Top rack of a dishwasher.

Using a dishwasher can save you about 230 hours per year compared with washing and drying by hand, according to Energy Star. It's not an appliance you want to do without for long if it dies.

More on Dishwashers

In addition to saving time, Energy Star estimates that hand-washing your dishes costs $431 more in water and energy than using a dishwasher that’s Energy Star certified.

Here’s what to know before you check our dishwasher ratings and start shopping:

Height Varies

Conventional dishwashers are designed for a space that’s 24 inches wide by 24 inches deep. Height can vary, especially with European models.

“If your flooring was changed after the cabinets were installed, the cavity height might have changed,” says Larry Ciufo, the engineer who runs Consumer Reports’ dishwasher tests. “New counters can affect the space, too.”

What you can do: Measure the space you have to work with, then check online or ask a salesperson to see the manual for the dishwasher’s minimum and maximum height, factoring in the adjustable leveling feet.

Wash Times Are Longer

Tougher federal standards have reduced the amount of water and energy dishwashers can use. All of the models in our tests use between 4 and 7 gallons of water to wash a test load and take 90 to 205 minutes using the normal wash cycle or its equivalent. The GE GDF510PSJSS, $520, takes honors for the longest wash time.

Some dishwashers now have a quick cycle that cleans dishes in an hour or less. It's meant for light messes, and from what we've seen in our lab, doesn't dry dishes, because doing so would extend the cycle time. 

What you can do: You’ll see wash times listed in our dishwasher ratings, and we tell you how much water each model uses on the dishwasher's summary page.

Soil Sensors Save

A soil sensor improves cleaning and efficiency by adjusting the cycle time and water use to the load’s soil level. If you rinse dishes before you put them into the dishwasher, the sensor will determine that they're fairly clean and reduce the wash time, sometimes leaving bits of food stuck to the plates. 

What you can do: While there’s no need to prerinse dishes, do scrape food, bones, shells, and toothpicks from plates. Most dishwashers in our ratings now have a soil sensor, but to be sure, click the Features & Specs tab in the ratings to find out which models do not.

The Filter Is a Factor

The filter strains out food that could wind up deposited on clean dishes. Self-cleaning filters, which grind up the food detritus, tend to be noisy, and only about a dozen or so models in our ratings have this type. The rest have a manual-clean filter that must be cleaned regularly to prevent funky odors caused by food that collects in the filter. It takes only a few minutes.

What you can do: To learn more about the two filter types, read “Why Your Dishwasher Filter Makes a Difference.” And when scouring our ratings, find out which filter type a model has in the Features & Specs section. 

Prices Range Widely

The dishwashers that we bought and tested cost between $245 and $2,200. Some are excellent at cleaning and drying, and others disappoint. Price doesn’t necessarily track with overall performance, but dishwashers under $500 are often noisier.

What you can do: Given that there are more than 100 models in our ratings, use the price filter to zero in on models within your budget.

Choosing a Dishwasher Just Got Easier

As important as performance is, brand reliability matters, too.

Our predicted reliability rating estimates the likelihood that newly purchased models from a given brand will break within the first five years. Our owner-satisfaction rating reflects the proportion of CR members who are extremely likely to recommend the dishwasher they bought.

The data come from our survey of CR members' experiences with 74,880 dishwashers purchased between 2007 and 2017 and not covered by a service contract.

To make it easier for you to find the best dishwasher for your budget, we now combine lab test results, predicted reliability, and owner satisfaction into a single Overall Score, which you'll find in our dishwasher ratings.