Even the best air compressor on its own isn’t a tool you can use to accomplish a lot of tasks. However, it works as a great power source for other tools that use compressed air like a nail gun, air ratchet, impact wrench, grinder, or a blow gun. This ability to power all of these tools makes any air compressor one of the most versatile tools in your arsenal, and this is why it’s so important to choose the one that has enough power behind it to run these machines. If you don’t pick the best air compressor to match your needs, you’ll end up with sub-par performance that can impact how your final product looks.
Maybe you want to use it on your car or to blow up your tires on your car or your tractor, or you want to use it around the house. Whatever you have planned for the best air compressor, you’ll need to understand what options you have available. I’ve picked out 10 high-quality pieces of equipment and reviewed them for you. You can take a look, compare them side-by-side, and use the buying guide to match the best air compressor to your wants and needs.
The best air compressors for home use usually come in a hobbyist-style, but bigger workshops also have the industrial ones on-hand and ready to use.
1. Rolair AB5Plus – Top Pick
Rolair may not be a huge name in the air compressor market, but this is a Wisconsin-based, third-generation company that has been in the business of creating highly-rated and reliable air compressors since 1959. This particular product has a very compact design that fits well in your storage shed between uses, and this also makes it easy to carry to your project site. It comes outfitted with a welded steel roll cage that will protect the unit from unexpected bumps, drops, or rollovers to ensure that it lasts. You get two extra-large gauges that are very easy to see and read, and the dual-piston pump will quickly refill the tank.
This is also a slightly quieter air compressor than most, and it operates at right around 58 decibels. This is about the same decibel rating as normal conversations, and this can help protect you from hearing loss. It runs on a 0.5-horsepower motor, and you get a one-gallon cast aluminum tank. The durable braided discharge hose will work for years without fraying, and you get heavy-duty vibration dampeners built in. The cord wrap allows you to wrap it neatly for storage when you finish, and you get a replaceable intake filter when you order to keep it running in top shape.
- Welded steel roll cage
- Heavy-duty vibration dampeners
- Quieter operation at 59 decibels
- 0.5 horsepower motor
- Cord wraps for storage
- Portable and compact design
- U.S.-based company
- Takes longer to fill
2. Senco PC0968 – Step-Up Pick
For just shy of 50 years, this company has produced quality air compressors, and our step-up pick is no exception. This is a mid-sized model that is 2.5-gallons, and it’s a compact compressor that has two side-stacked air tanks with a 1.5-horsepower induction pump motor. It will go from 0 to 182 PSI in just over 80 seconds, and the motor does all of this while only drawing a maximum of eight amps of electricity. So, you shouldn’t have to worry about tripping the breaker when you use it. You get a top-mounted handle that doubles as a protective roll cage that will prevent dents or breakage should you drop or bump it.
This air compressor is very well-balanced, and this makes it very easy to pick up and carry as it weighs in at just 38-pounds. It has a footprint of 15-inches by 16-inches, and this means that it’ll take up very little storage space while being highly portable. The twin stacked tanks prevent it from listing or tipping to one side when you use it, and it has a cold start valve that lets you start it quickly and easily in colder temperatures. The tank pressure gauge is front-and-center to allow you to check it at a glance, and the rubberized handle gives you a non-slip and comfortable grip.
- Up to 182 PSI in 80 seconds
- 2.5-gallon design
- Rubberized, ergonomic grip
- Weighs 38 pounds
- Very well-balanced
- Comes with a roll cage
- Cold start valve
- Regulator can break relatively easily
3. Makita MAC320Q – Mid-End Budget Pick
Makita’s air compressor is slightly heavier at 52-pounds, but this professional grade model is still relatively easy to carry to your project site. It offers greater power, capacity, and speed to help make up for the weight, and it works well for finish carpenters, cabinetmakers, and DIYers. You’ll get a three-gallon air tank that has a 1.5-horsepower induction motor that offers a maximum PSI of 135. This air compressor is capable of producing 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI, and this is more than enough for most projects around the house. It’ll pressurize your tank from empty to completely full in just 65 seconds so you’re ready to go when you need it.
Makita’s air compressor is also one of the quieter models available in a compact design, and it operates at 60-decibels. This is just around normal conversation range, so you won’t have to worry about hearing damage. A quiet motor is very important as it allows you to use them inside for molding or trim work. The roll cage gives the compressor great protection from damage due to accidental drops or dings, and the larger pressure gauges are easier to read. You also get a power cord wrap for neat storage and two universal couplers to allow you to run two tools at once.
