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Best Boat Polishers and Buffers Review for 2022

At the risk of stating the obvious here, you have clearly landed on this page because you are looking for advice on finding the best polisher and buffer for boats. While this may seem like an easy process at first, it can quickly become very daunting due to the sheer amount of information and options available to you.

 

For this reason, we have put together this very comprehensive and detailed review of what we feel are the absolute best boat buffers and polishers out there.

 

We here at J&J Boat Services have been in the business of detailing and maintaining boats and yachts of all sizes since 2005, and have had plenty of real world experience with each of the boat buffers recommended in this review article.

 

Before we kick this off, I want to be fully transparent that the majority of the buffers and polishers on this list are not necessarily going to fall under the category of “budget friendly”. This buffer and polisher review is strictly focusing on very high quality machines that are made from some of the most reputable manufacturers of power tools and machine buffers.

 

With all that being said, buckle up and let's get this show on the road!

Quick Answer: Best Buffers for Boat's

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Best Rotary Polisher

Makita 9237CX3

5.0

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1 Year Warranty

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Best Budget Rotary

Shurhold 3400 Pro

5.0

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1 Year Warranty

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Best Orbital Polisher

Rupes Bigfoot LHR21 Mark 3

5.0

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1 Year Warranty

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Best Budget Orbital

Griot's Garage G9

5.0

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Lifetime Warranty

 
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Top 5 Rotary Polishers and Buffers for Boats

 

1. Makita 9237CX3 7" Polisher Kit Review

Makita 9237CX3 Polisher Kit

The Makita 9237CX3 is our top recommendation for the best buffer and polisher for boats and yachts alike. Makita is one of the most trusted and reliable brands within the power tools market and they do not disappoint with their corded 7 inch rotary buffer and polisher. 

 

Not only is it our top choice, but it is the very same buffer that all of my technicians use here at J&J Boat Services. This is a buffing machine that will have no problem handling just about any detailing job you throw at it.

Whether you’re looking to simply shine up your vessel with a nice layer of protectant wax or you need to tackle a heavily oxidized boat, you can guarantee that the Makita 9237CX3 will be your best friend in the process.

 

With a highly effective and powerful 10-amp motor, this polisher is capable of spinning the pad at speeds of 600 to 3500 RPM. 

 

The design features a soft-start function and an adjustable dial that will allow you to select an ideal speed that matches up with the current application at hand. With this soft-start technology, you get much less product fling-off when applying your waxes, pastes, and polishes to the pad.

Also included in the design of this powerhouse is a cruise control button that will maintain your desired speed even while under heavy working load.

 

The Makita 9237CX3 has a continuous rubber loop handle included, which provides the user an added degree of comfort and work surface protection and also has a side handle.

 

To increase durability of this polisher, it has a wire mesh intake cover to avoid wool fibers and other debris from entering the motor.

 

Many buffers and polishers have a weak point where the power cord goes into the handle end. After prolonged use, the cord gets bent back and forth and causes the wires to break inside and will require you to replace or re-wire it. The Makita 9237CX3 has incorporated a new cord guard at this weak point to extend the life of the power cord and minimize rewiring and replacement needs.

 

Overall, this is a fantastic option for professional detailers and beginners that are looking for a high quality rotary buffer for their boat that will stand the test of time.

Feature Highlights

  • Variable speed dial and trigger permits the user to set the speed to the application.

  • Cruise control button to maintain a constant speed even while under load

  • Soft start feature that allows for smooth start-ups and less fling off of product

  • Improved cord guard to allow for longer life and flexibility

  • Has a wire mesh cover over the intakes to prevent wool fibers and debris getting into the motor

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • Very durable and can handle just about any job

  • Access to external brush heads for easy servicing

  • Favorite amongst many in the boating industry for compounding, polishing, and waxing

  • Has lots of torque

  • Includes additional items with the kit

  • 3 Prong Plug to Prevent Static Electricity

What We Don't Like

  • A bit on the pricey side

  • It’s a little loud

 

2. DEWALT DWP849X 7"/9" Buffer/Polisher Review

DEWALT DWP849X Rotary Polisher

Our runner up on this list is the Dewalt DWP849X. This bad boy came in at a very close second place, but that does not mean it is not worthy of the top position. This buffer is a beast in its own right and will absolutely get the job done when you need to produce professional quality of work.

