Thread Number: 74399  /  Tag: Modern Automatic Washers
Looking for agitator washer enthusiasts for buying guide
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Post# 982012   2/9/2018 at 09:34 by liamwirecutter (Boston)        

Hi everyone ó

I write for a website called Wirecutter (, we make product recommendations based on lots of research (and testing when possible).

We've always recommended front-load washers to our readers, and have never given agitator top-loaders a very close look since they use much more water and tend to not score as well on cleaning performance tests or gentleness tests at places like (where I used to work) and Consumer Reports.

My goal is to provide diverse perspectives in our buying guide to washing machines, so if anyone here wants to talk about why they prefer agitator top loaders, I'd love to hear it. I talked with Eugene from Lorain Appliance on the phone yesterday (I see that he posts on this forum) about the new Speed Queen models and other topics, but am hoping to hear from a few more people. I'll check back on this thread over the next few days.

Liam McCabe - Appliances Editor, Wirecutter

CLICK HERE TO GO TO liamwirecutter's LINK

Post# 982022 , Reply# 1   2/9/2018 at 11:48 by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
At the current time, my choices would be

speedqueen's profile picture


Best New Models:

* Last stock of old 2017 transmission-style SQ machines
* Maytag Commercial Style Model MVWP575GW
* Fisher & Paykel WashSmart Model WA3927G1

If your budget is lower:
* Amana Model NTW4516FW or Roper and Estate equivalents

These models combine fair wash-ability with fair reliability. The Maytag and Amana are built by Whirlpool.

The used market:
Whirlpool built direct drive washers 

* Kenmore "90 Series" - a good top of the line model 

* Whirlpool with a two-speed motor
Older Maytag "Dependable Care" washers

These used options, in my opinion are better than the new options, but could be added as foot notes to your article. I personally have a disdain for DD Whirlpools, but many find them to be solid performers, I don't like their thrash and bash agitation. These used options can also easily be obtained for little money.

Post# 982024 , Reply# 2   2/9/2018 at 11:52 by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
I almost forgot,

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If you got an opinion from Eugene, you may also want to hear what out other resident-expert and repair tech, John Lefever(combo52), has to say. Those two service modern machines regularly and know the modern market well. Another technician to ask is username "Coldspot66".

Post# 982025 , Reply# 3   2/9/2018 at 12:17 by liamwirecutter (Boston)        

Thank you for the tips!

Any particular reason that you prefer these vs front loaders? Or impeller top loaders?

Performance tests at places like Consumer Reports usually favor those newer types. And they use much less water (and as a result often much less energy). What's your perspective on that?

Post# 982030 , Reply# 4   2/9/2018 at 12:38 by RevvinKevin (Between Mickey Mouse & the Queen Mary (So. Cal.)        

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Excellent info Richard, thanks!


=  =  =  =  =  =


The problem is so many of the new machines out there (with an "agitator", except those Richard listed above) is they are just a top load HE machine with an "agi-peller" installed.   They're no more useful or effective than the standard top load HE washer with a wash plate / impeller.   From what I've seen first hand, they're actually less effective when you factor in how little water they use, the speed the agi-peller rotates / reverses and how completely useless the extremely SHORT and woefully underfilled "agitated" rinse is. (1/4 of the water there should be and barely 1 minute of agitation!!!)


FYI... the Laundry Alternative is supposed to be releasing a full size, non-HE, agitator washing machine in about 6-7 months. 


Personally I'm a "front load guy" and have been for the last 20 years.  Tho I do have vintage agitator machines too and connect one once it a while to run some laundry through, just for fun.


I've had / used a couple of those impeller machines (Whirlpool Cabrio) and personally don't care for those impeller machines.  They seemed to do an OK job getting my lightly soiled laundry clean, but I'm not convinced "wash action" isn't harder (more ware) on the items being washed.




