Washer and Dryer Buying Guide – What Beginners Must Know

Purchasing a new washer and dryer can be an exciting yet daunting task, especially for first-time buyers. With so many options on the market, it’s crucial to understand the key factors to consider when selecting the best washer and dryer for your needs. This comprehensive guide breaks down everything beginners must know before investing in these essential home appliances.

Choosing Between Top and Front Loading Washers and Dryers

One of the first decisions to make is whether to opt for a top loading or front loading washer and matching dryer set. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of each design:

Top Loading Washers and Dryers


  • Tend to be more affordable upfront
  • Easier to load and unload laundry
  • Models with agitators provide thorough cleaning action
  • Stackable dryer options available to save space


  • Use more water and energy overall
  • Fewer cycle options and settings
  • Not as gentle on fabrics
  • Must leave lid open after cycles to avoid mildew buildup

Front Loading Washers and Dryers


  • Better water and energy efficiency
  • Quieter operation
  • Gentler on fabrics with tumbling action
  • Higher spin speeds extract more water from clothes
  • More programming options and cycles


  • Typically more expensive upfront cost
  • Must bend down to load and unload
  • Small capacity in some models
  • Require regular cleaning to avoid mold

Ultimately, front loaders tend to be the better investment for their efficiency and fabric care, but top loaders can make more sense depending on your budget and laundry needs.

Key Washer Features and Settings to Evaluate

Once you’ve decided on a top or front loading washer, take time to understand the various features and settings of models you’re considering. Look for the following:


  • Check the washer’s capacity in cubic feet, which indicates how much it can wash per load. Standard sizes are:
  • Top loaders – 3.5 to 5 cubic feet
  • Front loaders – 4 to 5 cubic feet
  • Match capacity to household needs, factoring in family size and laundry frequency. Too small could require extra loads, while too large uses more water.

Wash Cycles

  • Look for models offering various wash cycles for different fabric types and soils, such as:
  • Whites
  • Colors
  • Heavy Duty
  • Bulky/Bedding
  • Delicates
  • Sanitize
  • Allergy
  • Handwash/Wool
  • Speed Wash
  • The more cycles offered, the more customized cleaning the washer can provide.

Water Temperature Controls

  • Check that the washer allows you to select water temperatures including:
  • Hot
  • Warm
  • Cool
  • Cold
  • Avoid models lacking warm or hot water settings, which may result in ineffective cleaning.

Spin Speeds and Adjustable Spin Options

  • Faster maximum spin speeds of 1000 RPM or higher extract more water from clothes, reducing dryer time.
  • Adjustable spin speeds down to no spin allow customization for different fabric types.

Wash Modifiers and Settings

  • Look for wash modifiers that allow further customization of cycles such as:
  • Soil level adjustments
  • Extra rinse option
  • Delay start
  • Cycle signal indicator
  • Advanced settings like steam, sanitize, and allergen modes are bonuses for enhanced cleaning.

Special Washer Features to Consider

In addition to standard functions, washers may offer extra features that add convenience. Here are some to look for if beneficial to your household:

  • Steam cycles – Use steam for extra stain removal and odor elimination
  • Sanitizing cycles – Eliminate up to 99% of bacteria at high temperatures
  • Built-in sink – Pretreat stains easily without a separate laundry sink
  • Stainless steel drum – Improves durability and sanitize ability
  • WiFi enabled – Monitor and control washer from your smartphone
  • Noise reduction – For quieter operation, reducing vibrations
  • Vibration reduction – Balances loads for smooth, steady operation
  • Reversible door – Adjust for right or left opening to fit space

Dryer Features and Settings to Evaluate

For dryers, factor in the following features and settings when comparing models:


  • Match dryer drum capacity to washer capacity for efficient drying.
  • Average capacities for dryers are:
  • Electric dryers – 5 to 8 cubic feet
  • Gas dryers – 7 to 8 cubic feet

Cycles and Settings

  • Look for temperature settings for delicate to heavy duty loads:
  • Low heat
  • Medium heat
  • High heat
  • Convenient cycle options include:
  • Air dry/fluff
  • Wrinkle prevention
  • Timed dry
  • Quick dry

Moisture Sensors

  • Auto moisture sensors detect when clothes reach desired dryness and shut off heat, preventing over-drying.

