Reviews | The Drive

Best Car Buffers: Enjoy a Concours-Level Polish on Your Sweet Ride

Sure, you can give it a shine by hand, but nothing compares to a detailer’s best friend.

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

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BYLisa Conant/ LAST UPDATED ON February 16, 2022

You love your car like it's your baby. You take extra special care of it—vacuuming, washing, waxing, keeping french fries and shakes far away from the interior. Those steps are just the basics in keeping your beloved vehicle looking like it just rolled off the lot. 


Adding a top-quality car buffer to your detailing repertoire will save you lots of time and elbow grease during your next wax job. Save the Mr. Miyagi stuff for the kids and get a professional-grade buffer that your buddies will envy. To help you get the best car buffer to suit your needs, we combed through dozens of options to come up with a list of the best car buffers.

Best Overall

Porter-Cable Variable Speed Polisher

Summary

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

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Polishes hard to reach places 
  • Handle can be moved to either side
Cons
  • Tricky to control at low speeds
  • Strong vibration
  • Loud
Best Value

Black & Decker Variable-Speed Polisher

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 large cars and boats.

Pros
  • Lightweight 
  • Quiet operation
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Smaller buffer size takes longer
  • Buffing pads need frequent replacing
  • Not as durable
Honorable Mention

DeWalt Variable Speed Polisher

Summary

This 12-amp polisher has a variable speed dial that lets you set the maximum speed from zero to 600/3500 RPMs.

Pros
  • Soft start
  • Maintains RPMs under heavy load
  • Heavy-duty design
Cons
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to find a nine-inch backing plate
  • Expensive
Best Car Buffers: Enjoy a Concours-Level Polish on Your Sweet Ride

Our Methodology

Because there is such a plethora of options on the market when it comes to car buffers and polishers, I decided to only select products from top well-known and respected manufacturers for this review. I wanted to include a variety of sizes, speeds, and price tags to suit a range of needs.

Instead of the best price, I focused on the best value, or which car buffer provides the best experience per dollar spent. I also considered warranty and customer service reputation to round out the list of selections. To read more about our process and standards, click here.

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Best Car Buffers Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Brand: Porter-Cable
  • Model: ‎7424XP
  • Weight: 5.75 pounds

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Polishes hard to reach places 
  • Handle can be moved to either side

Cons

  • Tricky to control at low speeds
  • Strong vibration
  • Loud

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 to 6,800 orbits per minute (OPM). It has a proprietary counter balance for use with a six-inch sanding/polishing pad. The two-position, removable side handle allows for 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. 


It may be tricky to control the Porter-Cable 7424XP polisher at low speeds, as 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, it may not operate fully at all variable speeds over time.

Specs

  • Brand: Black & Decker
  • Model: ‎WP900
  • Weight: 2.05 pounds

Pros

  • Lightweight 
  • Quiet
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Smaller buffer takes longer
  • Pads need frequent replacing
  • Not as durable

This random orbital polisher achieves 4,400 orbits per minute to ensure a swirl-free finish. It has an intuitive two-handle design for comfort and a 10-foot power cord to accommodate large cars and boats. At a little more than two pounds, it’s one of the most lightweight buffers on the list. Because it’s so lightweight, you can use it with one hand. It comes with a six-inch random orbit waxer and polisher, one foam applicator bonnet, and two polishing bonnets. It makes polishing, buffing, and waxing easier and faster. It also removes water spots and brings 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.


One downside is the Black & Decker WP900 polisher is not the most 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 backing pad may eventually come unglued.

Specs

  • Brand: DeWalt
  • Model: ‎‎DWP849X
  • Weight: 6.7 pounds

Pros

  • Soft start
  • Maintains revolutions under heavy load
  • Heavy-duty design

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Difficult to find backing plate
  • Pricey

If you want a car buffer that will go for days, check out the 12-amp motor of the DeWalt Nine-Inch Variable Speed Polisher. The adjustable speed dial lets you set the maximum speed from zero to 600/3500 RPMs for different materials and applications. The wool 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 same revolution speed regardless of load. The speed settings are also precise. You can press slightly on the trigger and gradually increase the speed. It's ideal if you need a machine that can put in serious work.


This polisher can burn paint if not used correctly, and it’s a little heavy. Also, it can be difficult to find a nine-inch backing plate. In addition, it might not last very long if it's used daily in a professional setting, as the switch might burn out.

Specs

  • Brand: Chemical Guys
  • Model: BUF_209XMAX
  • Weight: 5.5 pounds

Pros

  • A complete kit
  • Excellent value
  • Multiple pads for different uses

Cons

  • Flimsy on/off switch
  • Poor positioning of variable speed dial
  • Expensive

This buffer from Chemical Guys is expensive, but this time, you get more with your purchase. It comes with a complete 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. We tested it on leather and fiberglass and got equally good results.


