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The 5 Best Air Compressors (2023 Review)

Air compressors can perform a variety of useful tasks around your home. When shopping for an air compressor, consider the features you prefer it to have, the maintenance it requires, and the tools you want it to power.

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor and California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor isolated on a white grid paper background with blue lines Courtesy Amazon

An air compressor can make maintaining a home easier by helping with household tasks, such as pumping air into your car’s tires or clearing the dust in your garage. Because air compressor product descriptions mention psi, CFM, CSFM, hp, dB, and other confusing measurements, it can be challenging to determine which product is best for you. To help you in your search, the This Old House Reviews Team created this guide on the best air compressors. Keep reading to learn about our top picks.

In This Guide: Top 5 | Buyer’s Guide | FAQs | Why Trust This Old House


Top 5 Air Compressors


Compare Top Air Compressors

Product Tank Capacity Noise Level Power Output Weight Dimensions
Product Tank Capacity Noise Level Power Output Weight Dimensions
Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor 4.2 gallons 79 decibels 90 PSI @ 4.2 CFM 81 pounds ‎20 x 18 x 18.8 inches
Craftsman CMEC6150K Air Compressor 6 gallons 79 decibels 90 PSI @ 2.6 CFM 33 pounds ‎16.5 x 16.5 x 17.9 inches
DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Air Compressor 6 gallons 76 decibels 90 PSI @ 2.6 CFM 30 pounds 16 x 16 x 17.5 inches
PORTER-CABLE Oil-Free Air Compressor 6 gallons Not listed 90 PSI @ 2.6 CFM 31 pounds 18 x 18.6 x 15 inches
California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor 8 gallons 60 decibels 90 PSI @ 2.2 CFM 48 pounds 26 x 14 x 23 inches

Best For Small Tasks: Makita Big Bore Air Compressor

Teal-green-colored Makita big bore air compressor with controls

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Air Compressor

  • $364

Prices taken at time of publishing.

The 4.2-gallon tank on this air compressor is large enough to perform household tasks, such as pumping up car tires or clearing garages of sawdust. With its 2.5-horsepower motor and oil-lubricated pump, this product is handy for a range of applications.

Courtesy Amazon

Pros and Cons

✔ Has a powerful 2.5-horsepower motor
✔ Features a cast iron construction to enhance pump life, improve recovery time, and reduce wear and tear
✔ Has an oil-lubricated pump for cooler running temperatures

✘ Has a heavy frame that weighs over 80 pounds
✘ Not as eco-friendly as other non-oil options

What Customers Are Saying

Satisfied customers said that this product had quality components. Others mentioned having owned it for more than a decade without experiencing any issues. On the other hand, a handful of customers cited issues with replacement parts and customer support.


Best Starter Option: Craftsman Air Compressor

Red Craftsman air compressor with featured accessories

Craftsman CMEC6150K Air Compressor

  • $169

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This air compressor is the most affordable option in this review even with its 13-piece accessory kit. It only weighs about 32 pounds and has a handle on the top, allowing you to fill up the tank in your garage and carry it with you to perform a variety of household tasks.

Courtesy Amazon

Pros and Cons

✔ Operates without oil, preventing the release of contaminants into the air
✔ Works at 2.6 standard cubic feet per minute at 90 pounds per square inch for quick recovery
✔ Is made in the United States

✘ Slightly heavier than the other two six-gallon options in this review
✘ Has a loud operation at close to 80 decibels

What Customers Are Saying

Satisfied customers said that the product was easy to maneuver. Some also praised this item for its varied attachment options. Those who weren’t pleased with their purchase said that the pressure buildup was disappointing. A few mentioned that there were items missing from the accessory kit as well.


Best Pressure: DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor

Yellow DEWALT pancake air compressor

DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Air Compressor

  • $179

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This air compressor has a maximum pressure of 165 psi, allowing it to deliver air to a wide variety of tools. It also has a high-efficiency motor for startup in cold weather, a six-gallon tank for medium and large tasks, and a carrying handle for portability.

Courtesy Amazon

Pros and Cons

✔ Has a removable console cover to protect its controls
✔ Has a ball drain valve for quick and thorough draining
✔ Has legs that are completely covered in rubber to protect your floors and keep the machine in place

✘ Doesn’t come with accessories
✘ Some customers were disappointed with the manufacturer’s customer support

What Customers Are Saying

Customers were pleased with the performance and price of this product. Several reviews also mentioned how portable the air compressor was with its sturdy handle and small size. Dissatisfied customers were frustrated with the lack of customer support from DEWALT, and a couple of customers wondered if they received previously used equipment.


Easiest to Maintain: PORTER-CABLE Oil-Free Air Compressor

Red PORTER-CABLE oil-free air compressor

PORTER-CABLE Oil-Free Air Compressor

  • $189

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This pancake compressor from PORTER-CABLE has an oil-free design and a maintenance-free pump, allowing users to operate and care for the air compressor with minimal effort. The low-amp 120-volt motor is designed to start reliably in cold weather.

Courtesy Amazon

Pros and Cons

✔ Runs at a maximum pressure of 150 pounds per square inch for medium tasks
✔ Built with a shroud, handle, and console cover to protect the unit’s interior components
✔ Easy to carry and store at just 30 pounds

✘ Some customers experienced air leaks
✘ The drain valve isn’t located at the base of the unit, complicating its functionality

What Customers Are Saying

Customers said that this air compressor performed well, providing excellent value for the price. Others said that the included accessories covered most household and automotive needs. The low-rated reviews were from customers who were frustrated with the confusing manual and leaking susceptibility.


