How to Buy a Dishwasher

The dishwasher buying tips you need to know

If it's been a while since you've purchased a dishwasher or if you're a newbie at this, you've come to the right place.

There are a lot of things to consider as technology, features, and options have changed in recent years. Plus, a dishwasher is a major appliance (i.e., not cheap) so you need to do your homework before you purchase one. Here are all the things involved in how to buy a dishwasher.

Location, location, location

The first thing you need to decide is where your new dishwasher will go.

If you are replacing an existing one, that decision has already been made. But even then, there are still things you need to measure. Dishwashers—whether they are built in, countertop, or portable—come in different widths, depths, and heights, so you need to understand your space limitations.

Built in dishwasher

Pull out that existing one as far as you can. Be cognizant that there are electrical and water lines that may limit movement. Then:

    • Measure your existing dishwasher's height with and without its feet, depth, and width. No rounding! That's because a dishwasher may be called 24 inches in width but, in reality, is 23.5 inches.
    • What is the height from the floor's surface to the underside of the cabinet top?
    • What is the depth from the back to where you want the front of the dishwasher door to be?
    • What kind of outlet is already there? Or is the old one hard-wired into the wall?

    That last one is super important.

    Dishwashers do NOT come with a power cord, which must be purchased separately. You need to know up front what you are dealing with.

    I discovered my old dishwasher was actually hard-wired, not plugged in—AFTER the new dishwasher was delivered and the installation crew was pulling out my old one. As they were not licensed to do electrical work, everything came to a screeching halt until I could get an outlet installed. And since my cabinetry was somewhat shallow in depth, a recessed electrical outlet was the only way the plug head would not take up valuable space behind the dishwasher.

    You might ask why didn't I have an electrician simply hard-wire the new one? The existing hardwire spot in the wall was scorched, as if there had been smoldering at one point. Installing a receptacle seemed to be the safest way to go. It also eliminates the need for an electrician the next time the dishwasher is replaced. Note that the average life of a dishwasher is 10 years.

    If you're adding one where there wasn't one before, you'll need to designate a space within 6 feet of your water and wastewater source (typically the garbage disposer) and within 5 feet of a grounded electrical outlet. Local codes may influence placement too, so check with your plumber or electrician first so they can have everything in place ahead of time.

    In addition to a power cord, you'll also need to get a dishwasher installation kit. This provides the necessary connectors and hoses. Many installers won't reuse existing parts, except perhaps for the wastewater drain hose. Check out what Certified Appliance Accessories has in the way of dishwasher connectors and kits so you'll have a better understanding of what is required.

    Portable and countertop dishwashers

    If you don't have room to install a built-in dishwasher or you are a renter, you'll want to explore a portable dishwasher or a countertop dishwasher. Portables don't require cutting into cabinetry, but they need to be close to the sink when used and should be stored somewhere close by. As they come in a variety of widths ranging from 18 inches to 36 inches, you need to pick a size that fits the storage space. And if there's a doorway involved, take that width into account too. If it will store right by existing countertops, purchase one with a nice top that matches the height of your existing layout so you can use for kitchen prep, etc. 

    As its name implies, a countertop dishwasher sits on the counter. Know your counter depth so you don't buy something that won't fit. It too will need to be placed close to the sink.

    Both, of course, also need electrical outlets nearby that can handle the amperage. And both require the use of faucet adapters. If you have a fancy faucet, you may have problems finding one. Talk to your plumber before you purchase that dishwasher.

    Drawer dishwashers

    These provide a custom look. Typically, they are 2 smaller, stacked dishwashers that can be operated together or separately. The drawer dishwasher is beyond the scope of this blog, but you can read more about their pros and cons here.

    How much is a dishwasher?

    The price of a dishwasher directly corresponds with its noise level. The quieter it is, the higher the price. It also corresponds to features and options. But never fear, virtually any dishwasher today will outperform and be quieter than anything you might be replacing.

     Another factor that can influence price is a dishwasher's capacity. Capacities, by the way, are listed by the number of place settings that can fit inside, not cubic feet. According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, one place setting consists of a large dinner plate, a small snack plate, a saucer, a bowl, a coffee cup, a drinking glass, a knife, two teaspoons, a dinner fork and a small salad fork.

    Typically, a standard 24 in. wide dishwasher has a capacity of 12 to 14 place settings, ideal for families. An 18 incher may be a better choice for singles, couples, small kitchens, or occasional use.

    Going forward, our comments will apply primarily to built in dishwashers. But when it comes to features, many of them will also be relevant to portables and countertops.

