April 12, 2017

Top 10 Air Compressors - Picking The Right Tool For The Job

*UPDATED 5/23/17*

Air compressors are fantastic tools, but a lot of the jargon surrounding them can be confusing for non-experts.

TOP 10 SHAVERS Reviewed

While it might be easy for an experienced user to pick out the exact model they need, for the rest of us it’s much more difficult.

I know this can be frustrating because years ago I had the same issue. I needed an air compressor but couldn’t have told you the first thing about them, and trying to decide which would be best for me turned into a process of trial and error.

I ended up getting it wrong that first time, but I didn’t have the benefit of a great online guide to help me.

Now that I do know my way around compressors, I’ve written this guide so you don’t have to go through all the wasted time and money that I did.​

Top 10 Air Compressors 2017

Compressor ModelTypeCFMRating 
Senco PC1010 (Editors Choice)General Compressor0.7CFM @ 90PSI85%Check Price
California Air Tools 5510SEGeneral Compressor2.20CFM @ 90PSI83%Check Price
Makita MAC2400Portable Compressor4.2CFM @ 90PSI92%Check Price
DeWalt DWFP55130Quiet Compressor3.0CFM @ 90PSI84%Check Price
Vliair 00088 88P12 Volt Compressor1.47CFM Free Flow @ 0 PSI75%Check Price
Porter-Cable PCFP02003Small Compressor2.0CFM @ 90PSI85%Check Price
Bostitch BTFP02012Pancake Compressor2.6CFM @ 90PSI80%Check Price
Puma Industries PK-6060VSingle Stage Compressor11.3CFM @ 90PSI97%Check Price
DeWalt DXCMV5048055Two Stage Compressor17.9 [email protected] 100PSI99%Check Price
Northstar 459392Gas Compressor13.7CFM @ 90PSI82%Check Price

The most important thing to consider before buying (and something I completely missed when I started off) is what tools you’re going to use the compressor with.​

There’s no point getting something massively overpowered, or even worse something that doesn’t have enough juice. Like Goldilocks, you need the compressor that’s just right.​

To help you accomplish this, I’ve split the compressors into separate categories.​

I’ve listed the most portable compressors, described which are the quietest (in case you’ve got sensitive neighbors) and in each product’s description I’ve talked about the kinds of jobs it is most suitable for.​

So whether you’re just trying to inflate the kids’ pool toys, or even start a car-painting empire, this article’s got you covered.​

General Compressors (for basic/home use)


These are the compressors that are designed to be easy-to-use for the layman. While they haven’t got the highest capacity around, they’re plenty powerful for the vast majority of jobs.

​They’re also light and quiet, so they’re perfect for a hobbyist. Or for carrying from site-to-site.

- Editors Choice -

Spec overview

  • The PC1010 has maximum pressure of 125 PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch). For those of you who have no idea what this means, PSI is simply the force at which the air can blow out of the Air Compressor. 125 PSI isn’t enough to flip a car over or anything, but considering that nail guns and impact wrenches only need about 90 PSI at the very most, 125 PSI is pretty generous for basic use.
  • The Senco is rated to deliver 0.7 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) at 90 PSI. This means that if you run the Senco at 90 PSI, you’ll get 0.7 Cubic Feet of air every minute. This is a bit low compared to some other models, but enough for most users.

  • It’s very quiet at only 68 decibels. You can easily have a conversation while using it.

  • It comes with a tank size of 1 Gallon. This is small compared to most, but it means the whole thing weighs just 20 pounds (around 9 kilos). So it’s extremely portable.

  • The Senco is powered by standard household AC power (mains powered) and rated to 115 volts @ 4 amps.

  • Has a single output nozzle. All this means is that you can only run one tool off it at a time. But considering that most users are only going to use one tool at a time, this won’t be an issue for the vast majority of you.

Uses/Usage

The Senco is best suited for jobs like trimming, blowing up pool toys & tires, driving nails, and doing low-volume air cleaning.

