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Miele W3035 Washing Machine
Miele W3035 Washing Machine

How to Buy a Washing Machine

By Steve ThompsonSHOP.COM Associated Content Writer

Every year, new washing machine models appear on the market; many are shiny and full of more features than your laptop computer. So how do you know which washing machine to choose and which features are necessary?

The Basics

Step 1Capacity: Washing-machine capacity is measured by weight and size. Front-loading machines often hold 6 to 8 pounds of clothes, while top-loading ones might hold as much as 12 pounds. The size is also a factor, especially if you are dealing with a small space. Compact washing machines can be as narrow as 24 inches.
Step 2Materials: Most conventional washing machines feature a porcelain coating, which looks nice and cleans easily. There are also stainless and plastic models. A stainless drum is always helpful because it is less likely to scratch or chip.
Step 3Settings: Some washing machines are very complicated and have too many settings to easily learn. It is important to look at the controls before you buy to determine whether they will save or cost you time. Straightforward controls are always preferable.
Step 4Design: A front-loading washing machine will save water and electricity. Although it will generally have a lower capacity, many of these models are faster and more efficient. Make sure the lint trap is easy to reach and manipulate and that the controls are likewise accessible.
Step 5Noise: If your washing machine keeps you up at night, it will limit its usefulness. Many of the modern models are extremely quiet, so make sure to ask about this when shopping.

The Lingo

Automatic temperature control: A feature that automatically adjusts the water temperature by combining hot and cold water to varying degrees.
Time delay: Controls on a washing machine that allow you to set the machine to run at a later time.
Dispenser: Compartments for fabric softener, laundry detergent and bleach that dispense the appropriate substances during specific parts of the wash cycle.
Spin speed: The speed at which the spin cycle rotates the clothing. Higher speeds mean faster drying.
Water control: This feature adjusts the water level to the amount of clothes in the machine. This can considerably reduce water consumption.
Stackable: A washing machine that is stacked under the dryer for the purpose of saving space.

The Experts

ConsumerSearch commends the Frigidaire Gallery GLTF2940FS for its low price and energy efficiency despite its dated appearance.
According to Reader's Digest, front-loaders have become common enough now that you can find them for less than $1,000. RD suggests LG and General Electric washing machines.

The Brands

Frigidaire Mid-range washing machines mostly; many of its newer models come with high-tech features at affordable prices.
Whirlpool Enjoy a variety of options but be prepared to pay a bit more. Whirlpool offers high-quality washing machines at high-end prices.
Maytag Owned by Whirlpool, Maytag provides slightly less-expensive models with fewer features. Check out the Epic and Epic-Z lines.
GE The most diversity can be found in GE washing machines, which range from less than $700 to more than $1,200. This is a great brand if you want to compare features within specific price ranges.
Kenmore You can find stackable, front-loader and top-loader washing machines under the Kenmore brand.

The Price

$: The lowest prices are generally associated with compact washing machines under 24 inches. These are perfect for apartments, townhouses and other small residences. Consider a Frigidaire washing machine for this price range.
$$: Mid-range washing machines fall under several brand names including Maytag. Expect to spend $800 to $1,000.
$$$: The most expensive washing machines can cost up to $2,000 and have the most features. You'll find many front-loaders in this category; the most common material is stainless steel. Look to LG for high-end washing machines.