Post# 982032 , Reply# 5   2/9/2018 at 13:05 by DADoES (TX,†U.S. of A.)        

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Regards to used ... I recommend a Whirlpool/Kenmore/KitchenAid direct-drive toploader with a 3-speed motor (not 2-speed) and preferably a separate speed control.† Many 2-speeders without a separate speed control reduce the agitation from high to low via the timer cams toward the end of the (regular/normal) cycle, but high speed is quite aggressive and a separate speed control provides more flexibility to run the entire wash period at a lower speed.† There's a large selection of such KM and WP machines on the used market -- resale shops, CraigsList, etc.† KitchenAid models (which aren't as plentiful) had/have larger lower fins on the agitator and most 3-speed models of that brand ran on medium motor speed for high agitation.

For a new agitator toploader, Fisher & Paykel's WashSmart is quite flexible and fully-featured.† It operates in a pseudo-HE mode on Regular and Heavy cycles by running a pretreatment process that showers a concentrated detergent solution over the load for several minutes while the basket rotates at 25 RPM, then fills rest of the way with cool water for an agitated wash. Other cycles skip the pretreatment, starting directly with the agitated wash. There's a choice of water-saving shower rinse or deep-fill agitated rinse.† Five manual water levels or auto-sense (which picks one of the five levels per the sensing process).† Five wash temperatures controlled to specific degrees (rinses are cold).† The Allergen cycle fills with full tap-hot if hot is temp is selected.† Max spin speed is 1,100 RPM.† Your current review mentions F&P as less-reliable ... but just to say, I have a 1999 model that has had one repair for the duration (replacement of the pump) and a 2004 model that has needed no repairs.

Post# 982041 , Reply# 6   2/9/2018 at 14:38 by good-shepherd (New Jersey)        
Regards to used

I believe he is looking for opinions directed towards available New top loaders.

Highly unlikely the people visiting that website would ever consider a used washing machine.

Post# 982049 , Reply# 7   2/9/2018 at 15:49 by liamwirecutter (Boston)        

I appreciate all the info everyone is sharing, even about used machines. good-shepherd is right that our readers are probably looking for new machines but I am personally interested in everyone's take on new, used, whatever.

The main thing I'm trying to get some perspective on, though, is why someone would get a top loader when front loaders _seem_ to have the advantage in cleaning performance, gentleness, and efficiency. Thanks!

Post# 982066 , Reply# 8   2/9/2018 at 18:01 by stricklybojack (San Diego, CA)        

stricklybojack's profile picture
There are three issues at heart of many discussions around here that in many ways over lap.
One is simply top load vs front load.
The other is the proliferation of sensors and computer electronics in appliances, especially washers.
Front loaders pretty much demand sophisticated electronics to balance the load for spin as far as i understand it. Some see this as planned obsolescence run amok and prefer to set the controls as they wish rather than have the machine run a pre programed setting.
The third is advent of water and energy conservation measures that have left some washer designs crippled. Much like American cars in the 70's with their smog control retrofitted motors being a pale imatation of their 60's selves.

This post was last edited 02/09/2018 at 23:10
Post# 982078 , Reply# 9   2/9/2018 at 19:08 by EEMac (Olympia, WA)        
"Cleaning performance, gentleness, and efficiency"

The agitator top-loader cleans my stuff very well, including the occasional grungy work gear. For gentleness, there's the gentle cycle. Efficiency is less of a concern for me than the other things I value.

When I bought my Speed Queen last year, I wanted something that:
Was reliable for decades
Washed as well as machines when I was growing up in the 1970s-1980s
Cleaned better and more quietly than my old front-loader
Had physically and conceptually simple controls

That's one perspective; I'm sure others will chime in also.

Post# 982080 , Reply# 10   2/9/2018 at 19:36 by twintubdexter (Palm Springs)        
Given the choice...

twintubdexter's profile picture

Without concern for water or electricity usage, which washer would be the better choice? Speed Queen 2017 top load model AWNE92SP or Speed Queen front load model AFNE9RSP113? I still have time to change my mind. I don't like the way the washer door opens into the dryer but I could adjust. 

