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Consumer Reports tests reveal great washers for as little as $400

Posted Thursday, January 22, 2009

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Latest Tests Show Cleaning Ability Has Little To Do With Price


Yonkers, NY — Consumer Reports’ latest tests of 50 washing machines uncovered great values among top- and front-loaders. Three top-loaders by Estate, GE, and Maytag washed well and quickly for $500 and less. For a couple hundred dollars more, shoppers can purchase front-loaders for better energy and water efficiency.

Consumers should be cautious of high-priced machines loaded with anti-vibration technology and allergen removal cycles. Some of these claims proved to be little more than hype during testing. Front-loaders spin faster, drying clothes quicker, but a new vibration test from Consumer Reports found those higher speeds can cause pictures to rattle. Several front-loaders’ overall scores dropped because they vibrated so vigorously. Machines, like LG’s premium front-loaders, that claim to kill allergens with a high water temperature of 130° F, come with a hefty price tag. (Note: Consumer Reports did not test allergen removal claims.) Consumers can reduce their exposure to allergens and save hundreds by vacuuming more often, using dust-mite covers, and bedding with allergen-resistant materials.

“Pay particular attention to vibration if your laundry is on the second floor,” said Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports. “Our tests found huge differences between models.”

Consumers in the market for an affordable washer should consider a top-loader. They take less time per wash cycle than a front-loader, but tend to not be as energy or water efficient. Two Consumer Reports Best Buys, the GE WJRE5500G[WW], $480, and the Maytag MTW5800T[W], $500, scored high and performed well without breaking the budget. The Estate ETW4400T[Q], $400, is another option. It is made by Whirlpool, a reliable brand.

Front-load washers can run a few hundred more than a top-loader, but they are more energy and water efficient. For consumers looking for an efficient front-load washer, Consumer Reports suggests the GE WCVH6800J[WW], $900, and the Frigidaire Gallery GLTF2940F[S], $650; both vibrate less noticeably. Consumer Reports also recommends the GE WBVH5200J[WW], $700, and the Amana NFW7200T[W], $600. Both are fine front-loading washers, but because they vibrate vigorously should only be installed on a concrete slab or floor.

How to Choose

When consumers are looking to purchase a new washer, Consumer Reports suggests keeping the following in mind:

  • Top- or front-load? For better energy and water efficiency, consumers should look for a front-loader. All front-load washers can have a small mold problem, but if the washer is going to be located in a dry space, mold is less of a concern. Top-loaders finish faster and many high efficiency models use less energy than standard models.
  • Take the long view. Owners tend to keep their washers and dryers for about 10 to 13 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders, so a high-efficiency model can end up costing the same as or less than standard models in the end.
  • Be choosy about features. Auto temperature controls offer consistent water temperature and wash performance. In general, a user might never need more than four or five wash cycles.
  • Keep the old dryer. There is no reason to replace a working dryer because the technology has not changed. But if it dies, get one with a moisture sensor. If it is near the bedrooms, make sure the end-of-cycle signal can be turned off.
  • Skip extended warranties. Most washer and dryers do not break during the extended warranty period. When they do break, on average, repairs cost the same as the warranty.
The full report on washers is available in the February 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, which is available wherever magazines are sold. The full story is also available online at along with expanded buying advice, Ratings, and an interactive product selector to help consumers make a smart purchase decision.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.
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