Because it’s so quiet it’s perfect for use in apartments and areas with neighbors nearby.

It’s so lightweight and easy to carry around too. So if you’re a handyman or the family fixer-upper and need something discrete to take from place to place, this would be a great choice.

Our Thoughts

My Dad enjoys doing remodeling work around his and some of his friends’ houses, and he’s used one of these for about 2 years now.

When I asked him his thoughts, he said it was great and invited me over to check it out.

One of the things that first struck me when I got hold of it, was just how easy the Senco is to use. I just turned it on, adjusted it to the air pressure I wanted, and off we went.

Honestly, I think a monkey could work one of these (although I didn’t have a monkey available to personally confirm that).

What I would say is this model doesn’t have the most capacity. So if you’re doing a lot of high-volume work (car spraying, or a ton of nailing) then you’d be better off with a something with a higher capacity.

But for home users this compressor is really great.

Conclusion

Definitely not appropriate if you’re trying to drill for oil or anything like that. But if you want a small, easy-to-use model that just works and you can carry around with you, then you can’t go wrong with the Senco.

85 %
Overall
Features 8/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 8/10
Overall 8/10

The Good

  • Plenty of power

  • Inexpensive

  • Very easy to use

  • Quiet

The Bad

  • Low capacity
  • Not suitable for high-volume jobs

- Runner Up -

Spec overview

  • 120 PSI Maximum Pressure
  • The 5510SE is rated to deliver 2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI. This is a very decent capacity.

  • Like the Senco we looked at above, this model is extremely quiet and produces only 60 decibels of noise.

  • Has an impressive 5.5 gallon capacity. More than enough for most casual use.

  • It weighs 54 lbs, making it over 2x heavier than the Senco, but it’s not going to pull your arm off or anything. It also comes on wheels, so if you’re feeling puny that day you can just roll it along with you. Think of it as a checked bag.

  • AC powered with an 8.5 amp draw and voltage of 110.

  • Comes with a quarter-inch ‘quick connect’ nozzle.

Uses/Usage

Because it’s got a larger gas tank, and charges more quickly than the Senco, this is better for jobs which demand more air, rather than air at a higher pressure. So the 510SE works well for nailers, butterflies, and air chisels.


You could also do trimming work, and basic stuff like blowing up tires, etc.


It’s extremely quiet (slightly quieter than the Senco). So even if you’ve got your baby asleep next door, you could probably get some work done without waking her up (don’t hold me to that though).


Because it’s oil free you can also use it in situations where you need very clean air.

Our Thoughts

Like the Senco, you don’t want to get this compressor if you’re looking to do heavy industrial work.


But for home use or light workshop use, it charges quickly, has good capacity, is quiet and it’s on wheels.


You’ll be able to get more air out of this than the Senco, so if you’re going to be running slightly more demanding tools, you should pick this up instead.



Conclusion

The 5510SE is excellent. The only reason it’s our runner-up is due to price, and the fact that most home users probably won’t need as much capacity as it offers.

It does go on sale periodically though, and if you can pick it up for under $200 it’s an absolute steal.

83 %
Overall
Features 8/10
Reliability/Warranty 9/10
Performance 8/10
Overall 8/10

The Good

  • Large tank

  • Portable

  • Isn’t noisy

  • Enough power for most general tasks

The Bad

  • Not the most powerful
  • Lacks some capacity

Portable Air Compressors (for semi-pro/pro use)


When I say portable, this compressor actually is less portable than the two models we looked at above (both are lighter).

But it is very portable considering its power and capacity. This is less of a hobbyist’s tool and more of a professional one.

So if you’re after a more serious tool that you can take around with you without a huge deal of trouble, then keep reading.

- Best Portable Air Compressor -

Spec overview

  • Boasts an impressive 130 PSI.
  • Will produce 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI. Nearly double that of the California Air Tools compressor (the compressor above this one).

