Choosing the best air compressor according to your need is a tough job.
We are here to make your job easy.
In this extensive guide, we provide you with the most impressive air compressor reviews. Each has been put through its paces by testers, all professional handymen and craftspeople, who offered insightful evaluations of the tools’ performance, versatility and value for money.
Dig in, choose your pick and get set for a lifetime of rewarding tinkering!
Top Pick: Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP
Irrepressibly powerful, robustly constructed and yet portable enough for home use; the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore wins the pride of place as our top pick. Powered by a 2.5 HP electric motor, the MAC2400 is capable of producing 4.2 CFM of compressed air at 90 PSI. It is a testament to Makita’s creative genius that they have created this powerful an air compressor without turning it to an intractable behemoth.
Best Portable Air Compressor
Reliability and convenience rarely come in as small a package as this Porter-Cable CMB15 fully shrouded air compressor. Impressively for its price range, the compressor ships as a complete kit with all the accessories you need to get started pumping your car tires, inflating balls and above-ground swimming pools as well as powering everyday power tools such as nailers. As the CMB15’s pump is oil-free, you do not have to worry about messy oil replacements too.
Best Small Air Compressor: PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor with 13-Piece Accessory Kit
Designed for use with the most common air tools in the home, this PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC compressor offers ultimate value in a highly portable package. Designed for effortless portability, the compressor’s pancake style tank ensures stability while the top handle makes it easier to lug around. To ensure optimal tool run time, the 6-gallon capacity tank stores air at maximum pressures of 150 PSI.
Best Air Compressor Reviews of 2018
Here are detailed, professionally sourced air compressor reviews featuring versatile equipment from the world’s best makers of power and pneumatic tools:
1. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP
Designed to be a crossover unit offering enough versatility for use in an industrial site as well as for occasional home projects, the Makita MAC2400 punches well above its weight in terms of utility value, on job performance and reliability. Makita has used ingenious design to make this product powerful enough for high-end jobs yet remarkably quiet. For starters, the oil lubricated pump reduces vibration to a minimum. In addition, the 12.3 amp rated electric motor runs at a minimal 1,720 RPM reducing the noise levels to a comfortable 79 decibels.
The MAC240 is one of two Makita air compressors included in this review and both feature the company’s patented Big Bore piston-crankshaft assembly. Big Bore compressors have demonstrably larger pistons and cylinders, enabling each stroke to deliver more compressed air without necessitating lengthy recovery times.
– Cast iron, roll-cage construction for improved durability
– Automotive-style filters increase air uptake and efficiency
– Oil lubricated pump ensures quieter operation and reduces wear
– Glossy paint job finish makes it easier to clean and maintain unit
– Functional oil drain and sight glass add to the overall convenience
– While marketed as a portable piece of equipment, its 81-pound weight makes it almost impossible to lug around by hand
– Controls are spread over all the 4 sides instead of being on one convenient front panel
2.PORTER-CABLE CMB15 (1.5 Gallon) Oil-Free Fully Shrouded / Hand Carry Compressor Kit
Porter-Cable has done a remarkable job of guaranteeing you an ultra-portable air compressor that nonetheless delivers impressive performance. The all-round shroud ensures all the vital components are protected even in rugged operational environments. Admittedly, it is too low powered to run large pneumatic equipment but for general inflation tasks in the home, it is more than an adequate match. Porter-Cable have made the compressor even more convenient by equipping it with an oil-free tank. While not having to keep replacing oil is a bonus in itself, oil-less pneumatic equipment tend to last much longer than average too.
The CMB15 is designed to comply with the ISO1217 standard for displacement compressors. Running a 2.0 SCFM at 90 psi allows for quick compressor recovery time too. Of the 9 pieces of accessories packaged in the box is a 25-foot long coil hose, more than adequate for average home use. Other accessories include a Teflon tape, tire chuck, and assorted inflation nozzles.
– A comprehensive set of accessories preclude need to spend more to customize the compressor
– Requires a bare minimum amount of maintenance
– Convenient and ergonomic handle makes it easier to carry the compressor
– Pancake style tank with rubber feet ensures optimal stability
– Low power consumption makes it easy to run the compressor on normal household outlet or extension
– Factory installed coupler and plug precludes the possibility of leaks
– The troubleshooting and maintenance sections of the user manual could be made more detailed
– A tad too loud for indoor use in the home
3. PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor with 13-Piece Accessory Kit
Despite its petite dimensions, the C2002-WK impressed us on its performance with a variety of power equipment. We tested it with a whole gamut of brad nailers, inflators and even a humongous handgun. From floor molding tasks to airbrushing, the C2002-WK delivered quality performance with aplomb.
With its 6-gallon capacity tank and 13-piece accessory kit, this compressor is ready to perform right off the package. The accessories include a 25-foot long nylon hose, tire chuck, blowgun with attachments, tire pressure gauge, quick coupler, and assorted plugs.
