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10 Best Air Compressors under $500 – Reviews & Top Picks 2021

using DEWALT D55140 Air Compressor

Air compressors can be costly. However, there are also quite a few options that are decently affordable. For most homeowners, a model under $500 is likely all you need. Still, when you’re trying to stay budget-conscious, you must do your due diligence when picking an appropriate model.

Below, you’ll find our reviews for some of the top air compressors on the market. We’ll take a look at some of our favorites and go into detail regarding essential features to keep track of.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor
  • Cast iron pump
  • Low power draw
  • Oil-lubricated
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Air Compressor Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Air Compressor
  • Decently powerful
  • Oil-less
  • Ten different accessories included
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Industrial Air IL1682066.MN Belt Driven Air Compressor Industrial Air IL1682066.MN Belt Driven Air Compressor
  • 120-volt and 240-volt outlet compatible
  • 135 max PSI
  • 20-gallon capacity
  • CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor
  • Pancake-shaped
  • 13 different accessories included
  • 6-gallon capacity
  • BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor
  • High-efficiency motor
  • Oil-free
  • 150 max PSI
  • The 10 Best Air Compressors under $500 – Reviews 2021

    1. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor – Best Overall

    Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor

    Makita makes inexpensive tools and machines that are high-quality despite their lower price. The Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor fits this description perfectly. It is not nearly as expensive as other options, but it is still suitable for most homeowners. The 4.2-gallon tank puts out 130 PSI, and delivers 40 PSI (4.8 CFM) and 90 PSI (4.2 CFM), which is good enough for a pair of nail guns.  It has a cast iron pump that is engineered to provide a faster recovery time and improve the machine’s overall performance. The low amp draw means that fewer breakers will be tripped, which means less frustration for you.

    The pump is oil-lubricated, so it runs relatively cool and doesn’t wear down quickly. It has a roll cage construction to prevent unnecessary damage due to drops or jobsite hazards. The air filter is very high-quality. It allows the machine to increase air intake and improves the overall efficiency. It is automotive-style and made for industrial situations.

    The durable cast-iron cylinder can withstand just about anything you throw at it. It increases the pump’s lifespan, which saves you money. For maintenance, the cylinder is entirely removable.

    Pros
    • Cast iron pump
    • Low power draw
    • Oil-lubricated
    • Quality air filter
    • Roll cage
    Cons
    • Small capacity

    2. Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Air Compressor – Best Value

    Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Air Compressor

    For those looking for an extremely cheap air compressor, the Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Air Compressor is the best option. It has a small, three-gallon tank. However, it should be able to do just about everything. It runs 0.36 CFM at 90 PSI, with 100 max PSI overall. It provides plenty of power for most homeowners who just need something to tackle small DIY projects. However, its small size does make it unusable for professionals.

    The pump is oil-less. This means it will wear down faster than other options. However, it is maintenance-free and has a reliable motor output. It is a matter of your personal preference.

    This kit comes with 10 different accessories, including a blowgun, inflation needles, and fittings. The gauges are pretty easy to read, and the compact design makes it extremely portable. If you need an air compressor to carry around with you, this is a reliable option. It is ideal for inflating tires and balls. It can power some pneumatic tools, like brad nailers and upholstery tools.

    The main downside of this machine is that it just isn’t huge in the least. It is relatively small, which can be a problem for some homeowners. Despite this, it is still the best air compressor under $500 for the money.

    Pros
    • Inexpensive
    • Decently powerful
    • Oil-less
    • Ten different accessories included
    Cons
    • Small

    3. Industrial Air IL1682066.MN Belt Driven Air Compressor – Premium Choice

    Industrial Air IL1682066.MN Belt Driven Air Compressor

    The Industrial Air IL1682066.MN Belt Driven Air Compressor is one of the more expensive options on this list. It is still under $500 – but just barely. If you have the extra money, though, then this is the best air compressor you can purchase in this price range. It has a 1.6-HP induction motor that can be used in a standard 120-volt outlet. You can also convert it to work in a 240-volt outlet as well. It delivers 135 max PSI, which is much higher than most other options on our list. It delivers 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI.

