Best Air Compressor Reviews and Buying Guide 2020
You might very well have seen air compressors and asked yourself why you would need one in the first place.
Air compressors perform a simple but important role. By using an engine, these hard-hitting machines can turn power into energy contained in a tank of compressed air. The pressure the starts to rise as more air gets forced into the tank. When it reaches the maximum level, the air will be stored for future use.
Even smaller air compressors designed for the home are handy and versatile additions to your toolkit, though.
Here are some common tasks they come in useful for:
- Inflating car or bike tires
- Pumping up balls
- Getting air into inflatable toys
- Airbrush painting
- Some lighter nail gun duty
- Cleaning filters
We’ll jump right to it now with our selection of the best air compressor reviews so you can scope out your options. Once we’re done, we’ll drill down on some core factors to consider when you’re looking for the best air compressor available.
- Oil Free Air Compressor
- 150 PSI
The Best Air Compressor Reviews 2020 – Comparison Table
With a varied selection of air compressors on the market, choosing the best one can often feel overwhelming.
Luckily, we’re here to strip away that confusion and point you in the direction of the very best air compressor at your disposal.
BOSTITCH 6-Gallon Oil Free Compressor Kit
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DeWALT 6-Gallon Pancake Compressor
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PORTER-CABLE 3-Tool Combo Kit
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Makita Big Bore Air Compressor
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California Air Tools 10020DC
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We’ll get straight down to business now with a detailed look at the top rated air compressors for your home workshop with one model thrown in that’s tailor-made for use in a commercial backdrop.
5 Best Air Compressor Reviews
First up in our air compressor reviews is a compact and pretty light oil-free air compressor from BOSTITCH, a Stanley subsidiary with over 30 years in the trenches. BOSTITCH has a hard-won reputation for producing extremely strong power tools at budget prices.
t’s not to0 big and easy to use. I ordered the set, but I couldn’t find 17 piece adapter set, so I ended up spending an extra $12.95 for another set. it is possible, I didn’t see it before I broke down the box. II had a red Porter Cable that worked fine, but the recommendation indicated that the control panel was easier to access. I think it is. I love having a small round compressor for low tires on my bikes and cars. It is not too noisy and certainly delivers the necessary pressure. Especially compared with the small “inflation kits” which are useless, in my opinion. Well worth the money!!
By Amazon Customer
Although this pancake compressor has a generous 6-gallon air tank, it only weighs the same as the average well-stocked toolbox at 30 pounds. Although primarily intended for home DIY-ers, you can also use this compressor to achieve great results on site if you’re framing, fencing or carrying out any other work that calls for a high firing rate and minimal downtime. The tank fills in less than 3 minutes which is impressive.
The oil-free pump should last at least 3 years requiring almost no maintenance along the way.
Kicking out less than 80 decibels of noise at full clip, the BOSTITCH is just about as quiet as an air compressor gets.
Filling the tank to 150 PSI in 2 ½ minutes, it will then refill in just 25 seconds when the pressure dips below 120 PSI.
You’ll get 50 feet of hose thrown in along with a 10-piece blowgun and inflation kit. This makes an already cheap compressor even better value.
For one of the lightest and quietest compressors in its class with a real focus on build quality and performance, this BOSTITCH pancake is tough to beat.
- Will support 2 air tools
- Large, 6-gallon tank yet lightweight at 30 pounds
- Extremely quiet for a compressor at 80 decibels
- Very quick tank refills in just 2 ½ minutes to 150 PSI
- Super-simple to tweak outlet pressure
- Dial is fairly inaccurate +/- 2 PSI
DeWALT tools and appliances are commonplace in workshops and on sites around the world. You’ll get great build quality and powerful performance at pocket-friendly prices and you’re buying into impeccable brand heritage.
I almost did not purchase this item because it cost more than the other (more popular) comparable offerings from Bostich and Porter Cable. In retrospect I am glad I did. It is relatively quiet, and works just as I had hoped it would. I am a Dewalt fan and have many of their 20 and 12 volt battery tools which all have worked great for me.
By Amazon Customer
It’s hard to find air compressors with 6-gallon tanks that still remain relatively portable without costing you a fortune. DeWALT solves this problem in the form of this 30-pound lightweight packing a reasonable punch while still not much more than mid-priced.
You’ll get a maximum pressure of 165 PSI which is great when you’ve got one person only operating tools. Add a second, as supported by this compressor, and you’ll start struggling. Most reviews don’t uncover the horsepower of this unit. As usual when a figure is hidden by a manufacturer, there’s usually a good reason and this powerplant develops only 0.9 HP which explains the dip in performance with a second operator.
