5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a New Dishwasher

updated May 1, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

Did your dishwasher die on you? Our condolences! Or maybe you’re just finally renovating your kitchen and you’re picking out all new appliances? Either way, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dive into the world of dishwashers. (Or else you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and dive into a sink full of dirty dishes.)

It helps to have a budget in mind — you can spend $300 to more than $1,000 on a dishwasher — and these five questions can guide you toward figuring out how much you’ll need to spend to get what you want. They’ll also help you with all the dirty details you might not have thought of.

1. What will you use your dishwasher for?

This may seem like a silly question — your dishes, duh! — but it’s worth considering. Will you use it on a daily basis or for more special occasions, like dinner parties and holidays? Do you have special or super-sized items that need to fit into your dishwasher?

Most full-sized, 24-inch dishwashers hold between 12 and 16 place settings. What does that really look like, though? Stick your head into that floor model (like, really get in there) and see for yourself. Will your biggest platters fit? Bring ’em with you if you have to!

2. How big is your kitchen?

A full-sized, 24-inch dishwasher will be the right size for most kitchens, but if you have a teeny-tiny space, you might want to consider something more compact. A drawer dishwasher, like the Smeg Horizontal Dishwasher, is a great option for urban galley kitchens. Alternately, if you have a pretty big kitchen and you entertain a lot, you may want to consider getting a double-drawer dishwasher.

3. Do you care about noise?

Is your dining table in or near your kitchen? Is your TV right next to it? Do you have a little office set up in the kitchen? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are definitely going to want to check a dishwasher’s sound rating before you buy it.

Top-of-the-line dishwashers are going to hover around 40 to 45 dB, which is basically library-approved. A rating of 50 is still quieter than a conversation (no screaming over it to hear each other!). Less expensive models tend to range 60 dB and higher, which is considerably noisy.

(Image credit: Miele)

4. How important are looks?

Functionality aside, your dishwasher — like any other appliance — is something you’re going to have to look at day in and day out. How important is it to have a stainless steel dishwasher? Does it have to be stainless steel inside, too? Plastic will certainly be cheaper, but stainless steel looks nicer (depending on who you ask), is said to perform better than plastic, and stays stain-free.

Then there are things like the control panel: There’s a newish design feature that relocates the dishwashers buttons from the front of the door to the top. It puts all the controls out of sight and creates a sleeker, more streamlined look. When this option (sometimes called top control or integrated controls) first hit the market, it was a pricier high-end feature, but now you can get this in the lower $500 range, too.

5. What other special features do you want?

These days, dishwashers have plenty of bells and whistles. Some have add-a-dish functions, allowing you to open the dishwasher to add a last-minute item. Some have delayed start options, which can automatically start the wash cycle hours after you’ve loaded it (in case you want to wait until water isn’t being used for laundry or showers). Then there’s our favorite feature: the plate-warming setting, which heats dishes while dinner is in the oven.

If you decide you have to have all of these features, you might have to look exclusively at higher-end models. If you’re willing to go without, you can save big bucks.