In professional tests, traditional windshield wipers — the kind with a rubber blade attached to an external frame — easily hold their own against the pricier beam wiper blades. However, these tests were done in a lab with simulated rain, rather than on the road, where the biggest problem that plagues windshield wipers tends to be ice and snow buildup. Testers at TheWirecutter.com find that in real-world driving, beam blades are far better at staying clog free in a snowstorm. So if you drive often in freezing weather, it's probably worth spending more on a set of winter wiper blades. If rain is all you have to deal with, however, cheap windshield wipers will serve you just as well at less cost.
Of the cheap windshield wipers on the market, none gets better reviews overall than the Valeo 600 (Est. $12). In one professional test, it literally cleans up, out-wiping every other blade. It does an excellent job fresh out of the package, and even after six months of real-world wear and tear on testers' cars, it's still holding its own against wiper blades that cost nearly twice as much. It does well in user reviews, too, earning an overall rating of 4 stars out of 5 from more than 950 owners at Amazon.com.
There's nothing fancy about these wiper blades: The Valeo 600 has a traditional metal bracket, holding a synthetic-rubber blade with a natural-rubber wiping edge. A special coating protects the Valeo 600 from UV rays, dirt, ozone and fluids that can deteriorate windshield wipers. The wipers also come with a pre-installed "universal adapter" for easy installation, but not all users are impressed with it. At Amazon.com, some owners complain that the Valeo 600 wiper blades didn't come with the necessary adapters to fit their cars.
Feedback indicates that the Valeo 600 performs well in rainy weather, though its traditional bracket design has a tendency to clog up in snow. Owners say it's whisper-quiet, too. You can expect a good six months out of these Valeo wiper blades, about the same as most other windshield wipers -- but plenty of owners say the Valeo 600 lasts longer than that. In a long-term test conducted by TheWirecutter.com, drivers in a variety of climates, "from sunnier regions like Hawaii to rainier and more temperate regions such as the northeast," consistently said they got 9 to 12 months of use out of these wiper blades. Several owners at Amazon.com also say they got a full year of service out of this Valeo wiper blade model.
If price is your absolute top priority, you can also get decent performance with the even cheaper Anco 31 (Est. $18). It performs nearly as well as the Valeo 600 in professional tests, both when new and at the six-month mark. Owners like it, too, awarding it 4 stars out of 5 overall in more than 1,500 reviews at Amazon.com.
The Anco 31's design is even more basic than the Valeo 600's. It has a traditional bracket-style assembly, with a blade made from an "exclusive rubber compound" (Anco doesn't say whether it's natural rubber or synthetic) and no special coating. It works with five major types of windshield wiper connectors, and most Amazon reviewers say it's easy to install. However, a significant number of owners — particularly drivers of Hondas and Acuras — say they couldn't get the Anco 31 to fit their cars.
Most owners are impressed with the Anco 31's performance, at least in rain. However, a sizable minority complain that the blade streaks, smears or misses big chunks of their windshield. The Anco's other weak point is durability. Though most owners managed to get the expected six months of wear out of these cheap wiper blades, some complain that they literally fell to pieces within two or three months.