Washing machines

Washing Machine Buying Guide
Washing Machine Buying Guide
Finding the Right Washing Machine

You can't escape dirty laundry. A reliable washing machine that gently cleans clothes for years to come is what you need. Washers can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,900, depending on the type, capacities, and features. Here’s how to find the best washing machine for your needs.

For related information on dryers visit our Clothes Dryer Buying Guide and Ratings.


Decide on Type

Do you prefer loading and unloading laundry from the top of a washing machine rather than bending to get into a front-loading washing machine? You can buy a pedestal that boosts a front-loader’s height—making it easier—but you’ll pay $250 or more for the convenience. For a good washing and drying pair read, "The Best Matching Washers and Dryers." For dryer buying advice check our Dryer Buying Guide and Dryer Ratings, and if space is tight, be sure to read "Which Compact Washer Stands Tallest in Consumer Reports' tests?

Picture of a top-loading washing machine.

Top-Load Washing Machine

Agitator models cost less and are faster than top-loading washing machines without an agitator, known as high-efficiency (HE) washing machines. Most HE washers are better at cleaning, gentler on fabrics, use less water, and have larger capacities. They also spin faster, which removes more water and cuts dryer time, although the spinning can tangle clothes. Follow our tips for getting the most from your HE washing machine. And note that some are very deep. When shopping reach in and imagine grabbing that last sock. If you need tongs, move on.


Picture of a front-loading washing machine.

Front-Load Washing Machine

Front-load washing machines are usually the more expensive option. The best front-loaders clean better and are gentler than the best HE top-loading washing machines while using less water. Front-loaders take longer than HE top-loaders, but spin faster, extracting more water and trimming dryer time. The high-spin speed, combined with the way they spin, can cause some washing machines to vibrate. Concrete floors absorb vibrations well, unlike wood-framed floors. Note that some front-load washing machines collect water around the rubber door gasket and can develop mold. Check our tips for preventing mold, and see these two stories on settlements involving front-loader mold class-action lawsuits. 



Size Up Your Space

Bigger capacities often result in a washing machine that's two or three inches wider than the usual 27 inches; same with dryers. Measure the space you have to work with and allow at least 6 inches behind the washing machine for water hookups, and about an inch between the washer and dryer. Measure the doors to your home to make sure a new washing machine can fit through them. You can check washing machine dimensions in the Features & Specs tab in our Washing Machine Ratings, and note which front-loaders can be stacked with a matching dryer.

If you’re putting your machines near bedrooms or the family room, consider ones that scored very good or better in our noise tests. You’ll know they’re working but they shouldn’t disturb you. And while most manufacturers have reduced the vibrations of front-load washing machines, take a close look at vibration scores in our Washing Machine Ratings Charts.


Video Buying Guide

For more, you can watch our latest washing machine video buying guide below.


Count the Towels in Your Basket

Not everybody needs a washing machine that holds 28 full-size bath towels, which is what a washer with a 6.2 cubic-foot capacity should hold. A washer with a capacity between 4.2 and 5.1 cubic feet should hold 17 to 21 bath towels. At 3.3 to 4.2 cubic feet, 14 to 17 bath towels should fit. We no longer include capacity in the overall score because it's your call how important the capacity is. 


Five Fabulous Features

The more features, the higher the price. Take steam. Many mid- and high-priced washing machines have a steam setting. Our tests found steam only slightly improved a washer's stain removal. So choose a high-performing washing machine in your budget, then features that add convenience or save time. Here are five to look for. 

Frigidaire's price range for the washing machines it makes is low to mid level. The brand offers HE top loaders, agitator top loaders, and front loaders.
The GE brand makes washing machines at all price points and has the following types of washers on the market: Front loaders, agitator top loaders, and HE top loaders.
This brand covers a range of washing machine prices across its Kenmore and Kenmore Elite brands, but they're only sold via the brands website and at Sears.
LG makes front-loader washing machines and HE top-loader washing machines. The price for this brand ranges from mid level to the high end.
Maytag markets the following types of washing machines: Front loaders, HE top loaders, and agitator top loaders. The brand's prices include a wide range. The Maytag brand also includes the Bravos, Maxima, and Centennial lines.
Samsung makes HE top-loader washing machines and front-loader washing machines, and its prices range from the mid level to high.
This brand makes several lines, including the Cabrio and Duet lines, and covers various prices across a full range. Whirlpool makes agitator HE top-loader washing machines and front-loader washing machines.
Speed Queen makes front-loader and agitator top-loader washing machines, and they are sold at a high price point. However, this brand has a very loyal following.
The Electrolux brand only makes front-loader washing machines, and they tend to be at the high end of the price range for washers. Electrolux is also the owner/parent brand of Frigidaire.
Additional brands on the market include, Fisher & Paykel and Amana.