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by Product Expert

There are three primary types of dishwashers for consumers to choose from today: installed, portable, and countertop models—with typical installed or built-in models being the most popular variety that we sell here at K&A Appliance—and that are for sale in the larger marketplace.

Today’s post is focused on those “other” two model types, which are designed for users with more unique kitchen demands who still want robust dishwashing capabilities—from renters who aren’t permitted to change out appliances in their kitchens to anyone without enough kitchen space for a permanently installed machine.

No matter your circumstances, portable and countertop dishwashers have many benefits to consider, but there are also some important drawbacks—mainly to do with their smaller overall size—to keep in mind.

The differences between installed, portable, and countertop dishwashers

Regardless of their type or format, dishwashers don’t tend to come in the dizzying array of sizes that many other appliances—like refrigerators and laundry machines—do.

Among installed dishwashers, you’ll generally only have to choose between 18” compact machines and 24” standard-sized models, as we covered in our previous blog post about choosing the right dishwasher for you. Portable dishwashers tend to adhere to these same sizing classifications, though most of them are 18” in width. Countertop models, designed to sit on your counter instead of the floor, break the sizing standards rule a bit—some are 22” wide, but they won’t be less than 18”.

Beyond sizing/capacity, the only big physical difference between portable and countertop dishwashers vs. installed models is how they hook up to water and drainage. An installed dishwasher will be plumbed into your home’s overall plumbing system, while portable and countertop models conveniently utilize your kitchen sink as both a water source and drain.

Cost considerations

Between the three different dishwasher types, you can find the widest range of price points in installed models—again, because these are the most popular and have the most extensive variety of models on the market. Budget models with just a few wash cycles and a plastic interior tub—instead of the consumer-preferred stainless steel—will cost only a couple hundred dollars at traditional retailers, but you can find some of the “fancier” models coming in at $1,000 and above!

Expect portable dishwashers to be priced comparably to installed models with similar sizing and feature sets. Countertop models, on the other hand, are generally priced in the $200-$400 range. This has to do with their small size and capacity. They’re also marketed as a sort of “step-up” product that manufacturers are not expecting consumers to use for long before (ideally) investing in a larger portable or installed dishwasher.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget that K&A Appliance can save you money over retail pricing on any dishwasher you might be considering from the best brands.

Which dishwasher type works best?

When it comes to making a call on which type works best, it’s mainly a question of your expectations. Many people prefer installed dishwashers because they don’t require moving from a storage location to the kitchen when it’s time to do dishes. You can just load them up and go. That said, portable and countertop dishwashers typically work just as well as installed models at cleaning and drying dishes. You want to check product reviews for more on any given model’s capabilities.

Are portable and countertop dishwashers durable?

Portable dishwashers—by design—are meant to be moved around. Unlike installed models, their finished sides and tops are made to endure bumps from handling. Additionally, portable models can even double as extra counter space if you purchase a model with a butcher block top.

Features to Compare

When shopping for any dishwasher, your biggest things to think about will be capacity—or, how many dishes the machine can hold when full—and the overall feature set, which includes available wash cycles. If noise levels are a concern, you’ll also want to pay attention to decibel ratings, which are typically disclosed on product tags or in specifications listings from manufacturers.


Portable dishwashers tend to hold nearly as many dishes as comparably-sized installed models, which means you won’t sacrifice function simply for the convenience of portability. Consider that 18” dishwasher models accommodate 6-8 place settings, and you’ll have a sense of what to expect with most portable units.

Countertop dishwashers are smaller, but with careful loading, some can hold up to 6 place settings. If you live alone or with just one other person, this may be more than enough capacity to save you from having to hand wash dishes, which can save water considerably.

Wash Cycles

Some dishwashers may have seven to eight (or more!) wash cycles or settings, but there are typically four that you’ll absolutely want to have: Light/Express, Normal, Pots & Pans/Heavy, and Eco/Economy (different manufacturers use slightly different naming conventions for the same basic settings).

Advanced models now have soil sensing technology that can choose the proper cycle for you, but many find that it doesn’t save that much water or power over choosing the appropriate cycle yourself.

Ease of Use

With portable and countertop dishwashers, ease of use tends to translate to “how hard is it to move around?” Think about your ability to lift or wheel a machine around your house between storage and your kitchen, and then check the total weights of dishwashers you’re considering. If a given model is too heavy or bulky, you should probably skip it even if the feature set is appealing.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider how easy it will be to hook your portable dishwasher up to your kitchen faucet/sink. Some faucets with built-in sprayer heads are not able to accommodate the dishwasher connection, and you may need to retrofit or run water from another faucet.

Thinking about Adding a Dishwasher to Your Kitchen? Shop K&A First!

Here at K&A Appliance, our brand new scratch & dent inventory can save you up to 70% off retail prices on dishwashers, no matter whether you’re shopping only installed models or considering portable and countertop machines, too.

Stop in and shop our showrooms in Lancaster and Willow Street, PA or learn more by contacting us now!