Your phone rings. It’s your wife. Your inlaws, whose house you’ve been staying in all summer, are coming home exactly in two days and six hours and you’ve spent the summer doing everything but power washing the house siding, which is also the only thing they asked you to do. In fact, you don’t even have a power washer. But you have just enough time to order one and do the job and then discover that all the money in the world you have is $300. And, you know, you kind of feel like you’re going to want to drink a beer when you’re done.
Who’s been in this situation? The real question is who hasn’t been in this situation. We’re putting our hands up in solidarity on this one, brother, and would like to help you pull it off. We’ve reviewed pressure washers for you, and the best part is they all cost less than $300. And if you’re really like to make things interesting and want to look for a model that we didn’t review, we’ve included a handy buyers guide.
|Stanley SLP2050||36 lbs||4.6/5|
|Sun Joe SPX3000|
(Best for the Money)
|Briggs & Stratton 20545||50 lbs||4.3/5|
|Karcher K2000||25 lbs||4.0/5|
Our process for reviewing tools starts with one basic question, how easily can someone who knows nothing about a model use it right out of the box. The WEN PW28 was a hands-down winner across all models for this. Open box, follow a very simple set of instructions that come with it and soon you’re cleaning grime off your house siding. It also excelled in the power – an eye-popping 2,500 psi — it delivered at the price. If you need something stronger, you’re paying for a top dollar commercial washer, but when it comes to use around the home, there’s nothing the WEN can’t handle. On top of that, it’s also super comfortable to use. That makes it the luxury model of affordable power washers.
The only thing we didn’t like it about it was that the oil seal didn’t work very well. It wasn’t a lot of oil that spilled out, but since this is a power washer anything that created additional mess was noticeable. Despite that, the machine excelled at the amount of washing power it delivered at the price, which warranted our top ranking.
We’ll admit it. We have an affinity for electric power washers, and for a very simple reason. Show us equipment powered by an internal combustion engine and we’ll show you a piece of equipment that invariably creates its own mess. You’re going to spill oil or gas, or a leak will develop somewhere. The end result is that you will create a mess powering up a machine intended to clean. Electric power washers don’t do that.
Of the electric power washers we tested, the Stanley SLP2050 was our favorite. It did a good job cleaning while extending the plusses of using an electric cleaner, namely that you don’t have to worry about also cleaning up oil and gasoline while cleaning your house siding, your car or your deck. This particular model is also very portable and an excellent fit for most anything a homeowner would want it for.
Our primary complaints were generalized to electric power washers in general. In reality, it’s only as portable as the amount of cord you can bring to the table, and it lacks the oomph of a gas-powered engine. So, it’s underpowered compared to everything else we tested.
We were frankly a little dismayed when we pulled the Sun Joe SPX3000 out of the box. It failed to meet our first criteria, which is that it is easy for a novice to use right out of the box. There was quite a lot to put together and the instructions weren’t all that obvious. If you can’t put it together, you can’t use it; and if you don’t use it, you’ve just spent money on a bulky, expensive paperweight.
We were also a little horrified when we turned it on and didn’t have to speak up to hear one another. That horror turned to delight when we aimed the sprayer, pressed down and water shot out at high pressure. It was barely audible and worked great.
A lot of that was because it’s an electric washer and doesn’t have an internal combustion engine making a lot of noise. It also didn’t have the power of a gas engine washer – we have our doubts that it was operating at the 2030 psi advertised – and the cord was a bit of a hassle.
But it cleaned, and it cleaned well. It should handle just about anything you have around the house and do it quietly.
The Briggs & Stratton 20545 brought the heat, so to speak. We cranked up its gas engine and needed no convincing that it brought the advertised 2,200 psi pressure. It’ll clean anything you need it to, from the deck and driveway to the car and house siding. It was also quieter than most gas models and a little lighter.
That said, if you’re going to pay for a gas cleaner, you can spend just a little more money and get a much more powerful cleaner in the WEN PW28. As to the competing electric models, it cleaned better but not so much better to justify paying that price.
Also, the hose that comes with it is complete junks. When you buy it, do yourself a favor and buy a different hose for it. This will, of course, push up the initial investment of money and make it even less a value, but them’s the breaks.
The Karcher K2000 has all the bad things of a gas-powered cleaner – weight, noise – with none of the positives. About the only things we can say positive about it is that it’s very affordable and lightweight. Since you’re not bound by an electric cord, that means it’s super portable. If you have to clean on the go, this might be something you’d want to look at.
