When it comes to dollars and cents, the sticker price for high-efficiency machines is almost always higher than traditional washers, but because they conserve so much water and energy, they can save you money in the long run. A new high-efficiency machine can cost anywhere from $700 to more than $2,500 (compared to traditional machines that range from about $600 to $1,600). However, according to Energy Star, they can save you up to $135 each year in utility bills.
Forbes.com says that the average amount of time that most homeowners keep their washing machines is 12 to 13 years, and over that time, the savings provided by high-efficiency washers should more than cover the initial expense -- especially in places where water is more expensive.
The up-front cost of the washing machine tends to vary based on the quality and style, but it also depends how many customizable settings it has. You can save some cash by getting a more stripped-down model that doesn't offer as many special wash cycles.
Another way to save money when purchasing a new high-efficiency washer is through rebates. For the past several years, vouchers and rebates ranging from about $100 to $200 have been available to buyers of energy-efficiency appliances. The terms of federal and local rebate programs are subject to change, so use Energy Star's Special Offer/Rebate Finder to browse current deals.
As with any big-ticket purchase, high-efficiency washers have hidden costs in the form of repairs. You can save some cash on the initial purchase by forgoing the manufacturer's extended warranty, but it's possible that you'll end up paying more in the long run on repairs. If you do pass on the warranty, be sure to do your homework before pulling the trigger on a new high-efficiency washer to make sure there aren't any know problems with it.
For some useful links and lots more information about high-efficiency washers, read on.