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Should I Buy a Used Power Washer? Helpful buying tips

Have you noticed your deck is losing the vibrance it once had, or spotted oil stains dotting your garage floor? What about that green stuff growing on the side of your house? Every single one of these things, on its own, can be almost impossible to clean or fix by hand, but with the right power washer you could erase oil stains and bring that vibrance back in no time.

Unfortunately, power washers can become quite expensive, which leads many people to ask, should I buy a used power washer?

If you know what to look for and what to avoid when shopping, buying a used power washer could be a fantastic way to save yourself upwards of 50-75% off the new price.

However, before you go making a purchase, be sure to continue reading to find out what you should look for in a used power washer as well as what to avoid.

Power washing driveway

What Is a Power Washer?

Many folks refer to pressure washers as power washers and vice versa, but they are different machines. A pressure washer is a more common type and it is generally the type most folks are referring to.

So what’s the difference?

Most power washers, much like pressure washers, use an engine and pump to form a stream of high-pressure water (electric versions are available also) That water is then used to clean surfaces that might otherwise be impossible to clean. The main difference between a power washer and a pressure washer is that a power washer also heats the water, whereas a pressure washer simply sprays a stream of cold water. Hot power washers tend to be larger machines aimed at the commercial market.

The added heat makes power washing much better at cleaning stubborn stains and stuck-on substances like chewing gum and mildew.

Hot power washing has other advantages too:

  • Surfaces washed with hot water may be washed using lower water pressure
  • Surfaces washed with hot water dry quicker than when washed with cold
  • Hot water helps kill germs
  • Hot water can clean without the use of detergents if desired

There are of course some downsides to hot power washers:

  • More expensive to buy
  • More costly to run
  • Larger less manageable machines
  • More complex to repair
  • Greater need for maintenance
Wash SizePressurePowerUsesColdHot
Light Use-2000 psiElectricFurniture etcCold
Medium Use2000-2500 psiElectric or GasDecks etcCold
Heavy Use2500-3000 psiGasDriveway etcCold
Commercial3,000 psi plusElectric, Gas or DieselPaint stripping etcHot

Hot Power Washer Critical Components

Engine – Engines are most often gas but diesel and fully electric models are available. The engine is employed to turn the water pump so as to build available water pressure.

Water pump – The water pump is driven by the engine and is as important as the engine. The pump uses valves a swashplate to create and control water pressure.

Water heating system – The heater heats water and is stored inside a hot water tank on the wash. That’s partly why these machines are larger. Heaters are commonly powered by diesel and or electricity. Heating systems do give lots of problems and should be checked carefully.

Cold Pressure Washer Critical Components

Engine – Engines are most often gas but diesel and fully electric models are available. The engine is employed to turn the water pump so as to build available water pressure.

Water pump – The water pump is driven by the engine and is as important as the engine. The pump uses valves a swashplate to create and control water pressure.

Similarities between both types of wash

Gas-powered engines fitted to either a power wash or pressure wash are most cases identical. The hot wash will have a larger engine though. Water pumps are the same just bigger in the hot wash also. And of course, only the hot wash has the all-important water heater.

This article covers hot power washers and although different from pressure washers, in many ways both washes are similar. Meaning, if it is your intention to buy a cold water pressure washer, this article is still relevant.

If you are considering an electric-powered power washer, great! In many ways they are a better choice than gas, a ton less maintenance, etc., just be sure to buy a recognized brand, that makes life easier when comes time to buy parts and make repairs.

How Much Do Power Washers Cost?

The cost of a power washer will vary depending on its size, brand, model, and pressure capacity. For example, according to lawnstarter.com, the average price for a pressure washer is about $246. However, depending on the type of washer you buy, some models can get up into the thousands, and many of the power washers capable of spraying hot water cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000.

Although, shoppers can realistically buy a cold pressure washer made by a lesser-known brand for between $100 – $200.

Although it is possible to buy a cheap power washer, you get what you pay for, and people who want the durability and performance of an expensive power washer without the obscene price tag might be tempted to shop around for a used washer, but is this a good idea?

Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Power Washer

The most obvious reason to buy a used power washer is to save money. By buying used, shoppers can save as much as 50-75% off the sticker price of a machine, while still getting as much use from the washer as they would if they had bought it brand new. However, if it were that easy, nobody would ever buy new.

As great as saving money is, there are some risks that come along with buying a used power washer. Mainly, you do not know how it has been used. Sure, you might find a machine that was treated with love and stored properly, or you might find a machine that was thrown into the back of a garage and not emptied during the winter.

Additionally, any warranty the machine may have had on it will probably have expired, and even if it has not, most warranties only cover repairs made by the original owner.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Power Washer

Still, if you can find a used machine for the same price as it would cost to rent one, it might be worth the risk of the unknown, even if it only works once. However, there are some steps you can take, and things to look for, to help ensure you buy a machine that will last much longer than one use.

  1. Ask to start it cold: Anything that has an engine will start better after it has been left to run and warm up. A little-known trick used by people selling cars is to start the vehicle and let it run before the buyer gets there. That way, when the potential buyer tries to start the vehicle, it turns over and runs with zero problems, masking any potential issues. Power washers work in much the same way and asking to start it cold will give you a better idea of the engine’s true condition.
  2. Ask about maintenance: You do not have to be an expert mechanic or know everything about pressure washer maintenance schedules to inquire about the way a washer was maintained. Simply asking questions, such as when the seller last changed the oil, or how they stored it during the winter, will give you a basic idea of how well the machine was cared for. For example, if the seller was unaware that they even had to change the oil or stored it through the winter with water still inside, you might want to avoid that purchase.
  3. Check exhaust color: If you cannot see the exhaust color, that is a good sign. However, white smoke could signal a potential head gasket problem, while blue smoke often means oil is burning somewhere in the engine.
  4. Research common model problems: Just like cars, most power washer models will eventually need repairs, and researching those problems will give you a better idea of what to look for during inspection.
  5. Look for common problems: When checking the machine out, look for the problems you previously researched. Additionally, look for dents and rust in and around the frame and fuel tank.
  6. Ask if you can see it in action: Hooking up a power washer to a hose just to show someone that it works might be a pain, but the seller should expect potential buyers to ask. Seeing it in action is the only way that you can look for leaks, drips, or pressure problems.
  7. Check the water heater: If you are buying a hot wash make sure the water gets hot and stays hot.
  8. Haggle: I once knew a man who was constantly finding amazing deals, and when I asked what his secret was, he told me that he simply asks the seller if they will go lower, and most of the time, they do! However, this is also when research comes in handy, because if you are already getting a great deal, you might scare the seller away by offending them with a low offer.

Where to Buy a Used Power Washer?

There are countless places to find a used power washer. If you are looking for something right now, the internet might be your best friend. For example, you could put the word out on social media and ask if anyone in the area has, or knows someone who has, a used washer for sale. Additionally, online marketplaces are a wonderful way to find people who want to sell their items quickly.

Word of mouth also works great. For example, you may ask a friend who mentions it to someone who does have an old washer they no longer use but were not actively selling. Yard-sales and pawnshops are also excellent places to find power washers and other tools for lower-than-average prices. Finally, although it will not be the cheapest used option, stores that sell power washers may have inventory that was slightly damaged during transport or recently returned that they are willing to sell at a discounted price.

To recap:

  • Social Media
  • Online Marketplaces
  • Word of Mouth
  • YardSale’s and Pawnshops
  • Hardware and Department Stores

Conclusion

If you are looking for an industrial power washer that you plan to use commercially or do a lot of big projects with, it may be better to invest in a new machine. However, buying used could save you up to 75% of the original cost, and for simple household chores or occasional use, it could absolutely be worth the savings to buy a used power washer.

When buying used I advise buying recognized brand names, Simpson, Karcher, Ryobi, DeWalt, etc that way you’ll find replacement parts and a ton easier to buy.

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