  • Considering its power and capacity it’s very quiet. Just 79 decibels.

  • Has a 4.2 gallon twin-stacked tank.

  • Weighs 77 lbs.

  • Oil lubricated.

  • Rated for 12.3 amps and 120 volts.

  • 2 output nozzles. So you can run more than a single tool at a time.

Uses/Usage

This kind of model has the capacity and power to be useful in a wide range of situations.

It’s probably overkill for your average hobbyist though, as it’s louder and heavier than either of the previous two we looked at.

The added capacity means that you can use it for pretty much anything you could the previous two, but it’s good for bigger jobs as well.

Being able to connect two tools at once is also very handy.

It’s oil lubricated though, so if you need completely clean air, this won’t be ideal.

Our Thoughts

A contractor I used to work for had one of these, and we used it for trimming and related work.

It’s got a great handle that makes it easy to carry, even though the unit itself isn’t super light.

Because we worked as a team, the two output points allowed us to work on the job at the same time. If our compressor had only had one output point, then we’d have needed two compressors, so it saved us time and money.

As far as I’m aware he still has it, so it’s lasted him many years!

Conclusion

This is a much better tool if you need to use a compressor as part of your job. It’s got enough capacity and power for most work, while at the same time being easy enough to sling into the back of your pickup.

It’s a happy middle ground between super-powerful models that are impossible to move, and light ones that need a rest every 10 seconds.

92 %
Overall
Features 9/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 9/10
Overall 9/10

The Good

  • Good PSI

  • Doesn’t have an incredible capacity, but it’s definitely a step up from the more basic models.

  • Versatile

  • Easy enough to take from job to job

The Bad

  • Will not produce clean air (oiled)
  • It’s not really loud, but it’s definitely noisier than our two general compressors

Quiet Air Compressors (again for semi-pro/pro use)


As with the “portable compressor” I just reviewed, because this is so much more powerful than the two general (basically home-use) compressors we looked at above, it’s actually louder than both of them.

But for the amount of power it offers, it’s extremely quiet.

It’d be a good choice if you need a versatile tool you can use for something like blowing up tires to max (a job that requires a lot of PSI), but you also want to be able to take into a client’s home and use without upsetting the neighbors.

- Best Quiet Air Compressor -

Spec overview

  • Seriously powerful, produces 200 PSI.
  • 3.0 SCFM at 90 PSI.

  • 71.5 decibels. Very quiet for a model with this kind of power.

  • Comes with a 2.5 gallon tank

  • Very light and portable (whole thing weighs just 36 lbs).

  • Has a 12 amp draw motor and runs off 120 volts.

  • 2 output nozzles.

Uses/Usage

The Dewalt is a really nice model, but only for certain situations. If you’re after something which is powerful, easy-to-carry, and offers great versatility (quiet enough to use inside), then it’s a great choice.

What it’s not good for is jobs that require a ton of capacity, so something like a spray gun (which uses a lot of air) would probably be off the table.

But anything that needs high PSI, it’d be great for.

Our Thoughts

I haven’t actually used one of these, but I know a few people who’ve bought them, so let me give you my thoughts after speaking with them about it.

First the power on this model is really something, you can’t fault it there. And the build quality is very good too. It’s also light and quiet, making it all-around fairly impressive.

The main let-down is the capacity. For anything outside of the basics like nailers, you’re definitely going to want more air. This unit doesn’t offer all that much capacity.

It has two nozzles, which in this case are only really useful if you’re alternating between two relatively low-capacity tools, as it just doesn’t have the capacity to keep up with two demanding tools at once.

This is a good model, but is not ideal for high-capacity tools. So please don’t look at the two nozzles and think this will power two guys working at once, because it won’t.

Conclusion

Dewalt has produced a powerful, light and quiet machine here. But it’s important not to be deceived by the specs, or the fact it’s got two nozzles.

