A Cost Comparison of Home Laundry and Laundromats

A few weeks ago, I put out a call on Twitter and on Facebook for detailed posts that people would like to see. I got enough great responses that I'm going to fill the entire month of July - one post per day - addressing these ideas.

On Facebook, Alyssa asks "Is it worth investing in a washer & dryer or is it more economical to use a laundromat?"

Few people would argue that, over the long run, a washer and dryer will save you money. The question really comes down to how long that long run really is. Let's take a look at some real numbers and see what we find.

The Raw Data
First of all, let's look at basic costs for a laundromat.

Cost to travel to and from laundromat: $1 per trip (this is highly estimated, but there is some cost involved here)
Number of loads per trip: 8 (Again, estimated)
Cost of washer load at laundromat: $1.50 (I called three different local ones and averaged)
Cost of dryer load at laundromat: $1.50
Cost per eight loads of laundry at laundromat: $25
Cost per load at laundromat: $3.12

What about the basic costs of a home washer and dryer? This varies a lot based on how you use your washer and dryer.

Energy cost per washer load: $0.04 - $0.68, averaged at $0.36 (source)
Energy cost per dryer load: $0.31 - $0.49, averaged at $0.40 (source)
Water cost per washer load: $0.11 (40 gallons per load, using this chart)
Cost per eight loads of laundry at home: $7.76
Cost per load at home: $0.97
Savings per load at home (excluding equipment costs): $2.15

Now, let's talk about appliance costs and lifespans.

Average washing machine cost: $700
Average clothes dryer cost: $600
Lifespan of washing machine, one load per day: 9.5 years
Lifespan of dryer, one load per day: 11 years
Cost per load for average washing machine: $0.20
Cost per load for average clothes dryer: $0.15
Cost per load for average equipment: $0.35
Savings per load at home (including equipment costs): $1.80

One final factor - recouping the cost of the equipment:

Total equipment cost: $1,300
Savings per load at home (excluding equipment costs): $2.15
Number of washer and dryer loads to recoup washer and dryer cost: 605 loads

The break-even point on having an average washer and dryer in your home is around 600 loads, according to my calculations. There are lots of areas where one could quibble with the numbers used in the calculation, but no matter how much you quibble, you'll end up with an estimate somewhere reasonably close to that number.

The real question then becomes how long you're going to be living in your current residence. If you do a load of laundry each day, you'd need to live there two years to start really recouping the cost of a washer and dryer. If you wash less frequently, the time frame would be longer. We wash a bit over a load a day on average (two adults and three children), for comparison's sake.

If you own your home and intend to live there more than a few years, a washer and dryer are solid additions. Even if you do not, a washer and dryer included with your home might recoup some of the value when you sell. If I owned a home, I would probably invest in a washer and dryer.

On the other hand, if I rented a home, I would probably not invest unless you have some form of long-term lease or arrangement with your landlord. Without that, the troubles you may run into with installing and then (possibly) quickly removing the equipment undoes the benefit you'd get.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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