Top Load or Front Load Washing Machine? Which is Best?

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. The trusty washing machine that sits in our basement laundry room finally decided to call it quits.  After ten years of faithfully washing dirty jeans, t-shirts, and children’s pajamas, our washer gave up the ghost. I called a repair shop and did a little digging online. As it turns out, the washer isn’t worth saving — the cost of parts and repair just isn’t worth it, and we’re better off buying new. Honestly, I don’t think I truly appreciated my washing machine until it went kaput. Now I’m forced to watch the basement laundry pile grow larger and larger as I try to find a new washing machine that fits the family budget and has the features we need.

I don’t know if any of The Shopping Mom readers have had to research new washers lately, but the process is a tad overwhelming. It seems as if washing machines have more gizmos and whatsits than they ever had before. To make matters more harried, there are two types of washers available — top loaders and front loaders.  Besides the obvious difference in the way laundry is loaded into the machine, what sets the two styles apart, and quite simply which washing machine is best?

From the information I read and the friends and family I consulted with, the only thing I can say for certain is that there are a lot of opinions on whether a top loader or front loader is the better choice. Both washer styles have their strengths and weaknesses, and it really comes down to personal preference. Here are some variables to consider if you have to make a choice between the two:

Top Loader

  • Price: Top loaders are generally less expensive than their front loader brethren — sometimes by hundreds of dollars.
  • Easier to load: No bending or crouching to fill the machine. Less wear and tear on your back and knees.
  • Open washer during cycle: Forgot to add a pair of socks or a bath towel? No worries — unlike front loaders with a doorlock mechanism, just open the washer lid on your top loader and add your laundry.
  • Greater reliability: Because top loaders generally have less features and are not as dependent upon complex electronics, there’s potentially less that can go wrong later down the line.

Front Loader

  • Space. A front loader can take up less floor space than a top loader — a definite boon if your laundry area is small. The reason? You can stack a matched dryer on top of a front loader.
  • Larger capacity. Front loaders lack the center agitator present in most top loaders. As a result, a greater volume of laundry can typically be washed per cycle, and large items can be washed at home (bed comforters for example).
  • Less wear and tear on clothes. A top loader’s agitator can be tough on fabrics — especially over time. Front loaders use gravity to tumble clothes, and are by their very nature more gentle on laundry.
  • Energy efficient. Front loaders use less energy and less water to operate than their top loading counterparts. This can add to significant savings over time.

As I mentioned earlier, it really comes down to a personal preference when choosing between the two, and I don’t believe one can say with absolute certainty that one style of washer is better than the other. Everyone’s situation is different. If my children were grown and it was just my husband and I at home, I’d probably opt for a top loader due to the lower cost up front and increased reliability. As it stands, I’m a mom of three young, active girls. I need a washer with a larger capacity, plus I favor appliances that are “greener” and more energy efficient. For these reasons I’ve decided that a front loader will work best for my current situation.

So what’s your opinion? Do you have a preference between a top loader and a front loader?

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  1. Miranda Ward says:

    I love my Frontloaders You have to clean them every month which is a downside. It takes and Hour to wash on normal and cold water. So it takes a tad longer. It spins the majority of the water out of the clothes so the drying time only takes about 20 min. My front load washer has a Pause button so I can open and throw a missed piece of clothing in. I have the Whirlpool Duet

    • The Shopping Mom says:

      Thanks for your comment Miranda! I wasn’t aware that the Whirlpool Duet front loader had a pause feature — this is a definite pro and I’ll be sure to check it out. Our 10 year old washer (R.I.P.) was a Kenmore front loader. It was fairly basic without a lot of features. Washer technology really has changed over the last decade. It’s a bummer having to spend money on a new one, but I have to admit it’s kind of exciting as well 🙂