 

I think we all know that the Dewalt brand has a solid reputation for producing very high quality power tools for many years now, and they have extended that quality into their line of variable-speed polishers like the DWP849X.

 

Although we use the Makita at our company, we have used  this Dewalt model in the past and it is one that you can feel very comfortable purchasing and know that you will be buying a very high quality buffer that will last you quite a long time.

 

This Dewalt polisher has a soft start and features an impressive 12 Amp motor with ball bearing construction that will offer prolonged life and maximum torque. The powerful motor on this machine is capable of spinning the pad up the 3500 RPM without a problem.

It also has an electronic control system to provide you with the final results you are looking for. A variable speed trigger allows users to set the speed from 0 up to the dialed maximum setting.

 

The power isn't a hindrance to the user's comfort, however it's thanks to its 6.7-pound weight, which lets the user polish and finish surfaces with longer running times and at different angles. 

 

For added flexibility, it also comes with the three position bale handle in addition to the standard side handle, which expands the variety of gripping options available to make the most of the task on hand. 

 

The handle on the rear is ergonomically sculpted using an over mold made of rubber to increase comfort. Additionally, the non-marring cover for the gear case reduces the chance of finishing scratches or marks. This combination makes for the best of both form and function to meet your polishing requirements.

Feature Highlights

  • A 12-amp motor for all the power that you will need in any application

  • Soft-start trigger and speed dial for optimal control for the task at hand

  • Integrated wool ingestion shield to prolong the lifespan and need for servicing

  • 3 Year Limited Warranty, 90 Day Money-Back Guarantee, 1 Year Free Service Contract

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

 

What We Like

  • Highly efficient and versatile buffer for optimal performance and a variety of use cases.

  • Conveniently positioned variable speed control dial

  • Heat-treated, precision-cut steel gears for smooth operation

What We Don't Like

  • Not ideal for first-time users

  • Soft-start can be a little jumpy

  • No Pads Included

  • No Carrying Bag

3. FLEX PE 14-2 150-Rotary Polisher Review

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Up next on our list is the FLEX PE14-2-150 Rotary Polisher and is also known as the POLISHFLEX. This is among the best rotary options when it comes to detailing. This lightweight German engineered tool is built to minimize user fatigue with an ergonomic layout, and it boasts a very durable motor.

 

The front of the buffer has been precisely designed to accommodate the user's hand and is coated with soft-grip rubber for greater user comfort. The mechanism for locking the spindle is behind the hump, to avoid accidental knocks. 

 

Weighing in at only 5.6 pounds, this polisher has been constructed to be lightweight, quick, agile, and powerful. This makes it a good choice for professional detailers who spend many hours with a buffer in their hands.

 

With a 1400 watt motor, the FLEX 14-2 does a good job at working smoothly while running at slower speeds for polishing and at high speeds for compounding. The cooling fans are well designed to keep the overall unit cool, even while running at low-RPM levels.

Similar to the previous two buffers on our list, this one also has screens located in the cooling channels that prevent any wool or polishing debris from getting into the motor and limiting the airflow or worse.

 

The trigger on the FLEX PE 14-2-150 allows you to start at a slow rotation and increase speed gradually in relation to the speed setting on the control dial. Once you find a good working speed, you can lock it in for continuous operation to allow for a more even finish regardless of the load.

 

The trigger, trigger lock, and the speed control dial are all within easy reach, which makes for a more comfortable buffing experience when dealing with different surface areas on a boat.

 

Don’t like to deal with a loud buffer while polishing your boat? Don’t worry, because the POLISHFLEX is extremely quiet with the innovative planetary gear-set and angular teeth.

 

Overall this is a good quality polisher that would be ideal for a professional detailer or someone that is just looking for a very reliable buffer to do a DIY detail job on their vessel.

Feature Highlights

  • Powerful 1400 watt motor for handling any detailing job 

  • Internal fans for optimal airflow allowing for a cooler running machine

  • Innovative planetary and angular gears to reduce noise

  • Ergonomically shaped soft-grip handle for maximum comfort

  • Variable speed dial

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • Lightweight

  • Plenty of Power for any Detailing Job

  • Extremely Quiet

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive

  • Back Plate is not Included

  • No Storage Bag

  • Tends to get Hot Under Heavy Load

 

4. Shurhold 3400 Pro Rotary Boat Polisher Review

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Coming in at position number four is the Shurhold 3400 Professional Rotary Polisher. With the simple idea of helping to keep boats looking Clean-n-Simple, Shurhold was started in1973 and has been growing ever since, so you can be confident that you are buying a high grade machine with this name attached to it.