    Furthermore, it is much larger than most options on this list. It has a 20-gallon capacity, which should allow it to do just about anything a homeowner needs. It is made of cast iron, so it is designed to last for years into the future. The pump is oil-lubricated so that it will last longer than most on this list. However, it does need some maintenance because of this.

    The pneumatic tires are great for mobility and transportation. It isn’t as portable as other options on this list. However, if you need to wheel it around your shop, it can do that.

    Pros
    • 120-volt and 240-volt outlet compatible
    • 135 max PSI
    • 20-gallon capacity
    • Oil-lubricated
    Cons
    • Expensive

    4. CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor

    CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor

    Out of all the air compressors we reviewed, the CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor is one of the cheapest on the market. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best option. It has a 6-gallon capacity and is pancake-shaped, so it is easier to store and move around. It is a bit bigger than some of the other options on the market.

    It has a 150 max PSI, making it quite a bit more potent than some other options on the market. It provides 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI and has a quick recovery time as well. It works in standard outlets only.

    It comes with 13 different accessories, including three inflator adaptors. It has everything you need for everyday household tasks. It also has a 1-year limited warranty, though we recommend reading through the warranty before purchase so that you understand what it covers.

    Our main problem with this air compressor is that it doesn’t reach as high as it says it does. While it says it can reach up to 150 max PSI, this isn’t necessarily always true. Often, it can’t get nearly that high. It isn’t very reliable in this regard.

    Pros
    • Pancake-shaped
    • 6-gallon capacity
    • 13 different accessories included
    • 1-year limited warranty
    Cons
    • Not a reliable max PSI
    • Quality control problem

    5. BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor

    BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor

    As far as inexpensive air compressors go, the BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor is about average. It has a six-gallon capacity, which is about average when you’re looking at smaller air compressors. It has a 150 max PSI, but it does not reach this maximum pressure in most cases. It only seems to reach it in particular circumstances.

    The high-efficiency motor is easy to start in cold weather. You can also use it with an extension cord, which isn’t necessarily right for most air compressors. It is decently quiet and reads at about 78.5 dBA. This is somewhat quieter than most machines, though it still won’t be very quiet when used in an enclosed area.

    The high-flow regulator and couplers are very high-quality. They maximize the performance of the air compressor. This air compressor is oil-free, so it won’t necessarily last as long as other options.

    There do seem to be some quality control problems, particularly with the regulator. Often, it seems not to work correctly. However, the company is exceptionally good at fixing this issue, and there are many reports of the company sending new compressors to fix the problem.

    Pros
    • High-efficiency motor
    • Oil-free
    • 150 max PSI
    Cons
    • Quality control problems
    • Can be loud in enclosed areas

    6. California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor

    California Air Tools 10020C-22060 Air Compressor

    The California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor is somewhat more expensive than some other budget options on the market. It is decently quiet and measures at only about 70 dBA. It is oil-free. This means it won’t last as long as some other options. However, you won’t have to do as much maintenance over time. The powerful 2 HP motor is perfect for smaller home DIY projects.

    It produces 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI, which is a bit more potent than some other options on the market. The maximum run time is about 60-minutes. For this reason, it is best suited for homeowners who don’t need to use an air compressor for very long.

    It has a 10-gallon capacity and is on wheels to be moved around a little bit.

    Overall, this compressor just isn’t worth the higher cost. The craftsmanship is sub-par. The wielding is not as good as some of the other air compressors on the market. The low-quality components are not very sturdy and tend to break more often than not.

