When buying a dishwasher, you should consider these key factors: configuration type, loading options, cleaning cycles, drying options, style and price. 

It’s likely that features, options and rack configurations have changed since you last purchased a dishwasher. Use this guide to buying a dishwasher to find the right one for your family.

Mom and son reviewing a dishwasher buying guide on the phone

How to buy a dishwasher 101: Start with the configuration

Having clean dishes is a necessity. With such an ongoing task, getting to know the available features and options will help you invest in a dishwasher that will best fit the needs of your home. There are four “types” of dishwashers depending on how it’s installed in your home: Standard built-in, panel ready, compact and portable.

Standard Built-In

Most people have standard built-in dishwashers in their homes. To meet your style preference, they can come with an exterior handle or a pocket handle. Front-control dishwashers have visible buttons on the exterior and top-control dishwashers hide the buttons on the top lip of the door.

Panel Ready

Panel Ready dishwashers are installed with a cabinet door attached to its face to hide the appearance of the appliance in the kitchen.

Compact

Compact dishwashers have a slimmer profile to fit small spaces, offering the convenience of not having to wash everything by hand.

Portable

Portable dishwashers are mobile versions of standard dishwashers that can move around within your space if there isn’t a pre-dedicated spot for installation.

Shopping tip: Make sure you get the right fit. Most standard built-in dishwashers require the same size cutout. Oversized, compact and portable models can be different. Be sure to measure first and read the Whirlpool® dishwasher sizing guide before purchase and delivery.

Whirlpool® dishwasher slightly open

What to look for when buying a dishwasher

Once you know the type of dishwasher you need, knowing the available options and upgrades will help finalize the model that’s right for your family.

Loading options

Dishwashers come in 2-rack and 3-rack options. 3rd rack dishwashers add a top level of capacity to free up space for dishes in the racks below. Whirlpool has a 3rd rack dishwasher with extra wash action in the third level rack to provide targeted cleaning for bowls, mugs and utensils that you’d normally load in the lower racks.

You’ll find select dishwashers have adjustable racks that make room for taller items like water bottles and blenders and flexible silverware baskets you can move around to accommodate different loads. 


No matter what you decide, check out the best way to load a dishwasher to ensure you’re maximizing your space so you can run as few loads as possible.

Cleaning cycles

Dishwashers that cost more generally come with extra cycles and drying options. These include a variety of convenience features that help you manage everything from your time to cleaning specific types of loads.
 

Sensor cycles (sometimes called soil sensors) automatically adjust the cycle to match soil levels of the load so you don’t have to guess. Sanitization cycles sanitize dishes by using extra hot water to eliminate 99.999% of food soil bacteria. Other convenient cycles and options can include steam clean, delay start, 1-hour wash, quick cycle and heavy duty. Specific cycle names can vary by brand, but their functions are typically very similar.

Drying options

Drying upgrades can be another worthwhile investment that lets you cut down on wiping off dishes before putting them away. Less expensive models rely on the heat left in the tub after the cycle to dry off dishes. Dishwashers with either a heated drying option or fan drying will introduce extra heat and/or circulated air for more optimal drying. Dishwashers with either a heated drying option or fan drying options will introduce extra heat and/or circulated air for more optimal drying.

Sound level (dBA)

Dishwasher noise is measured in decibels (dBA) where lower numbers are quieter than higher numbers. Dishwasher dBAs are usually in the 40s and 50s. If you’re looking for a model designed to stay in the background, Whirlpool brand’s quietest dishwasher model, WDTA80SAK, is just 41 dBA.

Colors and styles

After making a short list of models with the features you want, compare the color and style selection. As mentioned before, handles and control locations can vary to suit personal style preference. 

Most models come in the traditional offering of White, Black and Stainless Steel or Fingerprint Resistant Stainless Steel. Alternative options, like Fingerprint Resistant Black Stainless Steel, have hit the market in recent years to add a fresh, modern style choice for traditional or contemporary kitchens. Dishwashers have a large exterior face, making fingerprint resistant options a worthwhile investment because of the easy-to-clean exterior that resists fingerprints and smudges.

Budget

Dishwasher prices loosely break into 3 MSRP1 tiers: $400-600, $600-700 and over $700. Every model should get your dishes clean. You pay extra for things like an additional 3rd rack that offers more loading space, a stainless steel tub, adjustable racks, premium loading features like folding tines and a larger variety of specialty wash and dry options. Higher price models are generally quieter and some can be WiFi connected.

Dishes being cleaned in a dishwasher

Need more help buying a dishwasher?

Whirlpool brand’s Appliance Finder can help you choose the perfect dishwasher for you. Just answer a few quick questions and we’ll provide a personalized product recommendation that meets your needs. Or you can start shopping Whirlpool brand’s top dishwasher recommendations below.

More info on dishwashers and dishwasher cycles

How to replace your refrigerator water filter

How to properly load a dishwasher

A properly loaded dishwasher also ensures more efficiency and better cleaning so you can save time and energy.

How to clean your refrigerator - helpful tips

How to measure dishwasher dimensions

From standard to small space, this guide can help you find the right size dishwasher for your family.

How to organize food in your refrigerator

Dishwasher cycles explained

With differences in temperature, time and energy, learn which dishwashing cycle provides the best clean for each load.

Appliance IQ

Want more answers to your kitchen and laundry questions?

Was this article helpful? Pass it on

1. MSRP is Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. Dealer alone determines actual advertised and retail prices.