Best 30-Gallon Air Compressors – Top Picks & Guide 2020
Air compressors operate under a lot of pressure. Shopping online is supposed to take all the pressure off the buying process, but in reality, it often makes you feel like you’re inside an air compressor yourself.
Misleading product descriptions written by ad executives can make it hard to find a model that works well, much less to find one that’s a great deal for the money. However, we believe that it doesn’t have to be that way and that a well-informed customer can make a great decision.
Our reviews are designed to help you bridge that gap and get all the knowledge you need about each 30-gallon air compressor, including both the good and bad. That way, you can feel like you know what you’re getting before you buy. We’ve also included an extensive buyer’s guide, designed to walk you through everything you need to know about air compressors so that you can make an informed decision, even if you’ve never owned an air compressor before.
The Winners of 2020 Compared
|Best Overall||Industrial Air Compressor||
|Best Value||Campbell Hausfeld DC260000||
The 3 Best 30-Gallon Air Compressors
1. Industrial Air 30 Gallon Compressor – Best Overall
The Industrial Air ILA1883054 30 Gallon air compressor is the best 30-gallon air compressor on the market today. The best thing about this model is that it can be easily converted for 240-Volt operation, which can lead to easier starts and slightly better performance across the life of the air compressor. It also provides up to 155 PSI, which is quite good for a 30-gallon air compressor. The quick-set regulator also makes it easy to quickly set the pressure you need for your specific application.
A huge plus to this model is that it runs relatively quietly. While no air compressor could ever be reasonably called “quiet,” most people are very satisfied with this model’s performance in that area. The only real downside to this model is that it struggles in cold weather. If you live in an area where you’ll frequently be working in sub-freezing temperatures, you’ll probably be unhappy with how much his model struggles to start in those temperatures. However, for most people, this won’t be an issue, and if you’re looking for a great 30-gallon air compressor that has good performance in most temperatures and is easy to use, you’ll love this model.
2. DEWALT DXCM271 27 Gallon Air Compressor
The DEWALT DXCM271.COM 27 Gallon air compressor is another great choice for those looking for a high-capacity air compressor that won’t break the bank. This model can provide up to a whopping 200 PSI. That means this model provides about as much pressure as you could hope for on a compressor with a tank of this size. It also comes with an oil-free motor, which significantly cuts down on the amount of maintenance you have to perform and lowers the cost of operation over time. This model also has a good reputation for running relatively quietly, so it won’t wear you out in the same way other, noisier models will.
However, this model can’t be wired up to run on a 240 Volt circuit. That’s a negative relative to the top model on our list. The motor will take more wear over its lifetime because of that. However, this can be a boon if you’re going to be running multiple electric tools at once in your shop and need to keep the 240-Volt circuit open for other tools. Since this model is a bit cheaper than the top model, it’s good enough to take second place on our list.
3. Campbell Hausfeld DC260000 26-Gallon Air Compressor – Best Value
The Campbell Hausfeld DC260000 is another great air compressor sporting a 26-gallon tank. Since you can get it for about 55 percent of what you’d pay for the top models on our list, this model provides the best value for the money. In addition to its great price, this air compressor provides up to 150 PSI, giving it the pressure you need to power through most around-the-house projects. It also comes with an oil-free pump, so you won’t have to do as much maintenance, and you’ll save the money that you’d otherwise be spending on oil.
This model also comes with large, easy-to-read gauges. This is good news since a frustration that many people have with their air compressors is that the gauges are small or otherwise hard to read. Unfortunately, this model isn’t 240V compatible, which means it won’t start as smoothly as some models can. It also only has a 1.3-horsepower engine, which is weak relative to what you could expect for a compressor of this size. While it provides good pressure, it may take a while to charge up to that point. Still, if you’re looking for a good deal, this model is the one for you.
Hopefully, our reviews already have you thinking about the features that you’d like to see on your next air compressor. There are a lot of attributes to consider in this category, and we know how overwhelming this process can feel at times. If you want to make sure that you think through all relevant considerations before buying an air compressor, be sure to read through this buyer’s guide. We’ve packed it full of great general information about air compressors so that you can learn everything you need to know and make your pick as an expert would. We’ve also included some tips on getting great value for your money, so if you’re looking to score a great deal, this is the guide for you.
Note: we also have an article about “which air compressors are best with a budget under $500“.
120V vs. 240V
You may have heard that a 240V engine can lead to significant savings because it ultimately draws less power. While you may save some money installing the outlets while putting in the house, since the higher voltage allows you to use thinner copper cables, the difference isn’t that large. And, unfortunately, these machines use the same amount of power as they would if they’re wired up for 120V.
