Top Pick: Makita MAC5200Check Latest Price →
Why We Chose It:
- Rugged wheels.
- Built-in storage compartment.
- Oil-lubricated pump.
- 29 x 19.5 x 19 inches.
- Corded electric power.
- 3.0 HP motor produces 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI.
At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for Air Compressors
- Top Pick: Makita MAC5200
- Runner Up: Briggs & Stratton 4.5-Gallon
- Also Great: Porter Cable Pancake
- Noteworthy: ARB High Performance
- Not Bad: Makita MAC2400
A good air compressor can make all the difference in jobs both big and small. There are hundreds of different models out there, though, and wide gaps in the capabilities, durability, and value of each. If you’re in the market for an air compressor, then, you’re going to need help.
Taking a look at some of the best-reviewed and tested air compressors on the market won’t just help you figure out what air compressors are the best, but it will help you figure out how to get the air compressor that is best for you. Whether you need something that’s going to help you around the house or something that’s fit for the job site, taking a look at these reviews can save you money and a great deal of frustration.
These air compressors run the gamut in terms of size and capability, but they’ve all got one thing in common – they’re useful tools that will help you get the jobs you need done faster, more efficiently, and with less trouble. Whether you need to get a professional-grade tool or something more suited for work around the garage, you’ll find the information you need here.
12 Best Air Compressors For Tires, Tools, Painting, And Everything In Between
|Top PickTop Pick||Makita MAC5200||CHECK LATEST PRICE →|
|Runner UpRunner Up||Briggs & Stratton 4.5-Gallon||CHECK LATEST PRICE →|
|Also GreatAlso Great||Porter Cable Pancake||CHECK LATEST PRICE →|
|NoteworthyNoteworthy||ARB High Performance||CHECK LATEST PRICE →|
|Not BadNot Bad||Makita MAC2400||CHECK LATEST PRICE →|
Makita MAC5200Check Latest Price →
The Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Air Compressor feels like what you’d expect from the company. It’s not particularly flashy or innovative, but it does its job very well. When you’re looking for an air compressor, it’s rare that you’re really looking for something with amazing new features. Instead, you’re looking for something that’s very much like this model – something that’s going to stand up to repeated use and that will function every time that it is turned on. It’s a good device, especially if you need something that’s fit for being lugged around a job site.
There’s a lot to celebrate in this little air compressor. While it’s not exactly a novel feature, the fact that it’s easily maneuverable really ought to count for something. It’s not only easy to move around the average job site, but it’s actually very easy to store as well. It’s the kind of air compressor than you can rely on for regular use but can still store away in your garage between jobs – just make sure your garage is heated if you keep it there over a cold winter. Beyond that, it’s just a reliable little air compressor – not a lot of bells and whistles, but they aren’t necessary for this type of tool. It gets the job done, and that’s really what counts.
If there is any reason to complain, it’s probably going to come down to noise and assembly. It’s not really much louder than any other air compressor, but the manufacturer’s claim of reduced noise just doesn’t hold up. The assembly issues aren’t quite as permanent, though – they’re easily fixable with a little elbow grease. What you’re really getting here is a solid air compressor that’s going to be useful for most of your projects – you’re just not going to want to run it at night. Otherwise, it’s more than suitable for the purposes of the average user.
Briggs & Stratton 4.5-Gallon Quiet Power Technology Air CompressorCheck Latest Price →
Briggs & Stratton is typically a company that you can trust. It’s got the kind of solid reputation that you can bank on, even when buying something that’s not necessarily in your typical wheelhouse. One of the products that really shows that the reputation is earned is this air compressor, which really does live up to the marketing hype. It’s a good machine for those who have medium-sized shops or decent home garages, especially if they’re trying to accomplish multiple smaller jobs on a regular basis.
This machine is marketed as quiet, and it really is. It’s important, though, that you have a good idea of what quiet really means for an air compressor. In this case, it means that you can hold a comfortable conversation while the machine is running. It’s still noisy, of course, and you probably shouldn’t use it if someone around you is trying to sleep, but it is one of the quieter air compressors currently available. Beyond that, it’s a fairly typically air compressor for smaller jobs. It builds up pressure quickly and it works when it’s supposed to – you can’t ask for much more.
The only real weakness of the device is the overall lack of portability. While it’s designed to be moved around, it doesn’t do so with much ease. This isn’t much of a problem if you’re using it in a shop or a garage, but don’t expect to be able to easily tote this one around a job site. It definitely sacrifices some ease of transport in favor of more utility, which is typically a good thing – unless you need to move it around. Consider this one more of a shop compressor than anything else and you’ll be quite happy.