– High capacity tank allows extended use over a variety of tasks
– Large capacity tank compared to other compressors in its price range
– Simple and intuitive controls
– Robust all-round construction
– Highly portable
– Motor equipped with replaceable brushes for extended life
– Air release nozzle is prone to leaking
– Regulator valve is unreliable
4. California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0-HP 5.5-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor
This California Air Tools air compressor is an excellent choice for both at home and professional applications. With a noise rating of only 60 decibels, the Ultra Quiet designation is more than just marketing spiel. The 5510SE impressed our testers, purring away in indoor settings with barely a murmur. This quietness owes to the use of a 1.0 HP motor operating at only 1,680 revolutions per minute. Other than being quiet, this has the added advantage of ensuring the motor undergoes less wear and therefore lasts longer.
Featuring California Air Tools’ acclaimed SP-9413 motor, the air compressor is designed to increase the duty cycle necessary for longer continuous run times. Its dual piston mechanism allows for faster delivery of compressed air, saving you from unnecessary lags at work. While the unit is one of the heaviest included in this review, the wheel kit makes it a lot easier to move it around.
– Very quiet operation
– Longer continuous run time than contemporaries
– Wheel kit makes it easy to the unit around (provided ground is flat and smooth)
– Durable oil-free pump
– Quick tank fill time
– Not sold with a hose
– Considerably longer and bulkier than alternatives in its class
5. Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP
While more suited to the needs of your average do-it-yourselfer and home user, the versatility of the Makita MAC700 air compressor and its redoubtable features make it an enticing choice for professionals too. While it features the same Big Bore cylinder-piston system as our top pick Makita MAC2400, the MAC700 packs a lower performance 2.0 HP motor.
The MAC700 bears the same rugged but ergonomic profile of its bigger cousin, the MAC2400. It packs a maximum pressure of 130 PSI. At a delivery rate of 3.3 CFM, the compressor produces air at 90 PSI and 40 PSI at 3.8 CFM delivery rate. The air compressor also includes plenty of inbuilt safety mechanisms to ensure smooth operation. The most impressive of these is the thermal overload protection. A thermal overload happens when an electric motor begins to draw more electric current than it was designed to work with.
– Super quick recovery times
– Low amp draw motor
– High capacity tank
– Does not require special power outlet to power the unit
– Easy to check oil
– Considerably low noise output
– Fitted with durable cast-iron cylinders
– The compressor is a bit top heavy and may prove a challenge to keep stable while working
– A compressor this heavy would be more portable if fitted with wheels
6. DEWALT D55146 4-1/2-Gallon 225-PSI Hand Carry Compressor with Wheels
The DeWALT D55146 is designed to provide heavy-duty performance while still offering the portability of much less capable household air compressors. Fitted with a 4.5-gallon storage tank which keeps air at a maximum pressure of 225 PSI, the D55146 has enough oomph to support up to 3 framing nailers at a go. Indeed, the compressor is a favorite of many framing carpenters especially because it can run a whole set of pneumatic tools with minimal delays in terms of recovery time.
It is powered by DeWALT’s 120V motor which together with the pressure pump work to ensure 50 SCFM of pressurized air at 90 PSI are delivered. Of the compressors included in this review, the D55146 has the most intuitive mobility kit comprising a pair of rugged wheels with 10-inch non-flat foam tires and a collapsible handle.
– Extra quick recovery
– Roll cage cover for essential components
– Easily readable and accurate pressure gauges
– Two hose attachments provide versatility of use
– Designed to be stored in an upright position to take less floor space
– A 4.5-gallon tank for a compressor this heavy is a disappointment
– Essential accessories such as hose and couplers not included in shipping package
7. Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak, 1/2 hp running 1-Gallon Compressor
It is targeted at homeowners and hobbyists needing to operate low to medium powered tools especially for trim and finish work. It is fitted with a 1-gallon tank and tips the scales at just 20 pounds, making it portable enough to move around the job site with ease. Designed to offer you convenience and functional reliability, the PC1010 features a twin set of pressure gauges, one for monitoring pressure in the tank and the other for the output.
Depending on your particular tool or application, you can depend on the Senco PC1010 to deliver between 20 and 40 drives per minute. Its energy efficiency rating is especially high because it features a unique direct drive electric motor.
– Compact and lightweight design
– Functional and reliable controls
– Fast recovery times
– Detailed instructions printed directly on the tank
– Low noise output
– The foam padding on the handle is of questionable quality
– Besides the aluminum tank, most the compressor’s body is made of iron and is therefore vulnerable to rust
8. Briggs & Stratton 3-Gallon Quiet Power Technology Air Compressor 074027-00
While this is one of the more powerful air compressors included in this guide, it is, however, the one which delivers the quietest performance of the lot. This owes to Briggs & Stratton’s patented QPT (Quiet Power Technology). QPT also reduces wear and tear of the motor, making the 074027-00 one of the most durable compressors in its range. Both experts and beginners will be impressed by the compressor’s quick-connect coupler which makes connecting and disconnecting tools effortlessly.