 

With a 12 amp motor capable of producing 1400 watts of power, the Shurhold Pro Rotary will have no problem cutting, polishing, and buffing out oxidized or heavily scratched gel coat surfaces on your vessel.

 

The 3400 model is also equipped with a variable 6-speed control dial to have full control over the rotation speed of the pad allowing you to adjust as you see fit for the current working application. Similar to the other options this model can run at speeds from 600 RPM to 3200 RPM.

For comfortability, it is designed to have the speed control dial, the locking on button, and the soft-start trigger all positioned for easy use while operating the polisher.

 

Just like the 3 previous options, the Shurhold 3400 has EZ clean mesh air intake vents to allow for proper airflow and to prevent any debris from getting into the motor and causing issues.

 

A great thing to also make note of about Shurhold is that they have great customer service. If you are having any issues with your buffer, then they will do what it takes to make it right.

 

As with most rotary polishers, if you are new to using one, you will want to practice with it before using it on your boat.

Feature Highlights

  • 7” Quick Change Backing Plate

  • EZ Clean Mesh Air Intake Vents

  • EZ Change Carbon Brush Ports

  • Thumb Controlled Variable Speed Dial

  • Locking on Button

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • 20’ Long Attached Cord

  • Powerful and Durable

  • Good Value for the Money 

What We Don't Like

  • Heavy

  • Tends to get a Little Hot Under Heavy Work Load

 

5. Torq R Precision Rotary Polisher Review

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Last but not least on our list is the Torq BUF504X Precision Rotary Polisher from Chemical Guys. 

 

Chemical Guys has been manufacturing a wide variety of detailing products since the company was founded around 1968, and has made a serious footprint within the detailing industry. Now available in over 50 countries worldwide, they aim to offer high quality products at affordable price points.

 

The Torq R Rotary Polisher is equipped with a very powerful 900-watt motor that is designed for removing scratches, swirls, paint defects, and gelcoat oxidation with ease.

 

The trigger-less design of the Torq R Rotary Buffer is something that may take a bit of getting familiarized with if you are used to a trigger operated rotary buffer. The Torq R utilizes a digital speed controller coupled with an Electronic User Interface (EUI) to give you precise power control management.

What I like about the electric power control setup is that it provides very smooth power with max torque from the motor at each of the available 7 speed settings. Knowing the exact RPM at which the tool is working is a breeze with the digital display. 

 

Featuring a Rapid Release button at the head of the buffer allows you the ability to quickly switch between different backing plates at the press of a button.

 

Built to be lightweight, fast, and agile, the Torq Rotary Polisher is comfortable to use for extended periods of time, Chemical Guys have designed.

 

With the miniaturization of components, electrical engineering, balanced internal design, and user-centered ergonomics, Chemical Guys have made the Torq R to be maneuverable, fast, and lightweight. This is the perfect recipe for those that will be spending a good amount of time using the buffer.

 

We all hate a buffer that is susceptible to overheating, but with the newly integrated cooling system the Torq R Precision Rotary Polisher channels the airflow through the machine keeping all of the internal parts nice and cool.

Feature Highlights

  • Powerful 900-watt Motor

  • Trigger-Less Design

  • Rapid Release Button for Quick Change of Backing Plates

  • Integrated Cooling System

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • 7 Different Speed Settings

  • Digital RPM display

  • Ergonomic Design for Max Comfort

What We Don't Like

  • Difficulty Getting Use to Not Having a Trigger Control

  • Can Get Hot During Heavy Work Load

 
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Top 5 Best Orbital Polishers and Buffers for Boats

 

1. Rupes Bigfoot LHR21 Mark 3 Random Orbital Polisher Review

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Leading the way with our top pick for the best orbital buffer and polisher for boats is the Bigfoot LHR21 Mark III made by Rupes.

 

Rupes has been a leader in the manufacturing of innovative power tool equipment for many years since the business's foundation in 1947. They are an Italian company that values innovation and quality above all else. Their polishers all undergo vigorous testing before any of them are made available for purchase. 