    $500 or less

    These are entry-level, basic dishwashers. Expect a noise level in the 50s dB. That's the equivalent to a normal conversation. It's still better than older ones that typically were 80 dB—as loud as a food disposer!


    • Typically have plastic tubs (though you might find some with a stainless steel tub) and external control knobs
    • One or two rotary arms and no adjustable racks
    • Typically have just 3 wash cycles: Light, Normal, and Heavy
    • Smaller capacities
    • Might have a soil sensor that adjusts how long and how much water is used in a cycle to improve water efficiency
    • May look cheap in comparison to higher-priced models
    • May have a shorter lifespan

    As for their ability to clean, as long as you scrape off the big stuff into your trash and use a good detergent, this range of dishwashers will get the job done.

    $600 to $900

    Midrange models have a noise level in the mid 40s dB, so they are quieter than today's basic dishwasher. This price range greatly expands cycle and rack options. They may also have a longer life.

    Added features may include:

    • Hidden or partially hidden controls
    • More wash cycle options
    • Adjustable racks
    • Flexible flatware placement
    • Stainless steel tub (stainless resists stains and retains heat better—important during the drying cycle)
    • An additional spray arm or water jet
    • Soil sensor, temperature sensor, detergent sensor, leak sensor, and water sensor (or some combination thereof)
    • Fingerprint-resistant finish

    $1,000 and up

    High end models will operate in the low 40s or even in the upper 30s. Pretty much the sky is the limit when it comes to features and external finishes.

    • Added features may include:
    • Larger internal capacity
    • Lots of options for wash and dry cycles
    • Extra top rack for flatware or other items
    • Beverage bottle holders
    • More spray jets and arms
    • WiFi connectivity so you can keep track of the dishwasher cycle

    Other factors to look for

    Dishwashers come in a variety of door panel finishes. Black, White, and Stainless Steel are the standards, although Stainless will cost more. If you are looking at the higher-priced models, you will also find Black Stainless, smudgeproof stainless, off-white, and other color choices.

    • Control panels can be located in the front for easy access or hidden along the upper lip of the door panel for a more streamlined look. The one I purchased has hidden controls. I can't track the time left and it's pretty quiet, so from a distance I can't hear if it is still running. However, it emits a red light onto the floor while it is operating, so it is easy to see.
    • Door handles might be recessed, bar-style, or pocket style.
    • If you want a stainless steel tub, you may need to move up to the mid and higher priced models. They are more durable than plastic, resist odors and stains better, retain heat longer, and are ideal for drying dishes more quickly.
    • Don't forget to look for and compare ENERGY STAR ratings for the most efficient use of water and electricity.
    • Also be aware that dishwashers have filters. There's a mesh filter which needs the occasional rinse. And there are others that are self-cleaning. These have a grinder that pulverizes food residue and flushes it. A grinder does add to the dB level, but it doesn't run constantly.

    What is the best month to buy appliances?

    Some experts say the major holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, and of course, Black Friday.

    Consumer Reports tracked dishwasher prices over the course of a year. They found the best pricing discounts were July 4, Labor Day, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Black Friday had the best discounts.

    How to keep that dishwasher running its best

    Once you have that new dishwasher in place, be sure to read (and keep!) the owner's manual. It will show you the best way to load your dishwasher, explain the different cycles, and provide maintenance tips. For example, if you have hard water, you'll want to use an additive periodically to remove any lime scale build up.

    It will also show you the buttons to push to clear water that's trapped inside if power has been interrupted or for some reason there's a problem.

    Bear in mind that a dishwasher used five times a week may need repairs more frequently than one used once a week. But if you do buy a dishwasher, be sure you use it at least once a week. Use helps keep the seals moist and in good shape.

    For additional maintenance tips, check out these excellent tips from Consumer Reports. 

    Isn't washing by hand cheaper?

    If you are hesitating about buying a dishwasher because you think hand-washing uses less water, think again.

    CNET reports that hand-washing can consume up to 27 gallons while countertop dishwashers use 2 gallons and portable and built in dishwashers might use as little as 3 gallons.

    Plus, ENERGY STAR has put together this chart so you can compare real lifetime operating costs.

    how to buy a dishwasher

    Dishwasher buying guide

    Hopefully you now know what to expect if you're in the market for a new dishwasher. Decide what features you absolutely need and balance that against what you can afford. And as a dishwasher is a major appliance with an installation factor that involves water, electricity, and specific three-dimensional space parameters, your purchase decision needs to take into account those factors too.

    If you are in the market for dishwasher hoses, elbows, or installation kits (as opposed to what an installer might bring along), review what Certified Appliance Accessories has to offer. You can then purchase them online at Lowe's, Walmart, Amazon, and other ecommerce sites.

    Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.