Everything you need to know about pressure washers

We research, test and write honest reviews of pressure washers. Whatever you’re looking for, we’re here to help.

Over the years, we’ve researched hundreds of pressure washers from dozens of brands. We’ve tested both gas and electric models and worked in both residential and commercial settings. Based on our experience, the products below are the best in the business (in their respective categories).

Best electric
Ryobi RY142300 electric pressure washer

Ryobi RY142300

  • 2,300 PSI and 1.2 GPM
  • Brushless induction motor (120V, 13A)
  • Axial cam pump
  • 25 ft. hose, 16″ wand and 3 nozzles
  • 128 oz. onboard detergent tank
  • 3-year warranty
Best gas
Simpson MSH3125-S gas pressure washer

Simpson MSH3125-S

  • 3,200 PSI and 2.5 GPM
  • Honda GC190 engine (6HP)
  • OEM Solutions axial cam pump
  • 25 ft. hose, 16″ wand and 5 nozzles
  • Detergent injection via siphon
  • Warranty varies by part (1-5 years)
Best commercial
DeWalt DXPW60605 gas pressure washer

DeWalt DXPW60605

  • 4,200 PSI and 4.0 GPM
  • Honda GX390 engine (13HP)
  • CAT 67DX triplex plunger pump
  • 50 ft. hose, 31” wand and 5 nozzles
  • Downstream detergent injection
  • Warranty varies by part (3-10 years)

Read more in our guide to the best pressure washers.

Compare types of pressure washers

Pressure washers are typically categorized by power source, pressure and temperature. In the power source category, we’ll compare gas and electric. In the pressure category, we’ll compare light, medium and heavy-duty. In the temperature category, we’ll compare cold and hot water.

Gas and electric

Power source is the most debated category of pressure washers. The debate is always about whether gas or electric is better. The truth is, it’s not about the power source, it’s about you. Use the table below to compare gas vs. electric pressure washers in areas like cleaning power, cost and reliability.

Gas Electric
Power Higher PSI and higher GPM, making gas pressure washers more powerful and quicker cleaning. If you will have both simple and tough jobs, gas is better. Lower PSI and lower GPM, making electric pressure washers less powerful and slower cleaning. If you will only have simple jobs, electric is sufficient.
Reliability Higher quality parts, making gas pressure washers more reliable and durable. If you will use frequently and for long durations, gas is better. Lower quality parts, making electric pressure washers less reliable and durable. If you will use occasionally and for short durations, electric is sufficient.
Mobility Larger size and heavier weight, but unrestricted movement because it doesn’t have to be plugged in. If you prefer free movement and don’t mind the bulkier load, go with gas. Smaller size and lighter weight, but restricted movement because it has to be plugged in. If you don’t mind limited movement and prefer the compact load, go with electric.
Maintenance More maintenance, but easier to maintain because parts are simple to find and replace if repair is necessary. If you don’t mind regular maintenance and you’re capable of performing it, go with gas. Less maintenance, but harder to maintain because parts can be difficult to find and replace if repair is necessary. If you prefer less maintenance or you’re not capable of performing it, go with electric.
Environment Loud and produces exhaust. If you will only operate where noise and emissions are not a concern, gas is sufficient. Quiet and produces no exhaust. If you may operate where noise and emissions are a concern, electric is better.
Cost More expensive. Better value if you want higher power, better reliability and full mobility. Less expensive. Better value if you want compact size, less maintenance and no environmental restrictions.

Read more in our guides to gas pressure washers and electric pressure washers.

Light, medium and heavy-duty

Pressure is the most common measurement used to define light, medium and heavy-duty pressure washers. Pressure isn’t the only factor that contributes to overall cleaning power, but it’s a good general indicator. Use the table below to compare use cases for each pressure range.

Light-duty Medium-duty Heavy-duty
Pressure Less than 1,999 PSI 2,000-2,999 PSI More than 3,000 PSI
Volume Less than 1.9 GPM 2.0-2.9 GPM More than 3.0 GPM
Jobs Good for cleaning cars, motorcycles, windows, carpet and furniture. If you don’t need serious power, this range will handle simple jobs with ease. Good for cleaning cars, motorcycles, windows, carpet, furniture, decks, patios and siding. If you want the most versatility, this range will handle both simple and tough jobs safely and efficiently. Good for cleaning driveways, garages, paint, exteriors and roofs. If you need serious power, this range will handle the toughest jobs out there.