This is a pretty low capacity unit. Capacity comes in between the two “general” compressors we looked at earlier.

I’d recommend it, but only if you’re sure you don’t need more than the capacity it offers.

84 %
Overall
Features 8/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 8/10
Overall 8/10

The Good

  • Has impressive maximum pressure

  • Quiet

  • Very light for pressure

  • Durable and well-made

The Bad

  • Low capacity
  • Has 2 nozzles but not that viable for most dual use due to capacity

12 Volt Air Compressors


A compressor might be really good at one job, and completely unsuited for another.

Therefore deciding whether a compressor is ‘good’ or not, is mostly about working out how well it will perform the specific job you have in mind, or the jobs you will likely need it for in the future.

And no other compressors are more designed for one specific situation than 12 Volt Compressors.

These are designed to be left in your car, and when you have a puncture, they can be used to quickly blow your tires up.

- Best 12V Air Compressor -

Spec overview

  • 120 PSI maximum pressure
  • Runs off your car battery, so you’ll have to keep your vehicle running while you use it.

  • Comes with a 10 Ft. Power Cord, and a 16 Ft. Air Hose

  • Blows out air at 1.98 [email protected]i. This means it does it quickly

  • Apparently can fill up to 33" tires. Pretty impressive.

  • Weighs next to nothing, just 4.5lbs

Uses/Usage

Like we talked about, the 88P really only has one use. This compressor is designed purely for blowing up tires.

Please read that again.

I wouldn’t want anyone to skip through this review, see the concluding remarks, and think that the Viair would make a great compressor for home or anywhere else.

This is the kind of tool that most people will only use once or twice, but when you do, you’ll be so thankful you picked one up. It can help to get you out of incredibly sticky situations no problem.

Our Thoughts

I have one of these, it goes in the back of my truck and I’ve used it a ton of times!

Every time I’m going off road, I’ll use the 88P to take a little bit of air out of my tires. This makes them easier to drive on, and greatly reduces the chances of me picking up a puncture too.

Then when I’m back on pavement, I’ll quickly refill my tires and off I go.

I find the Viair absolutely indispensable, the nicest thing about it is that it’s so light and easy to forget about. I never even notice it until I need it.

Conclusion

The bottom line is…. If you drive, then you should get one of these... They’re that good.

It’s certainly not the most versatile compressor we’ve looked at here, but it’s an absolute life-saver.​

I wouldn’t jump in my vehicle without one.​

75 %
Overall
Features 4/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 9/10
Overall 8/10

The Good

  • Incredibly handy to have

  • Runs off your car battery (many competitors use - and could blow fuses using - your cigarette lighter

  • Weighs almost nothing

  • Easy to put in your trunk or glove compartment

The Bad

  • Only good for filling up tires
  • Doesn’t have a cigarette lighter adapter (but see pros for why this could be a good thing)

Small Air Compressors


The saying goes “Bigger is Better”. But when it comes to air compressors, there’s a lot to be said for being small and compact for many uses

Lugging around some big compressor is tiring and seriously hard work. It can also be difficult to store larger units.

As long as it’s got the power and capacity you need, you’d be much better off with a smaller compressor, particularly if you’re not using the compressor for high volume, professional work.

- Editors Choice -

Spec overview

  • 135 Max PSI. So very decent power
  • 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI. Not a ton of capacity, but this is a smaller compressor.

  • 82 Decibels so while it’s not the quietest model here, it’s not gonna deafen you either.

  • Has a 3.5 gallon tank and weighs just 26lbs! Seriously light.

  • 10 Amps and runs off 120 Volts

Uses/Usage

This is definitely not one for big jobs. You’d either keep the PCFP02003 at home, or you’d use it just for things that don’t demand much air, like nailing or or other lighter jobs.

You could use it for pumping up tires too. But you’d probably have to stop after a while to let the tank refill.

