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How to Buy a Dishwasher

Consumer Reports

You can pay $1,500 or more for a fancy dishwasher with hidden controls, digital displays, and special grime-fighting cycles. But when it comes to clean dishes, sparkling performance starts well below $500.

What's more, you needn't settle for a bare-bones dishwasher at that price. Luxury features such as a stainless-steel exterior are migrating to more low-priced models. This dishwasher guide will help you with your purchase.

Size matters

Most conventional dishwashers fit a 24-inch-wide space under a kitchen countertop and attach to a hot-water pipe, drain, and electrical line. Cabinet-matching front panels are available as kits, typically for several hundred dollars. Compact, portable dishwashers come in finished cabinets and can be rolled to the sink and connected to the faucet.

Conserving energy

Dishwashers are using less water as manufacturers strive to meet tougher federal energy standards. But it’s taking longer to get dishes clean. Lower operating costs can save you more over a dishwasher’s lifetime than the price difference between an efficient and less-efficient model. Don’t rely on those familiar yellow Energy Star labels. Our tests are based on much dirtier loads and are a more accurate gauge of energy efficiency, in our judgment.


The greatest differences in dishwashers, beyond results differences in our performance-based tests, are features and costs. There are a few distinct types of dishwashers, however, including traditional models, drawer-type versions, and portable models.

Low-Priced Dishwashers
They may suit buyers who care more about performance than glitz.
Pros: As a group, they clean dishes as well as premium-priced models.
Cons: They tend to be noisier than the upscale models and less convenient to load.

High-Priced Dishwashers
Pros: They tend to be quieter.
Cons: They don’t clean dishes any better than the best low-priced dishwashers.

Dishwasher-drawer Models
Pros: You can use them simultaneously or individually, and you don’t have to bend to load a single- or, sometimes, a double-drawer model.
Cons: They can be expensive, and three versions of one model we tested had significant problems. What’s more, models from Fisher & Paykel, which introduced these products to the U.S. market, have been repair-prone.

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Copyright © 2006-2011 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.


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