Use these tips to buy the best pressure washer for your crew
by Daniel Leiss
May 5, 2015

If you’re in the market for a new pressure washer, you have lots of options. Not only are there many manufacturers to choose from, but there are also a variety of specs to consider, such as pressure, flow and horsepower. The main challenge is sorting through these options and determining which unit will best meet your needs. Of course, you may not have time to do the research and learn everything needed to make an educated decision. If this is the case, stick to the following six tips, which provide what to you need know when buying a pressure washer.

1. Hot or Cold
Cold pressure washers are compact, economical and the most popular choice on the market. They are well suited to handle any job that requires washing away dirt and mud. Where they don’t work so well is removing oil, grease or grime. To cut through these contaminants and loosen them from the surface, you’ll need a hot pressure washer. Before going to the local dealer, have an idea of the work the pressure washer will be doing. There is no need to spend the extra money on a hot water unit if cold water will do the trick for the vast majority of jobs.

2. Pressure
The PSI rating of a pressure washer describes the unit’s ability to break the bond between the contaminant and the surface. If the pressure is too low, the bond won’t break very well. If the pressure is too high, dirt will blow around more, and the spray could damage the surface. It’s best to find a unit that has appropriate pressure ratings for the type of use it will experience.

3. Flow
Often, people focus too much on how much pressure a product has, and they don’t consider the flow. However, the more gallons per minute (GPM) a pressure washer produces, the faster it can get the job done. Another way to use flow ratings is to calculate cleaning units. To determine a pressure washer’s cleaning units, simply multiply the PSI and GPM ratings. For instance, a 3,500-PSI, 3.8-GPM machine would have 13,300 cleaning units, while a 3,000-PSI, 4.5-GPM unit would have 13,500 cleaning units. In this scenario, the second unit would offer higher performance because it has more cleaning units.

4. Horsepower
Just because a pressure washer states that it has a certain PSI and GPM doesn’t mean it will produce those numbers. That’s because the engine or motor turning the pump may be inadequately powered. For instance, in order for a gas-powered pump to put out 3,000 PSI and 4 GPM, the engine needs to have at least 11 horsepower. There are some basic calculations available to determine how much horsepower is appropriate for the application. Taking the time to do the math can help ensure the pressure washer will produce maximum output without overworking the engine or motor.

Calculation for electric motors: (PSI x GPM)/1460 = horsepower requirement
Calculation for gas engines: (PSI x GPM)/1100 = horsepower requirement

5. Features
Although the pressure, flow and horsepower ratings get most of the attention on pressure washers, there are other components that contribute to their durability and longevity. Here are some features to keep in mind:

  • Frame: The best machines on the market are constructed of heavy-gauge steel, while lower-end units are made from much thinner materials.
  • Ceramic pumps: Ceramic plunger pumps are regarded as the highest quality in the industry. Some of them are designed to run for 2,000 hours or more, as long as they’re well maintained.
  • Thermal pump protection: Thermal pump protection helps prevent damage by automatically shutting the machine off in the event it becomes too hot.
  • Hose and spray wand: Make sure these components are able to hold up to everyday abuse.
  • Belt drive: When it comes to gas-powered pressure washers, consider selecting a belt-driven model, which will generally provide a longer service life than a comparable direct-driven unit.

6. Dealer
Perhaps the most important advice is to find a good dealer. Not only will reputable dealers help with the pressure washer selection process, but they’ll also offer parts, service and warranty support. Paying a little higher purchase price to have the convenience of a helpful servicing dealer nearby is typically a solid investment.

By keeping these six simple tips in mind, you can make an educated purchase decision without having to become an expert in pressure washers. This way, you can devote your full energy to the job at hand and spend less time worrying about the equipment.