Speed Queen washer or... ?
March 12, 2021 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I need a new washing machine. It MUST be a top-loader and should be a workhorse vs. sophisticated or pretty. I just want it to be reliable, accomplish basic laundry tasks (no fancy textiles here) and not unbalance easily. Do I want a Speed Queen?

Even though recently updated, Wirecutter is uninspiring on the topic of top-loaders. But a couple years ago, here and elsewhere, the gold standard was Speed Queen except $$$. It seems that either the prices of other washers have gone up or SQ has gone down; they're now within the realm of comparable. My old-fashioned repairman still recommends Speed Queen.

The one I'm replacing is a lower-end GE which was fine until it wasn't.

Do you have a SpeedQueen? Do you love it? Or do you have another secretly-awesome top-loader that works great?

I'm in the USA and need delivery, install, and take-away services. I would love to get refurbished, craigslist, black Friday sale, etc. but please assume that's not an option bc urgency. Money is not unlimited but could afford a little extra for quality.
posted by nkknkk to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I bought a new Speed Queen top loading washer over 4 years ago and it's holding up great, with very frequent household use. I do love it.
posted by eelgrassman at 6:33 AM on March 12, 2021

I bought a Speed Queen top-loading washer last spring, and I'm very happy with it. Of course, I haven't had it for long. I do like the way the drum seems way more solid than the one in my previous Maytag.
posted by FencingGal at 6:40 AM on March 12, 2021

The controversy around Speed Queen that I remember reading is that they changed how the agitator works, now it's much less effective for heavily soiled items. Comments were like "I used to be able to throw my mud-covered overalls in and they'd come out clean after a single wash, now it takes multiple washes".

Thus, with the legendary washing ability lost, people feel they are no longer worth the higher cost.

(sorry, I can't find the article that I had read)
posted by jpeacock at 6:42 AM on March 12, 2021

We bought a Speed Queen for durability. It has performed well, with no issues with cleaning clothes. In buying, you kind of have to swallow hard, because of the cost. However, I think I will be happy not replacing some part of the unit every 4 years (my prior Kenmore). Prior, we had bought a coin-op Speed Queen unit for an apartment building we owned. It worked great under a heavy, unpredictable work load.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:00 AM on March 12, 2021

We have had a Speed Queen for around 10 years. When our dryer died, we bought a Speed Queen dryer as well. We aren’t Luddites but we prefer manual controls and each unit is manually operated. Our theory is there’s less to break down. No complaints; yes they are pricey on the front end but we doubt we’ll have to replace them any time soon.
posted by serendipityrules at 7:04 AM on March 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There is a subreddit r/BuyItForLife that has some discussions on washing machines, and discussing Speed Queen. Might be worth a look for addition opinions, discussions and alternatives. I don’t own a Speed Queen but have been very unhappy with the last two washing machines that we’ve bought in the last 5 years. After we purchased our last piece of crap I learned about the Speed Queen a d have vowed to buy one when this current one dies (most likely any day now). However, I have read that the current Speed Queens aren’t as up to snuff as older ones so I’m now wary.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:12 AM on March 12, 2021

Here’s an AMP link to The NY Times/Wirecutter article about Speed Queen. There are multiple versions of top loaders, which they describe. The TC5 Classic with the agitator is back on the market, after they added a “Normal Eco” cycle which you shouldn’t ever use but which allows the Classic to meet EPA water usage requirements. (It seems a little like having a switch on your Volkswagen to comply with smog requirements or not, but if it’s back on the market I guess it’s legal.)

So that’s what to look for to compare with the models people on the internet used to love. They will use a whole lot of water, but that is their deal anyway.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:36 AM on March 12, 2021

The issue with the new washers is not the manufacturing, it is the Obama Administration's mandates on water conservation. Top load washers are not a great design for washing clothes, but they do an adequate enough job given enough water and a tall agitator. The new washers have to use a lot less clothes and have the stubby little agitators as otherwise the motors would burn up because there would not be enough water to let the clothes move around. So if you see the stubby agitator inside, it will not compare to the old washers. Speed Queens were among the last top loaders to use water to wash clothes. I am not sure what eventually happened, but the last time I looked at them they were phasing them out in favor of the new ones that meet the water mandates.
Unfortunately, the only way to clothes effectively with less water is to roll the clothes through the water at the bottom which is what the front loads do. I am not sure why they still make the top load washers, but I am guessing it is because people are nostalgic and want something that reminds them of what they used to have, even if is not the same thing. The quality of the Speed Queen builds seem higher than anything else in the affordable consumer market. The local dealer that sells them used to sell Maytag until Whirlpool bought them and reportedly destroyed all the equipment needed to make the good, reliable machines. Speed Queen seems to be the only one comparable to the old Maytag units. If you can find one with the tall agitator, buy it. They now make front load units, so when ours fails, that is probably what we will get to replace. We were reluctant to get a front load as we heard they can smell bad. We wipe the door and inside of the seal dry with a cloth every time we use it and have not had a problem with this.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 7:52 AM on March 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yep, you want a Speed Queen.

