I'll add my "well, yes and
no" vote to the below!
Yes, overall I think dishwashers are worth having. They don't, mind you, mean you'll never have a messy kitchen or be twiddling your thumbs with lack of work. The dishes do need a bit of tending-to prior to being washed by the dishwasher, and surprisingly enough, a dishwasher full even of clean dishes needing putting away can sometimes look like a chore you'd rather avoid!
However, I've had a dishwasher ever since we had children and wouldn't choose to be without one now.
Urmaniac, for the time being at least
you're without children (edited to say I think I may be wrong about this perhaps?). When it's just two people, the usefulness of a dishwasher's negligible, for the reason that's already been mentioned below: that you have to wait for it to be full to run it. During a hot Italian summer, that pretty much means it would get smelly, for one (although rinsing/brushing dishes a bit before loading them somewhat reduces the smell) and also that you would have to own quite a few dishes to get through the couple of days which would pass before you ran the dishwasher.
For that reason, our first dishwasher was a 45-cm model -- which you probably realize is a common option in European appliances. That dishwasher was still running strong when we un-installed it to install its replacement -- a full-size (60-cm) built-in under-the-counter model -- when we remodeled, so it's patiently sitting in the basement awaiting being reborn, in a child's college apartment, a cottage, whatever.
The "well, no" part of my comment has to do with the fact that when my dishwasher might be the most needed -- I don't use it, namely, like this coming Sunday, when we have large parties which involve the good china and crystal. They all get hand-washed prior to the party and hand-washed after the party. The dishwasher, however, DOES get used as a storage space for the same dishes -- unwashed -- to clear up counter space during the party. Wouldn't really suggest you buy it just
for that, but it does come in handy!
Whether dishes and glasses wear out in the dishwasher or not has to do with their quality (which, no, doesn't necessarily translate to their cost!). While I admit that my very nice Villeroy everyday mugs have been washed thousands of times and show not the least bit of wear, I also have some favorite super-cheapies that have been washed likewise and are still doing well. Inversely, I have expensive and cheap stuff that's fared very poorly. You really just don't know until you've tried.
Crystal should never be washed in a dishwasher because it's softer than glass and thus is particularly prone to hazing because dishwasher detergent is -- necessarily -- more caustic than hand-dishwashing detergent. Similarly china with metallic or hand-painted elements shouldn't be washed in the dishwasher. Aluminum items will darken, but if that doesn't bother you, go for it. Stainless steel washes BRILLIANTLY, as does any good porcelain. Soft plastic can warp, and hard plastic will usually get hazy.
As for brand: both my dishwashers, like my clothes washer, are Miele. I recommend them without reservation for several reasons, one of which is my own experience -- they've all been run daily for years and years and I have never needed to replace a part or call upon service. Ever.
Secondly, our family company sells and services hospital equipment, including washers, for a living. Something that presumably most people don't know is that Miele's industrial washers are where Miele got their start and made their name. Many of the components for the domestic washers are the same as those used in the industrial washers for manufacturing economy, and I assure you, the quality of their washers is second to none in Europe. In my experience this does NOT apply to all of their appliances, on which they trade on their good name alone, but that's another story. Regarding washers per se, however, I wouldn't recommend you buy anything but Miele, even though they are, admitedly, about 20% more expensive than their competitors like Seimens.
When we went shopping for our first washer, we looked at the Miele, the Seimens, and the Bosch. Only the Miele has a 3rd rack for the forks and knives, BTW, rather than a basket -- you'll either love it or find it a hassle. I love it.
What I noticed on my own was the difference in feel of the plastic on the racks -- the Miele simply felt and looked better quality, even though neither Seimens nor Bosch are considered "slumming it"!
My husband, however, who's the more knowledgable of the two of us (in this issue
), noticed something else and asked me if I'd caught on: he said, 'did you notice that both the Bosch and the Seimens had two door gaskets whereas the Miele had only one?' I said, 'well, uhhh, no. Why? What does that mean?' And he said: 'there's one reason and only one to put a second gasket on a door, and that's because you can't get it right with the first!' I bought that argument then and I've never regretted it.
My vote is obvious ... and now I'll stop these flying fingers!