There is a science to picking which air compressor is a good fit for your task, and hopefully this guide will steer you in the right direction. A loud air compressor will not fare well in a home environment, especially compared to the ultra-quiet ones available today; however, a smaller air compressor won’t be well suited for a large contract job.
The strengths and weaknesses are plentiful for all models on the list, but there are so many great air compressors on the market that it becomes that much harder to choose a bad one. If well taken care of, any of the reviewed air compressors will last a very long time. Take your time looking through this list and read our detailed air compressor reviews and you should find the best compressor for your need.
Air Compressors Comparison
Dewalt DWFP55130 Heavy Duty 200 PSI
- 3.0 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI pump
- 2.5 gallon tank
- 200 max PSI ; Pump Speed 2,300 rpm
- Low 71.5 dB
Dewalt DWFP55126 6 Gallon 165 PSI
- 165 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank
- Power Supply 120V, 60Hz, 10 amps
- SCFM @ 40 PSI 3.7 scfm
- 75.5 dBA noise level
Porter Cable PCFP02003 3.5 Gallon
- 2.0 SCFM delivered @ 90 PSI pump
- 3.5 gallon tank
- 135 max PSI
- Low Amp 120V motor
Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412
- 5-Horsepower Honda OHC/OHV
- 155 PSI max pressure
- Horsepower: 5.0
Porter Cable CMB15 150 PSI
- 2.0 SCFM at 90 psi
- 1.5 gal tank
- 150 psi max tank pressure
- Low Amp 120V motor
Senco PC1010 1 Horsepower Peak ½
- 1/2 horsepower running
- One-gallon capacity
- Delivers 20 to 44 drives per minute
- One-year warranty
Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP
- 1,720 RPM pump
- 2 HP, 115V
- Cast iron pump with big bore cylinder and piston
- One-year manufacturer\\\'s warranty
Top 10 Best Air Compressors in 2020
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 10 Best Air Compressors in 2020
- 1.1 Dewalt DWFP55130 Heavy Duty 200 PSI
- 1.2 Dewalt DWFP55126 6 Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
- 1.3 Porter Cable PCFP02003 3.5 Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor
- 1.4 Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412
- 1.5 Porter Cable CMB15 150 PSI 1.5 Gallon Oil Free Fully Shrouded Compressor
- 1.6 Senco PC1010 1 Horsepower Peak ½
- 1.7 Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP All In Compressor
- 1.8 Bostitch BTFP72646 3 Tool Compressor Combo Kit
- 1.9 California Air Tools CAT – 10020 Ultra Quiet and Oil
- 1.10 Porter Cable C2002 WK Oil Free UMC Pancake Compressor with 13 Piece Accessory Kit
- 1.11 California Air Tools CAT- 6310
- 2 Buying An Air Compressor
- 3 Best Air Compressor Brands
- 4 Popular Air Compressor Types
- 5 Choosing the Perfect Air Compressor
- 6 Best Air Compressor Comparison Chart
- 7 Summary
Dewalt DWFP55130 Heavy Duty 200 PSI
Roughly in the middle of the price range is the Dewalt DWFP55130 air compressor from the famed and trusted DeWalt brand might be one of the best air compressor for the money. This is an oil-free design with a motor that draws on 12 amps and has a gentle startup to avoid tripping the breaker. It’s pretty quiet at only 71.5 decibels and is optimized for maintenance-free operation. The 90-PSI pump delivers 3.0 SCFM with a 2.5-gallon tank and a maximum PSI of 200. All of these features are combined in a small 36-pound compressor that can be carried by hand, and is thin enough at 12.5 inches to be stored in small places. The design is composed of standard DeWalt yellow and black, so for brand fans this would go perfectly with their other DeWalt tools and accessories. Even at the current compact size, the recovery time is impressive and they even included a ball drain valve for quick draining.
As expected with a unit of this size, it is a bit low-power and can’t even be relied on to run at the recommended specs consistently. With the reduction in power, users can expect certain applications to be more problematic, if not completely disastrous, if used for a bigger job. This is a compact, efficient when not overused, air compressor made for small to medium jobs. There have also been complaints of overheating with the unit, although a slight cool down period fixes the issue. One of the rare missteps for the company is not including a hose with the unit, which first time buyers may find frustrating. This is still an awesome unit to have, especially due to its portability.
Dewalt DWFP55126 6 Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
DeWalt stakes out another spot on the list with the DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor, a low-priced 30-pound unit with a couple of interesting features. As the second electric compressor on the list, it is listed as another compact unit but packs quite the punch despite its size. It has the ability to start up easily in cold weather or with the use of an extension cord application if needed. dBA tops out at 75.5, but given its size, there are a lot of performance gains in this model. This is a very easy-to-maintain unit that offers just about twice the power of many units the same size. With the inclusion of two universal couplers, multiple users can work with the unit at the same time. In the event where the unit needs to be repaired, the console cover is easily removed.
There may be some confusion with how to break in the unit, as this newer model doesn’t require the similar break-in ritual that the same older models do. This really is a slight oversight on DeWalt’s part and nothing major, because using the older break-in method will not damage the unit but actually help it. This air compressor fills up very quickly and is easy to drain. It’s marketed as portable and definitely is that, but is slightly more bulky than what would be considered a portable model. Drainage is not a pain like in other models and is one of the better aspects of the device. Considering the PSI of the unit, it will fare well in a variety of applications without being a big burden on the user. DeWalt has proven it stands by the quality of its devices, and in the event something goes wrong with this product, it will be one of the easiest returns you’ll experience from a big company.
If you are looking for the 60 gallon air compressor, then you should consider the model DXCMV5076055 by DeWalt.
Porter Cable PCFP02003 3.5 Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor
As one of the lowest priced air compressors on the list, the PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor is also one of the lightest, weighing only 26 pounds. The size and shape work very well together and make it easy to both carry and store. Even though it is only 135 PSI, the quick recovery time more than makes up for that. With a humming low amp 120v motor, it’s quite an impressive little machine that requires low maintenance and puts out good power. Like all the other air compressors listed, it is an oil-free pump that will guarantee a longer life and less hassle. Even in cold weather, the startup won’t be a problem in the worst of conditions. The two gauges and quick-connect coupler are some of the more premium features of this small but capable unit.