    Pros
    • 10-gallon capacity
    • Quiet
    • Decent motor
    Cons
    • Poor craftsmanship
    • Low-quality components

    7. Senco PC1010 Air Compressor

    Senco PC1010 Air Compressor

    The Senco PC1010 Air Compressor is lightweight and very portable. It is tiny and only has a one-gallon capacity. It is only going to be suitable for small projects, like filling up balls. You can carry it around easily, but the capacity is very, very small. It is only about ½-HP, though it can reach one horsepower on some occasions. It is ideal for homeowners who need it for hobbies and crafts. But we don’t particularly recommend it for professionals or homeowners looking for an all-around air compressor to use around the house.

    A one-year warranty backs it, and we do not have any complaints about its overall durability. It seems to hold up pretty well to the usual wear-and-tear. Users loved that it was able to keep small tools running, mainly because it is so small and portable.

    We did not like the position of the switch. It is under the handle and is a bit hard to get to. The gauges are technically upside down, making it a bit difficult to read it at a glance.

    Pros
    • Very portable
    • One-year warranty
    Cons
    • Upside-down gauges
    • Switch is in a strange position

    8. PORTER-CABLE CMB15 Air Compressor

    PORTER-CABLE CMB15 Air Compressor

    The PORTER-CABLE CMB15 Air Compressor is one of the cheaper options on the market. However, you can tell that the company cut a few corners to get it as cheap. It is not exceptionally quiet. The description isn’t very accurate as to the sound it makes.

    Most importantly, though, this air compressor is not stable at all. It tends to fall over a lot. This puts more wear-and-tear on the machine than necessary, so we are somewhat afraid of how long this air compressor will last. It is also very annoying. We got frustrated by the continuous tipping very quickly.

    It is oil-free, so you won’t need to do much maintenance on it. However, it also won’t last as long as some other options. With the extremely low-cost, though, that likely isn’t going to be much of a problem. The low amp motor is pretty easy to start and doesn’t trigger the breakers very much at all, which can be a problem with some air compressors.

    Pros
    • 150 max PSI
    • Oil-free
    Cons
    • Falls over often
    • No quiet
    • 5-gallon capacity

    9. DEWALT D55140 Air Compressor

    DEWALT D55140 Air Compressor

    DeWalt usually makes pretty decent tools. However, the DEWALT D55140 Air Compressor is not one of those. It is designed to be heavy-duty and portable. In practice, this means that it is incredibly tiny. It only has a capacity of about 1-gallon. A roll cage protects the compressor, so you have to worry less about it tipping over or anything like that.

    It has 135 max PSI. This is smaller than most others on this list. It doesn’t hit this maximum very much, either, so you must consider that it usually runs decently far below this. It is oil-free, so you don’t have to maintain it. However, it will break sooner before oil-lubricated options.

    It has a 2.6-amp motor. This is decently powerful, so you shouldn’t have any problems there.

    There seems to be a lot of quality control problems with this machine. It sometimes arrives cracked or otherwise damaged, which can be dangerous. It does not come with any accessories, including an air hose. You will have to purchase everything separately. It is not suitable for beginners at all, which is mostly why we rated it so low.

    Pros
    • Portable
    • Powerful motor
    Cons
    • Quality control problems
    • Minimal capacity
    • No accessories included

    10. WEN 2289 Vertical Air Compressor

    WEN 2289 Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor

    WEN usually makes pretty decent machines, but we don’t particularly like the WEN 2289 Vertical Air Compressor. It has a 10-gallon tank that is constructed out of reinforced steel. This is a pretty high-quality material, and it is pretty large compared to many other air compressors on this list. It provides quite a bit of airflow to the tune of 5 CFM at 40 PSI. The oil-free pump never requires any maintenance, but it doesn’t last quite a long as some other options.

    The wheels do make it somewhat portable. However, you aren’t going to be picking it up and taking it anywhere with you.

    This machine doesn’t last very well. It may make it a bit over a year, but don’t expect to be using it for years and years to come. Their customer service is excellent, though, and they may sometimes rectify the situation. We recommend contacting them if you are having any problems. However, others seem to have problems with customer service, so it may be hit-and-miss.

