Ranking The Best Boat Buffers
DeWalt DWP849X Variable Speed Boat Buffer
Porter-Cable 7424XP Variable Speed Marine Buffer
Rupes LHR21ES Big Foot Random Orbital Polisher
Joe Appleton Updated on May 31, 2021.by
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If you want your boat to enjoy a long and healthy life, then you’re going to need to get serious about its maintenance: and that’s why you need a dedicated boat buffer. There are a lot of tools required to keep a boat in tip top condition, but very few will be as versatile as a buffer. These stalwart devices are essential for removing blemishes, tackling stains, applying polish, and buffing up your boat.
There’s more to them than an orbital spinning motion and an on and off switch, and many boaters buy the first buffer that they see rather than finding one that’s designed specifically for their boat type and their needs. And of course, some boaters are happy to use automotive buffers, and automotive products instead of specific marine-focused equipment.
Some can be used on both boats and cars, but the very best are developed specifically for boat buffing.
With so many products on the market, finding the right one can be tricky. To make life easier, we’ve put together a list of the best boat buffer products on the market, with a short buying guide to point your search in the right direction.
Boat Buffers: A Buying Guide
A boat buffer is a small, handheld device that can make polishing and waxing your boat a much easier task. A good buffing can really enhance the shine and finish of your boat’s gel coat, and carefully waxed parts of your boat’s surface can boost its performance too: reducing drag and improving fuel economy! But to get the best results, you’ll need a good quality buffing machine and a decent wax or cutting compound.
To really bring out your boat’s shine and to smooth out imperfections, you need to work that wax and cutting compound right into your boat’s fiberglass hull. If you want to do that by hand, you certainly can, but it will take a lot of time, effort, and energy.
Polishing a boat by hand takes a long time, and that’s why you need a dedicated boat buffer. Buffing your boat without one would take a lot of effort, and since they’re not particularly expensive, it makes more sense to buy one than not! However, there are so many on the market, how do you know which one you need? We’ve put together a quick buying guide to help point you in the right direction, so that you can make sure you’re buying the best boat buffer for your needs. Here’s all you need to know.
Boat Buffer Types
Before your search for a new polisher can begin, it’s worth noting that there are two different kinds of boat buffer on the markets:
Orbital buffers are polishing units that are designed to deal with light scratches. They’re orbital rather than rotational, and this means that the polishing pad and backing plate rotate on a difference axis to the spindle. The result is a non-circular motion that vibrates rather than spins. Since they don’t spin, they’re very easy to use.
In appearance, they look like other sanding machines, and they share many similar features such as a variable speed feature. They can be used with foam pads and microfiber pads, and they’re ideal for removing minor defects, applying wax or polish, and producing an excellent shine.
Orbital buffers are considered to be some of the best boat buffers because of how easy they are to use. It’s very hard to cause imperfections with one, and they’re not aggressive enough to dig in new scratches. Thanks to the either the fixed o random orbit motion, an even finish is guaranteed almost all of the time. This is the best tool for beginner buffers.
A rotary buffer is a more advanced tool. At first glance, it will resemble an ordinary looking angle grinder, and it does share a lot of the same DNA. These rotary buffers are stronger than orbital buffers, and they spin at a higher speed. The spindle and polishing pad move in a single direction with a circular motion They’re ideally suited for removing deeper scratches. But because they’re more powerful and spin faster, they’re a lot harder to use and they take time to master.
Most of them come equipped with a dual action motion, a variable speed control, and the option of attaching multiple pads, such as a wool pad, compounding pad, buffing pad, foam pad, and other useful pad types. Rotary buffers are some of the best polishers for cars and boats—if you know how to use them.
Important Features To Look Out For
Once you’ve designed what type is the best boat buffer for your needs, it’s time to look at the features on offer. Here are some of the most important things to consider before investing in a new polisher:
You might have seen the term “random orbit” used when you’ve been searching. This function can be very useful. It means that the angle that the pad and head spin on is variable, orbiting on an elliptical path rather than in a circular, rotational method. This is great for getting even results across uneven surfaces, though it might not be particularly useful on large boat surfaces, which are typically even. Still, it’s a worthy feature to have and it’s ideal for getting perfect results.
