It may be costly and inconvenient to run every power tool with a separate motor. That is why air compressors are incredibly handy devices. As long as you choose a suitable model, they can power any tool out there. But what is the best air compressor?
We wouldn’t say there is a one-size-fits-all answer to that question. It largely depends on user preference. That is why we suggest reading the in-depth buying guide enclosed below. It will reveal all the details about various air compressor types, and features you should look for during the purchasing process.
Before you start with the guide, please check out our air compressor reviews. Our team tried to select only the most reliable air compressor brands on the market. We also made sure to include compressors that are different in terms of features and performance. That should ensure each user can easily find a suitable product for them.
Best Portable Air Compressors
1. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
Makita is a premium brand that used consumers to exceptional quality, and this air compressor is no different. It comes with a sturdy cast iron pump while the big-bore cylinder ensures a shortened recovery process.
The unit has a specific roll-cage design to make it suitable for extreme conditions. The air filter is of industrial-grade, which secures boosted air intake and improved efficiency. The maintenance is easy because the oil glass is transparent, and you can remove the cylinder for cleaning.
The product uses a four-pole motor that delivers 2.5 HP of power. The tool can deliver 4.2 CFM while maintaining the pressure of 90 PSI. Thanks to the low number of 1,730 rotations per minute, the unit is one of the quietest on the market.
The air compressor is a bit heavier than you might expect, but you get an impressive and durable unit, especially at this weight. The safety features included protect the motor and prevent thermal overload.
2. California Air Tools CAT-4620AC Portable Air Compressor
The first thing you notice about this unit is its classic design and reasonably compact size. Once you scratch under the surface, you realize that CAT’s air compressor can pack quite a punch.
The tool features a 2.0 HP motor that manages to stay relatively quiet considering the power. It may be a bit noisier than expected, but the noise level is still acceptable.
The best feature of this air compressor is the fact that it uses an oil-free dual-piston. Not having oil means less mess and maintenance, and the pump itself is very durable with its life cycle estimated at 3,000 hours.
The twin tank is rust-free and has a capacity of 4.6 gallons. As for the CFM, the unit can achieve 6.4 CFM when the pressure is 40 PSI, but if you increase it to 90 PSI, the unit achieves 5.3 CFM according to the testing.
3. Rolair JC10 Plus 1 HP Oil-Less Portable Air Compressor
Rolair designed a portable compressor that doesn’t use any oil. Thanks to that, it should bring the best of both worlds. The cleaning process is simple, and you still have an adequate amount of power thanks to the 1 HP motor.
The expected performance is 2.35 CFM at 90 PSI, which is not as much as on some other units. However, keep in mind that this air compressor weighs only 42.9 pounds, and it is also compact-sized.
The roll cage construction prevents any crucial components from being damaged in severe weather conditions. The overall quality of the components could be somewhat better, but it remains a good deal for the price.
The tank capacity is 2.5 gallons, and the motor achieves 1,725 RPM. Once you start the compressor, it becomes noticeable how quiet it is. The manufacturer rated the noise level at 60 dB.
4. Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor
This air compressor is similar to the Makita’s unit we already reviewed. Both models belong to the same series, but this version has a somewhat less powerful motor at 2 HP. That strength can still pack quite a punch, and there is no reason why this unit can’t meet your expectations.
The motor achieves 1,720 rotations per minute, and the product has a low amp draw. That is vital for overall safety, and it extends the longevity of the motor. The unit uses oil for lubrication.
The components are of exceptional quality with the big bore piston and cylinder, as well as a cast iron pump. The noise level set at 80 dB is acceptable considering the strength. The compressor has a roll-bar handle that contributes to portability, but keep in mind this unit is not among the lightest ones out there.
5. Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon Oil-Free Compressor
If you are looking for an affordable air compressor that you can use at home, this can be the ideal product for you. For starters, it is oil-free, which means the maintenance is minimal. The product also weighs only 29 pounds, and a set of couplers to guarantee support for two users is a nice touch.
