A garden hose with ample pressure combined with a good car wash nozzle goes a long way to rinse off your car. However, nothing can beat a pressure washer to blast away dirt and grime from hard-to-clean areas of your car like your wheels and tires.
Contrary to what most people think, a pressure washer actually uses 50-70% less water compared to a garden hose, although it cleans with much higher water pressure. This makes it the ideal tool to wash your car.
Check out the pressure washers we recommend:
Best For Detailing
Best Gas Powered
How to Choose the Right Pressure Washer
To select the right pressure washer for your use and budget, it’s important to take into account these technical specifications:
Working Pressure (PSI)
Working pressure, measured in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) is the value that tells you with how much pressure or with how much power the water squirts out of the nozzle. This determines the actual cleaning or blasting power of the pressure washer.
A higher number means a stronger blast. Higher is not always better though. If the pressure is too high for the type of surface you’re cleaning, you can damage it or strip away paint, coatings, top layers and fibers. There is an appropriate pressure for each cleaning job.
To clean your car’s wheels for example, it is recommended to adjust your pressure washer to a maximum of 1500 PSI. A pressure upwards of 1900 PSI might damage your wheels’ finish or coating. The same goes for other painted surfaces and coatings like car paint.
However, it’s important to know that when you hold the pressure washer nozzle very close to the surface you are cleaning, water pressure will be highest and most aggressive. Move the nozzle a foot further away and water will hit the surface at a fraction of that pressure.
That’s why it’s perfectly OK to use your pressure washer at maximum power setting if you have the discipline to hold the nozzle at a reasonable distance away from your car (e.g.: 3 feet or more) and constantly respect that distance.
It’s tempting though to move closer to remove stubborn dirt or bug guts for example. Most of the time this extreme water pressure won’t cause damage, but especially on older cars, it might. You wanna adjust the water pressure according to the state your car paint is in. If your car is brand new without chips or cracks, you should be just fine. You wanna lower the water pressure for delicate surfaces or old, damaged paint however.
Water Volume (GPM)
Water volume, measured in GPM (Gallons Per Minute) is the value that tells you how much water volume comes out of the nozzle per minute.
When you’re using your pressure washer to clean your wheels and tires, which is a small area, this is of less importance. A water volume larger than 1 GPM is sufficient to get the job done. However, if you want to clean your driveway, water volume makes a world of difference. In this case, more water volume means you can clean a large area much faster. Dirt will be washed away easier too.
The spray gun is an important part of a pressure washer. It’s the part you hold in your hand to aim at whatever you’re cleaning. You can pull or release its trigger to start or stop spraying. Spray guns can be short or long, with separate or incorporated nozzles. You can also determine the spray pattern and angle by switching or adjusting the spray gun’s nozzle. Some guns even have onboard LED powercontrols.
These are the three major types of spray guns:
Standard Spray Gun
The most common jet gun is a large 2-4 ft trigger gun that is held with both hands. It has a straightforward “on/off” trigger action with a trigger lock function to keep it in “on” position if required. Most guns come with different extensions for a different length or working angle.
Full Control Spray Gun with LCD display
Some professional designs feature a rotary jet selector and sometimes even a digital LED pressure adjustment.
Stubby Spray Gun
A mini jet gun, also called a stubby/snubby or short gun is specially designed for one-handed car detailing use. It’s a great pressure washer gun to have for extra flexibility and to clean from all angles. You can work from the wrist, which is impossible with a long jet gun. You’re also able to clean with a mitt or sponge in one hand and the mini jet gun in the other.
When cleaning your car or any delicate surface for that matter, you wanna hold your pressure washer gun in a 45° angle to prevent damaging your car paint. If you hold it in a 90° angle, you’ll blast any sand and grit straight onto your car paint with high pressure, actually sandblasting it. A shallow spray angle will blast these sharp bits away from your car paint before they can cause harm.
The nozzle, also called jet, determines the pressure washer’s spray pattern. A wider pattern cleans more surface in less time but with less pressure compared to a narrow, concentrated jet.
