10 Best Shop Air Compressors of 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks
There are tons of air compressors on the market, ranging from affordable for a homeowner to models that are outrageously expensive, even for a shop. Of course, not all of these machines are equally useful for every task. An air compressor in a shop is going to take a lot more abuse than a compressor in the average homeowner’s garage and needs to be built to much more stringent standards as a result. Not to mention the massive airflow needs of most shops, which are far beyond the capabilities of many consumer air compressors.
Still, there are loads of options to choose from. So many, in fact, that it can be quite daunting to sort through them all. For that reason, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to gather and test many of the best shop air compressors on the market, hopefully saving you the hassle of doing the same. Along the way, we’ve written reviews comparing 10 of our favorites so that you can benefit from all the work we’ve done testing these compressors.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor||
|Best Value||WEN 2202 Vertical Air Compressor||
|Premium Choice||Quincy QT-54 Reciprocating Air Compressor||
|Industrial Air ILA1883054 Air Compressor||
|Ingersoll Rand Store Two-Stage Air Compressor||
The 10 Best Shop Air Compressors – Reviews 2021
1. California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor – Best Overall
Our favorite compressor overall, the California Air Tools 10020C offers the best blend of performance and price. You won’t have to skimp on any important features with this compressor, but you won’t have to go broke either. Best of all, it’s a very quiet machine, operating at just 70 decibels. This means you’ll still be able to hear workers and customers over the drone of the motor.
This compressor is powered by a stout two-horsepower motor. Surprisingly, this motor draws a mere seven amps, showing that it’s extremely efficient and won’t have the same effect on your electric bill as other compressors that draw more. That two-horsepower allows for an impressive 6.4 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of airflow at 40 PSI.
With a large 10-gallon tank and plenty of airflow, this machine can easily power the large pneumatic tools that are regularly used in a shop. Unfortunately, it’s a bit low on the pressure side, maxing out at 125 PSI. That will still operate most tools and isn’t likely to be much of a hindrance, but it’s the one place where this machine is lacking.
2. WEN 2202 Vertical Air Compressor – Best Value
While most compressors that can handle the abuse a shop will put on them are prohibitively expensive, the WEN 2202 vertical air compressor offers a much more affordable solution that’s still loaded with the kind of functionality that a shop needs. It’s got impressive airflow of five CFM, allowing for the use of large pneumatic tools.
Thankfully, this machine is mated to a large tank that holds 20 gallons of air to provide plenty of pressure when needed. Unfortunately, the tank is pretty slow to fill compared to other compressors we’ve tested. It’s also a bit louder, but those are the tradeoffs for getting it at such an affordable price.
At 86 pounds, this machine is still movable, thanks to the wheels and handle on the back. It’s also protected by a two-year warranty that WEN has proven they’ll make good on. At this affordable price, with two years of protection, it’s easy to see why we think this is one of the best shop air compressors for the money.
3. Quincy QT-54 Reciprocating Air Compressor – Premium Choice
For demanding professionals who need top of the line performance with no sacrifices, the Quincy QT-54 is a premium compressor that offers truly impressive features. This machine is powered by a beastly capacitor start motor that pushes a whopping five-horsepower. That’s enough to produce a staggering 15.4 CFM of airflow at 90 PSI, which will power any pneumatic tool you can throw at it.
The operating pressure of this compressor is 145-175 PSI. With a huge 60-gallon air tank, this beast can take a little while to fill, but you’re going to have a very hard time emptying it. While the industrial-duty motor is running, excellent features like the built-in thermal overload keep everything protected, ensuring that this compressor is around for many months and years of daily abuse. And with a 100% duty cycle, this beast can literally run all day long without a break.
On the flip side, this is one behemoth of a machine. It’s insanely heavy at 475 pounds. Unless the hulk works in your shop, you’re probably not going to be moving this compressor once it’s installed. Also, be aware that this machine runs on 230-volt electricity only.
4. Industrial Air ILA1883054 Air Compressor
Industrial Air is a company that’s known for making high-quality compressors, and their ILA1883054 model is an excellent choice, though it didn’t do quite enough to earn its way into our top three. Still, it’s got an impressive list of features, like the 30-gallon air tank and two-year warranty. Large pneumatic wheels help you roll it to where you want it, though we had some serious issues with one wheel refusing to hold air.
This compressor maxes out at 155 PSI of pressure. At 90 PSI, it manages to produce 5.7 CFM of airflow, which should power just about any large pneumatic shop tool. Unfortunately, even though it produces quite a bit of air, the recovery time on this compressor is slower than several others we used during our testing.
The dual-voltage motor comes wired for 120-volt electricity from the factor, but can be easily converted to 240-volt electricity for commercial use. Taking things a step beyond some of the competition, Industrial Air ships this compressor with synthetic oil that offers reduced friction and improved longevity.
5. Ingersoll Rand Store Two-Stage Air Compressor
At 430 pounds, this two-stage compressor from Ingersoll Rand is anything but portable. Once it’s in place, it’s staying there. But in a shop, that’s not a big deal since compressors won’t be moving much anyway. What’s more important is reliability, which is where this beast shines.