 

The combination of the 21mm orbit and its 6-inch backing plate make the LHR21 Mark 3 a very effective tool for polishing large surface areas. It also allows the user to get high-quality finishes with fewer passes.

 

The Rupes Mark 3’s rubberized front grip is ergonomically shaped and will provide you with exceptional comfort when controlling the machine, while also providing a slip resistant surface for steady control. The rear grip also incorporates soft rubber to improve the overall comfort.

 

Built in are two strategically placed and non-marking tool rests that offer stability even when the tool isn't being used and they provide an additional layer of protection against accidental impact.

More fine-tuning has been done on the BigFoot random orbital platform in the Mark III model, sharpening its top-notch reputation.

 

The unit features a new electronic speed dial, which allows easy adjustment of the speed setting without even having to move your hands. The speed dial is large and easy to read with a range from 1 up to a max of 6.

 

The progressive trigger provides you with another layer of control. Acting as a second throttle for controlling speeds within the dial range, the trigger allows you to make subtle adjustments for precise control without interruption of the process or having to move your grip on the controller.

 

For servicing convenience, there is a hex head wrench that stores onboard the buffer for quick removal or re-tightening of the backing plate.

 

If you like a long cord, the Bigfoot LHR21 boasts a whopping 30ft long power cord!

Feature Highlights

  • 6” Backing Plate with Hook and Loop System

  • Variable Speed Control Dial

  • 21mm Orbit

  • 500 Watts of Power

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • Highly Reputable Manufacturer

  • Progressive Trigger

  • Powerful Motor

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive

  • On the Heavier Side

 

2. Griot’s Garage G9 Random Orbital Polisher Review

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Coming in as the runner up for the best orbital boat buffer is the Griot’s G9 Random Orbital Polisher. With an impeccable reputation among professional detailing enthusiasts and detailers, Griot's Garage has been providing accessible, professional-grade detailing products since 1991.

 

The power and versatility of a G9 polisher is not matched by too many competitors, but one thing that makes them stand out from the rest is the lifetime warranty that they offer! This makes it one of the go to polishers for professionals and beginners alike.

 

The G9's powerful motor of 1000 watts, 9mm orbit, as well as a 6" vented back plate offer the ideal level of power, rotation of the pad, and control that results in a consistently high quality finish.

 

Griot's G9  polisher was carefully designed with different levels of user experience in mind. To make the novice's experience in using this polisher less intimidating, the G9 is very lightweight, comfortable, smooth-running, and very quiet.

For maximum comfort, the G9 includes a whole host of innovative features that have evolved over time. 

 

Some of these features include, superior ergonomics, a speed dial that can be accessed by both right and left handed operators, a shroud grip that is designed for a 4 finger holding position, strategically placed double-shot rubber placed on all major touch points including the platypus head-grip, and a constant speed control button.

 

The G9 also has a unique design that lets the machine draw fresh air through the air intakes and push it into the pad and down on the surface of the gelcoat. This has led to significant reductions in the temperature of the pad and a reduction to temperatures of the working surface. 

 

For the ease of servicing, the G9 also features quick access to the brush heads via the side ports near the front of the rear hand grip.

Feature Highlights

  • Powerful 8.5-amp 1000-watt Motor

  • Fan-Cooled Counter-Balance

  • Speed Dial Accessible to Right and Left Handed Users with 6 Speed Settings

  • Constant Speed Control Button

  • Lifetime Warranty

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • Lightweight

  • Very Affordable

  • 10ft Detachable Power Cord

  • Reputable Manufacturer

What We Don't Like

  • Complaints about the Trigger Lock Button Breaking

  • No Pads Included

 

3. Flex XCE 10-8 VRG Dual Action Orbital Polisher Review

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Coming in at 3rd place on our list for the best orbital polishers for boats is the Flex XCE 10-8 VRG DA Orbital Polisher. It goes without saying that Flex is a big name in the power tools industry. Flex Tools has been around since 1922 and invented the first ever side angle grinder back in 1954.

 

I think having been around for over 100 years makes them a brand that you can trust produces high quality buffers and polishers for boats.

 

The XCE 10-8 125 by Flex is a dual-action polisher that is gear-driven and gives you the correction power of a rotary buffer but keeps you safe from issues like swirling, micro marring, paint burning, and holograms.

 

While this 600-watt polisher has the power to take you from the compounding phase all the way to the finishing phase, it is still considered a great boat polisher for beginners.

