Shopping for a new washer and dryer is a bit more complicated than it once was because manufacturers update their products a lot more often. There are new washers and dryers hitting the market almost as often as there are new smartphones and flat-screen TVs.
The analogy is not all that far-fetched. Washers and dryers aren't the clunky old appliances of yesteryear but today are driven by technology and sophisticated electronics.
Today, most consumers shop for these appliances at big box stores – home improvement centers like Lowes and Home Depot and electronics chains like Best Buy and HHGregg.
Just as each generation of smartphone has new capabilities, appliance manufacturers are also constantly adding new features. Since the last time you bought a washing machine, for example, manufacturers have added heat and steam functions to washers to remove dust mites and pet dander.
The new machines are also quieter. Many use advanced sound-reducing material to dampen the noise. Some have a feature to reduce the vibration during the spin cycle.
Have you ever washed a load of clothes and forgotten about it until several hours later? Some new washers take that into consideration, venting in fresh air and occasionally tumbling the clothes to prevent the kind of odors that can develop when wet clothes sit for hours.
Over the last few years many washer manufacturers have added steam capability that can help root out tough stains. Some use oxygen-based cleaners to brighten clothes without bleach.
Dryers have also added features, including sensors to automatically shut down when the clothes are dry. That helps prevent over-drying and shrinkage and can extend the life of the fabric.
Sometimes you don't really need to wash an item of clothing, you just need to freshen it up a bit. Some dryers come with a steam feature that allows you to relax wrinkles and remove odors, saving a rewash.
Need to dry something in a hurry? You can if your new dryer has an express cycle that uses a large blower to increase the airflow, drying the clothing faster.
These features appear on a wide array of washers and dryers from major manufacturers. Among the largest companies making these appliances are GE, LG, Whirlpool,Samsung, Electrolux, Frigidaire, Bosch, and Maytag.
It's a good idea to read consumer reviews for all the brands you're considering because, in the past at least, some models have drawn a large number of complaints. In 2005 Maytag settled a class action suit over its Neptune washers.
According to documents filed in a suit heard in Illinois, many Maytag consumers complained of their machine functioning improperly and clothing being covered in mold, as a result of problems with the door latch, wax motor, motor control, and related circuit boards.
There are still complaints about Maytag and other brands. Donna, of Molino, Fla., writes in a ConsumerAffairs posting that she had a problem with her three-year-old Maytag Legacy and called her repairman, whom she knew to be very honest.
“When I called and told him what type washer it was he was surprised it was working at all,” Donna wrote. “Seems they had a problem with water leaking into the transmission. Apparently I was lucky that mine had worked for as long as it did.”
Veronica, of Calgary, Alberta, had problems with her new Samsung washer.
“There was never enough water,” she writes. “Like some others, I often fill the washer with buckets of water. Though the capacity looks huge, forget trying to fill the machine, it simply won't work. If it's heavy at all it will go off balance and quit. It takes probably two to three times longer to wash a load than my old Maytag.”
Veronica notes that when she called Lowes, where she bought to machine, to complain a customer service rep told her she needed to learn how to properly operate the appliance. That could well be an issue with a number of problems consumers report with their new washers and dryers. These machines are a lot more sophisticated than previous models and may, in fact, be harder to properly operate.
Both Donna and Veronica wished they had their old washers and dryers back and there might be a lesson there. Considering what a new washer-dryer combo costs these days, if you are in the market for laundry appliances, perhaps picking up good used washers and dryers, at a fraction of the price and much simpler to operate, could fill your needs.