Similar to our 2020 refrigerator buying guide, this 2020 dishwasher buying guide will focus on two questions:
To assist with answering both questions and help you shop for your next dishwasher, we will draw on our decades of experience as appliance service technicians and our product engineer’s understanding of how these dishwashers are built and work.
With this info, we hope to help you find a dishwasher you’ll love and which will serve you well for years to come.
Note: we will be talking more about dishwasher brands than specific models, as the major differences among dishwashers exist between brands, not models.
The first bit of research you should do with any brand of dishwasher is to see what service is available in your area (at the end of the guide, we provide a table with links to each brand’s service locator). There’s nothing worse than buying a product only to discover that when it breaks, whether a year or ten after buying it, there is no way to get it fixed where you live.
As with cars, there is a lifetime cost of ownership when it comes to dishwashers, factoring in:
The generosity of the manufacturer warranty
At the end of guide, we provide a table that includes warranty information for each brand. Additional warranty related items to consider include:
Yes, longer, more comprehensive warranties are better, but a better warranty also indicates that a brand is more willing to stand behind its customers as well as its product.
Don’t assume your dishwasher won’t break, breakdowns don’t only happen to other people.
BUYER BEWARE, do not be suckered into paying for coverage from an extended warranty company. Read why it’s almost never a good idea to buy an extended warranty here.
How often it will require service
We have data going back years and years and know a thing or two about the reliability of these brands. You can check out the table at the end of the guide for our reliability grades, but here are a couple quick ways to spot reliability:
Be sure to check out our dishwasher grades at the end of the guide.
The cost and availability of parts
Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to base your decision on dishwasher pump motor prices, because you honestly shouldn’t be thinking about that when buying a dishwasher. Yes, higher-end models tend to have more expensive parts, but that’s because those parts are higher quality and rigorously tested, meaning they are less likely to break again. Replacing a $50 part twice is more expensive than replacing an $80 part once.
What you should be concerned with is the availability of parts. Low-end brands have a habit of discontinuing parts for older models. So if something important breaks on your dishwasher, you are out of luck, no matter how few years it’s been since you purchased the dishwasher. Which means it’s time to buy a new dishwasher.
The average life span before it needs to be replaced
The range for dishwasher life spans is actually quite broad. Some low-end dishwashers will be lucky to last a half-decade, the average lifespan is around 9 or 10 years, and high-end models can last up to 12 or 13 years. And then there is the cream of the crop, the brand-new Cove dishwashers are said to be built to last over 20 years, though it will be 20 years before we know whether there’s any truth to that claim.
That said, regular maintenance is literally the difference between needing a new pump after 6-12 months, or a dishwasher lasting over a decade without major issue. Dishwashers are super finnicky if mistreated, especially following the removal of phosphates from detergents early in this decade. For maintenance tips, check out our article on How to make your dishwasher clean better. The extra years your maintenance buys you will save a lot of money in the long run.
As servicers, we know the reliability of a product isn’t just about expenses. Worrying about dishes piling up or your floors being damaged by a leak on top of unexpected expenses is a sure way to ruin a day. In other words, reliability has a value outside of money saved in terms of headaches avoided.
There are other ways brands can make a product easier or harder to own:
We believe reliability is one of the most important considerations when buying an appliance, and we hope you agree, but we also understand that, at the end of the day, a dishwasher is there to wash dishes.
So how do you know whether a dishwasher will washes dishes well ahead of time? Simple. Dishwashing is about consistently spraying very hot water across the entire surface area of your dishes, and there are certain dishwasher features that make that possible.
Thus, it’s pretty simple to create a checklist of technical features a dishwasher should have to make for a good washer of dishes:
New technological advances are always possible. For instance, some of the more high-end Bosch dishwashers use a DC drain pump that, if it detects a clog, will run backwards to unjam it before it breaks the dishwasher. These features are nice, but no brand has truly revolutionized dishwashing for a while.
But all the technology in the world won’t matter if you’re not using the dishwasher properly or taking care of it between cycles. For use and care tips, check out our article on How to make your dishwasher clean better.
Energy and water efficiency should be a consideration when buying a new dishwasher—especially water efficiency—but we don’t want to paint a picture that the more efficient the dishwasher the better it performs across the board.
Clearly, go for the ENERGY STAR® product where you can—the drawbacks are by and large overblown—but don’t base your decision solely on ENERGY STAR® ratings as they don’t tell the whole story of the product’s water and carbon footprint.
That’s right, appliances can be an investment in your home. A recent Zillow report showed that homes with professional-grade appliances had sale prices 29% higher than similar homes without professional-grade appliances.
Why? Well, for one, high-end appliances provide a lot of utility and value to homeowners. The kitchen is the beating heart of most homes, and appliances are what make them run. So the better the appliance, the better the home. For another, high-end models are exceptionally beautiful status symbols. So it stands to reason that homebuyers would pay a premium for homes with professional-grade appliances.
And guess who else gets to enjoy these benefits as long as they own the house? You!
So if you’re considering some home renovations to increase the value of your property, just remember, replacing your appliances requires a whole lot less headaches and work than, say, remodeling a bathroom.
Some folks still get sticker shock when they see a dishwasher over $2000 (as is the case for the top-of-the-line models from Bosch and Cove to name a few), but we encourage you to think differently about that cost. Remember, this is a product that is performing an essential but thankless task for your household, nearly every other day for 10 years on average (and, at times, every day when you have lots of guests over). It may run up to 2,000 wash cycles in its lifetime (i.e. 2,000 days when you don’t have to wash all your dishes by hand).
When you break the $2,000 down, that means you are ultimately paying $1 per wash cycle. And if Cove’s promise of a lifespan of 20 years is accurate, you’re looking at 4,000 cycles for $2,000, or $0.50 a wash cycle. We don’t know about you, but paying two quarters to not have to wash all our dishes by hand is a bargain.
Then you have to consider all the other added value and savings. Let’s assume that after reading this guide, you’re still not convinced it’s worth buying a $2,000 Bosch dishwasher over a $600 Maytag dishwasher. First, you have to take into account that the Bosch will perform better at the task of washing dishes. That’s less headaches for you, fewer dishes that have to be rerun through the dishwasher.
Then factor in that the Bosch dishwasher is far less likely to break down than the Maytag, is covered by a far more generous warranty, and can offer better service support (that is, fewer failed repairs), and you’re looking to save more money. According to Angie’s List, the average cost of dishwasher repair is $159, so even one or two less non-warranty service calls and you’re saving hundreds of dollars. Then factor in that the Bosch dishwasher will likely last at least 3-4 more years than the Maytag, giving you 546 to 728 more wash cycles before it needs to be replaced.
Finally, the Bosch dishwasher will add value to your home (increasing sale price) and your life (the pleasure of owning it). Clearly, the cost of owning a dishwasher is more complicated than the price tag in the store, but price generally corresponds to quality, and quality always corresponds to satisfaction.
Brand Customer Support Product Reliability How It Performs Warranty Service Locator 2 years limited Click Here 1 year limited; +4 years on electronic components, racks, rust-through on inner tub liner Click Here 5 year full; limited lifetime on door liner and tub Click Here 2 year limited Click Here 1 year limited Click Here 1 year full; +1 year limited on all parts; +3 years on racks and control board; lifetime on inner tub liner Click Here 1 year full; +4 years on control board and racks; +9 years on direct drive motor; limited lifetime on door liner and tub Click Here 1 year limited; +1 year on all parts; +4 years on electronics, racks, motors; +9 years on door liner & tub Click Here 2 years limited; +3 years on electronic parts, racks; lifetime for rust-through on tub liner Click Here Varies Click Here