Your washing machine should fit your lifestyle and budget
It's probably safe to say that everyone needs a washing machine. From there, it becomes a question of preference and lifestyle -- A big family? A dirty job? Messy kids? Just you and your dainties? All of these are important considerations, as are things like your available space and, of course, your budget
There are three basic types of washing machines
Top-load washers are the classic washer style, and are popular because they're easier to load and unload than front-loading machines (since you don't have to stoop over to open them). They also tend to cost less than front loaders. Traditional top-loaders, which use an internal agitator that spins on a vertical axis to churn the water and clean the laundry, are the least expensive type. However, they cost more to run because they use more water and electricity than high-efficiency models. They also hold less laundry, make more noise and get lower scores (often sharply lower) in professional tests. We do not recommend any agitator-style top load washers in this report, because none get recommendations from the most trusted sources.
High-efficiency (HE) top load washers use less water and energy than conventional top loaders, but they get higher marks for washing performance in independent tests. Rather than the traditional agitator, most of these washers use an impeller -- a fan-shaped ridge at the bottom of the washer drum that spins to create turbulence and somersault laundry through the water. However, these mechanisms can also tangle clothes more easily than a traditional agitator. High-efficiency top loaders are also more expensive than conventional washers, with prices that rival those of the least expensive front loaders, though more and more budget HE top loaders are becoming available. HE top loading washers require the use of the same HE detergent as front loaders.
Front-load washers are the best washing machines in general, and they're the most efficient, too. Their horizontal tubs tumble clothes into and out of the water, making it possible to wash a full load with relatively little water. On average, front loaders tend to be gentler on clothes than top-load machines, as well as more efficient. Front-loading washers can be stacked with a matching dryer to save space, and their higher spin speeds wring out more water, so laundry requires less time in the dryer.
However, front loaders have their own set of drawbacks. They can trap water, dirt and detergent in the tub, creating an ideal environment for mold and odors. This problem can be avoided by wiping down the rubber seal after each wash and leaving the washer door open when not in use. Another common problem is lengthy wash times -- anywhere from 50 to 100 minutes for a standard wash cycle, compared to 35 to 60 minutes in a top loader. The high spin speeds of front-load machines may also cause excessive vibration, especially on wooden floors. Once again, use of an HE laundry detergent is a must. In addition, if you have a washer, you’ll probably need a dryer. In our separate report on clothes dryers, we recommend the top electric and gas dryers for any laundry room space or budget.
Finding the best reviewed washers
We found current and credible professional reviews for all types of washers at Reviewed.com, ConsumerReports.org and Good Housekeeping, as well as a smattering of other sites for a few individual machines. All of these sources do thorough, well-explained testing. Having three credible sites, often with reviews of the same make and model washing machines, also made it easy to come to a consensus on our top picks.
Owner-written reviews are just as useful for finding the best washers, especially when it comes to gauging long-term durability as well as the manufacturer's response to complaints and warranty issues, considerations that aren't measured in professional tests. We found the best user reviews for washers at retailer sites such as HomeDepot.com, BestBuy.com, and Lowes.com. Occasionally, you see some reviews at these sites that originate elsewhere, notably the manufacturers' sites. However, we took the existence of these duplicated reviews into consideration to find those washing machines that truly score with owners.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Top Load Washers | Best Front Load Washers | Best Cheap Washers | Buying Guide | Our Sources