    It does get quite hot when it is running, so we recommend being very careful. It is best encased or put up somewhere so that small children or passersby do not accidentally touch it.

    Pros
    • 10-gallon capacity
    • 5 CFM at 40 PSI
    Cons
    • Not very durable
    • Hit-and-miss customer service
    • Gets quite hot

    Buyer’s Guide

    Air compressors can be a lot more complicated than they look. While they are generally pretty straight-forward, they have many components and specifications you need to be aware of. It can be challenging to choose the exact correct air compressor you need for your purposes, simply because there is a lot of information to take in.

    In this section, we’ll take a look at all the features you need to know to choose the best air compressor for you. From the size to the power, everything you need to know is in this section.

    using Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor

    Specifications Explained

    There are a lot of specifications you need to be aware of when purchasing an air compressor. Some of these can be a bit confusing, mainly if you’ve never used an air compressor very much. Below, you’ll find an explanation of the most critical specifications.

    • Horsepower: Horsepower is the power output of the engine. The higher this is, the generally more powerful the air compressor is. However, this doesn’t tell you much, as the horsepower doesn’t always translate to air output.
    • PSI: A higher PSI means that you can store more air in the tank. This allows you to operate tools longer and lets you fill things up to a higher capacity. This usually goes right alongside the gallon capacity of the air compressor. However, the PSI is more accurate than the actual capacity, so we recommend looking at PSI.
    • CFM and SCFM: Both of these metrics measure the air compressor’s volume at specific PSI levels. This tends to drop as you empty the air compressor. You aren’t going to be working with a full air compressor for very long, so you must check this metric too. The max PSI can be a bit deceiving since you don’t operate at that level for very long.
    • Storage: Air compressors have a tank of a specific size. The bigger the tank, the more air a particular air compressor can hold. This isn’t super accurate, as some air compressors can hold more air in the same size tank as another air compressor. For this reason, we recommend paying more attention to the PSI – not necessarily the gallon size of the compressor.

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    Frequently Asked Question

    What do air compressors do?

    Air compressors compress air. This allows them to release it in a pressurized manner, helping you fill up tires or run pneumatic tools. It is similar to a balloon – the air can be used as power when it starts coming out. This is an air compressor’s only function, but it allows them to do many different things. You’d be surprised by how many uses these air compressors have.

    How much PSI should I look for in an air compressor?

    Most air compressors are between 70 and 90 PSI. Many will list their maximum as more than this, but they don’t go above 90 for most functions in practice. A light-duty air compressor might be a bit lower, but you will not find them as much simply because they are not as useful as other options.

    We also have an article where we compare & review portable air compressors.

    Are air compressors dangerous?

    They can be. However, most air compressors have built-in safety features that make them much safer than how they used to be. Air compressors are mostly dangerous because they can explode if they compress too much air. This is rare these days, as most have safety features to combat this problem.

    Compressed air blown onto the skin can obstruct an artery. However, you’d need to hold it on an artery for an extended period. You should inhale compressed air either as it can rupture your lungs. Compressed air blown into an eardrum can also be dangerous, causing ruptured eardrums and brain damage.

    How long do air compressors last?

    A quality air compressor should last about 12-15 years. However, many these days last far longer because they just aren’t made to withstand the daily wear-and-tear. If you spend a bit more upfront, you’ll likely have an air compressor that will last you years in the future.

    Of course, it depends on how much you use it as well. Oil-lubricated air compressors will need a bit more maintenance. Performing that maintenance regularly is vital for their lifespan.

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    Conclusion

    Hopefully, our reviews helped you figure out precisely what air compressor you need for your situation. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. What you plan on using your air compressor for matters.

    In general, we recommend the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor. It is the right mix of power and cost. It is also somewhat portable, which is always a nice plus.

    We also liked the Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Air Compressor, and it is pretty inexpensive as well. If you’re on a budget, this is the air compressor you should be looking at.

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