Thanks to a 100% duty cycle, this machine can run non-stop with no breaks. The pump is designed for 15,000 hours of use without any issues. Fully synthetic lubricant comes in the compressor, which ensures 2,000 hours of use between services. The motor produces a potent five-horsepower, helping to reach a maximum working pressure of 175 PSI.
To ensure reliability, this compressor uses a cast iron frame and cylinders, ensuring that the motor is practically bulletproof. With such mammoth specs, you’d expect this machine to be covered under an industry-leading warranty, but it’s not. You can purchase a warranty separately, but the included warranty only lasts one year, a major drawback at this exorbitant price. Also, keep in mind that this machine runs on 230-volt electricity only, which means you’ll need a dedicated circuit to run it.
6. DEWALT DXCMLA1983054 Air Compressor
Compared to other compressors of a similar size and stature, this DEWALT compressor is actually quite light and mobile at just 190 pounds. Large pneumatic wheels make it even easier to move, especially with the handle on the backside.
Despite the lighter weight, this is still a very capable compressor, creating seven CFM of airflow at 90 PSI. At its maximum, this compressor can push 155 PSI of pressure. The tank holds a sizable 30 gallons, ensuring that you’ll rarely have to wait for more air. Disappointingly, this is hampered somewhat by the slow recovery rate that’s holding this compressor back.
We like the dual-voltage motor on this machine. It allows you to wire it for 120-volt or 240-volt electricity, depending on your needs and what’s available. But we don’t like the release valve. To reach it, you must tilt the compressor and fit your hand beneath. A smarter release valve would have been nice, but the real drawback here is the slow refill. If DEWALT fixes these issues, then this compressor will likely end up in our top three in the future.
7. BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor
The BOSTITCH BTFP02012 is a very compact, though still quite capable, air compressor. With a small six-gallon tank, it doesn’t offer enough air supply to power the big pneumatic tools that often populate a shop, but if you need a compressor that’s more portable, then this one might fit the bill.
Despite the small tank size, it’s still a useful tool that manages a maximum air pressure of 150 PSI. It’s got a high-efficiency motor that allows it to start easily in any conditions, even cold weather. More importantly, it enables you to use this compressor on an extension cord of up to 50 feet in length, so long as it’s 14-gauge or larger.
This compressor manages a decent peak pressure but lacks in the airflow department, only producing 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI. Still, it’s a very loud little tool with an operating volume of nearly 80 decibels. It’s a great portable compressor, though it’s not powerful enough to fill most shops’ needs.
8. CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor
Compared to similar compressors, the CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K feels overpriced. It’s got a small six-gallon air tank that won’t power a large tool for long. Thankfully, it is super portable, weighing in at just 32.5 pounds. Despite the small size, it manages some decent performance with a maximum air pressure of 150 PSI.
One nice thing about this compressor is the oil-free pump. It won’t require any maintenance, so upkeeping this device is simple. You’ll also get several accessories included with your purchase, such as an air hose and several attachments for it.
Usually, CRAFTSMAN offers great warranties on their products. This machine is only warrantied for a year, though. Since it’s so much pricier than other similar pancake compressors and doesn’t even offer a significant warranty, we can’t give this one our recommendation.
9. Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 Air Compressor
The small eight-gallon tank this Campbell Hausfeld air compressor is equipped withsomehow takes up quite a lot of space because of the design. Still, it offers a low-maintenance solution with a dual-piston, oil-free pump. Often, oil-free compressors are very loud when operating, but this machine purrs along at a mere 68 decibels.
We were hoping for some stellar performance from a brand known for making quality air compressors, but this machine’s performance is mediocre at best. It’s got a maximum air pressure of just 125 PSI ––much less than some of our top performers. Even weaker is the low airflow of just 2.4 CFM at 90 PSI. Combine that with this small air tank, and you’ll be spending more time waiting for the tank to fill than you’ll spend working.
10. Makita MAC210Q Electric Air Compressor
We rarely find a Makita product we’re not fond of. To be fair, it’s not that this is a bad compressor; it’s not. But for shop use, it’s not a great candidate. It’s still got some excellent features, though. For example, when running, this machine produces just 60 decibels of noise, making it one of the quietest compressors we’ve tested. It’s also designed for longevity with a motor that runs at ultra-low RPM to reduce wear and tear.
This is a compact and portable machine, which is great in some instances but not so great for a shop compressor since it has a very small two-gallon air tank. Moreover, the airflow is very limited. Two CFM of airflow at 90 PSI isn’t going to power the large pneumatic tools that populate most shops. We’d recommend skipping this machine in favor of something more powerful with a larger tank, such as the WEN 2202 in the second position of this list.
At this point, you’re ready to make a purchase for your shop! Ok, maybe we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves. This is a big purchase, and you have to make sure you’ve picked the right compressor. If you’re still unsure about which one to choose, then this buyer’s guide is for you. In it, we’re going to cover the most important factors that should be influencing your decision to help you pick the compressor that’s perfect for your shop.
