Top Loader vs Front Loader Washing Machines: Ultimate Guide

Choosing the right washing machine for your household can be an expensive necessity. So, take the risk out of your purchase by reading our ultimate guide to top versus front loader washing machines.

When choosing a new washing machine, it’s fair to say we all compare their costs, ease of use and sustainability. However, an easy mistake to make is not comparing if a top loader or front loader washing machine is better for you, plus all of these factors too.

In this ultimate guide to top loader versus front loader washing machines, you’ll discover average price points, which is more environmentally friendly in water and energy usage and more. Once you know which suits your lifestyle better, we even show you exactly where you can find the washing machine of your laundry-washing dreams.

We also have a short guide to buying a washing machine, if you’re not so fussed about the finer details. However, we do highly recommend reading the below if you want to save big bucks, not only in the upfront cost but in the long run too.

Photo by Tina Bosse on Unsplash

Is a top loader or front loader washing machine better?

Top loader washing machines are better because…

1. There are two different types.

When shopping for a top loader, you’ll be faced with a decision to buy either an agitator or impeller/pulsator design. The key difference is an agitator has a plastic column in the centre of the drum, while a pulsator does not.  While the column may be rougher on clothes, it also helps to give a better clean than a model without.

2. The up-front price tends to be better.

While researching, the cheapest washing machine was a front loader machine, but on average, in a side-by-side comparison of capacity-per-price, the top-loader would almost always come out cheaper. Expect to pay anywhere from $449 to $2,895 upfront, depending on the make, model, size and features you want. 

3. You can get a larger machine for the same price.

For the same amount as you would spend on a front loading washing machine, you can generally get a larger capacity top loading model. This not only helps you get through all of your dirty laundry faster, it means you’re paying less for the ability to do so.

Note: The larger the capacity, the more power and water used.

4. They are also pretty quick to wash your laundry.

One of the big pros of top loaders is they have a shorter wash cycle than front loaders. On average, they take 15 to 30 minutes to finish a wash, compared to the average 60 minute cycle of their counterpart.

5. Forgetting your socks is not a problem, and you don’t have to bend over.

If you’re someone who always finds something to add to a cycle once it’s already started, you’re going to love this! Top loaders give you the ability to add laundry after the cycle has begun, although some models do shut this off after some time. The top-loading ability also tends to be easier for some forms of mobility issues, as there isn’t the need to bend over every time you need to put something in.

A top loader washing machine is also not better because…

1. They may be cheaper to buy (on average), but they’re pricier to run.

While the initial price of a top loader machine may be less, on average, they do tend to use more water and power than their front-doored counterpart. This simply means each wash cycle will cost you more to run over the course of the machine’s life, which could end up costing you more money in the long run.

2. Environmentally, they’re not the best.

Thanks to gravity, top loaders generally use more water on average than a front loader. This is due to the need to fill the drum, rather than rely on the cylinder to lift and dump the clothes into the water.

An average-sized 7kg top loader will use around 105 to 115L of water per wash, compared to an average 7kg front loader, which uses around 70L per wash. Unfortunately, this does make them less environmentally friendly and will lead to higher running costs for you.

As for the energy usage of both types of washing machines, things get a little confusing. When washing in cold water, both top loading and front loading washing machines use roughly the same amount of electricity. But, when you start factoring in warm washes, front loaders become much more energy-efficient when compared to top loaders.

Be sure to check and compare each model’s Energy Star Rating label, which tells you out of 10, which appliance is the most energy efficient.

Front loader washing machines are better because…

1. Capacity runs from bare minimum to excessive.

Alright, maybe a 16kg washing machine capacity is essential to some people, but when you compare it to a 6 or 7kg machine, you see what we mean. Lucky for you, the smallest and largest machines both tend to be front loaders.

2. Running a front loader tends to be cheaper.

With less water and energy being used per wash cycle, it is cheaper to run a front loader, in most cases. So, even if you do spend a little more, it’ll pay for itself over time thanks to cutting down those utility bills.