Porter Cable Pancake Air CompressorCheck Latest Price →
The Porter Cable C2002-WK pancake air compressor is a very good example of a solid small-job air compressor with an oil-free pump. With a good CFM rate and the ability to run off of household circuits without a problem, it’s the perfect kind of air compressor for jobs like filling up car tires or running smaller tools. It’s not going to stand up to most larger jobs, but that’s fine – it’s designed to be the kind of thing you use in a home shop, not at a work site. It checks all the boxes for home use, and that’s what really matters for this device.
In addition to the basics, there are a few nice selling points for this air compressor. The design makes the machine remarkably stable, something most owners will like if they have to open the garage door and pull the air compressor out into a driveway. It’s got all the hallmarks of a device that you’d want to use for smaller jobs, including an easy start and the ability to work even when the weather isn’t at its best. It might not be the most powerful device out there, but it definitely does the jobs for which it was designed – something for which you cannot really fault this unit.
If there’s anything to question about this air compressor, it’s probably the claim of portability. At thirty pounds, it’s probably more honest to call the air compressor moveable than portable – you definitely don’t want to tote it around for long. It does, however, have a very sturdy handle that makes moving the device more comfortable when it does have to be moved. The pancake tank design is just as useful storage as the device claims, though, making this a good fit for shops in which most of the tools will be within the range of the air compressor’s resting place.
ARB High Performance Portable Air CompressorCheck Latest Price →
Portability is a very relative term when it comes to air compressors. For some companies, portable means that it’s on wheels and you can move it around a site. For others, portability seems to simply mean that you can fit the machine in the back of a truck. If you’re looking for something that you can truly carry around with you, though, you’ll want to take a look at the ARB High Performance Air Compressor. This really is a device that you can pack up and take on the road.
The first thing you’ll notice about this device is how small it is. The entire case is less than a foot and a half by two feet wide, making it perfect to keep in the trunk of a car or even carry with you on a long ride. Everything relevant to the operation of the machine is kept inside the case, so you’ll never have to worry about loose pieces. Once you’ve got it out of the box, assembly is easy and you’ll be able to get air where you need it with little difficulty.
Is this an air compressor for those who are looking to tackle hardcore industrial tasks? Of course not. It is, however, a nice emergency tool for long car trips or a handy household tool for inflatables and bike tires. This isn’t the most powerful air compressor in the world, but it really doesn’t need to be – it fulfills an important role in the household and does its job well. If you’re looking for a good emergency air compressor or something that will work for small but common jobs, you’re not going to find anything better on the market than this one.
Makita MAC2400Check Latest Price →
Makita’s a great company for air compressors. It has a solid range of products, which now includes the MAC2400. It’s not the company’s most versatile air compressor, but it is perhaps its quietest. With its rugged construction and quiet operation, it’s a good fit for those who want somethign that’s going to survive the worksite without annoying everyone who is around them. It’s so quiet, in fact, that some users even claim that they can use the machine inside without causing much annoyance to those around them.
Quiet is good, but only if the machine still works. The good news is that the MAC2400 really is a nice air compressor – the lower noise profile is just a bonus. At 2.5HP it’s not the biggest device on the market and it’s not going to work with every job, but it’s a very solid smaller air compressor. There’s clearly a tradeoff between sound and power here, but it’s nice to see that the tradeoff doesn’t adversely affect how well the machine works. If you’re looking for something that’s going to work for most smaller jobs on your job site or in your home, it’s hard to imagine anything beating out this unit.
The unit does work a little better as a home or shop compressor than a job site air compressor for one reason – it’s not exactly as portable as it could be. It’s actually relatively light and moving it around isn’t that much of a problem, but it feels like the unit is in dire need of wheels. You can put it on a car and move it around, of course, which will solve most of the mobility problems. As it stands, the lack of mobility is only a minor problem that shouldn’t detract from the utility of this great device.
Bostitch 6 GallonCheck Latest Price →
Those in the market for a portable air compressor should consider purchasing the Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Air Compressor. The electric air compressor weighs only 29 pounds, making it easy to maneuver around the job site. The BTFP’s easy-grip handle improves the air compressor’s already-stellar mobility, and will allow you to quickly store it in your trunk or pick-up bed.
From a compression standpoint, the BTFP’s 22.7 liter tank is capable of running at a maximum of 150 pounds per square inch. The BTFP also comes with a high flow regulator that maximizes the amount of control you have while compressing. Another great feature of the Bostitch air compressor is that this oil-free machine has a noise rating of 78.5 DBA. This rating means that the BTFP has an operational noise level that can be used in more quiet work environments.