The Flex XCE 10-8 is designed to be a safe tool to use on painted surfaces that are very sensitive to temperature. With this model of Flex Polisher’s, there is an optimized airflow design that keeps the gears and motor cool while also lowering the heat that is generated on the working surface of the polisher. As a bonus, this will also reduce the amount of heat on the gelcoat surface of your boat.

 

As with all of the other polishers in this boat buffer review, the Flex XCE 10-8 has an ergonomically designed head and body to prevent you from getting too fatigued after prolonged use of the buffer. 

 

Flex has also done a great job in evenly balancing out the 6 pounds of weight with this machine to make it a great combination with the ergonomic design in offering a high comfortability factor to this Flex Polisher.

 

Similar to other options, the Flex XCE 10-8 125 has a variable speed dial, constant speed control button, and a soft-start trigger all within comfortable reach to make adjustments as you see fit

 

Overall, this is a great option for someone that is new to using a boat buffer and it is a great option for a professional boat detailer looking to add a quality machine to their arsenal.

Feature Highlights

  • Ergonomically Designed with Soft Grip Points

  • Optimized Air Flow System to Keep Gears and Motor Cool

  • Variable Speed Control Dial

  • Constant Speed Control Button

  • Soft-Start Trigger

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • Lightweight

  • Very Comfortable to Use for Extended Working Sessions

  • Ideal for Professional Detailers and Beginners Alike

What We Don't Like

  • Very Expensive

  • Not Ideal for Heavily Oxidized Boats

 

4. Shurhold 3500 Dual Action Polisher Pro Review

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Up next on our list of the top orbital polishers for boats is the 3500 Dual Action Polisher Pro from Shurhold. 

 

If you have read our review on the Shurhold 3400 Rotary Polisher above, then you already know that Shurhold has been in the marine detailing game since 1973 and their reputation for manufacturing quality products is very well known.

 

The Dual Action Polisher Pro is the latest addition to the line of polishers that Shurhold has manufactured, and they have really stepped up the game with this model.

 

If you have seen a pattern with all of the buffers that have been reviewed so far, I have specifically chosen to highlight the ones that have put a strong emphasis on comfort and durability of the polisher.

 

Weighing in at only 6 pounds, the Shurhold 3500 polisher has been designed with two different ergonomic hand gripping positions to provide max comfort while being behind the buffer for long periods of time.

At the rear gripping position you have the trigger, the auto lock, and the variable speed control dial that are all ergonomically designed for easy access. 

 

Adjustable to between 1800 and 4800 oscillations per minute (OPM), the thumb controlled speed dial is positioned so that both right and left handed operators can easily set it to the proper speed for the current application. The speed dial has a range from 1 to 6.

 

Equipped with a 900 watt motor, the Shurhold 3500 is a very powerful orbital polisher that comes with a 6” backing plate and has an extra large 21mm orbit that will help you cover more surface area in much less time. If you want even more coverage, the quick change backing plate can accommodate up to a 7” pad!

 

With all this power, you can still feel at ease knowing that the dual action oscillating head dramatically lowers the risk of burning, swirling, or marring the surface you are working on.

Feature Highlights

  • Thumb Controlled Variable Speed Dial

  • Auto Lock Button

  • Easy Change Carbon Brush Heads

  • Two Ergonomic Hand Gripping Styles

  • 6 Inch Quick Change Backing Plate w/ a 21mm Orbit

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • Great for Beginners and Pros Alike

  • Excellent at Removing Moderate Oxidation

  • Ergonomically Designed for Max Comfort

What We Don't Like

  • Heavy

  • Complaints about the Quality of the Backing Plate

 

5. Chemical Guys TORQ BUF501X 10FX Random Orbital Polisher Kit Review

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Up next on our list is the TORQ 10FX Random Orbital Polisher made by Chemical Guys. 

 

They have not disappointed consumers with the addition of the TORQ 10FX. This model was developed with an eye for the novice and then refined using feedback from expert detailers who polish boats for a living.

 

The 10FX polisher from Torq is VERY lightweight, weighing it at a mere 6 pounds, and is very smooth in its operation. Components inside of this machine are evenly spread out to make this a very well balanced machine, which makes it more comfortable to operate and creates less fatigue.

 

The TORQ 10FX polisher is a combination of excellent ergonomics and an efficient 700-watt motor capable of removing scratches and swirl marks, yet is smooth enough to machine apply a sealant or wax with the polisher.

