If you don’t know what kind of air compressor you need, finding the model for you can be a tall order. In fact, shopping online might seem like the wrong call. You get bombarded with model after model, and stat after stat, without a way to make sense of the information.
We’ve compiled this general list of the best air compressors in the hopes that reading descriptions of different kinds of air compressors can help you identify the right one for the task you’re facing.
We show you the good and the bad with each type and model, so you can determine which ones best suit your needs. Plus, we’ve put together a buyer’s guide to consult if it’s your first time shopping for an air compressor. We tell you what you should know to evaluate these great machines.
|Senco PC1010 1-Gallon Air Compressor|
|PORTER-CABLE C2002 Portable|
|California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor|
Best Wheeled Pick
|DEWALT D55146 Hand Carry Compressor||1 Year||4.40/5|
|EPAuto 12V DC Air Compressor Pump|
Great for Car Tires
The Senco PC1010 1-Gallon Air Compressor is a good choice if you want a lightweight, highly portable air compressor. It weighs just 20 pounds, making it one of the lightest, most portable air compressors on the market. It’s not very loud, as air compressors go, so it’s a superior choice for indoor work and situations where you don’t want to bother the neighbors. This model also comes with a one-year warranty, so you know the manufacturer stands behind this product. You shouldn’t have any quality control or craftsmanship issues, but if you do, they’re covered.
This model also has an oil-less compressor. These don’t require nearly as much maintenance as their oiled brethren, so you can save a lot of time and money across the life of this machine. The only thing some people won’t like is that it has just a one-gallon tank. This is a concession made to make the machine more portable, but it means it’s not large enough for heavy-duty work. However, if you’re going to be doing light-duty tasks indoors, you’ll appreciate the quieter operation and low weight this machine provides.
All in all, this is definitely one of the best air compressors for home use in 2020.
If you’re looking for a compressor with a bit more punch for the price, you’ll love the PORTER-CABLE C2002 Portable. It has a more powerful motor and much larger tank, so you’ll be able to do more with the six gallons of air its tank can hold. It’s 11 pounds heavier than the previous model, but that provides six times the capacity, giving it an overall lower weight on a gallon-per-pound basis. It has an oil-free motor, so you’ll never have to oil this machine. Over its life, that will save you a ton of money, and it will also save you time when you use it.
Even though it has a more powerful motor and a larger tank, it costs less than the top model on our list. If you’re looking for one of the best air compressors for the money, then this model for you. You can pay a bit more to get accessories included. However, in most cases, you’d be better off buying third-party accessories, since these are of inconsistent quality. Still, this is the model to buy if you want a great deal.
If you need something bigger, but don’t want to have to lug it around, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better solution than the California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor. It has an eight-gallon tank, but it also comes with a wheel kit, so you won’t ever have to lift it on your own. The wheel kit does require some assembly, so set aside some time for that when you get this model. It also comes with an oil-free pump, which reduces the amount of required maintenance but also improves this compressor’s performance in cold weather.
The best thing about this machine is probably the amount of noise it makes. The manufacturer estimates that it only produces 60 decibels, which means it’s quiet enough that you can have a conversation with someone else while standing next to this air compressor. It’s not the most powerful compressor out there, though it is more powerful than the top two models on our list and fills relatively quickly on startup. Overall, this is easily the best wheeled model on our list, and an air compressor most people will love.
The DEWALT D55146 Hand Carry Compressor is another great wheeled model. This air compressor shines in its power. It can produce up to 225 PSI, which is more than many models of a similar size can produce. If you’re working with air-powered tools or just need more air pressure than the average user, you’ll probably be better off with this model than most of the others on our list. It can also produce 5 SCFM at 90PSI, which is more than five times the refill rate of the other models here. If you need power and minimum downtime, this machine is worth a look.
It’s a good thing this compressor comes with wheels since it weighs eighty pounds. It’s durable enough to take it from job site to job site without worry, but getting it out of your truck could be a painful experience. It’s also nearly twice as loud as the quietest model on this list. It’s not as loud as it could be, but you won’t want to stand near it without ear protection. This is a powerful compressor, but it’s not the right thing for all users.
If you’re on the road and need to refill a tire, you’ll want the EPAuto 12V DC Air Compressor Pump on hand. This model’s defining feature is the DC power cord it comes with, so you can plug it into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. Since the cord is nine feet long, you should be able to get to any of the tires on a vehicle. It has a powerful LED light, which is extremely useful if you’re trying to fix a tire at night. Plus, it comes with a display, which allows you to set the pressure in advance and fill your tire to exactly that pressure. That takes the “fill and check” cycle out of the equation.
Note that this little compressor isn’t powerful enough to work with truck or large SUV tires. If you drive a large vehicle, this model will likely disappoint you. It’s also relatively slow. If you’re primarily going to use it around the house, you may want a beefier model. However, if you want an emergency compressor for the road, you’ll love what this little, portable air compressor can do for you.
If you’re not going to have access to an electrical outlet, you may want the Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412 Gas-powered Air Compressor by your side. Powered by a great 5-Horsepower Honda gas engine, this air compressor is one of the most powerful models on our list. It has dual two-gallon tanks, which keeps the weight low and allows multiple people to work off it at once. It can provide up to 155 PSI, which isn’t the best but is enough to run many kinds of power tools.
The biggest downside to this one is its tricky warranties and customer support. The engine is covered by Honda, while the rest of the machine is covered by Industrial Air. As you may guess, they sometimes try to pass the bill to the other company, which causes delays and confusion. This is also a very expensive air compressor when compared to an electric model of similar power. Of course, if you need the freedom a gas-powered air compressor provides, it’s worth it to pay for this model. If you have a choice, it’s a good idea to select a similar electric model.
The Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 8 Gallon Compressor bears remarkable similarities to the third-ranked model on our list. It’s wheeled and comes with an eight-gallon tank. It claims to be relatively quiet, though the manufacturer also claims it’s eight decibels louder than the California Air Tools compressor, which is significant. Many users report this one is even louder than the manufacturer claims. However, this model comes with a nice oil-free motor that limits the maintenance you have to do and keeps the cost of operation low.
What drops this model low on our list is that it tends to run very hot. That’s not good for the durability of the parts inside, and it could lead to an overall shorter life for your air compressor. Despite its large tank, it also tends to recycle often, so you’ll spend more time with engine noise than without. Overall, it’s a decent model, but you can get better models in a similar form factor for the same price.
Given its price, the Briggs & Stratton 10-Gallon Air Compressor (Vertical) could be a steal, but given its problems, it could leave just as many people burned. The best thing about this model is that it comes with a vertical orientation that keeps its footprint small, despite its large, 10-gallon tank. It provides up to 155 PSI, so you’ll be able to run tools or other heavy equipment without too much trouble.
However, it suffers from several manufacturing issues. It’s prone to short-circuiting, so you can’t expect it to last as long as other compressors. Some units also ship with defects that lead to them not being able to raise the pressure to the maximum PSI. The other durability problems associated with this model mean that a significant number of units drop dead long before they should. Others, however, last for a long time without issues. If buying this machine were less of a gamble, we’d like it more since it does have some good things going for it. Still, it’s not going to leave most of its purchasers happy with their buy.
We hope our reviews have already given you some insight into what makes a great air compressor and what different kinds of air compressors can do for you. If you want to learn more about these machines or be sure that you’re getting the right kind, check out this guide. We cover everything you need to know to start evaluating them as an expert, and we have also included some tips on getting great value.
The most important thing to understand when evaluating air compressors is CFM and SCFM. CFM stands for “cubic feet per minute” and describes the rate at which an air compressor can fill. Since gases change pressure in different temperatures and relative humidities, CFM varies based on the weather.
SCFM is a solution to that problem. It stands for “standard cubic feet per minute,” and it measures an air compressor’s performance at a certain temperature and pressure so that you can compare different machines.
If you’re using your air compressor with power tools or other equipment that needs a constant air supply to work, go for as high of a CFM or SCFM as you can get. Tank size means little if your air compressor’s refill rate is higher than the tool’s maximum air draw. If they’re close but the compressor is slightly lower, tank size matters more. A larger tank lets you work longer without having to stop to let the pump catch back up.
Your compressor’s refill rate drops as your PSI increases. This makes sense, as it’s harder to compress air to 100 PSI than it is to compress it to 40 PSI, and your pump’s motor uses a constant source of electricity. It’s important to check the PSI at which the CFM or SCFM is being measured, to make sure your comparisons between machines are accurate.
Another big decision is whether you want an electric or gas-powered air compressor.
Electric air compressors are more common, in both portable and stationary configurations. They tend to cost far less than gas-powered models with similar power. They also tend to cost less to run, since electricity is more affordable than gas in most places.
However, you’re limited in the places you can use an electric air compressor. If you’re working in places without access to a reliable electric source, it makes more sense to get a gas-powered model than it does to get a gas generator plus an electric air compressor.
The upside to gas generators is that you can use them in more places. There isn’t a power cord to worry about in addition to your air hose, which is always nice.
However, gas-powered models tend to be very expensive and have a higher operation cost. They’re a luxury tool with limited practical use, as most of the time when you’re using an air compressor you’re close to an electric outlet. Note that you should never use a gas-powered compressor indoors, or in garages or shops with open doors, because the fumes are dangerous.
When buying an air compressor, many people start by looking at the price. This could easily lead to you getting a model that doesn’t meet your requirements, or that you’ve paid far too much for.
Instead, it’s a better idea to start with your needs. Figure out how much power you need to do the jobs you want to do, and search for models with that amount of power, or slightly more. Then figure out if you need a gas or electric model, and if you need a portable (such as a pancake compressor), wheeled, or stationary model.
Once you’ve done that, limit your list to compressors that have everything you need. Rank them by price and choose the most affordable one. That model has what you need for a good experience.
The Senco PC1010 1-Gallon Air Compressor is our favorite model due to its oil-free pump, lightweight frame, and relatively quiet operation. In second is the PORTER-CABLE C2002 Portable, the most portable model on our list on a gallon-to-pound ratio. It has an oil-free pump and a great price, which makes it the best overall value for the money. The California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor has a larger tank, and is the best overall wheeled model, despite the required assembly. The DEWALT D55146 Hand Carry Compressor is very powerful and produces the highest PSI of any model on our list, though its loud operation and heavy frame cost it a few spots.
In fifth is the EPAuto 12V DC Air Compressor Pump. It’s great for refilling tires while on the road, though it’s not strong enough for truck tires, or fast enough for most general uses. The Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412 Gas-powered Air Compressor takes sixth place due to its powerful gas motor, good max PSI, and dual tanks, though its tricky warranties and high price make it the wrong choice for most people. The Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 8 Gallon Compressor is wheeled and relatively quiet, but it drops to seventh because it runs hot and recycles frequently. In the last place, the Briggs & Stratton 10-Gallon Air Compressor (Vertical) has a large tank and good air pressure, but several potential manufacturing problems mean it’s a risky buy.
We hope that our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you better understand air compressors and have helped you find the one that best suits your work.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!