Choosing the Best Clothes Dryer

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. This dryer buying guide can help you find the best one for your budget and needs.

Dryer prices 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, you’ll see multitasking dryers that allow you to dry two loads at once. 

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 noncertified dryers, according to Energy Star. Check with your utility company to see if it offers rebates for Energy Star appliances. (For more ways to save on money and energy, check out “10 Ways to Save Energy Doing Laundry” and “Laundry Products That Waste Loads of Money.”)

Manufacturers design some dryers so that they can be paired with a matching washer, but not all of these sets make a great couple. “Best Matching Washers and Dryers” highlights 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.

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 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. In addition, our testers evaluate each machine’s convenience, judging the controls and the ergonomics for when you load and unload laundry. 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 be aware of the most and least reliable brands. To make it easier for you to choose the best dryer for your budget, we incorporate lab-test results, predicted reliability, and owner satisfaction into one Overall Score for each dryer.

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. 

A full-sized clothes 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 one-year warranty on parts and labor. Speed Queen, however, offers warranties ranging from three to seven years. 

Gas Dryers Ratings
A compact clothes 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 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 a year or two.

Compact Dryers 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 models can be stacked with a matching front-loader in the Features & Specs section. 

If a quiet machine matters, consider buying a model that earns a Very Good or Excellent noise rating. You’ll know it’s working, but it shouldn’t disturb you.

Leave 6 inches between the wall and your washer and dryer, and one inch between the two.
Illustration: Chris Philpot

Video Buying Guide

For more, watch our video below.

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 of 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.

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 lower-priced dryers.
Bosch currently makes higher-end compact laundry appliances.
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.
This manufacturer makes full-sized and compact laundry appliances with prices on the higher end.
GE Haier makes full-sized and compact laundry appliances in a wide range of prices.
From GE Haier, the Hotpoint brand is among those of lower-priced washers.
Insignia is Best Buy's house brand. These full-sized laundry appliances sell for around $600 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 at Sears.
LG makes full-sized and compact dryers with costs ranging from midpriced to high-end.
Maytag is a Whirlpool brand; it makes midpriced to high-end full-sized laundry appliances.
You'll see this high-end brand in our ratings of compact laundry appliances.
Samsung makes midpriced and high-end full-sized and compact laundry appliances.
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 warranties are among the longest we've seen, however.
Whirlpool manufactures full-sized and compact laundry appliances. Its models cover a wide range of prices.
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