Home Laundromat!
November 20, 2013 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I would like to buy a used washer/dryer and thought I'd pick your collective brains. I've been in apartments with coin op laundry for so long the thought of buying a washer/dryer is daunting. I looked on craigslist and there are scads and scads of washers and dryers and the prices run from stoopid cheap to stoopid expensive.

What is a good decent middle of the road price range to be looking for? Any features I should stay away from, especially with used? For example, I saw one with a touch screen control. That seems needlessly complicated for a washing machine. I would not mind replacing belts, motors, etc, but I'd really not rather be replacing a touch screen monitor for a washing machine.

I have this hunch that a simple washer and electric dryer from the mid 90s is my best bet. No frills is what I am looking for. Is this foolish? I'd rather have a simple machine with easy to find parts and reasonably servicable.

Alternatively, the cheapest new washer/dryer combos seem to run about $600. Is this a foolhardy route? Id rather have a banged up older midrange one that works than a cheapo new one that breaks down in 3 months.

I'm not overly worried about efficiency. Because right now I am driving to the laundromat which is pretty damn inefficient. I mainly just want to rinse the gross out of my clothes and have them fluffy dry. I could care less if the unit is scratched or dented or has "I Heart Charles In Charge" stickers on them.

Any advice? Have you bought a used washing machine/dryer and had any luck or issues?

Thanks in advance!
posted by ian1977 to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When I was a student, I went to the nice area of town on garage sale day and bought ugly almond-colored dryer and a separate unmatching washer for about $90 total. Make no mistake, they were a fugly pair. They worked great! (Woman was selling because of home renos, not because of malfunctioning.)

Later I bought a stove for $50 and it has been good for 4 years now.

So I would not be afraid of this, just make sure the price is right, and I think you are right to avoid to many fancy items that add more risk to things not working. And make sure the seller seems like a regular joe, no one shifty etc.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: We had a stupid cheap used washer and electric dryer (like from the 80s). The washer only worked on one setting... But it worked. They were Kenmore, and a repair guy (cost us an additional $40 to get it working in that one setting) told us that the ones of that vintage were made by Whirlpool.

If I were doing it again, I'd probably get another cheap, old, good name washer and dryer.
posted by Kriesa at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: I've bought used washers and dryers off Craigslist several times. I think it's always been less than $250 for a set. No particular problem with any of them. I broke one washer, but it was my fault. I'm sure if you have kids or have otherwise complicated laundry needs it might be different, but I'd do it again, no hesitation.
posted by ghharr at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: I bought a used dryer from a small local store that sells reconditioned and used appliances. It came with a 60 day warranty and cheap delivery, and it was in the same price range as its craigslist equivalents. I'm very pleased with it, and felt much more confident in my purchase than I would have if I'd bought from a private party.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:39 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: Some of this depends on how much laundry you do, but:

Gas dryers are (a lot, IIRC) cheaper to run.
Midrange washers from the 90s are probably going to be top-loaders, which use more water and are harsher on your clothes (because they have that agitator post in the middle instead of the clothes just rubbing against themselves.) Front-loaders also often fit more clothes - you're supposed to fill them pretty full, unlike the top-loaders.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:50 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: I have heard/read that front loaders (washers) are a pita and prone to mold, so new or used I would avoid those.

An ugly avocado green dryer can easily be painted with appliance paint, so you can get past fugly fairly cheaply.

If I were in your shoes, buying for the first time, I would try to find something similar to what I'd been using, a la the coin-op machines.

Definitely agree with the advice to look for discards due to home renos, people do that all the time for perfectly good machines. See if you can get the make/model, and then don't pay more than 50% of the original cost.
posted by vignettist at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: gas dryer >>> electric dryer if you don't mind finding one and having a professional install it (because of connecting to gas line).

IMHO front load washers are gentler on clothes and not that much of a pain in the ass to own, except that you have to wipe them down a bit after a load & leave the door open because you don't want moisture sitting in there 24/7. i have one and i like it more than the top loaders i used to use.
posted by zdravo at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dont get a side load washer. The washer drum is air tight / water tight (because of the side door), so if you forget to leave the door open after the washer to let it dry out (which inevitably you end up forgetting a few times) then mold will develop inside the wash drum.

overtime, all side load washer machines end up moldy. Get a top load washer.
posted by Flood at 9:02 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: Don’t worry about price so much. People get rid of washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc. all the time, usually because they are moving and they have to. Often if they don’t sell it immediately they’re just going to donate it or throw it out. They are often working just fine. It’s pretty easy to find someone that has to sell their appliances that particular weekend. This accounts for much of the price differences, who has time to wait.
posted by bongo_x at 9:16 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: I was in the same boat a couple years ago. Washers and dryers are mature technology. None of the bells and whistles are worth paying for. I bought them both used (200 total) and they're both working just fine.