Based out of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, Bostich has been producing high-end fastening tools for over 120 years. The company, with its yellow and black-colored tools, is one of the most respected American tool companies in the world. The company specializes in tools like nailers, staplers, and fasteners, but also produces power tools, automotive tools, and air compressors like the BTFP.
The Bostitch BTFP02012 Air Compressor is unique among air compressors because Bostitch packages the BTFP with different fastening tools. At the moment, Bostitch offers their flagship air compressor with up to 3 different tools. For example, the 1-Tool Air Compressor Combo Kit features the BTFP02012 Compressor, the Bostitch 18-Gauge Brad Nailer, and 18-Gauge Brad Nails. If you spring for the 3 Tool/Compressor Combo Kit, you’ll receive the BTFP with two different nailing tools and a stapling tool.
EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor PumpCheck Latest Price →
One of the most common consumer uses for an air compressor is filling up tires. While you can certainly use most shop air compressors to get the job done, there are a few well-designed air compressors for just that task. These air compressors might have less power, but they usually have a few bells and whistles that make it easier to get the job done while on the road. One of the better tire-fillers out there is the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor.
One of the real benefits of getting such a specialized air compressor is getting something with a bunch of bells and whistles that can make your life easier. It’s an all-in-one package, small enough to put in your trunk and forget about until you need it. Once you pull it out, it has everything attached – even a flashlight for those emergency night jobs. The digital screen is very easy to read and you’ll never have to worry about overfilling your tires due to an excellent system that cuts off power as soon as you reach a pre-determined pressure in pounds per square inch (PSI). You can even power the unit directly from your vehicle’s lighter socket, making it a perfect choice for on-the-road repairs.
If there’s a downside, it’s that it doesn’t have quite enough power for bigger jobs. You can fill most standard tires with this unit, but you won’t be able to do much for heavier tires or truck tires. It will, however, fill beach balls and bike tires, which makes it a good choice for family use. While it’d be nice to see an air compressor that really could handle tires of all sizes, this one is more than adequate for most jobs and will work fine for most consumers.
Porter-Cable Fully Shrouded CompressorCheck Latest Price →
The Porter-Cable C2002-WK 6-Gallon Oil-Free Pancake Air Compressor Kit is a great option for guys in need of a budget-friendly portable air compressor. Mentioning the word “budget” when it comes to power tools might send shivers up your spine. You’ve bought budget tools in the past and you received cheaply-made products constructed from shoddy materials that were unreliable or broke down quickly.
When it comes to budget-oriented air compressors, though, you can trust the Porter-Cable C2002-WK. Porter-Cable has been providing tools to carpenters, handymen, and construction workers since 1906. The Maryland-based company manufactures everything from drivers, drills, fastening tools, and air compressors. Although Porter-Cable’s tool catalog is diverse, the company continues to focus on offering high-quality, professionally-built tools at competitive prices.
This focus on quality is seen in the Pancake Air Compressor Kit. The air compressor’s 6-gallon Pancake-style tank is constructed from superior-quality lightweight metal. This Porter-Cable product is so light that the air compressor weighs only 30 pounds, which will allow you to lift, carry, and store it with ease.
Like other electric air compressors currently available on the market, the C2002-WK Pancake has a oil-free compression pump. The air compressor’s oil-free pump orientation makes it much more durable and long-lasting than air compressors that rely on pumps that require oil.
Although the Pancake is portable, it still packs a punch. The air compressor’s tank reaches a level of 150 PSI, while the device’s high-flow regulators and dual couplers can deliver up to 90 PSI to 3 different nailers at once. The regulators also allow for an extremely quick recovery time, which limits the amount of time you’ll have to spend standing around waiting for your air compressor to be ready.
The fact that the Porter-Cable Pancake Air Compressor Kit has two different couplers also means that two different guys can use it simultaneously.
If you buy the Pancake Air Compressor, Porter-Cable will throw in a complimentary 13-piece cleaning and accessory kit.
Makita MAC700Check Latest Price →
The Makita MAC700 Big Bore Air Compressor is an electric-powered air compressor with a cast-iron cylinder. The cast iron cylinder – which offers unmatched durability on outdoor job sites – is complimented by Makita’s patented Big Bore Pump that offers a greater amount of compression power while making less noise. The MAC700’s 2.6 gallon tank can run at a pressure of up to 130 PSI while delivering either 40 PSI (3.8 CFM) and 90 PSI (3.3 CFM), making it one of the most versatile air compressors currently on the market. Besides its high-level performance, the MAC700’s oil drain and tank drain valve allow you to quickly clean the air compressor after use.
