Product overview

Welcome to New Zealand's trusted, independent source of practical information. We provide recommendations on products and trusted businesses, exclusive deals and consumer advice. 

Washing machines

14jan washing machines hero default

Which washing machine is best?

We’ve tested the dirt removal, gentleness and efficiency of a wide range of top- and front-loading washing machines, plus we’ve tested 6 washer-dryers. Use our test results database to find the model and price that’s right for you.

On this page

From our test

27aug miele wkr770 wps pwashtdos xl w1 small

Get instant access to 71 washing machine test results.

We’ve tested the dirt removal, gentleness and efficiency of a wide range of top- and front-loading washing machines, plus we’ve tested 6 washer-dryers. Use our test results database to find the model and price that’s right for you. Join Consumer and use our expert test results and recommendations to find the model that's right for you.

Types of washing machine

There are 2 main types of washing machine - top loaders and front loaders. These wash equally well – they just do it differently. Another option is a combination washing machine and dryer.

Top-loading washing machines

Top loaders usually get clothes clean by vigorously swirling them back and forth in the water. They’re faster than front loaders but can be tougher on your clothes.

If you just need a machine to get the dirt out of non-delicate clothes and fabrics, any of the top loaders in our test will do a good job.

Impellers or agitators?
Top-loading washing machines have 2 options for swirling the load: an agitator (central spindle), or an impeller (a small bump at the bottom of the bowl). Impellers spin and pulse to turn the washing over, rather than twisting it. Washing machines with impellers tend to be easier to load and unload, but their dirt removal isn't always as good as agitator models.


  • Faster.
  • You can add extra items after the wash starts (you can do this with some front loaders, too).


  • Can be tough on your clothes.
  • Use more water.
  • Use more energy on a warm or a hot wash.

Front-loading washing machines

Front loaders remove dirt by gently turning the clothes over and over. They are more energy efficient and use less water than top loaders (but can produce stiff, rough or scratchy towels as a result).

If you have lots of delicate items in your wardrobe, a gentle front-loading machine with a cycle for hand-washable items will help your clothes last longer.


  • Use less water than top loaders.
  • Use less energy on a warm or a hot wash than top loaders.
  • Gentler on clothes.


  • Take a lot longer to get through their cycles than top loaders.
  • Can't always add extra items after the wash starts.
  • Can produce stiff scratchy towels if the model is too water efficient.


A washer-dryer does the job of a washing machine and clothes dryer in a single appliance. The dryer component is a condenser dryer, which uses a heat exchanger to remove heat and water from air that has passed through your clothes. The water is collected in a reservoir or funnelled down a drain. The heat exchanger uses water as its coolant, which means water is used for both washing and drying.


  • Good for compact spaces without room for both a washing machine and dryer.
  • The dryer doesn't need to be vented outside.
  • The washing cycle time is comparable to a standard front-loading washing machine.


  • The drying cycle takes a long time. The washer-dryers in our test took between 222 and 403 minutes (that's over 6½ hours!) to wash and dry a 3.5kg load.
  • The drying capacity may be less than their washing capacity.

Features to consider

If you're thinking about buying a washing machine, there are several features you need to consider.

Machine size

We’ve tested washing machines of all sizes – from 5.5kg to 10kg – to help you find a model that’s the right size for your household. You’d expect a large-capacity machine that automatically adjusts its water level to match the size of the load to be just as good as a smaller-capacity machine. However, our tests have found water-level sensors don’t always accurately adjust the water level, so you’re better off buying a washing machine that’s the right size for your household.

Work it out
To calculate what capacity washing machine you need, weigh the maximum load you wash. If you have a set of bathroom scales, hop on with an empty washing basket for the base reading, then fill the basket with the maximum amount you’d wash at one time. Get back on the scales with the full basket, then subtract the first measurement from the second to get your load weight. Now you know what size you need.

Some washing machines are not as big as they claim. If you buy a washer and it doesn't wash a full load properly, or the clothes get clogged on the agitator, or it regularly goes out of balance during spin cycles, you should complain to the retailer.

The Consumer Guarantees Act says a product must be fit for its purpose. If your "8kg" machine washes only 6kg of clothes, you have the right to get it fixed or replaced, or to get your money back.


Most washing machines wash clothes well. But there can be big differences in the additional features they offer, and these affect the price. When you're looking at the price tags, remember: higher price does not always equal better performance.

If you're buying a top loader, the extra money should buy you a machine that will adjust the wash to match the load size and maybe even the fabric. This can mean lower energy costs, lower water use and even lower fabric wear, with the convenience of not having to worry about the cycle you choose.

With front-loading models, paying more generally means more features like spin speeds, electronic controls and the like.

Other considerations

Here are some additional features to consider when buying a washing machine.

  • Cycle time: Top-loading washing machines are generally much faster than front-loading machines on the normal cycle. But, all machines have a range of cycle times to choose from. Most front loaders have fast wash cycles that come close to matching the time taken by top loaders on the normal cycle.
  • Spin efficiency: Machines with a spin speed of 1000rpm will remove a good amount of water, cutting down on drying time. But faster spin speeds can mean more creasing (and possibly more ironing). Look for a model that allows you to select the spin speed independently from the wash cycle.
  • Cold washes: Cold washes are definitely good for the environment, and most laundry detergents are formulated to work in 15 to 20°C cold water. But some front-loading models can't do a genuine cold wash. Several models in our test could only do a 30°C wash when set on a "normal" or "cottons" wash cycle. That's very close to the "warm" setting on many machines.

