You want the truth?
However, it’s only a bargain if you’re buying a quality power washer. One you know is maintained according to the manual and treated with care.
How do you know that? These 8 steps are here to guide you:
Your 8 Step Guide For Buying a Used Pressure Washer
The majority of the tips below are for gas powered used pressure washers. This is because most for sale used pressure washers are gas powered.
1. Make sure you see the used pressure washer start and work from a cold start.
The engine on a gas pressure washer will start much easier after being warmed. You need oxygen, fuel and heat for the combustion reaction to occur in the chamber… A warmed engine will have heat already so when you arrive it will start first try and you will think the engine is in tip-top shape.
To avoid being tricked with a situation like this ask the owner not to start/warm it up before you get there. Tell the owner you want to see the machine’s ability to start from cold. Only a dishonest owner will go against your wishes but the majority will have no issue leaving it cold.
2. Research the used pressure washer, read its User Manual, learn about its brand and find out about the parts in forums and online reviews before going to inspect.
Let me show you how to do this (and why) with a real life example.
A used power washer for sale on eBay right now is this MI-T-M Job Pro pressure washer with Honda engine. It’s listed at $375.
Take a look at it:
What do you think?
Would you buy it?
First let’s do some research. Luckily the seller included this image so we can find the User Manual:
How To Find a Used Pressure Washer’s User Manual
- Search Google with the pressure washer brand name and model number along with the word manual.
- If you don’t know the model number then search ManualLib.com or ManualsOnline.com with the pressure washer brand name and PSI and GPM (and whatever other information you have). You’ll have to go through some of the manual before you are sure it’s the correct manual.
- If neither above work then ask the seller to send you a copy.
Here’s the results I get searching Google (result #2 and #3 had the older manual):
Why even bother reading the User Manual?
- Vital information. You will find out the maintenance schedule, the parts list and safety information.
- Aftermarket parts. In the case of the MI-T-M power washer for sale above we see from its parts list that it now has an aftermarket pump. Its User Manual indicates it originally had a triplex plunger pump. The picture of it above clearly shows an axial piston pump (find out difference between axial and triplex pressure washer pumps here). There is nothing inherently wrong about this – it’s just good to know prior to your inspection.
- Machine age. The model number on the machine’s nameplate indicates a 2003 manufacture date. The User Manual has a copyright date of 2000. Since pressure washer manufacturers stick with the same design for a few years we can conclude the machine did come off the assembly line in 2003.
- Questions for the owner. Once you know the maintenance schedule listed in the User Manual you will know what you want to hear when you ask the owner about engine and pump maintenance they have completed over the years.
Best Places To Learn About The Used Power Washer’s Brand, Pump and Engine
Google is your friend.
Search for the brand MI-T-M pressure washer (in this case) and read through forums and online reviews.
Look for red flags: consistent negative reviews, warranty claims and customer services issues. Try to stay away from the brand websites as they may delete overly negative comments.
3. Check the engine.
Okay, you’ve done your pre-inspection research and are ready to see it. Call the owner to schedule a time and be sure to say not to warm it up prior.
Here’s what you need to pay attention to:
- Does it start first or second or third pull of the recoil? Let the owner start it. Walk away if it doesn’t start after a reasonable number of pulls. Use your instinct on this one and judge the owners reaction.
- Does the engine sound smooth and rev smooth off idle? You want it to sound smooth and even not rattling and screaming.
- How often did the owner change the oil. Did they winterize it? Ask these questions to the owner and refer to your User Manual for correct answer to oil change question. If they never winterized the pressure washer and stored it in the garage you can be sure there is some residual damage somewhere internal.
- Is exhaust color blue or white? After 30 seconds the exhaust should be invisible. Blue exhaust means oil is burning and the rings or seals are compromised. Continued white exhaust means head gasket is leaking.
- Does the fuel tank have major dents or rust? A badly damaged gas tank will cost money to repair and is a good indication of badly treated equipment.
- Have a look at the engine block closely. Does the engine block have what appears to be hand welds or repair work? If yes, ask the owner about it.
