The proposed paper reports a series of experiments to investigate the cavitation erosion mechanism of HVOF coatings. Vibratory cavitation erosion tests according to ASTM G 32 have been carried out with several HVOF coatings including cermets, oxides and metallic alloys. The steady state erosion rate for each coating was determined and the effect of coating composition and microstructure on the erosion rate was investigated. The morphology and microstructure of the various coatings before and after cavitation testing were analyzed by means of light optical and scanning electron microscopy in order to study the erosion mechanism. The results demonstrate that HVOF coatings of NiCrFeBSi, WC-17Co, Cr3C2-25NiCr and Cr2O3 can exhibit a rather high resistance against cavitation erosion and should be considered for application as a protective surface layer against cavitation. Furthermore, it is shown that cavitation testing can provide a useful tool to study and characterize the bond strength between individual splats as well as the brittleness of the individual phases present in the coating.