If you’re a detailer (or just a car guy) and wondering what type of water hose is right for you, this post is for you. There are a few things to keep in mind that may dictate what kind you should buy, but most of the time it comes down to what type of equipment you are using, whether or not you are a detailer, and how important convenience is to you.
Hoses come with a variety of build materials and accessories (like reels), so I wanted to give a brief overview of water hoses and offer a few recommendations.
Pressure Washer Hoses vs Garden Hoses
When it comes to hoses they really do come in a bunch of different types, but you have basically two general categories: commercial grade water hoses and consumer grade (garden) hoses for general home use.
Pressure washers come with commercial grade hoses since regular garden hoses can’t withstand the pressure generated without cracking or leaking.
Most garden hoses are made of vinyl (PVC) which makes them quite flexible. These are typically more flimsy than commercial grade hoses, which also makes them prone to kinking and leaking. With that said, a medium-grade PVC-rubber blend is a good investment for some people.
However, if you really have a passion for washing or detailing, a good high-quality commercial hose is really the way to go.
Commercial Grade Water Hoses: What to Look For
If you are a detailer, or just really serious about washing your vehicle, I would probably go with a commercial grade hose. These still can be used with your standard garden hose reel, but offer several benefits over most of the cheap consumer-grade (green) garden hoses you find at the hardware store.
Advantages of commercial-grade hoses for washing vehicles
- Won’t kink like cheaper hoses.
- Stronger, and more resistant to wear and tear
- Less prone to leak
- Can be used with pressure washers unlike garden hoses
The build materials are really what separates a commercial hose from a garden hose, with rubber being one of the most common and durable materials. These can be a little cumbersome to work with if you are washing cars, which is why they make other materials that are slightly more flexible but can still handle high pressure.
Here are some common materials you may see:
- PVC (or plastic)
- Synthetic rubber
- Polyurethane (newer material)
**If you are using a pressure washer at home, using a garden hose to feed your pressure washer unit may be acceptable as long as it’s not longer than around 50 feet. Most pressure washers come with a high-pressure hose, and may have instructions as to what hose you should connect to your water source.
Consumer Grade Garden Hoses: What to Look For
For most people that wash pretty regularly (and keep their vehicles relatively clean), a regular garden hose should be all you really need. Before I provide a few recommendations, there are a few factors to consider that may dictate what type of hose you need
Your standard cheap green garden hose usually is going to be made of PVC (or plastic). Super lightweight and maneuverable and easy to reel, but should be handled with care.
You may also come across collapsable hoses which curl up like a snake. These are really meant for watering plants and wouldn’t recommend one for washing your car since they are prone to leaking. They usually come in a plastic container with plastic fittings.
My Top Consumer Grade Picks
If you are sticking with a more affordable garden hose, I would recommend something like the Flexzilla on Amazon as pictured above. It’s less than 40 bucks the last time I checked and is designed (as you might imagine) to flex, which is super important for detailing in tight spaces. If you’ve ever had to haul around a bulky rubber hose, you know what I mean.
This one is cool because it also comes with a swivel grip. This is an awesome feature because kinks usually happen when the sprayer handle gets caught on something like a tire or bucket, and twists the entire hose instead of just the handle.
My Top Professional Grade Picks
As for professional hoses, below are a few great choices that I have seen many detailers use. If you’re just looking for a very high-quality hose that’s a little heavier than most (but is durable), check out the Simpson 3/8” Polyurethane Pressure Washer Hose on Amazon. This is an ideal hose to use with a hose reel. Simpson makes pressure washers as well, and the polyurethane material they use you really can’t go wrong with.
If you are buying a professional hose to use with your pressure washer, always be sure to purchase the right connectors.
Other noteworthy and slightly cheaper options are those Craftsman Premium Rubber Garden Hoses. These you can find just about anywhere, come with crush-proof fittings, and are super long-lasting. These are not designed for pressure washers, but as durable as you can find for driveway washing. Most are around 50 to 60 bucks depending on length. Flexzilla also makes a very affordable pressure washer hose that you may want to check out.
Top Pick for Detailers: If you’re looking for ultimate convenience as a detailer, and something you can mount to a skid or trailer, check out this mountable and retractable pressure washer reel by Reelcraft on Amazon. This thing is springloaded, comes with the hose, and once you try it you won’t want to use anything else. Reeling up hoses can be a hassle when you do it 5-6 time per day.
Hose Sizes, Fittings, Reels, and Quick Disconnects
Brass fittings are by far the most durable option for washing cars in a driveway, and wouldn’t go with anything else. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my dad back a trailer over these things, as opposed to plastic fittings which I’ve cracked a time or two.
Water Hose Reels
If you are considering building a skid mount for detailing, you’ll probably want to pick up a high pressure water hose and reel. Some pressure washers may have a reel built, in but you can also purchase hand crank reels that are rated for high pressure.
If you haven’t seen my post on what types of hose reels I recommend for amateurs or professional detailers, be sure to check it out.
There are some pretty nice retractable reels on the market as well. If you’re tired of winding up a hose reel to wash your vehicle on Saturday mornings, a good springloaded retractable hose reel is a popular option that I’ve seen people mount at the entrance of a garage.
You can also find many consumer grade retractable reels (not intended for pressure washers) that are much more affordable by Reelcraft.
A standard garden hose is usually 5/8” in diameter, but they do make a couple different sizes:
- 5/8 inch (most garden hoses)
- 1/4 inch (many pressure washers)
- 3/8 inch (heavy duty pressure washers)
- 1/2 inch
- 3/4 inch
Really the thing to keep in mind is the wider the diameter, the more water you can apply to your car per minute. This is especially important if you are a detailer interested in fleet washing, since you may want a higher volume of water to reach 8-9 feet off the ground.
Opt for Brass Fittings and Quick Disconnects
If you’re thinking about using foam cannons, guns, or other sprayer attachments, it’s a great idea to pick up quick-disconnect brass fittings. This will allow you to switch back and forth between sprayer attachments without having to shut the water off. Most quality hoses come with brass fittings these days (to screw on and off), but some cheaper garden hoses do not.
Many hoses that come with pressure washers have connect/disconnects by default, but you can find a conversion kit if needed.
At the end of the day, it really depends on the equipment you use. Foam cannons and high-pressure sprayers will need a hose capable of 2-3000 PSI normally, while foam guns and other household attachments will not.
Unless you are a detailer and spend several hundred dollars on a hose rig, most $40-50 hoses should work just fine.