It’s also one of the noisiest on the list, with an 82 dBA level that is far from quiet. There are no accessories included with the unit, so for first-time air compressor buyers there will be some extra costs. The lower cost is based on the parts of the unit, being that they are not of very high quality and are prone to breaking sooner, particularly the plastic in the manifold that helps to hold the pressure. Unfortunately, that part especially, if it breaks, can’t be replaced. The warranty is not iron clad and there may be some back and forth when trying to take advantage of it. There are some DIY fixes online for users savvy enough to follow that should circumvent this problem, and it is highly recommended that all buyers check out this information before purchasing. This is still a great product for anyone looking for an air compressor, especially if well taken care of.
Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412
The Honda engine continues to amaze, and this time Industrial Air Contractor is to thank. Their high priced four-gallon air compressor uses patented technology to extend the life of the pump. A longer pump life also means that the overall product is likely to last longer than competitors. Portability is enhanced using the pontoon style, with the two tanks equally distributing weight for easy carry access. You won’t have any issues with power, since 155 PSI is more than enough for heavy duty tasks. When paired with the 5.0 horsepower engine, it is a formidable duo. With all of this power, this air compressor remains low maintenance by using an oil free design. The result is a smoother operation, less noise and better experience when using multiple tools. Quick connect tips take away the hassle of switching tools, while the two-year limited warranty will cover major components. If you’re looking for a product that won’t let you down, then this air compressor from Industrial Air Contractor is a great buy.
- 2 two-gallon tanks for a total of four gallons
- Patented two-piece cooling system
- Pontoon style makes it great for industrial setups
- 0 HP Honda motor to handle difficult tasks
- Enough power to handle two high performance tools at once
- Light enough for one person to carry (weighs less than 100 pounds)
- Handles changes in pressure without causing too much of a delay in power delivery
Porter Cable CMB15 150 PSI 1.5 Gallon Oil Free Fully Shrouded Compressor
This second offering from is the Porter-Cable CMB15 150 which is another low-priced and compact model that’s a bit more powerful than their first. Recovery time is kept to a minimum with a rated 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI, with longer run times guaranteed with the max 150 PSI. The large 1.5-gallon tank only weighs the unit down to a good 20 pounds, making this one of the lightest on the list. The water drain valve is easy to access, with nice additions like the rubber feet helping with the overall appearance. The unit has a similar 120v motor like the previously mentioned air compressor, and it works just as good in cold weather conditions. The noise level at 79 dBA is tolerable, but could be a bit distracting depending on the environment.
Thankfully for buyers new to air compressors, the included accessory list includes a 25-foot coil hose and 8-piece accessory kit. This will definitely save on some cost and user frustration. A pretty good one-year warranty will cover compressor components, and even though the parts are not of the highest quality, this is still a pretty well-built unit. The accessories, however, suffer from being low grade. In the near future, a purchase of higher quality accessories may be necessary to maintain full functionality. And as silly as it sounds, the cord wrap is very intuitive and actually works like it is supposed to. A minor feature that usually works against some of the air compressors on this reviews list is actually done very well in this case. This is surprisingly one of the better compressors on the list, even if it is lacking on some functions of the higher priced ones.
Senco PC1010 1 Horsepower Peak ½
With all of the low-priced compressors on the list, this 20-pound Senco doesn’t oversell itself as being anything than it really is. Meant for small jobs and hobbies, it’s not only portable but extremely quiet at 73 dBA. It’s 1 full horsepower at its peak and, while running, ½ horsepower to get the job done. The oil-less motor with electric design promises 125 PSI max pressure, with the ability to go from 0–120 in only 128 seconds. That’s one of the faster performing models on the list, all capable through the 4 amps running at 115 volts. The accessories included are a ¼ quick disconnect coupler, individual gauges for the tank, and regulated output pressure. A 1-year warranty should give most buyers a warm feeling of assurance, as it seems well backed.
Once again, this is a lot quieter than the other air compressors on the list, especially the pancake models. This could possibly be due to it having a lower air volume, as it can’t keep up with anything too demanding. The lack of power in this model keeps it from being a go-to compressor for most people, even with a fast fill up time. There will be a lot of times where the lack of power outweighs the fact that it is an ultra-portable unit. As a secondary compressor for certain jobs, this Senco does wonders, and there are few complaints about its durability or problems with hoses. Long-term use may degrade the foam around the handle that is used to carry it, but due to the light weight, it really isn’t a major issue. The craftsmanship on this unit is impeccable and it will do the job well if used correctly.
Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP All In Compressor
This powerful mid-priced air compressor has a cast iron pump with big bore cylinder and pistons, a combination that, when in motion, gives great performance gains over longer periods of time. Despite that it more than doubles the power of the Senco, the large 1,720 RPM pump is still just as quiet and enables max performance even at lower RPM. Premature motor failure won’t be a big concern due to the low amp draw reducing tripped breakers and voltage drops. The one-year included warranty will most likely not be taken advantage of, as the design of the unit is made with a cooler running pump that takes care of the unit over the years. The 2.6 gallon tank is labeled for 130 PSI with a pretty hefty unit weight of 52 pounds. The standard ¼-inch universal quick coupler is included and easy to use.
The manual that comes included with the unit is not for beginners, and is missing a lot of important steps. First-time air compressor owners will have trouble setting up the unit for the first time, and in frustration, may miss some very vital steps in getting it to perform correctly. This is listed as compact, but it actually is more in the mid-range at over 50 pounds. Refill time is extremely quick at about 20 seconds, so it does have its strengths still. The power is really unbelievable in the size that it comes in, still, and there are only a few on the list that are this efficient. That said, it still isn’t powerful enough to handle certain tasks. It will keep up for the most part, but it’s still very much a compact air compressor with the makeup of a larger air compressor. A very worthy buy for certain jobs, and it should last a very long time.
