It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the vast array of options when buying a toilet. In addition to types of toilets, other choices you must make include toilet style, flushing technology, toilet design, and so much more.
Use our buyer’s guide below to better understand each option to make buying a toilet that much easier.
Table of Contents
- I. Toilets Buying Guide
- A. Toilet Type
- B. Toilet Style
- C. Flushing Type
- D. Toilet Design Options
- E. Anatomy of a Toilet (Diagram)
- F. Additional Features/Options
- II. More Details
- III. Where to Buy Toilets Online
I. Toilets Buying Guide
A. Toilet Type
Your first decision to make when it comes to buying a new toilet is toilet type.
Toilet type is defined by the basic method a toilet uses to flush down and dispose of waste. The type of toilet you choose then dictates the best style and flushing technology for you.
The main options for types of toilets are gravity-feed, pressure-assisted, double-cyclone, and waterless.
1. Gravity-Feed Toilet
Source: Benjamin Franklin Plumbing
The most common (and oldest modern) type of toilet in North America, a gravity-feed toilet simply uses gravity to flush down waste.
A toilet tank holds water that drops down into the bowl when the flush valve is pressed. The water moving through the bowl then pushes the waste through the trapway.
Most gravity-feed toilets utilize a siphoning action in the bowl. The motion of this flush is designed to help clean the bowl.
Gravity-feed toilets are notable for their quiet flushing action. Their small list of moving parts means maintenance is minimal and repairs are easy.
2. Pressure-Assisted Toilet
Source: The Spruce
The highlight of a pressure-assisted toilet is its powerful flushing action.
A system of pressurized air forces water from the tank into the bowl with much more power than a gravity-feed toilet.
Though this flushing system is much louder than a gravity-feed toilet, it’s also much more efficient. Waste is flushed far faster and with more force.
Clogs are much less common with a pressure-assisted toilet. They’re a good choice for large families where the toilet gets a lot of use.
3. Dual-Flush Toilet
A relatively new type of toilet, the dual-flush toilet is rapidly growing in popularity thanks to its water saving benefits.
Dual-flush toilets are a mixture between gravity-feed and pressure-assisted toilets. You can choose between a half flush or full flush each time you empty the bowl.
A half flush clears the toilet with a gravity-feed system. Use this flush for liquid waste. For solid waste, the full flush clears the toilet with a pressure-assisted system.
Dual-flush toilets are quickly closing in on gravity-feed and pressure-assisted toilets regarding sales.
4. Double-Cyclone Toilet
Source: May Supply
Double-cyclone toilets are a relatively new technology that’s yet to catch on (though there’s a good chance it will soon).
These toilets use a minimal amount of water per flush yet still bring an amazing amount of flushing power to the table.
Instead of using holes in the rim of the bowl to provide water for the flush (like all other types of toilets), two nozzles along the rim provide the flush for a double-cyclone toilet.
The nozzles provide a more efficient flush altogether. While water savings with each flush are minimal, they undoubtedly add up to make a big difference on your monthly water bill.
5. Waterless Toilet
Self-contained waterless toilets are available for situations without water or plumbing.
Though these are quite uncommon in permanent homes, they’re regularly used on worksites, during home remodeling projects, while camping, and in similar situations.
Self-contained waterless units don’t use water. Waste is instead collected in a receptacle underneath the toilet seat.
* Composting toilets, a type of waterless toilet, are enjoying a spike in popularity thanks to the green living, off-the-grid, and tiny home movements.
B. Toilet Style
After deciding on a toilet type, it’s time to think about your preferred toilet style.
Toilet style consists of two factors. First, how many pieces is the toilet is made from? Second, how is the toilet mounted to the floor or wall?
Your three options for toilet style are one-piece, two-piece, and wall-hanging.
1. One-Piece Toilet
Source: Signature Hardware
Like the name implies, a one-piece toilet is made from a single piece of material.
Most often ceramic, the material includes an integrated bowl, tank, and trapway. Most come with a toilet seat as well.
The one-piece design makes installation and maintenance easier. It also ensures a seamless fit between the bowl and tank, making for much easier cleaning.
2. Two-Piece Toilet
Source: Signature Hardware
A two-piece toilet simply comes in two pieces that are then assembled.
