What To Know Before Buying A Pressure Washer? Complete Guide

Pressure washers are amazing cleaning tools, especially today with their ever-increasing quality. Whether you opt for a small, electric pressure washer or a large, heavy-duty gas pressure washer, there are many uses you can put the machine to.

As long as you choose a pressure washer in accordance with your needs, it can be an excellent investment with endless uses.

The opposite is also true, however – if you pick the wrong pressure washer, whether it’s just a low-quality model or a good one that’s just not right for you, you may end up regretting the purchase.

So, how can you ensure you’ll make the right choice?

Here’s what you need to know before buying a pressure washer.

Gas vs. Electric

This is the first and arguably biggest consideration you’ll need to make. We’ve covered all the differences between electric and gas pressure washers here but, in short:

  • Gas engine pressure washers are usually bigger and more powerful, typically up to 3,200 pounds per inch (PSI) or more. These devices don’t need to be connected to an electrical power outlet, making them more mobile and easier to move around on their wheels. However, they are also noisier and have unpleasant exhaust fumes that make them ill-suited for indoor needs. These pressure washers are intended for harder cleaning jobs on larger surfaces.
  • Electric motor pressure washers are typically smaller and lighter, with an average PSI between 1,300 and 2,000 PSI. They don’t need any gas or oils to function, but have to be connected to an electrical power outlet, which can restrict their mobility. These devices are much quieter than their bigger gas counterparts. As such, electric power washers are usually preferred for most residential needs.

Below are two of the most popular gas and electric pressure washers.

Electric pressure washer

Sun Joe Electric Pressure Washer with 2030 PSI. Check Price Here.

Gas pressure washer

Simpson MegaShot Gas Pressure Washer with 3200 PSI. Check Price Here.


Whether you choose to go with a gas engine or an electric motor, you should consider exactly how much PSI it brings to the table and how much you need. Make a list of the surfaces and items you want to clean or might want to clean with it in the future, research how much PSI they require, and use that as your guide.

In general, PSI can be categorized as follows:

  • Light Duty – 1300 to 1900 PSI at 2 GPM. These are ideal for jobs around the house like cleaning bikes, cars, the patio, patio furniture and decks.
  • Medium Duty – 2000 to 2800 PSI at 2-3 GPM. These models are perfect for more serious cleaning, like brick walls, fences and driveways.
  • Heavy Duty – 2800 PSI onwards at 3-4 GPM. These are for heavy-duty jobs like removing graffiti, walkways, concrete, external walls and cleaning large vehicles and trucks.
  • Commercial Grade – 3100 PSI onwards. These are also designed for heavy-duty cleaning in commercial capacities.

Consider pressure washers’ other ratings

The two main ratings other than PSI you should also consider are CU (or CPU) and GPM.

GPM stands for gallons per minute and it indicates how much water per minute the machine goes through. The lower this rating is, the more water-efficient the pressure washer is going to be. If you only need your pressure washer for the occasional residential cleaning, this won’t be as important.

CU/CPU stands for cleaning units or cleaning power units and it’s calculated by multiplying the PSI x GPM. The higher the CU or CPU of the machine is, the better it’s going to clean.

Hot vs. cold water pressure washers

Most of the time when we talk about pressure washers we mean cold water pressure washers. These are the “classic” models that use standard cold water and rely on giving it higher pressure in order to clean surfaces.

However, there are also hot water pressure washers that can work with hot water and rely on a bit of pressure combined with the water’s high temperature. They are harder to use because they require access to hot water which is trickier to get outdoors. However, they can clean faster and with less soap which is a plus. Also, they are generally better for softer surfaces as they don’t need to reach too much PSI to clean them effectively.

Nevertheless, cold water pressure washers are usually sufficient for most residential needs.

Price, warranty, and energy & water consumption

We’re bundling all these together as one big “money consideration”. How much your pressure washer is going to cost you depends not only on its initial price but also on how much water and gas/electricity it consumes. The warranty is also important as the longer it lasts, the less likely it is that you’ll have to pay for repairs. Additionally, long warranties are typically a sign of quality.

As far as the energy consumption is concerned, electric motor pressure washers are usually much more efficient as the gas and oils required for gas engine washers can be quite expensive.

How often are you going to use the pressure washer?

Going off of the energy consumption and warranty considerations, it’s also important to consider how much you’re going to use the device. If you want to use it all the time you’ll need to minimize the energy consumption as much as possible. The warranty also becomes much more of a factor with frequent use as you’ll be more likely to amortize the device that way.

Mobility and portability

Both gas and electric pressure washers have pros and cons in terms of their portability. Electric pressure washers are usually much lighter and more portable, making them easy to carry around. However, the need for a nearby power outlet limits the places where you can use them. Gas engine pressure washers, on the other hand, are typically much heavier and harder to carry but they can be used almost everywhere outdoors.

If you’re buying an electric pressure washer it’s also smart to check how long its power cable is and whether that’s long enough for your property. It’s generally not a good idea to use extension cables with pressure washers so make sure the power cord is as long as you need it to be.

What nozzles and attachments would you need?

Most pressure washers come with a fairly standard set of nozzles and additional hose attachments but it’s a good idea to check those carefully and make sure you’ll have everything you need. You can always buy them separately but why bother if you don’t have to?

The Bottom Line

Knowing what you require from your pressure washer and how they work, will ensure that you choose the best model for you. Each of the steps listed above will assist in filtering out unsuitable models. Pressure washers come in a variety of models, types and styles, so narrowing down your focus will help you pick the right one.

To learn more about pressure washers, check out our related articles.

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