How to Choose a Clothes Dryer

    How to Choose a Clothes Dryer

    Any dryer will get the job done, eventually. But when you’re busy—or trying to plow through multiple loads of laundry—“eventually” might not suffice. Of course we’d all prefer a quick, efficient dryer that won’t jack up the utility bill or hold you hostage like a slow, quarter-chugging laundromat machine.

    Our clothes dryer buying guide will help you find the best model for your budget and needs, as well as how to go about determining that. If you’re familiar with dryers, consider our recommendations of the best clothes dryers—members can peruse our comprehensive clothes dryer ratings.

    How We Test Dryers

    To find out how well each dryer does its job, our testers run loads of laundry of varying weights and fabrics. Dryers that perform well but don’t hold up over time aren’t winners. That’s why it’s important to consider which brand of dryer is the most reliable.

    To help you choose the best dryer for your budget, we incorporate lab-test results, predicted reliability, and owner satisfaction into one Overall Score for each dryer.

    • We time how long it takes to dry each load using the most appropriate setting.
    • We then set the dryer to its minimum dryness level to find out whether clothes come out damp. Why? Some folks like to iron cottons when they’re damp. We also set the machine to its maximum dryness level to find out whether it can dry laundry in the shortest possible time without exposing it to high temps.
    • Our testers evaluate each machine’s convenience, evaluating the controls and the ergonomics for when you load and unload laundry.
    • Our panelists also judge the dryer’s noise level as it dries an average-sized load. 

    How Much Should You Pay for a Dryer?

    Dryer prices in our tests generally range from about $400 to $2,000, depending on the type, capacity, and features. And while doing laundry may be a mundane task, the dryer isn’t as humdrum as it once was. For instance, today you’ll see WiFi-enabled dryers and even multitasking dryers that allow you to dry two loads at once (features like these tend to come with higher price tags, though).

    Dryer Efficiency

    Roughly half the models in our ratings are Energy Star certified, as you’ll see in our dryer ratings. These dryers use about 20 percent less energy than non-certified dryers, according to Energy Star. Check with your utility company to see whether it offers rebates for Energy Star appliances.

    For more ways to save money and energy while using your dryer, check out 10 Ways to Save Energy Doing Laundry and Laundry Products That Waste Loads of Money.

    Dryer Types

    How much space do you have? Dryers can be full-sized or compact. Choose which type you need based on your available space.

    Electric dryers are the big sellers, and Consumer Reports’ decades of testing have revealed that electric and gas dryers perform similarly. We now test only electric models, but their gas versions are also listed in our clothes dryer ratings because we expect them to perform comparably. 

    Full-Sized Dryer

    Full-Sized Dryer

    Some dryers are designed so that they can be paired with a matching washer, and usually the dryer can be stacked atop the washer to save space. An electric dryer requires a 240-volt outlet. For a gas dryer you’ll need a 120-volt outlet and a gas hookup.

    Most full-sized machines come with a 1-year warranty on parts and labor. Speed Queen, however, offers warranties ranging from three to seven years.

    Clothes dryer Ratings
    Compact Dryer

    Compact Dryer

    Manufacturers make only electric compact dryers at this time, not gas. Each dryer measures 24 inches wide, and height and depth vary, as you’ll see in our dryer ratings.

    The dryers that CR tests can be stacked atop their matching compact front-loading washers. Most compact dryers require 240 volts. If your home has the ductwork, choose a vented dryer. Ventless models, also known as condenser dryers, take longer to dry a load—up to 2½ hours, according to our tests.

    Warranties last one to two years.

    Compact Dryers Ratings

    Dryer Size

    Most full-sized dryers are 27 inches wide, but increasing capacities may mean a dryer is 2 to 3 inches wider. Measure the space you have to work with and allow at least 6 inches behind the dryer for venting. Measure the doors into your home and laundry room, and any other possible tight spaces you may have to maneuver through. Note the machine’s height and control location if it will be under a counter.

    Illustration: Chris Philpot

    Manufacturers design some dryers so that they can be paired with a matching washer, but not all of these sets make a great couple. Our recommendations of the best matching washers and dryers highlight the best from our tests. Here’s a tip for choosing a matching pair: Make your pick based on the washer—it does most of the work and is a more complicated machine than the dryer.

