Best Air Compressors: How to choose one for yourself?

After wandering around in the market looking at different air compressors and losing my mind in the process, I figured finding the best air compressor is going to be a tricky job. So, I decided to look into them with the eye of Sherlock.

After a while, I’ve finally been able to make a list of 8 air compressors that I think are worth a shot. This post should serve you as the one-stop air compressor review.


My Top Pick:

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor is my top pick because the raw power it provides is unmatchable. Also, it’s pretty portable.


Air compressors are not that complicated of a tool. It consists of a compressor pump and a standard air tank. That’s pretty much it. There’s no rocket science there. Usually, unless specified, these machines are powered by a 120v power source.

But, one thing you should definitely keep in mind is the motor size or how much horsepower it provides. It replenishes the used air in the tank. So, yeah! The size of the tank is also important. But be cautious about the size of the tanks as a bigger tank implies less portability.

Tips: if you are looking for something with something larger, pay close attention to SCFM (standard cubic feet per minute). This will ensure you’re getting what you need and not the other way around.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites


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1. PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor – Editor’s choice

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor

PORTER-CABLE

The price to performance ratio is the reason this one is my top pick. It’s very portable and packs a super punch in a small package. 

  • With a 150 psi tank pressure, this one is capable of storing enough air in the tank.
  • The 2.6 SCFM at running at 90 psi allows the machine to recover very quickly.
  • This one is also certified as per ISO1217.
  • The six-gallon pancake style tank provides great stability.
  • Comes with rubber feet for stability.
  • Low amp (120v) motor can start without any hassle. Even in cold temperatures, it performs like a champ.
  • Comes with an extension cord.
  • The durability of this machine is incomparable.
  • It’s an oil-free pump and lasts lifelong. No maintenance required.

Pros

    Best bang for your buck.
    Very portable.
    150 psi max tank pressure.
    2.6 SCFM running at 90 psi.
    Fast recovery time.
    Weighs only 30lbs.
    Low amp motor.
    Durable and maintenance-free.

Cons

    It doesn’t work that well with heavy machineries.

2. BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor: Beginner friendly

Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor

Bostitch

If I asked some random guy, who makes the best air compressor? they’d probably answer BOSTITCH. If you are looking to get something that is beginner friendly, this one might be the one for you.

  • This one comes with a 150 max PSI 6-gallon oil-free compressor.
  • It is lightweight and portable.
  • The pump with 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI is the icing on the cake.
  • This one also comes with a pancake style bottom with rubber feet.
  • The high-efficiency motor picks up everything pretty easily. Cold temperatures or not, this one will not disappoint you.
  • To maximize air tool performance, they have designed a proprietary high flow regulator.
  • Looking for something that’ll last you for years after years? Well, this one is the way to go about it.
  • Operating max noise is 78.6 dB.

If you prefer a quiet working environment, then you got to pick this one. Well, at least as per their marketing. The max pressure sound level is only 78.6 DB. That’s way quieter than your average blender.

But in my personal experience, this one  is not as quiet as they market it out to be.

Pros

    150 max PSI oil-free compressor.
    Easy to use for beginners.
    High flow regulator.
    Very stable bottom.
    Durable and maintenance-free.
    Very high-efficiency motor.
    Portable and compact.

Cons

    it’s not as quiet as they say.

3. Senco PC1010 1-Gallon Compressor: Close runner up

Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak, 1/2 hp running 1-Gallon Compressor

Senco

With one horsepower peak power, this one by Senco easily makes it the list. This one is definitely a powerhouse. Power hungry consumers should definitely consider this.

  • One gallon compressor tank.
  • Provides one HP power.
  • It weighs only 20lbs. You can easily carry this from one place to another. This makes it the best air compressor for home use.
  • It’s also very quiet. The operating noise is not disturbing at all.
  • It is noise pollution friendly as well.
  • This one delivers 20 to 44 drives per minute. That’s enough for most people out there.
  • The one-gallon capacity is suitable for home improvement jobs.

Although this one doesn’t come with a pancake bottom, the rubber feet make up for it. It is very stable. So, don’t worry too much about it.

Pros

    Extra efficient operation with a direct drive motor.
    Completely lube-free.
    Reliable and durable.
    Ideal for renovation and home improvement jobs.
    Rubber feet make it stable and not harmful to the floor.
    Very quiet operation.
    Comes a Limited time warranty (as of writing this post).

Cons

    Not suitable for heavy workflow.
    Small tank.

4. EPAuto Air-Compressor: The tire master

EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator

EPAUTO

You are on the road and you need to refill your tire but can’t find a station nearby. This air compressor was specifically made for situations like these. With this now you can travel without having to worry about refilling.

