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Every car owner wants to have the shiniest and the most expensive-looking car on the block. However, not everyone can afford to take their vehicle to the shop on a monthly or even weekly basis.

There are plenty of great buffers available. It all depends on what you’re looking for, and what automotive skills you have or don’t have.

Best Overall
Porter-Cable
2500 – 6800 OPM
Best Value
Dewalt
0 – 3500 RPM
Best for Beginners
Griot’s Garage
2500 – 6800 OPM

If you know what you’re doing, then you don’t have to look at simple tools that cater to the needs of non-professional car detailers. But, if you want your car to look great, and you have never used a buffer before, you’ll need a tool that’s easy to operate.

The Best Car Buffer

porter-cable variable speed polisher

1. Porter-Cable Variable-Speed Buffer

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The Porter-Cable is one of the most popular dual-speed polishers out there. This really isn’t a surprise since they were one of the first companies to create a commercial polisher. These days you can likely find a Porter-Cable buffer in nearly every auto shop and garage.

For people who are worried about damaging their vehicle, this buffer is also a great choice. It has a powerful 4.5 amp motor and the random orbit is great for removing swirls.

It comes with six-speed settings ranging from 2500 – 6800 rpm. This speed is easily adjusted using the trigger and handle.

The buffer also features a pre-installed counterweight that makes balancing a cinch. Yet another great feature this tool has is a removable handle that can be adjusted in two positions. The ambidextrous construction is a breath of fresh air for lefties out there.

However, this tool doesn’t have a hook-and-loop or a backing plate like other buffers. The package also includes a pad, but we would suggest additional pads for multiple compound uses.

  • Pros: Pre-installed counter-weight for balance. Removable handle. Easy to use. Six available speed settings. Affordable.
  • Cons: Doesn’t include a hook-and-loop feature. The pad can tend to rip. No backing plate included.
DEWALT Variable Speed Polisher

2. Dewalt Variable Speed Polisher Machiner

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Dewalt is a very popular power tool company. This particular buffer  is more powerful than the Porter-Cable and is a premium automotive care product. If you need a tool that can be used on other vehicles, for example boats, the Dewalt is a great choice.

Although it’s a powerful machine, don’t worry, it’s quite easy to handle. Not only does it have a side handle, it also has a top handle for added stability. That way you can change positions with ease, whenever you need to. And since there is no load speed, you can jump right into polishing.

The Dewalt operates quite smoothly due to the heat-treated and precision-cut gears. If you’re after that top quality shine, the Dewalt definitely won’t let you down.

However, you should be careful not to use the buffer on the plastic parts of your vehicle, or you might burn them. Also, you may need to purchase additional brushes and pads since the provided ones tend to wear down quite easily.

  • Pros: Powerful, durable, and high-quality. Easy to handle. Top and side handle options are available. Three-year warranty.
  • Cons: Somewhat expensive. A bit heavy. Can’t be used on plastic parts.
makita 7 inch hook and loop electronic polisher

3. Makita Electronic Buffer Polisher

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Another very efficient option is the Makita electric polisher. It’s a very versatile tool and great for multiple surfaces. It’s a standard tool that both automotive workers and marine workers use on a daily basis.

Makita is known for manufacturing high-quality power tools, and this 7-inch hook-and-loop buffer is no exception. The great thing about this tool is that it can be used for both polishing and sanding, and you won’t have any trouble quickly changing that functionality.

It allows you to do a variety of different chores, such as waxing, polishing, painting, compounding fiberglass, etc. You can use it on different surfaces as well since it works equally well on floors as it does on cars.

You can adjust the speed depending on what surface you’re using the buffer on. You can even lock it on a specific speed if needed, which allows you to operate the tool quite smoothly.

The Makita has a hook and a pad included, along with side handles. Additionally, you can use the loop handles for extra stability.

