Time to Buy a Washer: Top Loader or Front Loader Washer?

Pros and Cons

Shopping for washer
SSC/Getty Images

It's time to buy a new washer. Which do you choose: the traditional top load or one of the high-efficiency front loader or top loader washers? The United States is seeing a surge of new high-efficiency (HE) front load washers and high-efficiency top load washers from manufacturers. For many years, standard top loading washers were the only type available to the consumer market in the U.S. While for the rest of the world, front loaders were standard.

Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Shop for Clothes Washers at Home Depot.com.

Front Loading vs Top Loading Washers

This is a head-to-head comparison chart of standard top loading washers vs front and top loading high-efficiency washer to consider before buying a new washer.

 

 Front Load and Top Load HE WashersStandard Top Load Washers
Gentleness to ClothingX 
Water Savings with Energy StarX 
Detergent SavingsX 
Energy Savings with Energy StarX 
Comfort in Loading/UnloadingX
Adding Items to CycleX (top load HE washer only)X
Washer/Dryer Space RequirementsX (front load washer only) 
Purchase Price X
Life Expectancy & Repair Costs 

X

 

Wear and Tear on Clothing - Winner: HE Top and Front Loading Washers

Front loading machines have a different washing action that tumbles clothes in an up and down motion similar to hand washing. Most top loaders use a central agitator to move clothing in a circle causing more wear and tear.

The exception is a high-efficiency top loader that has no central agitator and treats clothes more gently.

Water Use - Winner: HE Top and Front Loading Washers

Front loading machines typically use less water per load and save money. A traditional top loading washer uses three times as much water as front loaders.

There are high-efficiency top load washers that use less water. To purchase a washer that uses less water, look for the U.S. Department of Energy's blue Energy Star label that indicates these washers use 30 percent less energy and 50 percent less water than other current models.

Detergent Use - Winner: HE Top and Front Loading Washers

Front load washers must use specially formulated low-sudsing formulas, marked as "he" for high-efficiency washers and they need very little detergent because of the lower water level - no more than a tablespoon per load. All major detergent manufacturers now offer their best brands in an he formula. If you use regular concentrated detergent in a front load washer, the machine can overflow and cause damage. For many models, using the wrong type of detergent can invalidate the warranty.

Energy Use - Winner: HE Top and Front Loading Washers

Since front load washers use less water, they are the more energy efficient. Using less water also means less fuel use when using hot water and save money.

Remember, you can find the same energy savings in a top load high-efficiency model. Look for that Energy Star rating.

Comfort in Loading/Unloading - Tie

Front load washers require bending to load and unload, just like a dryer unless support boxes are made or purchased to raise the washer to waist level. Top load washers are easy to load but can be difficult to unload for users with short stature and arms.

GE has introduced a new line of RightHeight washers that make a front load washer easier to load and unload without the need for support boxes. Front load appliances are also easier to use for those in a wheelchair or those who need to be seated due to balance issues.

Adding Laundry During A Cycle - Winner: Both Types of Top Loading Washers

Most front load washers lock while in use to prevent water overflow; prohibiting the addition of last-minute laundry. Items can be added throughout the wash cycle in top load washers.

One manufacturer, Samsung, has introduced a front load washer with a small door to add laundry after the cycle has started.

Space Utilization - Winner: Front Load Washer

Front load washers can be stacked with a dryer to fit into closets or small areas. Top load machines must be placed side by side with a dryer unless you purchase a smaller, compact washer/dryer combo.

Purchase Price - Winner: Standard Top Load Washer

In the U.S., front load washers are significantly higher in price than the standard top load. There are savings in energy costs but it will take many years to realize the savings. Top load washers are currently the only choice for the buyer on a budget.

Life Expectancy and Repair Costs - Winner: Standard Top Load Washer

The average life expectancy of a high-efficiency front load or top load washer is 11 years. The life expectancy of a standard top load washer is 14 years. Because of all of their many optional wash cycles and extra features, front load washers have higher repair costs. Many owners have problems with excessive odor due to moisture left inside the washer after a cycle.

To help you make a decision about your next washer, this table shows the top pick in each category. Take time to do your homework, read reviews and compare prices as you shop.

Compare Prices of Washing Machines on Amazon.com