Top Load vs. Front Load Washer: Which Type Is Best?

Compare pros, cons, and major differences before purchasing your next appliance

Illustration showing the differences between top load and front load washers

The Spruce

When it's time to buy a new washing machine, one of the critical deciding points is: Is it better to have a top-load or front-load washer? Which washing machine is better depends largely on your needs, your budget, and the features you're looking for. Here's a side-by-side comparison of top-load vs. front-load washers' pros and cons—plus the benefits of a high-efficiency (HE) model.

Top-Load vs. Front-Load Washer Comparison
  Front-Load and HE Top-Load Washer Standard Top-Load Washer
Appearance X X
Cleaning Power X
Repair and Maintenance   X
Wear and Tear on Clothes X  
Water and Energy Use X  
Installation X X
Cost   X
Lifespan   X
A top load washer (left) versus a front load washer (right)

The Spruce / Krystal Slagle & Sanja Kostic

Top-Load vs. Front-Load Washer: Major Differences

Top-load washers have a large door on top of the washer that rises and remains in a near-vertical position while the user adds/removes clothing or adds detergent. Front-load washers have a door on the front that swings open to the side, similar to a door on a house.

Key Features

Top-Load Washer

Top-load washers are easy to load and unload due to their waist-height opening for most users. But they can be difficult to load and unload for users with shorter stature. Items can be added throughout the wash cycle in both standard and HE top-load washers.

Front-Load Washer

Front-load washers are easy to use for those in a wheelchair, those with a short stature, or those who need to be seated due to balance issues. If you are standing and of average height, they will require bending over to load or unload (just like a dryer does) unless you place them on a raised support box.

Unlike top-load washers, most front-load washers lock while in use to prevent water overflow, prohibiting the addition of last-minute laundry. This is one disadvantage of a front-loading washing machine. Recently, though, some manufacturers have started to add small doors that allow the user to add laundry after the cycle has started. While this increases the flexibility of front-load washers, it also adds significantly to the purchase price.


Watch Now: Top Load vs Front Load Washer Comparison Guide


Top-Load Washer

Because top-load washers do not have a large door on the front, they have a smoother, sleeker look than front-load washers.

Front-Load Washer

Front-load washers' front doors have thick glass inserts that allow users to see the clothing churning in the suds and water. Some users might find this distracting. Others might find it entertaining and, more importantly, a good way to track the progress of the wash cycle.

Best for Appearance: Tie

Top-load and front-load washers both tend to have a similar stark, industrial look. While not unpleasant, it is not considered a true home design element in the laundry room.

Cleaning Power

Top-Load Washer

Top-load washers twist and swirl clothing to remove dirt and stains. Many top-loaders have an agitator, a center post that creates friction against the clothes to better clean them.

Front-Load Washer

Front-load washers tumble clothes against each other in the water to remove dirt and stains. Gravity works in this washer's favor, causing the clothes to knock into and essentially scrub one another.

Best for Cleaning Power: Front-Load Washer

Top-load washers do not clean better than front-load washers in general, largely because they don't have the force of gravity and the overall tumbling motion as part of the scrubbing action.


Depending on volume and capacity, top-load washers can be as much as 8 inches taller than front-load washers. Front-load washers are up to 8 inches deeper (from front to back) than top-load washers to account for the door and related mechanisms. Widths between the two types of machines will be similar.

Repair and Maintenance

Top-Load Washer

Motors on top-load washers are relatively easy to access. Do-it-yourselfers can even make basic repairs on their top-load washing machines.

Front-Load Washer

While simple maintenance projects, such as clean-outs, can be performed by homeowners, front-load washers are best repaired only by trained technicians.

Best for Repair and Maintenance: Top-Load Washer

By far, top-load washers are less expensive per repair and easier to maintain than front-load washers. This is another disadvantage of front-loading washing machines. However, top-load washers typically require repair more often than front-load machines.

Wear and Tear on Clothing

Top-Load Washer

Most high-efficiency top-load washers use an impeller plate at the bottom of the washer tub to move clothes through the water and detergent. Standard top-loaders use a central agitator with paddles to spin clothing briskly, causing more wear and tear

Fun Fact

In May 2021, Whirlpool introduced the first 2-in-1 top-loading washer with impeller action and a removable center agitator. While the impeller plate is more gentle on fabrics, the action of the agitator is more effective for cleaning heavily-soiled clothes. The design allows the user to remove the center agitator when a little more room is needed in the washer for bulky items.

Front-Load Washer

Front-load machines use a washing action that tumbles clothes in an up-and-down motion similar to hand washing.

Best for Wear and Tear on Clothing: HE Top-Load and Front-Load Washer

Front-load washers' gentle tumbling effect creates less stress on the clothing. HE top-load washers' lack of a central agitator, too, provides less friction on the clothing, thus less wear and tear.

Water and Energy Use

Top-Load Washer

Top-load high-efficiency machines use about 19 gallons of water per load. A standard top-load washer uses, on average, about 41 gallons per load.

Front-Load Washer

Front-load washers use around 13 gallons of water per load.

Best for Water and Energy Use: HE Top-Load and Front-Load Washer

Because front-load and top-load high-efficiency washers use less water, they are more energy-efficient than standard washers, as they take less energy to heat the water. To purchase a washer that uses less water, look for the blue ENERGY STAR label that indicates these washers use much less water than other models. And before you have your old washer hauled away to a landfill, consider recycling it to create new projects.


Top-Load Washer

Top-load machines must be placed side by side with a dryer unless you purchase a smaller compact stacking washer/dryer combo.

Front-Load Washer

Front-load washers can be stacked with a dryer to fit into closets or small areas, though this arrangement is not always necessary.

Best for Installation: Tied

All of the water, gas, and electrical connections will be the same for both top-load and front-load washers.


Top-Load Washer

Top-load washers can be purchased for as little as $400 to $500, plus they can be used with powdered cleaning products that are often less expensive to buy.

Front-Load Washer

Entry-level front-load washers cost between $600 and $800 and require the purchase of HE cleaning products.

Best for Cost: Top-Load Washer

In the United States, high-efficiency washers, especially front-load machines, are significantly higher in price than a standard top-loader. They do provide savings in energy costs, but it will take many years to realize the savings for small families or where energy rates are lower in cost. High-efficiency top-load washers are less expensive to purchase than front-load models.

Front-load washers and high-efficiency top-load washers must use specially formulated low-sudsing detergents, marked as HE. Because these washers use less water, they also need very little detergent, no more than 2 teaspoons per load. All major detergent manufacturers now offer their best brands in a HE formula, which can also be used in a standard washer.


Top-Load Washer

The life expectancy of a standard top-load washer is 14 years.

Front-Load Washer

The average life expectancy of a high-efficiency front-load or top-load washer is 11 years.

Best for Reliability: Front-Load Washer

Although top-load washers last longer than front-load washers on average, a front-load will likely need repairs less often over the course of its life. The repair costs typically will be higher, though, due to the many optional wash cycles and extra features.

The Verdict

Front-load washers generally clean clothes better than top-load washers—and with less wear and tear. Front-load washers also use less water than standard top-load washers. So the trade-off is monetary: Front-load washers cost more to purchase, run, and maintain than top-load washers, but they provide better service than top-load washers.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Water Efficiency Management Guide. Environmental Protection Agency.