The pressure washer industry has grown phenomenally since "big box" retailers started selling them to homeowners. "These retailers' advertising has created a new awareness of our product," explains Bill Fischer, vice president of sales for the FNA Group (makers of Simpson and Delco brands). "The first-time user is generally astounded by the results. It's like a magic moment, and this has created a whole new market for rental centers."
But there are differences between consumer- and industrial-grade pressure washers. The key variants come from how they're built and the components selected, according to three leading manufacturers.
"There are harsh demands on pressure washers used in the rental market," Fischer says. "You need a robust machine that starts with a strong steel frame, handles that won't break and few, but quality, welds. Then you move to the heart of the pressure washer, the pump and engine. You need a commercial/industrial size engine for sure. And a high-quality pump, for instance, might cost more than the entire consumer machine."
Eric Loucks, national sales manager for Shark-Karcher Pressure Washers, agrees. "Rental centers can expect that their pressure washers are going to get banged up when they're loaded and unloaded, yanked around by the high-pressure hose and even dropped on occasion," he says. "You want everything from the frame, wheels, pump, and engine to the hose, wand and gun to be of industrial quality."
Kevin Anstoetter, rental division manager at Mi-T-M Corp., advises, "If you are looking to add a unit into your rental fleet, you want to make sure that you are getting an industrial-grade engine with a minimum of a two-year warranty, plus:
- Industrial-grade crankshaft pump
- 50-foot, wire-braided high-pressure hose with bend restrictors and quick connects
- Heavy-duty cart with pneumatic or flat-free tires
- Industrial-grade gun and wand
- Individual spray tips (not adjustable spray tips)
- Minimum of 2 gallons per minute (gpm) spray power
"Cost pressures have forced some manufacturers to choose low-grade components to keep both their costs and prices down," Loucks continues. "The long-held advice that you get what you pay for is still true. You can pay for a good machine once or you can pay for the costly repairs and downtime over and over."
Fischer adds, "Rental centers understand this well. If they buy any product that doesn't stand up to their needs, that product's failure hurts them. There's the actual repair cost and loss in revenue. Plus, you suffer when an unhappy customer tells others, and you lose your good reputation."
He points out, "You can keep a well-made pressure washer performing in your fleet for 10 to 15 years, even when it's run every day. That's where you get your return — from a unit that's built to run for thousands of hours."
Know your market
In addition to looking for a well-built pressure washer, you want one that is easy to use, even for quickly trained users, and one that is easy to maintain. Those with many years in the market suggest you ask yourself a few questions before you select a particular model, especially if you're just beginning to offer pressure washers.
- Is your customer base primarily homeowners or contractors? Homeowners do not require as rugged or powerful a pressure washer as contractors need.
- What kind of pump does it have? "The direct-drive models will be more compact and ideal for the homeowner," Anstoetter explains, "while the belt drive is a little larger but will withstand contractors' constant use."
Fischer agrees, "A belt-drive system reduces the revolutions the pump turns (rpms) about in half, so a good belt-driven pump can last up to 20 years."
Loucks adds, "The high-pressure pump is the workhorse of every pressure washer regardless of brand. You can tell the quality of the pump by its lifetime rating. Consumer-grade pumps are rated to operate for as little as 100 hours. Industrial-grade pumps, on the other hand, are rated to run for years, if properly maintained. The best pumps come with a five- to seven-year warranty."