Welcome to our in-depth round-up of the best pressure washers for 2020. When you have heavy grime to tackle, a bucket and scrubbing brush just won’t cut it.
Just like a gas lawn mowers, snow blowers or leaf blowers, pressure washers are an essential yard tool, allowing you to get those surfaces sparkling clean again. Powerful, easy to use, portable, and guaranteed to get any job done in half the time as scrubbing manually, the best pressure washers make life that bit easier for you. Before you buy, there are a few important things to consider depending on what specific cleaning needs you require.
Firstly, there are two types of pressure washer to choose from. Gas operated washers are driven by a powerful engine, giving a higher PSI (pounds per square inch) output of anything up to 7,000 PSI. This is usually the best for heavy-duty to professional cleaning jobs such as sidewalks, exterior walls or vinyl sidings. These washers require fuel (which would need refilling), a motor pull-start and are more expensive, but are generally more powerful than electric models. They are also heavier in size but are easily portable, and you don’t have to worry about plugging into an electrical supply.
The most common are the electric motor washers. While they are not as powerful, they have more than adequate power for challenging residential jobs, usually providing a PSI from 500 to 4,000. These are typically convenient for cleaning vehicles, outdoor furniture, patios or driveways, and are much cheaper than gas washers. However, electric motors can be prone to overheating after long durations of use, so ensure that you choose the right spec for your needs.
Another important consideration is the water flow or GPM (Gallons per minute) rate, which means the more surface area it can clean, the more efficient.
Other features to factor in when choosing are how user-friendly and easily portable the unit is, length of the hose, if it has an on-board detergent unit and whether it is value for money. Here are some of the best performing pressure washers you can find on the market.
1. Karcher K5 Premium: Best overall
The best pressure washer overall
Type: Electric | Power: PSI: 2000, 1.4 GPM | Weight: 32 pounds | Dimensions: (H) 58.4 x (W) 41.1 x (D) 30.5 | Features: Water-cooled motor, Vario power spray wand | Warranty: 2-year
Our best overall choice provides power and high-end performance at a reasonable price. Similar powered pressure washers can cost up to $1,000 or more, but the Karcher K5 delivers similar results and is priced around the $300 mark.
At 2000 PSI, the Karcher K5 is designed to tackle the toughest cleaning jobs around the home quickly, using 40 times the water pressure of a garden hose. Its water cooled induction motor ensures the unit does not overheat after hours of continuous cleaning, which is perfect for homeowners who have plenty of chores to do. It is also designed to prolong the life of the motor by up to 5x, making it a lot more reliable.
The overall design is compact yet sturdy and easy to move around on the large 7.7” high impact wheels. It features a useful onboard detergent tank and two spray wands designed to meet your specific cleaning needs. It’s also one of the very few quiet pressure washers on the market.
While it is built to last, you may find proprietary parts expensive if you do require any replacements. Nevertheless, the Karcher K5 packs a powerful punch for cleaning vehicles, fences, driveways and more, at a very reasonable price.
- Read the review: Karcher K5 Premium
2. RYOBI RY803001 3000-PSI Power Control: Best for professional features
The best professional value pressure washer
Type: Gas | Power: PSI 3000, 2.3 GPM | Weight: 57 pounds | Dimensions: 21 x 23.5 x 21 inches | Features: Honda GCV160 gas engine, 5-in-1 spray nozzle | Warranty: 3-year limited warranty
The RYOBI RY803001 was our best professional value choice for a gas pressure washer. While gas washers usually cost up to $1,000 or over, you can find a RYOBI 3000 for a fraction of the price at just $349. Driven by its powerful, Honda gas engine it quickly dealt with heavy duty grime in record time. Despite its weight, it’s easy to move around terrain on its sturdy track wheels. The fuel tank is a bit smaller than others, however the powerful engine handles cleaning jobs in half the time, so you won’t need to keep refuelling. We chose this washer because we were impressed by its professional cleaning results at such a great value price point.
- Read the full review: RYOBI RY803001 3000-PSI Power Control
3. Greenworks GPW1501: Best budget
The best performing budget/starter washer
Type: Electric | Power: PSI 1500, 1.2 GPM | Weight: 16.6 pounds | Dimensions: 11.42x17.13x9.45 inches | Features: Vertical or horizontal use, soap applicator, 20 ft. high pressure hose | Warranty: 4-year warranty
If you just need something inexpensive and suitable for light-duty cleaning jobs, the Greenworks GPW1501 pressure washer is an excellent choice. Although small, it has adequate pressure for cleaning cars, patios and decking. The added bonus is that it’s one of the few washers available on the market for just under $100. It’s super lightweight and compact making it easy to carry around the home and neatly pack away.