The two pieces are the toilet tank and the toilet bowl. You can buy these together as a set or mix and match to your preferences. You usually have to buy a toilet seat separately.
Though slightly more difficult to clean, two-piece toilets are usually more efficient. They are also longer lasting as most individual pieces can be replaced as needed (unlike a one-piece design).
The simplicity and longevity of two-piece toilets have made them the number one choice for most homes in North America.
3. Wall-Mounted Toilet
Wall-hanging toilets aren’t exactly a common sight in residential bathrooms. You’re much more likely to see them in a commercial setting.
These toilets feature a wall-hung toilet bowl and flush plate mounted securely to the wall. The toilet tank is hidden away behind the wall.
The main reason to consider a wall-hanging toilet is their small size. This style of toilet is the number one choice for small bathrooms where space is at a premium.
Wall-hanging toilets save as much as one foot of floor space. They’re streamlined design also makes for easy cleaning.
C. Flushing Type
Now that you’ve narrowed down your options to a specific toilet type and toilet style, it’s time to look at flushing type.
Your options include single-flush, double-flush, and touchless flush.
1. Single-Flush Toilet
A single-flush toilet has only one flush setting.
Simply press down on the flush valve and the same pressure and size of flush is delivered each time.
Single-flush toilets are the most popular option. This means they’re available in the widest range of designs (discussed below in section “D. Toilet Design Options”).
2. Double-Flush Toilet
A double-flush toilet comes with two flush settings.
Press down lightly on the flush button or lever for a half flush for liquid waste. Press more firmly for a full flush for solid waste.
A double-flush toilet is a much more efficient option than a single-flush toilet. The downside is that they’re more expensive, slightly more difficult to maintain, and less common.
3. Touchless Flush Toilet
Touchless flush toilets are most commonly seen in public restrooms.
Instead of pushing down on a button, lever, or another flush valve, the toilet flushes automatically when it detects that you’re doing using it.
Most residential touchless flush toilets utilize a motion sensor on top of the toilet tank. Wave your hand above the sensor to flush.
The chief benefit of a touchless flush toilet is cleanliness. It minimizes the spread of germs since you don’t ever have to touch the toilet during use.
Most touchless flush toilets are battery operated. You can easily convert most single-flush or double-flush toilets into a touchless model.
D. Toilet Design Options
Here comes the fun part – selecting the design of your toilet.
While the categories above all have to do with the inner workings and technology behind your toilet, toilet design has to do with its looks and aesthetic appeal.
Choose from a variety of colors, dimensions, bowl shapes, toilet seats, trapway styles, and flush handles to customize the visual appearance of your toilet.
Traditionally, most toilets come in a white or off-white color.
White toilets are still the standard, but options are now available that include just about any color you can think up.
Though bright colors, exotic colors, and even patterns can be requested, most stock toilets still come in a subdued tone. Common colors include light shades of blue, yellow, gray, brown, pink, and green.
The color of your toilet can do a lot to set the mood and appearance of your entire bathroom as a whole.
Toilet dimensions relate largely to the height of the toilet bowl and seat.
Though toilets do come in a variety of lengths and widths, there is far less wiggle room on these measurements than there is on toilet height.
Not only does toilet height affect the look of your toilet, but it also affects comfort.
Those with limited mobility might opt for a higher toilet that requires less bending.Another way to improve toilet safety is with a raised seat. You can see what I’m talking about in our bathroom safety features article for people with mobility issues. Those with children, on the other hand, might prefer a shorter toilet that’s easier for small kids to use.
With that said, toilet height can be roughly broken down between standard height and chair height:
- Standard Height Toilet – Low-profile design with a maximum toilet seat height of 17 inches, usually around 15 inches.
- Chair Height Toilet – Larger-profile design with a toilet seat at the approximate height of a chair’s seat, around 19 inches.
Another option is a custom height toilet. These are usually of the wall-mounted variety as its easier to adjust the height of these than a one-piece or two-piece design.
Most wall-hung toilets can be mounted anywhere from around 15 inches to 30 inches to accommodate people of all sizes and preferences.
3. Bowl Shape
Bowl shape is another design factor that relates to the dimensions and comfort of a toilet.
It’s sometimes possible to select a custom toilet bowl with specific measurements to best suit your personal needs and preferences.
More commonly, however, is choosing between three main bowl shapes, each with a range of measurements.
