insights into usage over time and sometimes delve into practical matters that the experts overlook. Retail sites such as HomeDepot.com, BestBuy.com, Lowes.com and Sears.com all have a good number of user reviews. However, many retail sites (with BestBuy.com being a notable exception) now intermingle the reviews from their own customers with feedback garnered from other sources, such as manufacturers' web sites. That makes weighing user feedback a little more challenging as you will regularly see the same owner review posted at multiple sites. We accounted for this effect when tallying user feedback to find the top dryers.
Elsewhere in this report
These dryers are top performers and feature packed. We report on the top choices
For those on a budget, these dryers are good performers and great values.
Need a clothes dryer but don't know where to start? Our Buying Guide explains how to find a dryer that meets your needs, and your budget
Links to the reviews we used to find the best clothes dryer. Expert and user review sources are rated and ranked according to their helpfulness.