None of this is to say the DeWALT doesn’t deliver. We simply believe in given you a full and frank lowdown on all products so you can make the best-informed decisions with no nasty surprises.
No air compressor is going to run quietly but as far as they go, the DeWALT doesn’t make too much racket. The decibel rating of 75 means you’ll probably still want ear defenders but the compressor is certainly fit for residential use.
With an oil-free motor meaning you won’t constantly be tinkering with your compressor and tipping the scales at just 30 pounds, this 6-gallon air compressor from DeWALT pushes the boundaries of this class of compressor while still leaving some room for improvement. If you’re only planning to use the compressor without someone else riding shotgun, the DeWALT makes a smart choice despite its minor deficiencies.
- Runs reasonably quietly at 75 decibels
- Class-leading 165 PSI
- Higher CFM rating than the competition at 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI
- Oil-free pump slashes maintenance
- Weighs just 30 pounds despite performance
- Underpowered at times despite those stats
PORTER-CABLE has uprated the standard 135 PSI pancake in no uncertain terms with this 150 PSI unit with a 6-gallon tank.
If you choose to invest in this cost-effective bundle, you’ll get a pair of nailers along with a crown stapler chucked in so you can get up and running with a project straight out the box. That’s all well and good if you genuinely plan to press those tools into commission. All the hoses and connections you need are also included.
IT CAME WITH EVERYTHING TO DO LOTS OF PROJECTS. This was not a freebie or a discounted item, so my review is for real. Unit and tools came well packaged, and the 3 tools even came with nails and staples. The hose came with it, and so did a belt hook for the hose. I ended up using the hook in my garage to store the hose. It is rubber and is very flexible, and I didn’t need to purchase couplers etc. This package came ready to use, which I did right away. I spent about 30 minutes going over the instructions, which were VERY clear.
By Amazon Customer
As with all the best air compressors in this class, you’ll reap the benefit of a 6-gallon tank without being burdened with a lead weight. At 30 pounds it’s easy enough to shift around from workshop to garage or from site to site.
With 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI, you’ll get the rapid recovery time you’ll need if you’re using this compressor in a commercial setting. Time is money on site and you’ll be nailing again within a minute.
Build quality is genuinely impressive and you should get all the power you need from this unit whether in the home workshop or contracting. PORTER-CABLE, as always, delivers in fine style with arguably the best air compressor in its class.
- Lightweight compressor with heavyweight performance
- Finish nailer, brad nailer and crown stapler included
- The shroud is designed with protection and portability in mind
- Very rapid recovery time so ideal on site
- Higher pressure allows you to drive more nails in less time
- Expensive unless you will use all tools
While most of the best air compressors come with oil-free pumps, the Makita is an exception.
As with any aspect of buying the best air compressor, you should start by thinking closely about your intended usage. While this oil-lubricated pump might call for more effort on the maintenance front, you’ll end up with a rugged and hard-hitting compressor good for use on the job site or in the home workshop for years on end.
6.5 years in and still works and looks like new. I drain the tank condensation once a month. Still haven’t changed the oil, it’s still clear and up to the site glass level it should be at. Zero complaints.
By Amazon Customer
The beefy bored piston design of the 2 horsepower motor compressed a large amount of air in a single cycle without making too much noise. As always, you can’t expect a whisper-quiet air compressor but the 80-decibel rating means you can use this compressor at home without disturbing the neighbors.
The only real downside to the Makita is the 52-pound weight. Think about whether or not you’ll need to carry the compressor frequently from job to job. If so, you might consider one of the lighter alternatives. If that bulk doesn’t present a problem, the Makita Big Bore is a powerful and affordable air compressor from an industry giant well worth a place on your shortlist.
- Highly capable 2 HP unit
- Low amp draw
- Oil-lubricated pump increases lifespan if properly maintained
- Thermal overload protection
- Highly effective filter
- Oil-lubricated pump calls for a little more maintenance
Last but by no means least in our air compressor reviews is an absolute powerhouse from the stellar California Air Tools. As the company name makes abundantly clear, this outfit has a proven track record and dominates this segment of the industry with some awesome tools. This air compressor is no exception.
Using this unit in a 3 chair dental office. Usually only two hand pieces in use at any one time. The unit arrived damaged by the shipping company and the manufactures two day shipped the replacement part and it was easy to install the replacement part. The unit has worked flawlessly. Seems a little noisier that my old Tec-West unit but it does the job and the price is must less than the dedicated “dental units” sold by the Dental Supply companies.