As expected from a tool at this price range, the compressor is not very durable. However, it is sturdy and strong enough. If you take good care of it, it can serve you for a long time.
The high-flow regulator takes care of air performance. The 2.6 SCFM provided by the pump at 90 PSI is more than adequate for personal use. The tank has a six-gallon capacity, and maximum tank storage is set at 150 PSI. That should give you plenty of room to maneuver, depending on your needs.
6. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor
Porter-Cable offers a pancake-shaped compressor primarily intended to use for home improvement and other projects around the house. The air volume is generous with the max pressure set at 150 PSI. At 90 PSI, you can expect 2.6 SCFM, which should be enough for most applications.
The recovery time is quick, but the unit is quite loud even for an air compressor. The fact that it doesn’t use oil makes the maintenance process easy. The overall construction is fairly durable, and the console cover is there to prevent any damage in extreme conditions.
The total weight of the compressor is 30 pounds, which means you can move it from one place to another easily. If necessary, you can also order an accessory kit and a tire gauge with the product. Ultimately, the unit seems like a smart investment as long as you do not require a compressor with industrial strength.
Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
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California Air Tools CAT-4620AC Portable Air Compressor
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Rolair JC10 Plus 1 HP Oil-Less Portable Air Compressor
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Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor
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Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon Oil-Free Compressor
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PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor
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Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak 1-Gallon Compressor
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VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor
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DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon Pancake Compressor
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PORTER-CABLE CMB15 1.5 Gallon Hand Carry Compressor Kit
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California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Portable Air Compressor
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Excell U256PPE 6 Gallon Pancake Air Compressor
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7. Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak 1-Gallon Compressor
Senco decided to bet on portability, which is why they designed a unit that weighs only 20 pounds. It might be the lightest compressor on our list, and it is ideal for moving around, but it also comes with certain limitations.
The capacity of the tank is only a gallon, which means you will require patience when working with the product. The maximum output is 120 PSI, and the induction motor has a running power of ½ HP, but it can achieve a 1 HP peak power.
It might not be as powerful as some other units, but it is exceptionally quiet. That makes this compressor ideal for light and simple home-based projects and applications. The overall durability is surprisingly good, especially if you consider the price. The compressor is electric-powered, and it doesn’t use any oil, which users looking for hassle-free maintenance will appreciate.
8. VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor
For a portable compressor, this unit is impressively light and compact. The length of the air hose is also admirable as it is set at 25 feet. You have to ensure the engine is running to use the product, and the maximum pressure is set at 150 PSI.
The free flow was estimated at 2.3 CFM, which is fairly strong for a portable tool. Although it might not be a great choice for heavy-duty projects, it can do a great job for light applications.
If you are a fan of accessories, you will like the anti-vibration tray, as well as the carry bag that is not only durable but also looks beautiful.
The air chuck seems angled, which some users may not like. It may take some effort to figure out how it works, but if necessary, even replacing the chuck is a small investment.
9. DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon Pancake Compressor
DeWalt designed an air compressor that seems exceptionally powerful for the price. You can expect 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI, and the maximum PSI is set at 165. Thanks to the generous air volume, you should enjoy working with this unit.
It is a shame that the regulator is not that reliable, and it can lead to inconsistent pressure spells occasionally. Fortunately, you should get better at using it as soon as you get used to the unit.
The noise level is around 75.5 dB, and the compressor is reasonably quiet. The design features a pancake form and the familiar color we associate with this company.
The pump is oil-free and fairly durable, and the product supports two users. You can rely on the motor to start even in extreme conditions. The overall weight of the product is set at a total of 30 pounds.
10. PORTER-CABLE CMB15 1.5 Gallon Hand Carry Compressor Kit
The manufacturer calls this product a kit, but it is essentially a compressor equipped with a 25-inch long hose, and several chucks and eight other minor components.
The product is not only light at 20 pounds, but the carry handle on the top adds to the portability. It will be a pleasure to carry the unit around, but you will love working with it, too.