Unlike all other polishers on this list, the 10FX buffer does not have a trigger, but rather it has variable speed digital control buttons with a digital display to set an accurate speed for the surface you are working on.

 

With an ergonomic front head and rear grip, the Torq 10FX is very comfortable to handle and operate by both right and left handed operators.

 

For many years, the standard throw of an orbital polisher used by most professional detailers has been 8mm. The Torq 10FX has exactly that, an 8mm orbit that is fully capable of covering plenty of surface area and producing high quality results. Not all surfaces need a large throw in order to produce a glossy finish.

Feature Highlights

  • Digital Variable Speed Controls

  • Ergonomic Design for Comfort 

  • Built-In Safety to Prevent from Damaging or Burning Paint

  • Technology to Reduce Vibration

  • Compatible with Any Size Backing Plate

Technical Specs:

What's Included?

What We Like

  • Relatively Lightweight Compared to Others

  • Gradual Speed Changes and Slow Starts

  • Compatible with Pads Ranging from 3 to 6 Inches

What We Don't Like

  • Only a 90 Day Warranty

  • Only Comes with 5” Pads

  • Control Features Poorly Positioned 

  • No Trigger

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Boat Buffers and Polishers

What is an Orbital Polisher/Buffer?

Orbital buffers are designed for the removal of light scratches and polishing. As you could guess, the name kinda says it all that they are orbital rather than rotational. 

 

Because they're orbital rather than rotational, the polishing pad and backing plate rotate on a unique axis to the spindle resulting in the pad vibrating in non-circular motions.

 

Orbital buffers are much easier to use and are ideal for beginners that are learning the trade of buffing boats. They produce a fantastic shine and are the go to option if you don’t want to leave swirl marks in the gelcoat of a boat.

 

Ideal for removing minor defects, the application of polish or wax, and producing a high quality shine, an orbital buffing machine can be used with a microfiber or a foam pad.

 

Another great thing is that they are not an aggressive machine, so you are not very likely to cause any damage to the vessel you are working on like you can with a rotary buffer.

What is a Rotary Polisher/Buffer

A rotary polisher and buffer is a much more advanced tool that should be used if you are dealing with a more oxidized boat, one that has much deeper set scratches or imperfections. That is not to say that they are not good if you are just looking to put a nice shine onto a well maintained boat.

 

Resembling more of the look of an angle grinder, a rotary buffer has much more power and rotates at a much higher speed  than an orbital polisher.

 

With a rotary buffer, you get the action of the spindle and the pad moving in a single circular direction. 

 

This is something that you need to be aware of because it is very easy to do unwanted damage to the gelcoat, paint, vinyl decals, etc. on a boat due to the amount of heat that can build up from the speed and rotation of the pad.

A rotary polisher is very powerful and it is advised that you practice with it to get an understanding and feel for the torq that they have. Practice on something you don’t care about first.

 

A rotary polisher can be used with various types of pads including, buffing, compounding, wool, and foam pads.

Note:

It's wise to understand that a rotary style buffer is not necessarily beginner friendly. If you want to jump right into one, then know that you should probably practice a bit before using it on something you really care about. There is a learning curve to knowing how to properly use this style of buffer.

Should I Buy an Orbital or a Rotary Buffer?

In all honesty, it really depends on your situation and just how serious you are about keeping your vessel looking showroom ready if you are more of a DIY type of person. It can also depend on the condition your boat is in as to which would be the best selection.

 

If you are a beginner and are just learning the ropes of using a machine buffer, then I would recommend that you start out with a good quality orbital. They are much easier to operate and significantly lower the risk of damaging or burning through gel coat or paint of a boat.

 

A rotary buffer takes a bit of time to get used to and you can quickly find yourself in a bad situation if you don’t know how to properly handle one. If you are not experienced with one you can injure yourself or do significant damage to the boat you are working on.

 

If you are looking to get into the detailing game and maybe start your own company, then I would say it's not a bad idea to have both an orbital and a rotary in your arsenal.

Tip: If you are dealing with removing heavy oxidation, deeper set scratches, and paint/gelcoat imperfections, you will no doubt need to use a rotary buffer for the restoration phase.

What to Look for When Buying a Boat Buffer

Durability

Choosing a buffer or polisher for your boat based on its durability is an important purchasing consideration. You want to make sure the item you buy will not require expensive repairs or frequent replacements.

