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.
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.
- Easy to use
- Polishes hard to reach places
- Tricky to control at low speeds
- Strong vibration
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.
- Quiet operation
- Tricky to control at low speeds
- Strong vibration
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.
- Soft start
- Maintains RPMs under heavy load
- May be difficult to find a 9-inch backing plate
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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
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.