How to Choose the Right Pressure Washer for my Start Up



Starting a pressure washing business can be very profitable but it requires an investment to start both in time and money and physical labor.

Always buy a unit big enough for your needs. Buying a unit that does not have adequate cleaning power will cost you extra clean-up time and repairs in the future.
Hotsy 700 Series 797ss Model

Pressure Washing Terminology

Before investing a hefty amount of money into this type of business, research the industry. You’ll need to determine what the barrier to entry is, establish your target market, understand the demographics and psychographics within the industry, who your competitors are, etc. Also, assess your expenditures and potential revenue flow. how much money you are willing to put into your start-up, how much time you are willing to commit (part-time or full-time), and your break-even point (when your business will start to make a profit).


You’ve probably heard PSI quite a bit and know what it is but do you know what it stands for? PSI is the abbreviation for pounds per inch. What you clean dictates the PSI you need.

PSI measures the amount of pressure applied when cleaning a surface. This factor varies between models providing you different options for your specific pressure washing needs.

PSI Breakdown

Cleaning with 1000 PSI: Light Duty Pressure Washer

A PSI in the 1000s is your base level. It’s for the smaller household jobs. If you’re looking to use a pressure washer for quite minimal work, at least in scope and size, then this PSI is the one for you.

Recommended Uses: BBQ grills, outdoor furniture, bikes, scooters, as well as any vehicles in the driveway.

Cleaning with 2000 PSI: Medium Duty Pressure Washer

 A PSI in the 2000-range, allows the pressure washer to handle the above type of jobs in addition to slightly bigger applications.

Recommended Uses: BBQ grills, outdoor furniture, bikes, scooters, cars, decks or docks, fencing, small boats and trailers.

Cleaning with 3000 PSI: Heavy Duty Pressure Washing

A PSI in the 3000-range, gives the pressure washer enough power to handle residential or commercial level jobs. This is the most popular and common option among consumers.

Recommended Uses: BBQ grills, Vehicles, decks or docks, fencing, boats, trailers, ATVs, home siding, brick, asphalt driveways.
Cleaning with 4000 PSI: Industrial Duty Pressure Washing

A PSI in the 4000-range is industrial level pressure able to handle the toughest of jobs.
This is the second most popular and common option among consumers.

Recommended Uses: BBQ Grills, decks or docks, house siding, driveways, Heavy equipment, metallic surfaces, graffiti, paint-stripping.
Note: Increasing the pressure will not lead to a faster job. GPM value is critical in achieving a faster clean.

PSI Breakdown by Application

Once your proper PSI value is established, based on the type of job you are completing, you can increase your GPM to cut down on cleaning time. Below are a few common PSIs used with various surface cleaning duties:

  • Concrete Cleaning: 3,000 - 3,500 PSI
  • Car Cleaning:1,200 - 1,900 PSI
  • Wood Cleaning: 2000 - 3,000 PSI
  • Trucks & Tractors: 1,800+ PSI
  • Livestock Shelters: 3,000+ PSI
  • Decks, Fences, & Siding: 2,000+ PSI
  • Paint Stripping: 3,200 - 4,200 PSI
  • Construction-Site Maintenance: 3,200 - 4,200 PSI
  • Graffiti Removal: 3,200 - 4,200 PSI

Not all nozzles are equipped to handle the high PSIs associated with some pressure washers. Before you begin using a specific nozzle, you should make sure that it is going to be able to handle the pressure associated with your washer. Otherwise, your equipment could either malfunction or not perform the way you expect it to when you turn it on and start pressure washing.


GPM is the abbreviation for gallons per minute. It measures the flow rate, or amount of water the pump can move out of your pressure washer per minute. This measurement determines how long a job will take to complete. GPM is what moves the grime away.

The higher the GPM, the more surface area a pressure washer can clean in a minute.

If machine A has a 2 GPM rating and machine B has a 4 GPM rating, machine B will clean twice as fast because it uses 2x’s as much water every minute for cleaning.


