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How to buy a dishwasher

Dishwashers range in cost from $200 to $2,000, but the most expensive models don't necessarily provide the best performance. Before you head to the store, consider these tips:

1. Know what you're getting. The most expensive dishwashers can be sleek-looking and surprisingly quiet, but unlike other models, they often require you to take out the food filter and clean it by hand every month or so.

2. Be prepared to shop around. For $350 to $600, you can come home with a dishwasher that can clean an especially dirty load on the "normal" cycle and still use energy frugally.

3. Do you plan to move? Built-in dishwashers are the most common, but they can be difficult to move. Meanwhile, portable dishwashers are suitable for apartment kitchens, but they are less convenient and likely to occupy more room.

4. Recognize your needs. Understand your budget requirements and dish-washing habits before you start talking with the salesperson. If you don't, you may spend too much for features you don't want or need.

5. If price matters, say so. Ask the salesperson for the best price on a given dishwasher. If the price is too high, ask to see a less expensive model.

6. Keep your senses. Sensors are touted for making dishwashers use water in an ultra-efficient way, but that doesn't necessarily hold true when you wash a really dirty load. What's more, a sensor can add $50 to $100 to a machine's price.

7. Conserve energy and water. Compare models and take note of how much energy and water they require to operate. Such considerations can save you a lot of money over the life of the machine.

8. Pay attention to cycle time. Most dishwashers require about 1{ hours to complete a normal cycle, but some take more than two hours.

9. Watch those wash levels. As you shop around, you'll see machines with as many as four wash levels. Additional levels can be an indication of superior cleaning prowess, but not in every case.

10. Look for key features. These include adjustable or fold-down tines and shelves; an adjustable upper rack; a basket for utensils; a stemware holder that secures wine glasses; a time display that lets you know how long you have to wait for clean dishes; and a stainless-steel tub, which, unlike plastic, is not as likely to discolor.

_ Compiled by Laura T. Coffey.

Sources: Consumer Reports ( and eShop (