There are many types of pressure washers, from gas to electric and portable to industrial strength, and what works for one household might be overkill for another. So how do you find the Best car wash pressure washer?
Some people are perfectly happy lovingly washing their car by hand with a bucket of mild soapy water and soft wash mitts, some only have the time to run it through a drive-thru wash after a fill-up, and others can’t be bothered to wash their car at all. However, keeping your car clean will keep your vehicle in better condition in the long run – especially in areas that use salt over the winter months—and one tool that can make cleaning it quicker, easier, and more affordable in the long run is a pressure washer. Sure you can use one at a local coin wash, but then you have to go out of your way to get there instead of just doing it your driveway, and a pressure has many other uses around the house and yard that make it a worthwhile investment. If you want to know more about the best pressure washers for cars use the table of contents to navigate, but first, here are a few of the Best car wash pressure washer for using around the yard.
We combed the far reaches of the internet to find you the best options for various different levels of need and budget, and dive into what you need to look for when shopping for a pressure washer.
Best car wash pressure washer
Best Pressure Washer for Cars Reviews & Recommendations 2020
BEST OVERALL Sun Joe SPX3000
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The Sun Joe SPX3000 is our best car power washer for a number of reasons. First off, it has a 1,800-watt electric motor that delivers a pressure of 2,030 PSI and a steady water flow rate of 1.76 gallons per minute. In addition, the manufacturer included a safety feature in the form of a Total Stop System (TSS) trigger, which automatically shuts off the pump when your finger isn’t on the trigger.
The fun doesn’t end there, as the washer also comes with five spray tips featuring Quick-Connect technology. This makes it easy to change the spray tips when you want to switch between light-, medium-, and heavy-duty work. This Sun Joe model is also equipped with two 0.9-liter onboard detergent tanks for maximum cleaning power. The rear wheels make it easy to move around the washer.
Despite the fact that this washer is CSA-approved, it would be better if it had a stronger hose connector that’s not prone to leaking. That could pose a safety issue if you are using it when it’s plugged into an electrical outlet. The nozzle also gets rusty after prolonged use. Moreover, the manual doesn’t come with the best instructions to help a newbie set up the device.
BEST VALUE Greenworks 1500 PSI
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The Greenworks 1500 PSI is not just thebest affordable pressure washer on the market, but it also boasts premium features like 25- and 40-degree quick connects nozzles. You can easily change from light- to medium-duty cleaning tasks with 1,500 PSI of water pressure delivered at 1.2 gallons per minute (GPM). It’s capable of getting rid of oil stains, heavy mildew stains, mud, and grime.
This 17.5-pound machine comes with multiple tips for connectivity, and you can change the spray tips to control the water pressure. The soap applicator supplies you with soap as you clean any surface. It draws its power from an electric outlet and features a long 35-foot power cord and a 13-amp universal motor. You will find it convenient that the washer can be used either vertically or horizontally.
The flipside to its greatness is that it has no wheels, which makes it hard to clean multiple vehicles. In addition, this model wasn’t made for heavy-duty cleaning. The spray pressure could be better. It also feels cheap with some of the parts starting to fall apart after about two years of extended use.
HONORABLE MENTION Briggs & Stratton 020681
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This electric pressure washer is for anyone who wants a reliable unit that runs quietly. It’s powered with a durable brushless induction motor that can push out a maximum pressure of 2,000 psi at a rate of 1.2 gallons per minute. It’s designed with a military-grade steel frame that can survive accidental drops, and includes an onboard detergent tank.
The unit comes with four quick-connect nozzles that allow you to increase the water pressure or adjust the angle of water flow by about zero to 20 degrees. It also features a foldable handle that folds the unit almost in half so that it can fit in smaller spaces such as your trunk. You can rely on this unit to get rid of any kind of dirt or grime lodged on your car.
However, the fact that the hose doesn’t store well on the unit is the most significant nagging issue. It tends to unravel easily. In addition, some of the spray tips might not click in place and can shoot out once the washer is activated.
HONORABLE MENTION Westinghouse WPX2700 gas Powered Pressure Washer
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As the name suggests, the WPX2700 provides a maximum pressure of 2,700 psi at a rate of 2.3 gallons per minute. It’s a deep-cleaning power washer that is not only good for removing the grime from your tires, but can also be used to wash garage floors, sidewalks, fences, and walls. The unit has a heavy-duty steel construction equipped with an onboard one-gallon gas tank and a ½-gallon soap tank. It relies on the maintenance-free axial cam pump to facilitate air-free pumping when it’s running at maximum pressure.
Connected right at the soap tank is a 25-foot, abrasion-resistant hose with a spray gun. You get four quick-connect nozzles to attach on the spray gun, which can spray at an angle of 0, 25, and 40 degrees. The fourth one is designed for exclusively dispensing soap. What’s more, the unit has 12-inch wheels for easy maneuverability when you are cleaning around your car.
