Which gas water heater to buy?

A few plumbers say it doesn't pay to buy top of the line. The difference is about $100 from the cheapest to the best.
Does the cheap ones last as long as the expensive ones? If the difference is not in the life of the tank then I would get the cheap one. I want the good one if it has a longer life considering the installation costs as much as the heater.
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But you dont seem to have an interest in operating costs, to me the #1 factor.
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m Ransley wrote:

Hi, IMO, better ones have better insulation. Tony
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Last time I looked at water heaters was about 5 yrs ago and there was a lot more than $100 difference between a std one and the top of the line ones. In fact, I think they were around twice as much.
The biggest difference was in energy efficiency. How long it takes to recover the upfront cost depends on the cost of your energy. Also, electric ones last a lot longer than gas ones, which have a typical life of about 12 years or so.
I came to the conclusion that one that was a middle of the road one was likely most cost effective.

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Looking at the home depot website in GE water heaters, it states you can save up to $180 during the life of the warranty. Does that mean $180 a year or $15 a year for 12 years?
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