Best Air Compressor: Complete Buying Guide & Reviews

For anyone who uses a lot of tools or is looking to buy them, an air compressor can open up a whole lot more options. With the right air pressure from a compressor, you’ll be able to use different types of tools such as nail guns, brad nailers, pumps for car tires, rotary screw compressors, and other power tools that actually help you get the job done more efficiently and a whole lot faster, which is definitely a big deal.

There are many different types of air compressor on the market, such as portable air compressors, oil-free compressors, small air compressors, pneumatic air compressors, and electric air compressors to name but a few. By taking a look at the best air compressor options, you’re definitely going to be off to a great start. Read on for our top air compressor reviews.

Best Air Compressors

California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor

This California Air Tools 5510SE Compressor features a steel tank, which increases the overall durability. It’s also ultra-quiet to run but still offers some serious compressed air, which means you won’t need to worry about those times you need to use it while the neighbors are still sleeping. It provides 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI as well as 2.2 CFM at 90 PSI so you have several options for the type of tools you need to use.

The motor itself has actually been designed to increase the cycle and, therefore, allow you to run it even longer, which means it doesn’t need to reload quite as frequently, which is part of how the volume is decreased to only 60 decibels. On top of that, it offers thermal overload protection so you have less to worry about in the way of heat.

For those who need to transport their compressor more frequently, this one is on wheels and features a handle that makes it easy to steer while you are moving it around.

Things we like:

  • Oil-free air compressor with a dual piston pump
  • 60 decibels to run
  • Steel tank for increased durability
  • Wheels for easy movement
  • Has a lifecycle of over 3000 hours
  • 5.5-gallon tank

Things we don’t like:

  • Requires water separator
  • Only usable up to 114 PSI

Porter-Cable C2002 Air Compressor

The Porter-Cable Compressor offers a max of 150 PSI, which means that it will work with a range of different tools. It’s also an oil-free system, which means you’re going to have less mess involved in getting and keeping it up and running.

There’s a quick recovery feature, which means that when you do run out of air you’ll be able to get it up and going again very quickly. The 6-gallon tank also holds quite a bit so you’ll be able to keep your tools running for longer than you might think, keeping you working. There are also two couplers available so you can run two different tools at the same time.

The low-amp motor is able to start up quickly and easily when the weather gets cold and the automatic thermal overload protection keeps it from getting overheated during extended use. The rubber feet mean that it won’t slip or slide while you’re working and the handle makes it easier to transport.

Things we like:

  • 1-year warranty
  • Works with a range of pneumatic tools
  • 6-gallon tank
  • Oil-free system
  • 2 couplers for simultaneous use
  • 150 max PSI

Things we don’t like:

  • Requires breaking in
  • Very loud during use

Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor

This Campbell Hausfeld Compressor is a 3-gallon tank, which means it’s best for smaller or shorter uses but doesn’t take up too much space otherwise. It comes with ten pieces that make sure you can get up and running right away and it has 110 max PSI. There is no need for oil in the system, which reduces the maintenance and the mess as well.

The gauges are placed so you can easily see what you’re getting while you’re using it and because it’s designed in a compact function you’ll be able to move it around more easily. When you’re ready to get going it can charge quickly, so you don’t have to wait between emptying the tank and getting it full again.

The lightweight unit is easy enough to move around and it’s priced so that it fits into most budgets. There are other sizes available if you’re looking for something that will run a bit longer.

Things we like:

  • Small size
  • Up to 110 PSI
  • Lightweight
  • Charges quickly
  • Works well for smaller projects
  • An inexpensive option for most

Things we don’t like:

  • Can be loud
  • Cycles frequently for larger projects

Bostitch BTFP02012 Air Compressor

This Bostitch Compressor looks small but it actually has a lot of size to it because its 6-gallon tank means less time spent refilling while still offering high quality compressed air. It’s an oil-free pump system, which means you don’t need to worry about the added mess of filling it either. With a tank that goes up to 150 PSI, it’s able to work with just about any pneumatic tools you may have.

It gets 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI so you’re getting even more as you continue up the scale. When it’s cold outside, you can still get it started much faster because it has a high-efficiency motor. Also, when you run it, it operates at just 78.5 decibels, which is a moderate level so you can keep the noise down.

There are a high flow regular and couplers that provide you with even more versatility and features for the unit. It’s a moderate weight and has a handle so you can carry it with you if you need to transport it.

