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Cheap Dishwashers Buying Guide
Shoppers on a budget looking for a cheap dishwasher that leaves dishes clean and shiny without making much noise or running up the utility bill will find several good options for less than $500.
We identified four models that that don't skimp on features or performance, thus qualifying as best cheap dishwashers. The Whirlpool Gold Top Control WDT710PAY (starting at $445) is a hit with consumers for its array of wash cycles and settings, flexible design, and high-level performance.
The key players in the low-priced segment of the market are household names: Whirlpool, GE, Frigidaire, Maytag, Kenmore, and Amana. (Bosch, Samsung, and KitchenAid make a limited appearance but mostly show up outside the Cheapism zone.) These manufacturers all offer an array of cheap dishwasher models, some distinguished by a specific bundle of features and some only by their finish (white, black, bisque, and stainless steel). As with most appliances, stainless steel commands a markup of about $100.
Regardless of price, the standard built-in dishwasher is a front-loader that measures 24 inches across. (Anyone strapped for space will need to hunt around for alternatives -- there are only a handful of 18-inch models out there.) The best of the cheap dishwashers feature four or more wash cycles that each suit different soil levels, often boast a sanitize option and hard-food disposer (goodbye prerinse), are designed with a tall tub and racks that maximize interior space, include a delay-start, and sport an Energy Star label. Ultra high-end dishwashers bearing brand names such as Miele and Thermador can hit stratospheric price points -- $2,000 is no exaggeration -- and come loaded with even more features -- 19 wash cycles (including cheese/starch and plastics), for example, or a beam of light projected onto the floor that indicates how far the cycle has progressed.
But frugal shoppers needn't fret about missing out. As the marketing information experts at J.D. Power & Associates explain, anyone who uses the same basic settings all the time (and that's most of us) won't derive any benefit from the snazzy stuff, so there's no sense paying for it.
Perhaps more importantly, the best cheap dishwashers perform just fine. Although complaints about food residue on dishes, spots on flatware, and milky film on glasses crop up in reviews of nearly every budget model, the vast majority of purchasers are thoroughly pleased with the best of the current crop. They rave about the sparkle and shine, the convenience, and the relative quiet.
Two issues, however, irk even those who give a thumbs-up to the appliance's cleaning prowess: The very long cycle, nearly three hours from start to finish when using a "normal" or "heavy" setting along with sanitizing and dry options (this is about double the cycle time required by older models) and the likelihood that the tub's contents remain wet even after going through a heated dry. (Manufacturers recommend using a rinse aid to facilitate drying and spot-free results but consumers report this tactic often falls short.) Reports of both performance weaknesses pervade the cheap dishwasher category and are largely attributable to the resource-conserving goals and requirements of the Energy Star program.
A couple of other matters are worth keeping in mind. Unless you plan to install the dishwasher yourself, note that the cost of professional installation can add several hundred dollars to the price of a dishwasher, depending where you buy it and where you live. Also, dishwashers don't automatically come with the fittings necessary for installation, so be sure to check whether this is part of the package or requires a separate purchase.
Best Cheap Dishwashers
Whirlpool Gold Top Control WDT710PAY
The Whirlpool Gold WTD710PAY piles on the features, including upper and lower fold-down tines, adjustable upper rack, and controls mounted on the top edge of the door. Consumers appreciate the six cycles and many options, such as the soil sensor and eco-wash cycle, and, more critically, the impressive results.Read more »
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Maytag Jetclean Plus MDB4709PA
A standard dishwasher with solid performance, the Maytag Jetclean Plus sports an unusual tiered top rack that affords greater flexibility in loading, particularly tall items. There are five wash cycles (including china/crystal and heavy duty), a steam sanitizer, hard food disposer, and child lock.Read more »
Good Cheap Dishwashers
Bosch Ascenta SHE3AR56UC
Perched right at the edge of the Cheapism range, this model from Bosch stands out for its quiet and efficient operation. The Ascenta features four wash cycles and two options, including a half-load wash, a delay start up to nine hours, and a child lock. Users like its cleaning performance but chafe at the rack layout.Read more »
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A real find at the low end of the price range for anyone needing to load the equivalent of up to 16 full place settings, the GE GDF520PGD comes with three spray arms, a steam prewash, and four wash cycles. It does the job well, but grumbles about the silverware basket crop up in user reviews.Read more »
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Cheap, basic, and old school with its mechanical dials, this Frigidaire model offers only two wash cycles (normal and light) and one wash arm plus a collapsible center tower to spray the water. Some users appreciate the simplicity but others say it's noisy, fails to clean adequately, and needs repairs.Read more »
Bosch Ascenta SHE3AR56UC Review
GE GDF520PGD Review
Whirlpool Gold Top Control WDT710PAY Review
Maytag Jetclean Plus MDB4709PA Review
Bosch Ascenta SHE5AL02UC
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