Buying Guide

Picture of an open dishwasher.
Dishwasher Buying Guide

Join the Clean Plate Club

Breakfast cereal, egg yolk, raspberry jam: What do these foods have in common? Their dried-on, baked-on, caked-on residue is a challenging adversary for any dishwasher.

In our tests, we ask more of a dishwasher than you probably ever will—we load 10 place settings slathered with the aforementioned stubborn foods. We let them sit overnight, then run them through a normal cycle. After heat-drying (if it’s available). We also judge noise quality.

Tougher rules have slashed the amount of energy and water dishwashers can use and still get the government's Energy Star seal. Dishwashers that qualify for the Energy Star designation are, on average, 5 percent more energy efficient and 15 percent more water efficient than standard models, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars over the life of the appliance. Below, get a load of some of your options.


The Price is Right

Aside from how they perform in our tests, dishwashers differ in type, features, and, of course, cost. On the lower end, dishwashers cost from about $250 to $600. Prices for high-end models can soar to around $2,200.

Budget dishwashers. In general, if you opt for a model at a modest price point, you’ll get more performance than glitz, and fewer convenience features. They typically cost up to $600. Some clean nearly as well as premium-priced dishwashers, and you may still get adjustable racks and a soil sensor. On the flip side, budget dishwashers tend to be noisier than upscale versions and have fewer flexible-loading options to accommodate oversize items.

High-end dishwashers. At roughly $700 plus, premium models tend to be quieter and have ample flatware slots, folding tines, and other flexible-loading features. Hidden controls and a cycle-time display add style and convenience. Many high-end dishwashers have a stainless-steel tub, which resists stains better than plastic.

Dishwasher drawers. For new construction or a complete kitchen renovation, you might consider dishwasher drawers. They typically include two small, stacked drawers that you can use simultaneously or separately. Compared to dishwashers with doors, the drawers are easier to load. But they can be expensive, and the models we've tested haven't performed as well overall as budget-priced conventional dishwashers. Capacity is relatively small, limiting how much you can wash at once.


Before You Shop

Look for Convenience: Dishwashers that score well for ease of use usually include adjustable racks and lots of flatware slots. Some mid-priced dishwashers have third racks that let you lay down large utensils or short cups. Many also have fold-down tines, which allow for fitting in large or odd-shaped dishes and other dinnerware.

Consider Your Cleaning Habits: All our top dishwasher picks clean well enough for you to skip the pre-rinse before loading. Pre-rinsing can even make your dishes come out dirtier, not cleaner. The reason is that most dishwashers costing $500 or more sold in the past five years or so have a sensor that determines how thorough a wash is needed. At the initial rinse of the cycle, the sensor checks how dirty the water is to determine the proper amount of time and water to get everything clean.

Match Your Décor: All about good looks? Then opt for a cabinet-front dishwasher; they accommodate panels that blend in with your cabinets.

Check the Controls: Some dishwashers include interactive touch controls, but the usual touchpads are fine if they're clearly marked. If controls are invisible when the dishwasher door is closed, look for cycle-time and other visible displays. Many with hidden controls display a light or other indicator to tell you the dishwasher is running, a plus for extra-quiet models. Still, with cycle times running around two hours or more, we prefer a more detailed indicator of time remaining.

Watch the Dimensions: The width and depth of every conventional dishwasher is intended for a cavity measuring 24 by 24 inches. Fitting in your new dishwasher could be a challenge if you’ve tiled the floor or re-done your counters, changing the height of the cavity. Before deciding on a new dishwasher, measure your space and ask the seller for the full height range (and don’t forget to account for adjustment of the leveling feet).


Find the Best Features

When shopping, you should look for attributes that can save you time, money, and effort.

A premium brand, Asko dishwashers are distributed by the Sub-Zero and Wolf distributor/dealer network.
This European brand makes dishwashers in the higher end of the market. One of its claims is that its dishwashers are among the quietest.
This brand is sold mostly at big-box stores, independent appliance stores, and other national retailers for $300 to $800; the company also makes the Frigidaire Gallery and Frigidaire Professional lines. Frigidaire is owned by Electrolux.
This company is the second-biggest dishwasher brand and has four lines: GE, GE Profile, GE Café, and GE Monogram. Prices range from about $300 for a basic GE model to $1,400 for a GE Monogram product. The GE Café line offers professional-style models at lower prices than the GE Monogram series.
Kenmore, the largest dishwasher brand in this country, has three lines: Kenmore, Kenmore Elite, and Kenmore Pro. Prices range from approximately $300 for a basic Kenmore model to $1,600 for the double-drawer dishwasher.
This high-end brand positions itself as a maker of dishwashers loaded with features geared toward homeowners with gourmet kitchens and sold through independent dealers.
A Whirlpool-owned brand, Maytag makes dishwashers in the mid-priced range.
This European brand, like Asko, makes dishwashers that generally excel in energy efficiency but come at a premium cost.