The compressor secures 2 SCFM at 90 PSI, and the tank capacity is 1.5 gallons. It is not impressive, but it is more than enough for personal use. The pump design is oil-free, which is a neat touch as it secures a long-lasting pump without the need for demanding maintenance.
As for the noise, it is at an expected level for an air compressor. The manufacturer ensured that the vital components are protected with the enclosed design.
11. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Portable Air Compressor
Here is another unit that you may want to consider if you need a quiet and small air compressor. The noise level can’t get any lower with 56 dB, and if it is imperative not to wake the neighbors, this can be the product for you.
As for the performance, it secures 1.2 CFM at 90 PSI thanks to the motor that was rated at 0.6 HP. The testing also indicates that this is a low amp draw unit with the draw set at 4.5 amps. The durable steel tank can hold an entire gallon, which is more than enough for a small unit.
The unit doesn’t come with hoses or fittings, but the good news is that you can find them at a low price. The overall weight is 29.5 pounds, and you can use the handle to move it around the job site.
12. Excell U256PPE 6 Gallon Pancake Air Compressor
Pancake compressors are popular for its convenient design, and the Excell’s unit is no different. The matte black finish contributes to the overall aesthetics, and make the unit look sleek and modern.
The tool can also provide decent performance. The generous six-gallon air tank, and the motor that has 1.5 HP mix well together for consistent and reliable results. The compressor is suitable to use in cold weather condition and can handle temperature as low as -24F.
The convenient panel allows you excellent control of the regulator, gauges, and connects. The maximum pressure is set at 150PSI, and it is interesting to note that the unit provides 2.8 SCFM at 90 PSI.
The amperage is fairly low with the draw of 7.5 amps, but it is not the lightest unit out there with 39 pounds in total. However, it is very versatile, and that makes it a smart investment.
Air Compressor Buying Guide
What to Consider When Buying an Air Compressor?
How Do You Plan to Use It?
It is probably the crucial question, and that is why you should ask it first. Your plans with the compressor are the primary factor and the one that should be considered throughout the entire purchasing process.
If you only plan to use the compressor occasionally in your garage, an entry-level unit is a great choice for you. It will ensure the best value for the money, and you will still be satisfied with the performance.
However, if you plan long spells of using the compressor every day, a more durable and powerful unit would probably be a smart investment.
Does Portability Matter?
The next question to consider is whether you need the compressor to be portable. You can find products that are mounted in a single location, and they are very difficult to move from there. These compressors have their advantages, but portability is not among them.
On the other hand, portable units are lighter, and you can easily move them around from one location to another. You can also choose between different levels of portability based on whether you want to move the compressor around the garage, or between job sites.
Do You Need It to Be Oil-Free?
Most air compressors use oil for lubrication and smooth operation. The advancement of technology-enabled manufacturers to make oil-free models. However, oil units remained popular, and for a good reason.
Permanent lubrication might mean improved durability (it depends on the unit). On the other hand, oil-free units are simple to maintain, which might make them a logical choice for newbie users.
What Is the Optimal Noise Level?
Air compressors tend to be noisy, especially if they are powerful. The manufacturers have recently started competing in making their units as quiet as possible. Some are doing that with more success, while others are not as successful.
Most companies will state the exact noise level in the product description. While that is a fine starting point, it may be wise to read a review or two to confirm that the tool can stick to that noise level.
Did You Consider Fuel Costs?
Two most common fuel options are electricity and gasoline. As you will read later, it ultimately comes down to your choice. However, apart from the convenience in using the compressor and versatility, you should also consider fuel costs.
The fuel costs are directly in line with the compressor strength, which is why you want them to be optimal. In other words, you need a unit that can power any tool you want, but also a unit that won’t spend more fuel than necessary.
What Size of Air Compressor Do I Need?
