“how to find the best cheap products” — kiplinger

Cheap Washing Machines Buying Guide

Consumers today can choose between two types of washers -- traditional top-loading machines and trendier front-loading models. In general, top-loaders are the cheapest washing machines and less energy efficient, although newer and pricier high-efficiency top-loading units are making strides in energy and water conservation.

Standard top-loaders tend to need fewer and less complex repairs than cheap front-loaders, but recent testing suggests these units don't clean clothes as well. Front-loading washers use less water than top-loaders, are gentler on clothing (there's no agitator), and clean more effectively overall. On the downside, front-loaders cost far more than top-loaders, are more prone to "walking," and breed mold when not properly maintained.

Top-Loading vs. Front-Loading Washing Machines
Washing Machine Features: Capacity, Speed, and Colors
Washing Machine Reviews
Washing Machine Efficiency, Maintenance, and Repair

When comparing overall costs of ownership for top loaders and front loaders, factors like local utility rates, frequency of use, and usage mode (e.g., cold wash or hot wash, large loads or small) affect the bottom line. The self-described "Mr. Electricity" of the website Saving Electricity says front-loaders consume 40-75% less water and 30-85% less energy than standard top-loading machines. To determine whether or not a pricier front-loader will actually prove cheaper in the long run, you can compare models using the Laundry Costs Calculator found on the site.

Other factors that differentiate cheap washing machines should also figure into your decision making. Where you plan to put the washer, for example, will dictate the size and configuration of the unit. The capacity you need is tied to how much laundry you do and for how many people. You also have to weigh time against energy consumption to determine which is more important -- the longer cycles and lower energy bills of front-loaders, or speedier but less eco-friendly top-loaders. Finally, color is a feature that many consumers couldn't care less about, but if your washer is in a kitchen or bathroom, it might be a concern.

Brands sitting in the budget end of the price category include Whirlpool, Maytag, Admiral, Kenmore, LG, and GE. Whirlpool and Admiral are Maytag-owned names, and some Kenmore models are also manufactured by Maytag and others are built by LG. Multiple discussion board threads and user reviews suggest Maytag and its brands are more highly regarded than GE, but all of these well-known names are considered generally reliable. It's worth noting that washers selling above the $600 price point are ranked by experts and consumers as more dependable than inexpensive washing machines. If you don't like to compromise, check big box stores and appliance warehouses for sales. You should be able to snag a top-performing washer like the front-load Kenmore 40272 (starting at $830) for $100 to $200 below the regular retail price.

We looked at several aspects of cheap washing machines when making our picks. We analyzed cleaning power, dependability, and efficiency to assess overall performance. Are users happy with dirt and stain removal? Do washables emerge in good condition? What kind of repair history does each model have, and how frequent are reports of breakdowns? How long do low priced washers typically last? We considered the reviews of both users and industry experts, and here is where we netted out.

The top-loading Admiral ATW4475VQ (starting at $298) and front-loading LG WM2101HW (starting at $630) are our picks for best cheap washing machines. The Admiral ATW4475VQ isn't Energy Star-qualified, but it's one of the cheapest models out there and wins praise from users for being a high-performing workhorse. The LG WM210HW, which usually sells for about $700 but sometimes shows up for $630 or so, is quiet, energy efficient, and cleans like a dream, according to users and experts. This budget front-load washer outranks models twice its price for a place high on the honor roll of consumer products review sites, and if you can get it on sale, it's an excellent deal.

The top-loading Maytag Centennial MVWC6ESWW (starting at $444) and front-loading Frigidaire GLTF2940FS (starting at $538) are also good cheap washing machines. The Maytag MVWC6ESWW saves water when compared to older machines (a feature that leaves some users grumbling), and consumers say it performs well for the price but could be gentler on clothes. The Frigidaire GLTF2940FS has most of the features users want -- high-efficiency, adequate cleaning, decent capacity -- for an extremely reasonable price. This model doesn't inspire great enthusiasm, but gets above-average reviews from experts.

You might want to pass on the Frigidaire FTF530FS (starting at $437) front-loading washer. User reviews are a mixed bag, and the frequent occurrence of reported repairs raises questions about its reliability.

Top-Loading vs. Front-Loading Washing Machines

When purchasing a washing machine, design may be the biggest decision you'll have to make: Should you buy a front-loading or a top-loading washer?

Review continues below

Top-Loading Washing Machines.

