Choosing a Dryer
A clothes dryer is an everyday home appliance that gets the job done whether it costs $400 or $1,500. In the higher half of that price range, buyers can find niceties such as steam and sanitize settings, stainless-steel drums, fabric-specific cycles, mega-capacity drums, and LED displays. Budget-minded shoppers who can live without those luxuries will find reliable if mostly feature-lite models that cost less than $500 and can handle enough laundry for a medium-size household. Cheapism.com carefully sorted through expert and user reviews to identify the best cheap electric dryers on the market today. We've also uncovered a couple of options for those who need a gas-powered unit.
Cheap Dryer Brands.Popular brands in the budget-friendly dryer segment include Whirlpool, Maytag, Amana, Hotpoint, Kenmore, Roper, and GE. Note, however, that most inexpensive dryers are built either by Whirlpool or GE no matter the brand name. That's because Whirlpool owns Maytag, Amana, and Roper, while GE owns Hotpoint. A handful of other appliance giants including Samsung, LG, Frigidaire, and Electrolux make a few models that sit mostly on the cusp of or above the Cheapism price ceiling. The upscale tier includes models bearing the same nameplates as those in the lower ranks along with lower profile brands such as Blomberg, Fisher & Paykel, Bosch, and Miele.
Electric Dryers vs. Gas Dryers.Most dryers are sold in both electric and gas configurations. The vast majority of home-based models are electric -- by a factor of 3-to-1, as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) notes in an issue brief on dryer efficiency. That's likely because the laundry areas of most homes and apartments are configured for electricity. Electric dryers also cost less than their gas-powered siblings, making them more affordable upfront. Still, gas dryers do have some advantages. For one, they're cheaper to operate. The NRDC says households with a gas dryer can expect to pay about $40 a year, on average, for power compared with more than $100 for an electric unit. And, as product specialists at Sears point out, gas dryers heat up faster, which can be better for fabric longevity.
Given the prevalence of electric dryer usage, our primary picks fall within this segment. At the very top of our list are the Samsung DV40J3000EW (starting at $398), which boasts a lot more space and features than many comparably priced models, and the Whirlpool WED4815EW (starting at $449), which earns lots of love for quiet and effective operation. Two other electric models we like are the Hotpoint HTX21EASKWW (starting at $329) and the GE GTD33EASKWW (starting at $449), both of which are basic models that don't skimp on performance; the Hotpoint is cheaper but the GE is larger.
One inexpensive model that receives too much mixed feedback to earn a spot on our list of favorites is the Kenmore 65132 (starting at $387), knocked by experts for performance and design quirks. We also suggest steering clear of the Roper RED4516FW (starting at $299), which is a bit of a question mark: User assessments of reliability and performance are sparse and swing wildly between pro and con.
Consumers in search of a cheap gas dryer could consider the gas versions of each of the electric dryers we recommend. Most run $50 to $100 more than the electric versions, and should be a good bet. We also are impressed with the gas Maytag MGDC215EW (starting at $499), a roomy workhorse with a few extras, and the Amana NGD4655EW (starting at $400), a slightly smaller model that's about as budget-friendly as a gas dryer gets.
Editor's Note: Like many large consumer appliances dryers go on sale often, so prices are subject to frequent change. Major holidays may be the best opportunity to snag a deal; starting with Memorial Day and progressing through Labor Day bargains may increase as retailers prepare for manufacturers to announce new models in the Fall. Prices listed here were accurate at the time of writing in early August 2017.
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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
Electric Dryers Reviews: What We Considered
When it comes to dryers, price doesn't necessarily seem to affect users' satisfaction. A recent kitchen and laundry survey by J.D. Power ranks LG highest in the dryers segment, scoring especially well for user-friendliness, features, performance, and reliability. Samsung and Maytag models fall in right behind, with Whirlpool in the middle of the pack. Kenmore, GE, Amana, and Frigidaire land at the bottom. That said, evaluating cheap dryers can be difficult, whether one is looking at the top of the heap or the bottom. Performance is relatively consistent among budget-priced models -- at least, more consistent than with low-cost washers -- and there aren't a lot of features to differentiate among them.
To make our picks, we combed through expert assessments from sources including Consumer Reports, Reviewed.com, and CNET. Most important, however, are reviews by everyday users at retailer sites such as Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy, and AJ Madison. For the most part, customers generally don't expect a lot of bells and whistles for bottom-dollar prices and are pleased with budget dryers as long as they consistently dry the washables. The factors that elevate one model slightly above another include a spacious drum, efficiency, durability, quiet operation, good design, and extra features. As noted, however, differences in this category can be very slight.
Performance.The dryers that made it to our pick list garner favorable reviews from the vast majority of users. For instance, hundreds of reviewers on Lowe's say the GE GTD33EASKWW is worth buying despite its lack of advanced features, with most noting it dries laundry quickly and evenly. The Whirlpool WED4815EW wins even more support, with 95 percent of the thousands of reviews posted at Home Depot touting its effectiveness even with large, bulky loads.
