Washing Machine Buying Guide

UK Washing Machine Buying Guide

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  1. Introduction
    Ok, you have decided that your old washing machine has reached an age and condition that requires drastic action. In fact it needs burial, or re-incarnation in the form of tin cans etc. You may have never had a washing machine, been using your Mum’s one, taking your clothes down to the launderette or bashing them on a rock in a local river. Whatever way you look at it, you would not be reading this unless you wanted to buy one now, and you don’t have a clue which machine is going to be best for you. I am assuming that you live in Great Britain, otherwise all this advice is going to waste!
    One thing is certain: That is that there is no single machine that will be perfect for everybody. It really is a question of working out what your needs are and concentrating on finding a machine that will satisfy those needs, rather than just relying on someone to tell you what is the ‘best’. In the menu on the left you will find a list of the most important things to consider, and if you click on any subject you should get some ideas. Make some sort of note of your needs from each section, then you will not be so bewildered when you go to buy.
    All the comments and suggestions are just my own independent opinions as an independent washing machine repairer: I have no allegiance to any manufacturer.

  2. Rebadging
    Some manufacturers have merged together or have agreements to make machines for each other. This means, for example, that you might find that a Bendix machine might be made by Zanussi, or an Indesit might be made by Ariston. I suppose this does not matter unless you had a Brand X or an Brand Y machine, and you did not want to buy another one! It also means that you might find a quality brand with an odd name on it, or more suspect, a cheaper brand with a quality name on it. So have a good look at the machines for similarities of the main drum and cabinet, and if they are identical, consider the possibility that they are made in the same factory. The worst situation might be a large retail company that sources its own brand machine from a spurious manufacturer, which might leave you high and dry if you ever want service or spares for it.
    I would say the safest bet if you are not sure is to ask someone who has been in the trade for a while to tell you about the pedigree of any machine.

  3. Delay Timers
    If you want to have your machine come on when there is cheap electricity, then you will need either an external plug-in timer, or a built in delay timer. If the machine is a push button, digital control model you cannot use an external plug-in timer, so check that this feature is included if it is important to you. Most manufacturers include this feature only on their more expensive models, and if it is the only extra feature that you need, buy an external plug in timer and save some money by getting a more basic machine. Also bear in mind that if the delay timer goes wrong you can replace an external one yourself easily, but the one built into the machine will be a specialist job to repair.

  4. Design
    In Great Britain there are three basic design types of washing machine commonly available, the most popular by far being the front loader. The main advantage is that our kitchens are usually designed to accommodate these machines and their popularity means that prices are cheaper than other types. They also lend themselves to integration into the kitchen design with the use of facia panels or cupboard doors. All the main manufacturers sell machines in this design.
    There are also two designs of top loading machine. The first is basically the same as a front loader except that the drum is accessed from the top and clothes are put into the drum through a trap-door in the drum itself. This type of machine has its controls on the top at the back and because the drum is mounted sideways it is much narrower. The main manufacturers that make this style are Siemens/Bosch and Whirlpool.

    The second type has a wash tub with access from the top, but the washing of the clothes is done by a central agitator that rotates back and forth. The spin is achieved by the rotation of the drum which is mounted on its side inside the wash tub. This design is very common in the USA and provides a very good wash due to the central agitator. American models are available here, but service is not that easy to obtain. The only manufacturer supplying this style here which has a large service network is Hotpoint, whose top loading automatic has been pretty well the same machine for 30 years. Advantages include the fact that you can add the odd item after the wash has started, there is a bit less bending to load and empty the machine, and the wash quality is good.

  5. Ease of Use
    A lot of people worry about washing machines being complicated to operate. To be honest this really is not something that you should consider to any extent, since all machines have the same basic functions, and if you ignore all the extra buttons and options they will just get on with the job without any extra special attention from you. The main point to realise if you are worried about this aspect is that you should consider the cheaper model ranges because they will always have fewer extra options on them. If you have difficulty operating control knobs and find them too stiff or fiddly, check out the machines that have digital push button controls. As I have said above, don’t worry about them being too complicated – no washing machine is difficult to operate.

