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In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Dryers
  2. Dryer Reviews
  3. Electric vs. Gas Dryers and Other Features
  4. Dryer Capacity, Noise, and Maintenance
  5. Discount Dryers Features Comparison Table

Cheap Dryers Buying Guide

With ongoing pressure to tighten our financial belts, it's refreshing to discover that the best cheap dryers get clothes dry, hold up to daily wear and tear, and are relatively inexpensive to repair. If you don't mind forgoing high-tech extras like steam cleaning and sanitizing cycles (which reviews say don't make a difference in a machine's overall functionality), you can find a good dryer for $500 or less.

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.

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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.

Review continues below

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.

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.

by Emily Lugg (Google+ Profile)

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Filed in: Cleaning, Dryers, Family,

Best Cheap Dryers

Maytag MEDC300XW
Gold Medal

Maytag MEDC300XW

This 7-cubic-foot electric dryer sports 10 cycles, wrinkle prevention, and moisture sensing technology. Experts and users like the number of features provided for the money, as well as the effectiveness, and consider this dryer a very good value.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Admiral AED4675YQ
Gold Medal

Admiral AED4675YQ

This Home Depot exclusive offers 6.5 cubic feet of capacity, 11 dry cycles with three temperature settings, and a powder-coated drum. Reviewers consider it a good buy for the money and a large majority report satisfaction with its drying performance.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Good Cheap Dryers

Amana NGD4600YQ
Gold Medal

Amana NGD4600YQ

With 6.5 cubic feet of capacity, 11 automatic cycles with three temperature options, reversible door, and temperature sensor, this model includes more features than many other gas dryers in the budget bracket. Users appreciate the short dry time and roomy drum.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Whirlpool WED4900XW
Gold Medal

Whirlpool WED4900XW

This 7.0 cubic foot electric dryer includes an end-of-cycle buzzer, interior light, 13 settings, and both a moisture and temperature sensor -- more features than most dryers at this price point. Reviewers are satisfied with the efficiency, reliability, and quiet performance.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Don't Bother

Haier Encore RDE350AW

Reviewers enthuse about the 6.6 cubic feet of space in this electric dryer but are less impressed with drying performance, some finding one cycle isn't enough. Complaints about operational snafus are more pronounced than usual for entry-level dryers.

Read more »

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