Should you buy or rent a pressure washer?

CR's experts compare the costs of buying or renting one of these invaluable tools
Posted at 8:01 AM, Oct 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-22 08:01:25-04

A pressure washer can blast away years of grime from a deck, patio, or walkway in a single afternoon. But the question of whether to rent or buy really comes down to how many surfaces you'll need to tackle—and how often you'll need to revisit the chore.

"If you will use a pressure washer three times or more each year, it can pay to own one," says Dave Trezza, a CR testing leader.

If you were to rent a pressure washer from a home center it could cost anywhere from $40 to $100 per day. Buying an electric pressure washer can cost you about $100 to $200; a gas pressure washer will set you back $300 to $600.

You may find frequent small jobs for an electric pressure washer, such as cleaning mildew from your patio furniture. Ownership of a large gas pressure washer—good for long-neglected decks and dirty siding—will require engine maintenance and room for storage, which can make renting more appealing for some.

Whether you choose to buy or rent a pressure washer, Consumer Reports cautions against using a zero-degree cleaning nozzle for any job. If you buy a pressure washer, toss the nozzle entirely so you won't use it accidentally. And always wear closed shoes, long pants, and protective gear on eyes and ears.

How CR Tests Pressure Washers

We measure how much pressure each model can produce, in pounds per square inch, giving a higher score to those with a higher psi. Then we fire up each pressure washer and use it to strip paint from painted plastic panels, timing how long it takes. Models with a higher pressure output tend to perform better on this test.

We also measure noise, and you should know that almost all pressure washers are loud enough to require hearing protection. Last, we size up ease of use by evaluating basics such as the process of adding fuel and noting features that improve the experience, such as an engine that automatically shuts off when oil is running low.

Regardless of performance, it’s CR’s policy to recommend only models that do not include a zero-degree nozzle, which we believe poses an unnecessary safety risk to users and bystanders.

Best Inexpensive Pressure Washers to Buy

Still on the fence about buying vs. renting? If you're faced with a large cleanup job, your best bet may be to rent a large, powerful pressure washer. That's particularly true if it's been years since you've cleaned your deck, patio, or driveway.

Then, consider buying a less-expensive gas or electric model to keep on hand for maintenance. Start with our pressure washer buying guide for more on the pros and cons of each type.

CR members can also access our comprehensive pressure washer ratings. Here, we've highlighted five inexpensive models worth considering if you don't want to spend big on a pressure washer.

How to Clean Your Deck

Is your deck looking tired and dingy? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ test engineer Dave Trezza shows how to revive your outdoor space.