The best pressure washers for cars

Pressure washers are a time-saving, efficient means of cleaning a car. Parkers recommends the best and provides buying advice.

Parkers testing a Nilfisk pressure washer

by Chris Williams |

Pressure washers are one of those tools that make us um and ah for eons. Not because we’re trying to decide whether we want one, of course we do; it’s more to do with whether we can justify buying one.

Karcher is the first name that springs to mind when thinking about pressure washers. That happens for a reason: Karcher is as synonymous with pressure washers as Apple is with smartphones because it is very good at what is does.

Yet, like Apple, Karcher pressure washers are often rather pricey. But as is the case in the smartphone market, there are a multitude of pressure washer models out there from reputable brands. They come in a range of sizes, prices, styles, and abilities.

Why buy a pressure washer for car cleaning?

Parkers testing Worx pressure washer with Bilt Hamber snow foam

Frankly, most people find car cleaning a necessary chore, just like any cleaning task. No one wants to clean the bathroom but it’s necessary. Similarly, people like having a clean car but don’t care too much for the means to achieve it.

A pressure washer alleviates this problem. Pressure washers make a fast job of car cleaning, but more than this, they make car cleaning fun. Squeezing the trigger and watching the jet of water whip away grime and dirt from a car’s bodywork and wheels is immensely satisfying, even a little addictive.

Another excellent plus point with using a pressure washer for car cleaning is that you can use snow foam. You can head to our guide on snow foam for the full rundown but in essence, snow foam is a spray-on car shampoo you apply with a pressure washer using a cannister. Spray on, hose off, clean car.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t need a big beast of a pressure washer for car cleaning. You’re actually better off buying one with light or medium pressure to avoid damaging your car’s paintwork. Conveniently, this saves you money.

The best car pressure washers in detail:

Nilfisk Core 130

Editor's pick
Nilfisk Core 130

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Firstly, and rather remarkably, for a pressure washer the Core 130 is not ugly. It's a superficial feature but nevertheless, having a pressure washer that's at least mildly aesthetic is quite satisfying in a weird sort of way. But looks is by no means the only reason this is our top-rated pressure washer of the moment.

The Core 130 has the ideal power and pressure figures to deal with both car cleaning and larger domestic jobs (including dealing with the dirty campervan). It requires a little bit of assembly, attaching the wheels and handle and so on, but once put together the Core 130 is solid, both inside and out. It has been tested for another Bauer site and performed brilliantly and we put its bigger sibling, the Core 140 to the test ourselves.

As standard, it comes with a spray bottle that you can use for snow foaming, though for the best snow foam cannon we'd recommend Meguiar's.

Max power 1500W
Max pressure 130 bar
Max flow rate 462 l/r
Hose length 6m
Weight 6.6kg

Turtle Wax TW110 Pressure Washer

Best compact pressure washer
Turtle Wax TW110 Pressure Washer

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Turtle Wax has produced a great compact machine with the TW110 for people who want a portable pressure washer for cars and light domestic use. It also comes with a useful canister attachment for foam cleaning, in addition to the regular lance.

There is ample punch (335 litres per hour at 110 bar) for getting rid of all but the most stubborn of grime from cars. But it all packs away nice and small so you can pop it on a shelf. If you want accessories to use beyond the car, there is also a patio cleaner. The only real drawback here is the mediocre five-metre hose length, but that is still considerably longer than the similarly priced, similarly spec'd Bosch Easy Aquatak 110.

Max power 1400W
Max pressure 110 bar
Max flow rate 330 l/hr
Hose length 5m
Weight 5.7kg

Worx WG630E.1 Brushless Hydroshot Cordless Pressure Cleaner

Best cordless pressure washer
WORX WG630E.1 Cordless Brushless Hydroshot Portable Pressure Cleaner

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We tested this intriguing pressure washer and wondered if its cordless nature would allow it to be any good. We were pleasantly surprised. The brushless Worx Hydroshot is both quiet and reasonably punchy. Although not punchy enough for longer domestic tasks, it had enough guts to make easy work of a car - three cars in fact, on a single charge of the 4.0Ah battery.

The main selling point with the Hydroshot is the fact you don’t need to get tangled in a power cable. You don’t even need a connection to a garden tap. Instead, you can have the hose submerged in a big bucket of water and move it with you.

