At a Glance
It’s not easy buying a washer these days.
To complicate matters, researching top-load vs. front-load washers gives you only a user perspective and no clear statistical facts on efficiency, capacity, or repair.
In this article, you will learn the real differences between a front load washer and the two types of top load washers. Regular and hybrid.
Front Load Washers at Yale Appliance in Hanover
I will show you the reliability rates based on 35,256 service calls completed by our service department last year and updated reliability for eight months of 2020.
Then you will see the differences in efficiency, capacity, water extraction, and then a few top picks you should consider for price and features.
Let’s break the first myth by looking at the reliability of front and top load washers for 2020 so far.Short on time? Get our free Washing Machine Buying Guide
Are Top Load Washers More Reliable Than Front Load Washers?
No, front load washers are more reliable than top load washers. Take a look:
Front Load Washer Reliability 2020
|Service Qty||Shipped Qty||Service Ratio|
Top Load Washer Reliability Reliability 2020
|Service Qty||Shipped Qty||Service Ratio|
Not what you expected?
Front loads have had a bad rap since the original Maytag Neptune over 20 years ago. A front-load is now more reliable than the average top load washer.
Front Load Washer Problems
However, a front-load is harder to repair and more expensive to fix than a top load washer, especially replacing any part of the direct-drive motor.
Mold, Mildew And Odor Issues In Front Load Washers
GE Smart Front Load Washer With Antimicrobial Microban Gasket Coating For Mold Prevention
There are problems with mold to a certain extent, but it’s controllable. Mold, mildew, and odor are a function of standing water.
You want to dry the gasket and the back of the machines and leave the door open to dry any residual moisture.
Every month, just run the machine in a hot water wash as well. There are products like Affresh to help as well.
The new GE front load washers have Microban antimicrobial surfaces and a fan inside the drum to dry the residual moisture built into the machine.
What About Speed Queen Washers?
Speed Queen Washers at Yale Appliance in Boston
Despite being Consumer Reports’ best brand overall for 2019, it's amongst the most repaired brands sold at Yale over the last two years.
You have to remember CRs ratings are based on ten years of member surveys. It was a great machine, and still could be.
I would be skeptical for now, although they do have a 5-year warranty covering parts and labor.
A 5-year warranty is worth about $299 for almost any washer if you buy it separately.
Front Load Vs. Top Load Vs. Hybrid Washers
Top Load Washers
Top Load Washers at Yale Appliance in Framingham
Top-load washers haven’t changed much over the years. The agitator stirs the clothes and detergent to clean. Agitators can be tough on clothes, especially more delicate fabrics.
Front Load Washers
Front Load Washers Side-By-Side, With Pedestals, And Stacked at Yale Appliance in Hanover
Front-load washers use less water. The clothes wash in a shallow pool of water towards the back.
Whirlpool Hybrid Top Load Washer
Hybrid washers combine the convenience of a top-load with the efficiency of a front load. At least they are supposed to.
The “impeller” or much smaller agitator is supposed to clean the clothes like a regular top load.
As much as I like the idea, I have never seen it work to clean clothes effectively for any manufacturer.
Front-load washer sizes average about 4.5 to 5 cubic. They can be as large as 5.8 cubic feet, but they are not popular due to their higher price.
Most Common Front Load Washer Dimensions
Impeller-driven hybrid top loads are about the same or roughly 4.8 cubic feet. Top loads average about 3.5 cubic feet.
Most Common Top Load Washer Dimensions
However, the agitator's volume in a top load is about 0.8 cubic feet, so it is effectively about 2.7 cubic feet of actual capacity.
Washer Energy Efficiency Differences
Electrical Energy Efficiency
Top-load washers use about 348 kWh yearly.
Hybrid washers use about 212 kWh yearly.
Front-load washers use about 159 kWh yearly.
In Boston, with 22.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, there is a $22 difference per year to run a top-load versus front-load based on 1.5 hours usage per day.
Of course, front-load washers have greater capacity, so you will use them less or top loads more.
The average top loader can use 40 gallons and up to 70 with hybrids about 17 gallons and front-loads using about 10-14.
For Boston, the average water and sewer bill is 17.77 cents per 1,000 gallons or .017 cents a gallon. The average front loader is about .21 cents per load.
The top load is about .51 cents per load as a rough average.
You would have to multiply the top load because the capacity is much smaller.Short on time? Get our free Washing Machine Buying Guide
Washer RPM Spin Speeds Differences
RPM is significant for extracting water for less drying time.
