Gas vs. Electric Pressure Washers: What's the Difference?

Learn the key differences between these outdoor cleaning devices.

woman pressure washing a chair

Jason Donnelly

Pressure washers are popular home maintenance tools used to clean decks, patio stones, and driveways. Used on a low setting and with the appropriate technique, pressure washers are also excellent for cleaning fences, siding, and even vehicles.

Pressure washers are available as gas or electric tools, but before deciding which type is suited for your home, it's recommended to learn more about the differences between gas and electric pressure washers. Use this guide to break down the pros and cons of gas and electric pressure washers so you can figure out the best option for your project.

6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Gas or Electric Pressure Washer

1. Power

One of the main factors to consider is the power output of the pressure washer. This is typically measured in two ways: The flow rate, measured in gallons per minute (GPM), is the amount of water the pressure washer releases, while the output pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). High-power tools can be used to scrub cement, concrete, and asphalt, though the high pressure can damage the target surface if the pressure washer is not properly directed and controlled.

Electric pressure washers are generally seen as light-duty power tools because they do not generate the same amount of power as a gas pressure washer. On average, the power output of an electric pressure washer will produce about 1.5 to 2.5 GPM at a water pressure that ranges from 1,500 to 3,000 PSI. Gas pressure washers range from 2,500 to more than 4,000 PSI and typically have a flow rate between 2.5 to 4 GPM.

If the pressure is too high, the water spraying out of a pressure washer could damage the target surface. Depending on the type of pressure washer and the max psi of the unit, a pressure washer could even chip patio stones. For this reason, it's important to use pressure washers with appropriate skill and caution.

2. Safety

Safety should always be a primary consideration when working with any type of power tool. Pressure washers are no exception. The powerful spray of water produced by these tools is enough to bruise or break skin and can cause permanent damage to sensitive areas of the body, like the eyes or ears.

Given that gas pressure washers tend to have a higher power output than electric pressure washers, a gas model presents a higher risk of injury than an electric model. However, electric pressure washers can still cause physical harm and should not be handled carelessly. These light-duty products have a power cord that can create a tripping hazard. Additionally, the motor on both electric and gas pressure washers can get hot during use, so it's a good idea to keep your hands, arms, and any exposed skin away from the motor and exhaust ports.

3. Maintenance

It can be easy to overlook the fact that even tools that are commonly used for cleaning require regular maintenance. Electric pressure washers are lighter and typically easier to maintain than gas pressure washers, but even these garden tools need semi-regular lubrication to keep the pump operating properly. Electric pressure washers should also be cleaned after every use.

Gas pressure washers have combustion engines with oil and gas filters that need to be changed about once per year. It's also necessary to change the oil in the pressure washer when needed and to replace the spark plug if it fails to ensure that the pressure washer will start without an issue. Beyond these infrequent maintenance tasks, you also need to keep the pump lubricated and clean the gas pressure washer after each use.

4. Environmental Impact

Before purchasing a new power tool, it's a good idea to look into the ecological cost of buying and using one of these machines. This should include the waste, noise pollution, emissions, and any other impacts the tool has on the local environment.

Electric pressure washers are the better option for low environmental impact. They run at about 80 decibels (dB), which is around the same level as a standard vacuum cleaner. These tools use clean electricity for power, so they don't produce emissions or rely on fossil fuels for operations.

Gas pressure washers are made for power, not environmental protection. They can operate at a volume of more than 100 dB. For reference, hearing protection is recommended when continuous noise levels exceed 85 dB, which is why it's important to make sure to have earplugs when working with this tool. The gas and oil used to operate the pressure washer are non-renewable resources that produce harmful emissions, so if you are looking for an eco-friendly tool, the electric model is a better choice.

5. Ease of Use

The way in which a pressure washer operates should be factored into your considerations before choosing between gas vs. electric pressure washers. Gas pressure washers are more powerful and easier to use for heavy-duty cleaning. You won't have to worry about tripping over a power cord as you work, but gas pressure washers are loud and produce harmful emissions, so they should only be used outdoors.

Electric pressure washers are lighter and easier to move around than gas models. However, you need to run a power cord to the unit for the pressure washer to function, which can create a tripping hazard. As long as you don't mind watching your step around the power cord, electric pressure washers are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, making them a good option for light cleaning in the garage, barn, or shed.

6. Cost

While the price of a product relies heavily on the manufacturer, in most cases, there is a significant difference between the cost of an electric pressure washer and the cost of a gas pressure washer. Gas pressure washers tend to be more expensive than electric units, with an average price ranging from $350 to $400. Electric pressure washers fall well below this range, at an average price of $150 to $200.

After the initial purchase, electric pressure washers are powered by electricity from the home, while gas pressure washers require fuel and oil to function. Generally, the cost of electricity is slightly higher than the cost of gas and oil, though the difference in operating costs is relatively little.

Gas vs. Electric Pressure Washers

There is a wide range of factors to consider before deciding between a gas or electric pressure washer, including power, safety factors, maintenance requirements, ease of use, environmental impact, and cost. Take some time to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each while you consider your needs to find the best type of pressure washer for your home.

Gas Pressure Washer Electric Pressure Washer
More powerful than comparable electric units Suited for light-duty work
Louder and relies on gasoline for power Quiet and eco-friendly operation
Convenient cordless operation Require less maintenance than gas units
Powerful spray can be a safety hazard Lower power operation presents less personal risk
High durability More affordable
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