Best Portable Air Compressors of 2017 – Top Picks & Reviews

air compressorIt’s perhaps stating the obvious to say that the job of an air compressor is to compress air! Air compressors come in all sorts of styles and sizes but this comprehensive guide will focus on the best portable air compressor. The portable air compressor can typically be moved by hand. It can be used to supply air to heavy tools at building sites and in roadside situations. Driven by a diesel engine, they don’t require any electricity. The air compressor you choose really depends on how much air you need and the level of pressure required.

MODELPRODUCT DIMENSIONSITEM WEIGHTUSER RATINGPRICE
Makita MAC2400 Big Bore
Makita MAC2400 Big Bore
20 x 18 x 18.8 inches81 pounds4.6/5$$$$$
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California Air Tools 5510SE
California Air Tools 5510SE
23 x 10 x 19 inches

54 pounds



4.6/5


$$$$
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DeWalt DWFP55126
DeWalt DWFP55126
17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1 inches
32.2 pounds


4.6/5


$$$
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Porter-Cable C2002
Porter-Cable C2002
19 x 19 x 18 inches

32.1 pounds

4.5/5

$
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VIAIR 90P Portable Compressor
12 x 7.5 x 5 inches

6.7 pounds

4.5/5

$$
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Why should you buy a portable air compressor? First of all, if you have any interest in DIY, a portable air compressor will make your home repairs so much easier. You can speed up the process of many things such as using your nail gun and even spray painting. Not only can you save time with a portable air compressor, you can also save money since they can help you perform small car repairs from changing an oil filter to performing a tune-up – no need for a mechanic! With a portable air compressor you can save time, money and a whole lot of effort as tasks become an awful lot easier. What’s not to like?


Best Portable Air Compressors of 2017

If you’re unsure as to which portable air compressor can help you get the job done, worry not. We’ve created a handy list of portable air compressor reviews in order to help you narrow down the options. Make sure you read beyond our detailed reviews for various tips and hints to help guide you to your final decision. Within a few minutes you’ll have a much better idea about which portable air compressor is best for you and your needs. Without any further ado, let’s get started!

1. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore – Our Top Pick!

Equipped with the Big Bore engineered pump cylinder and piston of Makita, the Makita MAC2400 offers industrial power and overall excellent performance. The powerful 2.5HP motor provides excellent productivity and noise is reduced thanks to the oil-lubricated pump which runs at just 1,730 RPM. This also increases the pump’s overall durability. Noise is further reduced by the rubber feet which help absorb vibrations.

The MAC2400 is made of cast iron which means it’s durable enough to withstand its fair share of bumps and scrapes on the busiest of construction sites. The roll-cage shape of this air compressor makes it particularly portable as well as offering additional protection. A handle on the top of the compressor makes it much easier to pick up and move around when needed.

However it is worth noting that this portable air compressor is made of metal and thus is on the heavier side at 77lbs. Overall this is the best portable air compressor on the market. It’s powerful yet surprisingly quiet and the quality cast iron construction means it’s very durable. This means that there is a slight compromise in portability due to its weight, but a handle and rubber feet are welcome additions.

Pros

  • Quality, durable construction
  • Small size
  • Very quiet

Cons

  • It’s on the heavy side

2. Porter-Cable C2002 – Best for the Money

Porter-Cable C2002One of the first things you’ll notice about the Porter-Cable C2002 is its unique pancake style tank which offers optimal stability. The induction motor of this particular portable air compressor provides improved performance as well as an extended life. From filling tires to firing a nailer, this air compressor is ideal. It has a steel construction as well as a shroud and console cover, providing vital protection to its components.

Overall this is a well-built unit with a handle on the top, making it much easier to move around. In fact, the weight of the C2002 is just 30lbs. One of the best things about this air compressor is the 13 piece accessory kit which includes a nylon hose, blow gun, tire gauge and much more.

This is a unit that has easy setup and its small size and light weight make it particularly portable. Perhaps the main disadvantage of the Porter-Cable C2002 is that is loud though there are louder air compressors on the market. More air can be stored in the tank thanks to the 150 psi max tank pressure. This means longer tool run times. Overall it’s a great portable air compressor, particularly for light to medium use. It’s the best portable air compressor for the money thanks to its great price and excellent quality offered.

Pros

  • Small size
  • Lightweight
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Very noisy

3. VIAIR 90P Portable Compressor – Best for Car Tires

VIAIR 90P Portable CompressorThe VIAIR 90P portable compressor is the best 12-volt portable air compressor. Small but powerful, it uses its maximum working pressure of 120 psi to quickly inflate tires of up to 31 inches, making it the best for car tires. This pressure can be provided for 10 minutes at a time. It’s easy to use as you simply have to connect the power leads to your car’s battery terminal.

