The 10 Best Air Compressors

Sara Mandeed
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When faced with this question, many people mistakenly answer, “It doesn’t matter”.

However, the truth is that the quality and performance of an air compressor directly impacts the time, effort, and money you spend on a variety of other projects.

For example, not having a quality air compressor can slow down gas welding and ruin valuable paint jobs. It can destroy dried glue joints, make vehicle maintenance more demanding, and even slow down the performance of photocopiers.

In this article, we will analyze the 10 best air compressors of 2021. We’ll look at the factors that make them the best and will come up with comprehensive reviews for each of the compressors discussed. To keep the article as up-to-date as possible, we’ll be updating the article every time we discover a new air compressor that needs mentioning.

NameCategoryProduct
BOSTITCH Pancake Air CompressorBest OverallBOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor
PORTER-CABLE Air CompressorBudget PickPORTER-CABLE Air Compressor
Hitachi KNT50AB Brad Nailer and Compressor Combo KitUpgrade PickHitachi KNT50AB Brad Nailer and Compressor Combo Kit

1. BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor

Our rating: 9 / 10

BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor

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Pros:

  • Includes 7-foot air hose
  • Hydraulic oil-free pump
  • Affordable price point
  • Storage for air hose on base
  • Excellent size for projects both large and small
  • Puncture-resistant plastic tank

Cons:

  • Air hose/gun could be longer
  • Can’t set the PSI
  • Handle is a little wobbly

This air compressor by Bostitch is a small but powerful pancake compressor. The pump is oil-free, which means it provides better performance and doesn’t require maintenance. It’s extremely quiet and comes with a storage area behind the pump, as well as a lid to keep it out of sight when not in use.

Since you can’t set the PSI on this compressor, you may want to use some inflation tips with a gauge to monitor the pressure when filling a tire. The air hose is housed in a very useful storage area on the base. It’s long enough to reach around a car from the front to the back. There is also a very useful storage compartment behind the pump as well.

2. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor

Our rating: 8 / 10

DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor

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Pros:

  • User-friendly design
  • Well-built, robust construction
  • Digital pressure gauge for ease of pressure adjustment
  • Foot valve with gauge
  • Extremely efficient
  • The most stylish air compressor

Cons:

  • Pricey (but this is understandable due to its design and performance features)
  • Instruction manual is of poor quality
  • Instructions on how to connect to a hose could be better
  • The protective plastic needs to be cut with a sharp knife

Relatively new on the market, the DEWALT Pancake Compressor has been hailed as one of the top rated air compressors in its class. The unit is lightweight, highly convenient to move around (due to its compact and lightweight design), and has an extremely powerful motor.

This model comes with a 165 PSI pump, a 1 1/2-inch port, and is capable of powering more than 100 tools. It has a compact design, making it ideal for various applications like small workshops, garages, and construction sites.

The pancake shape makes it easy to carry around, and the unit benefits from a lightweight design and large diameter tires for convenient movement. It has a digital pressure gauge for ease of pressure adjustment, a large (3.3-gallon) oil reserve, and a strong final gear for high-pressure performance.

3. PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit

Our rating: 8 / 10

PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor Kit

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Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to carry
  • Oil-free pump
  • Improve air flow by 25%
  • Control pressure with a simple switch
  • Compact size
  • Consistent power
  • Dry-run protection
  • One year limited warranty
  • Dry-tank drain

The Porter-Cable CMB15 is a lightweight oil free pancake compressor with a large tank that compresses air fast and is designed to run at consistent pressure. The compressor comes with a 25-feet long hose which allows you to get to the places you need.

It is good for inflating up to four standard tires and it features an industrial grade oil-free pump that minimizes breakdowns. It also has full protection against dry running, overheating, overloading, and sub-tank drainage. With this compressor, you don’t have to worry about any type of belt slippage because it is designed with a built-in clutch. This helps you move it around the garage comfortably and you don’t have to worry about it damaging your floor.

4. Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak

Our rating: 8 / 10

Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak

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Pros:

  • Compact
  • Quiet model
  • Good build quality
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Has a long extension cord
  • Less vibration than other models
  • Operates at a very low sound level

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a cutoff valve for the air hose
  • Hard to find extra adapters
  • Not ideal for big jobs
  • Can’t be used with an airbrush

The Senco PC1010 is a powerful jack of all trades and master of none! If you want a portable compressor that’s quick to set-up and get working, then this lightweight model is a great fit.

