When shopping for a dishwasher, today's models clean better, use far less water, and function more quietly than their predecessors. "Every shopper wants a dishwasher that cleans, operates quietly and looks good," says Chapman Logsdon, a regional manager with hhgregg.
"You're going to live with your dishwasher on average for 14 years," he adds. "It's worth it to invest in a good one."
Cost Range. Shoppers can expect to pay $250 for a noisy dishwasher with a control knob and plastic interior tub and as much as $1,000 for a sleek and quiet stainless machine with concealed digital controls and adjustable racks.
Size and Installation. The most common dishwasher width sold is 24 inches, says Logsdon, though it is always wise to bring accurate cut-out dimensions when shopping. Homeowners with granite or other solid-surface countertops should seek out models that mount to the cabinetry on the sides rather than the underside of the countertop.
Interior Size. "One of the biggest changes in newer dishwashers is the removal of the lower kick panel," says Logsdon. Smaller motors and pumps have allowed dishwasher doors to extend almost down to the ground, making way for larger interiors. These so-called "tall tubs" are now available on all but the least expensive models.
Noise. It is worth it to spend a little more money for a quiet model, says Logsdon, especially if the kitchen is located close to the family room or bedrooms. The good news is that all dishwashers are less noisy than older models thanks to improved insulation. For the quietest ones out there, expect to pay at least $500 and up.
Appearance. Not every shopper buys an appliance for its performance. Equally important to many is how the dishwasher will look in the home. Must-have design elements like stainless steel panels and hidden control panels have become more affordable, with models starting as low as $300 and $500, respectively. But the trade-off is often a machine with fewer features. "You can get the look for less but there will be less on the inside," Logsdon says.
Buyers also will pay about $150 more for a stainless steel tub, though the upgrade is largely cosmetic. Though a plastic liner might discolor over time, it will almost always last longer than the machine.
Racks. "This is one of those lifestyle type factors," Logsdon says. Families who entertain frequently might feel the extra money for a model with adjustable racks and tines is worth it. These racks offer the flexibility to accommodate delicate wine glasses one night and baby bottles the next. Adjustable racks also are able to manage oversize or oddly shaped plates and platters.
Shoppers also will pay more for Teflon or another durable rack coating, which will outlast inferior plastic-coated racks that eventually disintegrate, allowing the metal below to rust.
Cycles. "A large majority of people use the same wash cycle every time they run the dishwasher," says Logsdon. An entry-level dishwasher will typically have two wash cyclesnormal and lightas well as a heated or cool dry. The additional wash cycles that appear on pricier models include an ultra-quick wash for lightly soiled items, a top-rack-only wash for glassware, and a heavy-duty cycle for pots and pans.
Parents of young children may find models with a "sani-wash," which heats the water to sanitizing temps, indispensible for cleaning baby bottles. "Some models use heat and pressure to turn water into steam, which penetrates baked-on food stains better," explains Logsdon. Expect to pay north of $700 for a machine with steam.
Soil Sensors. Soil sensors, also called turbidity sensors, monitor the levels of particulate (tiny particles of a substance) in the wash water, explains Logsdon. This technology allows the dishwasher to "know" when the dishes are clean, shortening wash cycles and saving energy in the process. Models boasting this technology are available for as little as $350.
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