Front-Loading Vs. Top-Loading Washing Machines: What's The Difference?

If you're in the market for a new washing machine, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you and your household. With so many washing machines on the market and new ones being added every day, the buying process can quickly become overwhelming and confusing.

Luckily, all washing machines can be separated into two different categories: top-loading and front-loading. Deciding whether you want a top-loading or front-loading machine is the first step in the buying process and will make staring down a showroom full of appliances much less overwhelming.

Washing machines used to be exclusively top-loading, but in the last decade or so, new, energy-efficient front-loading washing machines have gained widespread popularity. While 75% of households are still using traditional top-loading machines, per Sears Home Services, more and more front-load options are introduced to the market every day, prompting many to make the switch.

Exploring the differences between each and weighing their pros and cons when it comes to factors such as cleaning and maintenance requirements, cost, and energy efficiency will help you determine which type is best for you and your family.

How do they compare in cost-efficiency?

While front-loading machines may save on energy costs over many years, top-loading machines, particularly high-efficiency ones, tend to be cheaper overall.

Front-loading washing machines tend to be more expensive because they provide more benefits and features, including their energy efficiency. Front-loading machines tend to use less water compared to their top-loading counterparts. Unlike front-loading machines, top-loading machines fill completely with water, causing households with top-loading machines to use an average of 7,000 more gallons of water per year than households with front-loading machines, according to Sears Home Services.

So while top-loading machines are typically cheaper upfront, a front-loading machine can save you money over time on your monthly water and energy bills. Front-load washers also tend to have the capacity to wash larger loads, allowing you to do fewer loads of laundry, which will also help you save on your water and energy bills.

If you are looking to cut water and energy usage for environmental or financial reasons, a front-load washer might be a good choice for you. Otherwise, you may opt to save money upfront on a standard top-loading machine.

Which is easier to keep clean?

Top-loading washers may be easier to keep clean, suggests The New York Times. This is because water can more easily evaporate out of the unsealed top door on top-loading machines than out of a sealed front door on front-loading machines. Because front-loading machines have doors that are sealed to keep the water from escaping mid-cycle, front-loading machines are more susceptible to mold and mildew, as water can easily get trapped in the seals around the door. This can lead to unpleasant odors coming from your machine. In fact, repair technicians reported to The New York Times that odor is one of the most common problems they are asked to fix with front-loading machines. If you can't commit to wiping out the door and gasket between usage and regularly cleaning your washer to prevent mildew, you might prefer a top-loading machine for its easier cleaning and maintenance requirements.

How do their lifespans compare?

While you can get over a decade of usage out of each, top-loading washing machines have a longer lifespan than front-loading washing machines overall. Top-loading machines have an average lifespan of about 14 years, whereas front-loading machines will need to be replaced after about 11, per SFGATE. Getting a couple more years out of your washing machine allows you to go longer without spending money on a new one. Although, the cost benefits of going longer between replacements should be weighed against the benefits of operation costs, particularly if you have high water and energy bills each month. If you do not do a lot of laundry or your water and energy bills aren't all that high, you may choose to squeeze a few extra years out of your washing machine by getting a top-loading machine.