Bostitch BTFP72646 3 Tool Compressor Combo Kit
The Bostitch BTFP72646 comes with a 6-gallon tank with easy drainage due to a ball type drain valve. It is high-priced but well worth it, and it comes with a straight nailer, brad nailer, and crown stapler, all in one package. A maintenance-free oil-free pump is used very well for efficiency reasons with this model, and the unit allows quick reloading with a bottom-loading feature and an indicator to let users know when it needs to be reloaded. This heavy-duty compressor has a dBA rating of 80, but is so well built that it isn’t that much louder than some of the compacts on the list. The durability is tested and ready, featuring an impact-resistant composite shroud to protect it from the worst damage.
The included tools are not limited to using Bostitch brand nails or staplers, which is a big plus for anyone with a supply of their own from a different brand. For buyers who already have these tools, this unit is overpriced as it isn’t any more powerful than some of the other air compressors on the list and lacks some of the more advanced functions. The way this is packaged is definitely meant for a beginner, and doesn’t really offer any benefit to other buyers other than uniformity. And as great as the air compressor unit is, the included tools don’t share the same quality. There will be power and durability issues associated with the tools, and in some cases it may be hit or miss. For the rare all-in-one unit, this is still a killer product for the beginner who wants to get started. There aren’t many air compressor units on the market that come in a set like this one.
California Air Tools CAT – 10020 Ultra Quiet and Oil
At a huge 10 gallons with a strong 2 HP motor, this is one of the highest priced compressors on the list and also one of the sturdiest, and on wheels to boot. It amazingly remains one of the more quiet models at 70 dBA, even though it is nowhere near as portable as others. The easy start valve gives the unit a no-load start with a low start-up amp draw. With only 14 amps, it can be up and running in no time without straining the power. The motor operates smoothly and quietly at 1680 RPM, making sure the unit lasts for years. Even at empty, the entire 10-gallon tank fills in less than 130 seconds, a feat unmatched on this list at the current size. Two ¼-inch quick release connectors allow simultaneous use of tools and the unit is powerful enough to use larger air tools, unlike some of the smaller units on the list.
For such a beast of a machine, the warranty is a disappointing 1-year limited that will not cover most of the important parts. This can be a bit frustrating, as this unit is made for heavy-duty work and will be used a lot more than smaller compact compressors. The unit is huge at 91 pounds and very bulky. There may be some storage or transport issues, even with the wheels. It is about 31 inches tall, so depending on where users want to store it, the height can definitely be a problem. The wheels can possibly be a problem depending on the amount of use and frequent tightening and loosening will be needed in order to reach job satisfaction. Whether or not this is a quality buy depends solely on which feature is more important: power or portability.
Porter Cable C2002 WK Oil Free UMC Pancake Compressor with 13 Piece Accessory Kit
As the last pancake air compressor on the list, this is a mid-priced unit with a 150 max PSI for longer running times. This user-friendly model has an air coupler and plug that’s factory installed on the air hose, allowing for ease of use for any buyer. A water drain valve is included on the 6-gallon tank, and it operates with a low 120 volt motor that works smoothly even in adverse conditions.
Great care went into crafting the oil-free pump, resulting in a unit that will last for years. Vital components are protected through the current design and will prove useful in hard-working conditions. Although the induction motor gives good power and extended life, it is still compact enough to run off of normal household outlets. The replaceable brushes in the motor are an overlooked feature that extends life of the unit longer, and is a great feature for those looking for a one-and-done solution.
Of the 13 accessories include, there is a 25-foot nylon hose, a blow gun and configurable attachments, tire chuck, tire gauge, quick coupler, plugs, and Teflon tape. It is a very good kit that is in no way gimmicky with quality parts and accessories. The main unit is only 34 pounds and is easy to carry and store in the garage or any small space. There have been several reports about breaking in the device before use, so mileage may vary. Actual instructions on how to break it in are not included in the manual, so it is up to the buyer to decide if they want to break in the unit. This is a powerful and fantastic compact air compressor that is ideal for anyone looking for a long-lasting solution.
California Air Tools CAT- 6310
Coming in around the mid to high price range is the California Air Tools CAT 6310. This is a good, quiet air compressor for anyone looking for a long-term solution for their home. This model is a very quiet 60 decibels, only weighs 49 pounds, and is very easy to transport. The oil-free design is designed to save the consumer money in the long run, and rivals the most innovative products in the industry. The motor is pretty solid and rated at 1 HP running with a 2-HP peak in its 6.3-gallon horizontal steel tank. There is a lot of room and HP all wrapped into its wheeled frame, and all at a comfortable price. If used as a portable air compressor, there is a good chance it will impress other buyers who are in the market for one. As a 110-volt electric powered model, it’s not too weak and has a lot of great features. The limited 1-year warranty does a decent job of protecting the consumer from bad or failing parts from overuse.
This model works well when applied to smaller products like air dusters, nail guns, and light spraying appliances. For something of the heavier variety, there’ll definitely be some struggle. But as a portable electronic unit, the California Air Tools does an impeccable job of being one of the quietest on the list and still getting some pretty good work done under the current ampage. One downside is the surprisingly bad smell when in use, which one wouldn’t expect from an electric unit. The aroma is pretty heavy, and although there is no cause for concern, if it’s used indoors it can be pretty unbearable for people nearby. The refill time is also a bit high, but then again it is not the most powerful unit on the list and made for portability. This is still a handy portable air compressor to have, and hopefully more will be made in the same line.
Buying An Air Compressor
PSI or pounds per square inch is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing an air compressor. The higher the PSI, the less time you have to wait for the tank to refill. Higher PSI air compressors also handle bigger jobs better and faster. A good example would be using an air compressor to fill up the tires on a trailer. An air compressor that meets or exceeds the total PSI for all four tires would be more desirable than one that needed to refill partway, especially if away from an outlet. But PSI isn’t the end all and be all when it comes to air compressors, especially considering the tank size.