For a gas engine, it’s also underpowered. For just a little more money, you can get an electric cleaner that is slightly heavier and more powerful. And since it’s a gas engine, that means dealing with gas engine noise at a paltry 2,000 psi.
It’s also in the basic construction of the cleaner that the price is really telling. It’s just not made to be sturdy and the connection hose is garbage. You’ll want to buy a new one if you purchase this, which in turn means spending more money on what is supposed to be billed as a budget purchase. When you actually spend to make up for the manufacturing deficiencies, it’s a matter of the consumer subsidizing subpar design. We rate this one a hard pass.
Any well-considered purchase decision starts with the consumer. What does the consumer need a power washer to do, and what features help it meet those needs. Buying the most expensive model on the market might deliver the most power, but if you need to be able to move it around easily, the value in spending all that money is diminished substantially. And unlike a lot of tools we review, what you need from a washer today will probably be what you need from a washer tomorrow, because the washer complements other facets of someone’s lifestyle. That is, if you don’t need a power cleaner powerful enough to scour the side of a boat today, unless you actually get into boating that’s a need you’re not going to ever have. So, you’ll want to get one that fits you right now and can expect to always fits you.
Here are some ways to break down your purchase decision.
The means by which the cleaner is powered is the first thing you’ll want to settle. Gas powered cleaners are generally more powerful. If you need something that can cut through grime and dirt like a hot knife through warm butter, you’ll probably want to start with a gas engine cleaner. But, beware. That power comes with a price, as in usually more dollars.
Gas engines are also noisier and tend to make their own messes. Because you need to burn some of the dirtiest substances known to man in order to achieve that high pressure, if the cleaner develops a leak or you are careless in filling it, you’ve created a secondary mess in addition to the one you bought the cleaner to deal with. That reduces the economy of your purchase and since those are generally even more unappealing to clean up than dirt, it’s an annoying negative consequence. And they’re also much louder than electric models. Some of them, like the WEN P28, are loud enough that you’ll wonder if the world is coming to an end, but it will generate the kind of power to convince that, you know, maybe it is.
We disliked the Karcher K2000. I mean, really disliked it. As in, disown it as the disreputable nephew dislike. It was underpowered and loud and since all its parts were flimsy a running expense. But we will nod to it as the most portable power cleaner we reviewed. It was lightweight and didn’t have an electric cord to lug around. If what you need to clean is distant from your tool shed or all your electrical outlets and you don’t need to power away grime and maybe even blood, this might be a good model for you to look at.
On the other hand, our best for-dollar value the Sun Joe SPX3000 came with a stiff power cord that was a pain in the neck to move around. Meanwhile, our top-ranked model the WEN PW28 weighs in at a hefty 61 pounds, but it also has a nice, long hose so that you can set the body somewhere and probably walk to where you need to clean.
So, on the surface, the calculus for portability might seem simple but really there are a number of little things to consider.
Most power washing jobs aren’t five-minute tasks. Odds are pretty good that what you need to do will require a chunk of your day. So, you’ll want to make it as comfortable for you as possible. This means finding a model with a comfortable grip. We actually liked the Stanley SLP2050 for this. And, of course, it’ll mean comfort for your ears. Again, if you hate loud noises or wearing noise suppressors, you may wish to look at the relative quiet of an electric cleaner.
Speaking of noise and comfort, the more a tool annoys you, the less you are likely to enjoy using it. The less you enjoy using it, the less you’ll actually use it. You can buy a cute-rate power cleaner, but you don’t pull it out unless you absolutely need to because it is painful to use, the value in paying less is greatly diminished. So, comfort drives whether you have real value in what you’ve bought.
Value is also a matter in buying the right pressure for the job you need. If all you’re going to use a cleaner for is washing debris off a boat dock, then you don’t need to buy something capable of scouring the flesh from your hand. We liked the WEN PW28, but maybe you don’t need its power.
The WEN PW28 was our overall best performer. We liked everything about it, except that it made a little oil mess in using. But, that wasn’t enough to downrank it beneath the Stanley SLP2050, which didn’t make any mess and was much quieter but as an electric predictably didn’t deliver quite as much in terms of power. That was slightly better than the much cheaper Sun Joe SPX3000, which because it delivered quality at affordability was our best for-dollar value. We liked the Briggs & Stratton 20545 for its power but felt that you could get a better value in spending either a little more to get more power or a little less to get just slightly less power. And while the Karcher K2000 was the most portable model we tested, it fell short in every other regard.
We hope our review is helpful to you in making the best choice you can for a power cleaner. And, if none of the models we looked at meets your needs that our buying tips can help guide you to a purchase that leaves you feeling as satisfied as after a hearty meal.