These air compressor reviews should make it easier for you to find the best tool geared to the jobs you’ll be doing.
I’ve chosen a mix of HVLP and electric compressors currently on the market. These brands showcase different features so you can make an informed choice before purchasing a quality air compressor.
Different Compressor Types Explained
There are a number of different kinds of air compressors currently on the market.
This is great as it means there is plenty of choices, but it can make it harder to narrow down all the potential products out there.
These are the most common used by homeowners and handymen and women.
High Volume Low-Pressure Air Compressors
HVLP air compressors are a firm favorite for most DIY-ers – ‘high volume, low pressure’ air compressors use a higher volume of air than others do, but work at a lower pressure. In layman’s terms, this means that you can paint a surface more quickly and efficiently than if you were to use another type of compressor.
The lower pressure allows for a more accurate application with less wastage - better for the environment; better for your arms. HVLP compressors put in all the legwork, allowing you to achieve professional-looking results without having to put in too much effort, or funds.
Electric Air Compressors
‘Standard’ or ‘conventional’ electric air compressors work at a higher pressure than HVLPs. This can produce a seemingly-better end result, as the high pressure, they operate at makes for a finer application. The paint can appear to go onto the surface more smoothly, due to the high pressure it shoots out at.
However, you may be doing more damage than good, as these types of compressors can result in an awful lot of overspray, thus damaging the environment, and wasting expensive products. It’s important to remember to keep yourself safe when using these kinds of air compressors, due to the amount of chemicals/ products you’re releasing into the air by accident – masks and goggles, please!
Then there’s the question of oil-flooded or oil-free. Both of these options have their pros and cons. Oil-flooded compressors use oil as a lubricant to keep everything running smoothly. This can be great and is meant to make the compressor more durable.
However, even the smallest oil leak can completely ruin your work – oil seeping into the air tank can compromise the quality of the paint you’re using, for example, undoing all your hard work and affecting how evenly your work dries. Oil-free compressors use a longer-lasting lubricant, meaning there’s less likely to be maintenance issues down the road, even if it is a slightly noisier option.
These compressors are shaped as round, flat storage tanks which are mounted on the bottom of the compressor unit. The pancake compressor offers additional stability over other models. In addition, it will take up less space making it easy to store. These compressors are generally quite small, normally only about 1 gallon. They also tend to be lightweight around 16 pounds.
They are oil-free and contain no belts so there is no maintenance required. People tend to use this variety to fill bicycle tires, rafts, balls and other small household equipment. Most of these lack the power required to run air tools. In addition, they can be quite noisy.
Hot Dog Compressors
Hot dog compressors are a popular choice for hobbyists because they can run small air tools such as staplers. These offer a larger tank than with pancake compressor and can be heavier. They often come with handles to make transport a little easier. The hot dog compressor has a horizontal design and a single, cylindrical tank.
This compressor features two horizontal, cylindrical tanks. The stacked design of this compressor adds air capacity but doesn’t increase the floor space needed. As a DIY-er, this style is popular because there is enough power to use trim tools.
Portable Single-Stage Air Compressor
These are popular with carpenters who run air tools frequently. A portable air compressor is a good option when working outside the house or framing an addition. They tend to offer a stronger engine and higher-quality compressor pumps.
Stationary Single-Stage Air Compressor
A stationary single-stage compressor is a must have when running a shop. They are used for automotive work and offer years of quality air.
These offer twin cylindrical tanks and will feature a wheel with handles for easy transport.
What To Consider When Looking For a Top Rated Air Compressor
Now that I’ve run through my top picks of air compressors out there, it’s time for a little bit of general advice. My air compressor reviews have hopefully helped you, but I want you to be fully informed before I send you out into the world of HVLPs and nozzles!
First things first, you need to set yourself a budget before you get carried away. If you’re anything like me, you’ll look at prices first and USPs later. I’ve listed a variety of products within a wide price range, so hopefully, there’s something to suit everyone’s wallet.
For those of you who are looking for budget buys, make sure you still go for good quality, or you’ll end up paying three times over with replacements. Those with a little more cash to splash should stick with trusted brands, just to ensure you’re not being sold fake promises.