The short answer would be that the air compressor size depends on your needs and possibilities. Here are some factors that you can consider when choosing the desired tool:
Can it fit in the planned location? If you plan a stationary compressor, make sure it can fit in the designated place.
Will you move it around frequently?
If you need to move it around the workshop, or between job sites, a light and compact-sized unit may be a wise choice.
Which tools will you be using? A small compressor can’t power massive tools, and you don’t have to waste money on a huge one if there is no need.
What Size of Air Compressor for Air Tools Is the Best?
It is hard to give a definite answer to that question because it depends on the tool. The general rule is the bigger compressor, the better. However, it would be wise to read the instruction manual for your tool. The chances are it contains information about CFM requirements.
Go ahead and examine that for all air tools you plan to use with the compressor. Find the most demanding device, and make sure the compressor you pick can suit its demands.
A List of the Most Important Air Compressor Features and Specifications
Here is an overview of the basic specifications and features you should consider when choosing an air compressor:
- Weight – if you plan to carry it around often, you need a light unit. Otherwise, you may want a heavy compressor to improve sturdiness and stability.
- Size – size goes hand in hand with weight. The bigger units may be more suitable for heavy-duty projects, but they are not as easy to transport.
- Power – you can read the motor strength in the product’s description. These largely vary depending on your preference. For amateur users, even 0.5HP can be enough, but professionals may need 2.5HP or more.
- CFM – it is short for cubic feet per minute, and it marks the capacity range of the compressor. Once again, it depends on your preferences and expectations from the tool.
- Safety features – it is always welcome for a product to have thermal overload and other safety inclusions.
- Tank capacity – the capacity of the tank can be directly related to the pressure range, and how long you can run the unit without stopping.
- Noise level – most manufacturers will mention the exact “dB” rating their compressor achieves. The general rule is the lower the number, the lower noise level, too.
- Hose length – it can be very important, and significantly affect the versatility of the unit.
Other accessories – nailers, blowguns, and other accessories can spice up the package.
Types of Air Compressors
Let’s make an overview of the most frequently used compressor types:
- Reciprocating compressors
- Rotary screw compressors
- Rotary centrifugal compressors
You may have heard about machines that work on the principle of positive displacement. In this process, the tool increases air pressure by lowering its volume, and that is how reciprocating compressors work.
The tank of the unit captures the air inside, and that is how it achieves high pressure. A piston is moving up and down; whenever it goes down, vapor moves via the intake valve. The vapor goes into the exhaust valve and enters the condenser when the piston goes up.
Pressure in reciprocating compressors varies between 70 and 100 PSI, although it can go up to 250 PSI in some cases. The motor power varies from as little as 1 HP or as high as 50 HP.
- A versatile tool for personal and professional use
- Simple installation and maintenance
- Easy to learn how it works
- It can be noisy
- Compact-sized units can be tricky to find
Rotary Screw Compressors
Rotary screw compressors work on the same principle as the reciprocating units. Factories and other professionals often use this tool because of its impressive duty cycle. More often than not, you can expect it to operate around the clock without stopping.
Instead of pistons, you can find rotors that compress the air to ensure the unit works properly. It can use oil, but it is not necessary, which makes the maintenance process easier.
- Admirable duty cycle
- It can be very quiet
- Optimal energy efficiency
- An oil-free compressor can be more expensive
- Maintenance requires some effort
Rotary Centrifugal Compressors
Unlike the previous two, this compressor type belongs to the category of dynamic tools. They use rotating impellers to pressurize the air. These units are energy-efficient, and they can secure faster rotation that some other compressor types.
Rotary centrifugal compressors do not use any oil, and that makes them suitable for sensitive environments.
- Very reliable performance
- Excellent energy efficiency
- These compressors are mostly oil-free
- It might not be the best choice for high pressures
- It can be prone to producing vibrations
Portable VS Stationary Air Compressors
You can divide air compressors into various categories depending on the specifics that are important to you. When it comes to mobility, you can pick between stationary and portable units.