The cables might be on the short side for those with larger vehicles but this is unlikely to be a problem for most since the cable measures 12 foot. Despite its power, the VIAIR 90P is surprisingly quiet. At 5.78lbs it’s very lightweight and also comes with a storage and carry bag for extra portability as well as various attachments. The quality metal construction of this product ensures durability while the rubber feet absorb the vibrations.

Perhaps one area in which the VIAIR 90P portable compressor lets itself down is with the gauge which doesn’t always provide the most accurate reading. For fast and efficient tire inflation, this is a great choice. It works quickly and efficiently without making much in the way of noise though the cables may prove too short for some.

Pros

  • Works quickly
  • Nice and light

Cons

  • Cables are a little short
  • Gauge isn’t always accurate

4. California Air Tools 5510SE – Ultra Quiet

California Air Tools 5510SEWith 60 decibels of sound, the California Air Tools 5510SE is certainly on the quiet side. In fact, it’s one of the quietest in the industry. This makes it ideal for environments where excessive noise is an issue (such as indoors!). Even better, no ear protection is necessary! This is down to the 1.0 HP motor which operates at 1680 RPM. The effect of this is is less noise and also less wear, increasing the overall durability.

The 5510SE has an oil-free dual piston pump system which offers excellent performance. Weighing 45 lbs, the 5.5-gallon steel air tank isn’t too heavy while the wheel kit makes this product even more portable for getting around garages and the like. Furthermore, it has two handles which make it easier to transport. It’s relatively compact and the build quality is solid.

One particularly impressive feature is how quickly the tank fills up – just 130 seconds from empty to full. It’s a good lightweight compressor for low to moderate use for filling tires and nail gunning. You won’t believe how quiet this product is and that is its biggest selling point. It’s impressive technology at a competitive price and is ideal for those who don’t want excessive noise as well as a tank that fills quickly.

Pros

  • Extremely quiet
  • Tank fills quickly

Cons

  • Bulky in comparison to many portable air compressors
  • No water separator

5. DeWalt DWFP55126 – Worth Mentioning

DeWalt DWFP55126The DeWalt DWFP55126 features a high-efficiency motor allowing it to start up easily in cold weather making it ideal for all kinds of environments. Long tool time and quick recovery are some of the obvious benefits of this product, thanks to the 165 max psi 6.0-gallon tank though some might find that this lacks a little punch. As such, it is limited to smaller tools. At just 75.5 decibels, it’s certainly on the quieter side and can be used in indoor settings, unlike some other portable air compressors.

The controls of this unit are protected by a console cover. Two universal couplers mean that the DWFP55126 can support two users at a time. The unit itself is fairly compact and at just 30 lbs it’s relatively easy to move around. This is a well-built product with well-made components and it has a convenient cord wrap which allows easy storage. Protective rubber leg covers prevent damage.

It’s particularly good for small, everyday jobs such as inflating tires. It’s generally an easy air compressor to use and it’s great that it’s not too heavy or too noisy. All in all, it’s a good all-rounder and certainly worthy of mention. Perhaps the main limitation is the 6-gallon tank which might not drive certain tools as effectively.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Small size

Cons

  • 6-gallon tank lacks power
  • Not great for painting

Portable Air Compressor Buying Guide

If you’re considering buying a portable air compressor, there are a number of things for you to consider. From the very requirements of the air tools you’re using to the horsepower the compressor provides, we’ll give you the lowdown so that you can make the right choice without having to spend too long.