A high PSI won’t really matter much if the recharge time is quick, but if the tank that is being refilled is very small then the machine runs the risk of running out of power before the job is complete and will need to be recharged again. This is a waste of energy and puts unnecessary wear and tear on the actual unit. The PSI is more significant when it is used professionally or for big jobs. This is due to the amount of people that may be using it. For smaller units that are not multi-user capable, a low PSI is a passable option. But for bigger units that are multi-user compatible, a low PSI can lead to more work stoppages than required.
That’s why professionals opt for units with high a PSI and large tanks as opposed to smaller and easier-to-carry units. People that hire contractors should be wary of companies that use low-PSI units, which will automatically lead to longer project times and more money out of your pocket. A low-PSI unit with a small tank is considered an under-performer for larger jobs and should automatically disqualify whatever contractor you had in mind. A high-PSI unit is good for both the contractor and the client to ensure the job gets done fast, efficiently, and on time. There should be no delays from the machine recharging an unnecessary amount of times just to jack the bill up. In the professional world, when it comes to PSI, either go big or go home.
Smaller units with a respectably high-PSI tend to work better when they’re compact and able to be carried. These are home and away units, great for small jobs. So even though the tank is smaller, the high PSI means you spend less time waiting for it to recharge. These portable units excel when used with power tools that drain a lot of energy. It’s inconvenient to break out the bigger air compressor, so these small, high-PSI units pack just enough punch to get smaller jobs done without lugging around a hundred-pound unit.
Some of the improvements to modern units even extend what is considered normal PSI, or rather, relegates the power more efficiently. And if you look hard enough for the right unit you’ll find smaller units that are capable of handling medium-sized jobs with no problem. It is all about finding the complete package when looking at high-PSI units. Buyers will want to do their homework from the ground up when it comes to PSI, since this feature can’t be upgraded; you either have the power or you don’t. And the last thing you want to do is spend your money on a unit that is too weak for your needs.
Also, since most of the models on this list are electric, the larger the PSI when away from an outlet then the more efficient your work will be. There are a lot of smaller air compressors that offer an outstanding PSI with some additional features that make them desirable when away from the outlet, so those are the ones to look out for. But even with a lower PSI, there are benefits to the way the unit is built that should make the buyer take a closer look. Think of a high PSI as only one of the must-have features in a unit. Although PSI is extremely important, it is not the only feature that a buyer should be looking at.
Along with the PSI, the tank size will determine whether an air compressor is suited for smaller tasks around the house, medium tasks inside and outside the home, or bigger tasks like automotive work and remodeling projects. Tanks are measured in gallons, so the higher the number, the better one because it holds more compressed air at higher pressures. A high PSI coupled with a large tank is the best combination, but as consumers are starting to shift towards smaller portable units, a balance between the two is still necessary. For larger projects, the big tank size will always be a winner, and units with large tanks usually have dual outlets for multiple simultaneous users.
It’s these large tanks with dual outlets that are considered the big winners. Some have even gone above dual outlets and offer multiple outlets to have an entire team working from it at once. But with the big tanks comes an even bigger warning, and it requires some due diligence. There are still some air compressors being sold that have a larger than average tank but low PSI. This is a marketing ploy aimed at those who don’t do their research before shopping. This cost-cutting move that offers a larger tank at the sacrifice of PSI is essentially a scam, and will leave you with a severely under-performing unit. When an air compressor runs out of juice, it has to recharge, so a higher PSI makes this process go by fast. PSI and tank size go together — you always want the PSI to be high and the tank to be large, and here’s why:
A unit with a high PSI and a small tank will need to be frequently recharged while you’re trying to work. With such a small tank it will fill up pretty fast and be ready to use, but that same small tank will prevent the machine from doing even the simplest of tasks without needing to recharge. This can be both frustrating and a waste of time depending on the project. A unit with a low PSI and a large tank is the worst combination of all, as it will give you the longest operating time but also require you to wait ages just for a recharge. So you’ll get halfway done with a project and have to wait for it to fill back up before using it again, with some units actually taking longer than normal if the PSI is really lacking. There is a reason they both go together, so think of them as a duo that can’t be separated. Always prioritize PSI and tank size when you can so that your money is well spent.
When working on something big, multiple outlets are a great feature and usually won’t be found in units with a smaller tank. Some of the bigger tanks also have the option of replacing the brush in the motor, prolonging its usefulness. When deciding between a big or small tank, always remember that you can’t go back. Same goes when looking at the PSI of a machine and deciding whether it is a worthy buy or not. No one wants to wait around instead of working because it ruins the rhythm of the job. And when it comes to multiple users, missing out on a game-changing feature when you need it can lead to some real purchase regret.
Just make sure that the multi-user tank you buy can handle the heavy load you plan to put on it. Everything from top to bottom should be high quality, otherwise even the machine’s best features are nothing but marketing. Sticking to a reputable brand will usually keep you from buying a bad performing tank, but that doesn’t mean you should stick to only brand-named items. There are more than a few gems out there from non-brand names that are worth looking at. This purchase is going to make a big difference to the efficiency of a small job or the recharge times for bigger jobs.
The noise of the unit will be a big concern not only for hobbyists, but also to professional workers. The dBA indicates just how loud the unit is when in operation, and in many cases, the bigger units are no louder than the smaller compact units. Pay close attention to not just the dBA of a unit, but how it is built. Units with low dBA that are poorly built will be just as loud as an 80 dBA unit that is built well. In situations where a construction worker is doing a project for a family that is still in the home, a low dBA unit can really go a long way for customer satisfaction.
In fact it is home projects where a quiet air compressor can really make a difference. Even if the family isn’t in the home while the project is taking place, there is still a lot of factors to consider. Neighbors may not be too happy living next to a loud project, especially if they have infants in the home. Just the general disturbance of construction work in a neighborhood can invite unwanted attention, so layering a loud unit on top of that can lead to a bad situation. When working in a small neighborhood, having a quiet unit is respectful to everyone around. Of course there is no such thing as a completely noiseless air compressor, but when you’re running it for up to 8 hours a day, ensuring that yours doesn’t get louder than the average lawnmower will keep you on everyone’s good side.