The only things we don’t like about it 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.

Specs

  • Brand: Wen
  • Model:‎ 10PMR
  • Weight: 4.02 pounds

Pros

  • Budget friendly
  • Straightforward design
  • Easy operation

Cons

  • Underpowered
  • Can develop a strange knocking
  • Not variable speed

This high-performance polisher has a 120-volt 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.

Specs

  • Brand: Ryobi
  • Model:‎ ONE+ 18V
  • Weight: 4.3 pounds

Pros

  • Cordless convenience
  • Uses Ryobi 18V battery pack
  • Three-year warranty

Cons

  • Not as powerful
  • Battery sold separately
  • Slows under too much pressure

This decently powered cordless car buffer achieves 2,500 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 brushed motor is durable and low-maintenance. The buffing pad surface is a generous 10 inches, letting you get the job done quickly. It comes with an elastic band to keep your applicator bonnet securely in place. 


This car buffer comes backed by an impressive three-year warranty. It also offers an impressively long 1.5-hour run-time on a single battery. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have a Ryobi ONE+ 18-volt cordless battery pack, you’re going to have to pony up for it. Another 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 lacks a soft-start feature.

Our Verdict

If you’re looking for an ideal combination of power, durability, reliability, and price, our top pick is the Porter-Cable Variable-Speed Polisher. For a great budget-friendly option that will still deliver reliable results without breaking the bank, consider the Black & Decker Variable-Speed Polisher

Do you have a reliable car buffer that makes your ride shine, but didn’t make our list? Hit us up in the comments and let us know.

What to Consider When Buying a Car Buffer

There are several key factors to think about when selecting the ideal car buffer. How often you’re going to use it should be at the top of the list. If you’re a frequent car-buffing nut, you may want to pony up for something that’s a little pricier, but super lightweight and with an ultra powerful motor that won’t let you down. A great warranty also helps. If you’re looking to do fewer jobs or smaller cars, maybe a budget-friendly, compact car buffer is best for you. 

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. 

Car Buffer 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. 

Power

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 4,500 RPMs. 

Comfort

Using a car buffer can be an awkward and uncomfortable job if you get the wrong one. It can really tax your shoulders, upper back, and arms after just a few minutes if the buffer is too bulky, too heavy, or has handles that don’t sit comfortably in your grip. Also, if you work frequently on taller vehicles, getting a powerful, but lightweight car buffer is going to be key to saving you cash at the chiropractor.

Weight

The more powerful your buffer is, the larger 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. 

Warranty

We are big fans of a great manufacturer’s warranty. It says that a company stands behind its product if any unforeseen issues arise. Let’s face it—when it comes to power tools, they can all have their fair share of unplanned functional snafus. Look for a car buffer that comes with at least a one-year warranty.

Car Buffer Pricing 

You can get a decently powered and compact car buffer for less than $50. These are usually ideal for occasional use on smaller vehicles. For between $50 and $200, you can upgrade to a large selection of car buffers that offer more power, durability, and larger buffer sizes. If you’re serious about your car buffing game, spending more than $200 will get you superior quality and professional-level performance that’s ideal for frequent use.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Can buffing damage your car paint? 

A: There is a spirited debate about whether buffing is bad for your car. Buffing is a great way to remove slight surface imperfections, dullness, and scratches. The caveat is that you shouldn’t buff too often or with too much pressure. Brilliant buffing takes some practice but can have numerous positive effects on your car’s precious paint job. 

Q: What’s the difference between buffing and polishing a car? 

A: The polishing process uses abrasive belts to create a brushed or lined finish. Buffing removes these lines and creates a brilliant luster by using soft cloth bonnets and a buffing compound.

Q: What kind of scratches can be buffed out? 

A: Only surface scratches that haven’t penetrated through the thin clear coat layer of your car’s paint job can be buffed out. Anything that penetrates past that first protective layer will likely need to be addressed with touch-up paint and may even require a professional’s touch.

Q: How do you clean polishing pads?

A: If you want to clean your polishing pads in order to remove abrasive and grimy buildup, you can run the polisher while applying light pressure to the pad with a shop towel or a plastic bristled brush. This will remove surface grime and give you a cleaner polish job. After polishing is complete, you should clean the pads immediately so they don’t get crusty and hard. Use a good quality all-purpose polishing pad cleaner and spray the pads liberally. Let them sit for 3-5 minutes. Massage the cleaner into the pad and then rinse it thoroughly under running water until the water runs clear and there is no residue left.

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