A washing machine is an essential appliance in Australian homes, but buying one means taking into consideration a wide range of factors such as energy efficiency, size, features, price and the ongoing debate between front loaders and top loaders. As a result, we’ve compiled a comprehensive washing machine buying guide to help you make the best purchase decision for your home and family. But before tackling the machines themselves, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to know before you buy.
What do I need to consider when buying a washing machine?
Before fronting up to your top loaders, or punching in your credit card details online, it’s important to consider some of the bigger aspects of buying a washing machine. You’ll need to consider three main aspects:
Probably the most important consideration of all is how much you’re willing to spend on a new washing machine. As with most appliances, this is a trade-off between the purchase price and ongoing costs.
In Australia, our research shows consumers spend an average of $771 on new front loaders or $680 for top loaders.
More expensive washing machines have higher upfront costs, but are usually better quality (so they won’t incur as many maintenance costs) and are more efficient (so will save money on water, energy and detergent). In general terms, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500-$6,000 for a new washing machine.
Longevity should also be a consideration – if you’re renting your home or have other temporary circumstances, you may want to buy a cheap washing machine because you won’t need a long-lived appliance. As a rough rule of thumb, top loaders tend to be cheaper than front loaders due to being less energy efficient.
If you live in a small home or apartment with limited laundry space, then size is probably going to be one of your main considerations. Front loaders are generally more compact than top loaders, and their smaller front-mounted doors make them easier to access in a confined space.
Another determining factor is how much laundry you actually do. If you’re in a household of one or two people, then a smaller washing machine – with a 4-7kg capacity – may be the most suitable, whereas larger households and families are likely to need a larger model with a capacity upwards of 8kg.
We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons for both front and top loader washing machines. The bottom line is, however, that neither one is significantly better than the other – it truly depends on your individual requirements and preference. The main difference is that a front loader has a horizontally mounted drum which allows gravity to move the laundry around, whilst the drum of a top loader is mounted vertically and uses a centrally mounted ‘agitator’ pole to move the clothes. In a nutshell:
- Front loaders: More compact, more water and energy-efficient, and often considered to produce better cleaning results.
- Top loaders: Generally cheaper to buy, have faster cycle times and are a lot more flexible (i.e. you can add clothes mid-wash).
What handy features do washing machines have?
Smart controls like automatic load sensors are now a common feature in many new washing machines, proving that there’s more to washing clothes than water, detergent, and a spinning drum. Here are a few standard features to expect.
Variable timer/delay start
One of the most common features on washing machines is a variable timer that allows you to control the duration of the washing cycle, as well as set a delayed start time. This can be useful for taking advantage of off-peak electricity rates if you have them. Getting into the habit of setting your machine to start when electricity is cheaper could save you a tidy sum in the long-term.
Being able to adjust the water temperature of your wash is another useful feature. It allows you to tailor wash cycles to different fabrics that can require either the delicate wash provided by cold water or the vigorous cleaning provided by hot water. Using cold water is usually just as good as hot water for most washes, and also saves you money by not heating up the water in the first place.
Another common and very useful feature is washing machines having multiple modes to suit certain fabrics and wash types. Examples include dedicated cycles for bed sheets, dark or light clothes, delicate fabrics, heavily soiled articles and many more, all of which vary greatly based on the manufacturer and the price of the machine.
Some washing machine models are pushing the boundaries of how we interact with our appliances. New control methods include touchscreen interfaces that allow for increased customisation – a big improvement over standard mechanical controls of the past. Many smart washing machines also now allow the user to control the unit remotely via a compatible smartphone. Smart controls can be useful for starting a load of washing before you arrive home, or to adjust the washing cycle after you have left the house.
Now onto some more mechanical features…
Quality of materials – plastic or porcelain vs stainless steel
A feature that is heavily dependent on price and general build quality is the material of the washing drum. This is the most heavily used part of a washing machine, so the better the materials, the longer it should last. Cheap washing machines often have reinforced plastic or ceramic drums, whereas those of higher-end models are built from sturdier stainless steel.