I would say prefer Whirlpool if you have a choice since they are the easiest to repair. Also, before you start looking for one, make sure the washing area can fit whatever you are buying. There are two standard sizes and older homes might not be big enough to take in the newer models.

Make sure you have the requisite supplies before you shop too (gas/220V etc..)
posted by savitarka at 9:18 AM on November 20, 2013

Best answer: Before you buy used, check out the Scratch and Dent section of your local appliance store. Check out the Sears Outlet too. They have stuff on-line that you can review before you hippity-hop out to East Elbow to see it in person.

The best thing about buying new is professional installation. They'll have all the stuff you need and they'll get it installed, lickety split.

Get the simplest, cheapest set. You don't need a bunch of tricks. Simpler is cheaper and easier to repair, if it comes to it.

Also, Measure your area! If it's in a closet especially, you'll want to be sure that the dryer door can swing open all the way and that the units fit in the closet! (Guess how I know?)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:51 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are basically two categories of (functional) washers and dryers - basic and luxury/fully-featured. The basic versions are very simple, effective appliances and there isn't any real difference between them outside of their current condition - I treat them as a commodity and price accordingly. If this is all you need, get the cheapest but best maintained that you can get off Craigslist and get as much use as you can out of them. Even if they last 5 years, you probably paid less than $150 for the set so you can just buy another. Plus, they tend to recycle well.

Luxury/fully-featured will cost you at least 600+ for a set and will have all the fancy things like automatic settings, better timers, gimmick technology, etc. Some of them are worth the money, some are not, and you'll just have to do your research if this is what you want.

They haven't invented a machine that will sort, wash, dry, and fold your clothes so until then, I will continue to treat them as a tool and get simplest, most cost-effective solution I can.
posted by _DB_ at 11:04 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Obviously, a washer-dryer combo has to be front loading. When they first came on the market, the manufacturers had a convention, and all admitted that their front loaders washed better and rinsed better than their top loaders. They even put in radioactive isotopes to track cleaning effectiveness.
When Westinghouse made Laundromats, they were perfect, and never smelled. Unfortunately, Westinghouse left the home appliance field. Front loaders now on the market are still superior to top loaders.
posted by Cranberry at 11:49 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Awesome. Thanks everybody. You are all the Best Answer of my heart.
posted by ian1977 at 11:56 AM on November 20, 2013

One thing I'd say, don't buy GE. I have a pair of GE and they are difficult to repair (made to be disposable). Especially since GE doesn't release the service manuals to the public. Whirlpool/Maytag are better at any price.
posted by monopas at 12:44 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

The German made ones may hold up best.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:54 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I bought a washer from a scratch and dent store - haven't had a single problem with it; it's a kenmore, if that helps at all. Later I bought a dryer from craigslist, because I figured - i can check a dryer a lot easier than a washer. If you have a habitat for humanity re-store in your area, check with them, they often have appliances that they'll have checked out.
posted by lemniskate at 1:24 PM on November 20, 2013

Bear in mind that the real metric is your cost to own and operate a washer and dryer, which is mostly the energy cost to operate the appliances, not the purchase price, especially when buying used. There is also significant environmental benefit to using less energy and less water.

While front loading washing machines can get stinky if you leave the door closed (easy solution, leave the door open), they use much less water than top-loader machines, especially older units from the 90s. If you use warm or hot water for washing, the energy cost to heat up the water can be very significant. This can add up to $100-$200 per year in additional energy cost for a '90s top loader versus a efficient newer front loader, depending on your gas/electricity cost.

Secondly, front loading machines spin much faster and thus dry your clothes better before they go into the dryer. If you use the dryer, this adds up to quite a bit more energy saved - about $30 per year. This also makes it much more practical to forgo the dryer entirely.

Of course, there is also the benefit of much less wear on your clothes.

Energy Star is a good resource on this issue, but bear in mind that their comparisons are usually between an energy efficient new model and a standard new model, while an older model is even worse.

I encourage you to look up the energy consumption of any model you are considering purchasing used, as there are still significant differences between models.

As for dryers, they are very simple machines. Any cheap working electric dryer is OK, though you want to be a bit pickier if you want a gas dryer.
posted by ssg at 1:55 PM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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