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  How To Choose A Washing Machine

We give you a guide of things to look for and what to avoid when buying anew washing machine

This guide isn't intended to be an advert for washing machine sales, it is designed purely to allow you, the customer, decide what you need, what you don't and what to look for when you buy a washing machine. We do sell washing machines, our own brand, but this piece will not extol the virtues of any one brand or producer as that way, it is totally independent. Should you wish more information or opinion on what we think of any one brand feel free to use the rest of this section or the manufacturer section to find out who's who.

By not naming a single brand in this article means that it is totally unbiased to anyone, it is a totally independent view with tips and tricks, things to think about and things to avoid when you choose a new washing machine. Hopefully it will help you be a little more aware of what to look for and allow you to buy the best washing machine to suit you.

  Common Mistakes Choosing A Machine

Wrong Washing Machine Choice For You

They all do the same thing anyway, it doesn't matter... wrong!

All the machines are made in the same place, wrong!

All the machines are different if they have a different name on them, wrong!

The washer I buy today will be of the same quality as the last one with the same name on it, wrong!

I know that this may come as a terrible surprise but, when selling on a shop floor, the amount of times that any knowledgeable appliance sales person spends smiling at people and thinking, "wrong, wrong, wrong" is just staggering. People have all these pre-conceived notions about who makes what that XXXX is a good make but YYYYY isn't when, as we secretly chuckle to ourselves, it's pretty much the same thing with a different fascia on it.

Now that last paragraph may seem a little harsh but it's the truth. In a poll carried out on this site we found that the top factor in buying a machine was "reputation". Okay so if you think that you really need to read this article and browse the manufacturer section, but what you find out may come as a surprise to you.

Even when you do find who actually owns the brand you often have no idea where the machine was actually made or what sort of quality it is. In other words, you're buying totally blind most of the time. Click this link to find out a little more

But before we go on the point is that what you think you know is, most probably, wrong!

  Washing Machine Energy Labels

This goes for a lot with people looking to buy a new washing machine but really it's not as important as you may first think that it is. Far from it actually and you should not fall for the marketing blurb about saving whatever percent as, it's a load of rubbish in large part. A "normal" washing machine will use about 1.2Kw of energy per cycle, some less and some a little more but most A or A+ rated will be around the same level but to put some real context on the "our super duper new machine save 30% of your energy costs", that 1.2Kw is about 12 pence worth of energy. So, even saving 30% (which is probably not exactly the whole truth and nothing but) is a massive 3p per wash cycle. Hardly worth bothering with and certainly not worth basing your buying decision on.

There is a whole article here on this subject which, while lengthy, is well worth a read.

It is also true that, due to the energy reduction in modern washing machines, that you absolutely must pay attention to the wash care labels on your clothing or you will not get good wash performance from a new washing machine. 

I always tell people not to get too hung up on the AAA or any energy rating as, while it's nice to have and means that the machine is energy efficient, washes to a certain standard and spins reasonably, it offers no comfort beyond that whatsoever. It does not reflect the real world use particularly nor does it give any indication of the quality of the washing machine at all or the quality of aftercare that you will receive.

  Washing Machine Prices

Believe it or not price comes out third in the poll and this is surprising as the majority of machines sold are the cheap ones and the stats prove this. So there's really only two conclusions that you can draw from this, either people aren't being entirely truthful with their answers or, more likely, the people that are buying based solely on price are buying more machines, more often.

ISE 1607W inside the drumNow obviously either are bad, that bit is hardly rocket science, but if it is option B then things really are bad as the environmental impact of this is glaringly obvious. Don't get me wrong, I'm no bearded tree hugger in sandals but I do object to needless waste and pollution where it can be avoided as the waste and importantly, the environmental impact of the waste and replacement will far, far exceed any saving you may make on a better energy rated new appliance. To think otherwise would be a fallacy.

But all too often you get that look from people, the one that resembles a rabbit caught in headlights, when you tell them that what they really need is a washing machine that is way over what they wanted or expected to pay. But you see here's the thing of that, you walk into almost any major chain store retailer and the salesperson is going to have a limited product knowledge in the main as they are more interested in selling you a warranty (that they don't get paid commission on of course) than what actual product you buy. Wrong approach in my opinion and that of most independent retailers.

No, what we will ask is questions like, "how often do you use the machine", "how many people is the machine used by", "what sort of washing are you doing" and so on. What we're doing here is judging the machine that will best suit your needs, not your budget. We'll make the best recommendation for your needs and work from there and, we can explain why we recommend it.

Sounds crazy doesn't it? We're bound to lose sales by doing that aren't we?

The answer to the first question is no, it's not crazy at all. It is showing respect for the customer's needs, tailoring what is required to what budget you have as we'll usually give a range of options, not just what happens to be on promotion that week or month and with very good reason.

You see, we want to keep our customers. We want our customers to be happy with their purchase and to remember that we did a good job, remembering us for the next time that they buy a machine of any kind. But a decision not based solely on how cheap we were, but how good we were.

Not so crazy once we explain the thinking is it?

