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

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.