Shopping for a new washer and dryer set can be fun or overwhelming depending on your approach. If you’ve never owned laundry appliances before and are buying for the first time, doing a little bit of homework before you look at machines up close in an appliance showroom -- and you definitely need to do this, even if you plan to eventually make your purchase online -- will guarantee that you find the best washing machine and dryer to meet your family’s unique needs.
If you currently own a washer and dryer combo, but one or the other appliance is breaking down, you may find yourself shopping for the first time in several years. As an experienced homeowner, you know the drill when it comes to purchasing appliances, but it’s still important to ask the right questions. After all, technology and features have most likely changed drastically since the last time you were in the market.
Today we’re taking a look at some of the top questions that many laundry appliance shoppers forget to ask, even if they’ve purchased a washer and dryer at some point in the past.
1. What Brand is the Most Reliable?
Shoppers often ask this question when looking for most appliances, not just washers and dryers, hoping that there is one clear answer that will help them get the most value for their money. Unfortunately, things aren’t quite so simple.
The term “reliable” means different things to different people, and appliance manufacturers will all point to survey data that show their brand is the best. The answer to this question will also vary depending on whether you’re looking at washers or dryers (or matching sets).
It may be different, too, among various models of the same appliance from the same brand. For example, one Whirlpool washing machine model may garner better reviews than a particular Maytag washer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Whirlpool is a more reliable brand overall. In short, it’s going to be tough to make a call on superlatives like “the most” or “best” anything!
Another point that makes naming the most reliable brand nearly impossible is that each manufacturer introduces new laundry appliances every year, and ratings fluctuate as different brands win out at different times. Independent testing groups like Consumer Reports and the Wirecutter keep ahead of these model releases and offer frequently-updated buyer’s guides that can help you determine what brands and models might be the best for you at a given time.
2. When is the Best Time to Buy Your Washer & Dryer? When Are the Best Sales?
It obviously makes sense to wait for big sales to score the best deals and save money on your new washer and dryer, but when do those typically occur? And are there other times when prices tend to be lower?
If you watch a lot of TV commercials, you’ve probably noticed that retailers for all sorts of items tend to run promotions during holiday periods. The biggest events for appliance sales tend to start with Memorial Day in late May each year and then pop up during the summer and fall season holidays, including:
- Fourth of July
- Labor Day/End of Summer
- Veterans Day (during October)
- Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving)
Another great time to buy is just after the newest models are introduced each year, (which usually takes place at an industry tradeshow known as CES that happens in January). Retailers and manufacturers are often looking to move remaining inventory of last year’s shiny new washers and dryers once the next crop has debuted, and they are ready to make deals on these “end of model year” appliances.
If saving money on your purchase is your top priority, you may also ask retailers about “scratch & dent,” clearance, or “open box” deals. These appliances may have cosmetic blemishes sustained during delivery to the store or accidents in the warehouse, but are still mechanically perfect. (They may also have been showroom floor models or even customer returns.) Scratch & dent models available will vary widely, but deal hunters may be delighted to find a premium washer and/or dryer deeply discounted just because it has a hardly-noticeable scratch on the outside.
3. Is A Washer and Dryer Protection Plan Worth It? Who has the Best Warranty?
This can be worth it, though most brands have generous manufacturer warranties today. For example, Maytag offers an industry-leading 10-year limited parts warranty, so purchasing an extended warranty or protection plan for a new Maytag washer or dryer may not be necessary.
As you’re shopping, compare manufacturer warranties and the cost of extended warranty plans to ensure that purchasing extra coverage isn’t increasing your total cost of ownership too much. If you’re worried, talk with a knowledgeable appliance sales pro, like our team members here at Gochnauer’s Appliance Center to help you consider your options.
Additionally, we have great relationships with the brands we sell and can assist you with warranty claims to get the best service possible should you ever have a problem with your appliance. In fact, this is why experts agree that purchasing your next washer and dryer from an independent appliance retailer vs. the big chains is one of the ways to get the most for your money.
4. How do All-in-One Washer/Dryers Work?
Popular in Europe, these machines have recently been gaining interest among American appliance buyers. Combining both washing and drying into one device instead of two has some advantages, especially for people (like many of our customers here in Lancaster County) who still like to line-dry much of their laundry. After all, if you rarely use a dryer, why have that big appliance taking up valuable space in your home, especially if you don’t have a dedicated laundry room?
While all-in-one washer/dryers are convenient for smaller homes, apartments, and condos, they don’t tend to work as quickly at either washing or drying as separate, purpose-built machines. Many are also costly in comparison to sets, as well. The bottom line from independent testing currently seems to be that unless you’re a very patient person, you probably will want to choose a washer and dryer set over an all-in-one machine – even if you plan to use the dryer infrequently.
