The top performers in our review are the LG Mega Capacity, the Gold Award winner; the Samsung Top Load Washer, the Silver Award winner; and Whirlpool's Cabrio High Efficiency washer, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a washer to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 products.
In the past, you didn’t have much choice in the type of appliances you could buy to wash your clothes – most washing machines came with standard cycles, a center agitator and they used gallons and gallons of water. The world of washing machines has changed dramatically the past few years. Now you have the option of purchasing a front-load washing machine, a high-efficiency top-loading washer and the traditional top-loaders of yesteryear. However, those who might think that top-loading washers are energy-sucking appliances that don't get clothes as clean as say front-loading machines might be surprised to learn that many top-loaders have become more energy efficient and have more cycles and options than ever before.
If aesthetics and options such as steam and sanitation cycles are important to you, then you may want to consider a front-loading washer. Sometimes a full-size washer isn’t a possibility – limited space or no necessary hookups – so, the other solution, besides visiting a laundromat every week, is to purchase a portable washing machine.
We examined both traditional top-load washing machines and high-efficiency top-load washers. Traditional washing machines have a vertical post agitator in the center of the tub that rotates back and forth, moving clothes around to clean them. The latest high-efficiency top-loaders have done away with the center agitator in favor of wash plates that toss clothes around and tubs that rotate both ways, which creates friction between the clothes to get them clean. They also employ jets and streams of water to rinse your laundry. Each type of washer has its pros and cons, which you need to carefully weigh before you choose the best top-load washing machine that’s right for you.
Cost is always going to be a factor in your decision, so you need weigh the pros and cons of paying extra money up front for a high-efficiency top-loader versus paying more money long term with a traditional machine. Another important factor in choosing a washing machine – whether it’s a traditional model or a high-efficiency type – is how well it works at cleaning your clothes. A washing machine that cleans your clothes faster can also be a selling point.
Energy Cost & Efficiency
A large appliance is going to affect your electricity bill and possibly the environment. If reducing your energy and water consumption is a concern, then you want to find a top-load washing machine that is not only Energy Star-certified but proves its savings over time. Rather than simply looking at the energy cost, though, we also compared the water factor (WF), or the number of gallons per cycle per cubic foot the washer uses. When you combine the average cost of energy and water used, you get a more accurate picture of how much money you're going to spend each year keeping your clothes and linens clean.
We found that high-efficiency top-loaders performed more efficiently over a long period of time and affected the environment the least compared to traditional agitator machines. High-efficiency top-loaders use less detergent overall, but they also require you use specialized detergent so as to not flood the machine and to ensure your clothes get a complete rinse.
If you choose a washing machine with a larger drum, then you can get your laundry done and get on with your day. So the top-loaders we reviewed that have a higher capacity garnered more points. Typically, the high-efficiency machines have more space for your clothes and linens because there isn’t an agitator in the way. It’s much easier to stuff a large comforter into one of these units than a traditional washer.
Generally, a high-efficiency washer takes much longer to wash a load of clothes versus traditional washers, but the tradeoff is the unit uses far less water and detergent. Also, these machines cut down on drying time, because the spin cycle is so fast and the washer is able to extract more water than units with an agitator. You can almost set your watch by a traditional top-loader – and it usually finishes a load about twice as fast, on average, than a newer, high-efficiency type. The timed wash of a traditional machine uses more water, though, since they do not use water jets and streams to rinse your clothes.
Specifications & Dimensions
When selecting a top-load washer, you need to know the dimensions of the model simply because you need to make sure it fits in your home (and through your doorways). Most of the washing machines you can purchase today are similar in size, but a few on our list can vary by as much as 5 inches, which can make a big difference in tight spots.
When you’re ready to choose a top-loading washer, you need to consider several other factors as well. Some machines have several cycles you can use to get your clothes clean while others stick to the basics. Beyond cycles, though, are added options that can make doing laundry easier and more effective. And a larger washing machine tub means that you can wash larger loads at once, which equates to fewer total loads of laundry. To learn more, check out our articles on top-load washing machines.