When you have a quieter unit, it’s possible to use it without the people in the next room even hearing it. A good unit is so quiet that a user can listen to the radio or talk on the phone with minimal interruption. These types of units are an excellent choice for projects taking place within the home. A unit that is smaller isn’t automatically quiet, but it goes without saying that a lighter, portable unit that’s compatible with smaller jobs is going to be a lot quieter than the bigger ones. It’s still a good idea to check the box and make sure, since there are still some smaller units that tend to make a lot of noise regardless of their power consumption. But a unit that is quiet enough to let you do other things while in the home is one that all buyers should have on hand. You never know when you’ll need to use an air compressor for a small job around the house, and the last thing you want to do is lug around something that will disturb everyone else.
So is there a good way to ensure a quiet purchase? There are two foolproof ways, one starting with looking at the box and aiming for the lowest dBA possible, and the next is by looking up user video reviews and listening to it being used. A unit with low dBA may have an irritating grinding noise that is worse than the actual noise it is muffling. Then by comparison, another unit may have no noise at all but with impacted performance. At one point, there was even a switch on some units that allowed you to switch between high performance and quiet mode. Manufacturers have since found a sweet spot between the two, and the older units that had this switch have been phased out. Today’s units do a good job of prioritizing power while minimizing noise, but once again it’s important to watch a video or two to see if the low dBA claims hold true. And if anyone is telling you that an air compressor is noiseless, make sure to look elsewhere because they simply don’t exist. There’s never going to be an ultra-quiet unit developed in our lifetime to the point where you hear nothing, but you can always take precautions to make sure it is as quiet as possible for your particular needs.
No one wants to drag around a 90-pound air compressor up a couple of flight of stairs, even if it has wheels. This is where it can get a bit complex, and depends completely on what the user is going to use the unit for most frequently. If the project requires a lot of power, then normally a larger unit would be required. Larger units tend to have a lot more features and you can bank on them having a larger tank and high PSI numbers. They are built to be powerhouses, and it is almost standard for the larger units to have a multi-user interface.
They also have a sturdy cage to protect the tank and control panel — important for keeping the vital parts of the unit safe. Units like these are mainly used by professionals and contractors. They provide the exact kind of power needed to handle a job of this magnitude, and the least important feature with them is dBA. The heavier ones will always be a bit loud, and you can definitely expect a vibration or two. These heavy air compressors are meant to work hard and fast and provide all of the necessary tools to get the job done right. If by chanced you break the wheels on the unit, they are easy and inexpensive to replace.
But if the work site requires a lot of traveling, especially up a flight of stairs, then the larger unit is not the best option. This is where smaller units come in and of course the lesser weight comes with its own pros and cons. Smaller air compressors are used mostly in homes where personal projects take place. They are a lot less noisy than their larger counterparts, but on the downside, the tanks are almost twice as small. On the plus side, the PSI is usually high, so when looking at a unit that is small and lightweight, make sure to get one with a high PSI and a decent sized tank. They are not made to handle a huge amount of work at once, and if you get lucky, you can nail a smaller unit that has a multi-user interface. They are hard to find, but worth every penny when you do! But home use is not the only time these units are bought, as a lot of small and large companies put them to good use. If the air compressor needs to be used in multiple places for a project, then having only a few large air compressors would be a problem.
Smaller, portable, and decently powered units would work better in this case. Granted a smaller air compressor won’t have a lot of the power needed for sustained activity leading to more refill time, it is still a better solution in this case because it can be carried anywhere on site by hand. The smaller 30-pound or lighter unit is also easy to store and in some cases has some of the same features as a larger unit, like the simultaneous users or quick-release valve. They are also handy for when larger companies are working in a busy office environment and don’t want to disturb the work day too much. A good company always has a mix of heavy and light air compressors at hand to be prepared for any situation that comes its way.
Weight can be a deciding factor on how to choose and air compressor for some, but shouldn’t get top priority. Factor in who will be using it most often and in what locations. Most people will be fine with one or the other. And if you have to make a decision between the two, go with the smaller unit — just make sure you get a top-of-the-line unit that’s light so you retain a lot of the harder-to-find features of a larger unit. Taking time to make the proper decision in the beginning can go a long way to avoiding frustration down the road.
Some of the air compressors on the list come with standard accessories and manuals: there is one on the list that comes with the unit and the manual, but nothing more; another that comes with a set of three tools to get you started; and lastly, one that contains a complete hose and connection set, eliminating the need to source extra pieces. It’s important to try to avoid purchasing extra items after buying your air compressor.
From the accessories mentioned above, you’ll notice that there is no standard list of accessories for air compressors. Other than the main unit itself, there are usually very little extras that come with it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Pumping a product with a lot of accessories is a way to inflate the price, and currently there is very little inflation when it comes to air compressors. With a what-you-see-is-what-you-get methodology, they are sold with everything the customer could need right out of the box, without the fluff. About the only thing you should expect is the instruction manual and warranty information.
Now, for those air compressor units that do come with accessories, the question is: are they worth considering over a comparable model? That depends on many factors, starting with price. If the unit you want with accessories is over a hundred dollars more than a similar unit without, ask yourself if the accessories by themselves are worth that extra hundred. Most of the time, you can buy what you want separately for the same price or less. So unless it’s for the convenience factor, don’t go out of your way to find an air compressor with included accessories. Of course there will be those customers that want everything in one box, and there will also be workers that have an emergency job to finish and need to meet a deadline. Without having to factor either one of those in, it just isn’t worth making a priority.
On the plus side, if you purchase a unit that functions as a ‘starter’ kit then the included accessories will be covered under the same warranty as the air compressor they came with. That’s a huge plus if you have a good warranty to start out with, and puts you far ahead of the game if something breaks. Once again, it speaks to the convenience factor for people that just can’t be bothered buying things separately. Having an all-inclusive warranty is a nice bonus, but be wary of coverage with the included accessories. Some brands include completely different coverage for the accessories than they do for the main unit, and it can come as a nasty surprise at the last minute if something breaks.