Our Thoughts

I’ve had one of these for a while, I don’t use it as much as I used to, but it’s still a good model.

The main limiting factor for me was the lack of capacity. It worked fine for intermittent bursts, but if I wanted to have it on for longer periods, it would leave me frustrated.

On the upside is it weighs very little, so carrying it around is no effort at all. Like most lower capacity compressors, the Porter-Cable is not ideal if you’re planning to do high-capacity spray work or something similar.

You can use it for this, but you’ll just end up stopping and starting repeatedly if you do.

Finally, it’s oil free, so it produces completely clean air.

Conclusion

Like I said, I still own a PCFP02003. It’s a decent model and if you’re after a small one, then it might be ideal.

But, if I were you I would spend a little more cash and get a higher capacity model. It’ll weigh a bit more but you’ll end up with much more versatility and probably a quieter machine too.

85 %
Overall
Features 8/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 8/10
Overall 8/10

The Good

  • Generates good PSI

  • Very lightweight

  • Portable

  • Good for hobby use

The Bad

  • Not much capacity
  • Louder than our other recommendations

Pancake Air Compressors


You might be wondering what exactly a pancake compressor is.

‘Pancake’ simply refers to the shape of the tank used to store the compressed air. That’s it.

Pancake compressors also tend to be smaller and lighter than other types of compressors. But there’s no significant difference beyond that.

- Best Pancake Air Compressor -

Spec overview

  • This Bostitch compressor has a maximum PSI of 150
  • It’ll churn out 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI

  • Produces 78.5 decibels

  • 6 Gallon tank is a decent size

  • Surprisingly light at just 29lb. Due to its slim design it’s easy to store too.

  • Runs off household power.

Uses/Usage

Because the BTFP02012 has a decent amount of power (150 PSI) while having a reasonable capacity too (not huge but not terrible), it can be used for a wide number of different applications.

You could easily use it for nailing, trimming, blowing up tires, and light airbrushing. Things like that.

Bigger jobs might need more capacity, but for most things it wouldn’t be a bad choice.

Our Thoughts

I really like this model, obviously it’s not perfect but when you compare the capacity and power to weight ratio it does pretty well.

I also like the fact it’s oil-free which can be really handy if you need to do anything that requires clean air (spray painting for a short period of time).

One thing that puts me off a little is the noise, it’s not going to wear my ears out or anything, but it definitely makes more of a racket than some of the previous models we looked at.

This means it’s not as versatile when going into apartment buildings or offices, since you’re more likely to disturb the neighbors.

Conclusion

Good compressor, but the capacity does limit you a little.

Still, it produces clean air, you could easily use it for nailing jobs and such, and if you’re prepared to wait a while between applications you could even use it for airbrushing and similar.

Just not if you’re in a rush!

80 %
Overall
Features 8/10
Reliability/Warranty 8/10
Performance 8/10
Overall 8/10

The Good

  • Powerful

  • Lightweight

  • Has a compact design, so it’s easy to store

  • Clean air is a big plus

The Bad

  • Noisier than you’d think
  • Capacity could be improved

One Stage Stationary Air Compressors


This compressor is different than all the of the other units we’ve looked at so far.

Most of those were at least partially portable, some were certainly heavier than others, but for the most part if you really wanted to move them around you could.

This type of compressor is much more of a stationary unit. You set it up and leave it. Rather than bringing it to the things you want to work on, you bring the things you want to work on to it. This obviously means it’s better for a long-term job or setting up in a shop, home workshop or similar.

- Best Single Stage Air Compressor -

Spec overview

  • The PK-6060V is pretty powerful. It boasts 135 PSI
  • The main advantage of a stationary model like this is the capacity. The Puma has an 11.3 CFM at 90 PSI. Easily the most we’ve looked at so far.

  • I couldn’t actually find the specific decibels this model produces (not a good sign), but it’s pretty noisy. I’d guess around 90, so loud but not earth-shattering.