Watch this video to get more information on starting a small engine from cold start:
4. Connect garden hose, start engine and check the pump for leaks.
The 3 ways to check for pump/water system issues without knowing anything technical:
Check for leaks. Major leaks from the pump block are bad. Repairing them are usually costly. Make sure the leaks you see aren’t simply pressure hose connection leaks before walking away.
In the image below there is a crack on either side of the detergent fitting causing leakage even when the pump isn’t running. Could have been cause by inferior casting, over-tightening the fitting or water freezing and expanding inside over winter.
Test the pressure. When you pull the trigger to pressure wash do you feel considerable kickback? You should. 2,000 PSI is 40 times the pressure of your garden hose.
Ask the owner questions: Did you winterize it? Change pump oil? Install new pump? Most people don’t lie and when they do it is dead obvious. Ask questions to find out more.
5. Use the used power cleaner on a test surface and evaluate the general condition – decide if you’re prepared to make an offer.
Use the pressure cleaner for at least 5 full minutes.
- Do you have consistent pressure? Does the pressure start strong but then go to a dribble?
- Do you have full pressure? A general rule-of-thumb to gauge the pressure when you pull the trigger is to feel the kickback – you should have trouble hold the wand with one hand and aiming it properly at the test surface.
- Does the owner seem hesitant to let you use it? If the pressure washer works you can be sure the owner knows it works and will have zero issue if you want to use it for 10 minutes. Walk away if you are forced to stop after only a few minutes.
6. Evaluate the owner, not just the pressure washer.
Your intuition is often enough to tell you everything you need to know about the owner.
Does the owner look like someone who takes pride in their things? Look around their home exterior. Is the lawn and garden well groomed? Is their car clean and operational or rusty sitting on blocks?
Listen to your gut and run the other way if you get a terrible vibe from the owner.
7. Be prepared to walk away.
If you show up to inspect the previously owned power washer with cash in hand ready to take it home right now you can be sure you will get screwed. Always view 3 used machines before buying one. This will give you a benchmark which one is the best value.
8. Tips for making a fair offer.
Negotiation is reaching an agreement that best suits everyone involved. The aim is to reach a fair price.
Our MI-T-M above is listed at $375. It is over 10 years old and has a Honda GX engine and aftermarket axial pump. A similar MI-T-M pressure washer on the market right now is listed brand new at $679. This brand new MI-T-M has a triplex pump and more powerful Honda engine (and it’s not 10+ years old).
So what’s a good offer assuming all our checks pass the test?
The main concern is the used machines age. At time of writing it is 13 years old. Even assuming its aftermarket pump is brand new, the engine is aged. Yes, it’s Honda and known for long life but considering you can buy a better MI-T-M brand new for only 2x the used price we are going to need a much much bigger discount to make the purchase fair.
I can’t see this machine being a value buy at any more than $200 – $250. And that’s assuming the axial pump is nearly out-of-the-box new. I would offer $175 stating the age of the machine/engine and the brand new MI-T-M price as the reasons.
The owner would counter at $300 and it would go back and forth.
A fair price for this pressure washer is $200 given the new axial pump is around $119 itself. It’s just too old… I wouldn’t pay anymore than that. Even if the owner agreed to it, I would be sure to walk away and check out some more used units for sale in the area that less than 5 years old.
Buying a used pressure washer is a great way to get the best value for your money. But you need to make sure it works for many more years.
The gist of this buying guide is:
- Start pressure washer cold. You will better see the health of the engine by starting it cold. If it starts on first few tries you can be happy.
- Does it sound smooth? A good engine sounds smooth. There shouldn’t be any rattling or odd highs and lows when in idle.
- Does it leak from the pump? Take a look at the pump when the garden hose is hooked up and engine is turned on. Is it leaking through cracks in the pump? This is obviously a bad sign and really easy to spot.
- Does it clean a test surface? You can have a good sounding engine and pump that looks good but you need to pull the trigger and start shooting water to be sure. When you are pressure washing is it even flow of water? Is the engine louder but still smooth sounding?
- What does your gut say? Even if all the above checks out be sure to listen to your gut. If for whatever reason you feel sketchy about the owner or pressure washer: walk away.
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.