Modern washing machines typically drive their rotating drum in one of two ways – directly via an attached motor, or indirectly using a belt that connects the motor to the drum. A direct drive system has fewer moving parts and is, therefore, less prone to failure and noise, and also has greater control of the drum which allows for quick adjustments and different cycle options. The downside is that the motor needs to be specially designed to fit the washing machine’s size and capacity to provide the right amount of power, which can result in higher prices.
What is the best laundry washer?
So, you’ve done a bit of research into washing machines and decided you have a budget of X dollars, with a Y amount of space, and you want either a top/front loader. Great! Once you’ve explored these key areas, it’s time to delve into some brands.
There is no singular ‘best’ washing machine out there – the one that’s the best is the one that’s right for you.
Just ask the people we surveyed in our recent ratings! For those who bought a top load washing machine, a small number of respondents said they wished they spent more on a better model (8%). This is similar to the 7% of people who said the same after picking out a front loader.
However, we can point you in the direction of our customer satisfaction ratings, which review all of the major brands.
|Model||Fisher & Paykel WA1068G2||Miele WDB030 Eco||Bosch WAW28460AU|
|Type of washer||Top loader||Front loader||Front loader|
|Energy efficiency rating||4 stars (consumes 350kWh/yr)||4 stars (236 kWh/yr)||4 stars (consumes 320 kWh/yr)|
|Water efficiency rating||3.5 stars (123L/cycle)||4 stars (consumes 63L/cycle)||5 stars (consumes 57L/cycle)|
|Number of programs||6||12||14|
Fisher & Paykel 10kg Top Load Washing Machine
With a capacity of 10kg, Fisher & Paykel’s WA1068G2 top loader packs a punch when it comes to the sheer amount of clothes you can bundle in one cycle. More suitable for larger households, this unit can also accommodate bulkier items such as doonas and towels easier than washers with smaller load capacities. Some features to expect:
- 4-Star Energy Efficiency Rating (consumes 350kWh/yr)
- 3.5-Star Water Efficiency Rating (123L/cycle)
- Load sensing technology and Smart Drive technology
- Auto-lint disposal
- 6 wash programs including Allergy, Easy Iron and Handwash
Miele W1 Classic Front Loading Washing Machine
At the high-end of the washing machine world, Miele tends to sit atop the pile. The Miele WDB030 Eco is one of the brand’s most affordable washing machines and offers the popular 7kg capacity that ticks the list for a variety of households and budgets.
Some of the features you can expect include:
- 4-Star Energy Efficiency Rating (consumes 236 kWh/year)
- 4-Star Water Efficiency Rating (consumes 63L/cycle)
- Automatic load control
- ProfiEco Motor
- 12 wash programs
Bosch 8kg Front Load Washing Machine
Coming in with a mid-sized offering, Bosch is also a strong contender out of Germany. Similar to many other smart washing machines, the Bosch WAW28460AU features an intelligent sensor to determine the load size to adjust water levels accordingly. Notably, this unit also uses 57 litres of water per wash, which is fantastic when you consider many top loaders can use up to 120L or more per wash.
Other features include:
- 4-Star Energy Rating (consumes 320 kWh/yr)
- 5-Star Water Rating (consumes 57L/cycle)
- VarioPerfect: claimed to clean laundry with 50% less energy, and reduces cleaning time by 65%
- Wash programs such as AllergyPlus/Hygienic, SuperQuick 15 and Mixed Fabrics
- EcoSilence Drive Motor
Which washing machine should I buy?
As previously mentioned, the best washing machine is the one that’s right for you. Though determining which one is right for you is a little trickier. The best place to start is your current washing machine (if you have one) – do you love it, or do you hate it? Why? If you think it’s too small, then go larger, or if it’s too noisy, then look at quiet models. Or if you don’t like how it impacts your power or water bills, then choose a more energy-efficient model. Whatever the case, we hope this review proves helpful.
*Prices taken from Appliances Online and respective retailers, correct as of October 2020.