Look at what speeds that your desired buffer rotates or orbits at. A higher RPM or OPM is great for large areas, such as across your boat’s hull. That should help you deal with larger areas faster. A slow speed is also important too. Smaller, fiddly areas are best served with a slow speed. Slower speeds allow you to detail with more caution. For the best results, we recommend that you find a buffer with a variable speed control, so that you can choose the speed that you need for the area that you’re working on.
A heavy-duty machine doesn’t have to be heavy in nature. In fact, if a buffer is too heavy it’s not going to be particularly useful to you here. Even though the machine is doing the bulk of the work, you’ll still have to hold it and direct it, and boat hulls aren’t small areas. You should choose a buffer that you can comfortably lift and operate over long periods of time. If you start to tire, your finish will suffer for it! A good buffer will be light enough for you to operate, with plenty of grab handle locations for you to get a confident grip of the machine with.
Buffing machines vibrate. Some more than others! Since all of these tools use strong motors that cause vibration as they spin, dealing with vibration is an inescapable part of using a boat buffer. Vibrations can make working uncomfortable. They can affect your hands and arms, and interfere with your polishing results too. While you can’t get rid of vibrations, you can try finding a machine that vibrates less than others.
There aren’t many metrics out there that measure just how much a machine vibrates, so you’re going to have to read the review sections online for honest testimonies about just how wild a machine is! It’s worth doing your research on though. Too much vibration can really turn an easy job into a nightmare.
If the vibration and weight of a machine are likely to bother you, then it’s important to find a machine with decent comfort grips and adjustable handle positions. Holding anything heavy (and that vibrates) over a long period of time will lead to discomfort, sore muscles, and blistered palms.
A good way to avoid too much discomfort is to find a machine that grips nicely in your hands. A rubberized palm rest or handle can go a long way. Adjustable handles and grips are even better, allowing you to take the weight of the machine from a different position when one part of your body gets too tired.
If you’re going to invest in a new tool, you want it to be robust. It needs to be manufactured from high quality components and fitted with enough top of the range protection to prevent regular breakdowns. That should all go without saying. However, good features to look out for include: wool ingestion shields (which prevent wool from getting sucked into your machine and harming it), a cord guard (that stops your cord from getting bent and potentially severed), and easy access to the machine’s innards for easy servicing.
Motor brushes occasionally need replacing, so buying a machine that allows for you to replace them yourself is an excellent choice.
The best boat buffers will also ship with some kind of buyer protection in the form of a money-back guarantee or warranty. A warranty can be very useful, and we don’t recommend buying something without some kind of warranty.
In Summary: What Is The Best Boat Buffer?
Choosing the best is difficult, since there are so many different variables at play, and different boaters have very different needs. Here are what we’d select as out best of the best, for a variety of different boaters.
For boaters on a budget, we would recommend the Porter-Cable 7424XP Variable Speed Marine Buffer. Not only is it inexpensive, it’s also very easy to use. It’s the best beginner boat buffer, thanks to its non-aggressive, random orbit. What’s more, it even ships with a 3 year warranty.
If you’ve got more cash to spare and want to invest in a heavy-duty tool that will do the job and then some, then we’d recommend the Rupes LHR21ES Big Foot Random Orbital Polisher. It’s big, powerful, and very reliable. This quality buffer is a little expensive, but it’s backed up by thousands of positive reviews.
Lastly, if you want the best boat buffer you can buy that offers the best value for money and balances a reasonable price tag with big performance, then our choice for the best overall would be the DeWalt DWP849X Variable Speed Buffer. It has a shopping list of top shelf features, including a random orbit pattern, variable speed controls, and a very attractive warranty—all for a reasonable price.