At this point, you may be wondering why someone would go to the trouble of getting a 240V machine. The answer is that the increased voltage leads to less stress on the machine at startup. All electrical appliances require extra power when starting up. At the lower voltage, the extra power takes longer to get to the engine, and it strains, trying to start, for longer. While this difference is usually measured in fractions of a second, that adds up significantly over time. If you have a 240V outlet available to use, a 240V machine should last far longer than a 120V machine treated equally well, since it takes far less stress on startup.
The downside to 240V machines is that they require a special outlet. If you’re not a trained electrician, it’s very dangerous to try and install one of these by yourself, so it could end up being an expensive addition to your purchase if you need an extra one put in place. Machines that can be wired to run on 120V or 240V are a good option if you ever need to free up your 240V outlet but still need your air compressor.
Air tank size
Not all the models on our list are 30-gallons. However, all provide more than 26 or more, and that means that you can do a lot with tools attached to these air tanks before their engines kick back on. That being said, bigger is almost always better with an air compressor. A larger tank can often hold higher PSIs, and that means you can do trickier tasks with them. It also means that you can do more of the same task. If you’re doing something heavy-duty, like framing a house or deck with a pneumatic nailer, then you’ll want an air compressor with a large tank, since driving the large nails used in construction can be very air intensive.
The downside is that larger air compressors can get very heavy. While the engine might be the same weight as on a smaller tank, expanding the size of the tank requires more metal, and leads to an increase in weight. Unfortunately, larger tanks take longer to fill, unless you’re also investing in an upgraded engine, which is likely to increase the weight as well. Bigger is better, but it’s likely to be far heavier as well.
The rate at which your air compressor refills has an impact on how much you can work without having to stop and wait on the engine to pressurize the tank. The standard measure used to describe how quickly an air compressor can refill is given in Cubic Feet per Minute, or CFM. The higher the CFM, the faster the air compressor refills.
If you think back to your science classes, you may remember that gases change size at different temperatures. Consequently, working on a hot or cold day may change your air compressor’s performance. The same goes for days with higher or lower pressure outside.
The manufacturers are aware of this fact, and so they sometimes give the refill rate in SCFM or Standard Cubic Feet per Minute. This measurement tells you how much air is added to the tank each minute when the temperature and pressure are “standard.” Standard atmospheric pressure is assumed to be 14.7 PSI, while the temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
If atmospheric conditions differ greatly from these numbers on the day on which you’re working, you can expect some differences between the promised SCFM and the rate you get, but it’s usually not too big of a difference, coming down to a matter of seconds, or less.
Oil-free pumps, or engines, have the seemingly magic property of never requiring additional oil or much maintenance. While this sounds too good to be true, the reality is much closer to the promise than you might expect. These engines are made with a sealed oil compartment. The oil is kept clean with an internal filter, and the engine components are coated in Teflon, which greatly reduces friction and allows them to go for a very long time without the oil being changed.
However, this means that once the Teflon coating is worn off, the air compressor will begin to break down. Oil-free engines also tend to be of the universal motor design, which doesn’t have the same longevity as an induction motor, which requires regular oiling. Overall, this trade-off comes down to you. You should get years of use out of your oil-free air compressor, especially if you live in an area that lacks extreme temperatures. However, you can expect well-made models that require oil to last for decades, though they do require additional maintenance and oil purchases to last that long.
Which 30-gallon air compressor is right for you?
Air compressors vary a lot from model to model, both in features and in price. Since everyone has different performance and price requirements, no one model will fit everyone’s needs. When trying to get a good deal, many people focus on spending as much as possible or as little as possible, and while those strategies have their merits, there are superior ways to get great value for your money.
It’s important to start this process by thinking through what your needs are. Consider what projects you’re likely to do in the future, and what you’ll need to be able to do to get them done efficiently. Then, figure out which features found on air compressors meet those needs, and provide a satisfying experience. Make a list of all models that meet those requirements. Then, choose the cheapest one from that list. Since it meets your needs, you’ll get a satisfying experience out of it and will like using it. Since it’s the cheapest model on your list, it’s satisfying at the best price, which makes it the best overall for your money.
The Industrial Air ILA188354 30 Gallon air compressor is our favorite model due to its great quick-set regulator, compatibility with both 120V and 240V circuits, and its relatively quiet operation. In second is the DEWALT DXCM271.COM 27 Gallon which comes with an oil-free motor, quiet operation, and up to a whopping 200 PSI, though it’s not 240V compatible. The Campbell Hausfeld DC260000 includes an oil-free motor, easy-read gauges, and provides up to 150 PSI. Since you can get it for a fraction of what you’d pay for the top models on our list, it earns the title of “best for the money.”
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you understand what makes for a great 30-gallon air compressor. You should now be able to use that information to find the model that is right for you.
Other posts you may be interested in reading:
- The Winners of 2020 Compared
- The 3 Best 30-Gallon Air Compressors
- Buyer’s Guide