Air compressor warranties will always be longer than the accessories they’re bundled with, so look at the fine print as the accessories will either be equal to or shorter than the main warranty. If you want to get extra special coverage with your materials, try buying all of them from one brand and they may give you a decent discount. This is, of course, at the sales representative’s discretion, but companies do love loyal customers that buy up a lot of product. Show a preference for a brand and it will pay off when you really need it.
No one wants to buy an air compressor and a couple of add-on gadgets if they don’t have to. Units that come with extra accessories are usually worth the extra cost, as they go a long way in avoiding the frustration of extra purchases in the future. For units that contain actual tools, however, users that already have them in their set should probably avoid them. Having an extra staple or nail gun is not worth an extra fifty to a hundred dollars on top of the original asking price. And a bare-bones unit with just the manual is more suited for a user that is replacing a broken unit. Even adding something like a paint sprayer might be something worth looking into if you are planning on some home projects.
Best Air Compressors for The Money
With all the great air compressors available, getting the most value for your money is even harder when you’re overwhelmed with options. Going through this list will help to decipher which of these units share similar features, and which few killer features are unique to a certain model. Take your time and you’ll be sure to come up with the best air compressor for your money.
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What to Look For In Home-Based Air Compressors
For customers looking to purchase an air compressor primarily for home use, the choice is pretty easy compared to other types. For small to mid-size homes, getting a unit with low dBA is essential in keeping the family happy. This means the big powerhouse units will be out of reach for people in this category, but it also means you can look into getting small units with a large tank since portability won’t be an issue. Small units with large tanks will let you handle a good range of projects anywhere in the house without disturbing the inhabitants. And if you opt for a small unit with a small tank, storage becomes a non-issue as it can be stored anywhere in the house that you want. As long as the ultimate priority goes into making sure the noise level is low, then your purchase will always be put to good use.
For large homes, things can get a little more industrial, depending on what type of work you want to do. This means that dBA is no longer an issue and you can use the same type of equipment that professionals use. Large land owners with a lot of acres lean towards units with lots of multi-user support and big tanks. But at this point, it is purely preference, as an elderly couple with a big house and lots of stairs will probably want a portable unit that can be carried by hand. All sized units are great for large homes, and it will come down to the individual user and the type of projects they plan on doing. In some cases, it may even be smart to purchase two small units rather than one big one.
When dealing with any home-based unit that is electrical, always factor in how long the included cord is and where the outlet will be. A foot or two could make all the difference between frustration and success. Cord length is one of those things that’s not talked about in-depth since it pales in comparison to the other important things to consider when getting an air compressor. But there is value in knowing the limits of the machine you’re bringing into your home, and it may curb your decision in buying one brand over another. And if all else fails, there is the trusty extension cord from the nearest hardware store that can bridge the gap a bit.
Home air compressors should be pretty easy once you figure out your area. But when it goes beyond that, you have to get a little more creative in your choices. Yes, you can use home air compressors outside of the house, but you’d also be inviting another element into your purchasing decision. At this point, it’s time to move on to the next section, compare notes, and see where your buying decision stands afterwards. You’ll be surprised with how much it changes (or not) when a few extra details are thrown in.
What to Look For In Work-Based Air Compressors
Now this is where things start to get a little complicated. Air compressors for contractors, professionals, and companies all have their little quirks. And depending on the specific job, requirements can change on the fly. Getting the correct air compressor in the hands of a professional will come down to how many they plan on buying!
For a lone contractor that does professional work, a portable air compressor with a large tank is suitable, or a big air compressor depending on the job. For roofing work, a portable unit would be more beneficial, while doing flooring work would steer the contractor more towards a large unit that can sustain power. This is where the question comes in about whether it is wise to own two units, and the answer is yes. A small portable unit for quick jobs that don’t require a lot of power, and a large beastly unit for projects that will take hours per day.
Professional contractors with a small team will look more for units that have multi-user features on them. This will knock out the amount of time it takes to finish a specific project and will also make it easier to coordinate tasks between people. Since it is a small team, the portable unit won’t be an option unless in an emergency, or when purchasing multiple portable units for each team member to use. A small or large air compressor is suitable for professional contractors, with a lot of preference going to brand names just for reliability.
Professional companies that do large scale work will either buy up multiple small units to complement their larger units or work exclusively with large units. High PSI, large tanks, wheels, a complex control panel, and a multi-user interface are all requirements when dealing with professional companies. There is a lot of work to get done in these instances and the small units just won’t do the trick, nor will the portable ones. You can always count on these companies to stick to big brands and use models that are fresh off the assembly line. Because large companies like this only use the best, many customers look at what they use in order to influence their own buying decision. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you can get a good word about the small backup units a company uses. Whatever brand or model they swear by, some even have a contract with the company that licenses them to use the product.
Work-based air compressors are a completely different animal than the ones used at home, and for good reason. That doesn’t mean you should base all of your home buying decisions on what the big wigs are using. However, if you’re in doubt about a specific brand, there is no better way to get insight than by looking at what the professionals use.
What to Look For In Portable Air Compressors
There is more to portable air compressors than being light and easy to carry. Out of all the air compressor types, the portable models are the ones that innovate the fastest. Because of this, there’s a high demand from consumers that want a portable air compressor in their arsenal, even if it is just for emergency purposes. Companies have taken notice and are pushing out some of the best models of portable air compressors in years.
PSI is no longer an issue when dealing with portable air compressors. In the past, the PSI used to be pitiful and the small tanks would even be worse. Now portable tanks and PSI power are better than average and you can get a good amount of work done with a smaller unit. Another way to look at is in terms of efficiency. The mechanics of the portable unit are set up so that they give you the most out of a work session before needing to recharge, and all without the added weight. They strike a perfect balance between working and recharging.
And then there is weight, which was mentioned before. These little units are so light that they can be carried by hand up and down the stairs without a problem. There are even units so small they can fit inside a glove box! Little innovations like this make them perfect for storing in unconventional places until you really need them.