At the heart of the Briggs & Stratton 074027-00 is a four-pole induction motor operating at a fairly sedate 1,700 RPM. The one featured in this review comes with a 3-gallon tank but you may opt for higher or lower capacities to fit your needs and budget.
– Impressive low noise performance
– Highly efficient motor and pump
– Comes with built-in storage compartment to keep all your accessories handy
– Intuitive and reliable start mechanism
– Limited vibration ensures a longer lifetime of use
– The unit’s bulky styling devoid of any wheels makes it awkward to cart around
– The AC cord is attached close to the cylinder head, a design which may cause overheating
9. Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor
Weighing a paltry 29 pounds, this is a highly portable pancake styled air compressor for all your home pneumatic tool’s needs. It is equipped with a high capacity 6-gallon tank which keeps compressed air at a maximum pressure of 150 PSI. The BTFP02012’s 0.8 HP motor may sound underwhelming at first but it is powerful enough to provide 2.6 SCFM of compressed air at 90 PSI. To maximize the performance of your air tools, make use of the attached high flow regulator and couplers though.
The Bostitch BTFP02012 uses an oil-free pump to guarantee you longevity and virtually maintenance-free operation of your compressor. Despite the capacious 6-gallon tank, it takes only 25 seconds for the capacity to be replenished fully. Its noise output rating is a bearable, if not impressive, 78.5 decibels.
– Reliable operation and setup
– Twin coupler system allows simultaneous use of power tools
– Well laid out control panel
– Fitted with a convenient cord wrap
– High capacity tank with short recovery times
– The compressor has a poorly placed, cantankerous drain cock
– The permanently attached power cord is too short
Buying Guide for Air compressors
There is no “one-size-fits-all” air compressor. In the same vein, the most powerful, feature-rich equipment may not suffice for everyone’s particular needs. In this buying guide section, we will take a look at the most important considerations you should have in mind as you shop for an air compressor. It offers a systematic procedure for ensuring you get the biggest bang for your buck whether you are a professional carpenter or an average Joe who occasionally dabbles in DIY projects.
1. Performance Specs
There are three crucial indicators we refer to as performance specs which are arguably the most important features of an air compressor. These are namely: power, discharge pressure and recovery time. Their power is usually indicated in HP (horsepower). In general, you should only opt for a compressor if it is rated at least 1 HP. The more powerful a motor, the greater the range of power tools it can run. The discharge pressure is generally measured in PSI (pounds per square inch). However, the discharge pressure is only significant when considered against the corresponding volume of air delivered at that specific pressure. The air volume is measured in CFM (cubic foot per minute) or SCFM (standard cubic foot per minute). Once the air pressure inside the tank falls below a certain critical level, the compressor takes time to pump air back to sufficient pressure value. The time it takes to do this is known as recovery time. The compressor can’t be used during this period. The top air compressors have recovery times of 30 seconds and lower.
2. Design and Performance Features
Certain features inherent in the design of an air compressor have a significant effect on the equipment’s performance, reliability, and durability. Here are the most important of these features:
3. Aluminum or Cast-Iron Cylinders
When it comes to cylinders for an air compressor’s motor you have a choice between aluminum and cast-iron models. Aluminum cylinders are much lighter and they are far more affordable than cast-iron ones. However, cast-iron cylinders are more durable and are generally more silent.
Oil lubricated compressor pumps call for constant monitoring and maintenance. However, such pumps tend to be more durable if lubrication is done regularly and adequately. However, there are some modern air compressors featuring oil-free pumps which last just as long as those requiring lubrication.
5. Multiple Couplers
If an air compressor has more than one coupler, the more versatile it is. With it, you can connect multiple tools at a go and save yourself time on a complex project.
6. Accessories and Tools
They are sold as complete kits with a number of essential accessories. There are even some manufacturers who ship their equipment with a number of compatible tools included.
7. Size of Tank
The larger the size of your compressor’s tank is, the more work you can get done without having to wait for a refill. However, if the tank is too large, it may end up making your equipment too unwieldy and impractical for certain uses.
8. Gas or Electric Powered
While the overwhelming majority of today’s air compressors are electric powered, anyone looking for an alternative running on gasoline will find enough variety to cater for their needs too. A gas-powered option makes sense for someone who lives far from the electric grid. Even if where you are working there is no problem with electricity, you may still choose a gas-powered air compressor if you are working outdoors and the nature of the project calls for a special outlet or where a power extension cable cannot suffice.