A dishwasher is something most modern homes rely on. Although it was once considered a luxury item, if you’ve previously owned a dishwasher that’s gone out and you now find yourself hand-washing, it’s easy to plead the case for the necessity of this appliance in our busy lives.
Besides the convenience associated with them, dishwashers also use less water and sanitize better than hand-washing, due to the machine’s consistent water consumption, and heating to the ideal temperature.
Since dishwashers have but one function — to cleanse soiled dishes — why then, do they vary so greatly in the price? And can a high-end dishwasher cut through all of life’s tough messes, like say, your kid’s day-old bowl of Cheerios with cereal all but glued to the sides?
Let’s clear away all the gunk as we muddle through price points, styles, and features, to help you determine just how to choose the right dishwasher.
Does Price Point Matter for Dishwashers?
Some of us naturally gravitate towards the best “anything” money can buy. Others prefer sticking to a budget and wonder why anyone would pay $1,000 for an appliance when a similar one can be had for half that.
As with almost anything you buy, dishwashers are typically a “you get what you pay for” type of appliance. Yes, the machine’s ultimate purpose is to wash away old food and keep our eating utensils hygienic, but higher-end models also tend to make reaching that goal more efficient through lower water consumption, less intrusive through shorter, quieter cycles, and all-around more aesthetically pleasing.
While they’re also available in countertop or compact 18-inch sizes, the standard dishwasher is 24 inches and sold as a built-in model that hooks up to standard connections. If you aren’t limited by kitchen space or configuration, but rather a typical setup with an available water line, you should likely consider purchasing a standard, 24-inch dishwasher.
The good news is, entry-level built-in dishwashers start in the $300 range, effectively perform their tasks of cleaning and sanitizing, and come in a variety of finishes, including white, black, and stainless, allowing you to easily match the look of your other kitchen appliances.
The downside to these cheaper models, however, is they may have clunky dials or obvious touchpads, rather than the hidden controls you’d find on higher-end models, and their interior usually consists of a plastic tub, which isn’t as durable or energy efficient as stainless steel. Plus, they’re much louder with higher sound decibels, compared to the quiet wash you’d find with a more expensive model.
If you’d like to limit your spending, but don’t care for the appearance or lack of features found on an entry-level model, you can purchase a mid-range dishwasher starting at $600. The mid-priced models still perform the same duties as a budget dishwasher but trade the plastic tub for stainless steel, which resists staining and extends the life of the machine.
Mid-priced dishwashers also feature soil-sensing technology, which allows the machine to automatically adjust water and energy consumption levels, based on the load’s individual Soilage level.
Basically, what that means is your dishwasher won’t use the same amount of water or electricity cleaning your small, awesomely pre-washed loads as it does on the heavy, Thanksgiving dinner dishes your reluctant teenager shoved into the machine.
Mid-priced dishwashers are also quieter than low-end models, and often have adjustable racks or even third racks, which allow for easy change to the interior configuration and to make room for large pots and pans.
Aesthetically speaking, mid-range dishwashers typically feature hidden touch-panel or controls that are built directly into the door and come in premium fingerprint-resistant finishes, such as stainless steel, black-stainless, and charcoal.
If you’ve got $900 or more to spend, your dishwasher will fall into the high-end range and, as you’d expect, your appliance will be beautiful and efficient, without the need to sacrifice features.
High-end dishwashers are Wi-Fi compatible, offer flexible, third racks for the ultimate ease of stacking, targeted wash-zones for superior cleaning, and feature whisper-quiet wash technology, perfect for those with open-concept homes or guests who migrate towards the kitchen.
If you’ve loaded them properly and filled them with quality detergent, all dishwashers will do what they’re designed to do. Whether you find yourself drawn to a smart, high-end stainless model, or a simple, white machine that cleans with the turn of a dial, the dishwasher you ultimately purchase should match your overall style, budget, and performance expectations.