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Pressure washers might just be the most fun tools you’ll ever use. Seriously–is anything more thrilling than having so much power at your fingertips? That’s one part of it, but the other is knowing that you can use one of these things for practically anything. Brighten a deck, bring your siding back to its original color–it’s all doable with a good pressure washer.
So it’s no surprise that those of us who love our pressure washers get angry as all hell when we go to use them and have the system conk out on us. What a buzz-kill! There are a heck of a lot of crappy models on the market these days, and they’re not only disappointing but dangerous to use.
Here at Best Pressure Washer Reviews, our team of tool experts will steer you clear of those bad apples and toward the best workhorse models on the market. We’ve compiled this homepage to give you an overview of the site, and to show you our favorite options in each category. Check it out!
Best Pressure Washer Reviews 2020
Best Electric Pressure Washers
Top Pick: Ford FPWEF2.1 (1800 PSI/1.6 GPM)
a great choice for homeowners”
Ford is our top electric recommendation for the average buyer. We love it for its ideal balance of price and performance! The Ford runs on standard household power and fits easily into the typical garage. It’s simple to use, and much more reliable than cheaper electric options.
The Ford is a great choice for homeowners who have been frustrated by crappy budget electric models in the past. It’s refreshingly well-made and has a great track record for the long term. If all you need is something to handle lighter-duty projects around your property, the Ford is the best way to go.
Unlike others in the same price bracket, this unit doesn’t compromise on high-quality components. It has a high-performance pump, sturdy metal fittings, and an excellent set of tires. It’ll cost you more than a lot of popular household models, but it’ll also last you much longer. See more of the best electric pressure washers.
Best Gas Pressure Washers
Top Pick: Ford FPWG3100H-J (3100 PSI/2.5 GPM)
an absolutely stellar gas-powered system”
This Ford unit is an absolutely stellar gas-powered system. While it’s not the most powerful option in the market, it’s more than enough for ambitious homeowners and lighter-use pros.
The Ford impressed our reviewers in any number of specific ways. It’s the overall feel and function, though, which makes it our top pick for most buyers. Compared to other gas-powered units, it feels like a sports car!
The engine is a champ, too. It runs smoothly and starts on the first pull.
Operation of the Ford is a breeze, and the compact, sturdy design of the unit makes it uniquely portable and maneuverable. Simply put, it’s a pleasure to use.
It’s an all-around workhorse of a machine, and our favorite model for tackling all but the most heavy-duty work in both professional and residential applications. The Ford is as good as most people need and better than anything else under $1000! Read our full review, and check out more of our top picks for the best gas pressure washers.
Best Commercial Pressure Washers
Top Pick: NorthStar Gas Cold Water Pressure Washer (4000 PSI/3.5 GPM)
a beast of a machine”
NorthStar makes our favorite heavy-duty, commercial-grade pressure washer. It’s our top recommendation for folks who need maximum pressure and volume. Unless you need to work with hot water or steam, this is as much as you need to spend.
With 4000 PSI and 3.5 GPM, it’s certainly powerful enough to tackle heavy-duty work in a commercial setting. this one’s ideal for cleaning heavy equipment or covering lots of ground in a dairy barn. It’s a beast of a machine, but it’s easy for one person to handle.
Of course, power alone doesn’t make for a good machine on the job. It needs to be reliable and able to handle long hours of operation. It needs to be rugged enough for any worksite, but maneuverable enough to maintain productivity. Luckily, the NorthStar hits all these notes!
The most impressive components of this machine are the pump and the engine. The NorthStar features a powerful Honda GX390 OHV commercial series motor and an industrial triplex plunger pump with ceramic pistons. Both are top-notch pieces of machinery that will keep this one running for a long time. See our other recommendations for top commercial pressure washers!
Different Types of Pressure Washers
Electric Pressure Washers
Electric models are powered by electricity instead of gasoline. They’re generally smaller and less expensive than gas-powered models, which makes them more accessible to the average homeowner. They’re convenient, too, since you don’t have to worry about starting an engine or maintaining oil.
The downside of these is that they aren’t capable of producing the sheer cleaning power of gas machines. You’ll find that most electric systems only crank out half the pressure and volume that you can get from a gasoline-powered system.
Still, electric power washers are a good choice for many homeowners. If you’re simply looking for a machine that can tackle weekend chores (like washing the car or hosing down patio furniture), you should consider purchasing an electric power washer. They’ll cover all the basics. Just plan on taking a bit longer to get through your task, and
Gas Pressure Washers
Gas-powered pressure washers are designed for medium to heavy-duty jobs. They’re capable of tackling tougher cleaning work at faster rates, and thus they usually cost more than electric models.
In our guide to the best gasoline-powered models, we compare some of our favorite medium and heavy-duty units! Many of these models are designed for residential use, although the mid-size options can work very well for small-scale professional use. The larger, more expensive gas-powered models are specifically for professional applications. They’re ideal for cleaning heavy equipment and machinery or mucking out large garages/barns.
Going the combustion route is a good choice for home or small business owners who plan to use their machine for tough tasks on a fairly regular basis, and need consistent and reliable performance from their pressure washer. Be sure you’re able to handle the engine upkeep, though! And, of course, you can’t use these anywhere that doesn’t have good ventilation.
The best models of this class are capable of tackling the most intense, industrial work. Additionally, they are often used to perform light-duty tasks at a faster speed than electric models. Of course, the other benefit of using gasoline as your power source is that you can use your unit anywhere, not just where an outlet is handy.
Commercial Pressure Washers
When it comes to commercial applications, pressure washers need to be supercharged and unusually reliable. The trouble these days is that a lot of models are marketed as “commercial” when they definitely shouldn’t be! So, we’ve put together a dedicated guide specifically for commercial users.