I covered some of the types of air compressors earlier, but it’s important to keep these in mind. Think about what you’re most likely to be using your air compressor for, and then build your perfect product around that.
For some of you, something portable and small that can inflate your tires is enough. Others will want something quiet due to the environment you work in, so keep an eye out for noise-reducing technology. And, for others, you’ll be looking for long extension cables and low-pressure compressors to help give your paint-jobs a professional shine.
Oil may not seem like the most important aspect when it comes to air compressors, but it makes a difference. Some people prefer to use oil-flooded compressors, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be durable and long-lasting. For others, such as the painters among you, oil-free products are a much safer option and ensure that your paint quality won’t be compromised in the event of an oil leak.
Air pressure that is generated by an air compressor is measured in pounds per square inch. A lighter-duty compressor will typically have about 90 PSI. This is enough to run pneumatic tools or perform light household tasks. A powerful compressor will generate 150 PSI or higher.
This should be one of the most important things you consider. It stands for cubic feet per minute and most air tools have the CFM ratings listed. This makes it easy when pairing your tools with an air compressor.
Small tools are going to require anywhere from 0-5 CFM while a larger tool can require 10 or more. Examine all the tools you want to use. Then, take the highest CFM rating of them all and multiply that number by 1.5. This is the minimum CFM you should look for when purchasing an air compressor.
If you are using multiple tools at once, you are going to need more power. This will require that you add the CFM of all the tools to determine what compressor you need.
The air compressor’s tank will show you how long the tools can run before the compressor needs to turn back on. This number is listed in gallons.
Using air tools that need high volumes of air on a continuous basis will require you to have a larger tank. If you are using a tool intermittently, then it should be okay to have a smaller tank.
If you are exposed to decibel ratings of 85 dB or higher for an extended period of time, it can be dangerous to your health. At 8 hours a day, this level can lead to hearing loss. Most air compressors on the market range anywhere between 40 and 90 dB.
Weight will be an issue if you are looking for portability. If you need a small compressor to fit in the car, go for a lightweight and easy to carry model. Keep in mind that even many of the heavier models offer wheels to make transportation easier.
You will see that generators are available as either a gas-powered model or electrical version. Electric compressors will need a voltage between 110-120V. If it exceeds two horsepower, it may require a 220-240V instead. These compressors don’t emit any fumes and can be stored indoors.
Gas-powered air compressors have a high output and will emit exhaust. They should be used in well-ventilated areas and won’t be able to be stored indoors.
Best 15 Brands Of Air Compressors Reviewed
1. Porter Cable Air Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
Porter-Cable tends to be one of the most highly recommended brands when looking for an air compressor. On top of that, they offer a large variety of shapes and sizes. Most of these come highly rated from the customers.
One of the best-selling models is this PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor with 13-Piece Accessory Kit. It features a 6-gallon capacity and a 13-piece accessory kit. It is constructed with the pancake style for superior stability while working.
The 150 PSI max tank pressure stores more air to provide for longer air tool performance. It also features 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI to allow for quick recovery times. The air coupler and plug are both factory installed on the hose to save labor time and prevent leakage.
You can’t go wrong with a purchase from Porter-Cable. Their products are one of my top choices and well worth every penny you spend.
2. Kobalt Air Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
Kobalt is a brand that was started in 1998 by Lowe’s. They offer high-quality tools at a reasonable price. They directly compete with the Craftsman and Husky brands.
One of their more innovative products is the Kobalt 12-Volt Multi-Purpose Portable Car Sport Air Inflator. It connects to a 12-volt power source while in the vehicle or a 120-volt connection at home. This makes it convenient to use anywhere.
There is also a 29-inch hose to accommodate a variety of needs. The compressor includes an inflator, digital tire gauge, light and nozzle accessories you can use for inflating small devices such as bike tires and balls. You can even use the preset options on the digital gauge to automatically shut off when the pressure has reached its desired limit. This will reduce overfilling.
When you are traveling at night, the additional built-in light will offer safe dark area operation to give you peace of mind.
