Tired of struggling with tools that can’t quite shoulder the load? A small to mid-sized air compressor unit may be just what you need.
Forget about electrical tools that aren’t strong enough to stand up to the demands you place on them. Instead, step into the world of pneumatic tools, where everything is faster and more straightforward.
Air Compressor Comparison
We’ll look at things more in-depth further down this page, but for now, let’s take a quick look at some of the best air compressors and their most important features.
Good: With a high maximum internal PSI of 150, a generous 6-gallon tank capacity, and accessories like a blow gun and a tire chuck with gauge, this pancake air compressor is more versatile than many others.
Not so good: The regulator could be more precise and, although we didn’t measure this ourselves, some users report that it’s louder than Bostitch’s claim of 80db.
Bottom Line: The build quality of this compressor is better than some of its accessories, but as you get more experience you may want to buy better tools anyway. The air compressor itself will most likely stand the test of time.
Good: This is a powerful machine capable of servicing high-demand tools thanks to its oil-filled air pump, 3.0 horsepower motor, and 6.5 CFM output at 90 PSI.
Not so good: The oil-lubricated air pump requires extra care and maintenance, and this machine is probably too costly for occasional use.
Bottom Line: If you need something reliable and capable of withstanding intensive work, this unit is well worth the investment. One of the best air compressors you can find.
Good: With 13 accessories, including a hose, blowgun, and a tire chuck with gauge, this is one of the most useful machines right out of the box. The optional finish nailer, or even the brad nailer, will be the icing on the cake.
Not so good: The included accessories are not all of the same quality as the air compressor and the nailers.
Bottom Line: Although you can always buy tools separately, this is a great and affordable way to get started with air tools. The finish nailer will be the smart choice in most cases, but pair it with the brad nailer for heavy-duty work.
Good: This compressor combines a decent electric motor, an oil-free, dual-stage air pump, and a large 10-gallon tank. Given its size and power, it runs pretty quietly.
Not so good: It’s definitely on the heavy side, so even with the help of wheels, some people will find it difficult to move or load onto a vehicle.
Bottom Line: While its price and bulk make it a poor choice for a personal, at-home compressor, it’s great value for anyone who needs the power and endurance this robust machine can offer.
Good: Similar to our overall best pick, this portable air compressor from Porter Cable offers two hook up valves (air couplers), 150 PSI (max), and a 6-gallon tank.
Not so good: It lacks a few accessories compared to our top pick above, is a bit heavier, and runs a bit noisier. At over 80 dBA, this machine is uncomfortable to use indoors or for a long period of time.
Bottom Line: This 6-gallon pancake air compressor offers respectable value and can handle more air-intensive tasks than you’d think possible. For many users, the friendly price tag will easily make up for its drawbacks.
Good: This air compressor is lightweight and affordable, with a high maximum PSI of 125 and a handy overload protection system to preserve its weak motor.
Not so good: Small and not very powerful, this machine will have a hard time coping with any sort of large job.
Bottom Line: As long as you’re not planning any major projects, this air compressor is a good portable option for the weekend handyman.
Good: This lightweight battery-powered air compressor weighs only 21.5 lbs. It’s also exceptionally tough, with a roll cage design and a maintenance-free, oil-free air pump.
Not so good: Air and battery may run out before you’re done with a job. The recovery time and battery recharge are fairly quick, though.
Bottom Line: This highly portable machine is perfect for moving around with you as you work. It can do more than you’d expect at 0.4HP – it’s no problem to air up car tires and it can even be used for light jobs with nailers and staplers.
Good: This impressively quiet air compressor features a satisfyingly large 5.5-gallon air tank, a hassle-free, dual-stage, oil-free pump capable of maintaining an internal PSI of 120, and wheels for improved mobility.
Not so good: Running power-hungry tools for extended periods can overheat the motor, which means that you have to wait for the compressor to cool down.
Bottom Line: This is a sturdy, workhorse air compressor that keeps noise to a minimum while offering good performance – but not for hours at a time.
Good: This higher-end air compressor runs on a 2 horsepower motor, compresses air through a cast-iron pump, puts out 3.3 CFM (at 90 PSI), and offers a reassuringly sturdy and reliable design overall.
Not so good: A noise rating right on the threshold for hearing damage will be a problem in some cases.
Bottom Line: If you plan to use it regularly for construction jobs and you’re willing to wear protective hearing equipment, this well-priced, reliable 2.6-gallon air compressor won’t disappoint.
Good: With a 0.9 HP motor, it’s more powerful than most other pancake air compressors. Also has a tolerable 75.5 dBA noise rating, a large 6-gallon tank, and dual nozzle attachments so that two people can use it simultaneously.
Not so good: This pancake compressor is relatively expensive and several customers complained that it leaks air, which seems to be down to leaky fittings.
Bottom Line: A good choice for those who need a powerful portable compressor with multiple nozzle attachments, but make sure to check that it doesn’t leak air.
Good: This machine runs very quiet considering its CFM output rating of 5.3. In general, this is a well-built, reliable compressor.
Not so good: Though it’s not the heaviest compressor on the market, the lack of wheels does make it difficult to move.
Bottom Line: If you need something reliable and quiet and you’re happy paying a middle-of-the-road price for a middle-of-the-road compressor, this is a great option for you.
Good: Although on the large side, almost oversized, its thick-tread wheels and a tall bar handle makes this air compressor easy to shift around. It features a 4.5-gallon tank, runs quietly, and offers reasonable performance at the price.
Not so good: The motor might struggle to keep up with constant use or heavier tools, and it’s supplied without any fittings whatsoever.
Bottom Line: Overall, this is a fairly average machine among stiff competition. What sets it apart is mostly its portability and tolerable noise level.
Good: Priced very affordable compared to others in its class, this portable air compressor is encased in a tough, hard plastic exterior for extra durability.
Not so good: This machine just doesn’t have the power output of a more substantial compressor, and isn’t likely to be all that helpful when using strong, demanding tools.
Bottom Line: If you need an oil-free compressor that can take a beating – one you can toss in the back of your car – this is a great option. Don’t, however, expect high-power performances.
Good: Happy to run at 100% duty cycles and capable of generating high pressures (135 PSI) and flow rates (4.3 CFM @ 90 PSI), this air compressor can operate a wide variety of pneumatic tools.
Not so good: Despite its high specs, its oil lubed air pump reduces its versatility. Some airbrushes and woodworking tools may not work well with it.
Bottom Line: As long as you don’t intend to use it for certain applications, this machine is great for the does-it-all handyman or contractor.
Good: Competitively priced for a machine with an 8-gallon tank, this low-noise air compressor is also available with a 6-gallon tank or a 4.6-gallon tank.
Not so good: Considering its size, this unit offers disappointing performance due to an undersized motor and low maximum internal pressure.
Bottom Line: Despite its downsides, this is a well-built machine and a great choice if you need something reliable with a large tank but don’t want to spend the earth.