Buy a washing machine or go to the laundromat?

This is a somewhat nostalgic post for me and is for all the urban dwellers out there, particularly the renters.  Here is the deal.  I lived in the outer boroughs of NYC for 5 years (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens) and never had a washer or dryer.  Laundry was a much dreaded Sunday chore.

loose sock anyone?

Let me paint the picture for you.  You might be a little hungover, your roommates are all at home watching a movie or playing N-64 super smash brothers, and your ultimate frisbee team is playing pick-up at the park.  You, on the other hand, have to spend your free sunday afternoon with moms, wives, grandmas, and kids in a hot laundromat, staking claim for the next available dryer (where are all the young attractive singles they show on TV?).

That was my weekly experience in Queens until I finally decided to start paying to have someone else do my laundry because I got lazy and wanted the second half of my weekend back.  Looking back, I wish I had gone further and bought a washer and dryer of my own.

Considering I lived with 2 other roommates, a washer and dryer could have paid for itself in less than a year. Also, if we moved, we could have taken it with us or had our landlord purchase it back from us to entice new tenants, only to repeat the same thing at our next place, saving even more money in the process.  Or we could have sold it on Craigslist to accomplish the same thing.

So anyway, now you know the inspiration for this post. Below I will provide few different scenarios that involve buying a washing machine and dryer to save time and money:

Scenario 1 – Buy a washer and dryer versus living with 2 other roommates and doing your own laundry at laundromat

  • 10-Year NPV: $5,866
  • 10-Year ROI: 219%
  • 10-Year Payback: 1.5 years

Scenario 2 – Buy a washer and dryer versus living with 2 other roommates and having someone else do your laundry

  • 10-Year NPV: $8,318
  • 10-Year ROI: 209%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.9 years

Scenario 3 – Buy a washer and dryer versus living alone and doing your own laundry at laundromat

  • 10-Year NPV: $4,090
  • 10-Year ROI: 105%
  • 10-Year Payback: 3.9 years

Scenario 4 – Buy a washer and dryer versus living alone and having someone else do your laundry

  • 10-Year NPV: $6,542
  • 10-Year ROI: 106%
  • 10-Year Payback: 2.9 years

So the general rule of thumb is:

  • If you have two roommates, buy a washer/dryer combo if you plan to stay at the same place for 2 years or more.
  • If you live alone, buy a washer and dryer if you plan to be in the same place for 4 years or more.
  • And if you still live with your significant other in the city, you might as well just get on with the inevitable and move to the suburbs already 😉  Just kidding.  It works out to about 2 years for couples.

And while I’m talking in generalities, investing in a washer/dryer unit is worth between $4,000 and $8,000 every ten years per person.

As I mentioned above, you could probably make the numbers look a little better for buying if you take the washer/dryer with you or sell it on Craigslist.

An interesting side note for the those of you that probably won’t buy a washing machine or dryer anytime soon is that you can still save a little money by doing laundry yourself at the laundromat vs. using a service.  My estimate is about $4,000 over 10 years with growth or about $250 per year without growth (assumes time costs and other assumptions listed below).  That’s not a whopping amount, and looking back, I’m glad I freed up my Sunday afternoons for important things like N64 and ultimate frisbee.

So that is the lay of the land for buying your own washing machine and dryer as an urban dweller.  Until next time, happy washing.


  1. Two loads of laundry per person per week
  2. Each load of laundry costs $1.00 in utilities when you do it yourself (Clearly Energy).
  3. Laundromat charges $9.00 per load for drop-off service (experience)
  4. Self-service laundromat costs $5.00 per load (experience)
  5. You will spend 6 minutes per load at your own place with own washer / dryer (experience)
  6. You will spend 7.5 minutes per load for drop off service (combine 2 loads in 1 trip – experience)
  7. You will spend 15 minutes per load for self-service at laundromat (2 concurrent loads, close enough to go home or do something else while they run, experience)
  8. Your time is valued at $10.00 per hour (personal estimate)
  9. A washer and dryer will cost you about $1,600 total with $200 installation / delivery costs (best buy, estimate)
  10. Savings grow at inflation-adjusted rate of 4% per year

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