What you might not like about it is the poor quality hose that may kink easily or leak at the connector. Also, the pump can run hot when operating under maximum pressure, and it can melt the hose if you forget to move it from the pump.
HONORABLE MENTION Champion 3200-PSI Gas Pressure Washer
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You can’t go wrong if you decide to buy a pressure washer that delivers a little more pressure to get rid of the tougher debris and grease stains on your vehicle. This is why we included this gas pressure washer from Champion. It delivers a maximum pressure of 3,200 psi at 2.4 gallons per minute from its 25-foot high-pressure hose.
All this pressure will feel comfortable on your hand thanks to the ergonomic wand with a fatigue-free trigger. For a little versatility, the manufacturer provides five nozzles that allow you to shoot out the liquid at an angle of 0, 15, 25, and 40 degrees. The last nozzle is specifically designed for releasing soap. For safety, the unit will automatically shut off when it’s low on oil. You will find it easy to move around the unit since it has dolly-style wheels.
Champion is an apex manufacturer of automotive products, so expect to pay a little extra for this pressure washer. Besides that, it may come with some faulty spray tips that don’t click in place.
HONORABLE MENTION Stanley SHP2150 Electric Pressure Washer
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The Stanley SHP2150 is an electric power washer with a powerful, noise-free motor that delivers a maximum pressure of 2,150 psi. The detergent bottle is the main special feature on the unit since it doubles as a foam cannon to allow for deeper cleaning of tough stains. The detergent bottle can hold a maximum of 28 ounces.
Attachments on the unit include a pressure washer gun with onboard storage for about four quick-connect nozzles. It also includes a 25-foot, high-pressure hose that’s designed with professional-grade brass connectors to prevent leaks. For easy transporting, the unit comes with two never-go-flat wheels and a telescopic handle that you can push in or out.
The main downside of this unit is that it doesn’t come with a built-in detergent tank. Also, it has a plastic body and wheels, which can crack easily if mishandled. Another issue is that it doesn’t produce the best water flow, at only 1.4 gallons per minute.
Put your safety first when using an electric power washer. Although many are designed to be waterproof, machines do get old and/or faulty. Always ensure that the washer is placed in an area free of water splashes and puddles.
Pressure washers emit jets of water at high pressure, which can send debris flying at your face. Protect your eyes with a good pair of protective goggles and wear earmuffs to cover up the noise from the hose.
Always hold the spray wand at the correct distance from the nozzle. Consult with the owner’s manual on where your hands should be. The last thing you want is to get smacked in the face from the pressure coming out of the nozzle.
It’s dangerous to point the washer nozzle at children, animals, or plants since the pressure may throw them off balance and hurt them. You should also use the spray when you are on a flat surface as the pressure may knock you off a raised platform.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Pressure Washer
Pressure washers have come a long way. Over the last ten years the quality has increased as prices have become more affordable. The cleaning ability of a pressure washer is great, removing dirt, grime, and algae quickly, efficiently and effectively. A pressure washer can greatly increase your ability to maintain and clean your property and equipment giving it greater value. If your time is valuable, a pressure washer could be a good investment, but if you get the wrong machine, you will be frustrated and you could waste a lot of time and money.
The goal of this buying guide is to help you understand what a pressure washer does and what you need to look for when deciding to purchase one. If you’re ready to start shopping, check out the pressure washers at kmstools.com. Or keep reading to learn more about the following:
- How a Pressure Washer Works
- Pressure Washer Pumps
- Direct Drive or Belt Drive
- Gas or Electric
- Pressure Washer Accessories
- Choosing the Right Pressure Washer
How a Pressure Washer Works
A pressure washer is actually a fairly simple piece of equipment. A motor or engine turns a pump, pushing water through an orifice (tip). The water accelerates as it goes through the small hole, much like a river flows faster in a narrow gorge, and that fast-moving water is very useful for blasting dirt and grime. The math is quite simple. Each time the pump turns over, a specific volume of water is pushed through the tip. The more water you push through the tip, the more pressure is developed, and therefore more power is required. The higher the pressure, the faster the water moves, and the harder it hits the dirt, removing it from the surface you want to clean.
What to Consider
The two most important considerations when buying a pressure washer are size, which determines how long it takes to do the job or how many jobs you can do in a day; and life expectancy, which determines how many hours of work you can do per dollar spent during the life of the machine.
Here are some basic ratings:
Horse Power (HP)
This is how much power the engine or motor produces. This rating is important because it directly relates to how much pressure and volume the pump can produce.
Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI)
The pressure generated by a pressure washer is measured in pounds per square inch or PSI. Pressure contributes to the cleaning force.
