Currently I have a top loading washing machine, fairly typical of most modern residential laundries. However there has been in recent years discussion about the water efficiency of front loaders and some councils/governments have been offering rebates associated with the purchase of these front loading washing machines. I wanted to know more about these front loaders because it may be a decision to be made in the future when my current top loader packs it in.
Apparently the front loading machines are so water efficient because instead of filling the water over the top of the entire load they only fill up a third of the way and then the machines turns the clothes into water. Apparently also the front loader doesn't require a complete new fill of water for the rinse cycle, but rather just sprays additional clean water onto the clothes (some websites indicate that this may lead to a less thorough rinse).
Apparently the front loaders are also 'easier' on the clothes, meaning the clothes will last longer, because there is no centre agitator. Front loading washing machines can also do larger loads because there is more space, again due to the lack of the central agitator (apparently this is just a new thing, as they traditionally actually had a smaller capacity).
Negatives, they are typically more expensive at the initial outlay (purchase price), might be a little tougher on your back because you have to bend over to reach into the washing machine, you can't run back to add an additional sock that you found behind the cushion on the couch as they lock once you start the wash cycle and they require specific washing powder (because of the reduced water level, requires a low-sud detergent) but these are becoming more common.
From this research I expect that I would end up purchasing a front loading washing machine for my next machine if the current one packed it in.