The second question's answer is yes, we do lose sales. We lose them to many an internet seller or a large multiple retail chain and, that's fine. If people want an inferior service and, probably, for the purchase to ultimately cost more in the longer term then that's fine, that's the customer's choice to make and not ours. But then that's buying on price, not service and that is another choice to make.

Our "moral" choice is not to fleece people, we live or die by our reputations so we can't, nor would we wish to as we provide a service, often from the cradle to grave as it were and, we often know many of our customers almost personally. Because of this, we look after them.

The point I would make is that our repeat business way exceeds that of any multiple, you don't really have to wonder why.

Try not to get too hung up on price, shop around, get advice from several people or from a retailer you know you can have faith in that won't just leave you after the sale is made as, if it goes wrong and you don't have that safety net, life can be made very difficult indeed. But when you find the right one the help and good advice that you will get will be outstanding.

My advice is to seek out good advice from an independent as the service and advice will be far superior or ask in the forums and someone will normally offer guidance. Just don't be surprised if you get steered away from what might look like a bargain as we often know only too well that what looks too good to be true, normally is.

  Washing Machine Quality Driven Down

Another important fact in this whole price debate is, as I often put it to customers is the following.

The last time you bought a washing machine, let's guess at the mid- nineteen nineties, it cost you about £350 for a 1000rpm machine that was pretty much middle of the road. Now you're asking if a 1400rpm machine with more "features" and better performance is okay but it's pricey at £250 today.

Well, if you apply a little common sense to this, then you have to realise that it is simply not possible on a machine made from hunks of metal with some electronics in it to have dropped in price, beaten inflation and have quality improved to that degree. When did you last see any quality engineered item drop in price and beat inflation?

In that example you are looking at a drop, in real terms, of over 50% as a new equivalent should be costing at least £435 or so at best. So you have to ask, how do they lower the price by such a huge margin?

It's really not that hard to work it out.

Almost every day we hear, "I bought an XXXXXX machine because that's a good make", but do you even know what you bought and from who? Sadly, most people haven't a clue I'm sad to say.

  What Washing Machine Do You Want Or Need

First thing you need to do when buying a washing machine is not to have a look to see what the best specification and toys you can have for the money happens to be. What you need to do first is look at how you use the machine.

For the most part, in all the years that I've been in this industry there's a few key questions to ask yourself.

  • How often do you use the machine? (More on how to figure that out here)
  • How many people's clothes does it wash?
  • Are there any special needs (skin conditions or suchlike)?
  • What sort of floor is it installed on?
  • Do you line dry wherever possible?

The first question will determine what sort of quality washer you need. After all there's no point in forking out £200 or £300 for a cheap machine that, if it's being used twice a day, is liable to only last two years at best before breaking. Even if there's a warranty on it you still have the inconvenience and hassles of having to arrange for the repairs, stay in for the engineer and so on. As a retailer we don't want our customers back complaining that we sold them a lemon, it's better to lose the sale than have the hassle frankly and our reputation is scarred.

Child looking into a washing machineHow many people that the washing machine washes clothes for tells us if the first question is near enough right and determines what load size you really actually need as you can save money by not buying a large capacity machine if it's not required. Also have a read through the article about washing machine load sizes to get more information on this, but they cost more to run as they use more detergent and, when there's only two or three people in the house, it's generally just a waste of money.

We'd say that the optimum load size is about 6kg, over that is really not required for most people despite what the adverts tell you as, if you separate and wash the clothes correctly, most people will rarely use the large capacity to its full advantage in the real world. Anything above an 8kg load is just senseless unless you have commercial needs and the claim most probably not exactly true.

We ask about special needs because, for example, let's say that someone in the house has eczema or some other skin condition. Then in that case you really want a machine which you can select the extra rinses on to make sure that as much detergent as possible is removed. Or let's say that you have a bed-wetting problem, then we would likely advise as above but also a machine with a good 60?C program that's quick so that you can get bedclothes washed as fast and as well as possible.

What sort of flooring is asked because, on a wooden floating floor a high spin speed machine is ill advised, unless of course you want your new washing machine to be bouncing around the kitchen! You also have to bear in mind that, as the spin speed increases, so does the noise and the type of flooring does massively affect the noise levels far more than any rating will indicate.

If you hang your clothes out to dry as much as possible (which is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to dry clothes) then do you really need that ultra high speed spin? All you're going to do is crease the clothes up more and then hang them on the line anyway, would an extra few minutes hanging out really have made a difference? On the other hand you can save quite a bit of money by not insisting on the highest spin speed possible.

Here's another thought for you, people tend to use a tumble dryer as little as possible in order to save electricity which is great and I applaud that as it is again good for the environment on the whole. However, that being the case what difference will a thimble full of water less on a load make in terms of how long the clothes take to dry? Answer, virtually none.

Spin speeds are used as a "mine's bigger than yours" marketing tool and has been for years. Over about 1000-1200rpm there's very little to be gained really. In fact, in many cases, especially on cheaper machines, all it does is stress the bearings and cause them to fail early.

See also our article called The Great Spin Speed Debate and make up your own mind, don't be duped by the marketing and then fleeced for a couple of hundred RPM.

