If you've ever shopped for appliances before, you know just how complicated it can get. You need to be sure of all the measurements, decide between various different styles that each have their own pros and cons, determine what features you're willing to spend money for and which ones you're not, and take the aesthetics of the room into consideration—and that's all before you've even started shopping.
Fortunately, anyone with appliance acquisition anxiety can rest easy when it comes time to buy a dishwasher. Put down that measuring tape, and we'll go over why you don't need to do much prep work to find the best dishwasher for you—it's certainly easier than hand-washing everything.
It's easy to decide what type of dishwasher you want
Those looking to buy a dishwasher will need to first decide what type of dishwasher is best suited for their home. Fortunately, this isn't a hard question. Whereas appliances like refrigerators have multiple different styles that are all subtly different from each other, the differences between the different types of dishwashers is significantly more stark: The choice basically makes itself based on your home.
Built-in dishwashers: The default option
This is the most common type of dishwasher. Dishwashers that require installation are either 24- or 18-inches wide, and connect directly to the water intake in your kitchen.
Installation dishwashers are the standard for homes with full-size kitchens that have the space and water connections to accommodate them. As a result, they likely won't be a realistic option for smaller kitchens or apartments.
Assuming you can accommodate one, you want to buy a dishwasher that's built-in. On the whole, they have much more cleaning power, won't occupy your sink, use less water and electricity, and are often priced at a better value. In the majority of cases, they're simply the best option.
Portable dishwashers: When you don't have the right setup for a built-in model
Portable dishwashers are roughly the same size as installation dishwashers, but have wheels so they can be easily moved into place when it's time to run a cycle and moved back into storage afterwards.
If you need to buy a dishwasher, but your home doesn't have an available spot for a built-in model, portable dishwashers are your next best bet. They have a similar capacity and, while their ability to move around gives them some flexibility, no one will be able to use the sink while it's running since they connect to your faucet for their water supply and output wastewater down the drain.
Countertop dishwashers: For smaller kitchens and apartments
Countertop dishwashers, or “compact dishwashers,” are ideal for smaller living spaces and are more convenient and efficient than hand-washing. These dishwashers are about half the size as a typical dishwasher and, true to their name, can sit on your countertop.
While their small size is often a boon, it also has its downside: Countertop dishwashers have about half the capacity of a full-size model, which means you'll need to run twice as many wash cycles to clean the same amount of dishes. Also, like portable dishwashers, these connect to your kitchen faucet and need to drain into the sink—this means your sink will be out of commission about twice as often as with a portable dishwasher, which can be a problem if you have a large family or a lot of roommates. If you're planning to buy a dishwasher for a smaller home that's only being used by you and one other occupant, they will likely be your best option.
There aren't that many extra features, in total
Once you've zeroed in on the correct style, the next stop in your quest to buy a dishwasher is almost as easy as the first: You need to narrow down which features you care about—and which ones you don't.
For many appliances (especially fridges) the list of potential features and optional fixtures can be overwhelming. Do you need a double compressor or ethylene filter? How about a flex drawer (because if you want that flex drawer you can't get a side-by-side fridge like you wanted). And that's before you even dive into the seemingly endless ocean that is smart features.
When you buy a dishwasher, you're simply not presented with as many options—and it's also fairly straightforward as to how those features might be useful. Do you use a lot of thermoses or reusable bottles? You may be interested in a dishwasher with bottle jets. Tend to use a lot of large, bulky items? Look for a dishwasher with tines you can fold down to better accommodate your more cumbersome cookware. Really want a dishwasher that will dry your dishes? Check out some of Bosch's dishwashers that use zeolite, a mineral that releases heat as it absorbs water.
Even smart features, which can get incredibly complex on other devices, aren't particularly robust on dishwashers. For those who want to buy a dishwasher with smart features, you'll be able to notification when a cycle is done or start the device remotely. While these are nice features to have, they're not exactly changing your dishwasher into a command center for your entire home.
More resources to help you buy the dishwasher that's best for you
Now that you know what type, size, a feature set you want for your dishwasher, it should be relatively easy to narrow down which dishwasher is best for you. If you're at the step where all that's left to do is the research, our current lists of the best dishwashers in each category can help get you started. We lab-test and review dozens of dishwashers every year, so we've narrowed the field down to only the best of the best. If you want to research the best dishwasher for you, these articles are a great place to start.
- The Best Dishwashers
- The Best Portable Dishwashers
- The Best Countertop Dishwashers
- The Best Affordable Dishwashers
- The Best High-end Dishwashers
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.