The PC1010 is small and lightweight so it’s easy to transport around, especially if you have a small car. It’s a great machine for workshop and home-based storage. The PC1010 1-horsepower handheld model is lightweight and easy to move around, plus it gives you reliable power for your air-tools no matter where you are.

5. Campbell Hausfeld 8 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor

Our rating: 7 / 10

Campbell Hausfeld 8 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor

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Pros:

  • Extremely portable, as it weighs just 19.3 pounds and has a compact size
  • Quiet operation – can be used for overnight inflations
  • Reliable motor with a 10 amp rating that allows extended operation
  • Comes with screw-on tire inflator, a kit with three different attachments, and a storage bag

Cons:

  • The hose is too short leading to a very limited reach
  • The tires that come with the machine are of a low quality

Campbell Hausfeld 8-gallon compressors are a very popular choice when you're in the market looking for a decent and reasonably affordable air compressor. The model has a quiet motor that provides quick and easy inflation and deflation of car and motorcycle tires.

Its oil-free OHV engine is compatible with oil-based paints and stains, and it can run continuously for up to 2 hours.

The product is really great for hobbyist, professional, and occasional users, considering its price and average performance. The design is pretty compact and comes with a sturdy carry bag which makes it really easy to carry around.

6. PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor

Our rating: 7 / 10

PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor

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Pros:

  • Mini size
  • Comes with three different couplers
  • Nicely balanced
  • Not too loud
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use, operate, and move around
  • Powerful enough for small to medium home projects
  • 7.5 Amp motor

Cons:

  • Can overheat if operated in enclosed spaces
  • Plastic oil drain is not very durable

The Porter-Cable Pancake air compressor is our overall top pick on our list of air compressors (and it’s one of the best rated too). First of all, it’s nicely balanced and comes with a carry handle for easy carrying and transportation.

It’s a particularly popular choice for those just starting up their very own business because it functions as a nailer, stapler, buffer, spray gun, and inflator. It is very easy to use, plus it has a three-year limited warranty.

What’s great about this pump is that it’s not too noisy. Our top pick has an oil-free pump designed for air-powered tools, which can withstand tough jobs for many long hours. It has low amp draw, ideal for driving a wide range of accessories.

7. Air Compressor

Our rating: 7 / 10

Air Compressor

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Pros:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Compact design
  • Powerful enough to handle toy tires
  • Value for money

Cons:

  • Exhaust emits toxic fumes
  • Loud during operation

This pick comes from an established manufacturer that focuses on manufacturing compressors with affordable price tags. This specific model falls in the low-price range and is relatively well-received by online reviewers. The Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV is an oil-free, 3-gallon, air compressor that services small hobbies, such as bike pumps and inflating balls, car seats, and toys.

You can easily inflate a variety of things thanks to the quality air hose. The compressor can be easily wheeled from one location to another. It is portable and can be used indoors or outdoors.

What’s more, this air compressor has a built-in pressure switch to prevent the drain of power if the air pressure falls. The Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV also comes with an inflation gun and a 10-piece accessory kit, which allows extended use of the air compressor.

8. DEWALT Air Compressor

Our rating: 7 / 10

DEWALT Air Compressor

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Pros:

  • 70% quieter than similar models
  • Durable and reliable
  • Highly efficient at 120 CFM output at 90 PSI
  • Fuel-efficient 1.7 gallon-per-hour motor
  • Extremely portable

Cons:

  • Double the price of other brands
  • Doesn’t come with power cord
  • Relatively heavy for its size (23 pounds)

This is a very powerful but rather lightweight portable air compressor, and by far the best compressor we’ve seen. The Dewalt AP200R 200 psi works very efficiently with an air volume output of 120 CFM, ideal for most everyday jobs like inflating tires and sports equipment.

The Control of this compressor is also well designed and quite easy to adjust, making your job even easier. On the downside, it doesn’t come with a power cord, so you’re going to have to purchase one separately. Also, it’s not the cheapest model out there and cost almost double the price of other brands. However, you certainly get what you pay for since Dewalt is known for its durable and reliable air compressors.

9. Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor

Our rating: 6 / 10

Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor

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Pros:

  • 13.5 gallon tank capacity for longer run times between refuelings
  • Pumps out 2.0 HP at 90 PSI max pressure and 10.5 CFM for powerful air flow
  • 5.5 SCFM/130L/MIN at 90 PSI max operating pressure
  • Innovative piston pump delivers greater efficiency
  • Inflates quickly
  • Quiet operation
  • 3 year limited manufacturer’s warranty

Cons:

  • Energy Star rating is only C-level due to lack of low-oil shutoff
  • Takes a bit to get used to the pump primer
  • Included hose is short and stiff
  • No gaiter to protect the hose from being punctured
  • Air filter is difficult to clean as it gets quite dusty

The Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor is the best air compressor for those looking for a suitable compressor that’s powerful and practical, though it does tend to be on the pricey side.

This air compressor is a monster when it comes to the amount of power it’s able to produce, and it’s guaranteed to be able to satisfy even the most serious DIY experts who are looking for a compressor that does the job quickly and efficiently.

10. Hitachi KNT50AB Brad Nailer and Compressor Combo Kit

Our rating: 6 / 10

Hitachi KNT50AB Brad Nailer and Compressor Combo Kit

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Pros:

  • Includes what you need for basic woodworking
  • Great value
  • Powerful enough for most DIY projects
  • Even comes with a 1-year warranty
  • Very compact

Cons:

  • Only run on 120V
  • Motor might be too weak for bigger tasks
  • A bit loud on high speed
  • Small tank is best suited for small projects and at-home use

This Hitachi offering is a great option for home improvement. It’s a mid-sized compressor that can be easily stored in a corner. It’s also small and lightweight enough for easy carrying around the house. Plus, you don’t have to carry an extension cord around the house either with this one since it can plug into a standard outlet.

The Hitachi features an automatic, intermittent oiler to keep the motor lubricated and operating at its peak. The 1.8HP motor can deliver up to 2.5 cfm at 90 psi.

The compressor comes with a 5/8 inch to 2 inch brad nailer. The brad nailer has a non-marring nose. This is important because most brad nailers with a steel nose can mar your workpiece if you’re not careful.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best brand for air compressors?

For general everyday use, Craftsman is best known for their multi-functional air compressor made for powering air tools.

However, for more heavy duty use, Ingersoll Rand is best suited to handle demanding jobs like powering pneumatic nailers. This is because they are innovative in their design and parts. They also come with unique features like their auto shut-off in case of low oil or over heating.

Honda is best suited for industrial purposes where their CFM is measured at 80, 35, and 20, respectively. For home use, the >135 CFM is sufficient for most tasks.

What is the best vertical air compressor?

Opinions can vary, but in our opinion there are benefits and disadvantages to both vertical and horizontal air compressors. It’s up to the buyer to decide which is better.

Regardless of the type of impact wrench a user selects, they should always have the best air compressor nearby. Cylinder fade is a common issue when pressure drops below a point of diminishing returns. As such, users should always have a full tank of air ready to use, especially if they are working on larger tasks.

Our stance remains that vertical models can offer more power and longevity than horizontal ones. We typically recommend vertical models for professional users such as mechanics. We believe that using air line to connect a horizontal model to a vertical one is not a good idea.

For users who are just using pneumatic tools occasionally, a horizontal model will do. Look for one which has a large air tank and available pressure.

What size compressor do I need to run air tools?

The first thing you have to know is that you need to invest in an air compressor that can do the job of powering your tools. You have to find out the HP rating of the tools you are going to use and then determine the PSI needed to power those tools. This will determine the size of the air compressor you will need.

Drywall nailers for example need a 70 gallon compressor while framing nailers need only a 30 gallon one.

What is a good size air compressor for home use?

When looking for an air compressor you will want to consider size, power, and compatibility with various tools. Most homeowners will want to find a model that has the correct power size and can take care of their basic home projects such as inflating home tires. A smaller portable air compressor can help in this case and is also more convenient. Larger professional grade air compressors are not only meant for home use but can also be used for various industrial applications such as automotive service centers. These units have more power and are often larger in size. They are designed to provide the necessary pressure to power multiple tools.

Conclusion

That's why we think this air compressor is the best. It is one of the quieter compressors, providing a “whisper quiet” operation while featureing 2.3 SCFM @ 40 PSI and 15.8 SCFM @ 90 PSI. It also comes with a long six-year warranty and has a media filter, which is beneficial for any shop or garage.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
BOSTITCH Pancake Air CompressorBest OverallBOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor
PORTER-CABLE Air CompressorBudget PickPORTER-CABLE Air Compressor
Hitachi KNT50AB Brad Nailer and Compressor Combo KitUpgrade PickHitachi KNT50AB Brad Nailer and Compressor Combo Kit