  • 12V DC power connector
  • Comes with a dc power connector. You can literally plug this thing to your car’s cigarette lighter and use it for refilling purposes.
  • It is also a multipurpose air compressor. You can use this on any type of tool you want.
  • The 10 to 15 amp motor is capable of starting this without any hassle.
  • The built-in display is also cool. It provides all the necessary information you need.
  • Comes with auto-shutoff capability. Just set the desired pressure level and when it reaches it, it’ll shut down automatically.

I just wish this could be used as a day to day home usage product as well. But hey! that’s not what they went for though.

Pros

    Portable and lightweight.
    Dc power supply.
    Built-in display.
    Multipurpose usage.
    Connects with the car with ease.
    Prevents over inflation via auto-shutoff.

Cons

    Not powerful enough for heavy tools.

5. California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet: The quietest

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

California Air Tools

If you are looking for something very quiet, something that doesn’t bother you or your neighbor, this is the one for you.

  • The operating decibel of this air compressor is only 60 DB.
  • Complies with the environment properly.
  • The motor draws 8.5 amp from the source.
  • It can fill up an empty tank in just 165 seconds. Now that’s impressive.
  • This one comes with a huge 8-gallon tank. So, yeah! It’s pretty long-lasting and powerful too.
  • The peak running power for the motor is 2.0HP.
  • It’s also oil-free. So, no more mess.
  • The 3.00 CFM at 40 PSI is also something you should consider.
  • If you’re worried about the tank being too heavy to carry around, don’t be it comes with a wheel kit.

Overall, I’d say this is a great air compressor. The only downside is that it’s not as portable as some others on this list. But everything else makes up for it.

Pros

    Really quiet operation.
    Oil-free pump.
    It comes with a convenient wheel kit.
    Very powerful.
    Fast filling.
    Quick recovery.

Cons

    Not as portable as others.

6. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor: The power house

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

Makita

As what you are now looking at is an engineering miracle. The cast iron made pump with a huge bore cylinder of this air compressor was designed with fast recovery and improved performance in mind.

  • The low amp usage ensures a low-risk rate of tripped breakers at startup. In baby, terms it is very efficient.
  • The 4.2-gallon tank (twin stacked) consists of operating pressure of 130 PSI.
  • The delivery pressure is 40 PSI at 4.8 SCFM and 90 at 4.2 SCFM.
  • They use oil to reduce the temperature while running the pump. This also ensures less wear.
  • Built-in thermal overload for extra protection.
  • The solid cage makes sure the compressor is protected everywhere. Even in extreme conditions.
  • Large automotive style industrial air filter for increased air intake for improved efficiency.

Pros

    Strong built quality.
    Low amp usage.
    4.2-gallon twin stacked tank.
    Durable cast iron cylinder.
    Removable for easy maintenance,
    Oil-lubricated pump with thermal over loader.
    Equipped with heavy work in mind.

Cons

    They delivered the compressor without the oil filter.

7. DEWALT Air Compressor, 225-PSI Max: The best bang for your buck.

DEWALT Air Compressor d55146, 225-PSI Max, Hand Carry with Wheels, 4-1/2 Gallon

DEWALT

We all know this list wouldn’t be complete without a product from DEWALT. Not so surprisingly, this one also makes it to the list.  Although this one is a little pricey, it’s worth it.

  • This one comes with a wheel kit for easy movement.
  • Power is where this air compressor shines the most.
  • Packed with a whopping 225 PSI max tank storage pressure.
  • The 5 SCFM at 90 PSI makes sure there’s very little recovery time. It virtually felt like there was no waiting time.
  • Comes with a wheel kit.
  • Two universal couplers.
  • The vertical stand and collapsible handle allow its users to save up space.
  • 78 dB operational noise level is also very good considering the power of this machine.

This one is the most powerful machine in this list. If you are someone who requires power. But it costs more than most products in this list. If money is not an issue, get this one.

Pros

    Very powerful.
    Well-built and solid.
    78 DB operational noise level.
    1.6 HP.
    Collapsible handle to save space.
    It comes with a wheel kit.
    10-inch non-flat foam tires.

Cons

    The wheels could’ve been better.

8. Briggs & Stratton 1-Gallon Air Compressor

Briggs & Stratton 1-Gallon Air Compressor, Hotdog 074061-00,Black

Briggs & Stratton

Briggs 1-gallon air compressor comes with a standard 1-gallon air tank. There are different variants when it comes to tank size. But that’ll cost you extra bucks.

  • 1-gallon capacity.
  • 100PSI max pressure with .5 SCMF running at 40 PSI and .3 running at 90PSI.
  • It comes with a 1/5th horsepower motor. This one is an oil free pump.
  • The shroud protects the motor inside from outer damage.
  • The shroud also works as a noise reducer.
  • The quick connect coupler allows you to swap out accessories and tools with ease.