We also tested the Worx against two other cordless pressure washers. Opinions differ amongst the Parkers team over whether the Worx's rival, the cheaper Ryobi EZ Clean was better bang for the buck. Nevertheless, there was no debating the Worx's superior power.

Max power 18V
Max pressure 24 bar
Max flow rate 200 l/hr
Hose length 6m
Weight 2.4kg

Kew Nilfisk Alto C110.7-5 X-TRA Pressure Washer

Best value pressure washer kit
Kew Nilfisk Alto C110.7-5 X-TRA

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The model name is an enigma, but there is no ambiguity about the value for money you get with this pressure washer kit from Nilfisk. The brand is very well respected in commercial cleaning circles, and that pays dividends in its domestic gear.

This Nilfisk model isn’t as compact as the Turtle Wax model above, but you get better portability thanks to wheels. At 440 litres per hour, the flow rate is impressive for a pressure washer of this size and coupled with the 110 bar pressure, car cleaning is a doddle. To give your car a deeper clean, use the included foam bottle and soft bristle brush.

Max power 1400W
Max pressure 110 bar
Max flow rate 440 l/hr
Hose length 5m
Weight 6.5kg

Karcher K4 Premium Power Control Car & Home Pressure Washer

Best for all domestic cleaning
Karcher K4 Premium Pressure Washer

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If you want a machine that can tackle everything around the property, this is your best option. We consider the Karcher K4 Premium to be the best of Karcher's offerings because it balances performance and value. Granted, it is considerably more than the others here, but compared to the Karcher K7, the K4 Premium is a fantastic value.

The K4 is the biggest model here, almost twice the weight of the Nilfisk, and therefore won’t fit on a small garage shelf. But it is the most versatile. The flow rate is not as much as the Nilfisk you’ll notice, but you get more pressure (the water pressure is variable on LED display on the lance).

The powerful 1800W motor doesn’t have to work hard either, which is great for longevity and prolonged use. We also must stress what a difference having an eight-metre hose makes compared to a five for car cleaning because it allows you to go all the way around without moving the pressure washer, unless you're cleaning a bus or a Dodge Ram.

Then, of course, you get the important accessories you need, plus cleaning fluid. The Karcher car cleaning fluid is a little pricey, but it is good and you can always replace it with another snow foam (we recommend Bilt Hamber snow foam), if and when you need to.

Max power 1800W
Max pressure 130 bar
Max flow rate 420 l/hr
Hose length 8m
Weight 12kg

Tips for using and buying car pressure washers

Worx WG630E.1 Hydroshot spraying Bilt Hamber snow foam
©Photo: Parkers/Adam Binnie

What pressure is ideal for washing a car?

You want enough pressure to remove grime but not so much that your paintwork is at risk. We say anything between 80 bar and 145 bar (about 1100 to 2000 psi).

You may be wondering about the cordless Worx and its low pressure of 24 bar. Ultimately, the Worx Hydroshot is not as effective as the corded options. However, the lower pressure means you can concentrate the jet on one point for longer, if you need to, without the fear of inflicting damage.

Will pressure washers damage my car?

In truth, you are only really going to damage your car’s paint with a petrol-powered pressure washer. Our picks above, and almost all domestic pressure washers are electric. Petrol-powered pressure washers operate at very high pressure for commercial use.

That being said, we would recommend you don’t concentrate the jet of water on a single point for more than a few seconds (with the exception of the lower pressure Worx Hydroshot). Move the jet around constantly, even if just a little bit.

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What attachments are best for car cleaning?

• For blasting dirt, use a narrower nozzle (this is usually the standard one) with anywhere between 15 and 30 degrees spray if the nozzle is adjustable

• For applying the foam, use the foam canister

• For rinsing, use the wider, lower pressure setting on the nozzle to give you wider coverage

• You can use brush attachments for stubborn muck and on wheels if you wish

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What cleaning products can I use with pressure washers?

Snow foam is a great time-saver for car cleaning. Enthusiasts tend to use snow foam as a pre-wash step, but you can use it as your main wash if you want to. Just don’t expect it to have quite the same results as a subsequent application of car shampoo by hand.

Our tried and tested recommendation for snow foam is the stuff from Bilt Hamber. It foams nicely without going over the top, is good value for money, and does the best job at lifting dirt from paintwork.

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