  • Massive 60 Gallon tank

  • Seriously heavy, this bad boy weighs in at 305 pounds. So please don’t think about trying to move it!

  • You’ll need at least a 16.6 amp circuit. It’s a 208-230 Volt Single Phase and 230V plug is not included.

Uses/Usage

Because you can’t really move this model, it’s most appropriate for setting up in a workshop and then bringing in stuff to work on.

While it’s got very respectable power, where this unit really excels is in capacity. So it means you can get a lot of work done with tools like air and spray guns, which require tons of air to function.

This wouldn’t be handy for a tradesman who needs something he can take from site-to-site. This is definitely the kind of unit you set up somewhere at least semi-permanently.

Our Thoughts

I am the proud owner of one of these monsters, and I think it’s excellent.

Like we’ve discussed though, this compressor definitely isn’t perfect for everything. Mine is locked up in my garage and hasn’t moved since I had it installed almost 4 years ago.

I use it for reconstruction work that I do on cars and 4x4s, as that kind of work requires a ton of air, and using a smaller compressor would massively slow me down. By using the PK-6060V instead I save hours each time by not having to wait around.

Conclusion

This is a fantastic compressor. But it is not cheap and is almost impossible to move too.

So please think long and hard about whether you need one of this size before spending your hard earned money!

97 %
Overall
Features 9/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 10/10
Overall 10/10

The Good

  • More than enough power

  • Massive capacity means you can do tons of work from your garage (like me!)

  • It’s noisier but most of the problem with that is having to take a noisy compressor to other people’s houses, and you’ll only be using this in your place of work so it’s not as big of an issue.

  • Works for the vast majority of jobs

The Bad

  • Pricey
  • Impossible to move without professional assistance.

Two Stage Stationary Air Compressors


The difference between a single stage compressor (like the Puma unit I’ve got) and a two stage compressor is pretty simple.

In a single stage compressor, the air is compressed between the inlet valve and the tool nozzle just once.

In a two stage compressor, this happens twice. This results in twice as much pressure (at least theoretically).

Two stage units tend to be bigger, louder, more powerful and have more capacity.

- Best Two Stage Air Compressor -

Spec overview

  • Develops a maximum PSI of 175. Very powerful.
  • Has a tremendous amount of capacity, a huge 17.9 CFM at 100 PSI.

  • According to Home Depot, this model produces 83 decibels. Although I have to be honest and say that when I’ve been up close and personal with one, it sounded a lot louder than that.

  • Huge tank size, 80 Gallons.

  • Weighs a colossal 500lbs. Like the Puma this is a ‘set up and leave it’ type of compressor.

  • You need 22 amps and 230 volts.

Uses/Usage

A compressor of this size, weight, and capacity is well beyond the needs of 99% of users.

Unless you’re loaded and just want a fancy toy to play with (I know the feeling) then it’s only really workshops and other places where there’s a permanent need for air power where this compressor is going to be useful.

With that understood, you can run pretty much anything you like off this.

The capacity is massive and it’s got 3 separate output points, one large one and two smaller. So you can have your important stuff permanently plugged in and swap out the less important stuff when you need to do smaller jobs.

Our Thoughts

I don’t have one of these (it’d be a slight overkill) but a buddy of mine owns an autobody shop where they use a lot of air tools. And this is the compressor he uses over there.

He runs pretty much everything off it, and when I asked him about it he said it had been excellent.

When I was over there he demonstrated it for me. I was very impressed with the number of tools he was able to run off it at once, and even though it’s pretty noisy, in a busy garage it’s not terrible.

Conclusion

For me, this is the coolest compressor on this list. Just because of all the capacity it brings to the table.

Having said that, it’s clearly an extremely specialised product, best suited to businesses which use a lot of air tools at the same time.

I’d recommend it, but only if you know for sure you need a tool of this kind of power, weight and cost.

