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Toilet shopping for a royal flush?

Are you ready to take the plunge on a bathroom remodel? That means a new toilet is probably on your shopping list.

If you haven't kept up with the flood of toilet technology, you might be swamped with questions. Did you know that you could buy a toilet for as little as around $50, but you can also flush away as much as $4,000 for a deluxe model?

Why so expensive?

It's true, you could spend thousands of dollars for a toilet, especially if you get one that has a built-in bidet, that European water spray that cleans and sanitizes better than plain old toilet paper.

The Toto Neorest 600 is probably the most expensive of the combos, with an MSRP of $5,000, but in reality you can knock about $1,000 off that price. The Neorest has such a wealth of technological innovations that you just might decide you cannot live without it. Here are some of its features:

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  1. A remote-controlled seat heater
  2. Multi-setting, front and rear, oscillating and pulsating wash
  3. Warm-air dryer
  4. 1.2 gallon, tankless flush
  5. Automatic opening and closing lid

If the Toto price is too steep, Kohler makes a more modestly-priced toilet-bidet combination for around $2,100.

More than gadgets separate the top-of-the-line toilets from the mundane. A more expensive toilet is likely to have very hard and slippery porcelain, which lets the water flow over it faster for an almost non-stick finish. And high-quality toilets are often chosen for their quieter operation.

However, if all you need is a standard model that performs the basic functions of a toilet, big-box-store prices for a number of top-brands range from $150 to $300. You can get the Home Depot's house brand, Glacier Bay, for a little over $50.

The one-two flush

It might surprise you, but a toilet is your home's single-most water-user, and new toilets are restricted to no more than 1.6 gallons per flush. Some even use as little as 1.2 gallons. Not every flush, however, needs 1.6 gallons. Sometimes, you need only half that, so you can get toilets with a dual-flush ability, letting you opt for a mini-flush.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Water Sense program certifies that toilets meet high performance standards. Many municipalities offer rebates of as much as $100 for toilets certified under the Water Sense program, which mandates a super-low flush rate of 1.28 gallons.

Style and design

You don't have a lot of options in toilet shapes. They are either round or elongated--round don't take up as much space, and elongated are considered more comfortable. Most are floor-mounted; some are wall-mounted. Tankless toilets, either wall- or floor-mounted, are gaining popularity; they generally are more efficient than gravity-fed, tank-type toilets.

You might also want to consider the height of your toilet. The old standard was 15-inches high, and some are as low as 14 inches; you can get them up to 17 inches--more comfortable for taller users and much easier for the elderly to use.

If you want to match the color of your sink, tub and toilet in something other than white, one of the larger manufacturers, such as Kohler, American Standard or Eljer offer other color choices.

Decision-making

Whether you are considering a complete bathroom remodel or just want to switch toilets, it's a good idea to talk to experts. Besides visiting bathroom showrooms and the big-box stores, query your friends to see if they have suggestions or contractor recommendations. You also can use the handy form on this page to get started finding a contractor right now.