Gallons Per Minute (GPM)
The water volume produced by a pressure washer is measured in gallons per minute or GPM. Volume also contributes to the cleaning force.
Cleaning Power Units (CPU)
Cleaning Power Units quantifies a pressure washer’s cleaning ability. To determine CPU, multiply GPM x PSI. The greater the CPU, the greater the ability the machine has for cleaning deeply and effectively.
Often consumers are so focused on the PSI rating of the machine, they do not consider the CPU. For example, a pressure washer may have a rating of 2,800 PSI and 2 GPM, giving it a CPU of 5,600. Another pressure washer is rated for 2,400 PSI and 4 GPM. That’s a CPU rating of 9,600. In this example the lower PSI machine has more than 40% greater cleaning power than the higher PSI machine. The result is that the 2,400 PSI machine will be able to clean an area 40% faster than the 2,800 PSI machine.
Now consider this: A garden hose typically provides 6 GPM at 10 PSI giving it 60 CPU. With a standard spray nozzle attached to the garden hose you can get around 5 GPM at about 40 PSI generating 200 CPU. We all have seen the difference of how much more effective a simple spray nozzle is at cleaning dirt off surfaces. Trying to clean your driveway with your garden hose spray nozzle generating 200 CPU is fairly ineffective. However, if we take a mid-range pressure washer rated at 2.0 GPM and 2,500 PSI (5,000 CPU), the CPU rating represents a staggering 25 times increase over a typical garden hose spray nozzle.
A commercial pressure washer rated at 4 GPM and 4,000 PSI is an incredible 16,000 CPU. It is not difficult to see the difference in efficiency. However, this is all true within a range. If you have extremely high pressure and low volume, you can cut steel or concrete (water jet cutter), and if you have extremely high volume and low pressure, you have a river. Neither of these would be very good for cleaning your house or driveway.
Pressure Washer Pumps
This is the part of the pressure washer that receives water from your hose, and pumps it through a tip at high pressure. There are several common types of pumps that you will see in commercial and home-owner type machines. All pressure washer pumps have pistons and valves similar to a gas engine or an air compressor. On some pumps the pistons are driven by a plate on an angle (wobble plate), and in other cases the pistons are driven by a crankshaft. Crankshaft driven pumps are generally built better and will last longer.
Pressure washer pumps are equipped with bypass valves, so that when you let go of the trigger, or when the tip gets plugged, the water will bypass and go back to the inlet side of the pump. If left in this mode for longer than the manufacturer recommends, the water will get hot and cause damage to the pump. On a gas-powered pressure washer, the pump includes a thermal relief valve that dumps hot water into the bypass loop. Most bypass valves are adjustable so you can dial down the pressure when cleaning sensitive materials
Low-cost pressure washers have pumps with very low life expectancies—some as low as 60 – 100 hours. When buying a pressure washer, make sure you find out the life expectancy of the pump. If the information is unavailable, stay clear because it is very likely that the manufacturer does not want you to know how low it is.
Another very important factor to consider is parts availability. KMS Tools was a warranty/service centre for some low end brands, however lack of parts availability and unreliability of these machines were such a problem that we decided to no longer provide this service.
Before buying your machine, ask where you can get parts if you need them. KMS is often referred to by other retailers as a source for parts and repairs for numerous brands that are pretty much disposable. If you are buying a new machine for $200.00 or less, expect it to be a disposable machine that might last you only one season, and be prepared to spend a lot of time to get the job done.
Direct Drive or Belt Drive
The drive describes how the motor is connected to the pump. Direct-drive systems are most common. The pump is bolted directly to the motor or engine with a shaft coupler. Compared to a belt-drive system, direct drive requires fewer parts and space, resulting in a more compact design. Direct drive is also considerably more economical than an equivalently rated belt-drive machine.
Belt-drive systems are typically seen on industrial platforms. The pump on a belt-drive unit turns at a much slower speed. The belt absorbs vibration that would wear out a unit faster. Since the pump turns at a lower speed all the pistons and valves in the pump are larger. All this adds up to a cooler running machine that will last considerably longer than an equivalent direct drive version. However, there is slightly more maintenance and considerably more dollars involved (10 – 30% more). If you are using your pressure washer on the job, then you want to consider buying a belt-drive machine. However, an equivalent direct-drive machine will have the same performance for a lot less money.
Gas Engine or Electric Motor
On a pressure washer, the engine or motor powers the pump. The more powerful the engine or motor (rated in HP), the greater the PSI and GPM the pump produces. Gas engines are typically designed to last between 300 and 3,000 hours. The motors on electric pressure washers usually last longer than the pumps.
