A Dryer Buyer’s Guide For Everyday Homeowners

Are you in the market for a new dryer, but don’t know where to start looking?

Take a number! Believe it or not, this is a very common issue among homeowners. Maybe if this was about a food processor you wouldn’t be as stressed, but considering that a dryer is a decade-long investment (at least), it’s only natural that you feel overwhelmed.

Besides, dryers are not what I’d call cheap, so making sure that you hit the mark when you finally decide to go buy one is crucial. It’s estimated that the global dryer market size will reach $25.1B by 2030, which means that there are thousands of competitors out there trying to convince their product is right for you.

But is it?

Maybe, but you need information to be sure. With over 7 years of experience covering dryers and all other things appliances, I’ve seen my fair share of issues with the wrong purchases, including costly repairs. Dryers, for example, cost anywhere between $100-450 to fix.

I know it all seems like a lot, but don’t worry, you came to the right place for answers. Below, I’ve prepared a comprehensive guide that will aid you in the decision-making process. This way, you can sleep at night knowing that your dryer will yield fresh clothes, and not damp, stinky garments at the end of each cycle.

Read on for an informed dryer purchase!

Dryer Types

Dryer types are an essential thing to know before actually going over the features, efficiency, and all other aspects there are to know about the topic. By being familiarized with the wide range of options out there, it’ll be easier for you to double down on a specific model when the time comes.

Vented Dryers

Vented Dryers are the most common out there, in fact, you probably have one in your home as you read this. These dryers work with either gas or electricity to raise the temperature of a component called a heating element. This part dries your clothes, pushing the humidity in them upwards to be collected by aluminum vents and sent elsewhere.

A woman placing clothes in a vented dryer
Vented dryers are present in almost every home

Vented dryers are great for medium-sized families looking for an affordable appliance, as you can find them in the $400-800 range. They’re typically not too hard to maintain, although the vents do need to be cleaned now and then to maximize results.

Ventless Dryers

Ventless Dryers, as their name suggests, do not require aluminum vents or ducts to get rid of the humidity removed from your clothes. Instead, they contain the heat and moisture inside themselves. These appliances are typically more efficient than their vented counterparts, and they’re also gentler with clothes.

Ventless dryers in a laundry room
If your laundry room is somewhat small, a ventless dryer could be the right choice for you

That being said, not everything’s perfect. While they will cost less to run, ventless dryers also typically take longer to dry your clothes when compared to vented alternatives. Moreover, since they do not need any ducts to dissipate excess moisture, these models are more expensive, ranging between $800-1,500 depending on their features.

Ventless Dryers are great for reduced spaces, like apartments, where installing exhaust vents and ducts is not always an option.

Condenser Dryers

Condenser Dryers are, in a way, more complex ventless dryers. Like their vented counterparts, they also use a heating element to heat up the incoming air and then pass it through a condenser unit that cools it down. This helps with the removal of excess moisture, which is then pumped down a drain.

A condenser dryer in a narrow hallway
Condenser dryers tend to be a little more delicate with their internal components, so please bear this in mind before buying

Like Ventless Dryers, Condenser units are also more energy-efficient than vented alternatives and usually offer a wider range of options and drying programs. However, this comes at a price, as they also require higher levels of maintenance, and you’ll occasionally have to deal with and repair the condenser unit to ensure maximum efficiency.

These machines are great for people looking for lower running costs and a convenient way of disposing of excess moisture from their clothes. If you’re interested in one of these, you’ll have to pay between $800-1,500, depending on load capacity, features, and brand.

Heat Pump Dryers

Heat Pump Dryers are the most efficient type out of this entire lot, and it’s all thanks to how they work to dry your clothes. These machines use a closed-loop heat exchange system based on coils and refrigerant. They operate in a continuous cycle where hot air passes through the drum, removes excess moisture, and then passes through a condenser coil, which deposits the water into a tank.

Heat pump dryers in a laundry room
If you don’t mind spending a few thousand dollars on one of these units, their efficiency will surprise you in the long run

These models are great for people who want to dry their clothes for the lowest amount of power consumption possible, while also making sure that the drying process is gentle. Not unlike ventless units, heat pump dryers can also be placed almost anywhere.

The downside is that, as you can imagine, these machines are not cheap, as they start at around $1,000, and can go all the way up to $2,000 or more.

Combo Dryers

Combo Dryers are one of the best examples of versatility in an appliance. These machines are great for people living in smaller homes, as their all-in-one vertical layout saves a lot of space and can fit almost anywhere.

These dryers can solve a lot of issues, but they can also create a lot more. They typically take longer to dry clothes than other alternatives, have smaller load capacity than other options, and are among the most expensive types to repair, as a single failure can affect both the washer and the dryer.

A combo dryer-washer setup in a laundry room
Combo dryers can solve most of your problems. But when they fail, they can create many more.

Not to mention that they’re not awfully cheap, as the average combo dryer will cost you anywhere between $1,000-1,500 or more if you’re looking for premium models. I personally wouldn’t recommend these units unless you’re really struggling for space in your laundry room.