  Installation Of Your Washing Machine

It si becoming increasingly important to ensure that you install a washing machine or, any other appliance for that matter, in the corret conditions. Check this out before you buy a new washing machine as, if it is incorrectly installed and the machine is damaged due to a bad installation you may not be covered under your warranty.

For general guidance on this subject please read this article

We would strongly recommend that you do this before you buy a washing machine and ensure that the location that you intend to install it is suitable before parting with any money.

  Where To Buy A New Washing Machine

The trouble is that most people just don't know enough about washing machines unless, like us, you happen to work in the industry. You are left on your own and at the mercy of the person that is selling the machine's product knowledge or, at best, you do some homework and research all the specs on the internet or brochures before you go to buy. This is fine, but the brochures and all the specs you read on the net just cannot take account of your personal circumstances, they are not interactive and they generally appear to give little help at all to people.

Going into a large retailer you get pretty much the same, with a few exceptions, the quality of advice on offer is just shockingly bad. The staff's product knowledge beyond the price, the finance deals available and how much an extra warranty will be is, for the most part, almost non-existent. The question I often ask is, would I trust someone who hadn't a clue about what they were selling especially when you don't want to be buying another one in a year or so?

  Retailer Interests

One thing that has come to light lately is that the large retailers appear to not promote the good, well built machines and, at first, we didn't think much of this until someone who shall remain nameless pointed out a glaringly obvious fact as we evolved our own brand.

If you're a retailer that relies on sales then you don't want to sell any product that will last beyond a few years as you want to sell another.

Stupidly obvious really isn't it? The same goes for a lot of the lower end appliances as, they are built to a price for the large retailers as they are also in the business of "moving boxes".

It's worth also remembering that most of the large electrical retailers make more money from selling you a warranty than an actual product. If you buy cheap appliances from those sorts of stores, you will likely need that warranty.

  Internet Sales

we are not kidding with this, a manufacturer recently told us that they had stopped trading with two internet sellers as they discovered that they were being operated from a teenager's bedroom!

The point being, you have not a clue who you are dealing with in many cases, it could be anyone and you just don't know. Be careful and make sure that the internet site that you choose to buy from is reputable and actually does have stock, many claim the lowest price but have no stock at all.

  Independent Washing Machine Retailer

Smeg integrated washing machine

The independent, as explained earlier, has a different take on things. They are not so price motivated preferring instead to look after people as, customers to them are people, not just a receipt number. But what I have found in dealing with a great many of the indies (as we call them) is that they don't just offer the best advice and service, their businesses don't; just depend on sales.

What you tend to find is that they put a lot of effort into aftersales care, offering service as well as replacement services which means that their business isn't solely dependent on selling you a new machine. So selling you a decent machine that suits your needs is in their interest as, whether it needs to be replaced or repaired after a few years, they can service either requirement and both are an integral part of their business.

For integrated washing machine models we wouldn't recommend anything but an independent retailer. They know what they're doing, can actually fit them most often and will help much, much more than anyone else will.

  Washing Machine Aftersales Service

Given that most appliance manufacturers cater to the needs of the retailers, not repairers, they have a nasty tendency to manufacture to a price, as we've already discussed, but they often also try to turn service into a profit centre. What is meant by that is that they try to make still more money on service which, in turn, allows a lower cost upfront.

How this is done is pretty simple.

  Will You Be Held To Ransom?

You make the spares ludicrously expensive so that, if you don't have an extended warranty you either pay way over the odds for the part or, alternatively, you go out and buy a new machine. Either way they win as, if you are hacked off with the brand you just had the chances are that the next one you buy will either be owned by the same company or another customer, similarly hacked off with another will buy one of theirs.

We call this the brand merry-go-round. Within the same price band, especially the lower ones, there are only about half a dozen major players that absolutely dominate the market owning multiple brand names.

Then to seal that fate, what happens is that the manufacturers don't allow technical information to be released to anyone outside their own company or service sub-contractors and they can (and have) taken pretty drastic action to ensure that things stay that way. So you're tied to using only their spares, at whatever they see fit to charge and/or their own service, again at whatever they see fit to charge. Not allowing the public or even the trade to have that information creates a nice little monopoly for them.

The customer, you, suffers.

The natural thing to do would be to think that you would just buy a warranty. Well they're overpriced as well simply because of the above as then insurers have to pay for it. There's no escape from this unless you buy wisely.

  Take Care And Research

The point of this article is to highlight the need to take some care when buying a new washing machine. Not to just jump in and be duped by some fancy glossy adverts, a price or some "must have" feature that you really don't need.

Don't just go for the lowest price, the fastest spin, the biggest load size or any other one factor. Research what you are actually buying since most people keep a washing machine longer than they keep a car, think about that and think about how much effort you would put into buying a car in terms of research and shopping about. And, as with a car, people very often don't simply buy on brand, specification or price, they buy on a combination of these items and, largely at times, the strengths of the dealer and service backup not just how fast it goes or how cheap it is.

If you need more help or some specific advice, please ask for help in our forums as a lot of the guys there have vast knowledge of the appliances on the market.

David Ferguson
Finding independent retailer
You advise using an independent retailer for a washing machine purchase but how do I find one locally

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