Multi-user support is rare, and only available in a few models. Be careful even with the brand names, since in practice it is still a new feature for units this small. Even when using simple hand tools, a multi-user portable unit can run out pretty fast. So even though it is a nice feature to have on board, it’s definitely not a game-changer in any sense of the word.
Then of course there are the tankless air compressors that are filling in the market in the portable section. Now this is part of the innovation that was talked about before, with the tankless design being the biggest it’s been in years. Tankless models are the reason that some portable air compressors can fit in the glove box. With the major pros of these models being weight, size, and convenience, there are strong cons to their power and features. When looking for a tankless unit, consider it an option only if you are looking for extreme portability as a priority over anything else. These air compressors without tanks are awesome, yet they are not intended for even low-level everyday use. They are also self-contained for the most part, so are incredibly handy in an emergency.
Everyone should have a portable air compressor in their possession along with their regular compressor and they are ideal to have for tire inflation as well. Even if it is something small like a tankless design, they are still a handy and inexpensive option when you need something done in a hurry. And if this new no-tank design starts to pump out the same power as even the lowest of the small units, then the entire market will be turned on its head for the better!
Best Air Compressor Brands
Figuring out the best air compressor brands for each person is a tricky business, since each consumer has different needs. While some individuals want air compressors backed by strong style, gallon capacity, or brand, others may want top-rated models by reputation. There are a few brands that truly stand out on the market. Here’s a list of the top air compressor brands currently available.
Senco puts out quality hot dog and gas compressor units, offering great compressors that are highly portable and easy to transport between various locations. While running, their smaller generators typically deliver half horsepower to a full unit at peak capacity. The tank holds one gallon and that makes this a highly portable, easily refillable unit.
Senco has released a number of reliable renovation and home improvement compressors, especially for putting in plenty of power to your paint sprayer or home nailer. You can also do smaller crafts and artistic projects around the home with Senco’s generators, such as the PC1010. For each minute, you will get 20-44 drives, depending on how many applications you’re using and which tool you have connected to it. Senco’s compressors use lube free pumps, so you don’t need to worry about oil.
Another top air compressor brand is Makita, which puts out 2 HP air compressors — among other models as well. One of their most popular is the MAC700. This is a consistent, reliable compressor with a great motor. This is definitely an industrial application compressor, including oil lubricant for cooler running and lower amp draws to reduce breaker tripping and voltage reduction.
Makita compressors also seem to be significantly quieter. Their Big Bore model is among the most popular, offering lower RPM and greater displacement – and thus, it’s one of the best pneumatic powering models available. Makita includes one-year warranties and great stroke/bore for their units. This is one company you can go to repeatedly for the best air compressors available.
PORTER-CABLE puts out a lot of great models for their air compressor selection, with one of the most popular being the C2002-WK pancake. This is a very portable brand of compressor and includes tank pressure of close to 150 PSI. This is great for sprayer tools and nailers. It also runs at roughly 2.5 cfm at 90psi. Thus, when you use the compressor, you’ll quickly recover air and pressure that is lost.
Additional perks of PORTER-CABLE units include the fact that they prevent leaks and seriously save effort through coupling and plugs that come factory-built in to the air hose. So you won’t have to get someone else to install these devices. It has a six gallon tank and helpful rubber feet to improve stability, as well as water drain valves that add convenience for draining PORTER-CABLE units. The compact design and portability of these models makes them a great choice for any compressor usage.
California Air Tools
California Air Tools is one of the longest running air compressor brands, putting out a number of industrial grade compressors that are also very quiet. They are portable and rugged, providing reduced maintenance thanks to oil free pumps. Their larger models pack a whopping 10 gallons of fuel storage, which is plenty to get you through a full day on the construction site or for simple home usage.
Perks of California Air Tools models include their easy start valve technology as well as fairly low starting amp draw — at just fourteen amps. You definitely want lower amp draws so that if low voltage drops occur, you are protected.
Industrial Air Contractor
Industrial Air Contractor is another popular compressor brand. Including a 4-gallon direct drive capability with a Honda engine installed, this is one of the best gas powered compressor companies out there. With its powerful motor, this is an excellent brand to choose for stronger applications.
Dewalt is one other company that puts out really good air compressors with a powerful reputation. Their smaller DWFP55130 unit is a great indoor compressor, with 2.5-gallon capacity with max 200 PSI pressure. This is a smaller, compact compressor, which is also quite lightweight and portable. You can definitely tote this one around the house for odd jobs you need to finish.
Backed by reputation, customer reviews, and a long-standing history of delivering great compressors, these brands have proven themselves multiple times over. If you’re looking for the best air compressor brands to buy from, these are just a few to take a look at.
Popular Air Compressor Types
There are a number of different air compressors available, with each style and type being useful for different applications. Depending on the amount of air you need, the rate of PSI and CFM, the price, noise, and other features, you’ll want to choose the best type of compressor for your needs. Here is a quick run down on the various styles of air compressors.
Pancake Air Compressors
Extremely small and pancake shaped, pancake air compressors don’t need much maintenance at all. They are extremely light and have a tank volume that typically ranges from one to six gallons. The tanks themselves are very low profile in design so that they can easily be transported from one location to the next. They also have oil free pumps which makes them excellent for tire inflation projects. However, they don’t have the same power of their larger counterparts, so they aren’t going to be able to run major equipment.
Typically, pancake compressors have anywhere from 1-2.0 SCFM, and range between about 15-30 pounds. They are definitely portable and easy to use. They are great for cold weather because they have low amp motors that are reliable and very quiet.
For filling tires and doing small projects around the house, pancake compressors are an excellent choice. Several models such as those from Porter-Cable have hoses, Teflon tape, and various types of nozzles that ship with them, making them excellent for small tasks.
