Clothes Dryer Buying Guide
Find the Right Dryer for You

Any dryer will get the job done, eventually. But a money-wasting dryer might take longer, use higher heat, or overdry laundry when you want clothes a bit damp. All of this is harder on fabrics and uses more energy. Here’s how to find the best dryer for your budget and needs.

Dryer prices vary, ranging from about $350 to $2,000, depending on type, capacity, and features. And while doing laundry may be a mundane task, the dryer isn’t as humdrum as it once was. You’ll see multitasking dryers that allow you to dry two loads at once, all-in-one machines—front-loading washers that go straight into dryer mode—and dryers with movable control panels. This puts the controls in reach when the dryer is stacked atop a front-loading washer.  

Manufacturers design some dryers so that they can be paired with the matching washer, but not all make a great couple. "The Best Matching Washers and Dryers" highlights the best from our tests. Here’s a tip: Pick your washer first, then the dryer. The washer does most of the work and is a more complicated machine. 

Want to save money?  Read "Laundry Products That Waste Loads of Money."

Lab Tested for Your Home

To find out how well each dryer does its job, testers run loads of laundry of varying weights and fabrics. We time how long it takes to dry each load using the most appropriate setting. Then we set the dryer to its minimum dryness level to find out whether clothes come out damp. Why? Some folks like to iron cottons when it’s 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.

Some machines are noisy, something to know before you buy, so our panelists judge the dryer’s noise level as it dries an average-sized load.  

Dryers that perform well but don't hold up over time aren't winners. That's why it's important to consider our latest reliability and owner satisfaction survey findings. And to make it easier for you to choose the best dryer for your budget, we now incorporate lab test results, predicted reliability, and owner satisfaction into one Overall Score

Dryer Types

How much space do you have?

Full-Sized Dryer

Electric models 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 appear in our clothes dryer ratings because we expect them to perform comparably. 

An electric dryer requires a 240-volt outlet. For a gas dryer you’ll need a 120-volt outlet and a gas hookup. And if the warranty matters, know that most full-sized machines come with a one-year warranty on parts and labor. Speed Queen, however, offers warranties ranging from three to seven years. 

Full-Sized Dryer Ratings

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 dryer can be stacked atop its matching compact front-loading washer. Sales of compacts aren’t robust, however, so we do not have enough data in our reader survey to provide brand-reliability information. Warranties last a year or two.

Learn more about compact machines, including installation requirements, in “Matching Compact Washers and Dryers.”

Compact Dryer Ratings

Size Up Your Space

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.

We list dimensions in our clothes dryer ratings and note which can be stacked with a matching front-loader in the Features & Specs section. 

If a quiet machine matters, consider models that scored Very Good or better in our noise tests. You’ll know they’re working, but they shouldn’t disturb you.

 

An illustration showing how many inches to keep between your new dryer and the wall, and your new dryer and a washing machine.
Illustration: Chris Philpot

Interactive Video Buying Guide

For more, watch our video below. You can skip to different chapters depending on what you want to know. 

Count the Towels in Your Basket

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 17 thick, full-sized bath towels.

A compact dryer, on the other hand, typically has a claimed capacity around 4 cubic feet and should fit about six of these towels. You’ll see the claimed capacities noted in the dryer ratings.    

 

4 Fabulous Features

There are a number of features to choose from. Here are four to look for.

Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.