The 6 Best Air Compressors for Jobs Big and Small

By Corrie Pelc


While an air compressor may not sound like something you really need in your home garage or shed, when you hear about all the things it can do, it makes sense. This versatile tool can tackle jobs both big and small.


Here's just a partial list of what an air compressor can do around the house:

  • Fill up tires on your vehicle when pressure is low
  • Attach to a pneumatic nail gun for carpentry and construction work
  • Use on a compressor spray paint gun to make quick work of spray painting jobs
  • An air ratchet and socket tool makes DIY auto repair much easier
  • Quickly clean up your garage, deck, and patio flooring with an air blower tool


Convinced now? Then luckily for you, we have a list of the best air compressors ready for your review!


How Air Compressors Work

In the most basic sense, an air compressor stores energy it creates from its motor in pressurized air. Depending on which type of air compressor it is, the motor is either run by electricity or gas. The pressurized air is stored in the air compressor's tank.


To use the pressurized air inside the machine, a user would attach a hose to the discharge valve. At the end of the hose, a user can attach a variety of different tools, allowing for the types of tasks we listed above. When the user turns on the machine, pressurized air comes out of the hose.


How to Buy an Air Compressor

When it comes to air compressors, there are two questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Is It Stationary or Portable? Air compressors come in two types. Stationary air compressors are generally larger with more output and are meant to stay in one spot. Portable air compressors are usually smaller and will be on wheels with a handle so you can move them around. Because of their size, portable air compressors have a bit less output and are better suited for lighter jobs.
  • Electric or Gas? Air compressors are powered by either electricity or gas. Electric air compressors are more common as they are less maintenance and are quieter. However, if you know you'll have big jobs or if you need to use your air compressor outside where you won't have access to electricity, then a gas-powered version may be your best bet.


Test Factors We Considered When Picking the Air Compressors

Here’s a rundown of the test factors we used to determine the best air compressors for 2021:

  • Price: Air compressors come in at several different price points.
  • Type: Is this air compressor stationary or portable?
  • Power: How is the air compressor powered — gas or electric?
  • Weight: How much does the air compressor weigh?
  • Tank Size: How large is the tank that holds air? A smaller-tank air compressor will normally hold around four to six gallons of air, with larger tanks holding more than that.
  • Horsepower: This is measured in HP and is the amount of power generated by the motor in the air compressor. The motor is what creates the air pressure that makes the air compressor work.
  • Air Pressure: The amount of air pressure the air compressor generates is measured in pound-force per square inch (psi). A higher psi means the air compressor can hold more air in its tank, allowing you to operate any tools attached to it for a greater amount of time.
  • Air Volume: The amount of air volume the compressor delivers is measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm) or standard cubic feet per minute (scfm). The higher the cfm or scfm, the more air the compressor expels.
  • Pump Type: Air compressors have either single or two-stage pumps. Single pump air compressors have one cylinder that's making compressed air, while a two-stage air compressor has at least two cylinders making compressed air at the same time. Because there are more cylinders making air, two-stage pumps can fill the air tank for a longer period of time with more pressure, making them a great option for larger jobs that take a longer time and require more air, like spray painting and pressure washing.
  • Pump Oil: Air compressors normally have either oil-lubricated or oil-free pumps. Oil-lubricated pumps require the addition of oil to keep the machine running smoothly. Oil-free pumps are made from a material that does not require any oil during its lifetime.
  • Volume: How loud is the air compressor when it’s operating? This is measured in decibels (dB). For reference, a running creek is measured at 40 dB and a jet engine takeoff is 140 dB.
  • Accessories/Tools: Does the air compressor include any accessories and tools, such as blow guns or hoses?
  • Warranty: Does the manufacturer back their air compressor?



Now that we’ve covered everything, let’s move on to the best air compressors of 2021.


Best Overall Air Compressor: Craftsman CMEC6150K Air Compressor

$164 on Amazon


An overall handy portable air compressor that can handle a variety of jobs for under $170.

best overall air compressor


With over 12,000 ratings and 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, there's really no wonder why the Craftsman CMEC6150K Air Compressor is our pick for the overall best air compressor. This portable pancake-shaped (yep, that's a thing!) air compressor provides a maximum of 150 psi, making it a great option for plenty of types of applications. The air compressor includes an oil-free pump for easy maintenance and sports two couplers where hoses hook up, allowing for two users at one time. When in operation, the air compressor has a pretty quiet performance at only 78.5 dB, which is slightly louder than a standard vacuum cleaner. And the Craftsman CMEC6150K Air Compressor comes with a 13-piece accessory kit that includes two blow guns, a tire gauge, tire chuck, rubber tip, and three inflator adaptors.