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  1. Environment
    Since you’re here, we assume you’re keen to have an air compressor that is portable. But it would be remiss of us to not mention that there are of course other types of air compressors! If you work in a shop or garage and have the space you might want to consider a stationary air compressor. These tend to have higher horsepower and larger tanks for longer periods of use. Many have a vertical design which can minimize the space they take up. If you’re planning on moving around then you are best going for a portable one. So it’s all about the environment in which your air compressor will be used as well as what you will use it for.
  2. Noise
    Continuing on the theme of environment, it’s important to consider whether noise is a factor in your purchase. Make no mistake that some portable air compressors are noisy. If you’re looking for a portable air compressor that can run quietly indoors then that rules out many on the market. But there are some that have a significantly lower decibel level than others so if noise is an issue, be sure to check this out. Sometimes having less noise can compromise on the engine so it’s a good idea to try to strike a balance.
  3. Air tool requirements
    This is one of the most important factors to consider. After all, you want to make sure that your portable air compressor can keep up with you! If you need an air compressor for industrial use for heavy machinery then you’ll likely want a stationary air compressor with a tank. But if you’re simply looking for something to use around the house (powering a nail gun or inflating tires) then a portable air compressor is just what you need. You should consider the requirements of your tools such as pressure and volume before making your decision.
  4. Space and portability
    Of course, portable air compressors should indeed be portable. Yet you’d be surprised by the difference in weight from product to product. Some are as light as 7lbs and others as heavy as 70lbs! Most come with handles to make it easier when carrying them and some even come with wheel kits. It’s all down to how often you need to your air compressor and if you need it in a variety of places or simply in one place such as your garage. If you’re not planning on moving it much, make sure the hose is nice and long so you don’t have trouble reaching your car tires, for example. Just as the weight of a portable air compressor can vary dramatically, so too can the overall size. Make sure it’s a size you’re comfortable with and have space for.
  5. Style
    Connected to space and portability is the style of your air compressor. If you’re still set on a portable air compressor then it’s worth knowing that they come in a number of different styles, as reflected by those reviewed in our comprehensive guide. The main styles are as follows: pancake, pontoon, twin-stack and wheelbarrow. Pancake compressors are flat and round and take up less space. Pontoon compressors are horizontal in design with a single tank. Twin-stack compressors have two horizontal tanks that add air capacity without reducing space. Wheelbarrow compressors have twin tanks as well as wheels and handles for increased portability. There really is an air compressor for everyone!
  6. Horsepower, PSI and CFM
    The horsepower of your portable air compressor could realistically be anything from 1.5 to 6.5. Those designed for industrial use go beyond this and tend to offer a much greater psi (pounds per square inch). In general, horsepower isn’t of great concern when deciding on an air compressor for use in and around the home. But if it helps you decide between two products then so be it. With regard to PSI, most compressors provide plenty of pressure for everyday DIY tasks and the tools involved. As such, this isn’t too much of an issue though a higher max PSI does mean that a smaller tank can hold more air and perform like a bigger tank. The CFM is about how fast the compressor can supply air. You don’t want your tools using air quicker than your compressor can provide it or you’re going to be waiting around often which isn’t very productive!
  7. Power source
    If you’re able to supply your portable air compressor with electricity then one with an electric motor will do the job! But if that’s not the case, you’ll need to consider an air compressor with a gasoline engine that runs on batteries or fuel. Be sure to check the voltage that your air compressor runs on before purchase. Most run on 110V but larger ones run at 240V.

What can a portable air compressor help you do?

You probably already have an idea of what you want your portable air compressor to do. But maybe there are a few uses that you haven’t yet considered. The most obvious use for a portable air compressor is powering pneumatic tools such as nail guns. With an air compressor, you can do things such as airbrush, pressure wash, sandblast and inflate tires. A very versatile piece of equipment, an air compressor can help speed up the process, saving you valuable time.

The advantages of a portable air compressor

You’re probably already sold on the idea of a portable air compressor. But just in case, here’s a quick roundup of some of the reasons to buy one for your DIY needs:

  • Saves you time – Portable air compressors speed up the process of spraying, nailing and sanding, saving you valuable time.
  • Saves your energy – Less manual movements means fewer aches and pains! Portable air compressors really make it easier for you and your body, saving energy.
  • More professional – Using a portable compressor in the right way can improve the quality of your work, making it last longer.
  • It’s portable! – Forgive us for stating the obvious but unlike some air compressors, a portable air compressor makes life easier since you can easily get it to where it needs to be.
  • Low maintenance – Unlike a lot of equipment, air compressors don’t need extensive maintenance. Small, regular checks are enough to keep them running well.

Conclusion

Buying a portable air compressor is much like buying a car or a new computer. There are so many choices on the market that it makes sense to take your time and explore as many options as you can. Air compressors come in a range of styles and types and horsepower, noise and overall portability are important factors.

Consider everything from what you will use it for to where you will use it. With the right knowledge, your route to purchase will surely be made much easier. It should be of some help that portable air compressors have really come into their own in recent years, leading to so many excellent quality products. They’re smaller, quieter and faster than ever before. Even better, the prices have become even more competitive so there’s something to suit all levels of budget.

There are many things to consider but hopefully our reviews of portable air compressors go some way to helping you decide which portable air compressor is right for you. Portable air compressors can help save you time and energy and help you produce professional quality work. We hope this comprehensive guide to the best portable air compressors in 2017 makes your decision that little bit easier.