In ConsumerReports.org's dishwasher purchasing guide, editors note that there's little difference between a $600 model and a $1,600 one when it comes to how well each does its primary job. Spending more will buy quieter operation, stylish looks and a wide assortment of features, but it won't necessarily get you cleaner dishes. In fact, one of the best overall performers in our sources is the modestly priced Maytag JetClean Plus MDB8959AWW (*Est. $660) , which gets high marks from professionals and users alike.
This Maytag dishwasher features sleek, modern styling, with hidden controls and a single long handle on the front. It comes in black, white and, for about $100 more, stainless steel. Features include a built-in food grinder, high-powered spray jets for cleaning silverware, a stainless-steel washtub and an adjustable upper rack. It also offers a steam cycle and a quick-wash cycle for lightly soiled dishes, and it meets the updated standards for the Energy Star label.
In professional tests, this Maytag model gets high marks for cleaning performance, energy efficiency and ease of use. Testers say it's moderately loud, but we saw few complaints about its noise level in the 150-plus user reviews posted at Sears.com and HomeDepot.com. On the contrary, most owners say the MDB8959AWW is quiet, looks great and gets dishes "squeaky clean." The most common complaint is that installation instructions are confusing: One owner advises at Sears.com, "At a minimum, quadruple the amount of time you think it will take to install." Several users say the optional installation kit (*Est. $25) makes the process much easier. Although the Maytag brand as a whole does poorly in one major reliability survey, few owners gripe about breakdowns with this particular model. Newer Maytag appliances are manufactured by Whirlpool, which has an excellent track record for reliability.
Another good performer with a relatively low price tag is the Bosch Evolution 500 SHE55M12UC (*Est. $740) . Like the Maytag dishwasher above, this model is Energy Star-rated and has a stainless-steel interior with an adjustable top rack. It doesn't have hidden controls, but it includes a digital control panel, a delayed-start timer and a countdown display. Professional tests rate the Evolution 500 even higher than the Maytag, with excellent scores for cleaning and efficiency, and very good scores for noise level -- the Bosch doesn't include a self-cleaning filter, which tends to be noisy. It also does a very good job of drying plastic items.
We didn't find as many user reviews for the Bosch as we did for the Maytag, but those we did see are equally positive. Users at Sears.com praise this dishwasher's quietness, efficiency and "elegant" design, and say it "makes glassware sparkle." A few users, however, find that it's awkward to load and doesn't offer enough usable space. Very few owners report any mechanical problems, and Bosch dishwashers as a whole get excellent ratings for reliability in consumer surveys. The Bosch Evolution 500 SHE55M12UC comes in white; it's also available in black as the SHE55M16UC and in stainless steel as the SHE55M15UC, which costs about $100 more.
If you're willing to pay more for extra features, the Kenmore Elite 13962 (*Est. $1,170) is another top performer in expert tests. This dishwasher comes in white, black and bisque, with stainless-steel and wood finishes available for an extra $70 or so. It offers Energy Star efficiency and a variety of luxury features, including a stainless-steel tub, hidden controls, adjustable racks, rotating spray jets, a sanitary cycle and a control lockout feature. It also has a soil sensor that monitors the dirtiness of the rinse water to determine when dishes are completely clean, yet editors at ConsumerReports.org caution that this feature can increase cycle times. It doesn't include a self-cleaning filter, which is a tradeoff consumers must make for a quieter machine.
The Kenmore Elite 13962 fares very well in professional tests, with excellent scores for cleaning performance and efficiency, and very good scores for noise. However, it doesn't rate as highly for ease of use as other models that are less expensive. Most owners say this dishwasher is very quiet, cleans dishes well and is easy to load. One common complaint is that its touch controls are easy to bump into, switching the dishwasher on by accident -- although one user says that keeping the control panel locked eliminates this problem. Some also dislike having to clean the filter by hand. We saw few reports of mechanical problems with this model, and Kenmore Elite dishwashers as a whole do well in reliability surveys.
The LG LDF7932WW (*Est. $1,050) is a high-end, Energy Star-rated dishwasher available in white, black or stainless steel (about $50 more). It offers all the features you'd expect on a luxury model: a stainless-steel tub, a built-in food disposer, adjustable racks, a hidden control panel, a soil sensor, a delayed-start timer and a countdown display. Its seven wash cycles include a steam cycle and a special dual-intensity cycle, which lets the user adjust the strength of the jets for the upper and lower racks independently. In professional tests, it offers excellent cleaning performance and efficiency, as well as low noise. However, expert reviewers say LG has a very poor frequency of repair record, with more than one in five LG dishwashers needing repairs within the first four years. User reviews confirm this problem, with several reports of breakdowns and unsatisfactory cleaning performance. One owner complains at HomeDepot.com, "It leaves grit and particles on the plates and silverware even with prewashing by hand." Although most users are happy with the LG's quietness, capacity and cleaning performance, we found enough reports of problems that we can't recommend it.