You should be aware off the bat this is certainly not the cheapest air compressor on the market. If you’ve got a more fluid budget, though, read on to see why this 10-gallon beast will repay your investment many times over.
It’s that tank capacity almost double that of competing compressors that gets things off to a strong start with the 10020DC. Oil-free, you won’t be niggled by tasky maintenance either.
Although this unit is not light at just under 90 pounds, a carrying handle goes some way toward easing transportation. On the plus side, at just 32 inches tall, storage presents no problem.
If you plan to run your compressor for long unbroken spells, the thermal protection overload kicks in when necessary safeguarding you from electrical malfunction.
CFM is impressive, 5.3 @ 90 PSI maxing out at 135 PSI. A complete refill takes less than 2 minutes.
Designed with the professional firmly in mind but user-friendly enough for enthusiastic home hobbyists, the California Air Tools 10020DC is our standout winner for the best air compressor.
- 10-gallon capacity gives you great scope
- Rapid refills thanks to dual piston pump
- Oil-free operation and minimal maintenance
- 32 inches high so easy to stash in limited spaces
- Quick recovery times
- Extremely expensive
What To Look For In The Best Air Compressor
Air Compressors and Inflators
While air compressors perform a very similar role to inflators, there are some notable differences.
We’ll quickly outline the basics of each and how they differ…
Portable Air Compressors
Air compressors are substantially more powerful than inflators and as a result get the job done more rapidly.
Even a scaled-down air compressor intended solely for home use can serve to power some air tools as long as they don’t need extended and heavy operation. From air brushing and stapling to small projects with the nail gun, a home air compressor is more than fit for purpose.
As with any tool, how you intend to use it should inform your buying decision. If you need to undertake bigger projects like sanding, blasting or grinding, you’ll need to step things up a notch and look for a contractor-grade unit.
Inflators get the job done but it will take some time.
Anything up to and including tire inflation is viable with an inflator as long as you’re not in too much of a hurry.
You’ve got 3 main variants at your disposal but we’ll look at these in more detail when we review some inflators in the coming weeks.
Right now, how about the various types of air compressor?
Types of Air Compressor
- Hot Dog Compressors: Named for the cylindrical shape of the air tank, hot dog compressors give you enough oomph to power small or medium-sized air tools while still being relatively portable. That said, hot dog compressors are still quite heavy and they do generate a fair amount of noise
- Pancake Compressors: Pancake compressors get their name from the low-slung tank shaped pretty much like a pancake. Small and lightweight, you’ll get 1 to 6 gallons of volume from these compressors. With an oil-free pump and no belts, pancake compressors are blissfully maintenance-free. On the flipside, you won’t get enough power to run bigger air tools
- Wheelbarrow and Pontoon Compressors: Wheelbarrow compressors come with 2 tanks sat down the length. If the pair of tanks is positioned along the width, the compressor is termed a pontoon style. Although obviously heavier at 70 pounds or more, you’ll enjoy increased capacity with these beefier air compressors
- Twin-Stack Compressors: Twin-stack compressors are similar to the wheelbarrow and pontoon types except the 2 tanks are stacked beside the unit
Capacity vs Portability
The ideal air compressor would be as portable as possible while still delivering all the power you need.
In reality, there’s always a trade-off involved. The bigger the tank you need, the less portable and the heavier the compressor will be.
All you can do is balance out exactly what you need your air compressor to do with just how portable you really need it to be.
Air Flow: CFM
The CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating of an air compressor governs the amount of air it can expel in 1 minute. This is related to another figure you’ll see a great deal when you’re exploring the best air compressors…
Operating Pressure: PSI
The operating pressure is expressed in terms of PSI (pounds per square inch).
This rating is relevant if you want to use your compressor to power air tools. Different tools have different PSI requirements so you’ll need to get a compressor that’s up to the job at hand.
Generally, as you lower PSI, CFM rises.
When you see the power expressed in terms of horsepower, this refers to the power of the engine.
More horsepower means more PSI.
Type of Pump
If you’re looking for a low maintenance experience, shoot for an air compressor with an oil-free pump.
Beltless air compressors also demand much less attention so take this into account.
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We trust you’ve found some nuggets of useful information in these air compressor reviews and you’re now better placed to find the most appropriate model for your requirements.
If you take the time to familiarize yourself with the terminology and focus on your intended use, there’s no reason buying the best air compressor should be problematic.
And if you’re still unsure, just get in touch and we’ll help you out.
Come back soon!