Choosing the Right Shop Compressor
There are a lot of differences between compressors. But not all of those differences are going to matter to your shop. That said, several key factors are going to either make or break the deal, ensuring that a particular compressor is either great for your needs or completely inadequate. Let’s take a look at these important features so you can figure out which ones matter most to you.
The air tank stores air, waiting until the tools you’re using need it. A large air tank can obviously store more air, which means more time between the compressor’s cycles. Moreover, a bigger air tank can power more tools at once or larger tools with high airflow needs. If you get a compressor with a tank that’s too small for your needs, it’s going to be cycling constantly, desperately trying to keep up with your use of air.
As a general rule, the more air you need, the larger the air tank you should get. If multiple people will be pulling from the same compressor, you’ll want a sizable tank that can support such a hefty output. Likewise, the larger the tools you’re using, the more of an air reserve you’ll need.
Compressors come with tanks as small as one gallon, though that’s not going to do much good in a shop. You’ll want to look for 10 gallons at a minimum, though more space in your air tank certainly isn’t going to hurt.
Small compressors are often built today with oil-free pumps that don’t require maintenance. This is great if your compressor isn’t running all day long. But compressors with high duty cycles that are intended to run all day almost always require regular maintenance. Regular doesn’t have to mean often, though. Many of these compressors are built to run for thousands of hours between services.
If your shop isn’t using a compressor to power massive tools all day, every day, then you might be ok with a low-maintenance oil-free compressor. But if you’re going to be pushing your compressor to the limit, you’ll definitely need to factor maintenance into the equation.
For compressors, airflow is generally measured in cubic feet per minute or CFM. The airflow of your compressor represents the amount of continuous air that it can move at a specific air pressure. Different tools will have different airflow needs, but if your compressor doesn’t create enough airflow, it won’t be able to run certain tools.
Let’s take an air chisel for an example. These tools are common in many shops, and they require about 4-8 CFM of airflow to operate properly. If your compressor only puts out five CFM, but your air chisel needs eight, then you won’t be able to effectively run your air chisel on that compressor.
So, your best bet is to figure out the airflow needs of your most commonly used tools and get a compressor that offers higher airflow than that.
Air pressure is essentially a measurement of force. Your compressor’s max pressure is the most force it can create. Most shop tools require 100-175 PSI to function, but each tool will have its own specific needs. If you power a tool with too much pressure, you can damage it and destroy the internals. Try to power it without enough pressure, though, and you won’t get it to perform as it should.
Like with airflow, the best way to ensure your compressor meets your needs is to determine how much pressure your tools require and pick a compressor that can easily meet those needs with room to spare.
Your compressor is one of the most important tools in your shop since it’s powering so many other tools. If the compressor dies, work stops. As such, it’s important to get a compressor up and running again in an efficient manner. Beyond that, these are very expensive tools that you don’t want to replace often. A good warranty can help with both of these situations.
A warranty will mean that your compressor is either repaired or replaced, usually free of charge. We recommend prioritizing the warranty as this might be a direct indication of how long you can expect your compressor to last.
Shops are always noisy. There’s really no way to escape it. But running loud compressors certainly isn’t helping. If you want to be able to hear other workers or customers, then it might be beneficial to get a compressor that runs quietly.
Granted, no compressor truly runs quietly. But there’s a big difference between 60 and 80 decibels. A compressor that operates at 60 decibels is easy to talk over. But several compressors running at 80 decibels creates quite the cacophony.
The truth is, any compressor can be a shop compressor if you put it in your shop. That doesn’t mean it’s going to perform up to the level that you need. Of course, every shop has different needs, which is why our reviews have covered a wide range of different compressors. But after everything, we’ve narrowed the field down to three that we’re confident recommending.
Our favorite shop air compressor overall is the California Air Tools 10020C. This compressor has a powerful two-horsepower motor, though it only draws seven amps. It manages 6.4 CFM of airflow at 40 PSI with an operating volume of just 70 decibels.
For shops on a budget, we suggest the WEN 2202 vertical air compressor. This machine has a 20-gallon air tank, though it’s still portable at just 86 pounds. It manages five CFM of airflow at 40 PSI and is covered by a two-year warranty. Best of all, it’s one of the most affordable compressors on this list.
Finally, when you need a no-compromises beast of a compressor for the hardest work, we recommend the Quincy QT-54 with a 100% duty cycle and an incredible 15.4 CFM of airflow.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Shop Air Compressors – Reviews 2021
- 1. California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor – Best Overall
- 2. WEN 2202 Vertical Air Compressor – Best Value
- 3. Quincy QT-54 Reciprocating Air Compressor – Premium Choice
- 4. Industrial Air ILA1883054 Air Compressor
- 5. Ingersoll Rand Store Two-Stage Air Compressor
- 6. DEWALT DXCMLA1983054 Air Compressor
- 7. BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor
- 8. CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor
- 9. Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 Air Compressor
- 10. Makita MAC210Q Electric Air Compressor
- Buyer’s Guide