Founded in Japan in 1915, Makita has spent the last century building some of the world’s highest-quality power tools and outdoor power equipment. And while the brand is probably most popular for its line of cordless power drills, the company also makes table saws, chain saws, lawnmowers, and industrial vacuums. What’s unique about Makita is that all of the products – whether you’re looking at the MAC700 or a small cordless drill – in the company’s catalog were built to meet the demands of the job.
More specifically, Makita’s product engineers design all of their tools and machines from a solution-based perspective. That is, Makita’s tools are designed to help you find a solution to the job you are trying to finish, or the problem you are trying to fix.
The MAC700’s Big Bore 2.0 HP motor is a great example of Makita’s commitment to solution-based product engineering. This innovative motor allows the Big Bore to run at a very low RPM rate, which will give you greater motor life and allow you to get more done in less time.
DeWalt 6 Gallon Pancake Air CompressorCheck Latest Price →
There’s something of a default amount of trust that the DeWalt name brings with it. While you might not always get the cheapest price from the company, you always know that you are going to get something that works. DeWalt’s 6 Gallon Pancake Compressor is a good example of why that reputation exists, as it definitely gets the job done every time. It’s certainly not the cheapest compressor on the market, but it works – and for those who have had to deal with faulty compressors in the past, that’s worth paying a little extra.
There’s a lot to like about this unit, but the best thing has to be that it works right out of the box. If you’ve ever purchased an older compressor, your know all about the dreaded “breaking in” period. While it’s never more than an annoyance, it’s incredibly nice to have a compressor that doesn’t need this kind of pampering. DeWalt says that you can take it out of the box and put it to work, and so far evidence has shown that to be true. It’s a little extra bit of convenience, but its nonetheless a selling point.
If there’s something surprising about this model, it’s that it doesn’t have wheels. Yes, thirty pounds is technically portable – but it’d be a lot nicer if it could be rolled around. As it is, you’ll grunt and strain a bit as you move it from place to place but it’s definitely doable – just don’t expect to haul it very far. It’s such a good machine that it stands out when there’s even one inconvenient factor though. If the worst thing about the device is that you’ll want to be able to move it around more, that probably means that it is a winner.
California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Air CompressorCheck Latest Price →
One of the typical downsides of a good compressor is the noise. In truth, a compressor tends to be one of the loudest things on any given worksite. It’s the kind of machine you usually want to use outside, particularly when there’s no one around to annoy. There are, however, a few good consumer compressors that eliminate much of the noise without giving up too much in terms of performance. One of the better quiet models out there is the California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Air Compressor.
While many compressors claim to be quiet, this one is actually measurably quieter than most. At just 60 decibels, it’s theoretically quiet enough to run inside your house even when others are around – and definitely quiet enough for a job site. If you don’t want to put your family’s patience to the test, it’s still quiet enough to run in a shop and have a conversation at the same time. This is a nice feature, but it’s even nice considering that there’s a decent amount of power in this compressor. It’s not going to stand up to industrial use, but it will work fine in a home shop.
If there’s a minor quibble with this unit, it’s that it isn’t actually all that light. If you’re looking for something you can throw in your trunk and not have a huge hit to your miles per gallon, you probably want to look elsewhere. Instead, it’s lightweight compared to some of the bigger compressor models out there. Topping out at just over 45 pounds, you’ll probably only want to move it when you absolutely have to do so. This is a minor note, though, and one that doesn’t impact how well the unit works. Definitely a great fit for most users.
Cambell Hausfeld Lightweight 4.6 GallonCheck Latest Price →
There’s definitely something to be said for a quieter air compressor. While most people who own such devices know that you’ll generally be making a trade-off of power for less noise, these quiet models have come a long way in recent years. One of the best examples of that is the Cambell Hausfeld Lightweight 4.6 Gallon compressor, which absolutely provides the average individual with enough power to get the job done without producing as much noise as you’d expect. It is a solid lower-range compressor, one that’s just right for doing most small to medium jobs.
You really wouldn’t expect this compressor to work as well as it does given the noise output. It’s a solid little device that only takes about ten minutes to reach full power, and after that, you’ll be off to the races. It’s useful for just about any task that a standard compressor would be used for, all without the need for protective ear wear. It’s solidly constructed and able to take at least a little bit of a beating, which makes it a good fit for those who want a compressor that is going to spend some time outside.