99 %
Overall
Features 10/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 10/10
Overall 10/10

The Good

  • Huge capacity, you could run an army off this compressor

  • Loud, but considering where you’d be using it, not a deal breaker

  • Can maintain power to a bunch of tools at once

  • Very easy to quickly attach cables to for quick jobs

The Bad

  • Price means it only makes sense as a business expense
  • Make sure you like where it gets installed….because that’s where it’s saying

Gas Air Compressors


Gas compressors are different than the other types of compressors we’ve looked at here.

This is because they run off gasoline as opposed to electricity. Because of this, for most people they’re not going to be that relevant.

This type of compressor is best used in remote areas where you can’t get access to power, or more likely on sites where no power is available yet.

These are certainly niche tools, but for some of you they’ll be very useful.

- Best Gas Air Compressor -

Spec overview

  • This model is powerful, producing a max PSI of 130
  • Very impressive capacity: 13.7 CFM @ 90 PSI

  • I couldn’t find out the exact noise output of this compressor. When listening to it I’d guess around 85 decibels. That’s a guess but a pretty educated one.

  • Impressive 20 Gallon tank

  • The Senco is powered by standard household AC power (mains powered) and rated to 115 volts @ 4 amps.

  • Definitely not light, weighs just under 190 lbs. It is on wheels, so that helps massively when you have to move it.

  • Runs off gasoline rather than electricity.

Uses/Usage

I know some companies who use gas powered air compressors exclusively, and this is one of the most popular models.

The advantage of gas models is that they can be used anywhere you can get decent ventilation. There’s no need to search around for a socket, and you don’t need to worry about the amount of amps you need either, just start it up and you’re ready to go.

These are commonly used by construction companies in remote locations. If that sounds like you, then definitely consider picking one up.

Our Thoughts

I don’t have a ton of experience using these, but I know that this is a widely used model. I picked this one in particular because of the numerous recommendations I got when I asked around.

The people I talked to love this model because of its reliability and power, it has enough capacity to finish pretty much any job and you can easily take it into difficult to reach locations and start working your air tools.

A massive (but easily overlooked) bonus is the wheels that come with it. Without these, moving it would be a nightmare. But with them, it’s not much harder than steering a (full) Walmart cart!

Conclusion

Once again this is a specialized tool, so there’s no point getting one if there’s going to be electricity available. But if you’re working in remote areas, it could be incredibly useful, or outright essential.

82 %
Overall
Features 8/10
Reliability/Warranty 10/10
Performance 9/10
Overall 8/10

The Good

  • No electricity needed. You can work wherever there’s sufficient ventilation.

  • Plenty of power

  • Fantastic capacity

  • Wheels make it extremely portable

The Bad

  • Very specialised (won’t be relevant to most of you)
  • Can’t use inside (unless you’re wearing gas masks)

Buyers Guide


As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, one compressor is very unlikely to be the same as the next. They have vastly different capabilities and are designed with entirely different tasks in mind.​

So before you buy, you have to know which compressor will be most suitable for your unique needs.​

Otherwise you’re just going to waste your money.​

With this in mind, I want you to take a piece of paper and carefully note down every single tool you would like to use your air compressor for.​

Actually do this, don’t just nod your head and carry on reading. Because doing it could save you a ton of money, headache and time!​

Once you’ve done that, you need to look up the required PSI (Pounds Per Inch) of each specific tool. It’s easy to get general guides online, but you want to be specific, so type in the name of each specific tool into Google, and find out how much PSI it requires. Keep a browser tab up for each of the tools, it will save time in the next step.​

This shouldn’t take long at all.​

Do that for every single one of your tools, and you should now have list of PSI values written on a piece of paper in front of you.​

Now you know the minimum PSI value you need. If you’re looking at a compressor with max PSI of 120, but one of your tools requires a minimum of 150 PSI, then you know it’s not powerful enough. So start looking at one that has sufficient PSI.​

