The 12 Best (and Worst) Products Consumer Reports Has Ever Tested
In the market for a big-ticket item? Make sure you choose wisely…with a little help from the nation’s leading consumer watchdog.
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Shopping for home products can be downright overwhelming. There are so many brands and models to choose from, and it’s hard to know which appliance brands are truly the most reliable. That’s why Consumer Reports has been a go-to resource for shoppers for nearly 90 years. The nonprofit consumer watchdog organization conducts unbiased product testing and is on a mission to educate the public, making sure consumers know the pros and cons of these items before they spend a whole lot of money on them. Basically, they take the guesswork out of the shopping process, identifying the best and worst items in every sector, from home security products to the most reliable car models.
The thing is, you can’t just rely on a brand’s reputation or past performance, which makes this information so essential. “For every category, we test each model that comes into our labs with the same rigor,” explains John Galeotafiore, an associate testing director at Consumer Reports. “Even from the same company, you might have some of the best models and some of the worst.”
With that in mind, you’ll definitely want to do your research before buying, well, anything! To save you a little time and energy, we’ve distilled the information you need to know about big-ticket items like refrigerators and ovens to smaller everyday appliances like blenders and coffee makers. Find out which ones are worth your money and which you should skip. Once you’re up to speed, check out the best time of year to buy them to get the best deals.
The top-rated refrigerator: LG Smart French Door Counter-Depth Refrigerator
This 36-inch-wide LG French-door refrigerator wowed the testers at Consumer Reports, and for good reason. It boasts an assortment of premium features, including a door-in-door design, spill-proof and adjustable shelving, an air filter, an external water/ice dispenser, two ice makers, and digital controls. But best of all, it delivers. “In our labs, this LG earns Excellent ratings across the board, with one exception—energy efficiency,” they explain. On that score, it’s middle of the road, but hey, no one’s perfect! “In our surveys, LG French-doors receive a Good rating for reliability and a Very Good rating for owner satisfaction, which is as good as it gets for French doors,” they add. In case you were wondering, here’s what else smart refrigerators can do.
The lowest-rated refrigerator: Viking Professional 7 Series VBI7360WRSS
Often, splurging on big-ticket items is well worth the investment. However, in the case of this uber-expensive refrigerator, it isn’t. Overall, Consumer Reports gave this $12,000-plus Viking fridge a 34 out of 100. First, there is the fact that its internal temperature doesn’t consistently match the thermostat setting, earning it a Fair rating for thermostat control. But it ranked even lower in two categories—predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. “People who buy Viking refrigerators are more likely to have them break within the first few years than with other brands, and they’re also not likely to recommend Viking fridges to others,” Consumer Reports explains, deeming it Poor in those genres.
The top-rated range: Whirlpool Double Oven Electric Range with True Convection
This smooth-topped double oven offers 6.7 cubic feet of oven space and some serious bang for your buck. It scored perfectly in a variety of categories including reliability, oven capacity, how quickly it can heat and cool, and broiling capabilities. And here’s a nice bonus: Compared to other top-rated ranges, it costs significantly less, ringing in at around $1,500. Regardless of which model you end up buying, learn how to extend the life of your oven—and every other appliance.
The lowest-rated range: Fisher & Paykel OR30SCG4X1
You may have never heard of the high-end appliance brand Fisher & Paykel, headquartered in New Zealand. However, if you are shopping for a range and happen to come across one, you should stay away from this model, according to Consumer Reports. Overall, they gave the $3,900 cook-top a paltry 28 out of 100 for a few reasons, including its inability to maintain low heat settings for simmering and melting and its uneven browning when baking. “Ranges that cost $2,000 less do better in our tests,” Consumer Reports notes.
The top-rated washing machine: LG Smart Front Load Washer with TurboWash 360 Technology
Washing machines don’t get much better than the LG WM3900HWA, according to Consumer Reports. “It washes superbly. It’s efficient with both water and electricity. Noise and vibration also are very good, which means you can place this unit near a living area and feel fairly confident that your activities won’t be disturbed,” they point out. “At 4.5 cubic feet, it’s fairly roomy—enough to handle a king-size comforter.” Additionally, cycle time is 85 minutes—relatively speedy for a front-loader—and it’s stackable. The one negative of this unit? It’s not so gentle on fabrics. Still, in Consumer Reports‘ member surveys, “LG front-loaders garner very good predicted reliability and excellent owner satisfaction.” If you’re looking to buy a powerhouse duo, check out these well-rated washer and dryer sets for 2021.