Read more in our guides to 2,000 PSI, 3,000 PSI and 4,000 PSI pressure washers.

Cold and hot water

Hot water pressure washers clean faster and better than cold water pressure washers. Their efficiency comes at a cost, but the investment might be worth your while if you want to get through jobs as quickly as possible or you frequently encounter tougher substances like oil, grease and sap. Use the table below to compare hot and cold pressure washers on construction, maintenance and cost.

Cold water Hot water
Temperature Water only, less than 60° F Water and steam, up to 330° F
Construction Standard components, making cold models smaller size and lighter weight. Component quality depends on price range. Standard components plus a burner and heating coil, making hot models larger size and heavier weight. Components are typically higher quality as hot models are designed for frequent users and businesses.
Maintenance Less maintenance due to absence of heating components. More maintenance due to heating components, but the extra maintenance is only a couple times per year and fairly straightforward.
Cost Less expensive, and better if you don’t absolutely need hot water for your circumstances. More expensive, but better if time and efficiency are priorities.

Read more in our guide to commercial pressure washers.

Trusted pressure washer brands

Most pressure washer brands aren’t household names. We’ve provided backgrounds on three popular brands below; and popularity aside, these are the companies that we trust the most based on product quality, customer service and more.

Karcher brand logo

Karcher

Karcher invented the pressure washer in 1950. Naturally, they are and have always been the largest pressure washer brand in the world.

Ryobi brand logo

Ryobi

Ryobi is currently the highest-rated brand in the industry, thanks to both consistent quality and their exclusive relationship with Home Depot.

Simpson brand logo

Simpson

Simpson is an American company from the midwest. Their manufacturing is so good that other brands like DeWalt source from them.

Read more in our guide to pressure washer brands.

Pressure washer parts and accessories

A pressure washer is only as good as its parts and accessories. Parts like the engine, motor and pump determine performance and reliability. Accessories like guns, wands and nozzles improve performance and convenience. Learn about important pressure washer parts, accessories and attachments below.

Pressure washer engine

Engine (or motor)

An engine or motor is used to power the water pump. Gas pressure washers use an engine, while electric pressure washers use a motor. Engine power can be measured in cubic centimeters (cc or cc’s) or horsepower. Motor power can be measured in amps, watts or volts. Engine quality is usually judged by brand, with common options being Honda, Kohler and Briggs & Stratton (all are good). Motor quality is judged by type, with only three options which are universal, induction and TEFC (from lowest to highest quality).

Pressure washer pump

Pump

A pump is used to pressurize the water. There are three types of pressure washer pumps, which are wobble, axial and triplex (from lowest to highest quality). Wobble pumps are sufficient, but axial and triplex pumps are better choices because they last longer and can be repaired or replaced if your pump malfunctions. Assuming usage of 1-2 hours per week, life spans are estimated at 2-3 years for wobble pumps, 6-7 years for axial pumps and 20+ years for triplex pumps.

Pressure washer hose

Hose

A high-pressure hose carries the pressurized water from the pump to the spray gun. Pressure washer hoses are available in three diameters, which are 1/4″ (most common), 5/16” (least common) and 3/8″ (commercial use). Hose material varies, but is usually some form of high-density plastic with polyester or steel braiding. Hose length also varies, with 25-35’ being standard and 100’+ available for more mobility.

Pressure washer spray gun

Gun

A spray gun is used to release the pressurized water. Pressure washer guns have a pistol grip design with an inlet to connect the hose, a trigger to control water release and a tip where water is released. The tip is also where you connect attachments like wands and soap dispensers. Guns vary by size, shape and material, with premium options having features like comfortable grips, better components, and easy-pull triggers.

