Last Updated on August 13, 2020
If you’ve shopped online for air compressors before, you know that it can be hard to separate the good models from the ones that will make you wish you had held onto your money. Shopping online is supposed to be easy. However, manufacturers know that a lot of traffic is going to visit their listings, and they aren’t shy about exaggerating their product’s capabilities while conveniently leaving out the flaws.
That makes it hard for consumers to figure out which models will work well, much less which ones provide great value for the money. If you’re looking to discover both the good and the bad when it comes to these tools, then be sure to check out our reviews of the best budget air compressors under $200. We highlight the flaws and the features so that you can understand each compressor from power cord to hose before you buy.
We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, full of great general information about air compressors so that you can learn everything you need to know about these machines before you buy.
|Top Pick||Senco PC1010 1-HP||
|Best for the Money||PORTER-CABLE C2002||
|California Air Tools 2010A||
|Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV||
If you’re shopping on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower air compressor. This model only weighs 20 pounds, making it a great choice for people who need compressed air on the go. It’s a good choice for filling bike and motorcycle tires, and if you’re doing light-duty trim work that could benefit from a portable air compressor, you will love how well this model performs. It also comes with an oil-less motor, which means you’ll never have to replace the oil, saving you time and money in the long run.
This model can provide up to 120 PSI. However, it only comes with a one-gallon tank. If you’re working with smaller fasteners or filling small tires, this won’t be a problem. It only takes about 30 seconds to refill itself, which isn’t excessive, but if you’re building a deck or doing other heavy-duty tasks, you’ll end up waiting on this compressor frequently. Of course, if you’re looking for an air compressor that is easy to carry around for jobs that only need a few light-duty fasteners driven, you’ll love this model. It’s good for quick jobs where a larger, heavier model would be overkill.
The PORTER-CABLE C2002 is a great, portable air compressor, and since you can get it for much less than you’d spend on our top model, this model earns the title of “best for the money.” This model can provide up to 150 PSI and reaches that level far more quickly than most other models on our list. It also comes with a six-gallon tank, which is enough for long periods of work for just one person without refilling. This model also comes with two air couplers, so that two people can use this model at once, which is an incredible feature to find at this price point.
This model comes with a low-voltage, oil-free engine. That means it’s easy to start, even in cold weather, which is something many air compressors struggle with. It also requires little maintenance and no oil over its lifespan. What ultimately keeps this model out of first place is how incredibly noisy it is. It’s not an air compressor you’ll want to be near while it’s working. Still, if you’re looking for a good deal on a model that has more than enough power to justify the price, you won’t be disappointed with this model.
The California Air Tools 2010A is a good overall budget air compressor. The best thing about it relative to competing models is that it runs very quietly. The manufacturer estimates that it runs at only 60 decibels, and while it probably runs a bit louder than that, it’s not as obnoxious as many other air compressors. This model comes with an oil-free pump, which doesn’t require maintenance and can go for its whole life without having the oil changed. It also comes with a two-gallon tank, which is large enough to keep you working for a long time without having to stop to refill.
What keeps this model out of the top two on our list is how long this model takes to refill. It’s slow relative to other models, and refill times can approach a minute, which is a long time to wait on a model with a tank this size to refill. This model also comes with quality control problems, creating a non-negligible chance that you’ll get a dud and have to return it for a working model. That’s a pain to deal with, but for many people, it will be worth it to get a quiet compressor.
The Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV has some potential as a budget air compressor, and many people will be tempted by its low price. It does come with a three-gallon tank, which is exceptional for the price point at which you can get it. It also comes with several accessories, including a hose, blow gun, needles, and fittings. That makes it a good choice for people who need a good, general-purpose air compressor, and don’t already own any of the accessories they’ll need to use an air compressor.
However, this model refills really slowly. You can expect speeds around one-sixth of that provided by the other models on our list, making this an exceptionally poor buy if you’re going to need more than one tank in a single sitting. It’s also incredibly noisy. Given that it’s not all that powerful, the cause of the excessive noise is unknown. However, given the low price, it’s probable that corners were cut in design and manufacturing. Most people will get better value by spending more on a model that works better. If you needed something cheap, you might get good use out of this model, but it’s unlikely to be a frustration-free experience.
