Best Air Compressors Reviewed and Tested
Air compressors have varying shapes and sizes and are useful tools for inflating car tires, powering pneumatic tools such as nail guns and sprayers as well as constructing or renovating houses. Your choice of a good air compressor needs to be determined by the projects or tasks you intend to carry out. Portable, compact and lightweight units are perfect for everyday use around the house while larger ones with larger tanks and more powerful motors are ideal for medium to high-duty tasks on the construction site. Despite such differences, all the units featured on our list are lightweight and compact yet offer remarkably high performance.
Our Top 3 Picks
Criteria for Selecting the Best Air Compressors
The more portable an air compressor, the less effort you will be using to cart or transport it from one location to another without necessarily using too much energy. It goes without saying that tools that feature a compact and lightweight design are easy to carry about compared to their heavier and bulkier counterparts. Even then, heavier air compressors come with base wheels.
Apart from portability, the other most important consideration is the performance of your preferred air compressor. Since there is a high likelihood that you will be using the air compressor to power other tools such as nail guns, you need to ensure the unit has the right Standard Cubic Feet per Minute rating. A majority of smaller air-powered appliances have an SCFM requirement of between one and five. Industrial-grade appliances, on the other hand, will need at least 10 SCFM to operate properly. Consequently, you have to take all these factors into consideration and get an air compressor that will sufficiently meet the pressure requirements for all your tools. There are air compressors with an extra universal coupler enabling you to operate two or more devices simultaneously.
The size of the air compressor’s tank has a significant bearing on its suitability for small, medium, or heavy-duty projects. The more gallons of air a tank can accommodate, the better will be its performance since it will be able to generate higher pressures. For heavy-duty applications, an air compressor with a higher Pounds per Square Inch and a bigger tank will be more suitable, even though they lack the portability of smaller units.
Air compressors are either equipped with lube-free or oil-lubricated pumps depending on, among other factors, their intended use. The advantage of oil-lubricated air compressors is that they operate at relatively low temperatures and therefore quickly reach optimal performance. On the other hand, you will have to put up with messy oil disposal and regular maintenance. Light or medium-duty operations can easily be completed using lube-free air compressors with a tank capacity of between 2 and 6 gallons of air volume. On the other hand, in case you are searching for a unit with an ability to deliver high pressure suitable for performing more demanding on-site tasks, you should consider buying a stationary air compressor. While you will be sacrificing portability, you’ll end up with an air compressor factory-fitted with a mighty motor and a correspondingly large tank with a capacity of between 60 and 80 gallons.
Pounds per Square Inch
Overlooking the significance of pounds per square inch (PSI) can be detrimental to the successful completion of your projects. You will spend substantially less time to refilling an air compressor with a higher PSI and even complete more demanding on-site jobs a lot quicker.
10 Best Air Compressors
1. Porter-Cable C2002-WK
The Porter-Cable C2002-WK, for instance, comes with a tank capable of delivering a surprising 150 pounds per square inch, which is quite convenient as it allows you a considerably protracted running time for your nail guns and sprayers. The air compressor furthermore comes with a surprisingly high Standard Cubic Feet per Minute (SCFM) of 2.5 at 90 Pounds per Square Inch. The implication of these readings is that while using the air compressor, you will only have to wait for a few seconds, if not immediately, before fully recovering air and pressure lost while pumping. Having been certified per ISO1217, you should rest assured the values provided here are authentic and are an accurate reflection of the exceptional and top-notch performance of the compressor.
It has a pancake-style tank that can comfortably hold an incredible six gallons. Such a big tank size comes with serious stability issues, which is why Porter-Cable rubberized the feet of the air compressor to provide greater stability. Draining excess water is an easy endeavour as there is factory-installed water drain valve that greatly simplifies the entire process. The air compressor has a powerful cable running at 120-Volts and a low-amp and has no difficulties starting even in the coldest of temperatures.
It comes with an extension cord for boosting portability, making it possible to use in various settings. To make the tool even more convenient, the pump does not require oiling as offers lube-free operation. Consequently, your operation will not be messy since there is no need for maintenance, thereby considerably extending the shelf-life of the compressor. The tool is further equipped with a useful console cover handle that covers and protects delicate internal and external components from damage. In the meantime, the air compressor has a compact and lightweight design for easy relocation from one place to another.