Portable Dryers

Portable Dryers are the last type in this guide, and it’s no accident. These are listed at the bottom due to the fact that, while they are dryers, they cannot compete with the other models shown here – and they shouldn’t.

These variants are not meant for larger families or heavy loads, as they have small capacities and tend to take longer than other models to dry your clothes properly. Moreover, they’re not famous for being the most energy-efficient machines out there, so you might end up using more power with them in proportion to what you would with other alternatives.

I recommend Portable Dryers for people on a tight budget that live alone, dry small loads, and want as much independence as possible to wash their clothes and free up space in their laundry rooms. These units typically go for anywhere between $150-500 depending on the specific make and model.

Dryer Buying Considerations

Having covered and briefly explained the different dryer types and how each one might meet your needs, let’s now move on to looking at some important considerations you must take into account before buying a new one.

#1 Price

Price is often the first thing that comes to people’s minds when embarking on the journey of buying a new dryer, and in this economy, who can blame them?

As the rules of the free market would dictate, the bigger, more equipped, and more sophisticated a dryer is, the more expensive it will be. This is why it’s essential that we make sure you’re not paying extra for bells and whistles that you don’t really need.

According to what we covered earlier, Portable dryers are the most affordable from this lot, followed by standard vented units. However, price isn’t the only thing you should look at, as the cost of running the appliance must also be taken into account. We’ll touch more on that further down.

Here’s a small table to give you a clearer perspective of each dryer model and its price:

Dryer TypeLow-End CostAverage CostHigh-End Cost
Vented$400$600$800 or more
Ventless$800$1,150$1,500 or more
Condenser$800$1,200$1,500 or more
Heat-Pump$1,000$1,500$2,000 or more
Combo$1,000$1,250$1,500 or more
High-end models are very expensive, and most people don’t really need all the features they offer. I recommend doing further research on a dryer in the Low or Mid-Range price tier and see if it meets your needs.

#2 Load Capacity

Load capacity can be the make or break of how useful your dryer will be for the years to come. You wouldn’t believe how many people find themselves requiring additional space for their clothes every day.

When looking to buy a new dryer, it’s important to consider the number of people you live with, as this will greatly determine the appliance you have to choose. Now, I know that browsing freely through the dryer catalog isn’t always possible, as there are often space constraints, especially in smaller apartments.

But even in cases like that, there’s almost always a good chance that you can hit the space-load capacity sweet spot if you play your cards right.

The inside of a dryer with clothes
When it comes to smart purchases, you want to find the sweet spot between load capacity, cost, and features

In most countries, there are 3 universal dryer capacities – Compact, Standard, and Large. To give you a clearer idea of which one you need, please analyze this table carefully:

Dryer CapacityCompartment Size (in cubic ft.)Ideal For
Compact2.5-3.51–2 people
Standard5-73–4 people
Large8-9+5 people
Consider your laundry habits and needs, as you might need a different model, regardless of how many people you live with

Some people might need to make adjustments depending on what they’re trying to dry. For example, if you live with 2-3 other people but frequently wash large comforters and duvets, you might want to go for a Large capacity dryer over the Standard one. 

#3 Form Factor

Form factor is also a very important aspect of the dryer purchasing process that’s frequently overlooked by many people. You’d be forgiven for thinking that both Top-load and Front-load dryers are the same in every aspect except their design, but this is actually not the case.

In fact, they differ in many areas:

More energy-efficientCheaper
Fewer water consumptionShorter drying cycles
Gentler with fabricsLaundry is easier to place and remove due to the top lid
Some of these aspects might seem more important than others, but it’s crucial to take them all into account

Additionally, as opposed to Top-load dryers, Front-load units can be stacked on top of a front load washer, which can save you a lot of horizontal space, and provide the same benefits as a combo type.

#4 Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is another critical piece of the puzzle as it represents what I like to call parallel costs. When looking into buying a new dryer, it’s a grave mistake to only look at the price tag on it, as you should also take into account how much you’ll be paying monthly to run it.

Dryers can be mainly powered either by gas or electricity, so you’re likely to find any model you like in either configuration. That being said, regardless of which one you choose, it’s recommended that you look for a machine that delivers great results while using as few resources as possible.

A man holding a lightbulb next to an energy efficiency icon with different levels
It might be worth paying a little extra if it means buying a dryer that makes good use of the power drawn

A standard electric dryer uses between 1,800-5,000 watts per hour, or 1.8-5 kWh. The average price per kWh in America for the current year is $0.1524, which roughly translates into 27–76 cents per hour to use your appliance.

This might not seem like much, but when you look at the cost per year, everything changes. In fact, buying a dryer that meets your needs and is highly efficient could save you over $100 every year!

Now, don’t worry, the best and most energy-efficient models have already been preselected for you through what is known as the “Energy Star Rating” certification. In a nutshell, when an appliance has this, it means that it’s designed to work while using the least amount of power possible.