- Three-gallon capacity
- Quiet enough to use inside
- Pressurizes in 65 seconds
- Two universal couplers included
- Very sturdy
- Slightly heavier design
4. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor – Bargain Budget Pick
If you’re on a tighter budget but you still want to get an air compressor from a reputable company, take a look at this DeWalt air compressor. It works well for active DIYers or professionals, and it’s a very powerful compact unit for the price point. You get a large-capacity tank that can hold six gallons with a 0.9-horsepower motor that will give you a maximum PSI rating of 165. It also delivers 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI without a problem, and you get a top-mount handle that is easy to grip. The cord wrap on this air compressor allows you to carry it without tripping, and it also makes the storage process easy.
This air compressor weighs in at just 30-pounds to make it very portable, and you get vibration-absorbing rubber feet on this model that reduce the noise levels. Also, this model has only three feet instead of four, and this allows it to sit securely on uneven, rough surfaces without rocking back or forth or tipping over. It works well for supporting air or pneumatic tools for your projects, and the pump is oil-free to reduce the overall maintenance. It has a quick recovery time on it that lets you work for extended periods, and you get a bright yellow coloring that is easy to spot.
- 165 PSI rating
- Three feet
- Rubberized coating to reduce vibrations
- Holds six gallons
- Top-mount handle
- Bright yellow coloring
- Rubber connection hose may not be crimped correctly
5. California Air Tools 6010 LFC – Tight Storage Space
This air compressor is the upgraded version of the very popular CAT-6310 model, and this model was very highly rated across the board as being one of the best portable options out there. First up is the noise level. This product runs at 60 to 70-decibels at the highest, and this is quiet enough to use it inside when you install your crown molding or baseboards without worrying about hearing damage. Also, this compressor weighs in at 49-pounds, and this ensures that you get a slightly heavier-duty model that isn’t a pain to pick up or transport to your job sites.
The six-gallon air tank is large enough for home or shop use, and it has a max PSI of 125 with 4 CFM at 40 PSI and 3 CFM at 90 PSI so you can regulate it to suit your tasks. The motor and pump comes tested to work a maximum of 4,000 hours without a problem, and this is up to 30% longer than other brands. It draws 7.6-amps when it runs, and you get an oil-free pump that is very low-maintenance. You can use it in hot or cold temperatures without a problem, and it has a very sturdy wheel design with rubber feet on the legs to prevent vibrations.
- 60 to 70-decibel noise output
- Heavy-duty design
- Draws just 7.6-amps
- Wheeled design
- Six gallon tank included
- Runs in colder weather
- Connector valve isn’t the greatest
6. Ingersoll-Rand SS3J5 – Best for Portability
This portable air compressor is built for a serious weekend warrior or a professional who wants to round out their tool arsenal. It comes outfitted with a 100% duty cycle that ensures you get an uninterrupted working experience each time you use it to help move your project along, and it’s a larger 120-volt unit. You get an oil-lubricated, cast-iron pump on this compressor that will deliver reliable performance, and you’ll get an impressive 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI. This is more than enough to power any tools you may have or meet all of your requirements, and there is excellent customer feedback on this model.
You get a lightweight and low-profile design with this air compressor, and this increases your maneuverability level on the job site to ensure you can get wherever you need to go. You get a regulator, pressure switch, and a gauge on this compressor, and there are dual quick disconnects that allow you to power multiple tools at once. You get twin tanks that can hold eight gallons each, and this is a gas-driven model that has a 5.5-horsepower engine in them. The rubber wheels add to the portability factor while reducing vibrations, and it offers excellent airflow volume.
- 120-volt unit
- Low-profile design
- Rubberized wheels for maneuverability
- Dual eight-gallon tanks
- 5.5-horsepower engine
- Has two quick disconnects for tools
- Highly portable
- 30-day return window
7. Industrial Air IL1682066.MN – Best for Small Shops
Even though this air compressor weighs in at 159-pounds, it has wheels and handles on it to make it much more portable as you move it around your shop or garage. You get a maximum of 135 PSI with a rugged cast-iron body that can withstand heavy usage without showing wear and tear. The pump has an oil-lubricated design that makes it powerful while cutting down on the total noise, and the motor comes wired for 120-volts of power. However, you can safely convert it to 240-volts of power without worrying about potentially damaging it, and this makes it more flexible to use.