Things we like:

  • 150 PSI maximum
  • 6-gallon tank
  • Connectors seal automatically when not in use
  • Ready to go out of the box
  • Works with most pneumatic tools
  • Handle for easy transport

Things we don’t like:

  • Can be a little loud
  • 0.8 HP motor is low

EPAuto 12V Air Compressor

The EPAuto Compressor is designed to plug directly into your cigarette lighter in your vehicle to deliver the power that you need for smaller purposes like inflating tires or balls. It’s very small and lightweight, with a handle that makes it easy to carry along with you anywhere you want to go. It runs off a very small amount of power and can get a max of 100 PSI for versatility.

The power cord is long enough that you can easily charge it and fill anything that you need plus it has a flashlight that will help you see just what you’re doing. When you do a lot of traveling it can save you time and money being able to inflate your own tires without needing to stop at a gas station.

There’s an automatic function so you set up the PSI that you want for your tires or anything else and it will get you there, without you needing to watch it.

Things we like:

  • Automatically gets to the PSI you set
  • Connects to car cigarette lighter
  • Small and portable
  • Fills tires and balls with no problem
  • Great for those who like to travel
  • Works quickly

Things we don’t like:

  • No wall outlet, only car outlet
  • The flashlight is always on when power is on

Features to Consider

If you’re looking for an air compressor one of the first things you need to consider is what you’re actually going to use it for. Once you’ve done that you’re going to be able to set yourself up for more positive choices and you’ll be able to decide which options are the best one for you.

 We’ve found a number of great air compressors, but it’s entirely possible that you’re going to want (or need) something entirely different for whatever you’re going to be doing. Just make sure that you consider each aspect to find the best choice.


The first thing to look at is going to be the CFM. This is the cubic feet per minute and it’s how fast the compressor is going to be able to supply the air that you need. The higher the CFM the more the compressor is going to be able to do at a time.

 If you’re using a tool that uses more air than the compressor is able to generate in a specific amount of time it means you’re going to have to wait at least a few minutes to let the compressor restock when it gets down too low. You’ll likely want to compare the CFM of any compressor you’re considering with that of the tools that you’re looking at using it.

Tank Size

Most options are going to vary between 1 gallon and 6 gallons, which means it can hold more or less air. The more air it can hold the more it’s going to be able to do at a time without needing to recharge or restock.

That means it may not start to run while you’re using it, which isn’t necessarily something you need to worry about but it can slow you down a little (or require you to stop in the middle of a project). If you’re going to need it to run for an extended period each time you use it then a larger tank may be a better option but if you’re usually going to use it only for small or short projects you could probably get away with a smaller tank.


You should look at how many decibels the compressor actually runs at. This is going to help you understand just how loud it actually is. You don’t want something that’s super loud because it’s going to limit when you can use it (and also how much you actually want to use it).

Keep in mind that an increase of only 10 decibels is actually an increase of twice the volume. Something that’s 70 decibels is twice as loud as something that is 60 decibels. That’s definitely going to make an impact when you’re using the unit.


If you’re going to be working only from your own home and generally in one area you don’t necessarily need something portable. You may be able to get away with a larger unit that sits in one spot and stays there all the time.

If you want something you can transport, however, you’re going to want to look at how much the unit weighs as well as the overall shape. The smaller it is and the more compact the easier it’s going to be to transport. If it’s wide or oddly shaped you’ll have a harder time moving it when you need to.


An air compressor is not really all that well protected in general. It needs something around it to keep it safe and many different options actually provide those types of protection. Roll bars are a common one or coverings over the gauges. Some have full cases that you can transport them in.

The amount of protection that you feel you really need is up to you and will depend on just how portable you want your unit to be, but overall you’ll want some level of protection even if it never leaves your garage. That way if it gets hit by something else (even accidentally) you don’t have to worry about damage.

Wrap Up

If you’re looking for a compressor that’s going to give you a bit of everything the California Air Tools 5510SE Air Compressor is a great choice. It has a 6-gallon tank, which means that it’s going to give you plenty of air before it needs to be refilled or run again.

It also runs at only 60 decibels, which is the lowest of any of the options we have here. That means it’s going to offer you a quieter system and you’ll easily be able to use it even if others in your household are sleeping.

If you’re not so sure about this one, there are plenty of other options that you can choose from. For example, if you’re the type that likes to travel we love the EPAuto compressor, which can easily fit in the back of your car and help you inflate your tires on the go. If you’re interested in this or any of the other options we’ve mentioned, you can check out the links above.

About Gus Donaldson

I built houses for over 30 years and recently retired. I've made lots of mistakes and hopefully teach you not to make the same ones. I still love to build and have a garage workshop that I use for hobby projects like the walnut bookshelf I made for my wife. I like to write and let people know that working with your hands and tools does not need to be intimidating.

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