Front loads are 1000-1400 RPM spin speed. Top loads average about 700 with Hybrids about 850 RPM spin speed.
When you add all this together, depending on where you live, there are significant savings between a front and a top load washer in water, electricity, and less drying time.
Especially when you consider a front load is 4.5-5 cubic foot and a top-load is far less at 2.7 cubic feet.
Side-by-Side with Pedestal (Left) and Stacked Front Load Washers (Right) at Yale Appliance in Hanover
Top loads have the advantage of not bending like a front load washer.
You can always buy pedestals for a front load washer, but pedestals cost about $500 per pair and raise about 17 inches off the ground.
Top loads still are better on your back than a front-load even with the pedestals.
Stacking Washers and Dryers
Almost all front-loads are made to stack with the dryer on top. There are a few exceptions.
Top loads cannot be stacked.
There are one-piece top load stacks from Whirlpool, GE, and Frigidaire, but they tend to have smaller capacity and are expensive.
Normally, an average front load will cost about $700-1200 depending on the features. A top load is $479-549, and a hybrid is about $1000.
However, as COVID-19 has affected product availability, you should expect prices to be on the higher end.
Top Load Vs. Front Load Washer Features
Almost every machine in any configuration has enough cycles. The average machine has ten cycles and 11 options.
Optimal Dose Detergent Dispenser In A Maytag Front Load Washer
Dispensing is a feature you should consider. You can add from 8-40 loads depending on the brand.
It’s not just a convenience. An automatic detergent dispenser will prevent you from placing too much detergent in a wash.
GE Auto Detergent Dispenser Drawer For Up To 40 Loads
For front loads, too much is a problem because you only need a capful.
All that detergent becomes foam and can create a problem with the motor and bearings. An automatic dispenser will prevent that future expensive maintenance problem.
Smart Front Load Laundry
Wi-Fi has grown on me for laundry, unlike other appliances. It will alert you when the cycle is over, eliminating an unnecessary trip to the basement.
Samsung Front Load Washer With Steam
Steam loosens up tough stains so they can be powered out. It’s almost a standard in front loads and only available in more pricey top load washers.
You now can wash a small load in about 15 minutes in most front load machines.
Top 4 Washers For 2020
Why You Should Consider A GE Front-Load Washer
These two washers are new with every feature available from the auto dispenser to Wi-Fi, speed, steam, a reversible door and the only front loader with an anti-mold package
It even has an overnight cycle to wash and dry an outfit for the next day. The difference between the two models is 0.2 cubic feet in capacity and the overnight cycle.
GE Smart Front Load Washer Review
Why You Should Consider A Whirlpool Top-Load Washer
This top load washer is inexpensive for less than $600, easy on your back, and cheap to fix. The product has been working well since the 1950s
Why You Should Consider A LG Front-Load Washer
It's been reliable since its inception. Their TurboWash 360 cycle can shorten any wash by employing six spray heads in the front of the machine. Their TubClean cycle is a nice reminder to sanitize your washer.
LG Front Load Washer Review
Front Load Vs. Top Load Washers: Key Takeaways
There is no one answer to what you should buy.
You should inquire about the hybrid washers by asking friends and checking reviews because the design seems destined to fail in washing your clothes.
Top load versus front load is complicated and is based on what you value.
Top load is cheaper to buy and easier to fix. You don’t have to bend, and you don’t have to worry about mold or any other dispensing issues.
However, with a front-load, you will be doing much less laundry with greater water and power efficiency.
It’s gentler on your clothes with less drying time and more updated features like auto-dispensing, steam, and Wi-Fi.
It ultimately comes down to whether you want a less expensive machine with less expensive repair rates - a top load - or a more modern machine with greater capacity and features - a front load.
What do you think?
Get the Yale Washer Buying Guide with features, specs, and inside tips to all the brands, to dimensions and explanations of every washer and dryer type are included. Over 820,000 people have read a Yale Guide.
Steve is the third-generation CEO of Yale and a lifelong Bostonian. He currently resides in Boston, one mile from where he was born. Despite being one of the worst goalies of all time, he is a huge hockey fan of college hockey and the Boston Bruins. The love of his life is his daughter Sophie.
Steve has also been featured in numerous publications such as the New York Times, Consumer Reports, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg Radio, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur, for his knowledge of how to buy appliances and appliance repair.
A Note About Pricing