While some people love having all the bells and whistles in a washing machine and don't mind paying for it, there are plenty of others for whom cleaning performance, and not perks, is paramount. The good news is that if price is as much of a concern as performance, our research revealed a couple of washing machines that deliver good performance at a great price.
If your heart was set on a front-load washer, but sunk when you saw their typical price tags, be sure to check out the Maytag MHW3505FW (Est. $600). It gets feedback that is as good as or better than some pricier front-load machines, and that feedback is overwhelmingly positive from experts and owners alike.
At Reviewed.com the MHW3505FW is an Editors' Choice selection, earning a score of 8.7 out of 10, and tester Jonathan Chan recommends it for those who "have a mortgage to pay and a family's worth of clothes to get clean."
It's a top pick at ConsumerReports.org as well, where it's both Recommended and dubbed a Best Buy. In testing there it earns Excellent scores for washing performance, energy and water efficiency and vibration; Good scores for gentleness and noise. Owners are also pleased, saying it's a great washing machine, especially for the price, and that it's also an attractive addition to their laundry room.
You give away some bells and whistles compared to higher end front-load machines, such our Best reviewed front loader, the Kenmore Elite 41072 (Est. $1,000). But the Maytag MHW3505FW still has some nice extras, such as Steam for Stains and Sanitize, as well as six other cycles. Chan praises the performance of the MHW3505FW in every cycle he tested, from the super-long, but super effective, 3-hour PowerWash cycle (he points out that you don't have to stick around and wait for it) to the 27-minute quick cycle. The only real downside he notes is that laundry tends to be wetter at the end of a cycle than with some other machines he's tested.
If you prefer a top-load rather than a front-load machine, take a look at the very well-regarded GE GTW680BSJWS (Est. $550). For a cheap washer, this model is absolutely decked out, including a warm rinse option that earns raves from Chan, as well as 14 preset laundry cycles, deep fill and extra rinse options, an auto soak setting, and five soil and stain settings. It's fast, too, the fastest gun in the West, according to both experts and owners, with the quickest option giving you a clean crop of clothes in about 15 minutes.
Reviews from experts are mixed when it comes to cleaning performance with the GE GTW680BSJWS. One independent product review organization gives it a rating of just Good, whereas Chan is more complimentary, saying the GE performs above average even on the normal settings. Owners are firmly in Chan's camp, saying the GE does a great job cleaning their clothes, and the 4.6 cubic feet capacity is plenty, they say, for all but the largest families. We saw dozens of comments that this GE is, "the best washer I've ever owned."
While no top loading washer will ever reach the efficiency levels of a front loader, the GE GTW680BSJWS isn't exactly an energy hog. Chan estimates annual usage rates to be about $42 (though that will of course vary depending on your local utility rates), pretty low for a top-loader. It's Energy Star Certified, as well. The only real complaint we saw about this GE washer is that some feel it's quite loud, although, as we find with any and all products that produce any sound at all, noise is always in the ear of the beholder; plenty of owners say they don't even notice that it's running. The GE GTW680BSJWS only comes in white.