Best pressure washers 2023
Pressure washers are a quick, convenient and cost-effective way to keep your car looking showroom clean. These are the best ones currently on sale...
It’s easy to dismiss washing a car with a pressure washer as just being about convenience. But in many ways, pressure washing is the best way to revive your car’s appearance.
For starters, using electricity to make the water work harder dramatically reduces the volume of water used, compared with traditional hose rinsing. So not only is less water wasted, but also your car’s hidden, slow-drying cavities will get much less drenched. And for blasting away the salt-rich dirt that clings on beneath sills or under wheel arches, a pressure washer is essential. A blast from a well-aimed lance will dislodge what a hose will simply dampen.
Today, the pressure washer market is long past reaching maturity. But it’s never stopped evolving. Efficiency is now a huge selling point and one that has led to incredible cleaning performance from ever more modestly powered machines. And with the garages and gardens of new-build homes continuing to shrink, there’s a definite hunger for small, lightweight machines with big outputs; as they say, ‘small is beautiful’.
It wasn’t long ago that pressure washers were cumbersome affairs with hose reels placed in such a way that a gentle tug of the hose could send the whole unit tumbling over. Fortunately, improving the stability of these devices has been a key objective in recent years. Furthermore, several manufacturers have begun to tackle the problem of modern high power pressure washers causing vehicle damage through incorrect use.
Of course, these factors only add to an already long list of buying considerations. So let us do the hard work for you.
Firstly, treat a product’s max pressure, max flow, and motor power ratings as a very rough guide. Real-life testing often demonstrates that they have little in common with claimed performance. And you’ll not need to worry about the power leads or hoses being too short – 5m has become the industry standard for the former, while 5-6m is standard for the latter. That said, onboard storage for hoses and cables tends to vary, with some machines displaying significantly better packaging than others. A tidy machine is far easier to move and store.
Standard accessories are also a deciding factor for many buyers. Most pressure washers come with a fan nozzle and a turbo jet, the latter utilising a fast-moving, intense, pencil jet to rapidly clean driveways and paving. Patio Cleaners work on the same principle but in a bulkier push-along form. For tackling hidden car dirt, angled “sill” nozzles point backwards, almost towards the lance’s trigger, to put sill bottoms and under-arch areas within easy aim without any need to bend down or even crouch.
For really effective car cleaning, though, nothing beats adding detergent into the mix. To do this, some machines use a clip-on bottle to add the detergent immediately prior to water being sprayed out. Others have internal detergent reservoirs, the advantage of which is that the water and detergent solution travels down the lance and can therefore be routed through a clip-on brush – static or rotating – or any other accessory.
Talking of clip-on detergent bottles, don’t confuse them with the very similar-looking – but much more popular – foamers. Foamers aerate the detergent before dispatching it so that it’s possible to coat an entire car with a clinging, lubricating, cleansing foam in minutes. Use a mitt, sponge, or brush to safely agitate muck, then simply blast the dirty foam away.
Your final consideration will no doubt be whether you buy from a dedicated pressure washer brand – such as Karcher, Nilfisk, or Bosch – or a lesser-known brand. Well, with an ever-increasing number of manufacturers entering the pressure washer market, this decision is harder to call now than ever before. And you can forget the old rules of premium machines being supplied ready-to-use and only cheaper pressure washers requiring assembly. In this group, the Karcher and Nilfisk models required a fair amount of screwing together, whilst Wolf’s Blaster 4x4 came ready to go.
Bear in mind that Karcher and Nilfisk also offer a fantastic selection of accessories that can also be used on Bosch machines, provided you use an adapter. Clever, eh?
Top 10 pressure washers
10. Draper 98678
Overall score: 2/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 165 bar, Max Flow 432 l/hour, Motor Power 2100 watts
It's impressive that one of our lowest-rated contenders still has a blow-your-arm-back cleaning bite. Put simply, we can't complain about the Draper 98678's washing abilities.
However, most recent innovations in pressure washers seem to have passed the model by. Not only is it big and heavy, but its loftily positioned hose reel means that an energetic tug on the 6m long hose can topple the machine. And, while Draper supplies a patio cleaner and car brush, the omission of a turbo nozzle is surprising and disappointing.
9. Sealey PW2000PA
Overall score: 2/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 140 bar, Max Flow 400 l/hour, Motor Power 1800 watts
Sealey's PW2000PA turns conventional design on its side. Mounted on castors and with a low centre of gravity, the PW2000PA is a doddle to use – you can just pull it along like a Henry vacuum cleaner. And while it doesn’t quite have the oomph of Draper's 98678, its cleaning performance is still impressive.
The natty design isn't without drawbacks, though. The lance has to be split in two if you want to store it using the onboard clips, and there's nowhere to rest the fully assembled lance mid-clean. For the money, we'd also expect more accessories; as standard, you get a fan nozzle, a turbo nozzle, and angled sill nozzles.
8. Halfords PW10
Overall score: 2/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 105 bar, Max Flow 300 l/hour, Motor Power 1400 watts
At one time budget pressure washers were painful to use. Performance was weak and patchy, they took forever to assemble, and lances were so short that you ended up getting soaked. Fortunately, Halfords' PW10 avoids these pitfalls.