Comes with an impressive 150 PSI offering longer runtime
Lightweight and low profile design
Powerful 120-Volt motor
Shroud protected internal components
Occasional leaking of release nozzle
2. Makita MAC700
It packs an endless list of efficient and functional features. However, the one feature that creates a vast difference between this tool and other air compressors and pneumatic gears offered by other brands is its competence at delivering greater displacement at significantly lower rotations per minute. Additionally, the Makita MAC700 comes equipped with a pump featuring an all-cast-iron construction for durability as well as cylinders and pistons for exceptional performance.
In spite of its industrial-grade construction, the main drawback of the Makita MAC700 air compressor is that it does not offer a lube-free operation since its pump has to be oil lubricated every once a while to ensure a smooth operation. Nevertheless, the minor drawback is offset by the manufacturer’s provision of a limited 12-month warranty and 90-day money back guarantee so you can continue using it without any worries. The industrial-strength build of the pump coupled with its durability will make even the toughest applications look like a piece of cake, allowing you to finish a lot quicker and without using too much effort.
Big bore cylinder for quick recovery
Low rotations per minute for optimal operating temperature
Oil-lubricated pump for protracted shelf-life
Powerful low-amp motor
3. Senco PC1010
The Senco PC1010 includes a tank that has the capacity to hold one gallon, enabling it to run consistently for several hours without requiring a refill. Consequently, it's ideal for performing a broad range of tasks such as renovating and improving homes and other buildings, particularly as it powers nail guns and paint sprayers with exceptional ease. Several users also indicate that while running at 0.5 horsepower, the Senco PC1010 can be safely used to perform even the most delicate arts and crafts projects among other related endeavours.
The offers unprecedented convenience to its users. Because the air compressor comes with a lube-free pump, there is no need worrying about the cumbersome and stressful process of oil disposal or creating a mess when using oil to lubricate the tool. It's equipped with a cylinder constructed entirely out of aluminium, which means it is as durable and rugged as aluminium itself and will provide you with years and years of reliable and consistently high performance.
The Senco PC1010 has its fair share of performance limitations. The tool is notably not ideal for more demanding projects such as constructing houses or manufacturing electronic devices since these jobs require tanks that can hold at least six gallons. A gallon, on the other hand, is perfect for carrying out residential and non-commercials projects. Nevertheless, hobbyists and Do-It-Yourselfers will appreciate the efficiency brought about by its direct drive motor. Similarly, the Senco PC1010 has an impressive recovery time of just 35 seconds, and an ability to start pumping up in just 128 seconds.
The fact that the Senco PC1010 Air Compressor includes a a 12-month limited warranty is a reflection of the manufacturer’s confidence in the performance and durability of its products.
Lightweight at only 20 pounds
Remarkably quiet operation
Compact hence easy to store
Not ideal for heavy-duty operations
Not very powerful compressor
4. Makita MAC2400
It offers you smooth and flawless performance that closely rivals those of top model air compressors. To begin with, the air compressor comes a factory-installed pump whose heat-treatment and the fact that it is oil-lubricated means it always maintains a cool temperature to guarantee you remarkable performance throughout. Oil lubrication also significantly reduces the likelihood of the pump overheating even with hours and hours of continuous use. Hence, you are guaranteed a long and stress-free runtime whether you will be powering your nail gun or jackhammer, spraying paint, or most commonly, inflating your tires before hitting the road. Nevertheless, we have to reiterate that the Makita MAC2400 is only ideal for light-weight applications and can only be used occasionally for medium or more demanding tasks. Consistently using the air compressor to perform heavy-duty projects will lead to a drastic decline in performance capabilities and subsequently wear and tear.
In all, it has a powerful 2.5 HP motor and an oil-lubricated pump that is ideal for performing light-duty projects. A transparent glass window is included to help you keep track of the oil's status without using a dipstick, thereby reducing the effort and time it typically takes to maintain the tool.
An all-iron and roll-cage type construction for durability
Steady supply of air for prolonged use
Low RPM hence less noise
Lack of portability
5. CAT-6310 by California Air Tools
The wheelbarrow shape helps lots with portability, giving you an incredibly easy time transporting the air compressor from a particular location to another. The air compressor has a tank with a maximum gallon carrying capacity of 6.3, which when full, brings the total weight of the air compressor to just 49 pounds.