Most pressure washers feature several interchangeable nozzles for different spray patterns. Small angle patterns like 0° and 15°are for high pressure, concentrated heavy duty cleaning. 25° can be used for general cleaning, while a wide angle pattern like 40° is intended for delicate surfaces. A 65° very wide angle nozzle is generally used to apply soap.
High end models often have their own specific adjustable jet settings. A flat spray pattern for example can be used for general cleaning, a rotary or pulsating setting is ideal for intense heavy-duty cleaning, while a detergent spray pattern enhances foaming action.
You should never use a spray pattern of less than 10 degrees on any part of your vehicle, including the wheels.
We recommend using a 25-degree spray pattern to clean your wheels and tires, and a 40-degree spray pattern on your painted surfaces and car glass.
If you want to blast away rust, grease or dirt from a bare metal object for example, the highest pressure setting and a very narrow spray pattern aimed at the closest possible distance works best.
Pressure Hose Length
The length of the pressure hose is a factor to take into consideration when you buy a pressure washer. If the pressure hose is very short, you’ll have to move the pressure washer around a lot. That can get annoying real quick and you’ll lose time in the process.
With a longer pressure hose, your pressure washer can remain in the same spot for most of the time while you’re working. That’s a time-saver!
For a lightweight pressure washer for occasional use, wheels aren’t necessary. A powerful Heavy-Duty pressure washer on the other hand, will need wheels because it is too heavy to carry around. If you’re gonna use your pressure washer around the garden too, you should consider one with large wheels to cope with the terrain.
How we did our review
For this review, we spent hours searching the internet for the best car wash pressure washer. Armed with decades of personal experience, we compared manufacturer specifications and customer reviews to make our selection. Our thorough analysis enabled us to rank the best pressure washers for car detailing in 5 specific categories: Most Popular PW, Best Budget PW, Best Detailing PW, Best Premium PW, Best Gas PW. As usual, we only listed one winner per category. After all, nobody wants to buy a second best, right?
Top 5 Best Pressure Washers
- Working Pressure: 2030 PSI
- Water Volume: 1.76 GPM
- Spray Gun: standard trigger gun with stainless steel lance
- Nozzles: 5 (0º, 15º, 25º, 40º + Soap)
- Weight: gross weight (lb.) 27.6 / net weight 24.3
- Pressure Hose Length: 20ft
- Wheels: Yes, large ones that can cope with most terrain
- Dimensions: 15.6” x 13.5” x 33.9”
In recent years, Sun Joe has become a household name in the US. The SPX3000 is their most popular pressure washer and we can clearly see why. This versatile pressure washer can be used for car wash purposes as well as for home and garden maintenance. It’s easy to use and affordable. With 1.76 GPM @ 2030 PSI it has plenty of power too.
This powerful pressure washer has a variable pressure switch, allowing you to select the appropriate pressure for the job at hand. It’s equipped with 5 different nozzles, two 0.9L onboard detergent tanks and a Total Stop System (auto shut-off). Pull the trigger to engage, release it and the pump automatically shuts off saving energy and water.
Customers like the fact that this pressure washer is always ready to go with no starting or bad gas issues. They say it’s easy to maneuver and store.
A customer wrote that he doesn’t like the fact that two hoses and a cable are connected from different sides because it’s difficult to roll the pressure washer around with everything connected. Some customers state that the 20ft hose is too short and that only Sun Joe hoses and accessories can be used without having to add adapters.
However, the vast majority of customer reviews are very satisfied with their purchase and would recommend this versatile tool to their friends and family.
- Auto shut-off (Total Stop System) for energy and water saving
- Pressure switch allows you to select appropriate pressure
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Handy nozzle holder with 5 nozzles to choose from
- Two onboard detergent bottles
- 20 ft pressure hose is on the short side, longer hoses are available
- Standard pressure hoses don’t fit
- Hose and cable connections from three different sides make this pressure washer more difficult to roll around when connected
This very compact, lightweight pressure washer is the smallest of the bunch, yet at 1600 PSI it delivers the ideal amount of pressure to wash your car without the risk of damaging any paint or finish. It even comes with a foam cannon. This little helper works great for home and garden use too.