CU is the abbreviation for Cleaning Units and is the value calculated by multiplying the PSI by the GPM values. For larger scale jobs and more frequency of use, look for a machine with a higher GPM value. These pressure washers crank out more water per gallon, which is critical in speeding up the job.

Let’s take for example a 4 GPM machine at a PSI value of 3,000 will have a CU of 12,000.

Comparing that to a 3 GPM machine at a higher PSI value of 3,500, the CU will be 10,500.

Even though this machine has a higher PSI, the first machine will get the job done faster due to a higher GPM.


RPM is the abbreviation for revolutions per minute and specifies the pump speed. As RPM increases, the pump flow increases.


VHP is the abbreviation for Viscous Horsepower which is the power needed to turn rotating parts of the pump against the fluid inside the pump.


WHP is the abbreviation for Work Horsepower (sometimes called external horsepower) which is the horsepower required to operated a Positive Displacement Pump. As pressure from the discharge side of the pump increases, the pump requires additional horsepower to operate.

If there is a pressure drop from system components (valves, heat exchangers, filters or strainers), WHP assists the pump to achieve the desired flow rate.


BHP is the abbreviation for Brake Horsepower, and this is the power the pump requires to overcome the discharge pressure. BHP comes from adding WHP and VHP.

Direct vs Belt

Direct Drive Pump

In a direct drive pump, the pump RPM is always the same as the engine RPM. This makes for a simple design with very few moving parts, but because the pump spins continuously at a very high RPM, bearings and other components can wear out faster than they would in a belt drive pump. They are also unable to draw water from a standing water source, so water must be forced into the pump with a hose.

Belt Drive Pump

Rather than being connected directly to an engine’s drive shaft, belt drive pumps are connected to a pressure washer’s motor by way of a belt and pulley system. This allows them to spin at a much lower RPM than direct drive pumps. Due to the friction between belts and pulleys they’re not quite as efficient as direct drive pumps, but they have very long lifespans.

Stationary vs Portable


If you have limited space, consider installing a stationary pressure washer. You don’t have to worry about the pressure washer taking up space in your storage room.

If cold temperatures are a factor, keeping your equipment indoors might be best if you don’t want to winterize it.

If you can bring the equipment that needs cleaning to the washer, an indoor, stationary pressure washer might be right for you.

Stationary units are hooked up with power, heat, and water sources plumbed and wired in, making for easy usage. This also makes it possible to recycle the wash water with a floor drain capture system.


If your on a budget a portable unit may be a good choice.

If you can’t bring the equipment to the pressure washer and don’t want the hassle of cords, then a portable washer is the way to go.

Cordless pressure washers run on batteries, so they are quiet like electric washers and mobile like gas washers. Small portable pressure washer units are lightweight and mounted to an easy-to-maneuver trolley, so you can easily clean in corners and narrow spaces.

9 Things To Know Before Buying a Pressure Washer Catalog

Hot vs Cold

The biggest differentiator between cold and hot pressure washers is the cleaning power. Hot water offers extra cleaning power when you need it most but keep in mind the surfaces you are cleaning. Cold water is preferred for some surfaces like wood or plastics that may warp under high temperatures.

Hot Water Pressure Washer

Hot-water pressure washers are designed to cut through oil and grease. They derive much of their enhanced cleaning ability from the hot water itself, breaking down the bonds that exist on a molecular level in oil and grease. It can also rid surfaces of bacteria, algae, and other things more effectively due to the heat they distribute. The combination of heat, agitation, and soap truly set hot-water pressure washers apart.

Hot-water pressure washers are capable of creating water heated up to as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes hot-water pressure washers more effective when cleaning oil, grease, and more off various surfaces.

One problem with investing in a hot water pressure washer is the fact that it can deteriorate if it sits around for long periods. Did you know that if you let it sit for any length of time, it can cause expensive damage?

