Reviews

The Best Car Buffers: Top Polishers for a Detailed Look

Give your arm a break and use a car buffer to apply polish and wax.

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BY Andra DelMonico / LAST UPDATED ON May 27, 2021

You regularly wash your car to keep it looking clean and cared for, but this is only the first step. Waxing and polishing your vehicle takes your car's paint to the next level by making it shine. The wax also protects the paint by adding a durable layer over it. You'll appreciate how much easier it is to keep your car clean with a coat of wax.

The trick to enjoying the benefits from waxing is to get an even and consistent application over your vehicle's surface, which can be tricky when applying wax by hand. You may miss a spot, or your arm grows tired, and you begin to rush. This means part of your vehicle isn't benefiting from the full protective benefits of the wax. What you need is a car buffer. This powered polisher does the heavy lifting for you to make quick work of buffing your vehicle. Below, we list the best car buffers available on the market today.

Best Overall
Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher
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Summary
Summary

This random orbital buffer is 4.5 amps and includes an electronic variable-speed dial from 2,500-6,800 OPM. It uses a 6-inch sanding and polishing pad and has a two-position, removable side handle.

Pros
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Polishes hard to reach places
Cons
Cons
  • Tricky to control at low speeds
  • Strong vibration
  • Loud
Best Overall
Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher
Best Value
Black+Decker Variable Speed Polisher
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Summary
Summary

This random orbital polisher weighs 5.3 pounds, emits 4,400 orbits per minute, has a two-handle design for comfort, and features a 10-foot cord to accommodate cars and boats.

Pros
Pros
  • Lightweight 
  • Quiet operation
Cons
Cons
  • Tricky to control at low speeds
  • Strong vibration
  • Loud
Best Value
Black+Decker Variable Speed Polisher
Honorable Mention
DeWALT Variable Speed Polisher
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Summary
Summary

This 12-amp polisher has ball-bearing construction and a variable speed dial that lets you set the maximum speed from zero to 600/3500 RPM. The spindle thread is  5/8-inch-11.

Pros
Pros
  • Soft start
  • Maintains RPMs under heavy load
Cons
Cons
  • Heavy
  • May be difficult to find a 9-inch backing plate
Honorable Mention
DeWALT Variable Speed Polisher

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Benefits of Car Buffers

  • Save time. The best car buffer polisher will give your vehicle a newer, cleaner look much faster than if you do the same job by hand. A power buffer for a car will help you complete the task faster, and it will also require a lot less energy.
  • Professional quality finish. Professional detailers don’t work on your vehicle by hand. They use a buffer to achieve top-quality results. Buying your own buffer lets you achieve a similar high-quality finish at home on your own. 
  • Be versatile. You can use your buffer on all of the exterior surfaces of your vehicle. Use it with wax and polishing products on the painted surfaces. Then use a metal polish on the metal areas. A plastic moisturizer will keep the plastic and rubber components of your vehicle supple and looking fresh. 
  • Maintain looks and value. Regular care for your car keeps it looking beautiful and retains its value. Using a car buffer gives you a better application for consistent protection. This ensures you get in the hard-to-reach places and even coverage on the large flat surfaces. 

Types of Car Buffers

Rotary

A rotary-style buffer is what most professionals use. It has a rotating pad that spins on a spindle in one direction. It won’t orbit, oscillate, or vibrate. The straight spinning action has the most power and buffing ability. Their drawback is that the concentrated spinning in one spot creates a risk of damage. You can easily buff through your paint’s clear coat. Only consider purchasing a rotary-style buffer if you’re experienced working with polishers and detailing cars. 

Orbital

Most car owners working on their cars should use an orbital buffer. The buffing pad spins around on a spindle similar to a rotary style, but it also moves around on an axis, adding an additional movement of vibrating, orbiting, or oscillating. 

There are three types of orbital buffers, fixed orbital, dual-action random orbital, and dual-action forced rotation. Each type has a different movement in how it spins and orbits. Beginners will work best with a dual-action random orbital because they have the lowest risk of damaging your paint. 

Top Brands

Porter-Cable

Located in Towson, Md., Porter-Cable was established in 1906 as a jobbing machine and tool shop. In addition to polishers, they produce drills, saws, grinders, air compressors, and other tools. One top product is the Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher.

