Cookies at Which? We use cookies to help improve our sites. If you continue, we'll assume that you're happy to accept our cookies. Find out more about cookies

Washing machine buying guide

By Matt Stevens

Which drum size? Which spin speed? How much does a Best Buy washing machine cost? We help you pick the best washing machine for you. 

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

The best washing machines deliver pristine results and see you through load after load of washing for years to come. It's no small investment, which is why buying the best washing machine for your budget is worth a little research. 

Watch our video guide above for all the tips you need to buy the best washing machine.

Want to choose the best washing machine for you? Read our washing machine reviews 

How much do I need to spend to get a decent washing machine?

Although washing machines can cost upwards of £1,000, our research shows that you can get yourself a top-class washing machine for less than half this amount – we've found Best Buys for £350. 

Based on the hundreds of washing machines we've tested, we think it’s generally worth stretching your budget to at least £300 if possible. If you choose carefully, for this price you can get your hands on a washing machine that delivers your laundry clean and well rinsed.

We've found Best Buy washing machines for less than £350

You won’t be able to tell the difference in the shops between a bargain washing machine that cleans thoroughly and a nightmare washer that’ll let you down. So it pays to read our impartial independent washing machine reviews first to find out which ones we recommend as Best Buy washing machines.

Several of our very top-rated Best Buys (scoring 75-80%) cost between £500 and £1,000. But our tests have revealed that you can still end up with a dud even when you're spending this kind of money – so do your homework on what the best models are before you part with any cash.

Browse our top five best cheap washing machines

Buying the best washing machine for you

To help you start your journey to picking the ideal washing machine, our dedicated interactive tool will walk you through the key features and buying decisions to consider.

What washing machine drum size do I need?

  • Drum sizes range from 5kg to 12kg.
  • It’s a good idea to buy a washing machine with a drum you won’t struggle to fill.
  • The maximum capacity usually only refers to the main cotton programs – other programs have smaller capacities.

Drum size is based on the number of kilos of dry clothing you can fit into the drum. Drum sizes start at 5kg – big enough to fit in 16 men’s cotton shirts – up to 12kg, which is large enough to wash 38 shirts in one go. 

Beware though, bigger is not always better. Washing machines work best when you fill the drum to each program’s set limit. Get a machine with a drum you won’t struggle to fill. That's particularly important considering that the bigger the capacity, the more the washing machine will cost to buy and run.

A kilo of clothing could be four men’s shirts, or a pair of jeans and a shirt, or a bath towel and three small hand towels.

Most medium-sized households in the UK will find a 7kg capacity machine perfectly adequate. That’s enough space to wash about 22 men’s cotton shirts in one go, or a more typical load might be two pairs of men’s jeans, three pairs of children’s jeans, four men’s shirts, two bath towels, three small towels, three tea towels and two pillowcases.
What's in a kilo of clothes? To help you pick out the right size machine, a kilo of clothing could comprise of four men’s shirts, or a pair of jeans and a shirt, or a bath towel and three small hand towels.

Washing machine spin speeds – is faster better?

  • Maximum spin speeds vary from 1,000rpm to 1,800rpm.
  • Faster spin speeds can add to the cost of the machine.
  • A faster spin speed can be noisier.
  • It’s not always worth paying more for a higher spin speed.

The spin cycle is there to remove water from your clothes at the end of the wash program. A machine with a good spin will remove the majority of water from your laundry, reducing how long your clothes will need to spend tumbling in a dryer or hanging out on a washing line.

Washing machine spin speeds of 1200rpm and 1400rpm are the most common. Washing machines with a high spin speed, such as 1600rpm or above, may cost more to buy compared to models with a lower spin speed. Higher spin speeds also have the potential to be more noisy, which can get annoying.

You might assume that the faster the spin speed, the better the result – but that’s not always true.

1200rpmWe’ve seen washing machines with a 1200rpm spin speed do a better job than some models with a 1600rpm spin.

You’re not going to be able to tell which washing machines have the most effective spin simply by looking at the advertised maximum speed. 