Ideal for: Those looking for a starter air compressor suitable for a variety of home projects. 


  • Price: $164
  • Type: Portable
  • Power: Electric
  • Weight: 32.5 pounds
  • Tank Size: 6 gallons
  • Horsepower: 0.8 hp 
  • Maximum Air Pressure: 150 psi 
  • Maximum Air Volume: 2.6 cfm 
  • Pump Type: Single
  • Pump Oil: Oil-free
  • Volume: 78.5 dB
  • Accessories/Tools: Two blow guns, tire gauge, tire chuck, rubber tip, and three inflator adaptors
  • Warranty: 1-year limited


Pros:

  • Over 12,000 ratings and 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon
  • Two couplers allow two users to use it at once
  • Comes with a 13-piece accessory kit


Cons:

  • May not be powerful enough for heavy-duty jobs


Best Portable Air Compressor: California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor

$210 on Amazon 


A super-portable electric air compressor with a handle and dual wheels. 

best portable air compressor


The California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor is our pick for best portable air compressor thanks to its handle and dual wheels that make it easy to move wherever you need it. This easy-to-move hotdog-shaped electric air compressor is capable of producing a maximum 3.10 cfm air volume and 120 psi through its one-hp motor. It can hold up to eight gallons of pressurized air and during operation only emits 60 dB of sound, which is about the same level of noise as an operating dishwasher. The air compressor’s low-maintenance oil-free pump allows it to be used in a variety of different ambient temperatures and the machine is backed by a one-year limited warranty. 


Ideal for: Homeowners who want an easy-to-move portable electric air compressor for jobs around their property.


  • Price: $210
  • Type: Portable
  • Power: Electric
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • Tank Size: 8 gallons
  • Horsepower: 1 hp 
  • Maximum Air Pressure: 120 psi 
  • Maximum Air Volume: 3.10 cfm 
  • Pump Type: Single
  • Pump Oil: Oil-free
  • Volume: 60 dB
  • Accessories/Tools: None
  • Warranty: 1-year limited


Pros:

  • Handle and dual wheels for easy maneuverability
  • Eight-gallon tank
  • Quiet as a dishwasher when operating


Cons:

  • Motor is a bit light on horsepower


Best Air Compressor for Big Jobs: Quincy QT-54 2V41C60VC Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor

~ $1,700 on Amazon 


Always have pressurized air at the ready with this 60-gallon stationary air compressor. 

best air compressor for big jobs


If you need an electric air compressor that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it, then the Quincy QT-54 2V41C60VC Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor is what you're looking for. At its maximum, this stationary air compressor can produce up to 175 psi of air pressure and 15.4 cfm of air volume. And it holds up to 60 gallons of air at one time, giving you an almost endless supply of pressurized air for the work you need to do. Built to last for a lifetime, the air compressor's pump is rated to last for up to 30,000 hours. The electric motor on the Quincy QT-54 2V41C60VC Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor includes a built-in thermal overload to make sure it doesn't overheat.


Ideal for: Garages and other workspaces that need a robust stationary air compressor for heavy-duty tasks.


  • Price: ~ $1,700
  • Type: Stationary
  • Power: Electric
  • Weight: 475 pounds
  • Tank Size: 60 gallons
  • Horsepower: 5 hp 
  • Maximum Air Pressure: 175 psi 
  • Maximum Air Volume: 15.4 cfm 
  • Pump Type: Two-stage
  • Pump Oil: Oil-lubricated
  • Volume: 80 dB
  • Accessories/Tools: None
  • Warranty: 1-year limited; extended warranty available


Pros:

  • 60-gallon tank holds a ton of pressurized air
  • Pump rated to last for up to 30,000 hours
  • Electric motor includes a built-in thermal overload to make sure it doesn't overheat


Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Requires a spot it can be kept


Best Budget Air Compressor: Bostitch BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor

$129 on Amazon 


An electric air compressor for tackling projects around the home that won’t break the bank.

best budget air compressor


For under $130, the Bostitch BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor is an excellent portable air compressor to have around the house. And we're not the only ones who feel that way, as shown by its almost 5,800 reviews and 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. This budget-friendly air compressor features a six-gallon tank and two universal couplers to support two users at the same time. The machine provides a maximum air pressure of 150 psi and maximum air volume of 2.6 cfm. Its oil-free pump is made to last for a long time and be maintenance-free. And the Bostitch BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor only has a 78.5 dB operational noise level for a manageable workspace. 