The lowest-rated washing machine: Amana NTW4516FW
Having a great washing machine is a key part of maximizing the life of your linens, but this model from Amana just doesn’t get the job done. Consumer Reports gave it a score of just 32, noting its inability to fight stains. “It earns just a Fair rating for washing performance, which means there were plenty of red wine, blood, and carbon stains left on the swatches we washed on a normal cycle,” the reviewers note. “This washer earns an even worse Poor rating for water efficiency, using 25.5 gallons to wash a load; washers that earn an Excellent rating use less than half that volume.”
The top-rated blender: Vitamix 7500
There is a reason why people are obsessed with their Vitamix blenders—they work brilliantly and are super reliable. In fact, all of the top-rated blenders on Consumer Reports‘ list are from the Ohio-based brand. Their top pick? The 7500, a full-sized blender with a 5 out of 5 rating in two major categories: reliability and consumer satisfaction. It also received a perfect score in functionality categories like pureeing, making smoothies and icy drinks, ice crushing, and durability. While you’re on a shopping kick, you might want to pick up these kitchen gadgets you’ll wish you had years ago.
The lowest-rated blender: 3 Squares Soup3rb 7-Cup Cook & Blend
Consumer Reports gave this 3 Squares blender, which is “OK” at making smoothies, a 26. “It earns a Poor rating in our puree tests—it was unable to blend raw vegetables for making soup,” they reveal. Plus, it isn’t very durable. “It broke before completing the 45 sessions of crushing ice in our test.” Eek!
The top-rated coffee maker: Cuisinart DCC-T20
Cuisinart’s multifunctional 14-cup programmable coffee maker roasts the competition due to the fact that customers love it and it earns perfect scores in brew performance and convenience. Consumer Reports explains that the “carafe was fairly easy to use, hold, pour from and empty” and the model “did not overflow” during one of their standard tests in which they fill the filter to the top. In fact, when it came time to list the cons, they noted that the “model had no discernible flaws in its performance.” Talk about high praise! Keep your new Cuisinart in tip-top shape by avoiding these mistakes that shorten the life of your coffee maker.
The lowest-rated coffee maker: Hamilton Beach Flex Brew Generation 2 49997
If you are a coffee aficionado, you might want to stay away from this Hamilton Beach model, which scored a 34 due to the fact that it “makes not-so-great-tasting coffee.” Testers also noticed plastic off-tastes in the hot water cycled through the machine. “If you were considering this model for use with coffee pods, there are superior one- or two-mug drip coffee makers.”
The top-rated air purifier: Blueair Classic 605
This $500 portable air purifier earned top honors from Consumer Reports for a variety of reasons. It’s especially effective at removing dust, smoke, and pollen at its highest speed, “important for quickly cleaning the air in the room,” and it “runs quietly on its lowest speed.” It’s also “easy to operate its controls, carry it, and clean or replace its filter(s).” Plus, it’s Energy Star qualified, which means that it’s relatively energy-efficient. Even better? You can control it from anywhere via a smartphone app. The only downside is that it can be “somewhat loud” when operating on high speed. Here are more of the best air purifiers on the market, at a variety of different price points.
The lowest-rated air purifier: Hamilton Beach TrueAir 04383
If you want clean air in your home, don’t bother with Hamilton Beach’s TrueAir purifier, which scored a paltry 18. It scored a Poor rating for smoke and dust removal at both high and low speeds in tests. Plus, while the manufacturer claims the model is sized for rooms up to 160 square feet, based on Consumer Reports‘ test results, “it wouldn’t be able to handle a room larger than 75 square feet, even at its mediocre cleaning rate.”
The top-rated sheets: Matouk Sierra Sheets
Consumer Reports is quite picky when it comes to bed sheets. In fact, the highest-rated bedding on their list, Matouk Sierra, received just a 79 out of 100 score. While testers found it perfect in terms of fit, strength, and softness, they note that it has the ability to wrinkle and even shrink. Still, this is your best bet in this category.
The lowest-rated sheets: Pinzon by Amazon
Pinzon sheets may be incredibly cheap, but apparently, you get what you pay for! “These are the cheapest sheets in our ratings, and they’re also the lowest-rated,” the testers reveal. One of the huge minuses? The queen sheets don’t really fit on a queen mattress after washing them for a year. You’ll have better luck with these Amazon products with practically perfect reviews.