The main difference between the CAT-6310 and Senco PC1010, despite being a best-seller, is its motor's ability to consistently run at one horsepower under all circumstances. As a matter of fact, California Air Tools CAT-6310 air compressor has a motor that reaches optimal performance at two horsepower meaning that it is twice as powerful as the Senco PC1010.
Low rotations per minute for low-level noise
Lightweight and compact design allowing for easy carting
Oil-free dump increasing efficiency, durability and easy maintenance
Poor wheel design
Regulator has difficulties stabilizing
6. DeWalt DWFP55126
Very few air compressors have motors that share the efficiency of DeWalt’s, allowing you an easy and quick start even when the weather is freezing cold. The design of the air compressor also allows you to use extension cords. Even though it has quite a powerful motor, it produces tolerable levels of noise at just 75.5 decibels meaning that there is no possibility of you losing hearing sensitivity or going deaf even with hours of everyday use. Since it comes with a factory-installed high flow regular, it is capable of offering superior air tool performance without breaking a sweat. The feet of the air compressor are additionally equipped with rubber covers to make them more stable and in the process keep you safe from suffering any injuries.
To summarize, the DeWalt DWFP55126 Air compressor offers exceptional performance with its easy to refill and drain cylinder. With a remarkable 165 pounds per square inch, you will be able to perform a multitude of tasks with extraordinary ease. Also, DeWalt is a brand name that is known for its high-quality and top performing products. The DeWalt DWFP55126 is, therefore, your safest bet.
Lube-free operation makes for easy maintenance
Large tank with 6-gallon capacity for interrupted supply of air
Compact design saving storage space
Efficient motor that starts in the coldest of weathers
7. Porter-Cable CMB15
It comes together with a twenty-five feet coil hose as well as an eight piece accessory kit to help give first-time users an easy time getting accustomed to the air compressor. This does not, however, mean that the unit is complex and requires prior knowledge to figure it out. The accessory kit is supposed to help you save on costs. The components of the unit are covered with a 12-month warranty from the day of purchase to give you a piece of mind while using this air compressor, plus with proper use, you may not have to use the warranty at all as the components are constructed from commercial-grade materials. With time, however, and owing to the consequences of wear and tear, you may want to purchase higher quality components to retain the exceptional performance of the Porter-Cable CMB15.
Ergonomic handle and long cord for easy portability
Smooth start in cold weather
12-month manufacturer warranty
Not ideal for heavy-duty tasks
8. Campbell Hausfeld FP209499
It provides you with a maximum of 110 Pounds per Square Inch of air pressure, and you can adjust the pressure to suit your tasks. And as far as Standard Cubic Feet per Minute is concerned, the unit has a rating of not more than one SCFM. With these specifications, it will take a little longer to fully inflate your tires. Also, you cannot use the unit to power heavy-duty air-powered tool as a majority of them need between 4 and 6 Cubic Feet Per Minute of air volume for optimal performance. One CFM is however enough to operate various nail guns and staplers.
The only major drawback of the air compressor, which is not necessarily a deal breaker, is its 3-gallon capacity tank. You will experience a longer recovery time thereby exposing you to a lot of noise. As a result, it would be wise to invest in ear protectors if you intend to use the unit for extended periods at a time. The drawback is nevertheless easily offset by the unit's compact and lightweight design, measuring just 7.87 x 15.74 x 19.58 and with a weight of 19.6 pounds. With these measurements, you know there will be no problems carting or transporting the air compressor around the job site, and it only occupies a small percentage of your storage space.
Very durable and portable
Offers exceptional reliability and dependability
Not enough power for heavy-duty tasks
9. CAT-10020 by California Air Tools
Like the majority of products that California Air Tools makes, it offers you an "Ultra Quiet" and "Oil-Free" operation for that stress-free and productive operation. At its optimal performance, the air compressor only produces a maximum of 70 decibels which people of all ages consider to be a tolerable range. With noise levels at 70 decibels, the air compressor is very unlikely to cause you loss of hearing sensitivity, thereby giving you a piece of mind for prolonged use. The only obvious resemblance between this air compressor and Makita MAC700 is the two-horsepower motor.