If upfront cost is your primary concern, top-loading washing machines (also called "vertical axis washers") are the way to go. CNET estimates the cost of standard top-load washers ranges between $300 and $650 - a much lower price bracket than the alternative front-load washing machine. Research conducted by the Whirlpool Corporation estimates that 75 percent of American households have top-load washers. Many choose top-loading washers for ergonomic reasons, preferring to avoid bending down to deal with the laundry. Users of standard top-load washers also appreciate the ability to pause cycles to soak clothes or toss in an errant sock -- options front-loaders don't offer.

A good top-loading washing machine may simply suit your space. While they lack the stacking advantage of front-loaders, top-load washers, like the Admiral ATW4475VQ (starting at $298) or the Maytag Centennial MVWC6ESWW (starting at $444), are better suited for narrow spaces because they require little to no door clearance and often aren't as deep as inexpensive front-loading washing machines.

One disadvantage has been that top-load washers are the less eco-friendly option. However, the latest generation of HE top-loaders is designed to close, or at least narrow, the energy-use gap between the two types of washers while preserving the design advantages of top-load washers. High-efficiency top-loaders have successfully upped the "green" ante, but at a high price -- cost typically ranges from $600 to $1600. However, few HE top-load washers fall into the Cheapism price bracket, and those that do are new and largely untested.

Front-Loading Washing Machines.

Front-loading washing machines (or "horizontal axis washers") are the trendier and pricier choice for washing machines. CNET estimates that a front-loading washing machine will typically set you back between $700 and $2,700, but they have advantages that many consumers find hard to ignore. Perhaps the biggest selling point for cheap front-loaders is their water and energy efficiency. The cheapest front-loading washing machines come in at under $650, mid-range washers come in between $650 and $850, and high-end washers can go well above $850. Low-cost front-loaders, like the Frigidaire GLTF2940FS or the LG WM2101HW, are a good option for frugal buyers with eco-friendly aspirations. Even if your motives are purely financial, the efficient front-loaders will cost you less on your utility bills.

When it comes to your clothes, front-loading washing machines have a lot to boast about. Front-loaders feature a large load capacity (a big time-saver if you're washing for your whole family or prefer to only do a large, sporadic load). Recent studies are also showing that the clothes end up cleaner than the more traditional top-load washers. Front-loading machines are also gentler on your clothing, which may be another valid concern for a thrifty consumer. Keep in mind, though, that front-loaders do have longer cycles than top-loaders.

Another advantage is space related -- if space in your laundry room is limited, you may prefer a cheap front-loading washer, like the LG WM2101HW (starting at $630) or the Frigidaire GLTF2940FS (starting at $538), which can be stacked with a dryer for a smaller footprint.

Review continues below

On the other hand, common complaints about front-loading washers exist at all price levels. Users are frustrated about the hassle of small washables catching between the rubber seal, or "boot," and the door. Your front-loader repairs are also likely to be a bit costlier, and potentially more frequent than if you were to go with a top-load washer. Another common complaint is their tendency toward mold and mildew. This may pose a problem in high-traffic laundry areas. Experts advise leaving the door cracked open between washes to deter mold development.

Washing Machine Features: Capacity, Speed, and Colors

Washer Capacity.

To determine how much capacity you need in a washing machine, consider your family size and the amount of laundry you do weekly. The general recommendation is to purchase the largest capacity washer that your laundry space and budget will accommodate. It may seem counter-intuitive, but larger models actually save rather than waste energy and water. The more laundry you can wash per load, the fewer cycles you need to run. Large capacity washers also let you launder oversize items, like comforters, more easily.

The cheapest front-loading washing machines capacity range from 3 to 4.2 cubic feet, which translates to 12 to 20 pounds of laundry per load. The Frigidaire GLTF2940FS front-loader provides 3.5 cubic feet of capacity, while the LG WM2101HW boasts 4.0 cubic feet of space. Cheap top-loaders feature between 3 and 3.8 cubic feet of capacity and can accommodate 12 to 16 pounds of washables. Among our picks for best inexpensive top-loading washing machines, the Admiral ATW4475VQ has capacity of 3.2 cubic feet and the Maytag Centennial MVWC6ESWW provides 4.0 cubic feet. The front-loading Frigidaire FTF530FS (starting at $437) trails the others with its 3.1 cubic-foot capacity, although some consumers like its relatively compact size.

Capacity is a dimension in which front-loading machines, like the Frigidaire GLTF2940FS and LG WM2101HW, tend to shine. Because front-loading washers are designed without a center agitator, they can accommodate more than a top-loading washer with the same tub size. Machines without agitators, including some top-loading high-efficiency models, also handle bulky items, like pillows and quilts, better than traditional top-loaders.