Portable Air Compressors
If you are looking for a mobile unit that you can easily move around the job site, or between locations, a portable air compressor is a right choice for your needs.
These compressors are light and compact, which makes transporting them as easy as ABC. Some even come with a carry handle. They are extremely versatile, and you can learn how to use them in minutes.
However, limited weight and size can also limit the compressor’s power. That is why you cannot expect portable air compressors to be too powerful. Regardless, most of them can do a great job for most applications, except for heavy-duty ones.
- Easy to carry and move around
- Very versatile
- It is simple to use them
- They might not be as powerful as stationary units
- Their price tag can be high
Stationary Air Compressors
A stationary air compressor is a unit that you mount in a single location, and you can’t move it around anymore. That is the only location where you can use them.
The good thing about this is that they can be incredibly powerful. That secures impressive versatility, but you also need to consider that you need to bring the tool relatively close to the compressor. Alternatively, you can buy a longer hose, but that is an additional investment.
- They can be very powerful
- You can find them at an affordable price
- They are versatile
- They are not portable
- You need to consider the length of the hose
Electric VS Gas Powered Air Compressors
When choosing the ideal air compressor for your needs, you can also consider the power source. In that category, the most common options are gas and electric-powered air compressors.
Electric Air Compressors
The majority of users, especially amateurs, resort to using electric compressors. That makes sense because the only thing you need to do is to plug the unit in a power socket and it is ready to go.
Electricity can provide a lot of power at any given time. It also ensures optimal energy efficiency, but keep in mind that your compressor is not stronger than you need it. Otherwise, your utility bill will be higher than you expected.
It is vital to note that you shouldn’t use extension cords for your and tool’s safety. If you need extra length, invest in another hose.
- Easy to use and suitable for beginners
- Extremely versatile
- Most of them have great energy efficiency
- Some may lead to high utility bills
- It is not safe to use extension cords
Gas Air Compressors
Did you know that gas-powered units use gasoline as their fuel source? That is important to clarify so that you don’t think you need natural gas or propane.
Gasoline can secure a lot of power, and it is suitable to use on the go. Even in the locations where electricity is not available, these units can work.
Availability and portability are the primary benefits of these compressors, but you can also expect them to pack a decent punch as long as you choose the right units. On the downside, they can be noisy, and it is a hassle to set everything up. Regardless, gasoline remains a viable option when you can’t consider electricity.
- Suitable to use when electricity is unavailable
- They are usually very portable
- You can expect them to be fairly strong
- It requires effort to buy and mount gasoline
- They can be noisy
Air Compressors for Personal Use VS Professional
Most manufacturers won’t say that openly, but many of them design units for personal or professional use. Let’s take a look at what the difference is between the two.
Personal Use Air Compressors
Do you only plan to use an air compressor around your home? In that case, you will probably work on light-duty projects, and you need a unit you can rely on at all times. That is why a personal air compressor is usually portable, light, and compact-sized.
These tools are simple to set up, and you can learn how to operate them in seconds. They might not pack a lot of power, but they still provide decent performance. They are easy to move around, which means they are helpful whenever and wherever you need them.
- Affordable cost
- Easy to set up and operate
- Reliable performance
- They might not be a great choice for heavy-duty work
- Not as powerful as professional compressors
Professional Use Air Compressors
A professional-grade compressor must pack an adequate amount of power to fit in that category. These units are both strong and durable, and they are long-lasting investments.
You will probably use these compressors all the time, including when you need a tool for heavy-duty projects. That is why professional units are big and heavy, and that sturdiness and reliability is the reason why they can be costly.
- They pack an extra amount of power
- Incredibly versatile and suitable for heavy-duty projects
- Long-lasting and very durable
- They can be pricey
- Usually heavier and bigger than personal units
Features of the Best Air Compressor for Home Use
Are you a DIY enthusiast that has big plans with an air compressor, but not that much experience in using one? In that case, you want to start slow. Find a product that is easy to set up and operate first.
