Washing machines come in two styles: top loaders and front loaders. In general, front-loading washing machines are the most efficient type -- but they are also more expensive than top loaders.
We found the most current and credible reviews for both types at ConsumerReports.org. The website includes ratings for more than 70 front-loading washers and more than 60 top loaders, each of which is rated on such factors as cleaning power, efficiency, gentleness to clothes and noise level. ConsumerReports.org also allows owners to write reviews for the specific models they test. However, like their ratings, these owner-written reviews are available only to subscribers.
Another reliable source, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, evaluates 26 washing machines for cleaning power, ease of use and gentleness. Energy use is also factored into the final ratings. Overseas consumer publications -- such as Australia's Choice and Britain's Which? magazines -- also review washing machines. These washers typically are not sold in the U.S., but test results can reveal how available brands fare in general.
Owner-written reviews are useful for gauging long-term durability, something that isn't measured in professional tests. We found the best user reviews for washers at retailer sites such as BestBuy.com, AJMadison.com, HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com. Other sites, including Viewpoints.com and Epinions.com, also offer feedback, but they generally provide fewer user reviews.
Institutional sources do not recommend specific models but still offer insight into the pros and cons of certain brands. For instance, the 2011 Home Appliance Study conducted by J.D. Power and Associates evaluates consumer satisfaction with different washing machine brands, based on a survey of more than 5,600 consumers who had recently purchased a new washer. Each brand is rated on such factors as features, performance, warranty and price. The government's Energy Star program and the nonprofit Consortium for Energy Efficiency provide valuable consumer information about the energy and water efficiency of particular washers.