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

Pros and Cons


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

Photo by Spencer Platt/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 or top load washers? The United States is seeing a surge of new front 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.

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Wear and Tear on Clothing

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

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

Front load washers must use specially formulated low-sudsing formulas, marked as "he" for high-efficiency washers. 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

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

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 easier 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

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.

Space Utilization

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

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

The average life expectancy of a front 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.


Front vs Top Loading Washers

  Front Load Top Load
Gentleness to Clothing X  
Water Savings with Energy Star X X
Detergent Savings X  
Energy Savings with Energy Star X X
Comfort in Loading/Unloading X X
Adding Items to Cycle   X
Washer/Dryer Space Requirements X  
Purchase Price   X
Life Expectancy & Repair Costs  


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