A drawback is that the hose can be a little stiff for unrolling but should loosen over time and more usage. This may not be powerful enough to do heavy-duty tasks like cleaning sidewalks or walls but is ideal for a starter pressure washer.
- Read the review: Greenworks GPW1501
4. Stanley SLP 2050 2-In-1: Most versatilie
The best versatile pressure washer
Type: Electric | Power: PSI 2050, 1.4 GPM | Weight: 36 pounds | Dimensions: 24.4 x 16.4 x 17.2 inches | Warranty: 2-year limited warranty
The Stanley SLP 2050 2-In-1 is one of the most versatile pressure washers on the market. It is well engineered and durable and it’s unique 2-in-1 design means it can be used with the mobile cart or detached for use as a standalone unit. This makes it much more portable and handy for those light-to-medium cleaning jobs around the home and means it is light and compact enough to carry and store away. Considering its high-spec features and design it is priced at a reasonable $175. The Stanley SLP 2050 2-In-1 is ideal if you don’t have heavy-duty projects to tackle. One drawback is the pressure hose can be stiff and difficult to reel, but this should loosen in time.
- Read the review: Stanley SLP 2050 2-In-1
5. Simpson PowerShot PS4240: Best for pros
Best professional pressure washer
Type: Gas | Power: PSI 4200, 4.0 GPM | Weight: 160 pounds | Fuel tank: 1.6 gallon | Dimensions: 28 x 26.5 x 24.5 inches | Features: Honda HX390 engine | Warranty: 3-year warranty
The Simpson PowerShot PS4240 gas pressure washer is an extremely powerful commercial washer designed for heavy-duty cleaning tasks. Driven by its Honda gas engine and AAA industrial pump, this model cleans in a fraction of the time it would take with an electric washer. It is well built with premium features and, although it’s fairly heavy, it’s still easily portable. This may not be suitable for light-duty, domestic cleaning but contractors or professional services would benefit from the ease of use and tremendous power. A plus is that it is priced under $1,000, much cheaper than other professional washers. Which makes the Simpson PowerShot PS4240 outstanding value for money.
- Read the review: Simpson PowerShot PS4240
Why trust our pressure washer reviews?
We spent over 65 hours researching, testing and analyzing pressure washers to find the best washers for homeowners in search of something affordable, powerful and reliable. To that end, we limited our testing to electric pressure washers priced below $200 and chose eight models from top-selling brands available online from Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart and Harbor Freight.
During our research, we looked at guides from many pressure washer manufacturers in an effort to learn more about best practices of choosing and using pressure washers. One such manufacturer, Mi-T-M*, impressed us so much with its product tips and videos that we asked its marketing manager, Karen Anderson, for additional advice on choosing and using pressure washers.
For our cleaning performance tests, we focused on two scenarios that might require a pressure washer, cleaning vehicles and driveways. We also evaluated each machine's usability and how loud it was to get a more complete picture of its strengths and weaknesses.
*Although Mi-T-M makes both electric- and gas-powered pressure washers, we didn't include them in our testing because the products didn't fit the pricing criteria mentioned above. Based on our positive experiences, advanced users might want to check out Mi-T-M's pressure washers.
How we tested pressure washers
We based our cleaning performance tests on two common tasks, cleaning vehicles and driveways. Our testers assigned scores based on how effectively and quickly the area was cleaned. In both tests, only the RYOBI RY14122 and the Craftsman CM1800 managed to earn perfect scores.
To test vehicle cleaning, one of our testers drove his pickup through mud to dirty the wheel wells. The testers then used each pressure washer to clean the dried mud off half a wheel well. Our testing revealed that every pressure washer in our comparison is powerful enough to use for washing a car and cleaning dirt off similar surfaces.
The second part of our cleaning performance test targeted a stubborn oil spot on the driveway at the testing location. We chose to clean the oil spot because our research indicated oil as one of the hardest things to pressure-wash off a driveway.
In this round of testing, seven of the eight machines were able to clean the oil spot effectively, though some took longer than others. The remaining machine, the WORX Hydroshot WG629, simply wasn't powerful enough to clean the set-in oil spot.
How we tested pressure washer usability
To evaluate how easy a pressure washer is to use, our testers considered the following:
Pressure wand & hose: The most impressive pressure washers had built-in wand storage, comfortable handles, and made it easy to swap nozzles and store hoses.