5. What’s the Difference between Front Load and Top Load?
There are a variety of differences that set front-loading and top-loading washing machines apart from one another (dryers are almost exclusively front loading). Mainly, top-loading machines may still have an agitator – that post in the middle of washtub that helps move clothes around in the wash water to get them clean.
Front-loaders never have an agitator. Though, confusingly, many top-loading machines no longer have them either – they’re not necessary to achieve excellent cleaning in high-efficiency machines that use much less water than machines made many years ago. Even budget models are often doing away with the agitator due to expanding technology.
At this point, whether you choose a top-loading or front-loading washer often comes down to personal preferences or how your laundry area is laid out.
Front-loading washers may require lots of bending by the user to load the laundry into the machine unless they’re placed on a pedestal. Top loaders may be easier on your knees and back this way, but if you need to install your machines under a countertop or are interested in stacking one on top of the other (some sets have this capability, but not all), you will need a front-loader. You can weigh the pros and cons of each with a knowledgeable appliance salesperson. Be sure to think about where you will install your machines and the limitations your space might present.
6. Which Brand is the Quietest?
Similar to asking which brand is the most reliable, this question does not have a simple answer. Generally, the higher-end (aka more expensive) models from all of the major brands will claim quiet operation, and if this is important to you, you’ll want to check with testing organizations, as well as read individual user reviews online to learn whether a particular machine is as quiet as advertised.
Remember, though, if you plan to locate your washer and dryer in a basement, attached garage, or other out-of-the-way space in your home, you may not want it to be too quiet, or you’ll never know when it’s finished a cycle!
7. What are the Advantages of a Steam Washer?
So-called steam washers are newer washing machine models that offer a high-heat steam washing feature that may help get your clothes cleaner than traditional models. It’s important to note that steam washers aren’t a totally new type of machine – they also feature lower temperature settings you’ve come to expect. They do tend to be more expensive than models without steam, though, mainly because the technology is still quite new.
Manufacturers tout steam washing as the best way to clean extremely dirty clothes and remove tough stains more easily. The high heat may help certain detergents work better, and if you have an occupation or hobby that’s particularly hard on your clothes, the steam feature may be of interest to you. The high heat may also be better at sanitizing laundry, which could be helpful if someone in your household has bad allergies or sensitivities to things like dust mites.
8. Are High-Efficiency Washers and Dryers Worth It?
At this point in history, you may actually have a difficult time finding a washer or dryer that is not labeled as “high efficiency” because the answer to this question has almost always been “yes.” High-efficiency machines will save you money over the long run, reducing their total cost of ownership.
Newer machines use less of everything required to do laundry – power, water, and detergent for washers and power/fuel (electricity or natural gas) for dryers – to achieve great results, often in less time than models from years ago. Many are even Energy Star-certified, which means they adhere to government-sponsored requirements for energy efficiency and eco-friendliness.
9. What Capacity Do I Need?
As machines have made efficiency gains in recent years, they have actually also increased in capacity. After all, if you wash and dry larger loads instead of just laundering a few shirts or towels or pairs of pants at a time, you’ll end up saving power, detergent, and even water. That said, your capacity needs should correspond to your household size (unless you are one person with a laundry-intensive career, for instance). Generally, more people in the house equals greater laundry capacity demands.
As you’re shopping, you will notice that capacity is measured in cubic feet (often abbreviated as cu ft). But that likely doesn’t mean much to you. Average capacities for washing machines range from about 3.0 – 5.0 cu ft today, but you’ll need to know how many pounds of clothes tend to fit in machines within that range.
Based on industry testing and recommendations, washing machines between 3.1 and 4.0 cubic feet should accommodate about 12 to 16 pounds of laundry at a time. (For reference, one pair of jeans or one larger-sized bath towel weighs about 1.5 pounds.)
10. What Are Key Features to Look Out for? And Which Aren’t Worth It?
As we discussed above – a steam feature on newer washing machines might be something you will use if you often wash very dirty clothes or are concerned about killing bacteria. This feature often adds quite a few dollars to the price tag, though, so if you’re on a budget, you can probably get by without steam.
Also look for the high-efficiency models that will help you save resources (and money) over time. There are many excellent options available today, even at budget price points.
As far as features that you can skip, it’s tough to make that call to apply to every shopper. Your preferences will play into your decision-making process, and one person may find a digital display absolutely necessary, for example, while someone else may not care about that. The best advice we can offer is to consider your clothes, sheets, towels, and other home textiles you commonly launder and then choose features and settings that best match their care needs.
Shop with Gochnauer’s to discover the best washer and dryer for your lifestyle
If you’re beginning the shopping process for a new washer and dryer set and have lots of questions, our appliance experts here at Gochnauer’s Home Appliance Center in East Petersburg, PA have the answers you’re looking for! Discover great service, as well as the best brands, when you shop with us.
Stop in and visit the showroom or contact us for a quote today!