Top Load vs Front Load Washing Machines

If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, it’s one of the very first questions you’ll ask yourself: Front loader or top loader? Each design has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation, so it’s a good idea to consider which one’s right for you. To help you decide which appliance will be washing your beloved laundry, we’ve compiled a list of some pros and cons of each.

Generally, front loaders tend to be more energy efficient than top loaders when using warm water, as well as using less detergent. This is because of their horizontal drum that uses gravity to tumble the clothes. One downfall, however, is that you can’t open a front loader to add more clothes mid-wash, except if you have a front loader such as a Samsung AddWash model.

With top loaders, on the other hand, you can expect much faster cycle times. Top loaders typically run cycles in 15-30 minutes, whereas front loaders usually take up to an hour. This is due to the clothes being constantly immersed in the water, unlike in a front loader. One disadvantage is that they can create significant amounts of lint due to the friction of clothes during the wash.

It’s really one of those curly hair/straight hair conundrums: some people have a marked preference for one over the other. Interestingly, Canstar Blue’s recent washing machine consumer satisfaction survey found that owners of front loaders appear to be more environmentally conscious, with 33% of front loader owners citing energy efficiency as the biggest factor of consideration when purchasing, compared to just 19% of top loader owners surveyed. On the other hand, a higher proportion of top loader owners were concerned about price, with 55% of them citing the cost as the biggest consideration factor when purchasing, as opposed to just 40% of front load buyers. It appears that, between front loaders and top loaders, there is something for everyone.


What’s cheaper: Top or front loaders?

Front loaders may have an edge on top loaders from an energy and water consumption standpoint, but what’s also beneficial to look at is the initial purchase price. The upfront cost of the washer may in fact negate the savings you’re making on your water and power bills every quarter. Let’s compare the prices of similar front and top loaders to breakdown which option is ultimately cheaper. We used Appliances Online^ to compare the prices of front loaders vs top loaders:

Top Loader Brand / Size Price Front Loader Equivalent Price
Euromaid 5.5kg HTL55 $549 Euromaid 5kg WM5PRO $599
Fisher & Paykel 7.5kg WA7560E1 $949 Fisher & Paykel 7.5kg WH7560P2 $1,099
LG 9kg WTG9032WF $1,099 LG 9kg WD1409NCE $1,299

General guide only, July 2018.

We’re sensing a pattern here. We can deduce that from these three sizes and price ranges that front loaders are slightly more expensive for the same or slightly smaller capacity models. While these prices may seem negligible and your green thumb is itching, it’s possible it may take many months to recoup the costs of a front loader.

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How much electricity do washing machines use?

Let’s break it down using these electricity consumption figures. For a machine with a capacity of 5kg-10kg this is what you might expect:

Capacity of Machine Type of Machine kWh per cycle – cold wash Cost per cycle – cold wash kWh per cycle – warm wash Cost per cycle – warm wash
5kg-10kg Top loader 0.11-0.48 $0.04-$0.16 0.74-3.86 $0.24-$1.27
Front loader 0.15-2.4 $0.05-$0.79 0.37-2.4 $0.12-$0.79
 Source: South Australian Government

These figures provide a helpful guideline if you’re currently in a pinch about whether to choose between a top or front loader. Where a front loader really shines is in the warm washing cycles. With cold cycles, both types of washing machine are neck and neck.

If you were to use a warm cycle twice a week with a top loader, assuming the worst you could expect to pay $132.08 per year. This is compared to the front loader where you could expect to pay about $82.16 per year in electricity. This is a difference of nearly $50. As the model sizes increase, so too does the gulf between the prices of top and front loaders.

From an electricity standpoint, it could take up to a year to recoup the costs of a front loader if you need a larger washing machine. If you wash clothes more frequently though, front loaders pay for themselves more quickly. Of course these figures are just a guide, but it’s good to know what you can expect to pay.

How much water do washing machines use?

Aside from electricity, another thing you will have to consider is water consumption – especially if you’re paying for water. Let’s look at the 2015-2018 costs of water per kilolitre in Brisbane City for a reference point:

Charges Water Consumption Threshold Per Annum Water Consumption Threshold 90 Day Billing Quarter Per Kilolitre
Tier 1 Consumption Up to 300kL Up to 74kL $0.768184
Tier 2 Consumption Over 300kL Over 74kL $1.453640

Now for a ‘best case scenario’-type option, let’s assume a household uses less than 300kL a year (mind you, that’s 300,000 litres). The Simpson 7.5kg top loader mentioned earlier uses 108L per wash. Using the figures above, we can deduce that one load costs about 8.3c in water consumption. Having it on twice a week, for a whole year will cost about $8.63. Of course, it pays to do a quick search as to how your particular council charges for water – prices can vary quite a lot!

Let’s compare the Simpson 7.5kg top loader with its equivalent front loader model – the 7kg. It uses 70L per wash. This ends up costing about 5.4c per load. Used twice a week for a year, the front loader will use about $5.62 worth of water. Compared with the top loader, that’s a difference of $3.01 per year, or about the cost of a bottle of 600mL water at the shops! Of course, this cost figure will wildly change if you use your washing machine more than twice a week. If you have a larger family, we suspect you could be using your washer once per day!

Should I buy a top loader or front loader?

It’s the old chestnut we’re all wondering. If you’ve looked at the facts and figures above and gone, “What the…?!” then we’re here to tell you to maybe not rush out and buy a front loader for the sake of it. While the water and electricity savings can be significant versus a top loader, it could take a while to recoup the cost of the more expensive front loader unit. If you’re a single, a couple or a light user, and you’re happy with your top loader, then from a money perspective we suggest you might be better off just sticking with the top loader.

If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, it makes sense to buy a front loader – it’s more cost effective in the long run, and kinder to the environment. Moreover, if you’re a large household then you can recoup the costs of a front loader much quicker – it’ll pay for itself after a while! Overall, you will need to consider your own household needs to determine if a front loader is ultimately more economical for you.

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