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1. Start with budget
As with most major purchases, start with your budget. Dishwashers can range from around $300 to well over $1000, with price points everywhere in between. Create your budget and stick to it... it's easy to get wooed by bells and whistles in the store that you'll never actually use.
2. What's inside matters
The biggest decision you'll need to make, right off the bat, is if you want a stainless interior tub. Choosing a stainless interior, where the dishes are actually washed, will likely increase the quality and life of your dishwasher, but it will also bump you up into the next price bracket. The stainless interior doesn't have much to do with how clean your dishes will get, as you might think, but more to do with the efficiency of how your dishwasher uses energy to wash your dishes.
3. What are you washing?
Different dishwashers have different configurations. Some are better for washing big items, like pots and pans, mixing bowls or your Crock-Pot insert. When you buy a new dishwasher, imagine putting your most-used dishes in the racks and see if the space will work for you.
4. Water usage
There's a bit of debate when it comes to dishwashers — does a dishwasher that uses less water clean your dishes as well? Many dishwashers are "green," using as little water as possible for each load. However, some families claim that some are almost too efficient, not using enough water to clean a full load. Chat with your salesperson to see if a low-water dishwasher is right for your needs and your home.
5. Making adjustments
Some of the coolest new features on dishwashers include the adjustments that you can make to their racks and utensil holders to essentially customize each load. Many of the new models have top racks that can be lowered if you need a few more inches of space for tall glasses or cups, like travel mugs. And oftentimes, your new dishwasher will have dish racks that completely fold down to create more space, when needed.
6. To sanitize or not to sanitize?
Looking to kick up the germ-fighting power of your dishwasher? Consider adding a sanitizing feature to your new addition. Your dishwasher uses the hot water temperature that is set on your water heater (typically no hotter than 120 degrees F), but when you turn on the sanitizing button, it heats the water internally so that it's even hotter, killing even more germs and bacteria on your dishes. Knowing those sippy cups are cleaner than clean might be worth this upgrade.
7. Consider a quick wash
Family life moves at a quick pace and a quick wash feature on your new dishwasher could be a great time saver. Having a quick wash feature is also nice if you do a lot of entertaining, where you need to turn a load of dishes around at a faster pace. Most dishwasher loads run at least 60 minutes, with quick wash loads often taking half of the normal wash time.
8. Whisper vs. roar
If you've ever had a loud dishwasher, you know how valuable a quiet dishwasher is... especially if you live in a small home or in a home where your kitchen is open to your living space. Dishwasher sound ratings are in decibels, with the quietest dishwashers having lower decibels. Remember that a small difference in decibels — even just a few — can make a big difference in how loud your dishwasher is when it's running, so if you're in the market for a quiet dishwasher, put your splurging dollars toward this feature.
9. Bonus features
You'll quickly realize that dishwashers have some pretty crazy features these days, including half-load cycles, trays that hold specific utensils, special washes that match delicate dishes (um, wine glasses, anyone?) and more. It's easy to be distracted by the special features of each dishwasher, so be sure to keep your eye on the prize when you're shopping and to remember the key features that are most important to you.
10. Outside beauty
Some people may go to the outside appearance of the dishwasher as their first feature to consider, but really, with so many dishwashers that look so similar at face value, this should be the last feature your consider. It's usually easy to choose the front of your new dishwasher — stainless, black or white — and you can also often pick where the buttons are (on the front or on the top, hidden away from curious little fingers!), as well as if you want a handle that will hold a dish towel or a handle that is inset into the dishwasher itself.