Portability: Although a pressure washer's weight affects portability, we noticed that portable pressure washers need high-quality wheels like those on the RYOBI RY14122, Craftsman CM1800 and Sun Joe SPX3000.
Battery-powered units, like the WORX Hydroshot WG629, which we chose as the most portable unit in our comparison, can provide extra portability far from the nearest power outlet.
Assembly: Generally speaking, units come mostly assembled, snap together without tools and can be used within minutes of opening the box. One pressure washer even came fully assembled in the box: The Craftsman CM1800. Although some units, such as the Sun Joe SPX3000, require a bit more work to assemble, the process takes 30 minutes or less.
Power cord: With the exception of the battery-powered WORX Hydroshot WG629, every pressure washer we tested comes with a 35-foot power cord, which can be tedious to store if the machine doesn't have hooks to secure it. We paid attention to this and scored accordingly.
We ran each machine and placed a decibel meter one foot away to measure how loud it was. The quietest pressure washer we tested was the WORX Hydroshot WG629 at 79 dB. Two units tied for the loudest at 91 dB, the Greenworks GPW1501 and the Harbor Freight Portland 63254. Regardless of the machine, these results suggest you should use hearing protection every time you run a pressure washer.
How much do pressure washers cost?
We found the average cost of an electric pressure washer to be around $120, well within the budget of someone that only needs it a few times a year. However, you can expect to see prices as low as $75 or as high as $250 for most residential models. Electric pressure washers costing more than $250 are mainly for commercial use and may be a better option if you plan to use the machine on a regular basis or for heavy-duty cleaning.
What to consider when buying a pressure washer
Pressure washer safety:
Before buying a pressure washer, you should be aware that they can cause serious injuries if used improperly. For this reason, you shouldn't use the machine until you read the manual and are using proper safety equipment. Anderson says that Mi-T-M asks users to "follow all safety instructions on decals located on the washer and always wear safety goggles and closed toe shoes to protect yourself from the possibility of direct spray." Regardless of safety equipment, keep the spray away from people and animals.
With electric pressure washers, check that your power cord has a working ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) by hitting the "test" button before every use. While a GFCI can help prevent electrocution, you should keep water away from electrical cords and outlets as much as possible. Lastly, always turn the machine off and pull the trigger a few times to release any remaining pressure when you're not actively using it, when switching nozzles or performing maintenance.
Pressure and flow rate of pressure washers:
When buying a pressure washer, pay attention to the pressure rating, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI,) and the water flow rate, measured in gallons per minute (GPM.) In fact, you can get a quick idea of the cleaning power by multiplying PSI and GPM together to get what pressure washer manufacturers call cleaning units (CU.) While higher pressure and flow rate lead to more cleaning power, Anderson says "in most cases, a 2,000 PSI pressure washer will be sufficient for most homeowner cleaning tasks."
Likewise, our testing revealed that pressure washers with ratings as low as 1,500 PSI are good for most homeowners, though they can take longer to match the results of more powerful units. As such, you can expect to use most electric pressure washers for cleaning cars, wood decks, plastic patio furniture and concrete.
Pressure washer nozzles
Nozzles are rated in degrees with lower numbers, meaning more concentrated streams for jobs that require more power. However, no nozzle is perfect for every task, so while a 15-degree nozzle is great for cleaning mildew and stains off concrete, it's less-suitable than a 40- or 65-degree nozzle for applying soap to and washing a car.
Top Ten Reviews cautions against using red zero-degree nozzles, as well as similarly performing turbo nozzles, because they are too powerful for inexperienced residential users. However, Anderson says that when these nozzles are used properly, they can be very useful for removing tough stains from concrete and metal.
Electric vs gas-powered pressure washers – what's the difference?
Although we only tested electric pressure washers, gas-powered models from manufacturers such as Generac and Simpson are still useful for frequent medium- to heavy-duty cleaning.
This is because gas engines often have pressure above 2,000 PSI. Gas-powered units are also more useful for areas without access to an electrical outlet. However, gas models are larger, heavier, usually cost more than $200 and require more maintenance than ones that run on electricity.
Aside from a pressure washer's other features, accessories such as additional nozzles, attachments and hoses are still an important factor to consider. Before buying a pressure washer, you may want to see if the manufacturer sells attachments such as water brooms, brushes and extensions for your machine. Likewise, third-party accessories and hoses need to be able to handle the PSI rating of your machine.