Buying Your First Dishwasher

Investing in your first dishwasher will help get rid of all those dirty dishes that are piling up in your sink and all over your countertops.  It will also save precious time in your busy life.

Just like any other first time home appliance purchase, it's important to make sure that you choose the dishwasher that is best suited to your particular needs.  We've put together this page as an introduction to the world of dishwashers for new buyers, including some dishwasher tips and a features overview. 

Size Matters

The first thing that you need to decide about your new dishwasher is the size that you need for your home.

A regular full size dishwasher measures 24" and has a capacity that will accommodate twelve to fourteen standard place settings, which is sufficient for a normal size family.

If there are only two or three people currently living in your home, then you may want to go with something a little smaller.


A slimline dishwasher measures 18" and it will hold six to eight standard place settings. This is adequate for smaller families, singles or couples just starting out in a new home. This is also sufficient for kitchens that are not used often and in smaller living spaces, such as apartments.

Know Your Type

Once you have determined the amount of space you have available for your first dishwasher and the capacity you require, it is time to decide on the type of dishwasher that is right for you. Whether you are renting or own your home is an important factor when choosing between a built-in, countertop or portable dishwasher. Each model has its own benefits and disadvantages.

Exploring Features

Now that you know the size and type of dishwasher you need, it is time to explore the features that you want.

With a standard 24" dishwasher, the capacities across models and brands are only similar to a certain degree.

Racking and stacking options vary, which means certain models will allow you to fit more dishes in per load.

Some of the most important dishwasher features include:

  • Adequate stacking and racking options
  • Air dry or economy
  • At the very least, a two-tier wash spray action; however, three is best
  • Built-in food disposal
  • Child safety lock
  • Delay start, which allows you to program washing outside of peak energy times
  • Energy Star qualification, which means certain energy efficiency targets are met
  • Heavy Scrub or Pots & Pans cycle
  • Quiet package, which reduces operation noise
  • Quick Wash cycle
  • Self-cleaning filters

If you are willing to pay more, you can opt for a dishwasher with all the bells and whistles, which includes a host of special features, such as:

  • Adjustable shelving or enhanced stacking and racking
  • Enhanced filtration
  • Enhanced spray and wash
  • Soil level sensors
  • Sanitize cycle
  • Enhanced quiet operation
  • Rinse cycle, which loosens dirt and allows you to wait until you have a full load to begin the wash
  • Special basket for your smaller items, such as baby bottle rings and nipples
  • Low water features to save money by reducing water levels

It is important to note that features vary depending on the brand of dishwasher that you choose. The big, renowned name brands are often more expensive, but you typically get a higher quality, better reliability and often times more features.


Time to Pay Up

For many people buying their first dishwasher, budget can be an issue that limits what they can buy. 

As a general guide to dishwasher prices:

  • For an Energy Star qualified dishwasher with optimal racking options and features, you should expect to pay around $500, although basic models may be available for less.
  • Stylish high-end models with loads of features and a quality finish will run you more like $1000-1200.
  • Countertop dishwashers usually cost about $200 to $300 and are perfect if you do not have the capability to install a standard unit or you move frequently.
  • Compact models are around $400 and include more features and greater capacity than the countertop models.

You will not save much money by going with a portable unit, so if installation is a possibility, it is the most convenient route.  A large family is likely to find the standard size dishwashers with a reasonable number of options will meet their needs.  Couples may prefer the countertop or compact models with more limited features.

You can opt for features as your budget allows, but sticking with just the essentials for your first dishwasher will keep costs low.

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