Ideal for: Budget-conscious DIYers looking for an all-around portable air compressor that fits in their budget. 


  • Price: $129
  • Type: Portable
  • Power: Electric
  • Weight: 29 pounds
  • Tank Size: 6 gallons
  • Horsepower: 0.8 hp 
  • Maximum Air Pressure: 150 psi 
  • Maximum Air Volume: 2.6 cfm 
  • Pump Type: Single
  • Pump Oil: Oil-free
  • Volume: 78.5 dB
  • Accessories/Tools: None
  • Warranty: 1-year limited


Pros:

  • Under $130
  • Six-gallon tank
  • Maintenance-free oil-free pump


Cons:

  • No wheels for moving it around


Best Gas-Operated Air Compressor: Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412 Air Compressor

~ $801 at Amazon 


A hard-working, gas-powered portable air compressor with a unique cooling system to help it keep working for a very long time.

best gas-operated air compressor


If you're looking for a gas-powered air compressor to help you with tough jobs, there's no better on the market today than the Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412 Air Compressor. This air compressor features a four-gallon tank and five-hp motor that provides a maximum of 155 psi of air pressure for excellent tool performance, from nail guns to blow cleaning. Featuring an oil-free pump, the compressor has a unique cooling system that helps to make sure the pump cools down quickly and stays in good working condition. The Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412 Air Compressor includes cushioned handle grips and tool and tank gauges, and is backed by a two-year limited warranty.


Ideal for: Home garages that require a gas-powered air compressor to help tackle tough tasks.


  • Price: ~ $801
  • Type: Portable
  • Power: Gas
  • Weight: 74 pounds
  • Tank Size: 4 gallons
  • Horsepower: 5 hp 
  • Maximum Air Pressure: 155 psi 
  • Maximum Air Volume: 6.9 cfm 
  • Pump Type: Single
  • Pump Oil: Oil-free
  • Volume: 71+ dB
  • Accessories/Tools: None
  • Warranty: 2-year limited


Pros:

  • Five hp motor that provides a maximum of 155 psi of air pressure
  • Unique cooling system makes sure the pump stays in good working condition
  • Two-year limited warranty


Cons:

  • Bit heavy for a portable air compressor without wheels


Best Electric Air Compressor: Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor

$319 on Amazon


A solid electric air compressor designed to last a very long time.

best electric air compressor


The Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor is our top pick for best electric air compressor. Featuring a 2.5 hp electric motor, this air compressor is capable of producing a maximum operating air pressure of 130 psi, making it capable of handling demanding tasks. Quiet in its operation, the compressor's sound only hits about 79 dB, which is about the same volume as a standard alarm clock. The compressor is constructed from a cast iron body for excellent durability and has a roll-cage framing to protect the inside parts from wear and tear. The Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor's pump is also oil-lubricated, which allows for cooler running temperatures.


Ideal for: Larger tasks that require a robust portable electric air compressor. 


  • Price: $319
  • Type: Portable
  • Power: Electric
  • Weight: 77 pounds
  • Tank Size: 4.2 gallons
  • Horsepower: 2.5 hp 
  • Maximum Air Pressure: 130 psi 
  • Maximum Air Volume: 4.8 cfm 
  • Pump Type: Single
  • Pump Oil: Oil-lubricated
  • Volume: 79 dB
  • Accessories/Tools: None
  • Warranty: 1-year parts and labor


Pros:

  • Maximum operating air pressure of 130 psi
  • Relatively quiet operation
  • Oil-lubricated pump keeps running temperatures cooler


Cons:

  • A bit heavy for a portable air compressor without wheels


Do you have an air compressor you can’t live without? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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