If I only have you for 3 seconds, remember this: Buy a top-loading, Whirlpool made, washing machine. (2010 models or older. DO NOT BUY newer Whirlpool washers that have LED lights under the timer, they are junk.) Yes, I said top loading. This is the advice I tell my closest friends and family. It’s been the conclusion of my experience of buying and selling thousands appliances over these past years. If you need more proof, go to any used appliance store and see what kind of washers they sell, and also which brands they carry.
UPDATE for 2016: Where should you buy your used washing machine?
For a long time I used to recommend people to always get their appliances for as cheap as possible. But over these past years, and buying thousands of low priced appliances to refurbish and then resell, I’ve learned things that have caused me to change my recommendations. Here are a few things I’ve learned and where I now recommend you buy your next washing machine from.
1. There is something wrong with over half of the appliances you will buy from regular people. Some of the time the problem will not be known, as many owners don’t easily recognize when their machines need repair. Other times people will be deceptive, and focus on the fact that technically the appliance still works, while failing to mention issues they know exist, which need to be addressed. My conclusion is that you cannot just trust the word of regular appliance owners on the true condition of their appliance anymore than you could someone on the trust condition of a used car. It’s not wise to buy a used car without having your mechanic inspect it first, and the same goes for many used appliances unless you can afford the risk of buying a broken machine.
2. Washing machines need repair almost twice as often as dryers. (This is the main reason why they are more expensive than used dryers.) Washers have a lot of parts that can break and they take a lot of abuse. So washing machines are even more likely to have something wrong with them unless they have been inspected and been refurbished to great working condition.
3. Washing machines are very heavy, twice as heavy as dryers, and can be very difficult to move without the right equipment and transportation. This alone causes me to recommend a used appliance business for most people let alone the risk of that machine being broken after all that work.
So, for most people, I now recommend buying from a used appliance reseller. The prices you will pay are higher than buying from a private party, but you are paying for a machine that has been inspected, parts replaced, cleaned, often painted and which includes a warranty backing up the machine. You also get the machine delivered and setup which again, by itself is worth it. The extra value you get and the the time you will save buying from an appliance business is most definitely worth the cost.
I’ve also scrapped hundreds of washing machines, many that were given to me for free. The vast majority of these were non-Whirlpool brands. Over time you begin to see some pretty consistent patterns.
How do you know if it’s a top-loading Whirlpool washing machine?
If you can drop your clothes straight down from above the washing machine, and they land inside the washer, then it’s a top-loader machine. Whirlpool makes washing machines under the following brands;
Kenmore (top loading only)
Why purchase top loading washing machines?
1. They are the most reliable and least likely to break down. Appliances are like cars. No matter how good the car is, there is always going to be maintenance that needs to be done. The more you use them, the more maintenance will be needed. That said, all cars are not created equal. Some need to have their transmission replaced far sooner than others. It’s wise to know which cars tend to need the least amount of maintenance and the least expensive repairs. The same goes for washing machines.
2. They are the easiest and cheapest to fix. They have a very simple, functional design that makes it quick and easy to do most of the repairs. Front loaders are 4-5 times more expensive to repair when, not if, they need maintenance. Also, front loaders tend to be a nightmare to work on.
3. They wash clothes better than front-loaders. Front loader washing machines use less water, which is great as long as your clothes aren’t dirty. Washing machines don’t use magic to clean clothes, they use water. The dirtier the clothes, the more water that is going to be needed to clean them.
4. They wash clothes faster. Conventional top load washers usually take about 30 minutes to complete a load, where front loaders can take two to three times that long.
5. They are cheaper to purchase. Most front loaders are anywhere from two to four times the cost of a regular top loading machine new, and I would say that holds up for used machines as well.
Why purchase only Whirlpool made top loading washers?
1. They have been making them since 1949. Kenmore’s brand name is largely associated with quality because of Whirlpool. Whirlpool has been making Kenmore washers, as well as the other brands I listed, for more than 20 years.
2. Whirlpool made washers are easier to repair than other brands. They have a very simple, functional design that makes it possible for even regular homeowners to do many of the repairs themselves. Most of the other brands are much more expensive to fix and are more prone to breaking down. For this reason, most used appliance stores don’t sell other brands, mostly because of the likelihood of them breaking again within the six month warranty period.
How much should you pay for one?
You can expect to pay anywhere from $150-$300. Buying the washer from a used appliance reseller is going to cost a bit more than buying from a private party, but you are getting a machine that has been cleaned, tested, maintenance done as well as a warranty that backs it up.
How do you inspect the washing machine prior to purchase?
If you are buying from a used appliance business, you don’t need to inspect the machine as they come with a warranty. Used appliance shops do not want to have to come out to your house and fix something, so you can bet the appliance has been thoroughly inspected.
When buying from a private party, in a nutshell, you want to see as many things working as possible. Usually it is difficult to hook water back up to the washer, but you can test out the spin cycle anywhere there is power or an extension cord. Make sure it spins pretty fast once it gets going and stops within a few seconds of when you lift the lid while it’s spinning.
Check the lid switch. When shutting the lid, make sure you hear a crisp clicking sound, which is the lid switch. No clicking sound means the lid switch is broken.
Listen for weird sounds. Any really abnormal sounds or violent vibrations are indicators that something is amiss.
Check the agitator in the middle. If you twist it back clockwise a little, then forward counter clock wise, you should feel the agitator “dogs” catch and cause the agitator to twist.
Watch out for rust inside the drum where the clothes sit. If the person left clothes wet sitting in the drum a lot, it can cause rust at times to form. This will stain your clothes and you want to avoid buying the washer in this case.
Dents and scratches are fine.
Ideally, the washer is still plugged in and being used at the person’s house. This is the safest situation. It means that it probably works fine and isn’t leaking. It also means that you can turn on the washer and run it through part of a cycle to make sure there are no weird things going on with it. Always ask the previous owner if they ever had any issues with it. Let them talk.
There is always some risk when buying a washing machine (even new ones). If you get any weird feelings, or you aren’t comfortable with something, walk away. Often times that intuition will be right. I’ve always regretted not going with my gut. Remember, always try to buy from the type of person you would have wanted to own the item before you.
How to transport the washing machine
Be careful when you’re moving a washing machine, as it’s easy to bend or mess up the feet on the bottom. Use a hand truck when possible. They weigh about 200 lbs. Also, don’t put any weight on, or pull on the control panel. They are held on by just a few plastic clips and they will break off pretty easily. It’s best to keep them upright, but if you need to slide it in a van, or SUV on it’s side, that’s ok too. It’s best to keep the drain hose side up so the little reserve of water won’t leak all over your car or van. It’s ok if they are moved in the rain, water isn’t going to hurt the outside of a washing machine.
If I missed anything, or you have further questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. If there is a common question that keeps coming up, I will add it to the post.
Notes: Front loading washing machines can be great for certain situations. They do use less water and less electricity, which is a big plus. If you buy a front loader, I recommend LG and Whirlpool Duet brands. They seem to have the least amount of problems. Stay away from the Kenmore Elite front loaders as Whirlpool did not make those for Kenmore.
(I was being contacted so often by people wanting to learn the appliance business, we built an entire training course and community that teaches you how to start your own used appliance business at ApplianceSchool.com )
Also, How to Buy a Used Dryer
For those of you new to the site, read How I Earn My Living Buying and Selling Appliances on Craigslist.