Gravity- and pressure-assist toilets are the most popular options on the market today. Gravity-assist units, the most common type of toilet, use gravity to release water from its tank through a flush valve and into the bowl during flushing. Pressure-assist toilets, on the other hand, hold the water under air pressure inside a plastic tank and flush it out with more force than a gravity toilet. Overall, experts say pressure-assist toilets can be a better choice in homes with problematic plumbing. Beyond this, consumers also have a choice about their toilet's water usage and flush function (single or dual). According to ConsumerReports.org, "The best performers still use the standard 1.6 gallons of water per flush."
Those looking for a proven performer at a low price should consider the two-piece Toto Drake CST744S (*Est. $255), a toilet that consistently receives high ratings from experts and owners. This gravity toilet uses Toto's G-Max flushing system, which has been around for years and requires very little maintenance. In independent performance testing, the Drake falls near the top rating after successfully removing 900 grams of solid waste in a single flush. This is one of the reasons it earns a recommendation from professional plumbers such as Terry Love. It also receives near-perfect scores for ease of installation and overall satisfaction from owners at HomeClick.com and ToiletsThatWork.com who say it's powerful and nearly clog-free. This toilet has an elongated bowl shape; the similar Toto Drake CST743S is the version with a round bowl, which costs about the same. Both require purchasing a seat separately for $15 or more.
The Toto Drake is a standard two-piece toilet; that means it has more nooks and crannies to clean than a more expensive one-piece model. The Toto UltraMax MS854114S (*Est. $375) is another gravity toilet recommended in expert and user reviews at HomeClick.com and ToiletsThatWork.com. The one-piece design of this toilet makes it easier to clean; however, its score of 700 in the Maximum Performance (MaP) Testing of Popular Toilet Models means it's not quite as powerful as the Drake, and it's certainly more expensive. (For comparison sake, the average weight of a normal adult's waste is 250 to 350 grams.). With its three-second flush, the Toto UltraMax toilet thoroughly cleans the bowl without leaving behind any remnants. Engineers, consumers and plumbers alike repeatedly give the Toto UltraMax high marks for its "deceptively powerful flush" and "clog-free performance." The included soft-close seat receives kudos for eliminating the loud clanking associated with a dropped toilet seat. The UltraMax MS854114S has an elongated bowl shape. The similar Toto UltraMax MS853113S (*Est. $375) has a round bowl.
All Toto Drake and UltraMax toilets have a 3-inch flush valve and are covered under a one-year limited warranty. Other versions are available in a taller 16.5-inch rim that makes it easier for most adults to use and meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standard. Another option is a SanaGloss glaze inside the bowl, a chemical treatment that repels bacteria and helps keep the porcelain clean. The Toto Drake is sold in five colors, and the UltraMax has four color choices.
Kohler's Cimarron toilets are widely available online in several versions and receive high marks from experts and owners. The two-piece Cimarron Comfort Height K-3589 (*Est. $250) has an elongated bowl and the K-3497 (*Est. $220) has a round bowl. The two are sold as a package called The Complete Solution for about $30 more, including tank, bowl, toilet seat, wax ring and hardware kit.
The Kohler Cimarron elongated toilet performs well in both solid waste and liquid tests. Both the elongated and round models successfully remove 1,000 grams of solid waste in MaP testing. According to the manufacturer, owners have the option of setting 1.6-gallon Cimarron toilets to a lower water usage of 1.4 gpf. Owners posting opinions about their round-front Cimarron at HomeDepot.com are mostly happy with their purchase. The main complaint is the flush is inadequate to clean the inside of the bowl. At Lowes.com, owners say it flushes great, but some say the flimsier-looking seat that comes with The Complete Solution looks "cheap."
The Kohler Cimarron K-3489 (*Est. $400) is a stylish-looking one-piece design and available in 11 color choices. Although more expensive, this toilet receives lower rankings in professional and owner reviews. In MaP testing, it successfully removes 800 grams of solid waste, which falls short of the 1,000 grams of the two-piece Cimarron toilets. And in another test, the Cimarron K-3489 toilet clogged during one in four flushes.
You aren't likely to find it in a local home improvement store, but the Gerber Avalanche may be recommended as a reliable toilet by your professional installer. It performs as well as the Kohler Cimarron K-3589 in MaP testing and in another professional review, but it's not as quiet. Variations include the Avalance Round Front 21-802 (*Est. $220), the Elongated 21-812 (*Est. $220) and the ADA-compliant ErgoHeight 21-818 (*Est. $235). You can expect to pay approximately $30 more for the bone or biscuit colors. All Avalanche models are covered by a five-year warranty.
If you have been struggling with poor flush performance in your home and suspect it's the plumbing, you may want to replace your gravity toilet with a pressure-assist model like the Gerber Ultra Flush 21-312 (*Est. $295) with an elongated bowl or the 21-302 (*Est. $265) with a round bowl. A pressure-assist toilet holds under air pressure inside a plastic tank and is flushed out with more force than a gravity toilet. Similar versions are available with an ADA-approved seat height, and they have the same five-year warranty as the Gerber Avalanche.
Pressure-assist models also feature a larger water surface that helps keep the bowl clean. One downside is the louder flush that pressure-assist toilets have compared to models that use gravity. Pressure-assisted toilets require home water pressure of at least 25 pounds per square inch (psi). If your home has low water pressure, which can be measured by attaching a water gauge to the bathroom faucet, experts say you may want to consider a gravity toilet instead.
The American Standard Champion 4 (*Est. $320) is readily available online and top-rated in professional reviews and MaP testing; however, a class action lawsuit was filed in 2007 for "a problem with the flush valve seal, which results in leaks and continuous running of water in the toilet; and a problem with the tank, which makes it wobble and leak." According to a review on 411Plumb.com, a site created by an experienced plumber, despite a redesign, "The tank is still difficult to mount and even when tightened to an almost scary tight where you think you are on the verge of breaking the toilet, the tank still remains loose and rocking." We did, however, find mostly favorable owner reviews at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com, where owners praise the powerful flushing action.
No reviewers identify the Kohler Purist Hatbox (*Est. $2,725) as the best toilet, but this model is a good example of the kind of design craze that's invaded the bathroom. The Purist Hatbox is an electronic tankless toilet -- it relies on electricity rather than gravity or pressure to facilitate the flush. This is simply the kind of toilet that people just want because of the way it looks; performance-wise, we couldn't find evidence that it works better than standard toilets costing far less -- in MaP testing, the Hatbox flushed 800 grams of solid waste, nearly on par with other highly rated toilets. And we found at least a couple of user reviews reporting that the pump or electronic parts failed and had to be repaired. On the upside, owners love the way it looks and its compact size means that it can easily fit into small bathrooms. The Kohler Hatbox is listed as one of the best three toilets at 3Luxe.com, a site that recommends luxury goods.