These washers are also generally a better option in cold-weather climates where water lines have the potential to freeze. Some hot-water washers can also meet sanitation requirements for food processing, making them a viable option for certain food service applications.

- Hot Pressure Washers — cleaning engines, automotive parts, or anything with oil or grease.

Cold Water Pressure Washer

Cold-water pressure washers are ideal for cleaning dirt, mud, and grime off surfaces. From concrete driveways to wood surfaces, metal vehicles and boats to house siding, as you can see there are several surfaces you can clean with a cold-water pressure washer in hand.

Cold pressure washers rely on the pressurized water produced by the machine to break up any dirt on a surface and spray away soil without the extra expense of hot-water washing. The only weakness is its inability to clean oil and grease as effectively as a hot-water model.

- Cold Pressure Washers — blasting away sand, caked-on mud, or even stripping paint.

Gas vs Electric vs Diesel

Gas Engine Pressure Washer

A gas-powered commercial pressure washer utilizes gasoline which offers more power and negates the need for power cables. The high PSI implies the ability to dispense water using high pressure. Therefore, you can eliminate dirt, dust, and debris from the surfaces with minimal detergents.

Gas-powered commercial pressure washers are built in a sturdier design and are more compact and durable. Manufacturers understand the harsh outdoor environment, which is why they opt for metal bodies.

Professional gas pressure washers vary from cold water, hot water, and belt-driven washers. They're great for cleaning agricultural equipment, large homes, and virtually any type of cleaning task.

If you're a cleaning professional and need a reliably powerful unit, these will be perfect for you. They're built to handle heavy use so you don't have to worry about frying the pump or engine.

Electric Powered Pressure Washer

Electric pressure washers plug into an electrical outlet to provide consistent power for extended use with no fumes and quieter operation than gas units. These units are connected to your facility’s existing electricity source. They often come with a spring-driven or electrically operated retractable hose to keep everything contained and prevent a tripping hazard.

Electric-powered commercial power washers use minimal electricity, which leads to high power saving and economical choices. They don't emit harmful fumes — making them kind to the environment and the population. They also run with minimal sound, which results in negligible noise pollution.

They offer convenience due to their smaller and lighter build, making them ideal for storage and movement. It's more convenient to use an electric-powered power washer in a high-rise building or transport it in a small car than a gas-powered power washer.

There are handheld units, cold water units, hot water units, and even truck-mounted units. You can use all of these indoors, which is especially important in places like restaurant kitchens or meat-packing facilities. With the hot water option, you can sanitize as well as clean.

Diesel Engine Pressure Washer

Perhaps the greatest advantage of diesel heated pressure washers is their ability to heat water very quickly. Rather than having to wait for your pressure washer to warm up, you can deliver on-demand hot water to soiled surfaces to get them cleaned quickly and easily. These powerhouse pressure washers are designed to cut through even the most stubborn caked-on grit and grime.

They're great for cleaning agricultural equipment, large homes, and virtually any type of cleaning task. If you're a cleaning professional and need a reliably powerful unit, a diesel pressure washer is the way to go. They're built to handle heavy-duty jobs so you don't have to worry about frying the pump or engine.

Rental vs Buying

When to Rent

The following things you will need to know before renting your pressure washer:

Know your needs — when determining what type of pressure washer to rent, you need to thoroughly understand your pressure washing needs. There are tons of features and models to choose between, from hot vs cold to electric vs gas.

Look for training availability — going with a rental place that is ready and able to train you on the equipment you're about to rent is very important. Proper use ensures that you're getting the most out of your experience, and the equipment is safe from accidental damage and harm (that can cost you much more than just the rental fee).

Shop around — there are always weekend specials and deals going on. Take advantage of your options. Shop for the best rental prices and deals for what you need. This is especially true for rental outlets, where discounts are plenty generous more often than not.

With that being said, going the rental route makes the most sense if you're testing out equipment to determine which one is the best fit for you.

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