So, if you’re looking to save on utilities every month, make sure to look for this certification prior to purchasing your new dryer.

#5 Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are one of the most powerful sources of information available to consumers nowadays. In an ideal world, companies would be completely honest and open about certain design flaws in their products. But sadly, that’s wishful thinking.

Luckily, you can get the ultimate truth by going to your favorite online marketplaces and reading what people have to say. After all, there’s no one more honest than a disgruntled customer.

A man writing a 3-star review
Customer reviews are very useful, but take them with a grain of salt to avoid bias

Doing your own research and taking into account all the elements mentioned above can go a long way in making the right decision. But complementing that with real-world comments and opinions from people who have already bought the dryer you’ve set an eye on is the cherry on top.

This could be the difference between investing in something you’ll use and love for at least a decade, and being stuck with a machine that’s constantly leaking water.

I recommend going to a large marketplace like Amazon, looking up the dryer you’re interested in, and reading the 20 best and worst reviews available. This will help you filter out biased comments on both sides and make a more transparent decision.

A good sign is when the appliance you’re looking into has a 5-star review percentage of 80% or above.

#6 Drying Programs

Drying programs are to a dryer what bedrooms and bathrooms are to a house – the more you have, the better. Or at least, that’s what they say.

Clearly having as many options as you can get is welcome, especially considering that every other year there are new fabrics incorporated into the fashion world. And even if you’re not into dressing according to the latest trends, certain sheets and comforters also require special treatment, so being able to dry them at home is a great advantage.

That being said, you might not need a dryer that offers tens of programs. Most households that don’t have any special requirements can usually get away with the basics.

To help you determine which programs you might need, here are the most common ones:

  • Regular: The typical drying cycle we all know and love.
  • Delicate: The dryer uses low heat and gentle tumbling to protect delicate garments and avoid tearing holes in them.
  • Permanent Press: Ideal for all types of garments. This program uses medium heat while drying and then pulls in air at room temperature at the end of the cycle to decrease wrinkling.
  • Quick Dry: Ideal for smaller loads that need to be dried out fast.
  • Time Dry: Great for garments and items with specific drying recommendations. All you have to do is set the desired cycle time manually.
  • Air Fluff: A cycle that works with air at room temperature. Ideal for sheets or pillowcases that need a breath of fresh air. Since there’s no hot air, it’s recommended to only use garments that are already dry.
  • Steam Cycle: A growing trend in newer models. Great for freshening up your clothes and removing wrinkles. Not to be used with wet clothes, as this cycle will not dry them.

I’d recommend analyzing this list carefully and crossing out the features/drying programs you know you don’t need. The more expensive models of every dryer type covered here are likely to include several, if not all of them, whereas the lower-end alternatives might only have a couple.

#7 Noise Levels

Noise level is the last thing I’d like us to go over in this guide, as some people might be bothered by it, while others don’t really mind it.

If you’re in the latter group, feel free to move on to the next section, but if peace and quiet in your home are important to you, please keep reading below.

How quiet or loud a dryer is depends on a great number of factors, including the area where it’s placed, the load it’s drying, and of course, the quality of its internal components. Now, while it’s impossible to get a dryer that’s dead silent, there are some things you can look for to make the noise more manageable.

Before selling their products, most reputable companies put them to the test and measure the noise they make in dB (decibels), which is a standard unit for sound level. Ideally, you want a dryer that has been certified to be under 65 dB, as anything in that range can be considered “quiet”.

This information is rather easy to find by either Google searching the dryer’s make and model you’re interested in, or checking the product tag on the store where you saw the unit.

Choosing Your Dryer

Having covered all there is to know about dryers, how they work, and what are the most essential things you should look out for, it’s time to answer the real question.

What dryer is right for you?

Well, there’s no cookie-cutter answer for this, as it will vary greatly from one person’s situation to another. The information provided in this guide is meant to give you a general perspective of what different dryer types can do, and whether the features they offer are something you need.

In most cases, a Standard capacity dryer with an Energy Star rating, and 3-5 of the programs listed above should be more than enough for small and medium-sized households.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Should a Dryer Last?

This depends on a number of factors, including maintenance, manufacturer, user habits, and even weather conditions in a specific area. That being said, if you take good care of your dryer and repair it as soon as something goes wrong, you should expect it to last anywhere between 10–13 years.

Are Electric Dryers Better Than Gas?

In terms of savings, no. While both variants will deliver great results and likely last a long time, electric models tend to be a little more expensive to run. Not because they draw more power, but because, at least in America, gas is cheaper than electricity.

How to Know if My Dryer Is Failing?

Well, there are many signs that could indicate a faulty internal component causing problems with your dryer. Some of the most common ones are a drum that’s vibrating too much, a distinctive burning smell, or even a sudden stop in the drying process mid-cycle.

If you suspect that your appliance is failing for any reason, it’s critical that you stop using it to prevent further damage and call your manufacturer for help if you’re still under warranty coverage.