If you earn a living pressure washing…
You know: time is money.
- If you plan on pressure cleaning an entire truck fleet…
- Or an entire parking lot…
- Or an entire commercial shopping mall building…
- Or 8 residential driveways…
In. A. Single. Day.
Then you need to invest in a big rig that can quickly clean large surface areas. You need a powerful pump capable of up to 8 GPM. You need hot water, longer hoses, water tank, spare fuel… And you need it all to go from one job to the next day-in-day-out (without fuss).
You need mobile pressure washing equipment. You need the best pressure washer trailer setup to do more power washing in less time – earning you more money per day.
Sound about right?
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the following:
Trailer vs. Truck Mounted Mobile Pressure Washing Equipment
Some pros start with truck mounted equipment due to the lower cost. But very few expand their business by adding more and more mobile truck mounted pressure washing rigs.
Most pressure washing businesses expand and grow by investing in pressure washer trailer setups.
Let’s look at the good and bad of each. You’ll see why trailer mounted rigs are much better option.
Truck mounted rig
Cheaper to get started but can quickly become a liability for your business. Adds risk (your kit is attached to a getaway vehicle & what if truck breaks down?) and lacks flexibility (is it a work-only truck or you’ll drive around on the weekends with $10k of pressure washing equipment in the back?).
- Lower upfront cost. If you already own the truck then it’s just the cost of the equipment and getting it fitted in the back.
- More convenient getting started. No hooking up hitch and dealing with backing up trailer.
- Less flexible. Makes your truck a work-only vehicle (unless you plan on unloading everything daily?)
- Less flexible. If you’re at a job-site and need to leave for a short bit, you have to pack everything up before leaving.
- Business risk. Your business becomes dependant on the truck functioning properly (much more risk than a trailer which is nothing more than steel on wheels).
- Constrained space. Space is limited in the back of the truck restricting options for pressure washing equipment.
- Theft. Higher risk of theft for many reasons: For one, it’s already attached to a getaway vehicle. Second, a thief would have an easier time selling your truck compared to a highly specialized pressure washer trailer.
- Worse option for expansion. Business expansion becomes troublesome and actually more expensive than the trailer route.
- You would need to buy a new truck ($20,000 +), insure it and then get the equipment mounted in the back (probably a custom job) and then you own it for life.
- It becomes harder to rent out (than a trailer), harder to sell, harder to upgrade and impractical for employees. Wouldn’t it be easier to have 3 trailers and 1 truck (that you own) that hauls them out to the jobs, having the employees go direct to the job in their own car?
- Draws less attention (less leads). A truck mounted pressure washing rig, in the opinion of many industry professionals, has less curb appeal and draws fewer leads than a trailer – given both have prominent business name, logo, services and contact methods.
Trailer mounted rig
Costs more upfront but is more flexible (now and long-term), draws more business leads and provides better option for aggressive expansion.
- More Mobile. Trailer can be parked and left at job site making the truck mobile and flexible (if you need to return to the shop to pick up more chemical you can leave the trailer at the job).
- Flexible. Trailer can be hooked to other truck if regular truck breaks down.
- Easier to secure & less risk of being stolen. Trailer is less attractive to thieves and easier to add security than a truck.
- You can’t drive off in the trailer, you need another vehicle to pull it. How do you pull it if you have a beefy tongue lock? Or a heavy duty wheel boot or cable through the wheels so it can’t go anywhere?
- A truck mounted system only has the security of the truck, and trucks are stolen all the time.
- How does a thief sell a pressure washer trailer? On Craigslist? Do they remove your business sign (and unique paint job) from the trailer before placing the ad? How easy would it be for you to track pressure washer trailers for sale in your area to find yours for sale and show up to buy it with the police?
- Better for attracting customers. A trailer draws more attention, has more curb appeal and usually looks more professional. How often do you look twice at a carpet cleaning van, pest control truck, or a painters truck? What about a landscapers trailer with all their power equipment in the back? What about a sharp looking trailer with advertising as a lawn mower mechanic? Trailers make the professional pulling them look organized, successful and invested in the business for the long term.
- Better for business expansion. Building and starting a pressure washing business with trailers instead of truck mounted rigs is ideal because the reasons above and the fact you don’t need to buy a new truck to add a new income stream. You buy a trailer and that’s that. No fuel, zero maintenance (almost) and much lower acquisition cost compared to truck + pressure washing equipment + extra insurance + installation.
