When we first moved to Florida, we purchased an LG front load washer dryer pair from Best Buy. We got a good deal, by virtue of them having cosmetic damage on the sides where we'd never see the scratches. Once we switched to front load, we never wanted to go back.
For a brief period of time, I sold appliances, and my big goal was to be the most informed about the differences between the products. So, I did a cost comparison analysis for top load washers vs. front loaders. Detailed below are some of my findings.
1. Uses less resources.
Your typical top load washer with an agitator in the middle uses between 60 and 80 gallons of water for each cycle you run. For most machines, that's three fill ups and up to 240 gallons of water for ONE load of laundry.
In comparison, the average front load washer uses 5 gallons of water per cycle and in a machine that usually has 1/3 more capacity. We won't sweat calculating that difference, but
If you're the average family of four, you're doing about 10 loads of laundry a week (I'm using a 5.0 cf washer, I know that's like a double load in the average top loader). That's 2,250 gallons per week, or 900 gallons per month or 11,700 gallons per year.
Then you get to the electricity consumption. The motor needs a lot of torque to spin a tub with 80 gallons of water (that weighs about 10 pounds per gallon) and your clothing, so it uses a lot more electricity. Less water and a magnetic drive in the case of most front loaders, you're generally using about 20% the electric per load that the front loader uses.
Something else to consider: using less water in the wash cycles means the clothes going into the dryer have less work to do because the clothes are damp, not completely soaked. Saves money on the dryer cycle, too.
2. The financial impact. I don't have the hard and fast numbers ready anymore, but for my community, using their rates in 2008, the savings for ten loads of laundry per week for a year was calculated to be somewhere between a $300 to $350 savings. No, not a huge amount of money, but in two years, you can pay for a basic front loader with those savings. Your community may vary, but you will save at least that amount each year. If you're like me and your front loader dies after years of use, you spend about $1000 on laundromats and as soon as you get the new one, the TIME savings is worth more than the monetary savings.
They use HE detergent. This means you're probably going to use 2 or 3 tablespoons of liquid detergent. While a jug of this detergent, on the surface, looks like it costs a lot more for the same quantity of liquid, you're actually getting a lot more loads of laundry for that price.
3. The quality of the wash.
I learned about front loaders when I was part of the opening team of a store that sold appliances. All the employees wore the same uniforms and at first, we all looked identical. A month later, some of the shirts weren't as vibrant. Three months later, it was easy to pick out who had a front load washer and who had a top loader.
The lack of an agitator means that your clothes aren't getting beaten against it dozens (hundreds?) of times in each load. This helps you to keep that very expensive pair of pants or dressy blouse looking like it was last week's purchase instead of last year's.
In addition, both of our machines have had a sanitize cycle, which is great when some sort of illness has invaded your house. I like to use it on my towels every once in a while to get all them super clean.
4. Larger capacity.
Our current machine does the equivalent of two top loader loads. We save time by having to wash less frequently. I can do a week's worth of my clothes in one load.
All in all, I find it cheaper and better to wash my clothes in a front loader and will never willingly go back to top loaders. It was a personal preference at first, but the true benefits have convinced me that its the way to go.