It’s a tool that you can use for hours without worrying about it overheating. More importantly, it’s lightweight, so you won’t get tired in the middle of polishing your vehicle. Overall, it’s a very effective tool that’s easy to handle.

  • Pros: Lightweight. Smooth operation. Adjustable speed. Works on a variety of surfaces.
  • Cons: Expensive. Only a 30-day return policy. Load speed takes getting used to.
griot's garage 6 inch dual action random orbital polisher

4. Griot’s Garage Dual Action Random Orbital Polisher

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Yet another great choice is Griot’s Garage polisher. The manufacturer’s ultimate goal was to make a buffer that was easy to handle for professionals and non-professionals alike. Which makes this one of the best options for professional polishing on a budget.

The 6″ dual-action random orbital polisher comes with a 10’ cord. Also, Griot kept the adjustable handle and added a rubber grip for extra comfort. They’ve moved all the switches and knobs to more convenient places on the tool so they don’t get in the way.

The great thing about Griot’s buffer is that it also removes oxidation from your car. We all know that oxidation makes a car look much older than it actually is. But with Griot’s random orbital polisher, you won’t have to alter the color of your car in order to fix the oxidized areas.

  • Pros: Comfortable ergonomic design. Perfect for beginners. Adjustable loop handle. Rubber grip.
  • Cons: Expensive. You may need to purchase an extension cord.
Flex positive-drive rotary-orbital polisher

5. Flex Positive-Drive Rotary-Orbital Polisher

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Flex offers a dual action machine polisher that removes scratches, swirls, and a number of other imperfections.

The 8 mm rotation makes the buffer extra efficient, and the orbital rotation imitates the circular movement of your hand and produces a highly smooth surface. You don’t have to worry about it creating any holograms, that’s for sure!

Also, the counter-weight is a great feature, and it allows you to operate the tool easily. Another great safety feature is the automatic motor shut-down. Once the carbon brushes are worn down, the motor shuts off instantly, keeping your car from being damaged.

The Flex buffer also comes with a 13-foot cord, so you won’t need to purchase an extension.

While there are a number of positives for this tool, the biggest downside is the price. In some cases, it is twice as much as the other options. If you’re a professional and don’t mind spending money, this is a great option.

  • Pros: Perfect for temperature-sensitive paint. Easy to operate. Lightweight. Imitates the circular movement of your hand.
  • Cons: Can tend to overheat quickly.

What Makes a “Good” Car Buffer

using a polisher

Now that we’ve looked at some of the better options available, you have a general idea of what to look for. Let’s look at some of the important features to consider for your buffer, some frequently asked questions, as well as some tips on how to use a buffer.

Features to Look for in a Car Buffer

Speed

The single most important factor is speed. Buffers are rated in either revolutions per minute (RPM) or orbits per minute (OPM). Higher speeds will do a better job at addressing deeper scratches. Of course, greater skill is needed to operate a car buffer at higher speeds. Speeds between 2000 – 5000 RPM or OPM are common.

Weight

Since you will need to lift the machine and haul it around the car, it’s easier if it’s not too heavy. A nice light weight option will allow you to finish your car slowly and patiently without the added stress of aching arms. Get a small, lightweight buffer for easy polishing.

Vibration

The mechanism within the buffer will cause the machine to vibrate during operation. This can be both uncomfortable and make accurate work difficult. Look for buffers with minimal vibrations for detailed comfortable work.

Price

As with most things, you don’t need to choose the most expensive or cheapest item on the market. The most costly will probably not be worth the price and the cheapest will lack quality. Do a cost to benefit analysis and line those up with customers online.

Hand Control

Jobs can take time, so you will want to make sure you can get from start to finish in relative comfort. The dual-hand control option that some buffers feature is a good way to do this because the weight is better distributed throughout the body. Make sure the handle is secure, as a poor grip can be difficult to manage.

