The main difference in shopping for a washing machine over the past ten years is the increase in the number of front loading washing machines.
Instead of agitating the tub full of water, the clothes, due to centrifugal force, are tumbled just like the dryer action, and the water is forced through the clothing by gravity. These clothes washers use less water, and since about 85% of the energy used on laundry is not on the machine itself but in heating the water, it follows that front loading machines are more energy efficient. Most of the Energy Star designated machines (50 percent more energy efficient than the government's minimum standard) are front loaders, using less than half the amount of water a top loader does. These machines also handle 12 to 20 pounds of laundry, generally 4 pounds more than the top loading machines, bringing you savings in time as well as energy.
Front loaders go about their work quietly as well, making them ideal for locations near the center of activity or for smaller homes. And for those smaller homes or apartments, a front loader will stack very nicely with a dryer, and give you more space in an already crowded laundry area.
Keep in mind that front loaders require significantly more bending as the opening is closer to the ground than a top loading machine. Some brands offer lifts that function as storage drawers to get the machine's door higher and more accessible. This often comes with additional costs.
Consider how much you wish to spend on a washer up front however, as the front loaders are generally more expensive.