The only thing missing from this model is wheels. At thirty-eight pounds, it’s not quite as light as the company advertises it and you’ll have to physically pick it up and move it in order to get it to a site. Not a huge deal if you’re just filling up tires, of course, but it can be a back-breaker if you’re using it in a larger product. There are plenty of ways around this problem, of course, but the lack of a basic convenience feature is confusing. Nevertheless, it gets the job done once you’ve got it where it needs to go.
Air Compressor Buying Guide
Finding a good air compressor isn’t always easy. There are dozens of variables to keep in mind, especially if you’re looking to buy your first device. While there are specifics that matter for individual professions or tools, there are a few common factors about which every potential buyer should think. Below are the basics that you need to know before buying an air compressor.
Start with the Type
You’ll want to start your search for a good air compressor with a quick look at the models on the market. There are a few different categories, which can be broken up with relative ease.
The first split is between stationary and portable models. Stationary models have larger tanks and generally, have more power, but they don’t move. Portable models are better for smaller projects and for moving around a site.
From there, you’ll really want to spend some time looking at usage. There are three primary grades of compressors – consumer, contractor, and industrial. Consumer models tend to be best for small jobs or for running tools that don’t need much air. Contractor models are made for job sites, with an output that can handle multiple larger tools. It’s rare that an individual will ever need an industrial model, which can stand up to the needs of auto shop usage – or can ever power roller coasters!
Look at Power
How are you going to power the compressor? If you’re just using the air compressor around the shop or the garage, there’s a good chance that you can get away with simple electric power. Much like other electric power tools, electric compressors are the most common on the market, with quieter running profiles and less overall maintenance. If you’re going to do most of your work inside, it’s definitely recommended that you go with an electric model – it’s not uncommon for homeowners to spring for other quiet equipment for their garage, after all.
If you are going to work far away from a plug or you are planning on doing your work outside, you’ll need to look at a gas-powered model. These models do tend to be a little more rugged, but they aren’t always as dependable as electric models. With that said, they do tend to have more raw power to make up for the noise they generate. These are generally more suitable for worksite usage.
Horse Power and CFM
Perhaps the most technical aspects of your search will be looking at the available horsepower and the CFM. Horsepower is, much like in a car, the amount of power behind the machine itself. Most air compressors will have horsepower between 1.5 and 6.5 HP, though this number has become increasingly irrelevant in recent years.
The big number at which you should be looking is CFM, or cubic feet per minute. CFM is in its most simple terms the amount of air that the compressor can put out in a minute. Take a look at the tools that you’ll be using to determine the CFM that you need for your projects. It’s usually recommended that you have around a thirty percent buffer for CFM depending on the tools that you choose to use.
Portability and Storage
Portability is a factor for many buyers. Pay special attention to the terms “light” and “portable” in most descriptions – these are incredibly relative and might not work out as well for some users as one might think. Instead, take some time to look at the actual weight of the unit to figure out if you can cart it around successfully. Remember, a unit that’s around forty pounds will often get the portability label if it’s got a handle – so figure out if you’re comfortable with that kind of weight.
It’s also a good idea to figure out the dimensions of your compressor to determine if you can store it safely. If you have a dedicated shop or a storage area, space may not be much of an issue. If you need to carry the compressor in a work van or have to store it with other items, though, you’ll want to know exactly how big the device might be. Do the math to figure out if the device will actually fit where you need it to go.
Reliability and Customer Service
It’s also a good idea to look at the reliability of your potential air compressor before making a purchase. Consider going online to look at a few customers reviews to figure out how the compressor works in real-world conditions. While you can certainly get a great deal of information from the side of the box, other users will be a much better source for learning how the device will really work for you.
There’s no such thing as a perfect air compressor, so make sure that your research also includes a look at the customer service policies of the manufacturer. You need to know if it’s easy to get in contact with the company, how well they honor their warranty, and what you’ll have to pay out of pocket for common fixes. The more you know about what will happen if something goes wrong with your purchase, the more confident you should feel in your choice of air compressor.
Pricing and Use
Finally, take a look at the price tag. If you’re not going to use a compressor very often, it’s probably not necessary to seek out a top of the line model. If you’re going to use the compressor for your business, though, there’s a good chance that you will get what you pay for. The best models on the market do have a fairly hefty price tag, but they’re reliable enough that they’ll keep your business running smoothly without any major malfunctions.
Once you’ve looked at these factors, you should be able to make an informed decision about your air compressor. Remember, the best device is the one that fits your needs – not necessarily the one that’s the best on the market. With a little research, you’ll find a compressor that works perfectly for you.