- More expensive up-front. This is not even true if you consider the cost of the truck. The trailer is actually the more affordable option. But if we assume truck is already owned then yes, the trailer is probably more expensive than truck mounted setup.
- Highly specialized. A mobile pressure washing trailer is not for multi-use – it is solely in the business of pressure cleaning. You won’t be unloading your water tank and heavy gear on the weekends to use the trailer hauling fridges and mattresses around.
There are some bare minimums to look for on your new mobile power washing setup. Consider the below specs and features the minimum and everything else an upgrade to better suit your specific needs.
The pressure washing equipment
Hot water capabilities
Hot water burner is a no-brainer for your trailer. Time is money in this job and hot water is probably the single best way to add efficiency to the cleaning. Hot water has more heat (energy) to get in to the surface and knock organic material loose.
Triplex plunger pump
The biggest direct drive triplex plunger pumps provide 4.5 GPM of water at 5,000 PSI. The model from CAT Pumps at these specs has an internal gear reducer and requires a gas engine to provide around 20 HP.
To power the beefy triplex plunger pump you need an industrial engine. Honda’s biggest small engine is the GX690 and its output is 22 HP at 3600 rpm.
There’s 4 main types of hose reels found on pressure cleaning trailers:
- Hand crank – Use your own muscle to crank the hose up into the reel.
- Spring driven – You pull the hose out and give it a quick tug to activate the spring and it automatically reels hose in.
- Electric driven – Push button to activate electric motor that reels hose in.
- Pivoting combined with one of above retracting methods – The pivoting hose reel is a hose reel mounted to an arm to allow rotation of around 150-degrees.
The most expensive is a pivoting stainless steel reel with electric motor. The most popular is the hand crank reel.
Big commercial engines burn lots of gasoline so you’ll need an onboard fuel tank. Same goes for the hot water kerosene/oil/diesel burner. Any setup without large fuel tanks will need to have them added before use.
The trailer pictured above has a 200 gallon water tank able to provide 50 minutes worth of water for a 4 GPM pump. Any truly mobile power washing rig has to have a large water tank. One-hour worth of water is considered the minimum. So if you have an 8 GPM pressure washer you want a 480 gallon water tank (8 gallons per minute x 60 minutes is 480 gallons of water).
Additional water tank consideration:
- Are you using water tank as a buffer for mains supply or as your main supply? If it will continually be your main supply you will want to go as big as you can.
Aside from hot water, chemicals are the most efficient way to clean faster. Different surfaces will require different chemical solutions so a variety of detergent tanks onboard will be ideal.
Tool box & lockable storage
You’ll want lockable storage with easy access for your tools and pressure washing accessories.
Full size wheels
If you’re doing any amount of highway driving it is ideal to have full size wheels.
A spare tire will decrease risk of your pressure cleaning trailer being stranded at a job site over night.
Taillights, license plate light, brake lights, turn signals should all be long-lasting efficient LED lights.
Hitch chains, breakaway brakes, reflectors, clearance lights for wide trailers should be common sense safety features. Be sure to quiz the seller on these features.
SAFETY ALERT BOX:
Information regarding load distribution of trailers
Watch this video and pay attention to the red disc (it represents the trailer load at the front vs. at the back):
You want the majority of the weight at the front, close to the trailer hitch.
The majority of the weight on a pressure washing trailer is two things:
- The pressure washer equipment skid/rig including engine, pump, burner, support frame and fuel tanks (600 lbs / 272 kg)
- Water tank full of water (200 gallons of water is 1,669 lbs / 757 kg)
In the above hypothetical trailer, the full water tank represents 74% of the load. Therefore, it should be located at the front of the trailer close to the hitch.
It seems more trailers on the market have the water tank at the back of the trailer.
Here are some reasons why:
- Mobile contractor does most driving with empty water tank and fills water up at job site to use as a buffer for high flow rate pumps
- The trailer has heavier pressure washer equipment and smaller water tank than our hypothetical trailer above
- Trailer axle is located further to the back keeping trailer stable even with load further away from fixed point hitch
Keep load distribution in mind when buying or building your trailer for safety reasons.
Should You Buy New, Used or Build it?
- New is more expensive, but isn’t it a business investment that can be written off as an expense?
