Pressure Washer Buying Guide: How to Decide Which to Buy

Cleaning things often requires a lot of hard work and time. Whether it’s washing your car, siding, furniture, sidewalks, or anything else, it can take much longer and much more elbow grease than anticipated.

This is where pressure washers help.

Pressure washers can turn a cleaning job that usually takes hours into a job requiring just minutes of your time.

With the pressure that these machines generate (which exceeds that of a normal garden hose considerably), you get efficient and effective cleaning

Today, there are countless pressure washers on the market to choose from. So how do you make the right choice?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the perfect pressure washer for your needs. This guide goes over all the information you need to make an informed decision and buy a pressure washer that suits your requirements.

In this guide:

What pressure washers are good for

Cleaning your house, sidewalks, patio furniture, or your car is never an easy task. There always seems to be those spots that are difficult to reach and stubborn dirt patches that refuse to go away.

Luckily, pressure washers are versatile machines that can be used for almost any cleaning job. Here is a list of common things that people use pressure washers for:

  • Concrete or brick walkways
  • Vinyl
  • Lawn furniture (do not use 0° tip)
  • Decks (do not use 0° tip)
  • Stucco (do not use 0° tip)
  • Cars
  • Fences (do not use 0° tip)
  • Wooden surfaces (do not use 0° tip)
  • Unpainted metal
  • Rusty surfaces
  • Ducts, gutters, and drains
  • Bikes, boats, and motorcycles
  • Outdoor equipment
  • Windows
  • Pools
  • Moss-covered surfaces

How pressure washers work

The main benefit of pressure washers is—you guessed it—the pressure with which it pushes water. It is this force that is utilized to dislodge dirt quicker and with minimal effort. A pressure washer does this through a simple process.

Firstly, the pressure washer sucks in water from a water source through a garden hose that is connected to a water inlet on the pump. This water enters at low pressure.

Next, the gas engine or the electric motor kicks in (depending on whether the pressure washer is gas or electricity-powered) powering the pump. The low-pressure water is converted to high pressure and released into a high-pressure hose that is connected to a water outlet on the body of the pressure washer.

This high-pressure water is then used to clean objects with the help of a trigger gun that will help you direct this flow of water. Through this simple mechanism, you can accomplish your cleaning jobs with ease.

Parts of the pressure washer


An electric motor is found only in electric pressure washers. As a component of the pressure washer, the job of the motor is to power the pump that creates the water pressure. Electric motors are usually light-duty and require less maintenance.


A gas-powered pressure washer runs with an engine at its core. This engine is gas-fueled and its job is the same as that of a motor in an electric pressure washer. This engine uses fuel to power the pump that generates the pressure. Engines are usually more durable, more powerful, and require more maintenance than motors.


A pump is a component in a pressure washer that pressurizes the low-pressure water that comes into it. There are three common pump types:

  • Wobble: An entry-level pump, the wobble mechanism uses a back and forth piston movement to suck and then deliver water at high pressure. You can usually expect a life between 200-400 hours for a wobble pump.
  • Axial Cam: These are intermediate-level pumps that have a longer life and generate greater pressure and flow rate than wobble pumps. You can expect a life in the range of 500-800 hours. They are light in weight and generate decent power, but they can get hot and cause vibrations due to the high speed at which they rotate.
  • Triplex: Triplex pumps are the most advanced pumps and are often used in commercial pressure washers. They are built to generate upwards of 3,000 PSI and have a life of thousands of hours, depending on how well you maintain it. They are more efficient compared to other pumps and generate minimal heat. However, they cost more than the other two options.

Spray wand

The spray wand is what you hold when using the pressure washer and allows you to direct water in the direction of what you are cleaning. They may be made of plastic or steel. In general, steel wands are more sturdy but can be slightly more expensive.


High-pressure hoses allow for the water to flow through them at high speeds. The bodies of these hoses are reinforced with wire meshes and multiple layers of plastic, which allows them to withstand high pressure.

It is important to consider the length of these hoses as a longer hose gives more reach and maneuverability. Think about what you will be using your pressure washer to clean and how much reach you need—especially if you are using an electric pressure washer that needs to be plugged into an outlet.


Nozzles are fitted onto the front end of the spray wands and control the angle and power of the water that comes out based on the job you are doing.

Some common nozzle fittings are soap, 0°, 15°, 25°, and 40°. While a 0° tip is suitable for tackling stubborn dirt that requires the highest pressure, a 40° covers larger areas and throws water at lower pressure. The latter ones are more suitable for cleaning furniture and soaping objects.