Hot Dog Air Compressors
For hobbyists and folks doing crafts around the house, hot dog compressors are typically the most popular type of unit. They are a little bit bigger and slightly heavier than pancake models, but equally low maintenance. They are slightly louder, but still not as loud as industrial strength air compressors. Being typically maintenance free and portable, these units are excellent for nailing, airbrushing, or stapling jobs. They also include gauges and thermal overload functionality, and are easy to store in your car or truck. Their delivery ranges from 0.5-2 CFM at 90 or 40 PSI depending on how much air you are putting out. The tank holds about 2-3 gallons, typically, and their horsepower may be anywhere from 1/3-1 HP.
Twin Style Air Compressor
With double air tanks stacked on each other, twin style compressors are similar to hot dog style compressors, but with two tanks instead of just one. They are fairly portable but might need two people to carry them. They are more powerful due to their 2-tank configuration, making them good for powering nail and brad guns.
Wheelbarrow Style Air Compressors
With a tank that is positioned right along the compressor itself, wheelbarrow compressors are not that different from pontoon compressors and have heavy, powerful motors. These types of compressors are typically best for heavy duty projects. They can be pulled over tougher terrain without being damaged, and are quite reliable and sturdy.
Often made from heavy-duty materials like cast iron, these compressors can inflate, frame, finish, or repair objects on the construction site or around the house. They usually have wheels so that you can tote them around. You can find HP ranging from 1-2 HP, and they have both electric and gas powered versions. One example, the Rolair 5715K17, has a 9 gallon air tank and a 780 RPMG pump, so it is quite powerful. The Dewalt air compressor is another popular choice for wheelbarrow compressors and features a cast iron valve plate.
The last type on our list are stationary air compressors and you can read more about those in our stationary air compressor guide.
Twin stack air compressors are definitely more expensive than pancake compressors, but they do feature 2 outflow connects and wheels as well. If you are just going to use your compressor in the garage, a pancake compressor is probably best. However, if you intend to use the compressor for professional jobs, or are going to have a nail and staple gun, a twin stack compressor is generally better.
Oil Free vs Oiled and CFM Considerations
Other considerations include the CFM and oil free vs. oiled. Oiled compressors, which are usually found in heavier models, will have more CFM because they are made for running continuously. However, oil free compressors are quite easy to use and maintain, regardless of your specific skill level. You can get by quite well with an oil free version if you are just going to be using your compressor around the house.
Choosing the Perfect Air Compressor
It can be difficult to choose an air compressor for your home if you’re new to buying this appliance. Each air compressor comes with a variety of features, made to cover a numerous amount of applications. To figure out which one is best for your specific air supply, be sure to educate yourself as much as possible. Here’s a guide on how to buy the best air compressor this year.
Determine Your Needs
First, it’s critical to figure out exactly how you’ll be using your air tools. will your compressor be used for industrial applications, to power machinery on the construction site, or simply around the house for simple home appliance repair such as impact wrenches or even smaller tools like a good air sander? Will you be powering caulk guns or tire inflators? For example, if you plan to use the compressor at an industrial site, you’ll likely want a unit that has a piston compressor and a tank. But if you just want to use it around the house, a portable unit without a tank might be best.
Think about pressure and volume needs for your compressor. Heavy duty compressors need more pressure, and thus more volume as well. Getting a compressor that isn’t large enough for your needs will mean constantly having to wait for the tank to get full again, which takes your efficiency level down. And, for example, if you plan to use the unit for airbrushing applications, you would look for a 5-liter tank with 30 psi worth of air pressure over a sustained amount of time.
Piston VS Portable
The two main types of air compressors are piston type and portable. Piston compressors have motors that build air pressure as they become depleted, and store air in the tank. Portable compressors, on the other hand, have no tanks and just run all the time to deliver air.
Piston compressors have 2 main varieties: single stage and two stage. The single stage version pumps out about 150 psi while the 2 stage version has 2 pistons, each which delivers pretty much constant air pressure, with 200 psi. Single stage compressors are generally used for heavy-duty uses at the house. So if you are buying a unit to be used in your home, pick this kind.
Air Compressor Specs
Be sure to identify the compressors horsepower, CFM, and portability. The horsepower of the air compressor will typically range between 1.5 and 6.5 HP. You can also find greater horsepower but those types of compressors are usually used in industrial settings. For smaller uses, you can get by with less horsepower.
Consider the CFM – or cubic feet per minute – as well. FM is the consideration of how much volume is flowing through the unit. Of course, CFM is depending on the compressor’s psi, so you will need to consider standard CFM, which is measured as 14.5 PSIA. Then, add 30% as a safety buffer to get your maximum CFM usage.
As an example, if you were using a grease gun, a nailer, and a sander at the same time, you would add all the CFM usage of these devices to get your max CFM needs. The grease gun runs about 4 CFM, the nailer about 2, and the sander about 11 — all at 90 psi. This gives you a total of 17 CFM.
Finally, think about space and portability for your compressor. Some are smaller, and some are bigger and have more power. You’ll want to be sure that wherever you store the unit, it can be out of the way and not take up too much space in your garage.
There are electric, gas powered, oil free, and pancake/hotdog types of air compressors. Electric are standard compressors that run between 100-120 volts in the home. Gas powered are best for job sites and industrial use, while oil free models are a bit harder to service but also lower in cost for household compression. The pancake or hotdog compressor is small and light, usually having just one tank and lower CFM. These are good for smaller jobs where you just need to inflate a few tires in your home.
Best Air Compressor Comparison Chart
|Air Compressor||Brand||PSI||Power Source||Rating|
|CAT-6310||California Air Tools||N/A||electric-powered||4.5|
Make an informed decision based on the information in this overview of the best air compressors available in 2020, and stick to it. There isn’t a single bad item on our air compressor reviews list. That says a lot about the quality of the market — one that continues to grow in favor of the electronic model. Although, because of power issues, it will never completely replace the gas models, electronic air compressors are here to stay and are the models of the future. The quieter models are definitely on the top of many lists online, with videos showcasing just how quiet they are compared to their gas counterparts. With fast refill times, the lack of power is sometimes tolerable enough to withstand buying a smaller, less-powerful unit. There are some trusted brand names on the list, but even the lesser-known names have made outstanding products designed to run for years.