The downside of this product is the internal quality. People have experienced frequent short circuits with this. For the amount of money, they charge, this is disappointing. The life-cycle of this product is something to be concerned about.

Pros

    Very portable.
    Priced very competitively.
    The quick connect coupler.
    The protective shroud.
    It isn’t too noisy.

Cons

    Poor internal material quality.
    The lifecycle is very short.
    Poor price to performance ratio.

Buyer’s Guide: what to look for while buying an air compressor


If you didn’t like the list I compiled or you just want to know what to look for in an air compressor, the following are the 5 things you should look for while buying an air compressor.

  • Horsepower:

The horsepower rating is an easy way of determining what type of air compressor you require. This is the indicator of how powerful an air compressor is. Typically, for air compressors, HP varies from 1/5HP to 2HP. But be cautious as marketing people have been exaggerating the HP rating. One way to tell if you are being fooled or not is to look at how much electrical power it takes to run it. For instance, a true 5 HP motor will consume about 24 amps on a 220V circuit. So, choose wisely.

  • Air Pressure (PSI):

Air pressure measured in Pound Per Square Inch is the unit of pressure your compressor provides. Almost all air compressors require 90 PSI of air pressure to run properly. But one thing to keep in mind is that to maintain this unit pressure, you need a higher shutoff pressure. There are typically two stages in an industrial air compressor. One is starting and the other is shut off. Typically, 90 PSI is the ideal starting pressure and 175 PSI is the ideal shutoff pressure. But home or hobby compressors are one stage. They require 125-135 PSI shutoff pressure.

  • Cubic Feet Per Minute (CFM):

CFM is the metric that decides the certain volume of air needed for the tool to keep running. The volume of air the machine produces is measured in CFM. CFM is calculated based on size and speed of the compressor pump.  I suggest you  get 3-4 CFM per real HP at 90 PSI.

  •  Tank Size:

This is important. Ideally for home usage, you’d want a tank of medium size. Something too big would just be a hassle. At the same time, something too small would just be inefficient. I suggest you choose according to your needs.

  •  Warranty:

Last but not the least, you should definitely consider whether the product you’re about to buy comes with some form of warranty. People have reported their compressors dying on them within just months. A warranty will definitely have your back if something unfortunate happens to yours.

Which air compressor is right for you?

That’s actually a tricky question to answer. Different people require different types of air compressors. If you are someone on a budget, then you would have to cut some corners and choose the one that fits your needs the best. 

Or if you require only small tools to function properly, you are better off with something that has a smaller tank. It’s more portable and you can easily transport it from one place to another. Usually, these portable air compressors don’t cause you an arm and a leg. So, you are saving money too. Just don’t go all out and buy a really expensive one that you just don’t need.

However, if you are a professional, you might require something very powerful. If that’s the case, then you are better off buying something that comes with a large tank and lots of horsepower.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)


Which brand of air compressor is best?

In my personal experience, Porter makes some really good air compressors. DEWALT and BOSTITCH are also pretty good.

Which is a better oil or oil-less air compressor?

An oil-less air compressor is better as they don’t make a mess every now and then.

What kind of air compressor do I need?

If you are professional, heavy duty air compressors are the ones to go for. Otherwise, you should consider ones with smaller tank sizes and extra portability.

How many CFM do I need to run air tools?

2-4 CFM is more than enough for most people.

What is the highest PSI air compressor?

DEWALT Air Compressor, 225-PSI Max is the highest PSI air compressor in this list.

Final Thoughts

Well, this brings us to the end of our review of the best air compressor. I’ve tried to cover about air compressors as much as I could. If you are looking for my recommendation, PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor is my top pick. This one is the best of both worlds. It’s powerful enough to work with all types of equipment and it’s not too heavy either. It’s portable and doesn’t cost you a lot. This probably is the best air compressor for the money

Senco PC1010 1-Gallon Compressor is my close second runner up. If you buy either of them, you are more likely to be okay then not.

I hope this list was of some help to you. As always, work hard and stay safe.

2 thoughts on “Best Air Compressors: How to choose one for yourself?”

  1. Do you have a second to help me with a question I have? Do air compressors with vertical tanks work better than air compressors with horizontal tanks? My cousin was telling me they can hold more air but that doesn’t make any sense to me. I really appreciate the help!

    Reply
    • Generally speaking, the build of your compressor (whether it’s a horizontal or vertical one) doesn’t affect its performance. If space isn’t a problem for you, then there’s no need to target this aspect. you’re more happy that specialize in finding a system that has enough power for what you would like .

      Reply

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