    We list dimensions in our clothes dryer ratings and note which models can be stacked with a matching front-loader. (Move the Ratings & Specs slider bar to see all specs.) 

    Dryer Capacity

    A clothes dryer’s drum capacity is bigger than the capacity of its matching washer. That’s because wet laundry needs room to expand as it dries. A dryer with a claimed capacity of around 9 cubic feet, among the biggest we’ve tested, should fit about 17 thick, full-sized bath towels.

    A compact dryer, on the other hand, typically has a claimed capacity of around 4 cubic feet and should fit about six of these towels. You’ll see the claimed capacities noted in the dryer ratings. (Use the Ratings & Specs slider bar to see all specs.)

    Left: 6 towels stacked, Right: 17 towels stacked

    Photo: Consumer Reports Photo: Consumer Reports

    How Long Do Dryers Last?

    A clothes dryer is a big purchase, so you want to choose a machine that lasts—and take steps to help it last as long as possible.

    If you’re considering whether it’s worth it to repair a dryer, consider that a dryer typically lasts 10 years, says Tian Wang, a CR researcher who conducts our dryer member surveys. Taking the following steps can help you get the most life out of your clothes dryer:

    • Clean the dryer lint screen after each load. A blocked lint trap requires the dryer to run longer, adding wear and tear on the machine.
    • Clean the dryer vent every three to six months. Clogged dryer vents increase drying time, energy use, and at worst, can cause a fire. If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning the vent yourself, you can hire a dryer vent cleaning service.
    • Don’t overstuff your dryer. Overstuffing will cause your clothes to take longer; it also puts more stress on the machine, shortening its life
    • Choose a dryer with a high reliability rating. CR uses surveys of its members to give each dryer brand a reliability score. Check out our roundup of the most and least reliable clothes dryer brands.
    • Buy a dryer with a moisture sensor. This feature will turn off the dryer when it senses your clothes are dry, as opposed to using the timed dry cycle that runs for a specific amount of time whether your clothes are dry or not.

    Video Buying Guide

    For more, watch our video below.

    Dryer Brands in CR's Ratings

    Here’s a look at the brands in our ratings. We test year-round and continue to add brands to our dryer ratings

    Amana, which is owned by Whirlpool, makes budget-friendly dryers that are sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Lowe’s, and Walmart.

    Electrolux is the parent company and makes midpriced to high-end full-sized and compact laundry appliances under the Electrolux brand. Frigidaire full-sized laundry appliances are in the low-priced to midpriced range. Electrolux and Frigidaire dryers are sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Wayfair.

    GE Haier makes full-sized and compact laundry appliances in a wide range of prices that are sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Wayfair.

    From GE Haier, the Hotpoint brand is among those of lower-priced dryers. They’re sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Wayfair.

    Insignia is Best Buy’s house brand. Its full-sized dryers sell for around $900 or less.

    This brand covers full-sized dryers at all prices, with the Kenmore Elite models on the higher end. Kenmore also has compact laundry appliances. Kenmore appliances are sold exclusively at Sears.

    LG makes full-sized and compact dryers with costs ranging from midpriced to high-end. LG dryers are sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart.

    Maytag is a Whirlpool brand; it makes midpriced to high-end full-sized laundry appliances that are sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart.

    Midea manufactures washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, ranges, microwaves, and air conditioners. Its dryers are sold at AJ Madison, Lowe’s, and Walmart.

    Samsung makes midpriced and high-end full-sized and compact laundry appliances. Its dryers are sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Wayfair.

    This manufacturer offers a narrow line of full-sized dryers and top-loading washers with prices at the higher end of the range. Speed Queen’s dryers are sold at AJ Madison and Appliances Connection, but because it’s a commercial brand its appliances are primarily sold directly to hotels, apartment buildings, and laundromats.

    Whirlpool manufactures full-sized and compact laundry appliances. Its models cover a wide range of prices and are sold at Appliances Connection, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart.

    Additional clothes dryer brands include Bosch, Fisher & Paykel, Miele, and Summit.