Pressure washer nozzles

Nozzle

A nozzle is used to control the stream of the pressurized water. Most pressure washer nozzles control the stream’s width, which is measured in degrees. As the width increases, the surface area also increases, but the water pressure decreases. For example, a 0° nozzle creates a narrow stream with maximum pressure, while a 40° nozzle creates a wide stream with reduced pressure. Another popular option is a turbo nozzle (or rotating nozzle), which rotates a 0° stream at high RPM to create a wide area while maintaining maximum pressure.

Pressure washer extension wand

Wand

A wand is used to extend the reach of the pressurized water. Pressure washer wands can connect to the tip of the gun or directly to the hose. Wand length varies, with 1-3’ being standard and 30’+ available for hard-to-reach places like second stories and gutters. Longer wands can be telescopic (adjustable), offering the best of both worlds. Some wands have adjustable nozzles built in, but most allow you to connect your own.

Surface cleaners, soap dispensers and other attachments

There are a number of other accessories and attachments that can make your life easier. Surface cleaners make quick work of driveways and decks. Soap dispensers are great for car washing. If you find yourself frequently performing the same jobs, investing in the right accessories can save you countless hours of effort down the road.

Frequently asked questions about pressure washers

Some of the most common questions about pressure washers are answered here. These questions are fairly general. For answers to more specific questions, we usually have relevant FAQs on each of our posts. You can also reach out to us at any time, we love talking to our readers!

How does a pressure washer work?

Pressure washers aren’t complicated. There’s an engine or motor that powers a water pump. Water is drawn into the pump from a source, like a garden hose, where it is accelerated to high pressure. There’s another hose that connects the pump to a spray gun, which releases the pressurized water when you pull the trigger.

If you want to see the process in action, Karcher has a visual animation of internal components. There are numbered labels on the animation with descriptions that explain what’s happening at every step.

How to use a pressure washer?

There’s a lot to be said about using a pressure washer. You should be familiar with how one works (explained above), startup and shutdown procedures, and washing methods. We’ll break down each of these points below.

  • Before starting, check the water strainer and connect the hoses, spray gun and nozzle. Clear any air bubbles from the pump by squeezing the trigger on the spray gun.
  • Starting a pressure washer is different for gas and electric models. With an electric pressure washer, simply plug in the power cord and press ON. With a gas pressure washer, check the oil and fuel levels, then open the fuel valve, choke and throttle. Switch the engine to ON, hold the trigger of the spray gun (point it somewhere safe) and pull the starter or press the electric start button. Recoil starters may take a few pulls. Close the choke after the engine warms up (15-30 seconds).
  • Be cautious when washing a new surface. Start with a wider nozzle and spray from 2-3 feet away. Move closer or choose a narrower nozzle if the pressure isn’t strong enough to clean the surface thoroughly.
  • Shutting down a pressure washer is also different for gas and electric models, but both are fairly simple. With an electric pressure washer, press the power button and unplug the cord. With a gas pressure washer, switch the engine to OFF and close the fuel valve and throttle.
  • After shut down, squeeze the trigger on the spray gun to clear pressure from the pump before storage. Disconnect the nozzle, spray gun and hoses.

It’s important to keep safety in mind throughout the process. Wear protective glasses, clothes and shoes, and remove any fragile objects from the area you’re cleaning.

How to fix a pressure washer?

Unsurprisingly, this depends on the issue and the cause of that issue. For example, if your gas pressure washer won’t start, it could be a bad ignition coil or you could just be out of fuel. Try to identify the source of your problem and go from there. For guidance, Repair Clinic has a list of possible causes for common issues. If you can’t figure it out on your own, try calling Home Depot’s repair department or visit them in person. They’re great at troubleshooting.

How much is a pressure washer?

Generally speaking, pressure washers start around $100 but can cost thousands of dollars for a heavy-duty gas-powered model with adjustable pressure, water heating and premium features. Prices vary greatly based on power source, pressure, temperature and more, so it’s hard to give exact numbers. The average homeowner should expect to pay $100-500 and the average business owner should expect to pay $1,000 and above.

Can you rent a pressure washer?

Yes, you can rent a pressure washer at Home Depot or another tool rental company for an average of $75-150 per day. Rental cost varies depending on the company, your location and the type of pressure washer you want to rent. Keep in mind, renting isn’t always better than buying.