3. Quincy Air Compressor Review
My Overall Rating
The Quincy brand is geared toward the higher-end user that is going to use air compressors daily. Most of their products cost well over $1,000 and aren’t for the typical home user.
One of their more popular air compressors is the Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor. It features 5 HP, 230 Volt, 1 Phase and is a 60-Gallon Vertical tank.
Some of the features include an industrial-quality US made Baldor motor. It is a capacitor start motor that offers a built-in thermal overload. There is less than 5 PPM of oil carry-over and this air compressor offers 145 to 175 working PSI.
You aren’t going to find too many air compressors that are more powerful or industrial-geared than the Quincy brand. They might be pricey, but many customers think they are worth their weight in gold when the compressor is being used on a regular basis.
4. California Air Compressor Review
My Overall Rating
California Air Tools are a popular choice for home users when looking for a compressor. That’s because you can find a powerful machine for a reasonable price. In addition, their compressors come with high ratings.
One of the most bestselling compressors currently is the California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0-HP 5.5-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor. It offers an oil-free pump for cleaner air and less maintenance.
It runs at 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI with a 120 PSI maximum pressure. This ultra-quiet air compressor runs at just 60 dB and also allows for longer continuous run times.
Many customers have found this air compressor to be a welcome addition to the shop or home. In fact, it comes as one of Amazon’s top picks when looking for an air compressor. For the money, you aren’t going to find anything better.
5. EPAuto Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
Next up is this gem from EPAuto. It’s reasonably priced and packs a punch at the same time. It includes adaptors so that you can use it for a variety of jobs around the home, and is also portable so you can take it to and from the workplace, or just keep it in your car for any roadside emergencies.
If you’re after an air compressor for painting, this is the best electric air compressor for you – it runs at twelve volts and has handy technology installed so that you never run at too high a pressure, or overinflate a tire. The extension cables measures around nine feet, allowing you to complete a multitude of jobs easily.
One of my favorite features with this product is the LED light – it may not seem essential, but you’ll be more than grateful for it if you ever need to inflate a tire in the middle of the night!
6. Fini Air Compressor Review
My Overall Rating
The Fini brand has been offering a variety of air compressors since 1952. You will find a selection of rotary screw compressors, oil-free scroll compressors, piston compressors, air treatment products and more.
One of the more unique products they offer is the Fini AB1PAK 1.2-Gallon Combo Gun Kit. It offers a 1.5-horsepower 120-volt motor. It operates at 135 PSI Max pressure and 1.8 CFM at 90 PSI. This will easily power any finish nailer or stapler.
The Fini AB1PAK offers handy storage for the cord, hose and accessories. This makes everything easy to keep track of. In addition, the impact-resistant shroud and metal handle will protect the unit from damage.
This kit comes with a premium 25-foot PVC hose and industrial quick-connect fittings. The advanced oil-free pump with sound filtration reduces the noise down to just 73 dB. It will also start easily even in cold weather temperatures.
7. Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor Review
My Overall Rating
Campbell-Hausfeld offers a wide range of air compressors to fit any budget. Despite being popular with customers, the reviews don’t always reflect highly on the brand.
One of the most purchased air compressors is the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor that is portable and offers a 3 Gallon horizontal tank. It is also oilless and features a 10-piece accessory kit which includes an air hose and inflation gun.
This unit features 110 max PSI which gives you plenty of power to take on most DIY products. You can plug this into any 120-volt household outlet.
It also features an oil-less pump for low maintenance and a reliable motor output. Use this compressor for tire or ball inflation, powering air brushes, nailers and handling upholstery projects.
Whatever your price range, you are sure to find a Campbell-Hausfeld air compressor that will meet your needs, but be sure to read the reviews to ensure you are getting what you want.
8. Puma Air Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
Puma Air offers a variety of oil-less compressors geared more toward the higher-end user. In addition, they have a nice offering of air tools as well.
One of the more popular compressors is the Puma Industries PD1006 Air Compressor with a professional D.C. Direct Drive Oil-Less Series motor that runs 0.75 hp and a 135 Maximum PSI.