You get an air compressor that is made in the United States with this choice that uses high-quality materials and has a company with a solid reputation. It’s a 20-gallon air compressor that is slightly larger than others on the list, and you get a thermally-stable cast-iron cylinder body that stays cool to the touch. It also comes with automotive-style ball bearings, oil level sight glass, stainless steel reed valves, and an oil fill that is very easy to access. There are pneumatic tires on this product to make it easy to move from point A to point B, and you get a quick-set regulator, quick connect air outlet, and working pressure gauges.
- Cast-iron body
- Thermally-stable design
- Converts from 120-volts to 240-volts
- Made in the United States
- 135 PSI maximum
- Has an oil level sight glass
- Larger pneumatic tires
- Have to add oil
8. Quincy QT-54 Air Compressor – Best for Inflating Lawn Mower Tires
Air compressors can come in a variety of sizes to run your power tools or to take on bigger-scale projects. This particular model is just about everything you could want, and you get a big 60-gallon tank. The bottom drain valve on the tank is a nice touch, and it offers a maximum PSI of 175. It makes it a great compressor for automotive work because it has the power and an efficient build to it. It is a more expensive model, but it comes equipped with an oil-lubricated pump that has a 30,000 hour use rating on it. You can use it to power your tire inflator, spray gun, impact wrench, or a range of pneumatic tools with ease.
You will need a 220-volt outlet to run this air compressor. It comes with a one-year limited warranty to protect you from part failure or damage. However, you can buy an extended warranty kit that doubles the package warranty to two years and the pump warranty to three years. It offers 15.2 CFM at 175 PSI, and this comes designed to be a stationary unit that you don’t have to worry about carting around your garage.
- 60-gallon tank
- Stationery design
- 15.2 CFM at 175 PSI
- 30,000-hour use rating
- Powerful motor
- Can get an extended warranty
- Bottom drain valve
- On the higher end of the price spectrum
9. CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor – Best for Lower Powered Tools
A lot of homeowners who want an air compressor that can power their nail gun or tools without breaking the bank tend to sacrifice quality for their budget, but this air compressor is different. This product comes from Craftsman, and it gives you a maximum PSI of 175, 1.8-horsepower motor, and a very portable design all for under $500. It’s also a portable model, and it comes with eight-inch wheels and an ergonomic handle that makes it easy to move it round or take it from location to location relatively easily. It also has a very bright red color to it that is easy to spot on bigger job sites.
This is an oil-free air compressor design that is low-maintenance, and you get a 20-gallon tank. The rubberized wheels help to reduce vibrations as it runs, and the whole setup comes designed to last for years with minimal input from you. You get a six-foot cord on it to give you a slight range of motion, and it comes with a one-year limited warranty from the date of purchase to protect your initial investment. The induction motor can last through short or long projects without overheating, and this helps it last longer.
- 175 PSI
- 1.8-horsepower motor
- Pneumatic wheels
- One-year limited warranty
- Oil-free design
- Low maintenance
- Runs louder
10. VIAIR 85P Portable Air Compressor – Best for Projects Around the House
The final air compressor on the list is a good choice if you’re on a budget and only need a smaller air compressor to tackle your projects around the house. It draws 12-volts at 20-amps while delivering a maximum of 120 PSI, and it has a lower 1.47 CFM rating. So, even though it’s not the most powerful option on the list, but it has a very compact and lightweight design that makes it very portable. You can easily put it in your car until you need it, or you can store it in your garage.
You can use this air compressor to inflate tires up to 33-inches, and it uses alligator clamps to hook it to the car battery to power it. It also has a 10-foot power cable if you’re home and need it. You get an LED power indicator, three-piece inflation tip kit, and a 16-foot air hose when you purchase this product to extend your reach. It won’t work well for continuous operation, but it’s sufficient for shorter jobs. It’s good for trucks, small ATVs, sedans and SUVs.
- Great for pumping up tires
- Works on a host of vehicles
- Dual power options
- Only draws 12-volts at 20-amps
- LED indicator light
- Portable and lightweight
- Three-piece inflation tip kit included
- Won’t work well for continuous operation
Best Air Compressor – Buying Guide
Buying the best air conditioner means that you find a product specially tailored to your wants and needs, and this can be time-consuming with so many options available. I’m going to outline the biggest components all of the best air compressors have, and you can use them to narrow down your picks until you make your final choice.