Electric motors are very low maintenance and fairly quiet. There is also no exhaust so they can be operated indoors or in poorly ventilated areas. A typical electric pressure washer that is 115 Volt and 15 Amps will be fairly light duty because it is built for the low-price market. The motor is not strong enough to generate much pressure or volume. While electric pressure washers are compact and usually portable, most jobs take longer with a light-duty electric pressure washer.
HP is rated differently on electric motors compared to gas engines. A typical low-price electric pressure washer is rated around 1 to 1-1/2 HP and would be equivalent to a 3 HP gas pressure washer. (Electric motor HP has to be doubled to equal gas engine HP.)
Heavy-duty electric pressure washers are available for applications where power is available and portability isn’t a factor, and exhaust from a gas engine would be a problem.
Gas pressure washers are larger and heavier and mounted on a cart with wheels. Some are better balanced and easier to maneuver. Gas engines can produce more power and are a lot more mobile as they do not need to be plugged in to an electric power source. Since gas engines can be more powerful, the pump can generate considerably more PSI and GPM so that they can clean faster and deeper than any 115 Volt rated electric pressure washer could. However they do take a little more maintenance and cost more to operate. They must be used in well-ventilated areas because of the emission of carbon-monoxide fumes.
Pressure Washer Accessories
Without accessories, your pressure washer is fairly useless. It would be like having a drill without any drill bits.
Pressure Washer Hoses
You probably want a 50 ft length hose. If you go shorter, you will have to keep moving your machine. Make sure you get a quality hose with the proper PSI rating to match your machine. A poor quality hose will break down faster, is more susceptible to leaks and kinks, and will usually be less flexible and harder to work with.
Pressure Washer Wands and Tips
The wand includes a handle with a trigger valve, and different lengths and angles of wands are available for different applications. You can change the spray pattern by changing the tip at the end of the wand. Most pressure washers come with a selection of tips—from a very narrow spray to generate higher force at the tip for deeper cleaning to a wider spray that has less force but covers more area. Most tip sets also include a low pressure tip for applying cleaning solutions.
In addition to tips, other, very useful attachments are available:
A dirt blaster or rotary nozzle attaches to the end of your wand. It has a very narrow spray that spins in a circular motion very rapidly. Dirt blasters are effective because they can quickly clean hard surfaces very well and, when used properly, avoids the tiger striping effect on your driveway that happens with conventional spray tips.
For cleaning out-of-reach areas, look for an extension wand that’s adjustable up to 24 feet in some cases. Extension and telescoping wands are beneficial if you need to reach up high. They can save you from trying to pressure wash while standing on a ladder.
A gutter cleaner is a simple hooked extension that affixes to the end of your wand. It lets you get into your gutters to clean them out.
A Whirl-A-Way is an accessory that looks a little like a lawn mower and has two rotating nozzles inside. They are available in sizes from 12” to 24” and excel at cleaning large flat areas.
Hot Water Pressure Washers
Hot water pressure washers are commercial machines with built-in water heaters. The cleaning effect of the machines is considerably better than a cold water machine with comparable PSI and GPM because hot water simply cleans more effectively than cold water. Hot water pressure washers break down and remove dirt and grime faster than cold water pressure washers, and often eliminate the need for expensive chemicals. Do not feed hot water into a normal cold water pressure washer pump. The heat will damage seals and o-rings.
Detergents can greatly increase the speed of cleaning and help remove tough stains. Most pressure washers come equipped with a venturi tube that will draw in the detergent from a bottle or pail and add it to the water stream. The detergent should be first applied with a low pressure spray, given some time to do its work to break down the dirt, and then washed off with a normal high pressure spray.
Choosing the Right Pressure Washer
When it comes right down to it, you need to buy a pressure washer that fits your application. There are many different types of pressure washers—from very low-end machines to extremely powerful industrial machines. Before you buy a machine you need to sit down and ask yourself these questions:
- “How will I use a pressure washer?”
- “How often will I use a pressure washer?”
If you are a home owner, you will probably use a pressure washer less than 50 hours per year. In this case getting a machine rated for 500 hours will last you up to 10 years if properly maintained. However, if you are using it on the job, you will want something rated for 2,000 hours or more. If time is important to you, buy as big a pressure washer as you can justify. A 13 HP gas pressure washer will clean your driveway about 10 times faster than a small electric unit. It will also last longer because it doesn’t have to run nearly as long to do the job. Finally, plan in advance what attachments you will want in the future and make sure that the pressure washer you buy has enough power to support them.
Our pick for the best pressure washer for cars is the Sun Joe SPX3000. It’s an electric washer with a high PSI rating and great performance capability when it comes to lifting off the toughest stains from your car.
Our best budget power washer is the Greenworks 1500 PSI since it’s affordable and it doesn’t fall short as an electric washer. It’s great for light- and medium-duty cleaning.