Most washing machines give you the option of a regular wash or permanent press cycle for white or colored clothing, but there are others that offer delicate, heavy duty, eco-friendly and allergen cycles. If your family has special needs for its clothes, then a top-loading washing machine with more cycles may be a good fit for you. The Maytag Bravos XL, for example, includes a cycle specifically for white loads that need bleaching, a sanitize cycle when you need to ensure bacteria and microorganisms are gone for good and a "clean washer" setting to keep your machine’s washing tub pristine and mildew-free.
The best top-load washer gives you more control over your laundry. Some offer extras such as vibration reduction, which keeps your laundry room quieter, an important consideration if your laundry room is in a central location in your home. Others include child locks for added safety; others give you the choice of the speed at which your clothes spin, so you can wring out as much water as possible, which reduces the time it takes to dry your clothes. A few models give you steam, stain and prewash settings, touchscreen controls and more.
Once you choose the top-load washing machine that fits your household, you're going to need a dryer, too, so be sure to read our reviews and recommendations about the best clothes dryers. If you’re in the market for a combination washer and dryer, look at our reviews on the best washer and dryer combos.
The top-load washing machines that came out ahead in our evaluations did so for clear reasons. The LG Mega Capacity WT5680HVA costs less, on average, to operate than any other machine on our lineup. It also gives you an incredible amount of choices when it comes to how you wash your clothes. And it includes the best bundle of warranties possible compared to other top-loaders. The Samsung WA56H9000AP on our list only costs pennies more than the highest-ranked washer, it has the largest capacity of any washer we evaluated and it offers many options and cycles so you can customize each load of laundry the way you want it. The Whirlpool Cabrio High Efficiency washer is another top-loader that has no center post agitator, so it has more space for your clothes. In fact, this washer has one of the biggest capacities of the washers we reviewed. Although each load in this washer may take more time than a traditional washer, you can wash more clothes at once.
That is not to say that the traditional machines on our lineup aren’t worthy of being called the best. The GE GTWN4250DWS traditional washing machine uses an agitator, but it also has a generous washing drum and uses less water than some of the newer high-efficiency machines. The Hotpoint HTWP1400FWW costs about $20 more per year to operate than our highest-rated top-loader, but it costs considerably less to purchase.
In the end, it comes down to what works best for your needs now. So, take a close look at the data on our comparison chart and choose the top-loading washing machine that is the best fit for you.
|LG Mega Capacity||Samsung||Whirlpool Cabrio HE||Kenmore Elite||Maytag Bravos XL||GE||Kenmore||Hotpoint||Amana||Frigidaire|
|Energy Cost & Efficiency|
|Estimated Total Annual Cost||$29.74||$30.93||$37.73||$31.14||$32.18||$35.31||$44.51||$47.34||$60.26||$67.22|
|Estimated Annual Energy Cost||$16||$18||$24||$16||$17||$22||$29||$26||$30||$46|
|Estimated Annual Water Cost||$13.74||$12.93||$13.73||$15.14||$15.18||$13.31||$15.51||$21.34||$30.26||$21.22|
|Estimated Annual Energy Use (kWh)||135||165||196||135||159||208||185||213||190||425|
|Estimated Annual Water Usage (gallons)||6,868||6,464.64||6,864||7,571||7,588||6,656||7,753||10,670||15,132||10,608|
|Average Water Used Per Wash (gallons)||17.17||20.72||22||18.2||18.24||16||24.85||34.2||48.5||25.5|
|Water Factor (WF)||3.43||3.7||4.15||3.5||3.8||4.1||7.1||9.5||13.86||7.5|
|Energy Star Certified|
|Capacity (cu. ft.)||5||5.6||5.3||5.2||4.8||3.9||3.5||3.6||3.5||3.4|
|Number of Cycles||14||15||10||14||16||16||9||8||9||8|
|Number of Options||14||11||7||8||8||6||3||3||2||2|
|Number of Soil Levels||3||5||4||3||4||3||4||2||3||N/A|
|Number of Wash Temperatures||5||6||5||5||5||6||5||3||5||4|
|Automatic Load Sense|
|Warranties & Support|
|Parts & Labor Warranty||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year|
|Motor Warranty||10 Years||10 Years||1 Year||1 Year||10 Years||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year|
|Wash Drum Warranty||Lifetime||3 Years||1 Year||1 Year||10 Years||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year|
|Online User Manual|
|Specifications & Dimensions|
|Stainless Steel Wash Drum|