Cleaning performance is adequate and consistent and, at 90cm long, the lance is pro-sized. In fact, it positively dwarfs the rest of the unit. But that low cost does bring with it some inherent compromises: just one fan nozzle is provided, there’s no way of adding detergent, and there's no on-board storage for the 4m hose.
7. Silverline 2100 Watt Pressure Washer
Overall score: 3/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 165 bar, Max Flow 360 l/hour, Motor Power 2100 watts
There's lots to like about this machine, starting with a thumping output that runs professional pressure washers incredibly close. And at this price level, you don’t usually expect to get high-end features, such as an internal detergent reservoir and a reel for the 5m hose.
What a shame, then, that small details spoil the experience. The biggest flaw is the absence of a turbo nozzle. That’s a disappointing omission, given that it would transform this punchy washer into a paving restorer par excellence. The hose reel’s lofty position, and not exactly free-spinning nature, make toppling over a possibility too.
6. Wolf Blaster 4x4
Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk
Overall score: 3/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 165 bar, Max Flow 300 l/hour, Motor Power 2000 watts
Oh no, we groaned, another box of bits! However, we shouldn’t have been so quick to judge, because the Blaster 4x4 actually comes fully assembled, it’s just buried under accessories in the box. You get lots of them: a fan nozzle, turbo nozzle, car brush, an angled sill jet, a foamer, a patio cleaner, and even a drain cleaning kit. Factor in thumping cleaning performance, and this package is great value for money.
The 6m hose reel is mounted low on the rear to aid stability, and the unusual clip-on four-castor dolly allows the machine to spin around if the hose is pulled from a distance. It’s an unusual approach, but it works.
5. Karcher K4 Power Control
Overall score: 3/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 130 bar, Max Flow 420 l/hour, Motor Power 1800 watts
Karcher's K4 may have been around for a while now, but it was so innovative at launch that much of the market hasn’t caught up yet. For example, its lance-mounted display tells you what the current pressure levels are – and more crucially, aren’t – suitable for. And the machine's pro-level output makes it hard to believe that there's only a 1.8kW motor powering it all.
However, the package is a little sparse: you only get a fan and turbo nozzle. And Karcher's attempt at ensuring stability, by routing the hose through a low channel, would work so much better if the 6m hose was reel mounted.
4. Nilfisk Core 125-5 Home Kit – RECOMMENDED
Overall score: 4/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 125 bar, Max Flow 440 l/hour, Motor Power 1400 watts
With its new Core range of domestic pressure washers, Nilfisk appears to have shifted its design philosophy. It's still very Scandinavian, but think sleek and clever IKEA rather than bombproof and heavy vintage Volvo. But don't let that, or the unit’s compact size and low weight, fool you – this machine still delivers the immediate and crisp performance that Nilfisk is renowned for.
It's incredibly good value, too, considering that the package comes with a fan nozzle, a turbo nozzle, a car brush, and even a small patio cleaner. A final bonus is the ultra-flexible, and consequently, ultra-manageable, 5m hose.
3. Titan 140 Bar Pressure Washer – BEST BUDGET BUY
Buy from: www.screwfix.com
Contact: 03330 112 112
Overall score: 4/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 140 bar, Max Flor 330 l/hour, Motor Power 1800 watts
Nilfisk's Core 125-5 was all set to scoop our Best Budget Buy award until we tried this latest model from Titan, Screwfix's own brand range. Put simply, it does almost everything the Nilfisk does but knocks around a quarter off the cost.
Granted, it's a much dumpier, traditional-looking machine, but it's reasonably compact and actually very well designed. After use, a large rear shelf and hook keep the 6m hose neatly in place, and a Nilfisk-style rubber strap grips the coiled-up power lead securely. The excellent cleaning performance is complemented by a fan nozzle, turbo nozzle, and a patio cleaner.
2. Nilfisk Core 140 PowerControl Premium with Car Cleaning Kit – RECOMMENDED
Overall score: 4/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 140 bar, Max Flow 465 l/hour, Motor Power 1800 watts
Nilfisk's range-topping Core 140 is an object lesson in modern pressure washer design. Like Karcher's K4, phenomenal muck shifting grunt is teased out of a relatively modest motor. And a table details the safest combination of nozzle and output level – as set on the three-position power switch – for common cleaning tasks.
The raked-back body, ultra-flexible 6m hose, free moving reel, and low exit point make the Nilfisk a topple-free joy to use. And the bundled fan nozzle, turbo nozzle, angled sill nozzle, foamer, car brush, and microfibre mitt and drying cloth guarantee rapid car cleaning.
1. Bosch Universal Aquatak 135
Overall score: 5/5
Vital stats: Max Pressure 135 bar, Max Flow 384 l/hour, Motor Power 1900 watts
Bosch’s Aquatak 135 takes our top award for two reasons. Firstly, it features an unbeatable balance of keen price, top-drawer cleaning performance, and essential accessories. And secondly, it’s just a brilliant design.
For example, it comes fully assembled in a small box, with a hinged and foldable rear handle that makes it extremely compact. You can also swap between pencil jet, fan, and turbo nozzle with a twist of the wrist thanks to what Bosch calls the ‘Trio Nozzle’. If it just had a reel, for its 7m long hose, this machine would be close to perfection.
The products or services referenced in this story have been reviewed independently by our experts. When you buy using the links on our site, we may earn a commission, but this will never influence our opinion or ratings.
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