Drum Construction

  • Stainless steel drums resist rust and scratches for long-term durability.
  • Porcelain-coated steel and galvanized steel drums are also durable options.

Venting and Installation

  • Electric dryers require standard 120V outlet installation.
  • Gas dryers need connection to gas lines and often venting to the outside.
  • Consider costs of electrical or gas line work needed for proper dryer setup.

Choosing Between Electric and Gas Dryers

Home laundry setups utilize either electric or gas dryers, each with pros and cons for buyers to weigh.

Electric Dryer Pros

  • Typically more affordable purchase price
  • Widely available models
  • Easy plug-in installation

Electric Dryer Cons

  • Can have longer dry times
  • Higher operating costs over time

Gas Dryer Pros

  • Faster drying with greater heat output
  • Lower operating costs than electric
  • Endless hot water supply

Gas Dryer Cons

  • Often a higher purchase price
  • Professional gas line installation required
  • Limited style and model options

If you’re able to get gas lines installed, the long-term savings of a gas dryer make it the more economical choice. But electric models offer quicker, simpler installation for many homeowners.

Top Brands of Washers and Dryers

When selecting washers and dryers, it helps to stick with reputable brands known for performance and reliability. Here are some of the top names in laundry appliances:

  • Whirlpool – Reliable, budget-friendly models across top and front load designs
  • Maytag – Powerful, durable construction with good warranty coverage
  • LG – Leading brand for energy efficient, innovative front load washers and dryers
  • Samsung – Sleek front load washer and dryer pairs with smart connectivity
  • GE – Established American brand with many top loader models and technology features
  • Speed Queen – Commercial grade construction for top load laundry durability
  • Electrolux – European styling and efficient front load washer and dryer sets
  • Bosch – German engineering for extremely quiet front load operation

While brands like Whirlpool and Maytag focus on top loaders, LG, Samsung, and Bosch primarily offer front load options. Assess which design and brand best aligns with your priorities.

Comparing Top Loading vs Front Loading Washers

To decide between a top loading or front loading washer, compare the designs across these factors:

| Factor | Top Loading Washer | Front Loading Washer |
|Price | Typically $300 – $800 | Typically $600 – $1500 |
|Efficiency | Uses more water and energy | Excellent water and energy efficiency |
|Capacity | 3.5 to 5 cubic feet | 4 to 5 cubic feet |
|Operation | Agitator or impeller provides cleaning motion | Tumbling action is gentler on clothes |
|Performance | Effective at removing soils with agitation | Excellent at fully dissolving detergents |
|Cycle Options | Limited programmability | Extensive customizable cycles |
|Fabric Care | Can be rougher on fabrics | Gentler wash motions protect fabrics |
|Maintenance | Leave lid open to prevent mildew | Require regular front gasket cleaning |
|Noise | Moderate operational noise | Very quiet wash and spin cycles |

Overall, front loaders offer more advanced performance and fabric care compared to top loaders, albeit at a higher upfront investment. Top loaders work well for budget shoppers needing basic, affordable cleaning power.

Comparing Electric vs Gas Dryers

Electric and gas dryers also differ significantly in their design and performance:

| Factor | Electric Dryer | Gas Dryer |
|Price | $300 – $800 range | $500 – $1,500 range |
|Installation | Plug into 120V outlet | Gas line installation required |
|Operating Costs | Around $0.06 per load | Around $0.12 per load |
|Dry Times | Tend to have longer dry cycles | Provide faster drying |
|Heat Settings | Multiple temp settings available | Endless hot water for constant high heat |
|Technology Features | Tend to offer more smart features | Limited high-tech options |
|Maintenance | Occasional vent cleaning required | Professional cleaning of gas lines needed |
|Safety | No gas or combustion safety risks | Potential gas leak and carbon monoxide risks |

For most homeowners, an electric dryer offers the simplest, most affordable option that sufficiently dries laundry. Gas dryers provide greater drying power for large loads, albeit at a higher upfront cost.