  6. Efficiency
    There are several methods used on washing machines today to increase efficiency. These include various methods of recirculating water during the wash, extending the wash time and using a circuit board to control the various functions of the machine. On machines with ‘Intelligence’ or ‘Fuzzy Logic’ fill level is controlled by the machine’s circuit board by computing the weight of washing according to the effort required to turn the drum. On advanced systems the heater is controlled through-out the wash, maintaining an optimum temperature rather than reaching a preset temperature and indexing on at that point. The level of logic control varies from machine to machine, and it is often difficult to assess the true extent of its scope. If you are doing a lot of washing or you have a water meter, it is worth considering machines that have a reasonable level of logic control. Machines that have extra circulating pumps are prone to internal blockages and wear of the circulating pump itself since it is in operation throughout the wash cycle.

  7. Guarantee
    All manufacturers give a twelve month parts and labour guarantee. Some give an extra guarantee on parts for a number of years, but this is always dependent on using their own service engineers, for whom you have to pay an expensive call-out and labour rate. Extended guarantees are available from most manufacturers, and details are usually included in the documentation of the machine. You can buy an extended guarantee after you have bought the machine, so do not buy an extended guarantee at the point of sale unless you are absolutely certain that you need it, and that the deal being offered is better than the manufacturers own deal (which is highly unlikely!). If you are washing for a family of four I would say take a risk and don’t bother with an extended guarantee unless you are a hardened washing machine abuser. If you have a family of six or above, consider the manufacturers five year pay in one go deal.

  8. Load
    As a quick guide to load capacity for full size washing machines a 4kg load is small and a 7kg load is big. Note that the maximum load capacity is not based on fleecy absorbent fabrics: the maximum load for these fabrics will always be less.

  9. Noise Level
    You might think this is not important if your machine is in the garage or the utility room but even if you can’t hear it, someone else might be able to, or you might want to operate it at night when any noise will be noticable. If your machine is in the kitchen and you use that room or the adjoining room as a living area you will certainly want to consider a quiet machine. Most manufacturers will give some sort of noise level information. As a general rule the more expensive machines are quieter, but some of the cheaper machines can be surprisingly silent. If noise is an issue, make sure that the machine you choose has at least a reasonably low noise level. The faster a machine spins, the more noise it will tend to generate, so this can be a trade off situation if you need a really fast spin. As a guide to noise levels, a machine producing around 70 db on the spin programme is a quiet one.

  10. Price
    There is a huge range of prices for washing machines, from about £200 to around £1000. Paying a lot of money, however, does not guarantee you will get exactly what you want, and it is worth remembering that an expensive machine will be expensive and difficult to repair if it goes wrong. If you invest £500 in an up-market model of any manufacturer, the main wearable components are likely to be the same as the £300 models. In other words you might get more twiddly bits, but the machine will not be of better build quality. The thing to watch for is the dreaded cloning process by which a manufacturer will buy machines from another manufacturer and then put their name badges on it. For instance if you see a cheap Bosch machine it might be from a Spanish factory rather than a German one. If a machine is very cheap, have a good look at the drum and cabinet design to make sure it has the same build quality as the more expensive models.
    Consider also the worse case of something really serious happening after 5 years. If the initial purchase price was not too high, then replacement is not such a painful option. If you paid £900 for a machine and it needs a £300 repair you likely to consider a repair, but of course you could have bought 4 £300 machines instead! From an economical standpoint the cheaper or mid-range machines are always the best bet, so long as they are from a quality manufacturer.