 

One good tip on this is to always check the warranty offered by the manufacturer. A manufacturer that offers a long warranty period means they have confidence in their product lasting a long time, which in turn should make you feel confident that you are purchasing a high-quality machine.

Comfort

More often than not, you will be behind the buffer for an extended period of time and it is important that you get something that feels comfortable in your hands. Otherwise, detailing a 15 foot boat can feel like the Titanic when using an uncomfortable polisher. 

 

Look for one that has a variety of grip options as well as one that dampens vibrations and provides adequate support.

 

There are ergonomically designed buffers and ones that have the speed dial, trigger and locking button all within comfortable reach. Looking for these features will no doubt help with the overall comfortability of a buffing machine.

Weight

Choosing a buffer that is lightweight is always something to consider, especially if you are going to be holding it for many hours while detailing your vessel or if you are a professional detailer that will be using it day in and day out.

Speed Settings

When deciding on a specific buffer for your boat, we would recommend looking at buffers that provide more speed control. One of the main reasons for this is because as you are polishing, you will need to adjust the speed in relation to the area you are working on the boat. 

 

When you get into more detailed areas that have more parts and components, you will want to slow down the speed so as to not do any damage. Most options will range from 0 to 3500 RPM.

Vibration

There isn't a metric that measures how much a machine vibrates well enough to rate the units online. Check online reviews to read reviews about just how wild a particular machine is. It will do you well to be prepared too. A machine with too much vibration can end up being a nightmare to perform. With that being said, you will want to choose one that has minimal vibration while in operation.

Price

You, and only you, will have to make the final decision on what you are willing to pay for a good quality buffer for your boat. I do believe that you generally get what you pay for, so I would highly recommend that you try to make the most with your money and pick one that is high quality and within your budget. Don’t break the bank if you can’t afford the best of the best.

Frequently Asked Questions:

So there really is no difference between a buffer and a polisher persay, but rather a difference in the action of buffing and polishing. Within the detailing world, the word buffer and polisher are used interchangeably.

 

The action of polishing involves the use of cutting compounds with abrasives to help remove scratches, oxidation, and other imperfections in the gelcoat.

 

The action of buffing on the other hand is the next step after you have polished out those imperfections and scratches. You will buff the surface with a protectant wax to bring out the final finish and luster of the gelcoat.

One of the main benefits of rotary buffers is that they are very powerful and are the ideal tool for restoring your boat's gelcoat that may be heavily oxidized or have heavy scratches or imperfections. 

 

An additional benefit to rotary buffers is that once you become comfortable using an understanding how this style of buffer operates, you can use it for just about every detailing application you will ever come across.

Here are a few of the main benefits to using an orbital polisher:

  • They produce high-gloss shines without leaving swirl marks

  • They virtually eliminate the risk of doing severe damage to the surface of the boat or the components you are maneuvering around

  • They are considered to be the best option for beginners and hobbyists that still want high quality results

Yes an orbital buffer is capable of removing minor scratches from a boat's gelcoat. However, depending on how severe the scratches or imperfections are may decide whether you need a more powerful buffer like a rotary, because an orbital will not stand a chance against deep set scratches and blemishes.

The distance that the pad swivels out of the central point in the unit  is known as "throw". The longer throw from a polisher with high action produces more friction and more action on the surface of the paint.

The short answer is yes you can use a buffer designed for a car and use it on a boat. However, you need to know that there is a difference between the gelcoat on a boat and the clear coat on a car. Gelcoat is much tougher and if it is heavily oxidized, you will need to use a buffer that has the power to cut through the gelcoat to bring out the shine underneath. A typical buffer for a car is not necessarily going to get the job done properly. If you have a new boat or one that has been kept up well, then a standard orbital buffer that is designed for cars will work just fine to keep it looking nice and protected from the elements.

Conclusion

We made it! I know this was a VERY long review article, but it there was no real way to make this any shorter. We wanted to make sure that we were very detailed on all the important details on each of these boat buffers.

If you have made it all the way to the end of this, then you are either overwhelmed by information, or you have begun to dial in on the best buffer for your use case.

At a minimum, we hope that we have helped shed some light on each of these polishers and the pros and cons of each one. When it comes down to it, you will be the ultimate decision maker on which option is best for you.