DEWALT

DeWalt Products Company was formed in Leola, Penn., in 1924 with the launch of the electric universal woodworking machine, mortiser, and jointer. In 2018, the company celebrated its 100th anniversary of the Product Service Division of Stanley Black & Decker. One popular product is the DeWALT 7-Inch/9-Inch Variable Speed Polisher.

Black+Decker

This company started with young entrepreneurs S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker, who launched a machine shop in Baltimore, Md., in 1910. Products include power tools, lawn and garden items, and home appliances. One top buffer is the Black+Decker Variable Speed Polisher.

Makita Corporation

Makita Corporation was founded in 1915 as an electric motor sales and repair company. Today, the company manufactures products at ten plants in eight countries. The Makita U.S.A., Inc. head office is located in La Mirada, Calif. One popular buffer is the Makita 7" Polisher.

Car Buffer Pricing

  • Under $50: You can find a decent car buffer intended for occasional use in this price range. A cheap car buffer is not super powerful and is not recommended for daily and/or heavy use.  
  • $50 to $200: There are a variety of car polishers at this price point. Typically, the more you spend, the more powerful, durable, and versatile the tool will be. 
  • $200 and up: You will pay a bit more for superior quality and performance. The priciest car buffers are geared towards professionals or those who use the tool daily.

Key Features

Spin Style

As mentioned above, there are two main spin styles to choose from: rotary and orbital. Rotary buffers spin in a clockwise direction and buff one spot continually until you move the buffer. Orbital buffers spin and move on an axis. This gives you greater coverage and is easier to use. Orbital buffers tend to have lower motor power than rotary styles. 

Speed

The more speed your buffer has, the more power it will have to target deeper scratches. However, too much power means increased speed, which leads to excessive friction and heat, potentially causing damage to your vehicle. A safe speed range is between 2,000 and 4,000 RPMs. 

Weight

The more powerful your buffer is, the larger of a motor it needs. This leads to increased weight. Keep the weight of the buffer in mind when comparing models since you’ll have to hold that weight, move it about, and lift it high. A heavy buffer can be too heavy to hold for the entire time it takes to buff your vehicle.

Other Considerations

  • Ergonomics. It can be hard work to polish your vehicle, so you’ll want a tool that is fairly comfortable to use. The best car buffing machine won’t be too heavy, will have adjustable handles, and it will feature an ergonomic design that makes the tool easier to operate. Variable speed controls, trigger accelerators, and other features will also help make the job less difficult.
  • Safety Features. If you're not too familiar with using car polishers and buffers, you’ll want a product that contains some safety features to protect both you and your vehicle's paint. This includes an automatic shutdown option which will cut power from the tool if it gets too hot.
  • Maintenance. Even the best car buffers and polishers will require regular upkeep to ensure they're in good operating condition. The best car buffers should require minimal maintenance, even after prolonged use. Check the manufacturer's instructions to determine what you need to do to ensure that it performs optimally.

Best Car Buffers Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher

This random orbital buffer produces swirl-free sanding and polishing results. The AC device has a 4.5 amp motor and includes an electronic variable speed trigger from 2,500-6,800 OPMs. 


It has a proprietary counter balance for use with a 6-inch sanding/polishing pad and accepts 5/16—24 spindle thread accessories. The two-position, removable side handle fosters greater comfort and control. This beginner-friendly polisher is comfortable, durable, and easy to use. It doesn't leave swirl marks on your paint and creates a quick and perfect finish. You can get into smaller and harder-to-reach areas, such as under the mirror or hood because it does not have a long tail end. 


The tool also comes with enough lubrication that's intended to last the lifetime of the device under normal use. It may be tricky to control the Porter-Cable 7424XP polisher at low speeds, it has a strong vibration, and it's loud. Also, the pad that comes with it is low-quality foam, so you will need to buy a Velcro-backing plate of your choice. In addition, over time it may not operate fully on all variable speeds.

Best Value
Black+Decker Variable Speed Polisher

This random orbital polisher achieves 4,400 orbits per minute to ensure a swirl-free finish. It has a two-handle design for comfort and a 10-foot power cord to accommodate cars and boats. 


