Oil vs Oil-Less Air Compressor: Which Should You Choose?

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Oil vs Oilless Air Compressor: Which is Best for Your Needs?

So, you’ve decided that you need an air compressor? Whether you need it for auto repairs, fixing up the house, or just simple things like filling up bike tires, you’re going to need to know which compressor fits your needs: the oil air compressor or the oilless air compressor. While both of these get the job done, each has different features to consider. Read on to find out which compressor is perfect for you.

The Oil Air Compressor

The oil air compressor is clearly the favored option of the two. Due to its great durability and heavy-duty use, this machine functions great for commercial and industrial purposes. It’s also less noisy than its counterpart, the oilless air compressor, which is a bonus if you live in a quiet neighborhood. If you want something that will last longer, that you can depend on, and that is quiet, then the oil air compressor is for you.

Not everything about this compressor is perfect though. Like anything else that requires oil, this compressor needs constant maintenance. Depending on which compressor you get and how much you use it, you’re going to need to change the oil occasionally.

Another problem with this compressor is that it is heavy. Oil air compressors aren’t really meant to be moved around. If you intend to get one, then you should also be planning to keep it in one spot. This isn’t a problem for industrial work but it may be difficult for housework.

The oil air compressor is heavy because it consists of more parts than its oilless counterpart. But being heavier also makes it more durable. Protected by more heavy metals than its brother, this compressor is very safe from harm. The oil air compressor costs more than the oilless, but many people believe it’s worth the price.

oil air compressor

Image credit: GK tramrunner229, Wikimedia

Pros
  • Heavy-duty
  • Very durable
  • Great for industrial work and long hours
  • Not very noisy
Cons
  • Constant maintenance
  • Heavy
  • More Parts
  • Pricier

The Oilless Air Compressor

Don’t let its name fool you, oilless air compressors come pre-lubed. The Teflon (often the lubricant of choice) lubricates the compressor’s cylinder while protecting its pump.  Since you don’t have to lubricate them yourself, the maintenance on these bad boys is minimal compared to the oil air compressors. The oilless compressor’s design is simpler, making it lighter and smaller. As a result, it’s also much cheaper than its counterpart.

This smaller machine is portable, so you can move it wherever you need to with ease. This makes the oilless compressor great for non-commercial use, mainly home application.

What about the drawbacks? This machine doesn’t have the extra coating of heavy metal for protection, so it’s more vulnerable to damage.  It also gets hotter than its counterpart because there’s no oil to cool it down. Without lubricants, the parts are also more likely to breakdown. Oilless compressors are also noisy. Though there are more options out there that are both quieter and longer-lasting, their motors tend to run slower. But that doesn’t mean that this compressor won’t fit your needs.

oilless air compressor

Image credit: Laineema, Flickr

Pros
  • Cheaper
  • Smaller
  • Lighter
  • Great for home application
  • Simpler Parts
Cons
  • Very noisy
  • Break down more often
  • Hotter

Conclusion

Searching for the right compressor can be a challenge. If you’re looking for a long-lasting, durable, industrial, heavy-duty compressor, then the oil air compressor is perfect for you. If you want a cheaper, lighter, portable, and more home-efficient unit that you only need to use once in a while (and noise isn’t an issue), then look no further than the oilless.

Most people favor the oil air compressor because of its durability and quieter operation, but in the end, it all depends on what you plan to use the compressor for and how often you plan to use it. Both compressors function well, and by looking into specific units to find which one fits perfectly for you, you’ll be able to discover exactly the right compressor that you’re looking for.

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Header image credit: CC0 Public Domain, Pxhere

About the Author Adam Harris

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!