Detergent tank

Most pressure washers come with a detergent tank that holds detergent that you can use for soaping objects. Some detergent tanks are built to automatically dilute the detergent poured into them, while other detergent tanks will require you to premix the detergent with water. Be sure to use detergents that are suitable for pressure washers and the cleaning job you are doing.

Surface cleaner

A surface cleaner is a round attachment that can be used to cover larger areas of flat surfaces. This reduces time and effort on your part. However, most pressure washers do not come with a surface cleaner. You typically have to buy this as a separate attachment. You can compare our picks for the best surface cleaners here.

Gas vs. electric pressure washers

Pressure washers are set up to work on two different energy sources: gas or electricity.

Gas-powered pressure washers generate greater pressure and more water flow. They also are more sturdy and durable and do not have to be plugged into an outlet. On the downside, they are more expensive, louder, and require regular maintenance.

On the other hand, electric pressure washers are less powerful, lightweight, cheaper, require lesser maintenance, are not noisy, and do not release gas fumes. Though they are less powerful, we’ve found that they can accomplish most household cleaning tasks.

Your price range and the desired level of power are going to be the major factors to consider while deciding between the two. In case you want to accomplish day-to-day household tasks that are light in nature, your preferred choice should be an electric pressure washer. A gas-powered machine is more suitable for heavy-duty and commercial jobs.

Electric Gas
1,400 – 2,300 PSI
2,800 PSI and up
Flow rate
1.2 – 1.8 GPM
2.3 GPM and up
Power source
Electric outlet
Gas tank
Relatively quiet
Relatively loud
Decent amount
Small to medium
Medium to large
10 – 50 lbs
50 – 90 lbs
$80 – $300
$250 – $600

What PSI & GPM you need from your pressure washer

PSI (pounds per square inch) is a measurement of pressure that a pressure washer generates. GPM (gallons per minute) is a measurement of flow rate, or the amount of water that runs through a pressure washer.

These two combine to give you the total cleaning power of a pressure washer. Multiplying the GPM with the PSI gives you the total cleaning unit count of a pressure washer.

The higher the cleaning unit count, the faster you can clean things.

Cleaning power by duty

Light-duty pressure washers

  • Type: Always electric units
  • Pressure: 1,300 to 2,000 PSI
  • Flow Rate: Up to 1.5 GPM
  • Typical Cost: $80 to $200
  • Good for:
    • General outdoor cleaning
    • Cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats.
    • Tools
    • Furniture
    • Siding

Medium-duty pressure washers

  • Type: Typically electric units
  • Pressure: 2,000 to 2,800 PSI
  • Flow Rate: Up to 1.8 GPM
  • Cost: $160 to $300
  • Good for:
    • Decks and patios
    • Garage floors
    • Driveways and sidewalks
    • Fences

Heavy-duty pressure washers

  • Type: Almost always gas units
  • Pressure: 2,800+ PSI
  • Flow Rate: Up to 4.0 GPM
  • Cost: $300+
  • Good for:
    • Deep stains, dirt, and grime
    • Removing paint chips, rust, and grime on surfaces for paint prepping
    • Hard to reach objects

Cold vs. hot water pressure washers

Cold water pressure washers, as the name indicates, use cold water to clean objects. Almost all non-commercial pressure washers use cold water. The main benefits of cold water pressure washers are that they are cheaper, have fewer parts that could malfunction, and are safer. On the downside, cold water is not as effective at cleaning as hot water.

Almost all commercial pressure washers use hot water since they are more effective at cleaning—especially when it comes to oily and greasy surfaces. A hot water pressure washer functions with an internal boiler that heats the water to a temperature of roughly 80° Celsius or higher. Some pressure washers also have the ability to generate steam that adds another dimension of cleaning prowess.

If you need a pressure washer for day-to-day cleaning tasks around the house, a cold water pressure washer should suffice. If you have more heavy-duty tasks, you may want to consider a hot water pressure washer.

What else to consider when buying a pressure washer

Customer reviews

User experience is one of the simplest and most reliable ways of making a knowledgeable purchase decision. Customer reviews are usually unbiased and will bring out advantages and disadvantages of the product that company material may not.

By skimming through these reviews, you can gauge what you are in for when you purchase a product. For example, when you look at the customer reviews for some gas-powered pressure washers, you may find that the engine seizing after long-term storage is a common issue. Similarly, for light-duty electric pressure washers, sturdiness and durability are often a cause of concern.

Since the reviews come from the point of view of an existing or past user, the insights you can gain can often be exact answers to the points of concern for you. Even professional reviews on YouTube and other platforms are detailed and capable of providing a holistic understanding.