Though the SHP1600 carries the name of an established brand, it is priced far below main brand competitors. A great deal if you ask us!
Customers love that it’s simple to use and that it can be stored anywhere like on a shelf or in a cupboard. They like the way its accessories can be stored onboard too. One customer commented that the included foam cannon does not perform like a professional foam cannon does. Although it does a decent job, it is true that a professional foam cannon operated with much higher pressure will produce richer foam. But hey, did you see the price tag??
We’ve searched high and low to find the best pressure washer on a budget, and this one came out on top. It’s the most bang for your buck!
- Most bang for your buck
- Established brand with good customer service
- Small to store and lightweight
- Foam cannon included
- Compatible standard hose with 22mm connection and 15mm outside diameter
- Foam cannon does not produce the rich foam a professional one does
- Great to clean small to medium areas like a car or a small porch, but it will take a long time to clean a large terrace or outside walls
Looking for a professional, dedicated car detailing pressure washer? This is it! This is Adam’s Polishes improved 2.0 version, with components selected by the guys who live and breathe car detailing. It’s easy to upgrade or replace parts because it uses universal components.
1.8 GPM @ 2500 PSI is much more than you’ll ever need for car detailing jobs, so you’ll never be short of power. Its power is adjustable, of course…
The thing we love the most about this Ferrari red, great looking pressure washer is its compact snub nose gun with 0, 15, 25, & 40 degree washing tips. It gets you places other large guns can’t. You can shoot from any angle with a flick of the wrist!
You’ll only need one hand to hold it while your other hand is free to hold a sponge or a towel… or a beer 😉
Customers say that this compact, powerful pressure washer works great for vehicle detailing. They love the long 40’ pressure hose and the short snubby gun. They say the long hose gets you around your car without having to move the pressure washer. The snubby gun is extremely agile and can be used single-handed, they state. Overall, customers are very impressed with this professional car detailing tool.
- Auto start & stop integrated feature for power and water saving
- Universal parts, no specialized parts needed
- Delivers professional results
- Ideal for car detailing
- Premium price (but worth every penny)
- Working Pressure: 2100 PSI
- Water Volume: 1.4 GPM
- Spray Gun: full control spray gun with LCD display
- Nozzles: 3-in-1 multi-jet
- Pressure Hose Length: 25′ kink-resistant high-pressure hose
- Weight: Weight without accessories 28.9 lb
- Wheels: Yes
- Dimensions: 16.18” x 12” x 23”
For over 80 years this reputed brand has delivered cutting edge products for the industry, professionals as well as the consumer market. All this experience and know-how has led to the development of the K5, their top-of-the-line pressure washer.
Besides its extreme reliability, this awesome power tool is equipped with a 3-In-1 easy to adjust multi-jet selection rotating lance.
This state-of-the-art pressure washer delivers 1.4GPM @ 2100PSI from its powerful water cooled induction motor which lasts up to 5x longer. Pressure control is at your fingertips with the digital pressure control display. There’s also an integrated hose reel for easy storage.
This will be your cleaning companion for years to come. US based German engineering at its best!
Customers say they bought their K5 for its sturdy build quality and because of their previous experience with the Karcher brand. Many are returning customers, which says a lot. Some even report their previous Karcher lasted up to 20+ years! They like its power and ease of use. Users say the revolving selector nozzle works much better than the usual add-on nozzles that can come loose and cause damage or get lost. A returning complaint is that the standard pressure hose is too rigid for comfort. Guess Karcher chose sturdiness over flexibility. There are ultra flexible replacement hoses on the market, should this bother you.