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Post# 982093 , Reply# 11   2/9/2018 at 21:48 by dylanmitchell (San Diego, CA)        

Liam, thanks for your interest in top load agitators. Top load agitators like my Speed Queen AWNE92SP 2017 model do a good job of moving water and detergent through clothes and getting soil out. There's also good clothes turn over and movement from the agitator. I went back to the agitator style top loader after getting frustrated with an HE top loader non-agitator that didn't clean well, Often got unbalanced, and never seemed to use enough water and I'd often use extra rine or even run another cycle after seeing soap residue on clothes.
Speed Queen top loaders at least the pre-2018 models had some other great features: deep tub/ full fill water option, no lid lock, brake, drain and spin at the same time helping push debris out, metal parts, reliability, and durability. For 2018 the SQ TL is a different machine and the early reviews are not good so I'd look for another brands agitator model or a commercial style front loader if I couldn't find a 2017 SQ.

How do Wirecutter, Reviewed, and Consumer Reports test agitator top loaders?
Speed Queen created Eco-Normal to meet Dept of Energy 2015 regs a cycle that uses a spray rinse and may not clean as well as the other cycles. I'd be interested to see your thoughts on how a Speed Clean works in any cycle except Eco-Normal. Dept of Energy Regs for 2018 are why SQ says they had to redesign the washer.

Wirecutter and Sweethome which seems to have been rolled into the Wirecutter are excellent sources for product reviews. I'll often research products there before buying. They're now part of the NY Times but the reviews still seem relevant and worth reading. I appreciate the info you and others offer.

The Wirecutter did throw shade on the AWN432SP in a review suggesting that it's so inefficient you could save money by getting a new washer every eight years or so. However new models can fail or require repairs before hitting the eight-year mark. But to be fair Consumer Reports are not fans of Speed Queens and Reviewed said the AWNESP92 didn't clean clothes well.

And for the question of the AWNE92SP or Speed Queen front load model AFNE9RSP113 (2017 models), I'd go for the one that fits your daily needs best. The FL will give you some more flexibility for a bit more cash.

Post# 982113 , Reply# 12   2/10/2018 at 01:32 by mrsalvo (New Braunfels Texas)        

I would like to weigh in on this from my perspective. I'm nearly 60 years old and have seen most washers from the mid-1950's onward. The agitator washers, for the most part, were unbeatable. They were the standard, period. Tried and proven. Going back to that mind set:
1) The good, well-built, washers would last a good 20 YEARS, if not more, with little or any repair. And if there was a repair, it was AFFORDABLE and usually SIMPLE fix.
2) Water to COVER the clothes during wash and rinse, thereby giving a thorough rinse to guarantee soap free clothes. This is especially important to persons with skin allergies to detergents.
3) Most top loads had a good lint removal system in place. This is important for esp. dark colored clothing and towels. One did not have to be all that careful in what clothing was washed together. The old GE Filter-Flo's were second to none in that area.
4) Hot water is hot, straight from the hot water heater and it doesn't take 30 minutes to heat up with an internal heater.
5) Washing a load of clothes did NOT take all day, meaning, usually 30 minutes from start to finish. And they came out clean and rinsed every time without having to rewash and rewash because because they didn't get clean or rinsed well. A busy mother did NOT have an hour plus to wash one load of clothes. Some of the HE machines are ridiculous on the cycle times, at least they used to be.
6) YOU controlled the laundry, not the machine.
7) You were not LOCKED out of the machine, so adding a garment or stopping the machine in midcycle is not an issue. NO LID LOCKS!! Many people really liked to add clothes AFTER the wash cycle started so the soap would not come into direct contact with the clothes, there by staining them. HE washers often lock you out, esp. if they go down in midcycle and you cant get your clothes out. Have seen MANY complaints on this issue.
8) You can use any soap or detergent you WANT, with good results. Less chance of staining with bleach too.
9) You don't need a college degree in figuring out cycles and programing a machine. You turn the dial, pull it out, and your done. You don't have to THINK to start a washer. Again, you control the laundry.
10) Again, the clothes are COVERED in water. This is important for dirty diapers, elderly care, filthy dirty clothes (auto mechanic, etc.) Many would think by not covering the clothes the dirty would just spread to the other clothes and not washed away.
11) Front loading machines were often looked at with some distain, esp. the generation older than I (parents). It was often truly believed they didn't clean well or knotted up the clothing, or both.
12) Many machines were WELL stylized and offered lit consoles, very comforting to look and hear and to know they would perform again and again and again. No leaking front doors, no cleaning the tub and boots, no loud sickening nauseating cute tunes, no Wi-Fi (is that really needed?), no error F-5 codes (again having to think), no trying to out smart the machine, no sound of jet-aircraft taking off in the spin cycle, no walking across the floor, etc. etc. etc.
13) Machines are American Made and American Owned, providing jobs to Americans.
14) No mold or stinky clothes issues, none what-so-ever. None of that, hurry and get the clothes out before they start stinking.

