“where cheap is chic” — wisebread

Cheap Dryers Buying Guide

As we examined user and expert reviews of cheap dryers, the Maytag Centennial MEDC300XW (starting at $448) and Admiral AED4675YQ (starting at $324) rose to the top of the heap. The Maytag MEDC300XW offers more extra features than other machines in its class, and the vast majority of users are thoroughly satisfied with its performance.

The Admiral AED4675YQ is a more Spartan model with fewer options, but is well-liked for its wallet-friendly price and overall drying ability. In the good cheap dryer category, the gas-powered Amana NGD4600YQ (starting at $400) wins over users with its multiple automatic-dryness settings and quiet operation and the Whirlpool WED4900XW (starting at $450) garners kudos for being a good, basic machine with appealing features at an affordable price. Exercise caution if you're considering the Haier Encore RDE350AW (starting at $342), however. Although many reviews indicate that this electric model adequately dries washables, others report a spate of operational failures within the first year.

All cheap dryers present some limitations. There's not much variety when it comes to design. Low-cost models are typically white, boxy, and unexciting to look at. Several skimp on features such as interior lights and end-of-cycle buzzers. Entry-level models offer only the basic drying cycles and temperature options, and controls are typically analog. Starter models tend to be somewhat noisy and their components somewhat less durable than those on mid-range and high-end models. Also, temperature- or moisture-sensing capabilities may not be as finely tuned.

A frugal shopper in the market for a dryer can choose between electric and gas; all of our picks come in both configurations. Electric dryers are cheaper up front and by far the most popular choice. Gas-powered dryers run $50 to $100 more than their electric counterparts but are less expensive to operate. The cost of running a new gas line to the laundry room probably offsets any long-term operational savings, however, so most consumers go electric unless there is an existing gas hookup.

When choosing a cheap dryer, consider the types of fabrics you wash. If you launder lots of delicates, be sure to research cycle and temperature options carefully. Budget dryers have few specialty cycles and some don't offer low or air-dry settings. Additionally, be on the lookout for moisture-sensing technology. This feature both conserves energy and preserves washables by cycling loads only until they're as dry as you want them to be.

Finally, consider whether you prefer a lint trap located up front inside the machine or situated at the top. Although this seems like a minor detail we found plenty of comments on this topic, and reviewers seem to have strong opinions about which they prefer.

Reviews indicate that consumer products experts and budget buyers agree on one piece of advice: Forgo costly extras and buy a basic model, then spend your money where it matters -- on the washing machine. An efficient washing machine will reduce the dryer's workload by producing less-wet laundry and thus curtail the wear and tear on both machine and washables. Note that all dryers are rather inefficient, regardless of price, although proper maintenance will make the most of what you buy.

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Common brand names include Kenmore, Admiral, GE, Maytag, Amana, and Whirlpool. There are actually only a few manufacturers behind these names. Amana and Maytag fall under the Whirlpool umbrella, as does the Home Depot-exclusive brand Admiral. Several manufacturers are responsible for products sold under Sears's Kenmore label, although most laundry appliances are made by Whirlpool. To determine the manufacturer for a specific Kenmore model, consult this handy reference table from Appliance 411.

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