Safety Features

You don’t want to damage your car in any way. If you’re an amateur, you should check for the safety features of each model before making your final decision. You should look for a buffer with automatic motor shut-down options, so if the power tool heats up, it won’t cause any damage to the paint. Same goes for pad deterioration.

Type

There are regular rotary buffers and random orbital. Most beginners and amateurs prefer orbitals. However professional detailers prefer rotary. Let’s look at these two types closer.

The Different Types of Car Buffers

man buffing car

If you’re not a professional car detailer, you probably didn’t know that there are different types of buffers.

First of all, there are two common types of car buffers:

1. Orbital (the pad vibrates)
2. Rotary (the pad rotates)

Orbital

The orbital buffer is one of the more popular among amateur car detailers. That’s because orbital buffers are not only easy to use, but they give fantastic results.

These buffers distribute wax evenly over the car’s surface since the buffer turns at a high speed. Moreover, orbital buffers remove any damaged areas, as well as get rid of distinct marks on your car. In addition to being efficient, they are also very economical power tools. Ultimately, these high-speed buffers produce the best results, and in no time at all!

Rotary

The rotary buffer removes defects and sanding marks with ease and are rarely used to spread wax. In fact you want to use polish with a rotary buffer to remove medium and heavy-duty paint imperfections. This is much different in comparison to “wax spreaders” as orbital buffers are often referred to as.

Professional car detailers tend to lean toward the rotary option.

Buffer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Is it Okay to Polish Your Vehicle’s Windows?

A: Yes. After the windows have been washed you can apply a small amount of wax to make the water bead off the glass.

Q: Is it Better to Use a Car Buffer or to Polish My Vehicle Manually?

A: The manual option does prevent the appearance of swirl marks. But it is almost impossible to match the even speeds, pressures and consistency of the electric buffer. You will probably find that it cuts down on the time it takes to complete the task as well.

Car Buffing Tips

  • It’s a good idea to wash the car and to clean the paint of dirt and debris before applying the wax. Also make sure you do your work in a well-lit area where you can catch the light falling from various angles.
  • To get the best final product from your car buffer, avoid dry polishing, don’t push against the natural motion of the buffer or use the edge of a pad to target a specific area.
  • If your buffer lacks the “SAFE START” feature, just apply the wax to the pad and spread it around with a clean finger before you start.
  • Most people are fine with a single polisher. But, those with exotic cars and high-value paint jobs will often want two or three to make the most of specific waxing tasks. If you are fine with a single buffer, get a random orbital.
  • Don’t combine compounds on the same pad. Mixing wax and polish is going to leave a bad effect and it’s better practice to use a separate pad for each agent.
  • Keep pads as clean as possible to make the most of their buffing capacity. Wash wool pads and air dry them as well. Sponge pads can be soaked in warm water, rinse and repeat, then air-dry.
  • Remember that lower rotations will result in less heat energy. Using higher rotations (1700 – 2400) for compounding. Once that’s finished, switch out the pad and set rotations to a lower degree (1200 – 1700) for final waxing.

If you’re more of a visual learner than the video below by Chemical Guys is solid. We’d recommend watching it before embarking on your buffing journey.

Conclusion

It’s safe to say that there are quite a few buffers to choose from. However, some are better for beginners, and others are meant to be used by professional car detailers.

The Porter-Cable variable-speed polisher and Griot’s Garage dual-action random orbital polisher are by far the best car buffers for beginners. You don’t have to be a pro to operate them, and you’ll have a beautifully polished vehicle each time.

If you’re a professional car detailer, the top choices for you are the Dewalt and the Flex positive-drive rotary-orbital polisher. The Dewalt may be a bit pricey, but it’s well worth the money.

Finally, the Makita hook-and-loop electronic polisher/sander is great for both beginners and professionals. It works wonders on a number of surfaces, which is possibly why it’s a bit more expensive.

All in all, these buffers are all top-notch, and you definitely won’t be disappointed with the results. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have the shiniest car on the block.

References

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Richard Reed
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