We hope that our reviews have helped you better understand air compressors and how to find a good one when you’re shopping on a budget. If you’re looking for more general information on the features that you can get on these great machines or want to make sure that you understand what you’re getting when you make your purchase, be sure to check out this buyer’s guide. We go over the significant features and parts you should be paying attention to, while also giving you some tips on how to maximize the value you get out of your purchase. So, this is the guide you want to check out if you’re looking to score a great deal.
If you spend any time at all shopping for budget air compressors, you’re likely to come across a product that advertises itself as having an oil-less or oil-free pump or motor. The companies claim that you’ll never have to replace the oil on these machines, which sounds too good to be true. However, that claim is closer to fact than many people suspect.
These motors have their internal moving parts coated in Teflon. That greatly reduces the friction and the heat generated by those moving parts and greatly extends their lifetime. The oil is circulated through an internal filter to keep it fresh, and the combination of those two factors allows the motor to run for a very long time without any maintenance on your part.
That will save you a lot of time in the long run and will save you money that you otherwise would have spend on oil. However, once the Teflon wears off, these engines start to break down, and there’s no way to prevent that from happening or to repair the parts once it does. These motors also tend to be modeled after “universal” motors, which don’t last as long as “induction” motors.
The bottom line is that oil-less motors can run for years without maintenance, but induction motors can run for decades, though they require oil changes and other maintenances.
The rate at which your air compressor refills the tank, regardless of the size, dictates how long you’ll have to wait when you use up the air in the tank. Over a day, a change in a few seconds in the timing of this cycle could end up costing you minutes and wasting a lot of time. So, it’s important that you get a model that will recharge fast enough to get you back to work without a lot of downtime.
Manufacturers indicate how fast their air compressors recharge using a measure called “CFM.” That stands for “Cubic Feet per Minute,” and it represents how much air is added to tank over time. The higher the number, the faster the air compressor refills.
Unfortunately, air compressors become less efficient with changes in air pressure and temperature. That also means that the CFM measure won’t be accurate most of the time. Manufacturers sometimes respond to this discrepancy by listing their refill rate in terms of SCFM, or Standard Cubic Feet per minute. This measure assumes the air pressure is 14.7 PSI and that the temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bigger is almost always better when it comes to air compressors. The bigger your air tank, the longer you can go without having to wait on your air compressor to recharge. If your tank is large enough, you may be able to go through a whole project without using up all the air inside, which means you can work from start to finish without any downtime at all. Bigger tanks can frequently tolerate higher PSIs, which means you can do tougher tasks with the tools attached to the end of your hose.
However, there is a tradeoff with a bigger tank. Bigger tanks weigh more, and the bigger they get, the more weight they have to pack on to grow in size while also remaining structurally sound. A second issue can be that the tank got bigger, but the engine didn’t. That cuts down on weight, but it means that it will take the engine longer to fill the tank, and it will be under more stress while doing so. That leads to a short life. You can solve this problem by packing on a bigger engine, but that means that the whole air compressor can end up weighing a lot.
We know it can be hard to shop on a budget. There are times where it may seem like the only way you can get good value is by spending far more money than you’d like to spend. The good news is that’s not always the case, and that he judicious shopper can get great value without breaking the bank.
The best way to do this is to start by figuring out what projects you’re going to need an air compressor on shortly, and what that air compressor will need to be able to do to complete those projects satisfactorily. Make a list of all air compressors that have features that will meet those requirements.
Then, choose the least expensive model. That model will provide good overall satisfaction, and since you’re getting it for the least amount of money, it provides the best value on a per-dollar basis. And that means your wallet will love it, too.
Other air-compressor related guides:
The Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower air compressor is the best overall budget air compressor on the market today. It comes with an oil-less motor, a lightweight, and can provide up to 120 PSI for your jobs. The PORTER-CABLE C2002 is another great portable air compressor, featuring a six-gallon tank, an oil-free engine that starts well in cold weather, though its noisiness keeps it out of first place. However, you can get it at a great price, making it the best overall for the money. The California Air Tools 2010A runs quietly and comes with a two-gallon tank, but its quality control issues and slow refill drop it to third place. The Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV comes with a three-gallon tank and accessories, but its noisiness and slow refill mean it can only take the last place on our list.
Hopefully, our reviews and buyer’s guide have helped you more clearly understand the world of budget air compressors. Armed with that information, you should be able to find the model that works the best for you.
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!