- Used is cheaper, but is it better value in the long term?
- Building your own can be satisfying and a great learning experience, but are you an expert and do you have all the tools & equipment you need to complete the task in a timely manner?
Let’s answer these questions in detail:
High quality product delivered on time. You would be buying from an expert who has built many trailers already. The maker would have developed work procedures to ensure your trailer is built to specification and delivered on time and budget.
Value for money. Pressure washer manufacturers build at scale and can get equipment at wholesale price. That savings is handed down to you.
You pay the shiny tax. When you buy something brand new you pay extra – we’ll call it “the shiny tax”. It is said the second you drive a new car off the lot it loses 9% value. A new trailer rig loses value the second you drive it off the lot.
Potentially even better value for money (but with added risk). When you buy used mobile power washing equipment on trailer someone else paid “the shiny tax”. So you immediately save money and get high spec equipment for less money. However, there is added risk. Did the past owner(s) take care of it? Do the maintenance on the engine properly? Treat it like crap leaving it outside all winter with no winter precautions? These questions are difficult to answer with 100% certainly – more risk, less cash. That’s the deal with used.
Cost to brand the trailer yours. Don’t forget the cost associated with re-branding the trailer to your power washing company colors and getting it marked up to your aesthetic liking. This is dually important because what if the past owner has a bad reputation around town and people recognize the trailer as the past owners company?
Paying to learn. It’s hard to see the benefit of building your own pressure washer trailer. You plan on buying the pressure washer kit on a skid then bolting it to a trailer you bought? Then fixing a water tank you bought off Amazon to the trailer? Then putting hose reels somewhere? With a professionally built trailer you get tried and tested. The company that built it built 25 already and learnt from their errors over and over again.
One-off cost for material and tools. The original idea to build your own was probably to save money, right? Is it really cheaper? Not really. It is going to be more expensive unless you are already set up to build pressure washer trailers. Companies who manufacture these trailers are pressure washer makers and get the machines off the assembly line at cost. They put all the kit together in-house and charge a flat profit fee of around 25%. When you build your own you pay each individual company (tank, trailer, tools, pressure washer kit, hoses, reels) their own profit fee. And then you spend a heap of time building when you could have been making money cleaning truck fleets.
Are you an expert in this sort of fabrication? What will the build quality be? Enough said. If you consider this an investment why would you risk not having the best possible setup for the money?
5 Examples of Pressure Washer Trailers For Sale (With Prices)
Buying new and used – What do 5 for sale pressure washing trailers cost?
[~$3,500 for base model] Starter trailer from Simpson Cleaning w/ 3,200 PSI 2.8 GPM pressure washer and 100 gallon water storage tank
[~$7,500] NorthStar trailer-mounted 4,000 PSI 4 GPM hot water power washer w/ 200 gallon water tank
Made by Northern Tool + Equipment (one of the largest buyers of Honda small engines in the midwest) this trailer is a step up from the Simpson Cleaning starter trailer. It has hot water capability, 2 reels and is more powerful power wash equipment. The main benefit from this is the hot water is will help you clean bigger jobs faster, earning your investment back in no time.
[~$12,000] BCE Cleaning Systems w/ HydroMax pressure washer, tandem 4 GPM 3,600 PSI (or 8 GPM @ 3,600 single use) w/ 525 gallon water tank
This trailer package is made to order and can be customized for you by BCE Cleaning Systems. You can see it is a much larger trailer with wood floor and large HyrdoMax hot water pressure wash equipment.
[~$17,000] Shark mobile detail power wash trailer rig w/ 3,600 PSI 6 GPM and 20 gallon water tank
[~$22,300] Hot and Mighty Mobile Cleaning Systems enclosed trailer w/ 3,500 PSI 6 GPM and 535 gallon water tank
Here’s an enclosed trailer. Enclosed trailers offer the best security and most space for advertising your company on the side.
- Jeff Hasselbach, Truck or trailer? AutoCareForum.com. Info retrieved Mar-12, 2017).
- Trailer Towing Digest of Motor Laws. AAA.com.
Jamey has been testing and reviewing top pressure washers for 7 years. He worked as a commercial pressure washer at a rendering plant for 3 years and all up has been using commercial and residential pressure washers for 15+ years. He is also a mechanical engineer and while working in the mining industry designed several turn-key light industrial vehicle wash pads.