The oil-less design allows the unit to be mounted in any orientation needed. The patented pump design offers lowered noise and improved cooling. The deep cooling fin design on cylinders and the head offer high-efficient cooling. In addition, the oversized motor cooling fan will keep the unit from overheating.
You will find that the majority of Puma Air compressors are higher priced than some other brands we’ve shown you. For the average home user, they may not be the best value available.
9. Bostitch Air Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
Bostitch is one of my favorite air compressor brands. That’s mainly because of the value they offer for the money. Most every product they have comes highly rated and for a decent price.
One of the best values that can be purchased is the BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT 3-Tool and Compressor Combo Kit. It offers a 6-gallon 150 PSI 2.6 CFM pancake compressor with a high-efficiency motor. That isn’t all, it also comes with a nice set of tools.
You’ll receive the Brad nailer which can drive nails from 5/8-inch to 2-inch, the Straight finish nailer which drives 1 ¼-inch to 2 ½-inch, 16-gauge nails and the Crown Stapler which drives heavy-duty 3/8-inch crown staples from ¼-inch to 9/16-inch.
The air compressor also features a 1/4-inch by 25-foot PVC air hose with fittings. There aren’t many combination sets that come like this anymore, especially for the price.
10. Industrial Air Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
Industrial Air offers some great compressors for a large-scale shop. The prices are going to be well over $500 for even a lower line model, so it isn’t something that average home user would want to purchase.
One of the current best options on the market includes this Industrial Air ILA1883054 30-Gallon Belt Driven Air Compressor. It features a cast iron design with twin-cylinder, oil-lubricated pump. The dual-voltage motor is wired for a standard 120-volt household outlet, but it can be converted to 240-volts where needed.
The 155 PSI maximum pressure offers optimum tool performance and the 30-gallon ASME vertical portable tanks offers plenty of air for all your jobs. It also features pre-attached pneumatic tires, a quick-set regulator and working pressure gauges plus an on/off switch.
If you work in an industrial setting, this might be the right brand for you. Otherwise, I don’t believe the product is worth the additional money.
11. DEWALT Air Compressor Review
My Overall Rating
The DEWALT brand is a favorite among DIY-ers and that is because of the reasonable price and high quality that is offered. It is an American company that offer power tools and hand tools. DEWALT is owned by the Black & Decker company.
One of the best values currently being offered is the DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor. With 165 maximum PSI and a 6-gallon tank, it is sufficient to handle most household projects.
The high-efficiency motor offers easy start up even in cold weather. It also features a sound rating of 75.5 dB which is quieter than many other brands on the market. The high-flow regulator and couplers will maximize your air tool performance.
With the brand name of DEWALT behind the tool, you know that you are getting a decent product. In addition, you don’t have to spend as much as you would with other brands. That’s why DEWALT has become a household name.
12. Central Pneumatic Air Compressor Review
My Overall Rating
Central Pneumatic Air Compressors come in a variety of shapes, sizes and capacities.
Overall, their top performing air compressor seems to be the Central Pneumatic 2 HP, 8 Gallon, 125 PSI Portable Air Compressor. It features a direct drive induction motor with thermal overload protection. In addition, it can be easy-to-carry with the handle and attached wheels. This makes it quite mobile despite the larger size.
This unit will require some maintenance but has a clear view oil window so you can easily tell when to add more. The compressor also features a high-impact ABS shroud for maximum protection.
The downside to this unit is that it has a decibel rating of 88 dB which can be damaging to the ears if you don’t wear proper protection.
13. Air Hawk Air Compressor Review
My Overall Rating
The Air Hawk brand is an “As Seen on TV” brand, but is it any good. Overall, customers seem generally satisfied. Obviously, for the price of the brand, you can’t expect too much in the way of features.
The main product to check out is the Air Hawk Pro Cordless Portable Compressor. At just under three pounds, it is easy to take anywhere with you. It features an auto-stop function that can be set to turn off once the proper pressure has been achieved. This prevents over-filling an item.
People have found it to be convenient in filling tires, sports equipment, toys, air mattresses and more. The compressor also features an easy to read digital pressure gauge so you never have to wonder how full an item is.
When you aren’t using this handy little toy, it will store easily in a cabinet, car or kitchen drawer.