Though most commercial-grade models are gasoline-powered, there are some very capable electric models these days. That’s especially true if you have access to an industrial power supply! For our guide to the best commercial pressure washers, we included the best of both our gas and electric recommendations. These are high-powered machines by any standard, and they’re hardy enough to take years of abuse.
Whether you’re managing a fleet of machines for your business or looking for a tool to use on your farm, our guide to the best commercial units has something for you! This class of pressure washer is designed to handle tough jobs fast, and they can produce much more power than residential models.
What to Look for in a Pressure Washer
Before you make any decisions about which system to buy, you should make sure you’re familiar with how these things work! Here’s our quick-and-dirty guide to navigating the key features and specs:
PSI & GPM: what they mean and why they matter
When we talk about how powerful a given pressure washer is, we cite two common specs: PSI and GPM. These are two objective ways to measure the real-world performance of any machine on the market!
PSI (pounds per square inch) measures the force of the water stream a unit puts out. This spec tells you the maximum water pressure a certain washer is capable of producing. It’s the best measure of the cleaning force a model will offer.
GPM (gallons per minute) refers to the volume of water that the machine puts out at that PSI. It’s also called the “flow rate.” While PSI is all about force, the GPM is about coverage! The higher the GPM, the faster a machine can accomplish a task.
Looking at PSI and GPM specs is the single best way to judge how a machine will perform. It’s easy to be impressed by big engine specs and fancy features, but the truth is that engines and pumps don’t matter much by themselves if they don’t translate into powerful performance. And the best way to see that is to look at the PSI and GPM.
Many pressure washers these days list a third spec, which is called “cleaning power”. It’s not super common yet, so we generally stick with PSI and GPM. Cleaning power specs are basically a composite of those two factors.
To calculate the objective cleaning power of a machine, multiply the PSI by the GPM. For example, say a machine has a PSI of 1,900 and a GPM of 1.5.
So the cleaning power of this particular pressure washer is (1900 x 1.5), or 2850. Once more manufacturers list this spec with their offerings, we’ll be able to judge performance even quicker!
Motors & engines: how to judge them
Of course, the motor of a pressure washer plays a big role in determining performance. The more power you have behind the pump, the more water it can move–and faster! So, it’s important to look at the specific motor that powers the machine you are considering.
We know that’s an odd way of putting it, right? Most people would think that the motor is part of the overall machine. That’s true to some extent, but especially in gasoline models, many manufacturers outsource their motors. The best models use Honda engines, for example, even though they’re made by completely different companies. So, be sure to check who made the motor in any model you consider!
Gasoline engines are measured by cc or HP (horsepower). The larger either spec is, the more power you can expect. Of course, neither is a better way to judge than looking at the PSI! Electric models measure their motor power by watts or amps. Again, while higher numbers are better, you really want to go by the PSI rather than the motor rating.
Aside from the motor, the most important component is the pump. The pump’s job is to draw in water from the hose and accelerate it to a much higher pressure. Because your pump will be working like crazy while you operate your pressure washer, it’s important to know how to judge your options.
Regardless of which type of pump you end up opting for, you should make sure that the assembly is made with mostly metal components. Brass is the best bet.
Pressure washers use three types of pumps: wobble, axial, and triplex.
These pumps are found in low-end residential pressure washers and are not suited for heavy-duty work or frequent extended use. They’re relatively disposable, so we don’t recommend any. In our opinion, none are worth the money.
Pressure washers with wobble pumps tend to cost less, which can be tempting. Sadly, they don’t last nearly as long as anything else. They are best suited for a few hours of work on the weekend, once or twice a year.
Wobble pumps are also not repairable or replaceable when they break. We think it’s a better choice to spend some more money upfront for an axial pump system that you won’t have to replace for years.
Most pressure washers contain axial pumps. They have roughly two or three times the lifespan of wobble pumps, making them suitable for occasional use over several years. They’re what we recommend to the average home user.
Axial pumps are still not ideal for multiple hours of work every day, though. If you need to use your pressure washer heavily and often, you’ll need to invest even more.
If you’re purchasing a machine for daily use, you should make sure that it has a Triplex pump. This is the best type of pump on the market. Most are designed in Italy or by high-end equipment makers. These are quite expensive but worth it to pros and frequent users. With proper maintenance and care, these pumps will last for many years!
It’s not just what is under the hood that determines the quality of a pressure washer! It’s also important to consider the quality of the attachments, and which are best suited for your purposes. So, be sure to have a look at the hose, wand, and nozzles on any model you think about buying.
Check the length of the hose first. Is it long enough to get you wherever you need to go? Think about where your pump unit will be, and how far you’ll need to reach. Then have a look at the construction materials on the hose. Is the hose sturdy enough for the terrain you will work on? Do you need something more heavy-duty? Are options available, or will you need a different model to begin with?
Most pressure washers come with swappable nozzles, which fit on the end of your wand. These are used to alter the intensity and angle of the water stream. Wider nozzle attachments are useful for tasks like washing cars and windows. Narrow attachments are better for cutting through grime, dirt, mold or paint. Expect to see up to 5 options included.
Lastly, think about whether you want to use detergents or other chemical solutions. If you do, be sure to choose something with a tank for that purpose.
Need more pointers? Read what Consumer Reports say about shopping for a pressure washer!
We’ve only had space to include a few featured picks on this page, but you can find more recommendations in each category by clicking through to our guides! We’ve got all your pressure washing needs covered with in-depth reviews of the best gas, electric, and commercial models. So, check out our guides by category to find more!