In our tests, we’ve seen washing machines with a 1200rpm spin speed do a better job of removing water from clothes than some machines with a 1600rpm spin speed. 

Our washing machine reviews, which include a star rating for spin speed, will help you work out whether it really is worth paying extra for a higher spin speed or not.


How much do washing machines cost to run?

Use our washing machines energy costs calculator to find out how much your machine will cost you to run over its lifetime, including the purchase price and energy costs.

Our energy calculations are based on each washing machine being used three times a week to wash an 80% full load of cottons.


Is it worth paying for an A+++ energy-rated washing machine?

  • Energy running costs can vary from under £20 to more than £100 per year.
  • On average, a washing machine will add £34 to your bills.
  • Running costs are largely influenced by drum size.
  • Some of the most efficient machines we’ve tested do a bad job of cleaning.

Energy labels on washing machines go from A+++ to D. A+++ should be the most efficient, but we’ve found A+ machines that cost less to run than A+++ washing machines.

We’ve found A+ machines that cost less to run than A+++ washing machines

As of December 2013, only washing machines with an energy rating of A+ have been allowed to be sold – but you may come across some older models.

At Which?, we work out what each washing machine we test and review will cost you to run, based on the 40°C cotton program, as this is the most commonly used wash program by Which? members. In contrast, the official EU Energy Label is two-thirds based on the 60°C cotton program. 

If you're interested to know more about washing at lower temperatures, take a look at our guide that answers the question should I wash at 60°C?

Bosch, Hotpoint or Beko washing machines, which is best? 

At Which? we've been testing washing machines since the 1950s, so we have an unrivalled understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each brand. 

As well as this knowledge, we also ask thousands of Which? members every year about any washing machine issues they have experienced, plus how satisfied with their brand of washing machine and whether they would recommend it to a friend. 

We collate all this information, our test results and unique reliability rating and customer feedback scores, so you can see at a glance how the key washing machine brands stack up against each other. 

Browse the best washing machine brands to see which washing machines will not only clean excellently, but will also last you for years to come. 

Every year we survey thousands of washing machine owners to find out which brands are the most reliable

Freestanding or integrated washing machine?

Freestanding washing machines

Freestanding washing machines are the most common type of washing machine that can be placed anywhere as long as they’re connected to a drain and a plug socket. They come in a range of sizes – from 3kg to 12kg capacities – and some models are available in different colours.

Pros: Wider range of drum capacities, features and colours than integrated models.

Cons: Do not blend into homes like integrated models do.

You can view all our freestanding washing machine reviews in one place to find the best. You can also use the left-hand menu to filter by capacity, spin speed and brand. 

Integrated washing machines

Integrated washing machines are best if you're looking for a model for a new built-in kitchen, or to replace an existing integrated washing machine. This type of washing machine is designed to sit behind your own cupboard door so you don't see the washing machine when the cupboard door is closed. The bottom plinth panel of an integrated washing machine is recessed to allow for the fitting of a wooden kitchen plinth along the bottom of the washing machine. 

Integrated washing machines, also known as built-in washing machines, are not intended for use outside of a kitchen unit. This is because they generally are not as stable as they are designed to be held in place by your kitchen units. 

Pros: Integrated models tend to be quieter than freestanding, thanks to that extra door on the front buffering the sound slightly.

Cons: They cost more to be installed – typically around £80. That's over twice as much as freestanding models. Some retailers won't install integrated washing machines at all.

Take a look at all of our integrated washing machine reviews to find the right one for your budget.

Semi-integrated and top loading washing machines

Semi-integrated machines are like integrated models but the furniture panel does not cover the controls at the top, so you don’t have to open the door to change the settings or read any displays. There are very few models of this type available.

Top-loading washing machines are quite rare in the UK. Clothes are added through a lid on the top of the machine, as opposed to a door on the front. Narrower than normal washing machines, they cannot be kept under a work surface due to the way they open. There is a limited choice of top-loading models on the market.

Related products

See all washing machines