Direct Drive vs Belt Drive Washing Machines | Which Is Better?


A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to purchase a belt-drive washing machine after using a direct drive for 20 years. We have been more than happy with our purchase so far so I thought I’d share our findings so you can make a more informed decision.

Direct drive washing machines perform better than belt-drive washers. In addition, they lack belts and the other parts that most commonly wear down and break on belt-drive washers. Direct drive washers are also quieter, more reliable, and more energy-efficient than their belt-drive counterparts.

In this article, I’ll be explaining the differences between direct drive and belt drive washing machines, discussing which are better for your needs, and providing more relevant information.

What Is the Difference Between Direct Drive and Belt Drive?

LG-Direct-Drive-Washing-Machine-Controls-Close-Up

Direct drive washing machines have no moving parts within the machine, whereas belt-drive washing machines use a belt to drive the motor and spin the machine. Belt-drive machines are relatively easy to repair, while direct drive may call for a technician.

In more direct terms, direct-drive motors rely more on electromagnets, while belt-drive motors use friction and rotational power.

Belt-drive washing machines are the original washing machines, and so the parts and knowledge of fixing them are in wide circulation. Just about any DIY fanatic knows how to change a belt on a belt-drive washing machine. Belt-drive machines lack the fancy features that some newer direct drive washing machines sometimes have, like the ability to rotate in both directions.

Direct drive washing machines are relatively new. The lack of moving parts within the machine means that on average, the machine is more stable than a belt drive washer. Therefore, there is less wear-and-tear on the motor and other parts within the machine, giving it better longevity than a belt-drive washing machine. 

Another perk is that by eliminating the belt and pulley, the machine is more energy-efficient. If you check out the Energy Star ratings on washers, all the most efficient washers use direct drive motors. 

Their only major drawback is that direct drive washers are hard to fix yourself and will typically require a specialized technician if they break down.

How Does a Belt-Drive Washer Work?

In a belt-drive washer, a motor turns the washer’s tub via a belt drive, a mechanical system that uses a pair of pulleys connected to a central shaft with a flexible band or belt. The belt drive transfers power to the motor so it can rotate the tub. 

Overall, belt drives are very cheap to produce and are easily fixable because the parts for them are very common.

How Does a Direct Drive Washer Work?

In a direct drive washer, the motor is typically mounted right underneath the tub. Whereas belt-drive washers rely on the belt drive to transmit power, direct-drive motors use a complex set of electromagnets to produce torque that in turn spins the tub of the washing machine.

Direct Drive vs. Belt Drive 

For most intents and purposes, direct drive washing machines are better. They lack the parts that most frequently break on belt-drive systems and are optimized for stability, reliability, performance, longevity, and energy efficiency. 

Direct drive washers have an estimated lifespan of 15 years. They are also often advertised with special features that older, belt-drive machines aren’t capable of. Notably, this means that direct-drive machines don’t have agitators that are used in belt-drive washers to remove dirt and debris from clothes. Rather, the back-and-forth motion of the machine removes the dirt and debris – it doesn’t need an agitator.

However, direct drive washing machines aren’t always the cheapest or easiest to fix manually. A relatively inexpensive belt-drive washing machine may be easier and less costly for a DIY-inclined person who can perform belt changes and other routine repairs themselves.

By contrast, a direct drive washing machine contains circuit boards and other complex parts that make self-repairs virtually impossible. This means in the event that the machine does break down – which is technically not very likely – you’re looking at a higher bill to call a washing machine technician to come and fix it.

Are Direct Drive Washing Machines Reliable?

Direct drive washing machines are, on average, more reliable than belt-drive washing machines. This is because they eliminate the parts that most frequently break on belt-drive machines: the transmission and the belt itself. Fewer breakable parts mean higher reliability.

Although direct drive washing machines may be more reliable, this comes with its tradeoffs: if a direct drive washing machine breaks down, the repair will require a technician who specializes in direct drive machines. This is because fixing them is more involved than just changing out a belt on a pulley and calling it a day. 

Does a Direct Drive Washing Machine Have a Belt?

Inside-of-Direct-Drive-Washing-Machine

No, direct drive washing machines don’t have a belt. In a direct drive machine, the motor sits directly underneath the tub. Control boards read the weight of the tub and regulate the amount of power needed to rotate the tub and wash the clothes, making energy use precise and efficient.

Other things direct drive washing machines lack compared to a belt-drive washer are brushes and a transmission. With no belt, the transmission is superfluous, and brushes aren’t necessary to transmit energy within a direct drive system. Overall, there are fewer parts in a direct drive washing machine.

Direct Drive Pros and Cons

Like any machine, a direct drive washer has its pros and cons that make it worth using to some people and not worth it to others. Let’s take a look at these pros and cons below.

Pros 

  • Less likely to break down than a belt-drive washer
  • Even dispersion of force means clothes get washed evenly
  • Fewer parts to break means fewer parts to replace
  • Shorter wash cycles
  • Faster rotation speed means clothes dry faster
  • More energy-efficient, saving you money on water and power bills
  • Can rotate both ways to untangle clothes

Cons

  • More expensive to fix than a belt-drive washing machine
  • Nearly impossible to fix yourself, meaning you have to call a technician
  • More expensive than belt-drive washers

Belt-Drive Pros and Cons

Even though direct drive washers are generally better washing machines, belt-drive washers still have their own merits that ensure they will never totally go away.

Pros

  • Cheaper and easier to find secondhand
  • Can be repaired manually without outside help
  • Easier to find parts for

Cons

  • More parts mean more things that can break down, which in turn means less reliability
  • Lower lifespan vs. direct drive machines
  • Slower wash cycles
  • Clothes dry more slowly
  • Can only rotate in one direction because of the belt drive
  • Uses more water and power, raising your utility bills over time

What’s the Quietest Type of Washing Machine?

Direct drive washing machines are quieter than belt-drive washers because they have no rotating brush in the motor. They also have no belt or noisy transmission pulley system to produce excess vibration. With less vibration within the machine, less noise is produced by the machine in general.

For the most part, what makes belt-drive washers noisy is the brush within the motor constantly rotating. Friction, as you might expect, is noisy. Throw into the mix the belt, which may become squeaky, and several pulleys and a transmission…well, more parts are louder.

Final Thoughts

Washing machines are an essential part of modern life, but not everyone knows that there are different types of washers, or what the differences between them are.

While belt-drive washers will always have a place with DIYers, direct drive washing machines perform better and are overall better in virtually every way. Over time, direct drive washers will become cheaper and more widespread than belt-drive washers, and they may eventually replace them.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!

For more, check out Is It Better to Wash Clothes in Cold or Warm Water? | Definitive Answers.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

Related Articles