Kim Kleman of Consumer Reports says the trick is to avoid paying for features you don't need. Take those new dishwasher cycles with names like "turbo zone" and "power scour." That means special nozzles in the back for tough jobs. While they do a good job, they're not essential.
"We find many dishwashers using just the regular setting do a great job cleaning our very tough challenge baked-on brownie mix," Kleman said.
You'll also save money if, instead of a dishwasher with a stainless- steel tub, you get one with a plastic tub.
"People love the stainless-steel look, but how many people are looking inside your dishwasher. The plastic tub should hold up just fine," Kleman said.
Many of today's washing machines also come loaded with lots of extra features. There are even special cycles for bedding, active wear and sanitizing.
"Stick with the regular heavy duty, normal, delicate and white cycles. That's really all you really need," Kleman said.
And if you're buying a dryer, don't be wowed by capacity claims like extra large capacity, super capacity, and king-size capacity.
"We find most dryers hold plenty, whether it says super capacity or not," Kleman said.
While matching washers and dryers can look great, realize that can cost you more, too.
If you're buying your washer and dryer together, Consumer Reports says to spend your money on the best performing, efficient washer -- one that extracts the most water from clothes.
The Frigidaire Gallery GLTF2940F is recommended, a Consumer Reports best buy at $650.
For a good dishwasher, the Sears Kenmore 13742 is also a Consumer Reports best buy at $699 dollars.