Being able to spend more on a product usually does mean that you get some additional benefits. In the case of pressure washers, shelling out more money translates into more power, more attachments (like a turbo nozzle), more storage features (like a hose reel), better design elements, longer warranties, and more.

Gas-powered pressure washers are usually more powerful and durable and therefore they are more expensive as compared to electric pressure washers.

However, while buying a pressure washer, an approach of spending more money may not be the smartest. It is important to consider the features that matter most to you and what you really need to make the smartest choice.

Consider this situation: you are a buyer that prefers longer warranty periods but your use for a pressure washer is limited to occasional household jobs.

You may have the option of purchasing a more sophisticated and more powerful gas-powered pressure washer with a four-year warranty and a light-duty electric pressure washer with a three-year warranty.

It would likely be more feasible to forego the extra benefits and warranty year on a gas-powered machine in favor of the electric unit that should be sufficient for your jobs.

Weight & maneuverability

Another thing you should consider when buying a pressure washer is its weight and maneuverability.

Having the ability to take your pressure washer around your yard will ensure you can clean hard-to-reach spots. This is one of the reasons why many brands are now working towards lighter and more compact designs.

Whether a pressure washer is gas or electricity-powered is a major decider of what the weight range of the machine is going to be like. A gas-powered pressure washer is heavier and will be comparatively difficult to drag around, but doesn’t need to be plugged in, meaning you can take it virtually anywhere. An electric pressure washer is lighter and more compact but needs to be plugged in, possibly limiting your reach.

What also adds maneuverability to a pressure washer is the length of its high-pressure hose. The longer the hose, the further your reach.

Detergent tank

If you are going to clean your windows, cars, or anything else that requires soap, you should look for a pressure washer that comes with a detergent tank.

Most often, the detergent tank has a place on the body of the pressure washer itself. The size of the detergent tank is important to ensure that you do not have to refill the tank repeatedly.

In some cases, the detergent tank may come in a separate attachment that connects to the hose wand.

Whether the pressure washer provides automatic detergent dilution or not is also a relevant consideration. If the machine comes with automatic dilution, you simply have to fill a pressure washer detergent into the tank and the machine takes care of the rest. This also means that a small tank size may be enough as the tank only stores pre-diluted detergent (meaning less volume).

A machine without automatic dilution will require you to prepare a diluted mix beforehand and this may mean that a bigger tank is necessary.

Included accessories

Along with the basic equipment necessary for pressure washing, some add-on accessories can be of great help in easing the washing job. These can range from nozzle fittings that cover larger areas to spare parts for easy maintenance.

Some common accessories that may be of use to you include:

  • Turbo nozzles for quick and efficient cleaning
  • Quick-connect adaptors for hose connections
  • Foam cannons for easy soaping
  • Washing kits
  • Surface cleaners for larger area coverage
  • High-pressure hose extensions

More included accessories will generally translate into better performance and effective solutions for the user. However, most pressure washers with included accessories tend to be expensive, and therefore, you should check if the accessories are beneficial to you.

Warranty length

A longer warranty is always a desirable feature. Most pressure washers will come with a 1 to 3-year warranty. Some also have different warranties for different parts of the pressure washer.

Longer warranty periods can often come at a higher price, but if it matters to you and if your usage justifies it, this is an option you should consider. Brands like Sun Joe have now come up with what is called a “No questions asked” warranty, where they are willing to resolve the issue through a hassle-free process for improved customer experience.

How pressure washer nozzles work

Pressure washers usually come with a few nozzle options. The nozzle points you get with the pressure washer are usually all or some of these nozzle points i.e. soap, 0°, 15°, 25°, and 40° tips.

By changing the nozzle points, what you can do is alter the water flow to suit the exact requirement. For example, a 0° tip will help you keep the focus on a narrow stubborn spot and utilize the full pressure provided by a pressure washer. A 40° tip, on the other hand, provides a wider fan that covers more area but provides lesser pressure.

You can choose from amongst the nozzle tips as per the job at hand and tackle it with ease. These nozzles make the pressure washer versatile and help you overcome all cleaning challenges.

Nozzles Degrees Description Use
Very high pressure, low flow
Stubborn grime & hard-to-reach areas
High pressure, medium flow
Hard surfaces, heavy mildew stains, rust, oil stains, paint removal
Medium pressure, medium flow
Cleaning siding, brick, wood, driveways, etc.
Lower pressure, high flow
Gentle cleaning of cars, boats, patio furniture, etc.
Soap nozzle
For applying soap & detergent

Where to find the best pressure washers

We have a number of guides that go over the best pressure washers currently available as well as numerous reviews that dive into specific details of each.

Here are some good resources to get you started:

Pressure Washer Roundup
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