We’ve tested a ton of dishwashers in our labs, and we can definitively point out which ones are better than others. But is there such a thing as a bad dishwasher these days?
The short answer is no. Other than outright lemons, every dishwasher you can buy will wash your dishes. Barring any defects or improper use, a dishwasher certainly isn’t going to make your dishes dirtier.
It makes one wonder: If pretty much every dishwasher can clean, what exactly are you getting when you buy a more expensive model? While our tests have found that pricier dishwashers often clean better than cheaper ones, not every model follows the pattern.
What more money is likely to get you is more features—ones that make the dishwashing chore a little more bearable.
In general, you can think of dishwashers like a Kickstarter campaign: The more you pay, the more perks you get. These general guidelines will give you a more specific idea of what spending more money gets you.
Budget/Economy Tier ($300-500)
Unsurprisingly, these dishwashers typically do the bare minimum. They aren’t necessarily bad at their job. In fact, they’re perfect for people who just want to clean dishes and don’t care about bells and whistles.
The Amana ADB1100AWB is a proud member of this tier. Like the typical budget dishwasher, the Amana is plastic inside and out, with only the three most common cleaning cycles (Normal, Heavy, and 1 Hour), and a sparse selection of extras.
Its inflexible interior makes loading and unloading dishes inconvenient, the racks are stiff and noisy, and the plastic finish does a poor job at sound insulation. It looks and feels unrefined. But it will wash your dishes.
Spend a little more and you might get a stainless-steel door and a few more cycles and wash options. A stainless-steel interior is extremely rare at this price point, and custom panel-ready models don’t even exist. This is about as bare-bones as dishwashers get.
Middle Tier ($500-$1,000)
Dishwashers in this tier don’t necessarily clean better than budget models, but they always have a wider selection of useful features. If you care about aesthetics and usability and want the best cost-benefit ratio, this is where you should be shopping. Dishwashing will always be a chore, but models in this price range try to make the experience as pleasant as possible.
Here you’ll have an easier time finding dishwashers that are stainless-steel inside and out. This material helps retain heat and cancel noise, while also giving the machine a more polished, professional look.
On the lower end of the segment, machines like this Frigidaire Gallery FGID2474QF offer a wider selection of wash cycles and options. At the upper end, dishwashers like this Bosch SHP65TL5UC provide more physically adjustable parts, such as stemware and tupperware clips, foldable tines, variable height on the upper rack, a third rack, and all manners of mini-baskets and specialized utensil holders.
Manufacturers with proprietary dishwasher tech, such as Kenmore’s 360° PowerWash spray arm or KitchenAid’s Clean Water Wash filtration system, will always incorporate that technology on their flagship model, but they’ll sometimes show it off in midrange models as well.
Premium Tier ($1,000+)
At this point, clean dishes should be a given. Shoppers willing to drop more than a grand don’t just want a dishwasher that makes the chore easier or more convenient—they want something they can show off. As you’d expect, dishwashers in this tier have more features than those in lower tiers, but these features tend to focus more on upping aesthetic appeal than usability.
Front-facing control panels are pretty much unheard of here. Buttons are almost always hidden, to create a cleaner look. You’ll also frequently find LCD timer displays and sometimes even full-color backlit screens in this price range. For example, the Samsung DW80H9970US has the company’s trademark Star Display, which uses tiny holes backlit by LEDs. When it’s off, it’s practically invisible.
With premium dishwashers, the sky’s the limit when it comes to features, and they’re not all limited to interior lights and fancy handlebars. The flagship model in each dishwasher line is usually loaded with the brand’s latest and greatest innovations. For example, the KitchenAid KDTM704ESS has a motorized Dynamic Wash Arm, the company’s powerful Clean Water Wash system, and dedicated bottle wash jets.
Bear in mind that many washing-related features can be found on middle-tier dishwashers, so you don’t necessarily have to spend this much money to get a more enjoyable dishwashing experience. However, if you want to impress your guests with a custom front panel or other eye candy, you’ll want to go premium.