Consumer Reports: Prices of Washers Down by as Much as 33 Percent

Jan 05, 2010, 06:39 ET from Consumer Reports

Cash For Clunkers For Appliances Offers Rebates Up to $250

YONKERS, N.Y., Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Reports latest tests on washers reveal price drops of as much as 33 percent compared with a year ago. And along with the federally funded rebates of up to $250 for qualifying models, consumers are seeing more energy- and water-efficient models that save money in the long run. The full report, which includes dryer ratings, appears in the February issue of Consumer Reports and online at

The latest tests revealed a couple of Consumer Reports Best Buys: the Frigidaire Gallery GLTF2940F[S], $650 front-loader which offered an appealing price and a shorter wash time; and the GE WJRE5500G[WW], $480 a conventional top-loader that was easy on clothes and the wallet.

Consumer Reports tests of 76 models also revealed some problems. The LG WM2010C[W], $600 front-loader moved several inches during testing. Its SpinSense option, which is designed to help reduce or eliminate vibration, kept the machine in place but extracted about 20 percent less water, so the laundry took longer to dry, while the Frigidaire FTW3014K[W], $500 top-loader with Sound Silencer Plus technology was found to be pretty noisy and only a mediocre performer.

While washers have become more efficient, dryer technology hasn't changed dramatically in the past decade. The Department of Energy says that most use the same amount of energy, which is why there are no Energy Star models, and state rebates won't apply.

"Price on washers are more affordable, models are more energy efficient, and rebates enhance the desire to buy," said Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor at Consumer Reports. "There are tons of features available, but it's important to consult our ratings to see which features really make a difference."

Shoppers should be mindful of a few additional findings Consumer Reports discovered during testing:

  • Hidden costs uncovered. Most top-loaders that cost less than $500 didn't wash as well, used more energy or water, couldn't hold as much, or were tougher on laundry than more expensive models. The Estate ETW4400W[Q], $330 a conventional top-loader, frayed fabrics, earning it a poor rating for gentleness. The Whirlpool Duet Sport HT WFW8400T[W], $750 front-loader scored only fair for gentleness. That tough treatment could mean fabrics won't last as long.
  • Special cycles multiply. Whirlpool's FanFresh and Maytag's Fresh Hold are supposed to help prevent the odor that can develop when clean laundry is left in the washer for too long. Consumer Reports tests uncovered that none of the laundry developed an odor, whether the feature was used or not. Both the Whirlpool Duet Steam WFW9750W[W] and the Maytag Performance Series MHWE950W[W], both $1,300, scored excellent.
  • Mold problems persist. The Consumer Reports Annual Product Reliability Survey found that 8 percent of front-loader problems were caused by mold or mildew. LG and Maytag front-loaders were slightly more susceptible than most brands surveyed.

How to Choose the Best Model

  • Noise considerations. If the laundry room is near living spaces, check Consumer Reports noise and vibration ratings and look for models that offer silent end-of-cycle signals and remember concrete floors can absorb vibrations well, unlike wood-framed floors.
  • Top- or front-loader? Most top-loaders with a center-post agitator cost the least and wash the fastest, but they aren't the most stellar performers and use more energy and water. Front-loaders generally use less water and spin even faster, making them the most efficient, capacious washer.
  • Focus on features. An auto temperature control blends hot and cold water to provide consistent temperature and wash performance on a given setting. Manufacturers claim that steam settings and allergen cycles clean better and remove allergens. Consumer Reports found that steam did clean stains slightly better, but machines with that option washed very well even with the steam option turned off. Steam settings might also increase energy use. To kill allergens, wash water needs to be around 127° F for 12 minutes.
  • Skip extended warranties. Consumer Reports surveys show they're usually not worthwhile.

The full ratings of washers and dryers appear in the February issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale January 5, 2010. The reports are also available to subscribers of .


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