What your Money Buys
A basic one-speed, top-loading washer costs $250. Add automatic dispensers, variable water levels and a two-speed motor and you'll pay $400 to $500. Spend $600 to $750 or so, and you can get a premium top-loader that includes the above plus a self-cleaning lint filter, a stainless-steel tub, insulation and a three-speed motor. The latest U.S. front-loaders with the same features come in at $800 to $1,000. A top-of-the-line European front-loader with a stainless-steel body, front service panels and an in-line heater costs up to $2,400. Before choosing any washer, answer these three questions: How much space does it take? Most full-size American-made washers are 27 in. wide x 27 in. deep. Height varies depending on where the controls are. You might need a smaller unit, particularly if you put the washer in a small laundry room. GE, Whirlpool and others offer 22 1/4-in.-wide x 24-in.-deep compacts. For $1,000, you'll find many stackable washers and dryers, and one-piece combination units that occupy only 24 to 27 1/2 sq. in. of floor space. For example, with a 24-in.-sq. footprint and about 72 in. tall, the Whirlpool LTG6234DQWW can squeeze into a bath, hall or linen closet. It offers 2.5 cu ft. of tub space. And, stackable units generally are heavier and more costly to install. Besides measuring your laundry space, carefully measure the doorways, corners and halls on the way to be sure the appliance fits - especially when buying stackable units. Under-counter installation is another option for tight spots. As on many front-loaders, front-mounted controls on Miele's Novotronic units ($2,000 to $2,500) make that possible. How much energy does it use? Often, a higher price tag is offset by lower energy costs over the life of the washer. Figure out roughly how much you'll save by checking the yellow energy-efficiency labels on display models. They show the estimated kilowatt-hour per year and compare the electricity that model uses to similar models. They also include operating costs per year with both an electric and gas water heater. How long is the warranty? The typical warranty covers the entire appliance for manufacturing defects for one to two years, and includes parts and service. Some makers offer a five- or 10-year transmission warranty and a lifetime tub warranty. Retailers also offer warranty extensions from two to 10 years; they cost up to $250. Most appliances that are going to fail do so in the first year, while under warranty. Unless a repair bill will break your budget, warranty extensions aren't worth it.
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