(We have a Speed Queen.)

(We don't have much choice. It's actually the only full-size washer that can be partly disassembled to go down the basement stairs of a typical Philly rowhouse without the disassembly voiding the warranty. That said, this household is a fan of their products.)
posted by desuetude at 8:19 AM on March 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have a high efficiency LG top loader and it works just fine. The trade off for high efficiency is that they eliminate the energetic agitator by increasing the washing time. Uses less hot water and less detergent and less electricity. So you have a smaller carbon footprint, if that is a concern for you. Speed Queen is not Energy Star rated by the EPA.
posted by JackFlash at 10:00 AM on March 12, 2021

Best answer: If you haven't run into it yet, the Yale Appliance Blog is worth a read, as they look at real-world reliability of appliances (from the POV of someone that sells and services appliances, including Speed Queen).

...note, however, that their statistics will be skewed by the fact that recent generation Speed Queen hardware has pretty much sucked (large design flaws), and their improved versions haven't been out for very long so YMMV.
posted by aramaic at 11:08 AM on March 12, 2021

Best answer: The LG WT7305CW is highly rated by Consumer Reports, costs less than the Speed Queen models on the Consumer Reports list, and scarcely ever goes off-balance. We've had this one for about a year, and it is great. (The Consumer Reports site is available through our local public library database collection. Their information helped us in making this decision.)
posted by Francolin at 12:21 PM on March 12, 2021

The old ones were definitely built like tanks. A decade of apartment use didn't phase the one we used for a while back in the 2000s. That said, it didn't actually clean the clothes appreciably better than any other machine I've used. I actually preferred the front loader we bought when we moved out of that apartment. I was amazed at how much soap the top loader left in the clothes. There were actual suds just from the detergent in the clothes for several wash cycles after the switch. The other thing that gave me a strong preference for front loading machines was the drastic reduction in drying time.

If your region has an excess of water as some do, I'd suggest finding one of the old ones at a good used appliance store if you really feel like you need an old Speed Queen. There do exist good and reliable front loading machines, though. Most of the complaints I've seen that are unique to the type of machine relate to units that haven't had the shipping bolts removed before use, that are poorly leveled, or have been moved without said shipping bolts being reinstalled first.
posted by wierdo at 12:23 PM on March 12, 2021

We've had a speed queen for five years and love it. +1, would buy again in a heartbeat.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:36 PM on March 12, 2021

I can't speak to newer generations, but the refurbished Speed Queen top-loader I bought six years ago has worked perfectly, including through 300+ loads of cloth diapers. Besides being effective and durable, it is also fast (25 min for a basic wash). It does use a lot of water, though.
posted by aws17576 at 10:21 PM on March 12, 2021

The workhorse American commercial washing machine manufacturer Staber has a line of residential models, including a top loader. These are the machines you see in laundromats-- designed to run for years and years, and to be repairable. They are not cheap, but they are the best. I've wanted one for decades, but the trusty Maytag that came included when we bought our house still hasn't died yet.
posted by seasparrow at 10:48 PM on March 12, 2021

We looked at Speed Queens and our problem was they are small, like 3.5 cubic feet vs 5. So they better be reliable, because they basically have to do 2X the number of loads of larger machines.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:18 PM on March 15, 2021

Response by poster: Reader, we did not get a Speed Queen. There was just too much ambiguity about models, improvements, and water usage. I went to https://blog.yaleappliance.com/most-reliable-top-load-washers as a suggested resource by aramaic above, and bought the Whirlpool WTW4855HW. My local appliance shop delivered and hauled the broken one away. So far, it's simple, straightforward, and working great. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by nkknkk at 5:07 AM on March 26, 2021 [2 favorites]

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