Front Load vs. Top Load Washers: The Pros and Cons of Each
August 7, 2019 by Burnzie Welles
As we’ve discussed in our blog on buying the right washing machine, there’s a washing machine for every kind of household – but that doesn’t necessarily make choosing any easier. Nowadays, washing machine models run the gamut of price point, efficiency, size, and even high-tech features. You’ll have to make some careful decisions about where you want to put your money.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the two main types of home washing machines: front load vs. top load washing machines. We’ll go through the pros and cons of each, discuss high-efficiency models, and touch on the pricing, size, and other features you can consider when making your choice.
What to Consider Before Purchasing
How much do you want to spend? It used to be that top load washing machines were virtually always cheaper, but now that laundry technology has advanced and both styles have the potential to be big, small, or high-efficiency, there’s a lot more variation in pricing. Come up with a budget beforehand – this can help you narrow down priorities like size and extra features from the get-go.
What will fit better in your home? Take a look around your space. Regardless of size, some homes are just better suited to one style of washer than another. If there’s no extra space for a front-swinging door to open, for example, you might want to go for a top loader. If you need to be able to stack your machines, on the other hand, a front load washer is a better option.
Now, onto the pros and cons of front load vs. top load washing machines.
Top Load Washers
Once upon a time, top load washers were the most popular and absolute cheapest option for home washing machines. In fact, many in North America still prefer top load washers, and they do have many benefits – including, often, lower prices. We’ll run through the pros and cons below.
Pros of Top Load Washers
• You don’t need to bend to load the washer. This can be easier on the back and joints, especially for those with mobility problems.
• Top load washers with agitators can be much cheaper than high-efficiency and/or front load washers, even by hundreds of dollars.
• Though models vary greatly, many top load washers have shorter cycle times.
• Water evaporates upward out of the machine very easily, reducing the risk of mold or mildew.
• It’s easy to add clothes mid-cycle – convenient for busy families.
Cons of Top Load Washers
• The twisting mechanism of agitator-style top loaders doesn’t clean as thoroughly or efficiently as the tumbling motion of front loaders.
• The agitator also takes up space, so agitator-style models may not fit as many clothes per cycle.
• Top load washers tend to use more water and energy.
• Top load machines can be rough on fabrics because of the agitator. High-efficiency models, in particular, can cause more tangling of laundry because of the low water level and faster spin speed.
What about High-Efficiency Top Load Washers?
It used to be that top loaders offered less energy efficiency across the board, but newer high-efficiency (HE) top load washing machines allow you to get a better clean with less water and energy. However, even HE top loaders tend to use more water and energy than front load machines. The Wire Cutter reports that front loaders typically use about 5 fewer gallons per water cycle than a top loader, or the equivalent of 50 standard bathtubs per year.
Remember that HE machines require special detergent, so always be sure to read labels carefully when shopping and using detergent in your HE machine.
Front Load Washers
Once only available on the highest end, front load washing machine prices have come down in recent years to make them a little more comparable to the best top load washers. Check out the benefits and drawbacks below.
Pros of Front Load Washers
• Clothes can come out cleaner. The tumbling motion of a front load washer puts gravity and friction to use, removing stains and spots more thoroughly with less water and energy.
• All front loaders are high-efficiency, using less water overall (and thus less hot water during hot cycles).
• Front load washers can also reduce dryer time. Water drains out of clothes more easily with a tumbling motion, so clothes come out of the washer dryer, further reducing energy use.
• Front load washers can be easier to reach for those in wheelchairs.
• You can stack front load washers with dryers to save space.
Cons of Front Load Washers
• You have to bend to put laundry in a front load washer, which can be painful. However, you can stack your washer on a pedestal to make it a little more comfortable.
• Front load washers can require more maintenance than top load washers.
• You can’t always put clothes in mid-cycle, as the door locks to prevent leakage.
• Because it’s harder for water to evaporate, front load washers may have more mold or mildew problems.
• Because of the way weight is distributed during a tumble-style wash, front load washers are more vulnerable to damage due to overloading.
Price and Additional Features
The general price spectrum of washing machines runs from about $500 to $2,000, barring major deals and sales. While advances in technology and sheer time have seen prices between top loaders and front loaders level out somewhat, top loaders are still generally cheaper than front loaders – particularly agitator-style top loaders, which are often your most affordable options. You can find front loaders under $1,000, but their efficient design does add to your cost.
Of course, special features – such as self-cleaning settings on front load washers – will also add to your costs. Other features to consider include built-in sinks, automatic detergent dispensers, wi-fi connection, and pedestals. Carefully consider your budget against your needs to decide what – if any – of these features you need.
Tips for Best Washing Machine Performance
No matter which style of washer you choose, there are some best practices you should stick to for a well-performing, long-lasting washing machine.
• Don’t overload the machine. This leads to dirtier clothes, machine strain, and wasted energy. It’s especially straining on the weight distribution of front load washers.
• Use the right amount of detergent. Always check your owner’s manual and the instructions on your detergent bottle to make sure you’re not using too much detergent, which can damage the machine, result in improperly cleaned clothes, or even lead to messes or mold/mildew problems. Speaking of which – make sure you’re buying the right kind of detergent. HE washing machines (whether top load or front load) require special detergent in order to clean your clothes properly.
• Always leave the door open between washes. This helps excess water evaporate, preventing mold or mildew growth (which causes unpleasant smells that can transfer to clothes).
There’s no right answer when it comes to choosing a front load vs. top load washing machine – it’s just a matter of your personal needs. For quick picks of the best models for different types of homes, check out the official Howard’s Washing Machine Buying Guide. And don’t forget to check out all our deals on top load washers, front load washers, and other laundry appliances for your home.