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I never thought about buying a pressure washer until I looked into renting one to blast some mildew off my brick walls. For about $50, I could rent one for 4 hours, or—much to my surprise—I could buy an electric pressure washer in the $100-$200 range. Electric? I’ve always seen gas-powered models before; wasn’t really familiar with electrics.

So I spent hours reading (and watching) everything I could find on pressure washers for the home. In particular, I compared electric pressure washers with gas-powered models. Here’s what I found out, boiled down to the basics:

Electric vs gas-powered

  • As expected, electric pressure washers cost less but are also less powerful; gas-powered pressure washers blast harder and cost more.
  • Electric models are lighter and generally easier to move around—but they are limited by the cord length—a problem if you are too far from an outlet. Extension cords are a no-go for almost all models for obvious safety reasons. Gas models can be lugged practically anywhere.
  • Electric models cost almost nothing to operate, while gas models need fuel, oil, maintenance, etc.
  • Electric models are about as loud as most vacuum cleaners. Gas models are a lot louder—they tend to recommend ear protection.

Pressure washing the patio.So, the pros for electric: more affordable, lighter weight, quieter, cheap and easy to operate and maintain. Cons: less power than gas, not super mobile.

And so the opposite is true of gas-powered pressure washers: they clean better and can go almost anywhere. But they’re also bigger, heavier, louder, more expensive to operate and maintain—and twice as expensive as electric models. That’s for general consumer use. Heavy-duty professional models are all gas-powered and can run into the thousands of dollars.

Would an electric do the job?

I couldn’t see spending $300+ on something I didn’t absolutely have to have, but closer to $100? Maybe. For me, the issue of distance from an outlet wasn’t a problem, so it was all about blasting power.

The two crucial stats on pressure washers are the PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) pressure and the GPM (Gallons Per Minute) water flow. Together, they deliver the cleaning force from ordinary water-hose pressure. Electric models generally deliver 2000 PSI and less, so the question was … ‘Is that enough?’

What will you use the pressure washer for?

The answer, as usual, is it’s all about your individual needs. The 1700-2000 PSI range that many electric models boast is plenty for lighter-duty jobs. Washing cars, boats, patio furniture, siding. It works okay on harder jobs like decks and fences—but takes longer than more powerful gas-powered washers.

That might be the deciding factor for most homeowners: if you have a really large deck or lots of fencing that needs hard-core blasting, you might not have the patience for an electric pressure washer. They take longer than gas, bottom line—and are not up to cleaning the absolute heaviest problems. Might need to rent or buy a gas model or call a professional for those.

I wanted the higher pressure a gas-powered washer would give me just because—but I couldn’t justify the cost. My needs are pretty basic, and as my helpful wife points out, they’re not really needs, they’re wishes.

A good mix of features

So I decided on an electric, looked for the best match of PSI and GPM, researched the makes and models until I couldn’t anymore … and finally bought the AR® model 383 shown here for about $125. (Amazon ad below)

So far so good. It’s easy to use, and the blasting power is plenty (1900 PSI). There were quite a few models with similar specs and ratings, but the thing that tipped the scales for me was the adjustable wand. It lets me adjust the spray on the fly—instead of having to use a bunch of different nozzles like on some models. I’d probably just lose those.

There’s also a ‘turbo’ wand for maximum blasting force in a small area. I used that to clean the mildew off my bricks and it worked like a charm. I’ve found all kinds of other uses, too, spraying things I either didn’t wash before or washed by hand (patio furniture, cars, garage siding, planters, sidewalk, etc.) Almost makes cleaning stuff fun.

So light I can hang it on the wall

I also solved the problem of where to put it. My garage doesn’t have much floor space available—so I hang it on the wall. It’s light, like about 25 pounds.

Bottom line, I love it. I think electric pressure washers are fine for the average homeowner, with plenty of power and virtually no cost to operate. There are several quality manufacturers, and the market is competitive, so they are quite affordable.

If you truly need and can afford a more powerful gas-engine model, consider buying one versus repeated rentals. That might save you money in the long run. From the reviews and customer feedback, the Simpson and Generac brands of heavier-duty (2800-3100 PSI) gas-powered pressure washers really get good marks all around for  performance and value on the $300-600 range.

Happy blasting. Hope this helps!

-Hank