Unless you don’t plan to ever need your air compressor out of your shop, portability is a must. For example, maybe you want to build an extension and you need your stapler or brad nailer on the job site. You’d need your air compressor to go with you. Take a look at your pick’s size, the length of the power cord, what type of end the cord has, and any handles. This will give you a good idea on whether or not it’s feasible for you to move it from job site to job site.
Smaller air compressors are highly portable, and this is an important factor to consider if you plan on moving it around or transporting it from job site to job site. If you can’t pick it up, make sure it has a solid handle and wheels.
Depending on the model you pick out, this could be an expensive purchase. So, you want to ensure that you go with a reputable brand because they’re more apt to use quality parts and materials in the build. In turn, you’ll get an air compressor that lasts longer with heavy use. It’s also usually easier to reach their customer service lines as their reputation is on the line.
Some of the best air compressors are very quiet when they run, and this is important if you plan to run them in an enclosed space like your workshop. You don’t want it so loud that it echos and causes problems with your hearing. If it’s too loud, it can also disturb anyone you live around. Check and see what the noise level rating is on any air compressors you look at and see if the company took steps to make it quieter.
The horsepower dictates how powerful your best air compressor is, but most don’t need a huge device for projects around the house or shop. There’s also a difference between five-horsepower in a professional-grade air compressor and five-horsepower in a hobby air compressor. One way to tell how much horsepower it has is to look at how much power it draws. A compressor that truly has five horsepower will use a 22-volt circuit and draw 24 amps. Hobby-style air compressors will run on an 110-volt circuit and draw 15 amps. This equals out to two true horsepower for the rating.
The best air compressor’s PSI is the air pressure rating. If you want to build an outdoor toy storage space and need to use air tools, most need at least 90 PSI to run correctly. Your compressor will need a higher shut-off pressure to maintain this 90 PSI. A lot of industrial models have two stages. They slowly approach the shut-off pressure in two stages. The first is around 90 PSI, but it goes into the second stage that lets the pressure build to around 175 PSI. Most of the best air compressors for hobbyists shut off at 125 or 135 PSI, and they’re single stage.
Larger and more powerful air compressors are nice for helping you take on big projects, but they’re usually wasted on jobs that don’t require enough power. You could save yourself money by going with a smaller option, but weight the project size you do when you shop.
Any air tool needs a specific volume to keep them running, and this comes rated in CFM or cubic feet per minute. There are several ratings for CFM. You may see a high rating for displacement CFM, and this rating comes from the speed and size of the pump. It’s zero pressure, so it doesn’t mean a lot in the grand scheme of things. The most important rating for CFM on smaller air compressors is 90 PSI because this is the pressure your air tools need. You should be able to get around three to four CFM per real horsepower when you hit 90 PSI.
There are a few types of air compressors you can choose from, and some are going to be more powerful and expensive than others. So, it’s a good idea to go into the buying process with one or two types picked out to help narrow down your choices.
- Hot Dog – A hot dog air compressor uses a horizontal design on them. You’ll get one cylindrical tank with them.
- Pancake – These types of compressors have rounded, flat storage tanks that get mounted on the bottom of the units. This design ensures that it takes up less space while being more stable on rough terrain.
- Twin-Stack – You’ll get two cylindrical, horizontal tanks with this type of air compressor. It has a stacked design that adds to your compressor’s air capacity without increasing how much floor space you need for it to run.
- Wheelbarrow – The final type of air compressor is a wheelbarrow, and they usually come with dual cylindrical tanks. They have handles with a wheel to make them easy to move because they’re usually heavier.
Tank size isn’t a huge factor, but it’s still something to think about. The tank is responsible for storing the air, and it doesn’t produce it. You’ll have to consider which tools you need to run and whether or not you need intermittent or steady run time. For refinishing your hardwood floors with a sander, you may need a larger tank to keep the sander consistent. For intermittently using an impact wrench, you can get away with a smaller tank size.
The best air compressor means something different to everyone. It’s important that you take your time when you shop and look at different brands. I’ve picked out 10 of the best air compressors available on the current market, and you can compare them using the short product reviews. Once you narrow your choice down, use the buying guide to make your pick for the best air compressor before having it shipped to your door in time to help you with all of your projects.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.