No dryer, regardless of price, is immune to performance complaints, however. For example, although the gas-fueled Amana NGD4655EW scores overwhelming approval for drying clothes quickly, some reviewers on Home Depot say it takes multiple cycles to get things dry enough. We also noticed occasional complaints about drying temperatures in some models. Experts with Reviewed.com say the Kenmore 65132 is too hot on even the coolest cycle, which could make drying delicate items dicey. They also ding that machine's timed-dry settings for being imprecise; a 30-minute cycle actually clocked in at 39 minutes. "Too hot" is the site's criticism of the Whirlpool WED4815EW, as well. By contrast, the Samsung DV40J3000EW racks up raves at Home Depot for its precise moisture-sensor cycles that don't leave clothes scorching hot.
Capacity.Reviews indicate that consumers care how much a dryer can hold. The size of dryers' drums, however, varies little in the Cheapism price zone, typically running about 6 to a little more than 7 cubic feet. Capacity in all of our top picks falls within this range, which is sufficient to accommodate oversize items such as comforters or winter jackets. Users' comments suggest it probably isn't worth paying much more for an extra half cubic foot of space. The smallest normal-capacity dryer among our picks is the Hotpoint HTX21EASKWW. With a 6.2 cubic-foot capacity, it easily manages the load for a smaller household and may be the best fit for tight laundry rooms or closets. Our two other favorite electric dryers, the Samsung DV40J3000EW and GE GTD33EASKWW, offer more space at 7.2 cubic feet.
While large or "mega" capacity dryers are priced above our $500 ceiling, we recognize that some bigger families need a bigger dryer. One of the best values we researched among larger-capacity dryers is the Electrolux EFME417SIW (starting at $700), which boasts an 8-cubic-foot drum. Conversely, smaller or space-crunched households may appreciate a more compact appliance. These units also tend to be pricier, but for those who require a dryer with a smaller footprint our favorite space-saving model is the GE Spacemaker DSKP333ECWW (starting at $578). At less than 2 feet across, with a capacity of 3.6 cubic feet, this is a smart pick for apartment dwellers. It's stackable with a compatible washer, portable, and requires a regular 120-volt outlet instead of the 220-volt hookup needed by other electric models.
Efficiency.Unfortunately, clothes dryers aren't noted for efficiency. One positive development: In the past few years, some dryers have become efficient enough to bear the coveted Energy Star logo, which indicates a 20 percent drop in energy use versus non-qualified competitors. The bad news? This label is nowhere to be found on cheap dryers -- the least-expensive Energy Star dryers cost about $700 on sale, and more commonly $800 and above. The larger-size Electrolux EFME417SIW is the only dryer we researched that is Energy Star-certified for efficiency, but like other more efficient models, it comes with a higher cost.
Anecdotally, reviewers seem slightly more satisfied with how quickly gas dryers complete the job. Indeed, this was a comment we saw frequently in reviews of the Maytag MGDC215EW and the Amana NGD4655EW, two inexpensive gas models.
Regardless whether the dryer is gas or electric, keep vents unobstructed to boost efficiency and reduce fire hazards. A model with a moisture sensor, which prompts the machine to shut off when the desired level of dryness is reached, is an efficiency enhancer. Different and more precise than a temperature sensor, which monitors air temperature, a moisture sensor is a definite improvement over dryers that don't use sensors at all and simply shut off after a specified period of time. Moisture sensors can help cut energy consumption by as much as 15 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. In the Cheapism price range, the only two models with moisture sensors are the Samsung DV40J3000EW and the Kenmore 65132, although only the former graces our list of favorites. Consumers willing to pay a bit more might look at the Whirlpool WED49STBW (starting at $624) and Electrolux EFME417SIW, both of which feature moisture sensors as well as the added bonus of steam cycles.
Design.Forget about frills or fancy aesthetics on budget dryers. Nearly every model we looked at is a plain white box, and most have simple-but-barebones dial controls. One exception: The Samsung DV40J3000EW, while still a white box, features electronic push-button controls and LED indicator lights. The only model we researched with a glass window is the more expensive Electrolux EFME417SIW. Its generous capacity initially earning it inclusion in our report, it might also appeal to those who want a sleeker design, including electronic controls and an LED display.
Despite the lack of distinctive looks amongst cheap dryers, there are still some notable design differences that inspire reviewers' thumbs-up (or down). One is how the dryer door opens. Most dryers have a door that swings open from the side (which side usually can be changed depending on buyer needs). However, a handful feature hamper-style doors that open from the top and swing down. These get mixed feedback: Some owners like having a platform they can use to fold fresh laundry straight out of the dryer and others find the setup awkward. Two models we researched, the Whirlpool WED49STBW and the Kenmore 65132, come with hamper-style doors. A reviewer on CNET complains that the Kenmore's door seems both small and narrow while Reviewed.com notes that the exposed hinges may snag clothing. Users of the Whirlpool mostly like the hamper door, review posts on Home Depot's website say that it keeps clothes off the floor and is a better fit in a cramped laundry space.