The top-rated space heater: Vornado VMH600
Consumer Reports testers are big fans of this tiny-but-mighty space heater, which they declare a “true winner all around” because it “combines impressive performance and attractive features.” In terms of spot heating and ease of use, it scored Excellent, while it also proved to be Very Good in terms of room heating and noise. “In addition, the machine offers plenty of convenient features, including a remote control, a timer, multiple fan speeds, and a tip-over safety switch. It also has a generous five-year warranty,” they note.
The lowest-rated space heater: Comfort Zone CZ410WT
This under-$20 space heater from Comfort Zone scored just 20. In Consumer Reports‘ tests, the small, personal heater failed to warm up a family room within 15 minutes. “Even when it comes to warming just a small room within 15 minutes, a test in which we wire a mannequin with sensors to see how warm the space heater can make the surface, this not-so-hottie failed to do the job,” they write. “The machine’s heat exhaust outlet gets so hot, it could cause a burn if you touch it.” Ouch! Instead, go with the Vornado or one of these other space heaters that’ll keep you warm and toasty—safely.
The top-rated steam mop: Bissell PowerFresh Slim 2075A Steam Mop
This steam mop with a 25-foot cord scored the highest (79 out of 100) of all. It earned Excellent marks in Consumer Reports‘ cleaning test, “which combines cleaning results of different stains on ceramic tiles,” and Very Good in terms of producing steam. It was also deemed “convenient” for a variety of factors. Looking for even more of a cleaning multitasker? Try one of these vacuum-mop combos.
The lowest-rated steam mop: Shark Steam Pocket S3501
Out of all the products on this list, Shark’s Steam Pocket mop ranked the lowest with a 9. “This Shark model is the only one in our ratings that lacks a motorized pump, which means you have to pump this mop yourself to get the steam going,” the report explains. “Because of the do-it-yourself pump, the Shark earns a rating of Poor for its ability to clean in our tests. It also earns a Poor score for its steam rate because the steam level varies depending on how much you pump.” To make matters worse, it has the shortest cord of all the products they tested: just 20 feet.
The top-rated door lock: Kwikset 980
This no-nonsense door lock scored a perfect 5-out-of-5 score in the most important test for a lock: kick-in as sold. This is “how well the lock survived increasingly forceful impacts using the hardware it comes with.” It also scored flawlessly in terms of “picking,” meaning it is totally resistant to lock-picking.
The lowest-rated door lock: Weslock 671
This Weslock door lock fails to provide security, per Consumer Reports, which gave it a score of 17. “It earns a Poor rating in our tests for withstanding kick-ins—we use a custom 100-pound steel battering ram that hits the door eight times at increasing heights until the lock fails,” they reveal. “Plus, it’s easy to pick or drill through.”
The top-rated smart lock: Yale Assure YRD256-CBA-619
While Consumer Reports recommends a bunch of different smart locks depending on connectivity (Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi) and your smart home system, the Yale Assure was the highest-scoring overall with an 87 out of 100. It scored perfectly in terms of its resistance to kick-in as well as picking, convenience, and remote-access ease. Even if your lock does what it’s supposed to, security experts say it’s still a very good idea to invest in a home safe.
The lowest-rated smart lock: MiLocks ZWF-02BN
This locked scored just a 16 due to a Poor rating in all three of Consumer Reports‘ security tests. “It didn’t hold up to being kicked in, drilled through, or picked. Even when this lock was reinforced with an aftermarket product as a part of our reinforced kick-in test, it broke, earning a Fair rating in that test,” they explain.
The top-rated video doorbell: Google Nest Hello Video Doorbell
While Consumer Reports recommends a few different video doorbells, the Google Nest Hello was their top pick. While it scored perfectly in terms of response time and data security, they also touted its video quality. If it doesn’t quite match your needs, check out this list of the other smart doorbells that might be right for you.
The lowest-rated video doorbell: Netvue Belle AI
Unfortunately, this “is definitely not the ‘extra pair of eyes’ you want to help keep your home safe,” Consumer Reports explains. “It earns a Poor rating for its video quality, meaning you won’t be able to see much from video taken in regular light, much less low light. It also earns a Poor rating in our response-time tests because it takes almost 13 seconds from the time someone presses the doorbell for you to get an alert on the smartphone app—at which point the UPS driver with your package requiring a signature will be long gone. The best models respond in about half the time.”
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