As washing machines became more water efficient, wash times got longer to boost cleaning. But Americans are busy people, so a 2-hour wash cycle was not hailed as progress. That’s why manufacturers began increasing capacities, allowing you to wash more laundry at one time. But as washers got bigger and bigger, some Consumer Reports’ readers told us that we shouldn’t include capacity as part of the overall score because they want to decide for themselves how big a washer to buy. They have a point.   

So we tweaked our Ratings and no longer factor capacity into the overall score, instead our charts show the claimed capacity in cubic feet so that you can compare models. Capacity ranges from 3.3 cubic feet for the $540 LG WT901CW to the cavernous 6.2 cubic feet for the $1,350 Whirlpool Cabrio WTW9500EC. Both are high-efficiency top-loaders, the type without a center agitator. At 6.2 cubic feet the newly tested Whirlpool Cabrio is the largest on the market and can hold about 28 full-size bath towels. The LG can fit about 14.

Beyond Capacity

We still test for cleaning performance, energy and water efficiency, gentleness, noise, and vibration, and we clock wash times. The Whirlpool Cabrio WTW9500EC was just good at cleaning, which may suffice if you aren’t washing very dirty laundry. It was water efficient, using about 16 gallons of water to wash our 8-pound load, and among the best at extracting water, so dryer time is cut.

Unlike most HE top-loaders we've tested, the HE top-loader was gentle on fabrics. It was also relatively quiet. Normal wash time using the heavy-soil setting was 75 minutes. You’ll save about 15 minutes using the normal soil setting. With a capacity this large, the machine is 30 inches wide and 30 inches deep—3 inches more than the usual width and an inch or two deeper.

The LG WT901CW was also just good at cleaning, and since capacity is much smaller, used even less water, about 12 gallons to wash our 8-pound load. It too was gentle on fabrics and relatively quiet. Wash time was 50 minutes using the normal wash heavy-soil setting. Our top-rated HE top-loader, the LG WT5680HVA, $1,080, has a capacity of 5.2 cubic feet and a wash time of 75 minutes.

To find the best machine for your family and budget, check our washing machine Ratings. The Features & Specs tab lets you compare models, and the Brand Reliability tab tells you which brands are more prone to breaking.

Keep commenting and emailing. We’re listening. You can email me at kjaneway@consumer.org.