Washing Machine Colors.

Don't overlook the more playful of washing machine features. From stainless steel to midnight black to bright cherry red, today's washing machines are available in a wide array of colors and finishes. Perusing the website of one big box store revealed nine different washers in varying shades of blue, ranging from turquoise to cobalt. If your cheap washer will be in the kitchen or another central location, it may be worth ponying up a few extra bucks to match your decor. White is the cheapest, and in the discount washer category, often the only option. Budget appliances shave dollars off the price tag by eliminating non-essentials, and color choice is one of the first extras to go. All of our top picks -- the Admiral ATW4475VQ, LG WM2101HW, Maytag Centennial MVWC6ESWW, and Frigidaire GLTF2940FS -- are available only in white.

Washing Machine Cycle Speed.

Though it's likely to be an afterthought for buyers, cycle speed is a washing machine feature that pops up often in online washers reviews. First-time users of front-loading machines are often surprised when wash cycles take twice as long as those of top-load washers. Whereas an inexpensive top-loading washing machine may clean clothes in 20 minutes or so, it's common for inexpensive front-loading washing machines to need 45 minutes or more, although washables typically require less drying time after emerging from a front-loader. The majority of consumer critics of the longer cycle times consider this more an irritant than a deal-breaker, but it's worth taking into account when making your buying decision.

Washing Machine Reviews

Cleaning performance is the most important criterion when assessing a washer of any price, and fortunately, washing machines reviews point to some solid contenders in the budget zone. These top-rated washing machines please most users and experts with their cleaning performance, efficiency, and overall dependability -- all for less than $650. The reviews we read, however, suggest that you'll need to make a few compromises. Designer finishes, cutting-edge technology, and high-performing brands are simply out of reach. Also, discount washers are built with cheaper materials, so there's no guarantee they'll last 15 or 20 years. Still, with careful selection and proper upkeep, a low-cost washer may well exceed your expectations.

Washing Machine Cleaning.

According to the washing machine reviews that we read, consumers are stubbornly divided when it comes to the topic of cleaning prowess. Those in the traditional top-loader camp remain doubtful that clothes get as clean in front-loaders or high-efficiency top-loaders, both of which lack agitators and require less detergent. Front-loader advocates counter that longer, gentler cycles are more effective. In fact, professional tests referenced on Wikipedia indicate that front-loaders do a better job overall of getting clothes clean. Point taken. But based on the reviews that we found, cleaning capability depends on the particular model you choose.

Reviewers cite the LG WM2101HW as a top rated washing machine. Users posting on the LG site comment approvingly on the sanitary cycle and stain-fighting abilities of this front-load model. Experts at consumer product review sites agree, ranking this unit tops for cleaning performance as well as efficiency and gentleness. Another front-loader, the Frigidaire GLTF2940FS, places slightly lower in expert assessments, although its cleaning ability and overall gentleness are still considered very good. Users' washing machine reviews, like this one on Buzzillions are enthusiastic about the way washables come out, even without pre-treating challenges like dark fruit stains. Then there's the Frigidaire FTF530FS. Owners' judgments of this front-loading washer's cleaning abilities are relatively positive, according to reviews on sites like Amazon, but loud groans about build quality (see below) drown out the favorable reports.

The two inexpensive top-loading washers on our list also do a fine job. Users contend the Admiral ATW4475VQ cleans impressively on the whole, although one washing machine review on Home Depot notes that water temperatures were cooler than expected. The majority of consumers are satisfied with the dirt-busting power of the Maytag Centennial MVWC6ESWW. Others, however, grouse that it doesn't meet even minimal expectations, like getting rid of grass stains or baby food, and some complain on Buzzillions that the auto-fill feature, which senses how much water is needed based on the load, is too miserly with the water.

When it comes to getting washables clean, using the appropriate laundry detergent is just as important as the machine you choose. If you buy a front-loading washer, you must use special high-efficiency (HE) detergent. HE laundry soaps are more expensive than traditional detergents, so it's tempting to opt out, but doing so can negatively affect the cleaning performance of your front-load washer. It's also likely to cause long-term damage, according to appliance repair experts at Fixitnow.com. Note that standard top-loading washers can take either HE or regular laundry detergent without messing up the machine.

Washing Machine Efficiency, Maintenance, and Repair

Washing Machine Efficiency.

