Top loading machines with the traditional agitator are the work horses of the laundry room. You lift the lid, pop in the clothes and the tub will fill with water, the agitator then rotates the clothing. Capacity ranges from 12 to 16 pounds of clothing and are more reliable than front loaders.
Generally, top loading machines' sticker price is lower than the jazzier non-agitating top loaders and newer front loading machines, with prices ranging from just under $200 to $700.
They utilize regular detergent for best results.
If you forget that errant pillowcase or towel, you can always pop it in mid-cycle with the top loading machine and you have the no-bending access to the tub. The cycles themselves tend to be shorter as well.
However, long-term energy costs can add up as you will use more hot water (up to three times as much) per load. Since they leave more water in the clothes after the spin cycle, you use more energy drying them as well. Because their capacity is generally less than the front loading machines due to space being taken up by the agitator, you will be doing more loads and experience more wear and tear on the clothing fabric due to the constant agitation of top loading machines.
Top loaders also tend to be noisy and can easily bang around due to an unbalanced load. There is nothing more annoying than having to drop what you are doing to run to the machine and fish out soaking towels before you get the right distribution of wash.
Bottom line - choose a conventional top loading washing machine if you don't want to be taken to the cleaners on initial price tag and still have an aisle full of machines from which to choose.
New Technology Top Loading Washing Machines
Major brands have come up with new technology that eliminates the agitator, the culprit in wear and tear on clothing and the space hog in your washing machine tub. Maytag has a "gentle" tumbling action in their Neptune top loader...Whirlpool uses a "wash plate". Some European top loading models are front loaders with a trap door in the drum.
New tech top loaders use special HE (for high efficiency) detergent, a pricey product that can be hard to find but makes less foam. The new top loader's high speed spin cycle makes for a faster (read more energy efficient), dryer wash and therefore requires less time in the dryer itself. Unfortunately it makes for more wrinkles as well, and you may find yourself pulling out the iron more than you want.