Quietest Compressor: California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor

Silver California Air Tools steel tank air compressor on wheels

California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor

  • $227

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This air compressor has a low sound level of 60 decibels so you don’t have to worry about hearing damage or bothering neighbors. It’s engineered for durability and versatility with its rustproof aluminum tank, all-terrain wheels, and eight-gallon tank.

Courtesy Amazon

Pros and Cons

✔ Comes with a wheel kit and an air filter
✔ Has a continuous runtime of 30-60 minutes for large projects
✔ Has a large eight-gallon tank

✘ Doesn’t come with an air hose
✘ Weighs a lot because of its eight-gallon capacity

What Customers Are Saying

Happy customers said that the product offered quiet operation and good value for the money. They noted that the machine reliability provided compressed air for light- and medium-scale jobs. Unsatisfied customers mentioned experiences with leaks and burning smells, and some said that the customer support team was unhelpful.


Buyer’s Guide

Read our guide below to learn about some of the most important factors to consider before choosing an air compressor.

Fuel Source

Air compressors are powered by electricity or gas. Gas air compressors are large, stationary units that are meant for commercial use. Electric air compressors are portable if they’re meant for household tasks or immobile if they stay in a workshop. Both types are useful in supplying air to a variety of power tools and other pneumatic tools.

Maintenance

Compressors are either oil-lubricated or oil-free. Oil compressors require the occasional refill so that the cylinders stay lubricated. Oil-free compressors have Teflon-coated cylinders that don’t require lubrication. While you don’t have to worry about maintenance with an oil-free compressor, the Teflon coating eventually wears off, requiring you to buy a new compressor.

Motor

The speed at which the motor works is measured in horsepower. The higher the horsepower, the faster the motor can refill the compressor’s tank.

Airflow

Cubic feet per minute (CFM) and standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) are used to measure airflow. SCFM is measured in a controlled environment at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, 14.7 pounds per square inch (psi), and 36% humidity, while CFM is only measured at 90 psi. Generally speaking, SCFM measures airflow in perfect conditions, while CFM measures airflow in realistic conditions. If you’re planning on using attachments or compressor tools, such as grinders and nailers, you’ll want to pay attention to airflow because the air compressor has to match or exceed the CFM or SCFM rating of the tools.

Pressure

Psi measures the amount of pressure placed on a square inch of space. Air compressors have a maximum psi they can deliver, with even the smallest and most affordable models being able to deliver at least 100 psi. Like with CFM and SCFM, you’ll need the air compressor’s maximum psi to be equal to or higher than the item you’re using it on. For example, if your car tires have to be pumped up to 35 psi, your air compressor must be able to deliver at least 35 psi.

Tank Size

A compressor with a larger tank holds more air, allowing you to go longer before needing a refill. Most household air compressors have tanks between four and eight gallons. Portable air compressors typically have smaller tanks than this.

Sound

When air compressors are on, they have a sound level between 40–90 decibels. If you’re sensitive to sound, consider purchasing a compressor that has a decibel level around 60 decibels—the sound of an average conversation—or less. A compressor with a 60-decibel sound level is considered ultra-quiet.


Frequently Asked Questions

What are some household tasks I can use an air compressor for?

You can use an air compressor for a variety of tasks, including:

  • Pumping air into car tires or as a general tire inflator
  • Power washing decks or walkways
  • Spray painting decks or pieces of furniture
  • Inflating air mattresses or pool toys
  • Other DIY projects that require high levels of air pressure

How often will I need to change the oil in my air compressor?

Read your product’s user manual to see if it specifies how often you need to change the oil. If it doesn’t, a general rule of thumb is to change the oil every 200–300 hours of use for conventional motor oil and every 1,000 hours for synthetic oil.

Can I leave air in my compressor?

You shouldn’t leave air in your compressor. If you do, the water that was compressed out of the air will sit at the bottom of the tank. This water will corrode the tank and shorten the compressor’s life. Instead of leaving air in your compressor, use the drain valve to release the air after every use.

What is a good size air compressor for a home garage?

A good size air compressor for a home garage ranges from as small as two gallons to as large as 20 gallons, which is suitable for hobbyists with light-duty needs. For commercial-level or heavy-duty jobs, you’ll want to look for an air compressor that’s closer to 60-80 gallons.


Why Trust The This Old House Reviews Team

This Old House has empowered homeowners for more than four decades with top-notch home improvement content in the form of television programs, print media, and digital content on its website and social media platforms. The This Old House Reviews Team focuses on creating in-depth product and service review content to help inform your purchasing decision for just about any item or resource that you might need for your home. The This Old House Reviews Team has written over 1,000 reviews on products in the home space, from cordless drills to kitchen trash cans, lawn mowers, and dining room decorations.

We recommend products in each review using an intensive research process, spending hours combing through the best available models on Amazon. For a product to make our list of top picks, it must hold a solid sales record on Amazon, have consistently positive customer reviews, and offer unique features, among other factors. After narrowing down our list of recommendations, we conduct additional research and sometimes in-person testing to ensure that the products meet our standards. Once we conclude the research phase, we craft a well-rounded, user-friendly article that includes our recommended products and additional information to help homeowners like you make the right purchase.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.