1) Many machines, but not all, could be rough on clothes. Back-in-the-day many machines cleaned very well with little fabric wear. GE and Kenmore come to mind, but there are others too. (SQ can be rough on fabrics, that's what I found in my own personal experience but others have not had that problem.)
2) Water and energy usage is higher, but that's the trade off.

I've played devils advocate here, as my own situation with SQ has left me feeling underwhelmed, to put it mildly. If I could get a new GE Filter-Flo I'd take it in a heartbeat. But I'm not above trying new either.

This is from my perspective. Hope it helps in your research.


Post# 982138 , Reply# 13   2/10/2018 at 08:41 by 48bencix (Sacramento CA)        
For those who enjoy doing laundry

It may seem odd to some, but to those who enjoy doing laundry, a top loader with agitator has advantages. For a large family I can see getting a huge front loader, probably from LG because of repair records, and just fill it up. For me, I do two to three loads per week just for myself. I do have the Speed Queen AWN 432 a 2017 model. The overall water and energy usage is very minimal compared to other household uses. Let's face it with all of the electronic items like cable boxes, cell phone chargers, internet routers and tv sets running many of them having parasitic losses because they are always on, my washing machine energy use is not that much. I can cut back on water uses in other areas.

With a top loader such as the SQ, you must not overload and you really need to use the Heavy Duty Cycle so the water levels are higher. Excellent detergents must be used and I prefer Liquid HE Tide with bleach. If your clothes have a lot of dirt or garden stains, use a soak for maybe a 1/2 or full hour first. Even with an extra hour of soak the total cycle will be less than a lot of front load cycles. I do not see any problems with soil removal. I always use the shortest cycle on Heavy Duty and this helps minimize clothing wear. I really love getting the wash done in about a 1/2 hour.

As more people get the newer SQ design we will see how it performs. Probably it will be OK if not overloaded. I would rather do a lot of smaller loads than larger loads. Another kind of secret is that I have set my machine to run with the lid open. This way I can watch it wash and come up to a full spin full of water. A simple clothes pin in the back on the lid switch will allow this with no modifications to the machine. I do not recommend this to families with children or for people who are not careful.

As for other top loaders I can see getting one of the Maytags with deep fill option. It will not last as long but can be obtained cheaper. I would not use the normal or eco cycle in any toploader.

Post# 982140 , Reply# 14   2/10/2018 at 09:33 by Lorainfurniture (Cleveland )        
The Honda Civic

Is probably the most well rounded useful, reliable car. Just like an LG front loader.