Next, keep in mind you do not have to splash your cash on the most expensive air compressor out there, especially if you only plan to work on light-duty projects. A light and portable unit might also be a smart choice so that you can move it around effortlessly.
Finally, the gasoline takes a lot of effort to set up as fuel, which is why home users prefer electric-powered air compressors. As for the strength, analyze the tool you want to power with the compressor and pay attention that the CFM provided by the compressor is at a suitable level.
Best Air Compressor Brands
You will often find claims that the brand of the tool is incredibly important for its quality and durability. While you may get lucky with an unknown brand, the truth is that only choosing the most reputable companies out there is a guarantee of reliable performance. Take a look at the air compressor brands that currently rule the market.
The history of Makita starts in 1915, but they haven’t manufactured air compressors at the time. The company started with electric motors, but it quickly expanded to other markets. A century later, they have branches in eight countries, and a total of eight plants.
It matters even more that Makita’s products are used everywhere around the globe. The customers trust them, and the exceptional durability, generous warranty, and reliable support are the reason for that. Apart from air compressors, you can find various types of power tools ranging from polishing and measuring to woodworking and metalworking. The company also offers outdoor power equipment of excellent quality.
Can you believe that Porter-Cable was officially established in 1906? They haven’t hesitated to strive for innovation, but their primary focus always remained reliability and quality. It is the reason why they manage to stay on the market for so long.
The company manufactures a wide range of power tools, including but not limited to circular and chop saws, and other woodworking and metalworking tools. They offer a warranty on their products, and you can easily register each item you buy on their website. Their support service is also admirable with manuals and other documentation publicly available on the website.
The history of Senco started with the innovative project of its founder Albert Juilfs. He designed a device that reduced vibration in automobiles, and that was a great success in 1935. More than eight decades later, Senco has developed into a company that designs different power tools and accessories.
Air compressors are an important part of that portfolio, but you can also find staplers, nailers, and screw systems. Combo kits and accessories round up the rich selection available on their website. The company offers a warranty and simple product registration, and a professional support team is at your disposal at all times.
California Air Tools
California Air Tools is another US-based company specializing in manufacturing air compressors. If you take a look at their timeline, you will realize they were founded in 2002. However, CAT managed to gather an experienced and skilled team of engineers that designed exceptional products.
That enabled the company to position itself among the market leaders quickly. They are still based in San Diego, but they are proud that they have a factory opened in Mexico, too. CAT’s products are known for reliability, and they take pride in treating each customer equally and going the extra mile to keep all of them happy.
FAQs & Answers
- Q: What is an air compressor?
A: An air compressor is a mechanical tool that can compress air. It is powered by electricity, gas, or any other form of energy. The unit uses that power to pressurize air and secure energy for various tools. The working process varies depending on the compressor type, but they all aim to compress air into a tank and boost the pressure that way.
- Q: What are the major benefits of air compressors?
A: If you could still use some convincing, here is a quick list of advantages of using an air compressor:
- Easy to learn and use the tool – it will only take a couple of minutes to figure out how everything works.
- No need to use internal motors to power tools – instead, you can easily power different tools with a single air compressor.
- Long-lasting and versatile units – most air compressors are very durable and versatile. You can use them to pump tires, blow debris, and in many other purposes.
- Q: How often should I change the oil on my compressor?
A: If you are using an oil-based compressor, it is advised to change the oil every couple of months. However, the exact details vary from one unit to another. That is why you should consult the product manual for precise maintenance information.
Here’s what to look for if you want to buy the best angle grinder.
The search for the best air compressor might not be a short one. You have dozens of factors to consider, but we hope that our guide explained how to cover everything. The only thing you need to ensure is that the compressor fits your preference.
If you read one of our air compressor reviews and think that’s the unit for you, the chances are you will be right. However, there is no reason why you shouldn’t take your time choosing a tool that perfectly suits you. We can only hope that our article helped and that you have now improved your knowledge level when it comes to air compressors!