14. Husky Air Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
Husky doesn’t seem to be as widely used at is once was. While there are many varieties of air compressors offered, they seem to be geared more towards the shop owner who can afford a larger unit.
One of the higher end compressors worth checking out is the Husky 20 Gal. 175 psi Quiet Portable Air Compressor. It features 175 max PSI and an 83 dB rating.
It is commonly used for medium-duty automotive and spray painting tasks. It also offers 7-inch wheels for easy portability around the shop or garage.
The high-performance pump and motor offers a higher PSI and CFM so all your tools operate at peak performance. The slim vertical design will also take up less space in the shop or garage.
Use this compressor for inflation, painting, framing, HVLP painting, drilling and surface prep of a multitude of materials.
15. LifeLine Compressor Reviews
My Overall Rating
This lovely little 12 volt compressor from LifeLine AAA may not give off the classiest vibes, but don’t judge a book by its cover.
It comes with a lengthy hose and adaptors for all your DIY needs, be it inflating your car tires or getting some painting work done. This made the list of top-rated air compressors because it’s a great budget buy. Perfect for anyone looking for a nice, easy fix, this compressor is your new favorite travel companion.
It may be slightly noisier than some of the sleeker products on my top five list, but the price more than compensates for this. It’s still a great quality product that gets the job done, albeit without all the bells and whistles of some of the other compressors on my list.
This compressor is small enough to store at home, but can easily be kept in your trunk. It’s a lightweight compressor, but sturdy enough to use confidently for any job.
Common Uses for Air Compressors
Air Compressors are a must-have for any DIY-ers – great for a variety of jobs around the home and garden. In fact, most anyone that does household work has an air compressor in their arsenal of supplies.
They’re the ultimate multi-tasking item for your toolbox. When it comes to choosing the right one for your needs, it’s important to know what to look for.
Alternatively, you can use your air compressor to re-inflate your tires both at home or on the road with a portable version.
If you use a lot of nail guns in your line of work or with projects around the house, using an air compressor for the pneumatic nail gun makes the job quick and easy. Other common pneumatic tools that you could use would include a stapler, air impact wrench, blow gun, jackhammer, pile driver or air ratchet.
Some people find that using an air compressor for cleaning purposes is also helpful. Compressed air is great for cleaning machinery and tools when the job is done. Keep in mind that a lot of air pressure will be released, so never use it on your clothing or skin.
Air compressors aren’t just for handiwork, they can also be convenient when looking to get creative. Consider your own compressed air powered DIY snowmaker for Christmas. You can also use a smaller-sized air compressor for airbrush painting. There are tons of neat graphics you could do on your helmets, scooters and more.
How To Guide: Using a Compressor to Paint a Car
Start by preparing your materials and area. Then, turn on your air compressor and allow it to build up the pressure. Set the regulator to the proper amount of pressure. With your Porter Cable Air Compressor, you’ll want to adjust your regulator to somewhere between 12 and 15 PSI depending on what your sprayer requires.
Then, attach the air hose coupling to your sprayer. If it leaks; so consider wrapping the threads with some Teflon tape if you need an airtight seal. If the sprayer has quick connect couplings, you shouldn’t need to do this.
Pour your paint into the cup and adjust the setting on your sprayer accordingly. Prime your sprayer and hold it about five to ten inches from the surface of your vehicle. Practice moving it to get a feel for the weight and movements. Then, squeeze your trigger and begin spraying.
You’ll want to keep it moving whenever the trigger is pressed or you’ll end up with drips and runs. As you paint, overlap sections to give a flawless finish. Refill your paint cup as needed and allow the surface to dry before adding another layer. When you are finished, you need to clean your paint sprayer before storing it.
So, there we have it – my top brands of air compressors reviewed and rated. There’s a whole heap of products out there and it can feel overwhelming trying to narrow the choice down.
These reviews are designed to help make the choice easier for you – they’re impartial so that you don’t feel misled by bogus brands and false promises.
Make sure you think about what it is you’re really after before you run to the next hardware store – I know how easy it is to get carried away when you’re stood in front of aisles of shiny, delicious tools…