The CAT-10020 air compressor would not be complete without its no-load start, that to the inclusion of the Easy Start Valve. The amp the air compressor requires to start is significantly less compared to other air compressors we have reviewed and test. The CAT-10020 needs just 14-amps to start.
It is a well-known fact among refrigerator owners that constantly tripping the breaker or frequent power outages can adversely affect the normal operation of the motor, which is why a low-amp draw is needed in safeguarding your air compressor against low voltage drops. This is not the case with it as it perfectly combines soft operation and exceptional air pressure action.
Quick recovery time
Robust and high-quality construction
Poorly constructed rubber grip
10. Bostitch BTFP02011
It has a tank measuring 14-inches in diameter and weighs just 33 pounds. The unit also comes with an ergonomically designed handle at the top that considerably reduces the amount of energy you will be using to cart the air compressor around the job site. There is also an on-off control expediently located to the right of the handle, allowing you to reach it quickly. Furthermore, all the important controls are located on the right side of the tank, such as the tank pressure gauge, regulator, and safety valve. There is also a plastic shroud surrounding the control panel in a way that protects the delicate internal components from destructive external objects. Setting your preferred pressure is an easy and quick endeavour following the considered placement of the regulator. Another strength of the Bostitch BTFP02011 Air Compressor is that it has large dials allowing you to take readings without straining.
It takes it 2-1/2-minutes to completely fill-up its 6-gallon tank while running at 150 Pounds per Square Inch. It is trivial paying attention to the pumping-up time since you can do a lot with a full tank without requiring frequent refills. A restart is only necessary when pressure reduces to below 120 Pounds per Square Inch and because the air compressor takes just 25 seconds to refill, you contend with much less noise. Besides, with a decibel rating of 80, you will be working in a relatively quiet environment also considering that at 90 Pounds per Square Inch, the Bostitch BTFP02011 has a pumping speed of approximately 2,700 rotations per minute (RPM). So quiet is the operation of the air compressor that if you only use the unit for a few minutes every once a while it would be inconsequential to use air protectors.
In summary, itcombines several essential features such as a quite operation, a sufficiently big tank, and a speedy recovery time, to make it one of the air compressor worth paying serious attention to. Additionally, it is ideal for both small and heavy-duty on-site tasks.
6-gallon tank with high pressure
Lightweight and portable
Easy start in adverse weather conditions
Short recovery duration
Need for more power
Q: Why do I need an air compressor?
A: Air compressors are ideal for giving your projects a professional finish and for powering a majority of pneumatic tools such as nail guns. They are also capable of powering commercial-grade jackhammers with exceptional ease, provided you pick a powerful one, with a powerful motor and high cubic feet per minute of air volume. Lastly, a majority of individuals use an air compressor to inflate their car tires and to finish the most delicate arts and crafts projects.
Q: Is a higher horsepower rating really necessary?
A: The power produced by the air compressor’s motor is measured in horsepower. The implication of a higher horsepower rating is a shorter recovery time as the unit will be efficiently pumping air to refill its tank. Nevertheless, and we cannot stress this enough, a higher horsepower rating does not automatically translate to better or faster performance for your nail gun or sprayer. In case you want your appliances to performer better, you will have to take CFM and PSI ratings into consideration.
Q: Between a large and a small air compressor, which one is more suitable?
A: There are portable air compressors, and there are stationary air compressor. They come with their fair share of advantages and disadvantages. By their nature, small units feature a compact and lightweight design, making them easy to move from place to place. Conversely, large air compressors are considerably heavier and bulkier, but have wheels, allowing for easy carting and transportation. While the former is ideal for light-duty projects such as inflating car tires and powering pneumatic tools, the latter have more powerful motors, and bigger tanks and therefore better suited for heavy-duty applications such as house renovation and construction.
Choosing the most suitable air compressor is obviously a daunting and difficult process, requiring that you take several factors into consideration before finally settling on one. Unfamiliarity with the air compressor terminologies and technicalities only complicates the exercise not to mention that it’s equally difficult predicting your future needs. Nevertheless, the whole exercise should be guided by your current needs, specifically, the amount of power and pressure you need. Our list should ease your predicament as it features the best, most cost-efficient, and high performing in the market currently. Happy shopping!