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How to Pick the Best Retractable Hose Reel for Washing Cars

Auto-winding or retractable hose reels are one of the best ways to save time washing your car, and you may never go back once you use one. But…there are so many retractable hose reels out there it can make your head spin. Who wants 35 different recommendations to weed through? No one.

That’s why today I’m cutting through the noise to explain:

a. What to know about retractable water hose reels

b. What hose reels check all the boxes for washing cars โœ….

1. Determine where you’ll mount a retractable hose reel

Before you buy anything, determine if you plan to mount your reel on a garage wall, outside wall, or vertical post. Do you have a water and/or power source nearby? Maybe you’re a detailer looking a retractable reel for your pressure washer skid.

Before you make a decision, step outside and make sure you find a good location and height to mount a reel. Be sure the reel can easily retract and there’s room to comfortably move around with a vehicle in the driveway.

Mounting location

Some retractable hose reels are specifically designed to anchor to flat, vertical structures like the side of a house or a wooden post. Others can be mounted to the floor, wall, or ceiling; be sure to check the specs of the reel to see if the mounting brackets are adjustable. Some are, some aren’t.

Quick Tip

A few retractable reels are designed to swivel or pivot. If you have limited space, this feature can help prevent kinks as you move around your vehicle.

Hose size and length

To find the hose size you need, measure the distance from your vehicle to the mounting location, accounting for plenty of extra slack. 50 to 60 feet of hose is typically enough to wash cars.

If you plan to use your hose for gardening, washing an RV, or another use case, take this into account. You can find retractable reels complete with 100-ft-long hoses (or the ability to add a longer hose later). 

2. Consider the type of hose the reel is designed for

Retractable hose reels are designed for either garden hoses or thinner pressure washer hoses. Hose reels less than $200 are commonly for garden hose use only and rated up to ~300 PSI max…so not for pressure washer use.

Caution! 

If you plan to use a pressure washer with your reel, ensure both the hose and reel are rated for 2,500 PSI or higher (depending on your needs). For vehicle washing, you shouldn’t exceed ~1,200 PSI.

Commercial-grade retractable hose reels

Retractable reels by Coxreels or Reelcraft sometimes come with air hoses, so be sure you find one with a water hose (or pressure washer hose) option. Commercial-grade reels come with steel components, so the swivels can handle high pressures if you swap the hose out. Always consult the manufacturer with any questions.

You can technically convert some retractable air hose reels to water hose reels; however, modifications like an M22 adapter are typically required.

3. Assess the build quality

Most retractable reels under $200 are made entirely of plastic, but some are made better than others. Cheaper plastic reels will fade in the sun, and the internal hose locking mechanisms may wear out over time. Since retractable reels often use plastic internally or around the fittings, they are more prone to leaking and breaking with time.

If you’re looking for a long-term investment and top-notch quality, both Coxreels and Reelcraft manufacture retractable hose reels made entirely of steel (including the fittings); Both are made in the U.S.A. with readily available hoses and parts.

What we recommend

Giraffe Tools Wall Mounted Retractable Hose Reel & Pressure Washer

๐Ÿ† Our Overall Top Pick

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This retractable reel-and-pressure washer combo by Giraffe Tools I absolutely love for washing cars because it’s both a pressure washer and retractable reel all-in-one. It’s also perfect for garage mounting because you can leave everything as-is, and simply unwind the hose, turn on the water, and wash.

It comes with a 180% rotating bracket and its induction motor is a bit quieter than other pressure washers. Even if you plan to keep this unit outside, it’s soo much easier to connect ONE extension cord instead of a bunch of hoses every time you wash.

Reelcraft PW7650 Retractable Pressure Washer Hose Reel

๐Ÿ† Our Professional Pick

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Super serious about detailing? I recommend this commercial-grade unit by Reelcraft because it’s made to last and is specially designed for pressure washer use.

This unit comes with a 3/8” size pressure washer hose rated at 4,800 PSI. Be sure to pick up a 3/8” quick connect kit and/or leader hose to connect this reel to your pressure washer.

Again, Coxreel and Reelcraft hoses are not cheap…but they are ideal for any auto detailing business or if you want a bulletproof reel that will probably last your entire lifetime.

Giraffe Tools 65-ft Retractable Garden Hose Reel

๐Ÿ† Our Budget Pick

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This 65-foot reel by Giraffe Tools is perfect for all non-pressure washing car wash jobs. If you normally use a bucket, plus sprayers and foam gun attachments this one is all you need.

The bracket does swivel and can be mounted to a wall, post, or other structure. It retracts slowly (a big plus, unlike others) so it won’t fly around and potentially damage your vehicle.

Even for an entry-level reel like this one, Giraffe Tools offers a 24-month warranty and convenient online support if you ever have a problem.

Manual vs retractable hose reels

So..which one? Many manual hand-crank hose reels are made well, so one is not better than the other per see; it’s ultimately a matter of convenience. Retractable reels will save you time, especially if you have a pressure washer hose that came in a kit without a hose reel. Most stock hoses are just finicky and too short for washing cars.

Install quick connects to save more time

Once you decide what reel works best for washing your vehicle, I highly recommend getting a set of quick connects so you’ll never have to thread another hose by hand!

Solid Brass Quick Connect Garden Hose Kit

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Check out our quick connect install tutorial for illustrated instructions on installing them on both a pressure washer hose and a standard garden hose.

Ready to improve your washing and detailing skills?

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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