If washing machine efficiency is a priority for you, front-loading washing machines are the clear winners over traditional top-loading washers, saving on water and energy. Rather than spinning clothes around an agitator, front-loaders like the LG WM2101HW, Frigidaire GLTF2940FS, and Kenmore 40272 repeatedly rotate washables up and out of the wash water, a technology that doesn't require a full tub. Top-loading washers typically use 40 gallons of water to clean a full load compared to a front-loading washer that uses 20 to 25 gallons, according to the California Energy Commission. In one study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, 103 participants who had their conventional top-loaders replaced with front-loading washers enjoyed a 37.8% savings in water and a 57.6% savings in energy consumed per load.

In addition to reducing water consumption, front-loading washing machines stay energy-smart by reducing drying time, a performance characteristic that appeals to many consumers. On the other hand, some users gripe about the long wash cycles, which typically run about 45 minutes.

Most traditional cheap top-loaders, like the Admiral ATW4475VQ and Maytag Centennial MVWC6ESWW, are not Energy Star qualified. If saving resources is a hot-button topic for you, you should probably skip past these models, although washer ratings indicate that the Maytag Centennial MVWC6ESWW conserves water better than older top-loaders thanks to its auto-fill feature. But note: opening the lid to check your wash progress or add more garments overrides this water-saving program, as one owner who posted a washing machines review on Sears discovered. Others report there are ways to get around this obstacle but some caution that left to its own auto-fill devices, the water level isn't sufficient to get the laundry clean.

Washing Machine Maintenance.

Aside from making sure your low-cost washer can get clothes clean, you should also mull over how easy it will be to keep the unit itself clean. Front-loading machines have many advantages, but their susceptibility to mold growth is a distinct downer. If you purchase a front-loader, some preventive washing machine maintenance is required. One owner of the Frigidaire GLTF2940FS writes on Abt that a few simple steps, like thoroughly wiping dry the rubber gasket on the inside of the door and leaving it open between loads, help stave off mildew problems. Front-load washing machine reviews of the LG WM2101HW posted on MySears, however, say keeping the door ajar poses a problem: the door on this particular model must be left wide open or latched shut -- it doesn't just sit slightly open. One resourceful owner writes in a review on the LG site about using a suction cup and string to keep the door propped open.

Washer Repairs.

According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the average lifespan for a top-loading washing machine is 14 years, while front-loaders last an average of 11 years. This information is based on survey results from 1996, so some skepticism may be in order. We spoke with a washer repairs specialist who placed new washer life expectancy at closer to eight to 10 years. Does this mean you can confidently expect your machine to last a decade or more? Not necessarily.

The self-described Samurai Appliance Repair Man on Fixitnow.com suggests thinking about average appliance life expectancy as more of an "appliance half-life." He defines this term as "the number of years after which it would not be cost-effective to repair half of the appliances in the group." So, if the life span of a top-loader is estimated at 14 years, and you looked at 10 top-loaders at the 14-year mark, you could expect only five to be worth repairing.

Washer repairs on older-model top-loaders are usually less complex and less expensive than repairs on front-loading machines. Many newer top-load washers generally have electronic control boards like front-load washers do, leading to comparable repair costs, which average $200 to $400 for this fix. But how much you shell out for washing machine repairs depends on the price of parts and labor. According to one appliance repair specialist we spoke with, companies like Samsung and LG (LG also manufactures Kenmore models) use proprietary parts, making them harder and more expensive to procure. There are also fewer people authorized to repair these brands, which drives up the cost of labor. Other brands, like Maytag, which also manufactures Whirlpool and Admiral models, use non-proprietary parts and are cheaper to fix. AllAboutHome.com offers information on the average cost of common washing machine repairs.

Discount washing machines tend to break down more frequently than high-end models. They suffer from problems with electronic control boards and common part failures that include worn-out bearings, drum support breakage, door latch damage, and water drainage issues. These are the types of troubles that dog the Frigidaire FTF530FS, according to washing machine reviews on Epinions and Buzzillions. Users also complain that the machine is noisy and vibrates excessively. Washing machine reviews of the Frigidaire FTF530FS indicate more frequent problems with breakdowns and longevity than we noted with other low-cost washers, although reviews in general suggest that the life span for some of the cheapest washing machines may be slightly shorter than you'd like.



email Sign up for our
Free Newsletter
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Washing Machines
  2. Discount Washing Machines Features Comparison Table
Cheapism.com on Facebook
 
Other Reviewed Products
Kenmore 40272 Review
Pinterest
Subscribe