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Pancake vs Hot Dog Air Compressor – Which is Right for Your Needs?

Stanley Hot dog Air compressor

You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no difference between a pancake and a hot dog style compressor. Choosing between them can seem difficult. Is it an arbitrary choice? Is there some currently unknown variable that’s going to come back to bite you down the road? Why would you choose one over the other?

At first look, they appear to be essentially the same machine. And truthfully, they’re used for the same purposes, so does it really matter?

In some cases, no. But there are times when it will matter, and one will be the far better option. Let’s take a closer look at each to see which one will benefit you more.

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Pancake Compressor Overview

Pancake compressors are compact compressors meant for running small pneumatic tools and performing basic tasks like filling up tires. The tanks are small and cylindrical, generally under 6 gallons. This is plenty for operating a nail gun, but not enough if you’re trying to run a paint sprayer. The compressor motor sits on top of the tank with a handle that usually extends above the motor for carrying.

CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Air Compressor

Wide Equals Stable

Pancake compressors have a wide base because of the cylindrical shape of the tank. This makes them very stable; a trait that can come in handy in certain situations. When you’re on uneven terrain such as a sloped roof, that stability can keep a pancake compressor upright where a hot dog compressor might tip over or roll off.

No Wheels

Because there are no wheels on a pancake compressor, you’ll have to carry it to transport it. But this can also be an advantage in some situations like the roof scenario. Wheels would make it possible for the compressor to roll, which would be dangerous and costly, to say the least. But pancake compressors have rubber feet instead of wheels, which helps to keep them firmly planted, even when they’re not on flat ground.

You Have to Carry it

Of course, the lack of wheels can be a downside if you have to carry the compressor far. In those cases, wheels would make transportation much easier. But when you need to carry your compressor up a ladder, the way a pancake compressor’s handle is situated is perfect.

More Bang for Your Buck

Compared to hot dog compressors, you’ll generally get more bang for your buck with a pancake compressor. If you were to spend the same price on both, you’d likely end up with a larger tank and slightly more powerful pancake compressor than the equivalent hot dog compressor.

Pros
  • The wide design is stable, even on uneven ground
  • The handle is well-placed for carrying up a ladder
  • Small footprint
  • More bang for your buck
Cons
  • Can be difficult to carry long distances
  • No wheels for easy transport

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Hot Dog Compressor Overview

Hot dog compressors can perform the same basic functions that a pancake compressor can. They’re great for operating small pneumatic tools, inflating items, and other basic tasks. The main difference is how they’re shaped. Hot dog compressors are longer and skinnier than pancake compressors with a tank that’s shaped similarly to a hot dog.

Most of these compressors are rather small, though some of them are a bit larger than pancake compressors with tanks up to 8 gallons. The larger ones generally have wheels on the back and a long handle on the front so they’re easy to transport.

Kittory air compressor
Image: Pixabay

Sometimes Skinny Fits Better

Though pancake compressors have small footprints, there are plenty of times when the longer but thinner design of a hot dog compressor is a better choice. For instance, if you’re trying to work in a small bathroom and the compressor needs to fit in there with you, a hot dog compressor can be set against the wall where it won’t take up as much of the room.

Easy to Transport

Since many hot dog compressors have wheels and handles, you can easily drag them behind you. This is especially useful when you need to move your compressor often or for long distances. Many professionals need to move their compressor when they get to a job and might need to keep moving it throughout the day. If you get a hot dog compressor with wheels, it can save you a lot of energy.

Don’t Let it Slide or Tumble Away

The downside of the skinnier, longer design is that hot dog compressors aren’t as stable as pancake compressors. If you’re on rough or sloped terrain, a hot dog compressor could easily tip over and start rolling downhill. Or, if your hot dog compressor has wheels, it might roll downhill. Neither situation is optimal.

Pros
  • Wheels and handles can make them easy to move
  • The skinny shape takes up less space in some situations
Cons
  • You don’t get as much compressor for the price
  • Not as stable on rough or sloped terrain

Which to Choose?

If you’re still having trouble deciding between these two compressors, it’s probably because they have more similarities than differences. They both have similarly sized tanks, they’re used for similar tasks, and they have similar features. Most of them are oil-free and they even run at the same volume. So, when should you choose one over the other?

Pancake Compressor

You should choose a pancake compressor when you’ll be working on uneven or sloped terrain often. Roofers will benefit from this type of compressor since it won’t go tumbling off the roof. They’re wider and more stable, which is also great for many who work outdoors.

If you need to carry your compressor up ladders or stairs, a pancake compressor is the better choice. They’re easier to carry, though the lack of wheels makes them harder to transport on flat ground for long distances.

Hot Dog Compressor

If you’re going to moving your compressor across flat ground a lot, then a hot dog compressor is the way to go. You can find these with wheels and handles that make it much easier to move on flat ground.

Another time you’ll probably want to choose a hot dog compressor is when you’re working in confined spaces. The thinner design of these compressors means they can be shoved up against a wall where they won’t take up much of your limited space.

When to Use a Pancake Compressor
  • Roofing
  • Working upstairs
  • Working on uneven terrain
  • You need more compressor for the price
When to Use a Hot Dog Compressor
  • In the garage
  • When you need to move it often
  • It needs to be moved far
  • Working in small rooms

Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Pancake Compressor CRAFTSMAN 6-Gallon Pancake Air Compressor CRAFTSMAN 6-Gallon Pancake Air Compressor
  • Features two air outlets
  • Has maximum pressure of 150 PSI
  • With one-year warranty
  • Our Favorite Hot Dog Compressor California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Hot Dog Compressor California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Hot Dog Compressor
  • Easy to move around
  • Very quiet
  • Weighs nearly 50 pounds
  • Our Favorite Pancake Compressor: CRAFTSMAN 6-Gallon Pancake Air Compressor

    CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor

    With a six-gallon tank and two air outlets, you can power two tools at once with this CRAFTSMAN pancake compressor. It’s got a maximum pressure of 150 PSI, ensuring there’s plenty of pressure for whatever you need to supply. It features an oil-free pump that needs no maintenance and a one-year warranty to provide some peace of mind.

    Our Favorite Hot Dog Compressor: California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Hot Dog Compressor

    alifornia Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 1.0 hp Steel Tank Air Compressor

    Though it weighs nearly 50 pounds, thanks to the integrated wheels and handle, this eight-gallon hot dog air compressor from California Air Tools is easy to move around, as long as you’re staying on flat ground. It’s also very quiet with a running volume of just 60 decibels. Plus, this compressor has a fast recovery time that will take it from 90 PSI to its maximum of 120 PSI in just 30 seconds.

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    Conclusion

    For most basic tasks requiring an air compressor such as filling a bike tire, operating a nail gun, or using a pneumatic wrench, either style of compressor will suit your needs just fine. But for certain situations, you’ll want to pick the right compressor.

    If you’re working on sloped or rough ground like a rough or hill, a pancake compressor will provide the stability you need to ensure it doesn’t go for a tumble. Plus, they’re easier to carry up a ladder.

    But if you’re stuffed in a tiny bathroom, the space you save with a hot dog compressor makes it preferable.


    Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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