    If you live in a really cold climate, some machines will do a "controlled cold" wash where a small amount of hot water is used to lift the wash temperature to around 20°C. This helps the detergent dissolve properly.

    Tip: Warmer water makes most detergents more effective - so for those really dirty loads, a warm wash should give you cleaner clothes.

  • Out of balance: Many models now have an out-of-balance correction function. If the load gets too unevenly distributed during the wash, the machine will stop, tumble or agitate gently to re-arrange the load, and start again. It's really valuable if you put on a load overnight and want to throw it on the line before you go to work.

  • Vibrating floorboards: Concrete floors cope best with the extra weight and vibrations of a front loader, but most manufacturers say that standing a front loader on a timber floor shouldn’t cause damage to the floor … provided the floor is in good condition, is level, and can hold the machine’s weight … and provided the machine’s feet are adjusted properly and stabilise automatically. To prevent scratches on polished timber flooring, you might want to put a non-slip mat under the machine.

    If the floorboards are in poorer condition, some manufacturers advise putting a panel under the machine to distribute its weight evenly. Miele goes further: it recommends screwing the panel through the floorboards into as many floor joists as possible, to help minimise vibration. It also suggests putting the machine in a corner where the floor is most stable.

  • Woollens wash cycles: Almost all washing machines have a wash cycle that is suitable for washing woollen items labelled as machine washable. It may be called a "wool" cycle or you may have to adapt another wash cycle such as “delicates” by shortening the wash time, lowering the spin speed and/or setting the water temperature to warm.

    Some front loaders have an extra-gentle cycle for items labelled handwash only – including woollens. It may be called "handwash" or "handwash/woollens". You won't find this feature in top-loading machines – they're typically not gentle enough.

    If a model has this feature, we give it a tick for "woollens cycle – hand-washable" in the full specifications section of the test results.

Washing machine Top Brands

The Top Brand award recognises brands that perform consistently well across product testing, reliability and customer satisfaction.

You need to become a paying Consumer member or log in to see this content.

Buying second hand

Washing machines often get heavy use - so if buying second hand, newer is better.

  • Only buy if the machine looks tidy and well cared for. Fisher & Paykel is the most common second-hand brand - but they can be expensive to repair.
  • Stick to well-known reliable brands. And buy a machine that's less than 5 years old; it'll be easier to get parts if anything needs fixing. See our reliability data for what brands to look for.
  • Looking at a front loader? Check the door seal is intact and the door shuts properly.
  • Under the Electricity Act, all electrical appliances for sale must be safe - whether they're new or second-hand, bought privately or from a dealer.
  • Check that all connecting and drainage hoses are intact and in good condition.
  • If you buy from a second-hand dealer and then discover the machine's faulty, you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you buy privately, you're not.


We've looked at the reliability of top- and front-loading washing machines.

Want to know which washing machine brands are the most reliable? Upgrade to a paying membership.

Water conservation

Washing machines are getting better at extracting dirt with less water. Some machines are also designed to rinse well despite using less water.

Become a Gold or Silver member to find out more.

Wash problems

Here's our advice for dealing with common washing problems.

Become a Gold or Silver member to access this content.

About our test

How our washing machines tests have changed.

We used to test washing machines on a "full load". So if a machine had a maximum capacity of 7kg, that’s how much we stuffed into it. As our past tests found, this wasn't always easy to do – and we also know this isn't what people do at home.

We now test washing machines using a smaller (3.5kg) load. Our research shows this is about in the middle of the range of amounts that most people wash, whatever the size of their machine.

We retested several machines from previous tests with a 3.5kg load. We found:

  • Increased water savings in machines (particularly front loaders) that have an auto-sensing water level feature.
  • Changes in dirt-removal performance (better for front loaders; worse for top loaders).
  • Better rinse performance in both front and top loaders.
  • Improved gentleness in top loaders (though not enough to make them as gentle as front loaders).
  • Shorter cycle times (and lower running costs) for many machines.

We've also revised our rating scale so that dirt removal is the most important part of the scoring. Dirt removal now accounts for 50 percent of the overall score (up from 40 percent). Rinsing accounts for 20 percent; and gentleness, water efficiency and spin efficiency are each worth 10 percent.

Disappointing scores
We were surprised to find some top loaders – including those that sense the load size and adjust their water level accordingly – made very little adjustment to their water use when washing a 3.5kg load.

We asked Fisher & Paykel why its WA70T60FW1 FabricSmart top loader used 166 litres of water to wash a 3.5kg load – 11 litres more than when we tested it at full (7kg) capacity.

F&P responded that the FabricSmart machine responds to the types of fabrics in the load. We use an Australian/New Zealand Standard test load made up of sheets, pillowcases and heavy cotton towels: the machine senses these heavy-duty fabrics and adds water accordingly. Fisher & Paykel says its machine would use less water when washing a mixed load of clothes and towels.

Our recommendations
We recommend front loaders that score at least 80 percent overall and 8.0 or better for dirt removal. If you prefer top loaders, we recommend those that score at least 65 percent overall and 7.0 or better for dirt removal.

We don't recommend brands that rate "below average" in our reliability survey. That’s why some well-performing models are "worth considering" rather than recommended.