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Kenmore 13002 review: Simple Kenmore dishwasher makes cleaning power affordable

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The $400 Kenmore 13002 24-inch Built-In Dishwasher confirms that cleaning power doesn't necessarily correlate with price. With a 73 percent cleaning score in our rigorous tests, this bargain dishwasher outperformed models that cost two to three times as much. To get the price down, the 13002 does away with almost all frills -- it doesn't have stem holders, foldable tines or really any features to speak of.

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6.5

Kenmore 13002

The Good

The Kenmore 13002 cleans well for a dishwasher at any price, and it’s only $400.

The Bad

The epitome of keeping it simple, this budget dishwasher doesn’t have anything going for it other than competent cleaning.

The Bottom Line

If you want style or extras, keep looking. If you want a budget dishwasher that can get the job done, this is it.

The Kenmore 13002 is even more stripped down than the $400 GE GDF520PGJWW, which at least has stem holders and a flexible silverware basket. The 13002 is a better cleaner, but I still slightly prefer GE's $400 model. The 13002 isn't a good enough cleaner that you don't have to rinse or scrape your dishes, and the GE GDF520PGJWW is a much better dryer.

If you're looking to save money on a dishwasher, also consider the $500 GE ADT521PGJBS if you want a model with a little style, or the $500 Kenmore 13479 if you want a machine that's a legitimately great cleaner. If you're intent on spending $400 or less, the 13002 does its main job admirably and is therefore worth your consideration.

The Kenmore 13002 cuts the frills, keeps the cleaning power

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Ordinary at a glance

Kenmore made smart choices when deciding what to trim to get the price down on the $400 13002 -- which is to say, the company cut everything but performance. The all-white exterior will blend in well with white cabinets and that's about the best thing I can say as far as the design goes. It's inoffensive. The plastic tub and white interior don't spice things up, either.

The 13002 is easy enough to control. The buttons feel plasticky, but you can scroll between three different cycles: Pots and Pans, Normal Wash and "1 Hr Wash." The 13002 has a couple of options you can add to your cycle: "High temp," "Sani Rinse" or "Heated Dry."

The control panel on the front is its only visual adornment other than the Kenmore logo. But the lack of interesting cycles or countdown timer isn't damning at this price. The GDF520PGJWW has an autosense cycle and a steam prewash option, but otherwise matches the 13002's lack of choice.

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The interior of the 13002 is also pretty plain. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

You can't fold down any tines on the interior of the 13002, but they're spaced well enough to fit standard dishes. Even at 10 place settings, however, the dishwasher felt cramped -- it holds a maximum of 12. The GDF520PGJWW has room for 16, as well as stem holders and an upper rack you can raise or lower.

The GDF520PGJWW is also quieter, rated at 54 dB compared with the 13002's 56 dB. But you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference unless you were running both at the same time. You'll need to speak up if you're having a conversation in the same room while either model is running, but you should barely hear it by the time you get to an adjacent room.

Before you start the cycle, the Kenmore 13002 doesn't do much to impress. Again, that's perfectly fine at this price because of what it can do once it does kick into action. You can buy the Kenmore 13002 now from Sears. This $400 dishwasher is only available in the US.

Performs with more power than meets the eye

In our cleaning tests, the Kenmore 13002 handled chunky foods such as spinach leaves and mac & cheese noodles admirably. It struggled a little more to scrape the peanut butter off our knives and serving platters and it occasionally missed the inside of a bowl on its tightly packed top shelf.

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The Kenmore wasn't great at drying on our standard tests, but it did much better once we turned on heated dry. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Despite those struggles, the 13002 posted an admirable total of 73 percent on our cleaning tests -- and we stress our dishwashers out when we test them. We coat 112 dishes in 13 different types of food, then let the soiled dishes sit out overnight before loading the dishwasher and letting it go to work. Head here for more details on our process.

Given the rigor of our tests, a 73 percent is a good score that outdoes the $1,100 Frigidaire FPID2497RF (55.4 percent), the $900 LG LDF7774ST (69.6 percent) and several other more expensive dishwashers.

The 13002 also outperformed the GE GDF520PGJWW (62.3 percent), making up for its lost ground on features and design. In practice, the score and the results mean you'll need to rinse or scrape your dishes before you load them into either the 13002 or the GDF520PGJWW.

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The Kenmore 13002 stacks up well next to more expensive dishwashers. 

Steve Conaway/CNET

The GE GDF520PGJWW is the better dryer of the two, though. When we turned on "Heated Dry" for both, the GDF520PGJWW earned a great 64.1 percent dry score with relatively few water marks. The 13002 scored a more pedestrian 43.6 percent total with lots of marks, particularly on our plastic dishes.

The verdict

Despite its lack of features and bland design, the $400 Kenmore 13002 is a solid choice if you're looking for an entry level dishwasher. Rinse or scrape your dishes before you load them and you'll be happy with the results. For $400, that's a fine deal, and that makes the 13002 the best choice if you simply want the most cleaning power for the price. Consider the more balanced $400 GE GDF520PGJWW as well, though -- it has a few more features and aced our drying tests.

Modern dishwashers have learned lots of new tricks -- specialized jets, self-opening doors, flexible third racks. The $400 Kenmore 13002 doesn't have any of that. It even lacks basics like stem holders and foldable tines. This entry level machine only has one trick up its sleeve -- getting your dishes clean. Because it succeeds at this task, the Kenmore 13002 is well worth its budget-friendly $400 price. 

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6.5

Kenmore 13002

Score Breakdown

Performance 8Features 5Usability 6Design 6