Performance, durability, efficiency, etc. (performance in the sense that it goes, and stops)

I would never own one. Although logically itís the best car to own. I can haul my kids, get good gas mileage, and not have to worry about breakdowns.

I own an e63 AMG that is probably the most impractical car you can think of. Itís loud, I get 6mpg, and it needs $1200 in tires almost every year. Oil changes are $500. All that and I can only drive it a few months out of the year. You have to think about washer preferences the same way.

Top loaders are excellent performers at cleaning. The trade off is that they are rough on clothes and they use a lot of water.

Front loaders are ďgoodĒ at everything. But itís like the civic. Boring. Itís easy to see on paper that the FL is the best choice, but it doesnít always meet peopleís needs or desires. Some people want excellent cleaning and are willing to pay a higher water bill and deal with clothing wear. People find the machine that best suits their needs. And desires, and everybody has a different opinion on what they think is important.

Thereís no real right or wrong answer when it comes to these things. Thereís a million different machines out there to suit a million different needs. A lot of people on this site prefer older machines just like they prefer to drive older cars. Itís not that older cars are more reliable, efficient, etc. itís just that they are waaaaay cooler than said Honda.

Post# 982167 , Reply# 15   2/10/2018 at 15:04 by dylanmitchell (San Diego, CA)        

We're in a throwaway disposable economy where consumers expect to buy a car or appliance use it for 8-10 years (some a little more some a little less) then toss it or trade it in on something new restarting the cycle. Through getting a washer past the 5-year mark without major repairs in unlikely. Agitator top loaders are a niche market for those who like to have control and vintage machines are like vintage cars for people reminiscing the days of quality construction and easy repair. Folks on this site are enthusiasts and collectors
If someone asks me to recommend a washing machine I'll suggest a TL 2017 SQ or Maytag Commercial and for FL a 2017 SQ or LG. A used FL SQ can be a great buy too. For bulky loads and large comforters, a FL may suit them best. Most will end up buying something from Big Box store or Costco like an LG FL vs from an independent appliance shop. The agitator washer and SQ fans are sophisticated savvy buyers who know what they want and will go to independent shops but make up a small percentage of buyers.
Civic reference about being the most well rounded useful, reliable car is like the joke about the Toyota Corolla being reliable, boring, and doing the job required of it but boring like a washing machine and nothing to get excited about. Consumers want something that does the job required of it without a lot of fuss or fine-tuning. Enthusiasts want something that excited them and they can exert control over like the older SQ, Mieles, etc. Unfortunately, reliable boring washers that do the job are not what's currently being sold.

Post# 982619 , Reply# 16   2/13/2018 at 11:41 by liamwirecutter (Boston)        

Thanks to everyone who chimed in, I appreciate it! May follow up with some of you in the next couple of days.

Post# 982658 , Reply# 17   2/13/2018 at 14:31 by johnb300m (Chicago)        

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Lots of great points.
I'll play devil's advocate too.

Back in 1982, my parents paid almost $400 per unit for their Maytag washer/dryer pair. And that was for the lower end units.
The dryer lasted till 2004. And the washer went till 2017.
In 2018 dollars, that's just over $2,000 for the set.

Many modern machines accused of sucking today, are usually less than that. And they have lots of imported components.
Part of the issue with cheapening machines and less American jobs is....the market just won't pay $2,000 for a set all that often anymore.
With that said, everything is more expensive today from labor to materials, and the money that stock holders demand.
Yet that purchase price has stayed the same or gone down, leaving less investment in the machines themselves.

In Todayland, if you spend 2,000 - 3,000, the quality is generally still there (but not all the time), it's just that that price is nauseating or untenable to many today.
So more consumers gravitate to the cheap sets. Which signals to companies that they need to make more cheap sets to compete.
But then consumers get mad at the cheap sets. They go to buy another set, but get ANOTHER cheap set. Either because they choose to, or increasingly, have to.
And 'round n round we go, down the drain.

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