The most common toilet bowl shapes are elongated, compact elongated, and round-front.
a. Elongated Toilet Bowl
Elongated toilet bowls are roughly oval in shape. Their key benefit is added length. Most are around 2 inches longer than a round bowl, around 18 inches altogether. The extra length makes the toilet seat more comfortable and spacious.
b. Round-Front Toilet Bowl
Round-front toilet bowls are roughly round in shape. Though they’re not quite as big or as comfortable as elongated bowls, they do take up less space. They’re a good option for a small bathroom where space is at a premium.
c. Compact Elongated Toilet Bowl
A compact elongated toilet bowl is a combination of an elongated bowl and a round-front bowl. They have the same round footprint of a round-front bowl with the extra seat space of an elongated bowl.
4. Toilet Seat
The majority of two-piece toilets come without a seat, requiring you to buy one separately.
Even one-piece toilets that do come with a seat usually have a removable seat that you can place with one that better matches your needs and preferences.
In addition to buying a toilet seat that matches the color of your toilet and complements the décor in your bathroom, it’s important to find one that matches the shape of your toilet bowl (elongated, round, or compact elongated).
You also have a choice of several toilet seat materials. The most common include plastic, polypropylene, cushioned vinyl, molded composition wood, and real wood.
Households with small children might opt for a slow-close toilet seat. These improve safety by preventing slamming. No slamming also means they’re quiet.
Luxury toilet seat options include heated surfaces and deodorizers. Bidets (discussed in more detail below) with a warm water stream and warm air dryer are another popular option.
Source: Toilet Found!
The trapway is a very important toilet component that connects the toilet bowl to your home’s plumbing.
A quality trapway ensures that clogging is rare (if existent at all). It ensures the smooth functioning of your toilet so that waste leaving your home makes it to the sewer line without a problem.
All toilets feature an S-shaped trapway, but they’re available in different styles. These are exposed, concealed, and skirted:
a. Exposed Trapway Toilet
The S-shape of an exposed trapway is visible on the side of the toilet. Caps cover the bolts that attach the toilet to the floor.
b. Concealed Trapway Toilet
The S-shape isn’t visible on a concealed trapway toilet. Instead, the side of the toilet is a smooth surface. Low-profile caps cover the bolts that attach the toilet to the floor.
c. Skirted Trapway Toilet
The S-Shape isn’t visible on a skirted trapway toilet. Though similar to a concealed trapway, this type of toilet has uniform sides from the base up to the toilet bowl. No bolts are exposed on this type of toilet.
6. Flush Handle
Source: Women You Should Know
One of the last toilet design elements to think about is flush handle type and location. Your options include side location, top location, wall location, touchless, and remote:
- Side Location – A lever or button is located on the right or left side of the tank.
- Top Location – A button is located on top of the tank. Most dual-flush toilets use two top-located buttons for flushing.
- Wall Location – A button is located on the wall. These are usually used only for wall-hung toilets.
- Touchless – A motion sensor is installed on the toilet (usually on top of the tank). Wave your hand in front of it to flush.
- Remote – Flush the toilet by pressing a button on a touch-screen control pad or remote control.
E. Anatomy of a Toilet (Diagram)
F. Additional Features/Options
Still not happy with your bathroom toilet?
If you want something that sticks out from the crowd, consider an intelligent toilet, an eco-friendly toilet, or even a urinal.
In addition to these additional toilet options, one of the most common additional toilet features is a bidet.
1. Smart Toilet
Intelligent toilets feature innovative designs that redefine what a toilet is and what a toilet can do.
Most intelligent toilets include a touch-screen control panel or remote that allows you to change the temperature of the toilet seat, flush the toilet itself, and much more.
The majority of intelligent toilets feature a bidet for warm-water cleansing. The touch-screen control also enables to you control the cleansing settings at will.
Finally, intelligent toilets are most often streamlined in design. The tank is usually hidden to create a more sophisticated look.
2. Eco-Friendly Toilet
Eco-friendly toilets are catching on big time in North America and around the world.
Part of the reason is laws that restrict the amount of water a toilet uses per flush. In the United States, newly installed toilets must use less than 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
If you want to take your water efficiency to the next level, consider buying a special eco-friendly toilet that uses even less water.
Source: Angie’s List
Urinals are wall-mounted units used for liquid waste.