6 Key Questions to Ask Before Buying Washers and Dryers

  1. What’s my budget? Washers range from $300 – $1500 and dryers $300 – $1300. Measure how much you can invest upfront vs long term.
  2. Top or front loading designs? Top loaders tend to be more budget-friendly. Front loaders offer more customization and efficiency.
  3. What size capacity is needed? Look at family size and laundry loads. Too small causes extra loads, too large wastes water.
  4. Regular or high efficiency? Regular use more water and energy, while high efficiency models save resources.
  5. Electric or gas dryer? Electric is simpler to install and use. Gas provides greater drying power but needs professional setup.
  6. Any special features needed? Add-ons like steam, sanitation, or WiFi can provide added convenience.

Expert Tips for Purchasing Washers and Dryers

Investing in a new washer and dryer is a big decision that will impact your home and family for years. Follow these expert tips for choosing the best appliances to meet your needs:

  • Take measurements of your space before shopping – this will determine what configurations and sizes will fit.
  • Do a load audit to understand your laundry volume – this helps right-size the capacity you need.
  • Weigh noise and appearance along with cleaning performance in your decisions.
  • Carefully compare warranty terms between models and brands.
  • Don’t underestimate the impact of energy and water savings from high efficiency models.
  • Be realistic about your use of features like steam, WiFi, cycles – don’t overspend for those you won’t use.
  • Think about laundry setup – do you need stacking kits or pedestals? A nearby sink? Storage?
  • Ask about delivery fees, installation, and haul away of old machines – factor these into total costs.
  • Read reviews and talk to family and friends about brands they recommend or avoid.

Taking the time to research before purchasing will help you select the ideal washer and dryer for clean, easy laundry at home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Washers and Dryers

What are the basic types of washers and dryers for home use?

The main types of washers are top loading and front loading designs. Top loaders have vertically oriented drums accessed via a lid on top. Front loaders have horizontally aligned drums accessed through a front door.

The basic types of dryers are gas dryers and electric dryers. Gas models require professional installation of gas lines but offer faster drying times. Electric models simply plug into a standard outlet for easy DIY setup.

How much do washers and dryers cost?

Entry-level top loading washers start around $300. Basic electric dryers cost $300 to $500. More advanced front loading washers range from $600-$1500. High efficiency front loading dryers with extra features can cost $1000 to $1500.

In general, front loading washers and gas dryers sit at the more expensive end of the price spectrum. Top loading washers and electric dryers offer more budget-friendly options.

Should I get an extended warranty for a washer and dryer?

Extended warranties beyond the 1 year manufacturer’s warranty are optional. They can provide peace of mind by covering repairs and part replacements for 2-5 years. However, they add $100-$400 to the purchase cost.

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For reliable brands like Whirlpool and Maytag that have good warranty coverage already, an extended warranty may not be worthwhile. But for pricier smart appliances, added protection could be valuable.

How long should washers and dryers last?

With proper care and maintenance, top loading washers last 8-12 years on average, while top loading dryers last 10-13 years. High efficiency front loading washers and dryers have lifespans in the 13-15 year range.

Investing in models with stainless steel drums and sturdy parts like cabinetry and door hinges also help extend the durability of washers and dryers.

What are the best washers and dryers for small spaces?

For compact spaces, look for stackable washer and dryers allowing the dryer to be installed above the washer. Another space-saving option is a washer with a drying cabinet above to create one laundry unit. Portable and mini washers with dryers are also ideal for tighter spaces and apartments.

Should I hire professionals to install washers and dryers?

If you’re replacing existing appliances with new models using the same hookups, DIY installation is often straightforward. But if your laundry setup requires new venting, electrical or gas lines, professional help is advisable for proper installation up to code.

Many retailers offer included or low-cost installation with appliance purchases. Take advantage of this for peace of mind with larger projects.

Investing in the right washer and dryer doesn’t need to be a daunting process. By understanding the key factors involved and keeping your family’s needs and budget in mind, you can confidently choose appliance models that will make laundry simple for years to come. Leverage the guidance in this buying guide to make the smartest decision on your next washer and dryer purchase.

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