Top Load vs. Front Load Washers: Which is Better?

Top load vs. front load washers – it’s a popular debate in the world of home appliances and one that spurs passionate opinions on both sides. When it’s time to purchase a new washer, there are plenty of factors to consider, so if you’re in the market, you’re probably wondering if one model is better than the other.

Woman making decision about a washer

We'll walk you through the pros and cons of each so you can make an informed purchase. 

The Basics

Before we launch into a detailed comparison of top and front load washers, it’s important to understand the differences in basic functionality between the two. You load clothes into them differently (either from the top or the front), but the key difference is how they wash the clothes.

Top load washers have drums with center agitator poles. These poles move clothes around in the water to wash them. However, there are newer, high-efficiency top load washers that use plates at the bottom of the drum to toss clothes around during the wash cycle.

Front loaders, on the other hand, have drums that rotate and spin to agitate clothes during the wash. This motion more closely mirrors hand washing.

Factors to Consider

Now that the basic differences in functionality are clear, let’s take a look at some of the other factors to consider between top and front load washers:

  • Price – Generally speaking, traditional top load washers are the most affordable option. Keep in mind that the least expensive models come with just the basics – no fancy features or extra settings. And while top loaders may be more affordable, they do require more energy to run, which may mean a slight boost in your electric bill each month. While front load washers may cost more up front, they can provide savings in the long run. Also, the spinning motion of front loaders means your clothes are drier when they leave the washer, meaning less time and energy used in the dryer.
  • Water Use – On average, front load washers use about 13 gallons of water per load. Compare this to the average 30 to 45 gallons per load used by traditional top load models, and the winner is clear. However, high-efficiency top load models use about 12 to 17 gallons of water. Whichever model you choose, you can save on water use and energy costs by looking for a washer with an Energy Star label from the U.S. Department of Energy. These indicate the most efficient models on the market. Because front loaders have to use low-suds detergents (marked as HE) and only require about two teaspoons per load (due to less water use), they can provide additional savings.
  • Capacity – Since they don’t use an agitator, front load washers may offer a slightly larger capacity, allowing you to wash more clothes per load and minimizing your risk of overloading. High-efficiency top loaders that don’t use agitators may also offer more space.
  • Cleaning power – According to Good Housekeeping, front loaders clean better and remove more stains than top loaders. Additionally, the motion that front loaders use may cause less wear and tear on your clothing.
  • Space – If space is an issue, the front load washing machine may be your best bet. Because they load from the front and all controls are on the front, not the top, of the machine, front load washers and dryers can also be stacked. This is ideal for apartments or smaller homes that may only have laundry closets instead of full-size laundry rooms. Remember, though, that only certain front loaders can stack, so be sure to ask about this capability before purchasing.
  • Life span – There’s a slight difference here. Front loaders and high-efficiency top loaders typically last about 11 years, while a traditional top loader can last up to 14.

What’s the Right Answer?

When it comes to the question of which washer is better, the answer is there’s no single right answer. The best washer is going to depend on your individual needs, so take the time to do your research and carefully consider the pros and cons listed above before you buy. If you do, chances are good you’ll wind up with a brand-new washer you’ll be happy with for years to come.

Whichever model you choose, know that you can protect your washer with a warranty from American Home Shield®.

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