It weighs 5.3 pounds and comes with a 6-inch random orbit waxer and polisher, one foam applicator bonnet, and two polishing bonnets. It is lightweight, not very loud, and you can easily use it with one hand. It makes polishing, buffing, and waxing easier and faster. It also removes water spots and brings the paint back to life with ease. In addition, it has a nice, ergonomic design that enables you to use it in hard-to-reach places. 


It's ideal for the average user who doesn't need the tool for professional daily use. But one downside is the Black+Decker WP900 polisher is not super powerful, and it may stop spinning if you put too much pressure on it. The pads that come with the device are not high quality. Foam pads work best, but they are hard to find. Also, the foam backer pad may eventually come unglued.

Best Design
DeWALT 7-Inch/9-Inch Variable Speed Polisher

This polisher has a 12-amp motor and ball-bearing construction for long life and performance. The adjustable speed dial lets you set the maximum speed from zero to 600/3500 RPMs for different materials and applications. 


The spindle thread is 5/8-inch-11, and the electronic module maintains a constant speed. The wool Ingestion shields increase tool life and reduce service costs, while the rubber gear case cover reduces surface imperfections and improves grip. It's comfortable, powerful, high quality, durable, and easy to use. It has a soft start feature and stays at the RPM, regardless of load. The speed settings are also precise; you can press slightly on the trigger and gradually increase the speed for slow ramp up. 


The speed is very consistent, and it doesn't bog down when you put pressure on it. It's ideal if you need a machine that can put in serious work. The DeWALT DWP849X polisher may burn paint if not used correctly, and it’s a little heavy. Also, it may be difficult to find a 9-inch backing plate. In addition, it may not last very long if it's used daily in a professional setting, and the switch may burn out.

Premium Pick
DeWalt 7-Inch Variable Polisher

Another buffer from trustworthy brand DeWalt, this variable-speed polisher comes at a premium price, but we think you’ll find the money worth spending. With cordless power and the option to bundle a rechargeable battery, the DeWalt variable polisher can go anywhere, and can even do emergency bodywork by the side of the road.


You can vary the speed using both a dial and the trigger, which allows for an extremely fine level of control. The brushless motor can handle a lot of use. We also love how the rotor starts slow, which begins to buff in the compound without flinging it everywhere.


There is a trade-off for all that power. Aside from the price — which is even higher if you bundle the battery — this buffer is heavy and can be hard for beginners to control. It is, in general, just a little too much product for smaller jobs.

Honorable Mention
Chemical Guys TORQ 10FX Random Orbital Polisher Kit

This buffer from Chemical Guys is also pretty expensive, but this time, you get more with your purchase: It comes with a complete car repair kit, including backing plates, pads, and bottles of compound and conditioner. You can also bundle it with microfiber towers, or if you want, just get the polisher itself.


The kit is great, but the polisher works amazingly well on its own, making it easy even for body work newbies to hide relatively deep scratches. If you’re willing to put the work in, this kit can remove oxidation, reverse aging on a paint job, and increase the shine until it looks like new. We tested it on leather and fiberglass and got equally good results.


The only things we don’t like about the TORQ 10FX are the construction and some of the paired extras. Specifically, the on/off switch is surprisingly flimsy, and one of the pads fell apart without much use. We recommend getting the polisher and adding your own favorite pads, backing plates, and compound.

Honorable Mention
Pro-LifT I-4510 Buffer/Polisher

Swinging to the other end of the price spectrum, we have the I-4510 buffer and polisher from Pro-LifT, which is the perfect lightweight unit for small DIY jobs. It runs on corded power, meaning this isn’t a buffer that can live in your car, but it’s powerful for such a small, cheap product. It’s able to reach up to 3200 RPM unloaded.


That speed means that if you pair it with a good compound, the I-4510 can get your car to just as brilliant a shine as some of its more expensive competitors. The two-handled grip makes it a cinch for beginners to control. We’ve even seen reports of people using it as a massager to loosen up their muscles.


We don’t want to mince words, though: This is a cheaper polisher in every sense, and it’s prone to breaking down after several months of regular use. It also doesn’t stand up very well to pressure, so if you have an extremely oxidized surface you need to clear, we advise going for something sturdier.

