These three washers look identical. What's different?

Kenmore, Whirlpool, or Maytag? These washers are all great.

A few weeks ago, a truck pulled up at and dropped off some washers and dryers. That's not an usual occurrence—we test hundreds of home appliances a year. What caught my eye, however, was that two of those washers looked identical not only to each other, but to a machine we had tested months earlier.

However, this wasn't a mistake on the part of the delivery company. The Whirlpool WTW5000DW ($427.49), Kenmore 22352 ($499.99), and Maytag MVWC565FW ($534.10) are three distinct washing machines, but have roughly the same dimensions, features, and cycles.

How this happened is easy to explain: All three were made in the same factory by the same company. Why it happened is a bit harder to explain—is it about consumer choice, or consumer confusion? As it turns out, there's a little of both at play.

How did this happen?

Credit: / Jonathan Chan
All Kenmore-branded products are made by other companies. View Larger

The story starts with Whirlpool. Walk through any big box store and you might pickup on the fact that Whirlpool Corporation is the largest manufacturer of appliances in the US. And it's not because you see the Whirlpool sticker everywhere, but because you see KitchenAid, Maytag, Amana and Jenn-Air. Whirlpool owns every one of them. It positions Whirlpool as a mainstream, easy-to-use brand, and aims Maytag at buyers who want a more traditional appliance.

As for Kenmore, it's a well-known brand—but it has no factories. The Sears-and-Kmart exclusive label dictates designs and warranties and features, but all the products are built by competing home appliance companies that include LG, Frigidaire, and—you guessed it—Whirlpool. It's an unusual arrangement, but not unheard of: Car companies do it all the time.

The Kenmore, Maytag, and Whirlpool that are the subject of this article were all designed by Whirlpool Corporation and built in the same factory–in Clyde, Ohio to be specific. The city is rather proud of the 2.4-million-square-foot facility, even featuring it on a drone fly-by called the Clydescope.

What's the same, and what's different?

Since the 5000, the 565, and the 22352 are brothers from another mother, it'd be good to go over the similarities. All three are around 4.3-cu.-ft., top-loading, entry-level washers. They all retail for between $430-$450. Objectively speaking, these washers have low upfront price tags, but our tests show they all use a lot of water.

While the three machines may look the same on the outside, they actually use different technology to get clothes clean. The Whirlpool WTW5000DW uses a wash plate and recirculating pump, which moves clothes around like a fountain moves water. The Maytag and the Kenmore have traditional pole agitators, which wash by rubbing the clothes against each other, the agitator, and the sides of the drum.

All three manufacturers make machines with both styles of cleaning, though tests we perform prove that—generally speaking—wash plates are better at removing stains than pole agitators.

Does it Matter?

Despite its less-effective cleaning system, the Maytag still claims that it has the best stain removal in its class, so long as users choose the PowerWash cycle. Indeed, our tests show that the Maytag 565 has a 5 percent edge against the similarly priced GE GTWN460ASJWW, which also has a pole agitator. That might sound like a piddly amount, but when it comes to products that cost the same, it's a war of inches.

Otherwise, all three machines clean the same. The Whirlpool WTW5000DW's Heavy Duty cycle cleans almost as well as the Maytag's PowerWash, but it's quicker than the Maytag. The Kenmore has similar abilities.

Deep Fill
Credit: / Jonathan Chan
If you ever felt like your washer doesn't use enough water, the Deep Fill feature on the 565 and 22352 might be the answer to your problems. View Larger

In the end, the machines are similar enough that our pick for which one is best comes down to factors outside of performance. Specifically, buyers should look at sale prices, warranty, and availability.

If the Kenmore drops $50 below the other two, it's worth buying. If the 10-year parts-only warranty Maytag puts on certain components helps you sleep at night, buy the MVWC565FW. If you've got a load of dirty laundry stuck in a broken washer and there's a Whirlpool in stock at your local appliance store, snap it up.

Yes, there are differences between these three machines, but most of those differences relate to how the machine is marketed—not how it's made. We can tell you how well they wash, but the final decision of brand preference is up to you.

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