Front-Load vs. Top-Load Washers: How to Choose the Right One for Your Home

Experts break down the advantages and disadvantages of a front-load vs. top-load washing machine.

Although it might seem like front-load and top-load washing machines are similar, the pros and cons to each appliance model go beyond simply style. Both washing machine types have their advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately the best washer for your family comes down to personal preferences and lifestyles. Several factors should inform your decision, including cost, energy efficiency, and load capacity. Here, appliance and laundry experts share tips on how to choose the right washer for your family when it comes to front-load vs top-load washing machines. 

matching white washer and dryer in laundry room
Adam Albright

What Is a Front-Load Washer?

An appliance that lets you load clothes through a door on the front of a washing machine is called a front-load washer. This kind of washer has a horizontal drum that rotates on its axis to clean clothes. Front-load washing machines are known for their efficiency, gentle cleaning, and ability to handle large loads of laundry. They are also stackable, a popular design option that maximizes laundry room space in smaller homes. 

Nick Evans of Home Appliance Hero says front-load machines are specifically designed to use less water, and they are more energy-efficient than top-load washers because they run on less electricity. By reducing water and energy consumption, front-load washing machines are an environmentally friendly option that helps homeowners save money on their water and utility bills. Between a front-load and a top-load, a front-load washing machine is generally the more eco-friendly and cost-effective option.

laundry room with stool and muted blue cabinets
John Merkl

Benefits of a Front-Load Washer

In addition to being environmentally-friendly, another perk of front-load machines is that they are often touted as giving clothes a superior clean. “Front-load washing machines have a tumbling action that lifts and drops clothes allowing for a more thorough cleaning," says Evans.

Many front-load washers are also equipped with more advanced wash settings and technology to leave your clothing fresh. Richard Tarrant, senior vice president of Dish & Laundry Care at BSH Home, explains that, due to their tumbling motion, front-load washers tend to be gentler on clothes and better at removing stains. Also, front-load washers tend to have higher spin speeds to extract more water from clothing, ultimately shortening the dry cycle.

Front-load washers are perfect for smaller spaces, like condos and townhomes, because they have a flexible design that allows them to be configured side-by-side or stacked on top of a dryer. Their flexible design also allows for increased interior design potential for any laundry room.

laundry room with blue and white striped floors
Lauren Rubinstein

What Is a Top-Load Washer?

A top-load washing machine is often considered the more traditional type of washing machine. This machine’s drum is located vertically, so clothes are loaded through a door on the top. The vertical drum agitates and moves the clothes to clean them during the wash cycle.

Top-load washing machines are known for shorter wash cycles. This machine also tends to wash smaller loads than front-load machines, making them the perfect size for smaller households or individuals with less laundry. Top-load machines also usually allow homeowners to pause in the middle of a wash cycle to add or remove clothing. Generally, top-load washing machines are less expensive than front-load machines. 

Benefits of a Top-Load Washer

Top-load washing machines are a more affordable option for buyers on a budget. As the more traditional and standard option, these appliances cost less than their counterparts. Since top-load washing machines are also more common than front-load models, they are easier to find and purchase, making any potential repairs, maintenance, or replacements easy. 

Top-load washing machines have shorter cycle times, meaning laundry gets done quicker than with front-load machines. This could be a perk in a fast-paced household that needs laundry done in a pinch.

Top-load washing machines can be paused mid-cycle. This flexibility is a convenient perk in case you need to add or remove a garment in the middle of a wash. They are also easier to use than front-load machines. There’s no need to bend down to load and unload clothing, making a top load washer easier on the back and knees. 

How to Choose the Right Washer for Your Family

To decide which washing machine is best for your family, consider costs, your laundry space, and the amount of clothes in a typical load. Personal preference and aesthetics will likely factor into this decision. Although front-load washers are energy- and water-efficient, they can be pricier. Top-load washers may be less expensive upfront, but you might see less long-term savings on water and utility bills compared to a front-load machine. 

Evans says that front-load washers cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on the brand and features, while top-load machines cost $300 to $1,500 for more advanced models. Tarrant reminds shoppers that compact laundry is not necessarily less expensive than full-size. Because of their design, front-load washers may also require more maintenance. The rubber seal on the door can collect water, mold, and mildew if it’s not adequately cleaned, Evans notes. 

No matter which style you choose, for homeowners looking to make an eco-friendly update to their laundry room, keep an eye out for the ENERGY STAR label on appliances. This certification indicates that the appliance is energy efficient without sacrificing functionality. 

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