3. You can store a front-opening machine under a bench.

If you’re looking to make the most out of a small laundry space, a front loader may be for you, simply because you can have it installed under a bench or stack the dryer on top of your front loading machine. Remember, you’ll still need the hose connections, so call in a plumber if you don’t already have the fixtures. 

4. The environment loves a front loader more.

Here’s where that front-facing door really comes into its own. Based on a 7kg machine, you’ll use 40L less per load, meaning more dollars saved in your back pocket. 

Energy-wise, a top and front loader does use similar amounts, unless you’re using warm water, then the trusty front model will come out on top.

A front loader washing machine is also not better because…

1. Upfront, you’re most likely going to pay a little more.

As mentioned towards the top of this article, the cheapest washing machine in Australia is actually a front loader. However, on average, top loaders tend to come in at a better price when you compare their capacity-to-price ratio. To experience opening a washing machine from the front with every wash, you’ll be looking at spending anywhere from $423 to $5,999. 

2. They’re slower to wash laundry.

Slow and steady does not always win the race — definitely not in washing machine land anyway. Once you hit start on a load in a front loader, you’ll be waiting at least 45 to 60 minutes, and that’s for a quick load setting. Some of the newer, flashier models do have faster times, but even then, they’re not averaging as close to that of a top washer.

3. You can’t open the door mid-cycle.

If you forget to add something to your load and you have a front loader, you’re waiting until your next wash. Some brands do now have a secondary door on their front models for this purpose, but you’ll most likely be paying a lot more for it. 

There have also been reports of the locking mechanisms malfunctioning on many brands of front loaders, meaning once it’s locked, it’s locked. This then requires a washing machine technician to come out and work their magic to get it open — or break off the door.

The Verdict of Top or Front Loader Washing Machine

It depends. If you’re a small household who washes 1 to 2 times per week, then a small top loader with a low purchase price might be your best option. While a bigger family with more intense washing needs will be better off purchasing a front loader, due to its much lower running costs. 

Whatever you decide, it’s important you understand your household’s needs and research as much as possible to ensure you’re finding the right machine to fit you.

3 Top Tips For Extending the Life of Your Washing Machine 

Of course, the better you look after your washing machine, the less often you need to go hunting for a new one. Here are the top three tips for getting the longest possible life out of our your new machine:

1. Check and change your hoses.

Every time you put on a load of washing, check if your water hoses and connections are in good order. You’ll want to check for bulging, cracking and leaks, as any of these can lead to severe water damage to your home.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your washing machine hoses every 3 years to ensure they’re in the best condition. You can have a plumber do this or purchase hoses at your local hardware or plumbing supplies store. The strongest hoses tend to be braided steel, or for extra security, you could opt for a double-tubed hose.

2. Prevent mould from forming.

Washing with hot water can lead to humidity within your machine, which if boxed in, can cause mould to grow. By leaving the lid of your machine open or up between washes, it allows for proper aeration. 

Mildew can also build up around the rubber seal of a front loader’s door, so giving everything a wipe over at the end of a wash day can help prevent any problems.

3. Avoid overloading your machine.

A common mistake people often make is overloading their washing machine. Those extra few pants and shirts may overcrowd the wash, creating poor wash quality as every item doesn’t have enough room to be properly coated with water and detergent. 

You also risk putting added stress to the motor of your machine and drum bearings. Over time, this causes your machine to shift, causing damage.

Now you know if a top loader or front loader washing machine is better for you, go and get a good deal at your local appliance retailer! 

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      Luke Davidson

      Digital Content Specialist

      Luke Davidson is a Digital Content Specialist at Localsearch, his professional journey ranges from startups to international digital agencies working in content for a wide variety of clients, big or small. When he isn't deep diving content, data and SEO, Luke is an avid guitarist, surfer, coffee nut and gamer. As a digital content specialist and lifestyle fanatic, Luke provides valuable insights on lifestyle musings on the Localsearch Blog.