Though they’re most common in commercial settings, several residential toilet manufacturers sell them for home use.
Long popular in other countries around the world, few toilet accessories are catching on as quickly as bidets in North America.
In short, a bidet is a plumbing fixture designed to help you “clean up” after using the toilet in addition to toilet paper (or in place of toilet paper).
You can either add a full bidet next to your toilet or opt for an add-on model that’s integrated into your toilet.
Add-on bidets are popular with intelligent toilets. They usually combine cold and warm water cleaning nozzles with dryers.
II. More Details
Here are some other important factors to consider when buying a toilet.
A. Installing Your Toilet
The difficulty of installing a toilet depends largely on the type of toilet you buy.
Though it’s not an extremely difficult DIY project, installing a toilet is best left to those with at least some DIY experience. If you’re not handy, there’s no reason not to call in a professional to do the job.
One-piece toilets are usually slightly easier to install than two-piece toilets. However, two-piece toilets can still be effectively installed by those with a little experience.
Wall-hanging toilets are the one type that you should almost always hire a professional contractor to install. These toilets usually incorporate a tank within your wall, so the installation process is much more complicated than simply connecting a toilet to your plumbing.
Naturally, the difficulty of toilet installation also depends on whether you’re simply replacing a toilet, remodeling your bathroom, or building a new bathroom from scratch.
B. Room and Location
Space planning is the number one thing to keep in mind when buying and installing a toilet in your bathroom.
Think about how your toilet and other bathroom fixtures will look when they’re all installed. In particular, think about how much space there will be left in the bathroom after installation.
Wayfair recommends leaving around 21 inches of free space in front of your toilet. They also recommend leaving 15 inches from the center of the toilet to each side before a wall or other fixture.
In addition to space planning, it’s important to think about the location of the toilet in your bathroom. Will it still look good in that location once other bathroom appliances like a sink, bathroom vanity, and bathroom/shower are installed?
Along these same lines, you should consider not only the style of your toilet as a separate appliance but also how it’s design works with the rest of your bathroom décor as a whole.
An increasingly popular option is buying a toilet as part of a bathroom collection. This ensures that all your bathroom appliances, fixtures, and décor matches.
Bathroom collections are available in numerous styles and colors, spanning from traditional to rustic and modern to contemporary.
C. Other Factors to Consider
There are a few additional questions you can ask yourself that will help you select the best toilet for your household and family.
These questions include:
- Who will use the toilet? If anyone with mobility problems will be using the bathroom, a taller chair height toilet will make the standing to sitting and sitting to standing transition that much easier.
- Where is the bathroom located? Is your new toilet going into a master bathroom, a guest bathroom, or a kid’s bathroom?
Many people spend more money on a master bathroom toilet than one going in a guest bathroom. Consider opting for a smaller, child-sized toilet for your kid’s bathroom.
- What is the installation project like? Are you simply replacing an old toilet with a new one, remodeling a bathroom, or building a new home from scratch?
Replacing a toilet often requires buying one of roughly the same size. Doing so enables you to avoid gaps from plumbing on the floor.
D. Cost and Budget
The cost of your toilet depends on a variety of factors.
Chief among these is the specific type of toilet you buy. One-piece toilets are slightly cheaper than two-piece toilets. Wall-mounting toilets are usually quite a bit more expensive than two-piece toilets.
Factor in any additional features you want on your toilet. Toilets with warming seats or bidets will cost more than those without.
And then there’s the overall style of your toilet. There’s a wide price gap between budget toilets and high-end luxury toilets.
Finally, you must factor installation into the equation. If you’re up to the job yourself, you’ll save a lot of money on installing your toilet. Hiring a pro for the job will naturally cost much more.
HomeAdvisor reports that the average cost of installing a new toilet is $376. They go on to state that most homeowners spent between $223 and $538 to install a new toilet in 2017.
Of course, there are outliers. In HomeAdvisor’s study, some homeowners spent as low as $120 to install a new toilet while others spent upwards of $857.
ImproveNet gives a slightly different figure with $355 as the average cost of installing a new toilet in 2017.
III. Where to Buy Toilets Online
Now that you know exactly what to look for in a toilet, you probably want to know where is the best place to buy one online.
Our recommendation for the most reputable online retailers of bathroom toilets include: