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Washing Machine Buying Guide

Washing Machine Buying Guide

Buying a washing machine can feel daunting: all the options and features are overwhelming.  This guide will walk you through the basics of what to consider if you’re just starting out.  If you’re looking for a short-cut, we believe Top Load High Efficiency washers from Whirlpool and associated brands (Kenmore – top loading only, Roper, Estate, Inglis, Kirkland and Kitchen Aid) offer the best value (price, features and durability).  If you already know what type of washer you’d like, skip ahead to read specifics about buying a used machine.  (Dryers are far more straight-forward, but there are a few important considerations discussed below.)

Quick Reference Guide

Considerations before you start looking:


Measure the width, depth and height (note shelving units or any other structure that might impede opening a washer or dryer door) of your laundry room.  If space is at a premium, consider a stacked unit or front-loaders that can be stacked (most front-loaders are stackable).

  • Width: Washers and dryers need one inch of space on either side for air circulation.
  • Depth: Add at least six inches of space for door clearance, dryer vents and hookups.
  • Height: Top loaders need an added 20 inches of above-machine clearance for the door.

Most washers and dryers are 27 inches wide.  You’ll need 6 inches of room behind your washer and dryer, and one inch of space between the two machines.  If you provide accurate measurements, dealers on our site can calculate whether a given set will fit.

Gas or electric dryer:

Most laundry rooms in newer homes will have a 220 volt outlet for an electric dryer; some have both a gas line and a 220 outlet allowing you to choose between gas and electric.  If you see a gas line and only a 110 volt outlet (see below), you will need to find a gas dryer.

Age of the appliance

Washing machines endure a lot of strain filling with water and spinning at high speeds; they are twice as likely to require repairs as dryers.  For this reason, it’s generally best to find appliances 7 years old or less, and retire them between 12-17 years – according to manufacturer guidelines.  However, many top load washing machines built before 2010 will last much longer, especially if they’re made by Whirlpool or its associated brands.

Keep in mind, the dealers on our site have been vetted and are required to offer at least a 30 day parts and labor warranty on any unit listed on Simple Trade.

Delivery and installation:

Delivery and installation can quickly become a nightmare for the uninitiated.  Washing machines are very heavy – often twice as heavy as dryers.  You’ll need an appliance dolly and preferably two people with sufficient upper-body strength to move one.  You’ll also need a truck to transport it and it’s best to keep them upright.  Make sure all hoses are drained, in good condition and that you have the right fittings.

The prices on our site include standard delivery and installation (up 25 miles and on the first floor).  If you live outside the area or your laundry room isn’t on the first floor, most dealers will still deliver and install for a reasonable fee.

Additional Considerations
Gentle on Fabrics – front loaders and high efficiency top loaders are much gentler on fabrics than washers with agitators.

Capacity – 4.5 cubic feet is more than enough space for most people, allowing you to comfortably wash a king sized comforter.  However, large families might consider higher capacity front loaders to reduce wash time.

Upkeep & Durability – front loaders require more upkeep and are far more likely to require repairs.  Most front loading washing machines should be left open between uses to allow them to air out.  You should also use a rag or paper towel to wipe up any water sitting in the folds of the rubber gasket on the door frame to stop mold growth.   Additionally, the more electronic controls the more likely a breakdown will occur.

Energy Efficiency – front loaders are the most energy efficient requiring less electricity and water than even high efficiency top loaders.

Features and Options that matter

Automatic Dispensers
Designed to dispense detergent, bleach, and fabric softener at the right time; some washing machines can even hold several weeks worth of detergent.

Extra Rinse Cycle
Front-loaders and high-efficiency top-loaders use a lot less water than agitator washing machines. Using the extra rinse cycle can help get rid of pet hair and other stubborn messes. The extra rinse also helps if your skin is sensitive to detergent residue.

Stainless Steel Tub
They can withstand higher spin speeds, which means they’ll extract more water and cut drying time.

Buying Used
Price – If price is your primary concern, you can pick up a used top load agitator washer on Craigslist, Facebook, OfferUp, etc. for $100 or less.  Try to find one that’s still connected and being used so you can check the following:

  • Spins fast and stops a few seconds after you lift the lid
  • Loads and drains water quickly
  • Make sure the lid switch clicks
  • Listen for strange noises and vibrations
  • Look for rust inside the drum (where the clothes are placed)
  • Watch for leaks behind the washer
  • Ask the seller if everything is operating like new, if all cycles work, if , and if it’s been recently repaired.

Again, dealers selling on our site are required to offer at least a 30 day parts and labor warranty.