running costs: a capital purchase comparison

washing_machine_2 How much do you pay for appliances? When you’re in the market for new white goods, it pays to consider the running cost as well as the upfront cost of the item. At least that’s the standard advice and what I would have said also. Well, I’ve crunched some numbers comparing three top brand washing machines to see just how much running costs affect the overall cost of purchasing appliances.

For this example I have looked at two front loading and one top loading washing machine. I have compared their initial purchase price and the energy and water consumption of each product.

The energy consumption and water consumption come from the product specification sheet (or you also can find it on the star rating sticker). The kWh per year as per the specifications is based on 365 washes on a warm wash cycle, so I’ve calculated the water consumption on 365 washes also.

You may not wash warm, and you may not wash 365 times a year, however this gives a common baseline for making comparisons between brands.

The calculations are based on the following:

  • All three washing machines have an 8kg capacity
  • Brand A and B are front loaders
  • Calculations are over a 10 year period (assuming a 10 year lifetime)
  • I have calculated the running cost according how much I pay for electricity (17c per kWh as per my latest electricity bill) and how much I pay for water ($1.35 per kilolitre as per the last rates notice).

The results:

Brand Initial Price kWh/Yr @ 365 washes Water Consumption Running Cost Total Cost
Brand A $1,499 330 57 ltrs per wash $841 $2,340
Brand B $1,349 367 69 ltrs per wash $964 $2,313
Top Loader $999 555 81 ltrs per wash $1,342 $2,341


Despite the common conception that you will save money by buying the more energy efficient and more expensive washing machine the above results show very little difference in overall cost between each machine. 

There are however a few other variables to consider:

  • Brand A has and LCD display screen, extra wash cycles and a patented water spray system. If you are looking for these extras, then it might be greater value for money.
  • Your state may offer a water efficiency rebate on Brand A (the only one with a 5 star water rating) making it the cheapest option. For example, NSW offers a $150 rebate for 5 star washing machines making the total cost of Brand A $2,190.
  • The calculations are based on a ten year lifespan. One brand or model may be a better make than others and last longer or have a better guarantee. The longer the lifespan, the better value for money.
  • We’ve only considered the money savings, not taken into account environmental impact. Of course, from an ecological perspective, Brand A is the best buy.
  • This comparison doesn’t take into account sales prices, haggling, price matching etc.

Numbers don’t lie (ok, they do sometimes, but anyway…) I still think it’s a good idea to do a comparison of running costs when looking for the best value appliance, although as the above data suggests, it might not be the big determining factor as is often claimed.


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  1. David Ecale says

    There are three factors that you missed:

    1) Damage to clothing & etc. Top loading washers have back & forth agitators. These can significantly damage items in the machine. My best example is a rubber backed rug. In a top loader, the agitator shreds the backing & sends loads of junk into the wash tubs. This clogs the plumbing and destroys the rugs. A front loader finally does this after about the 30, or 40th, wash. Clothing seems to last longer due to the more gentle tumble action of a front loader. Agitators also work for small clothing items, but sheets & quilts can easily be destroyed in a top loader.

    2) Water consumption isn’t everything. It’s the amount of hot/warm water consumed that really takes the cake. Measure the flow of hot water and then figure out the extra cost of heating this water for the cheaper front loader & the top loader (which use more water) for another cost point.

    3) Front loaders need to have their front doors left ajar when not in use. Otherwise, the retention of water (damp) can cause mold to build up in the machine and its liner. Top loaders don’t have this problem because the door does not have a water tight seal & can easily vent the excess damp. I lne the hard way. …


    • says

      Hi David,

      Thanks for that input. No, I didn’t even consider those things. Becomes quite a complex task buying a washing machine! I always leave my top loader ( :( ) open because of the mould thing, guess I don’t have to.