Tired of struggling with tools that can’t quite shoulder the load? Sick of paying $50 or more for each new power tool, only to have it burn out within a week?
A small to mid-sized air compressor unit may be just what you need.
You don’t need to confine yourself to those manual tools from the stone ages. 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.
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 most important aspects you need to consider when it comes to purchasing an air compressor. From size to noise; from price to CFM output, we’ll outline the basics below.
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: This compressor combines a decent 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: This lightweight battery-powered unit weighs only 21.5 lbs. It’s also exceptionally tough, with a roll cage design and a maintenance-free, oil-less air pump.
Not so good: With only 0.4 horsepower, this unit is suitable only for inflating tires or small, undemanding jobs.
Bottom Line: If you use only basic air tools that don’t require too much from your unit’s motor, this highly portable machine is perfect for moving around with you as you work.
Good: This impressively quiet air compressor features a satisfyingly large 5.5-gallon tank, a hassle-free, dual stage, oil-less pump capable of maintaining an internal PSI of 120, and wheels for improved mobility.
Not so good: The single horsepower motor and maximum CFM of 3.1 mean that using this machine to run power-hungry tools for extended periods can easily overload the motor.
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 above-average air compressor 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: With a motor of only 0.9 HP, it will be hard for this unit to keep up with the demand of high-power tools.
Bottom Line: A good choice for those who need a quality portable compressor with multiple nozzle attachments but don’t require the ability to power high-demand tools.
Good: This unit 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 compressor is a decent portable option for the weekend handyman.
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: Like any compressor with an oil-filled pump, it may not work well with certain tools. Also, 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 (but not airbrushing or fine carpentry) and you’re willing to wear protective hearing equipment, this well-priced, reliable 2.6-gallon compressor shouldn’t disappoint.
Good: This machine runs very quietly considering its CFM output rating of 5.3 and is, in general, 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: With 13 accessories, including a blow gun and a tire chuck, this is one of the most useful machines right out of the box. It also offers a high 150 PSI internal pressure rating and only weighs 30 pounds.
Not so good: A noise rating of over 80 dBA makes this machine uncomfortable to use indoors or for a long period of time. Its 0.8 horsepower motor can handle certain tasks, but will struggle with others.
Bottom Line: This is the perfect compressor for beginners who intend to use it around the garage and can’t be bothered to look for compatible accessories.
Good: Although on the large side, oversized, thick-tread wheels and a tall bar handle makes this compressor easy to shift around. It features a 4.5-gallon tank, runs quietly, and offers reasonable performance at the price.
Not so good: Its 1 horsepower motor will struggle to keep up with constant use or heavier tools. This compressor is also 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 affordably compared to others in its class, this 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 a 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 heavy-duty performance.
Good: Two hook up valves make this compressor more versatile than many, as does its high maximum internal PSI of 150 and generous tank capacity.
Not so good: A smallish motor means that you’ll have to allow some time for the pressure to recover between uses, even after letting it charge to capacity.
Bottom Line: This machine offers respectable value, but will disappoint if used for air-intensive tasks like spraypainting.
Good: Capable of generating both high pressures (135 PSI) of 135, flow rates (4.3 CFM @ 90 PSI), and happy to run at a 100% duty cycle, this compressor can operate a wide variety of tools with ease.
Not so good: Despite its high specs, its oil-filled air pump reduces its versatility. Many airbrushes and woodworking tools won’t 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 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.