- Sturdy build quality and longevity
- Powerful 2100 PSI jet
- One of the jet selections is a unique pulsating/rotating jet, which is awesome to remove stubborn dirt and moss from terrasses or walls
- Rigid pressure hose
- Working Pressure: 4400 PSI
- Water Volume: 4.0 GPM
- Spray Gun: Standard
- Nozzles: 5 Quick Connect (0°, 15°, 25°, 40° and Soap)
- Pressure Hose Length: 50-ft kink & abrasion resistant hose with quick connect fittings and polyurethane outer jacket
- Weight: 138 lbs
- Wheels: Yes, large 13-inch premium pneumatic tires
- Dimensions: 38” x 23.5” x 29”
This is a “power” washer with the emphasis on power, and lots of it! This pressure washer is the bear of the bunch… It runs on gas instead of electricity, that’s why it’s heavy and large compared to its electrical counterparts. But hey, 4GPM @ 4400PSI… That’s about 100 times(!) the pressure that comes out of the average water tap! Because of its ergonomic spray gun and 16-inch steel wand, you won’t have to bend over while cleaning either, you’ll be able to clean floors and terraces standing up straight without straining your back.
Everything about this pressure washer is heavy duty. It has a 50 ft braided SST hose, large pneumatic wheels and a powerful CRX 420cc Premium engine. It starts up easily and shuts off automatically when the oil level is low. The engine is covered with a 3-year warranty, a 5-year warranty for the pump and a 10-year warranty for the frame. That’s how confident Simpson is about their quality!
Customers say it’s a beast and it’ll take your skin off if you’re not careful. That’s how powerful it is. They state that it starts right up if you first pull the trigger to release water pressure. If you don’t, you’ll be struggling to start it, fighting water pressure build-up in the water pump.
If you treat it right and check oil levels each time before startup, you’ll enjoy this pressure washer for many years to come. Simpson’s PowerShot will blow you away, pun intended 😉
- Very powerful Heavy Duty pressure washer
- Universal Quick Connect fittings
- Ergonomic extra long spray gun
- Large pneumatic all-terrain wheels
- Heavy and bulky
- Needs more care and maintenance than an electric pressure washer
- Louder than electric pressure washers
Comparison Table Of The Top 5 Best Pressure Washers
Difficult choice? Don’t think so…Just ask yourself a few simple questions and it’s an easy choice, really…
First you should ask yourself what you are willing to spend on a pressure washer. If budget is crucial, go for the Stanley SHP1600, you won’t be disappointed!
Want extreme muscle? The right choice is the 4400PSI Simpson PowerShot.
If you are ill with the car detailing virus, the only remedy is a shot of Adam’s 2.0.
How much PSI Do I Need to Wash My car?
Between 1200 and 1900 is the safe zone. A higher PSI might damage your car coating. You wanna hold the spray gun nozzle a foot away from the surface you’re cleaning and spray at a shallow angle of about 45° to blast the sharp sand and bits away from the surface. If you blast in a 90° degree angle straight onto the paint, you’ll be sandblasting the surface with dirt and grit.
How much PSI Will Damage Car Paint?
Anything above 1900 PSI might damage your car paint. Between 1200 PSI and 1900 PSI you should be fine. You always wanna keep the spray gun nozzle a foot away from the surface you’re cleaning and work in a shallow 45° angle to blast the sharp bits away from your car’s coating. If you hit it at a 90° angle, you’ll be blasting those gritty bits onto your paint, actually sandblasting it.
Will a Pressure Washer Damage Car Paint?
No, you won’t damage healthy car paint using a water pressure below 1900 PSI. However, you don’t wanna use a pressure washer on old, brittle car paint. We strongly advise to only use a soft water hose on cars with imperfect or older car paint.
How Do I Winterize my Pressure Washer?
It’s best to store your pressure washer somewhere protected from freezing temperatures. Disconnect the tap water hose and turn your pressure washer on for just a few seconds until the pump is empty. Don’t put your pressure washer near a heat source. This will dry out the seals.
If it’s stored in below-freezing temperatures, you wanna flush it with non-toxic automotive antifreeze to protect it from frost damage. Connect a 3-foot hose to the water inlet and feed it antifreeze using a funnel. Run your pressure washer a couple of seconds until the antifreeze comes out your spray gun. Filled with antifreeze, your pressure washer is protected from freezing.
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