Another design feature to note: The location of the lint trap. Among the dryers we researched, about half have wider lint traps that slide out of the door. The others have longer, top-mounted lint traps that slide out toward the back near the control panel. For the most part, reviewers prefer the door-mounted version, saying it's harder to clean the top-mounted traps without lint flying everywhere. It may also be easier to remember to clean a door-mounted filter after each load, which helps keep a dryer performing its best and reduces the risk of fire. The Samsung DV40J3000EW, GE GTD33EASKWW, Hotpoint HTX21EASKWW, and Electrolux EFME417SIW all have door-mounted lint traps.
Extra Cycles/Features.Entry-level dryers come with a handful of basic cycle settings. Options such as timed dry, automatic, and no heat or air-only are standard on most dryers, high-end and budget alike, as are a few temperature choices (e.g., high, medium, and low). When marketing for a cheap dryer claims a large number of cycles, it likely means the manufacturer includes every cycle length alongside every temperature level in that number (e.g. delicates, fluff air, 60-minute timed dry, 50-minute timed dry, etc.). For example, the gas Maytag MGDC215EW claims a whopping 15 cycles, but choices really boil down to heavy duty, timed dry, damp dry, air dry, and auto dry.
A steam cycle is one coveted option that buyers won't be getting in the Cheapism price range. If steam is a must, we'd recommend going with the Whirlpool WED49STBW; at $700 or so this is about as cheap as it gets for a dryer with this feature. As mentioned, the Electrolux EFME417SIW also boasts a steam cycle.
Reviewers are often perturbed to find that some cheap dryers lack a buzzer that alerts them when the cycle is over. Among the electric models we favor, the Samsung DV40J3000EW and Hotpoint HTX21EASKWW forgo this feature; so do the gas Amana NGD4655EW and GE Spacemaker DSKP333ECWW. Buyers of these models should prepare to set a timer if they want to grab their laundry right away. One end-of-cycle alert that inspires passionate comments shows up on the GE GTD33EASKWW, which several posts on Home Depot say is too long and loud.
A wrinkle prevention option that keeps clothes tumbling for a while without heat after a cycle is over is another feature that appears in many, but not all, budget dryers. The electric GE GTD33EASKWW and Hotpoint HTX21EASKWW lack this feature. And while an interior light might seem fairly basic, it doesn't appear in most lower-priced dryers. Among those we researched, only the Kenmore 65132 has a light. Step up the price ladder to the gas Maytag MGDC215EW, electric Whirlpool WED49STBW, and Electrolux EFME417SIW and see the (drum) light.
Noise/Vibration.Purchasers of inexpensive dryers must accept the fact that they aren't whisper-quiet. Manufacturers' attention to noise and more sophisticated sound-dampening is more common on pricier models. Reviews of every model we researched contain some grousing about noise even as others rave about quiet operation. Noise is a special concern for those who must position washers and dryers close to their living quarters. Unfortunately, whether one dryer is excessively noisy compared with others is a pretty subjective call, as most users aren't comparing two dryers side by side.
Among our picks, the Whirlpool WED4815EW, Hotpoint HTX21EASKWW, GE GTD33EASKWW (annoying end-of-cycle buzzer aside) notch higher-than-average marks for quiet operation in expert tests. So does the pricier Electrolux EFME417SIW. Experts say the Kenmore 65132 is noisier than the other models we researched, although most owners don't seem bothered. One comment on Sears' site describes the Kenmore as being "nearly silent."
Durability.Fortunately, dryers are more reliable than washers, with a much lower repair rate, experts say. This is, perhaps, because dryers are technologically simple: Air is sucked in, passed over a heating element, and pulled into the tumbler, where it evaporates the water in the washables. Moist air is then forced out through the dryer vent, to be replaced by another round of hot, dry air.
Major dryer manufacturers tell experts that washers should last about 10 years with normal residential usage, which is roughly in line with Angie's List's estimate of an eight- to 12-year lifespan. According to HomeAdvisor, if something does go wrong, common issues include squeaky belts (a $200 fix), overheating ($50 to $100), or a busted heating element ($30 to $200).
So which brands are most dependable? Experts who test appliances give the nod to LG for both gas and electric configurations, which boast repair rates that are notably lower than other brands. Samsung is least reliable in the electric segment, while Frigidaire is at the bottom of the heap for gas.
Among our picks, no dryer escapes complaints about durability, and it seems as though there are always some owners who wind up with a lemon. Although the vast majority report no problems with the Samsung DV40J3000EW, some posts on Home Depot say the unit stopped heating up after anywhere from a few months to a year. Some reviewers posting on Lowe's say they've had issues with the door of the GE GTD33EASKWW not latching tightly enough to allow the dryer to operate, or worse, the latch loosening just enough to shut off the dryer mid-cycle.