Honorable Mention
Wen 10-Inch Waxer and Polisher

This high-performance polisher has a 120-volt, .75-amp permanent magnet motor that achieves 3,200 orbits per minute. The flat-top design of this car buffer allows for easy changing of the bonnet. It features 10 inches of polishing surface to help you get more coverage, making fast work of polishing your car. The construction of this polisher is durable, thanks to the high-impact insulated housing. Two large handles on either side of the polisher let you control it with both handles, giving you a more secure hold and better polishing ability. Included with your polisher is an applicator bonnet and terry cloth bonnet. 


The downside of this polisher is that it can be underpowered at times. It will continue orbital movements but stop spinning when you apply too much pressure. The on/off switch is also located on the handle, making it easy to hit, and there’s no lock to prevent accidental switching. 

Honorable Mention
Neiko 7-Inch Electric Polisher and Buffer

Rounding out the list is this cord-powered variable-speed buffer/polisher from Neiko. With a 1300W motor, cast-aluminum head, and six speed settings, it’s a good tool to have living in your garage.


 If you’re on a tighter budget but you’re looking at a heavy two-day cleaning job, the Neiko 7-inch polisher is a deft mixture of durable and affordable. This polisher was clearly constructed with user experience in mind. We felt comfortable with the rubber handle and liked how the trigger and trigger release button are both within reach of one hand. The upper handle can be shifted left or right for ambidextrous users. The speed controller is easy to operate as well.


We just wish it wasn’t so heavy: the weight might put off DIY newbies. The long term also creates some problems with this tool. If the switch gives out under heavy use—which it’s likely to at some point—it’s almost always cheaper to just get a new one.

Honorable Mention
Meguiar's Dual Action Power System Tool

This car buffer attaches to almost any drill for versatile and convenient buffing. It works best with a 3/8-inch corded drill that operates between 1,200 and 2,500 RPMs. It comes with a large handle for better control while buffing. You can use this buffer with compound, polishing liquids, and waxes. Included with the buffer is an extra thick buffing pad that will be gentle on your car's surface. The dual-axis spinning action makes this polisher safe to use for beginners while also delivering professional quality results. 


The drawback of this buffer is that you need to own a drill to use it since no motor is included to power the spinning action. It's also from Meguiar's, so it may not work as well with products from other manufacturers.

Honorable Mention
Ryobi Swirl-Free Orbital Buffer

This high-powered car buffer achieves 4,800 orbits per minute. You’ll appreciate the ergonomic grip that comfortably fits into the palm of your hand. It’s constructed of molded and notched rubber. The power switch is conveniently located on the sides for easy access and is set into an indent to prevent accidental hitting. The motor is a 120 volt .5 amp for plenty of power. The buffing pad surface measures 6 inches across. It comes with an elastic band to keep your applicator bonnet securely in place. 


The downside of this buffer is that the foam backing that comes with this buffer isn’t the best quality. Thankfully, you can easily replace it with a higher quality one. It also doesn’t have a soft start feature.

Tips

  • Always wash your car to remove contaminants before buffing your vehicle. Otherwise, you risk buffing dirt and particles into your paint, creating swirl marks in your clear coat. 
  • Spread the polishing compound or wax across the entire surface of the polishing pad if your buffer doesn’t have a safe start mode. This prevents the product from getting flung off. 
  • Purchase several polishing pads to use with each product you plan to apply to your car. You don’t want to cross-contaminate by using one pad for everything. 
  • Pair your polishing pad and product. Certain products are best applied with a foam pad, and others are best applied with microfiber or wool.

FAQs

Q: Is it better to use a car buffer or to polish my vehicle by hand? 

Using a car buffer gives you consistent movement and pressure for an even application. It also makes quick work of the project to ensure the entire vehicle gets worked on each time. 

Q: Is it okay to polish car windows? 

Yes. However, you should only use products that are designed for use on car windows. A glass polish will address micro-scratches or swirl marks. Use a separate applicator and be careful not to buff the surrounding paint. 

Q: What’s the best car buffer for beginners? 

With today's modern technology and equipment, it's hard for even a beginner detailer to make a mistake with an orbital buffer. The best car buffing kit is designed for people of all abilities, so even entry-level auto detailers can do the job safely. Rotary buffers are intended for professionals. 

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best car buffer is the Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher. It’s great for beginners, is easy to use, and features an electronic variable-speed dial with a range of 2,500—6,800 OPM. In addition, the two-position, removable side handle fosters greater comfort and control.

For a less expensive option, consider the Black+Decker Variable Speed Polisher.