Top-Load vs Front-Load Washers…Which Is Best?


Top-Load Washers

Standard top-load washers tend to last 14 years. 

However, the simpler design and ease of repair for DIY homeowners can help these units last even longer.

Front-Load Washer

Front-load washers are close, averaging 11 years. The extra features and multiple wash cycle options means you’ll pay more to have your machine repaired if it were to break down.

Energy efficiency

Top-Load Washer

Water use

High efficiency top-load machines use between 12 to 17 gallons of water. Standard top-load machines use more than twice that; 30 to 45 gallons per load.

Front-Load Washer

A front-load washer will use about 13 gallons of water per load.

Energy use

Because they use less water (that requires less energy to heat) both high efficiency top-load wash machines and front-load machines use less energy than a standard top-load machine.

Tip: Look for the EnergyStar label when comparing units. The blue Energy Star label is found on units that use 30% less energy and 50% less water than other machines.

Load capacity

Load capacity is comparable between top-load and front-load models.

On average, top-load washers range anywhere from 4.1 to 5.2 cubic feet; front-loaders can be found between 4.2 and 4.9 cubic feet.

Even larger top-load washers can be found with 6+ cubic feet of capacity. 

However, 4.5 cubic feet of space is adequate for a king-size comforter or 15 to 20 pounds of laundry.

Note that if your top-load machine has an agitator this can reduce your capacity a bit.

Cleaning ability

Top-load machines

Top-load machines in two types; ones with agitators and the high-efficiency models that come with impellers rather than agitators.

If your machine has a big post in the middle of the tub where you put your laundry, it has an agitator.

Break it down even further and you’ll find that there are two types of agitators; single-action and dual-action.

Single-action agitator

A single-action agitator will have large fins (or paddles) at the bottom of the shaft and smaller ones towards the top. 

This helps your laundry to get circulated around your washer’s tub.

Dual-action agitator

A dual-action agitator also has fins, but they’re spiraled at the top. These fins push the clothes downward in a separate motion from the fins at the bottom of the shaft.


Impellers are similar to agitators, only they’re shorter. They can have fins or can be shaped like a cone.

The benefit of an impeller is that it takes up less space, improving your washer’s capacity.

In addition, units with impellers can also have a drum that’s similar to ones in a front-loader allowing it to spin faster than units with agitators.

Clothing wear and tear

Agitators use mechanical force on your clothes which can be hard on them. While impellers can be more gentle, it can be easy for some fabrics such as towels to get tangled up, depending on the impeller’s design.

On the other hand, front-loading machines don’t have agitators. Vanes along the sides of the tub help the machine to toss the laundry back and forth, knocking dirt loose. 

These machines are easier on your clothing, however high heat temperature and deep-clean options will be harder on fabric than a delicate setting.

Repair and Maintenance

Top-Load Washer

As noted earlier, top-load washers are easier for DIYers to work on; the motors and/or water pumps are easy to reach and the majority of parts are mechanical rather than electronic.

Front-Load Washer

Clean-outs can be done by homeowners, however the average homeowner would find it hard to work on this type of washer.


Top-load washers

As you’re likely aware, top-load washers do tend to be less expensive than front-load units.

They can be purchased for around $400 to $500 dollars on average, plus they don’t require more expensive HE type cleaning products which can reduce your laundry costs.

High efficiency top-loaders are more expensive than the standard variety. And in some cases they can be pricier than the front-load models. 

This means that you shouldn’t choose a model based solely on design; it’s smart to shop around for the best deal.

Front-load washers

While originally costing thousands of dollars, over recent years some front-load washers have come down in price some; ranging between $600 and $800 for entry-level models.

Aside from a major sale, front-load washers are difficult to find below $600, which makes a $400 dollar top-loader a no-brainer if cost is your main concern.

Bottom line, if your sole concern is cost, then a good top-model unit will fit the bill. Alternatively, if you’re more concerned about saving water and energy than cost, a front-load unit is the way to go.

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