That’s the first thing to consider.​


Next you need to do the same thing with capacity. Different tools make vastly different demands in terms of the amount of air they require.​

A nailer uses a relatively small amount of air, and an airbrush or spray gun will use a ton.​

Once again, Google the name of your specific tools and find out how much capacity they need.​

Capacity is measured in terms of the amount of air that can be supplied at a certain PSI. For instance, 2.2 CFM at 90 PSI means the compressor generates 2.2 cubic feet per minute of air at 90 PSI.​

Obviously the higher the PSI, the lower the cubic feet per minute the compressor will be able to generate.​

These are the main two stats you need to be concerned about.​

You also want to think about weight. Are you planning to move your compressor a lot? Do you work in a single location or take your tools from site to site?​

The answers to these questions should inform the type of compressor you get.​

Common questions

Which Air Compressor Would You Recommend For A Nail Gun?
  • Nail guns are tools which require a reasonable amount of PSI (basically power), but not a massive amount of CFM. What this means is that they’re not tremendously demanding in terms of the amount of air they need, but you just need to be able to put that air out quickly. The real answer here is to check the tool you have (or are interested in getting) and compare it to what the compressor you’re interested in produces.
  • Since this is such a common question I’m going to give a couple of recommendations. However, you should definitely check requirements before buying anything. First, don’t get anything too big. Both the Puma Industries PK-6060V and the DeWalt DXCMV5048055 have unnecessary capacity for something like this. Second, get something on the slightly higher end of the power spectrum. Say north of 135 PSI, something with lower pressure will still be able to handle 90% of nailers, but why not be safe? Something like the DEWALT DWFP55130 would be fantastic for a nail gun. It’s got plenty of power and a decent capacity too.

Which Compressor Is The Best For Spray Painting?
  • For spray painting you’re generally going to want a high-capacity compressor. You certainly can use a lower-capacity one, but it just means you’ll spend a reasonable amount of time waiting for your tank to refill.
  • As always, make sure to check the demands of the specific painter you’re planning to use. Out of the models we’ve looked at, I’d recommend either of the two stationary models. Or if you’re after something a little more portable, the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore, due to its impressive 4.2 CFM.
  • However, all three of these models are oil cleaned, which can affect the quality of the air. If this is a problem you’d have to use a lower-capacity, oil-free model (perhaps the Bostitch BTFP02012) and just spend a little more time waiting for the tank to fill.

Best Compressor For An Impact Wrench?
  • Once again, please check required stats on the wrench. But generally, impact wrenches are not massively demanding in terms of CFM, and only need about 90 PSI, so you could pretty much take your pick from any of those we recommend here. Although with most of these you wouldn’t be able to run the wrench for a prolonged period, so if that’s what you’re after, higher CFM = Better.

Which Is The Best Air Compressor For Sandblasting
  • Sand Blasting is more dependent on CFM than PSI. So if you’re buying one with that in mind, I would recommend a compressor with good CFM. A nice portable option would be the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore. If you’re doing a ton of sandblasting in your workshop, then you could upgrade to one of the more expensive stationary options instead.

What’s The Best Compressor For Home Use
  • Without labouring the point, it comes down to what you’re going to use it for. At my home, I’ve got a Puma Industries PK-6060V. For most of you this would be complete overkill. As I do a lot of work on cars in my garage, it’s absolutely perfect for my needs. The most important thing you can do is to perform the exercise I recommended in the Buyers Guide: note down all the tools you’d like to use with your compressor, and then figure out the demands of each of these tools.
  • Once you’ve done this, you’ll know straight away what you need, and what you don’t. You’ll save a ton of money that way, and it’s the exact advice I wish someone had given me when I first started looking at air compressors.

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About the Author

Alex Walton

I’m responsible for the “Tools” related content on this site and a fair few years older than some of the other contributors, but with age come wisdom! My wife says I horde tools, but you can never have enough!

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