  11. Reliability
    To establish reliability a machine has to have a good track record, but it is not safe to assume that because you had a certain make previously that gave you years of trouble-free service that the same machine will be as good this time round. Even the best manufacturers bring out a weak range of machines from time to time. Some of the best deals are to be found when a manufacturer brings out a decent design after a poor one, and some of the worst when the reverse occurs. The safest option is to consider models that have been out for long enough to have proven themselves in the field. Try speaking to someone who repairs them under warrantee if you can, or at least someone who is involved with that side of the business. A really bad machine means trouble for the salesman, and they are quickly dropped from the stocklist of the smaller independent shops: The bigger shops tend to be a bit slower to react to adverse reliability in my opinion.

  12. Size
    Standard front loading automatic washing machines are all 60cm wide, so if you need something narrower you will have to consider either a top-loader, or a mini machine. Most front loaders have a height of 85cm, but occasionally they will be a little over or under, so measure carefully. There is quite a lot of difference on depths, but it pays to look at the shape of the machine at the back and the front, because any protusions might give a misleading overall depth.
    There is currently at least one shallow machine (a Zanussi), but it has a smaller load capacity.

  13. Spin Speed
    There are still a few very slow spin models around in the cheaper ranges, but generally machines start at about 800rpm and go up to about 1600rpm. The most popular spin speed is about 1000rpm, which will be fast enough for most people, unless you have to tumble dry all your washing. As a rule, the faster the spin on a machine, the more expensive it is and the quicker it will wear out. This is because the faster machines often have extra facilities to help justify the price, and because they simply have to rotate the drum more times per wash than the slower ones. Of course it does not really cost much more to make a slightly faster spinning machine, as all the basic components are the same, but sometimes the faster models are a lot more expensive. There is also the consideration that some machine will peak at a very high speed, but will not maintain it for a long period, so there overall performance for getting water out may not be as good as the spin speed suggests. As a rule of thumb anything over 1200rpm is not really worth it in my opinion, and 1000rpm will usually be quite adequate.

  14. Washer Dryers
    When it come to talking about buying new machines, I am asked about washer-dryers more than any other subject. They can be a good idea if you are really stuck for a place to put a dryer, and you only need to use the drying function occasionally. If you have anywhere to put a dryer, get a separate one! If you have to get a washer dryer, remember that the drying load is only half of a wash load, and that you cannot wash while the machine is drying. This can be a big problem if you have a busy life and you want to do all your washing in one day. There is often a marginal increase in the number of service problems of course, because there are more parts inside the machine, and those parts are packed inside the cabinet more closely. As a rule of thumb it is usually ok to buy a washer-dryer for one or two people, but for a family it is a real compromise compared to two separate machines.

  15. Wash Time
    The length of the wash programme is very important to a few people, but to most it is not a even a consideration. That is, until they unwittingly buy a machine that takes well over two hours for a normal wash, and find themselves having to advance the programme to get their school uniforms out on a Sunday night in time to dry for Monday! The worst machines for long programmes tend to be the ‘A’ energy rated eco-models that work with less heat by extending the wash time. Some machines have a ‘quick wash’ programme or a ‘timesaver’ button to make a normal wash quicker. If wash time is important to you either check the washtimes in the brochure or look for these features. If you are considering buying a standard 1000 spin model with an average energy rating, a 60 degree wash will be around 1 hour 30 minutes depending on the temperature of the hot water feed.


Please note that all the advice given is intended only as a guide and that no responsibility for loss or damage will be accepted as a result of implementation of such advice. If you are not confident about what to do, leave it to a repairman. Under no circumstances remove the top cover,the backcover, or access the underside of the washing machine when the electricity supply is still connected. If you do look inside the washing machine, always disconnect the power completely rather than just switching it off at the switch as there may be an error in the house wiring that means that the live side of the supply is still running through the washing machine.

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2 Responses to “Washing Machine Buying Guide”

  1. wml says:

    Thankyou very much for your comment!
    We do our best to give as much information and advice as we can on repairing and buying new appliances.
    It is very rare now days to receive praise as so much is expected from companies!
    Thankyou again and please do not hesitate to contact us with any query how ever big or small as we are here to help!

    [Reply]

  2. Mose says:

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    [Reply]

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