How to Buy a Dishwasher

There have been big improvements in dishwashing machines over the past several years. Most dishwashers have been redesigned to improve their cleaning ability, energy efficiency, and water usage. In addition, most machines are quieter due to added insulation and the use of smaller motors.

Along with these improvements, there has also been a leveling of performance among brands. There won’t be a major difference in the cleaning ability between machines.

Two attributes that are important and vary across models are energy rating and warrantees.

  1. Energy Rating - Check the yellow Energy Guide label, the lower the number, the more efficient the washer.
  2. Warrantees - These will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Usually the additional warrantees provided by retailers are not a good value. Find out how the washer will be serviced if required.

Other attributes to consider are listed below.


  • Built-in versus Portable - Built-ins are mounted under a kitchen countertop usually next to a sink. Portable are on wheels with finished tops and sides. If you have limited space in your kitchen or if you rent a portable may be your best bet. Most models can be converted into under-counter mounting . However, because of the additional connection hardware and finished sides, portables usually cost more than similar built-in models.
  • U.S. versus European - Many US stores carry US and European dishwashers. European models are generally more expensive, quieter and more efficient but less effective.


  • Size - Most are 24 inches wide. Some are 18 inches wide.
  • Interior layout - configuration of sliding racks, baskets, trays. Does the washing arm reduce the amount of loadable space.
  • Water heating - Most homes have water heaters set to 110 degrees, however, to clean well a dishwasher should use water at 140 degrees. Many budget units now offer this feature.
  • Number of cycles - light cycles, normal, heavy or pans, and rinse and hold to remove food if dishes will sit in the washer a while before the wash cycle is run.
  • Water saving cycles - If you live in an area where fresh water is scarce, you’ll want to consider this feature.
  • Sound insulation - The sound level will vary from one model to another. Consider how important a quiet wash cycle is before you purchase.
  • Build in food disposers - will grind up food similar to in-sink units, allowing the user to spend less time cleaning dishes before the go in.
  • Controls - How solid are the knobs and buttons? How long will they last? How easy are they to clean?
  • Color & Appearance - Does the dishwasher fit in in your kitchen? Do you like its appearance?
  • Delay Start Timer - Load the washer and have it start a few hours later.