I have a Sears Kenmore front loader (for the record, it's almost 5
years old and has been completely trouble-free so far). Front loaders
definitely get clothes cleaner. They are also much gentler on your
clothes, which results in not only fewer snags and tears in the wash,
but less fading (surfaces aren't roughed up as much). As a result,
there is probably some savings in clothes over the long run. They use
much less water and accommodate much larger loads, so the water savings
is not only on hot water but on amount used, which could represent
significant savings if you do a lot of laundry and pay for your water.
They also run much more quietly, which might be a factor if your
laundry room is near your living areas.
However, they also use HE (high efficiency) detergents which, in my
market at least, are not as common (3 brands), rarely go on sale, and
don't come in the jumbo money-saving sizes. And, as pointed out, there
is a sizeable difference in initial cost.
Balancing everything, I like the front loader enough that I will
probably never buy another top loader.