This guide will focus on TOP-5 best air compressors, elaborating on their distinctions and main features. It is true that anyone purchasing this kind of device will have a handy product with many uses around the home or business. The guide will answer the most common questions that come up about buying a device for themselves or their business. It will also cover the importance of why it is essential to select not only the best model but the correct one for the tasks, jobs and the overall use for which the product is being sought. You will learn what determines the overall capacity of the item and how to measure the amount of air pressure the device can produce, transport and store.

What You Will Learn From This Guide:

Attributes of Air Compression

Today electrical and fuel-operated models of these devices have many uses with some of the most popular being things like nail guns, pneumatic staple guns, paint sprayers, power sanders, tire inflation, cleaning equipment, killing weeds, milking machines for dairy farms, opening and closing gates, spraying pesticides, supplying oxygen on fish farms, powering water pumps, opening septic systems and even storing wind energy. The list goes on and on.

Different Types of Air Compressors

First, we will learn a little about the different types of these devices and the advantages and disadvantages of each design. Categorically speaking, there are basically two types in use today. The positive displacement type and the dynamic type.

However, there are numerous variations of these two classes of air compressor. Nearly all models are reciprocating or rotary in their design. The most popular ones are the reciprocating piston type, the rotary screw style and the rotary vane design.

What You Should Know When Purchasing a Product

When purchasing your first air compressor you should look for a number of key features that will ensure you are getting a product that is right for you and will get the job done correctly. Below are some of the most common features the average consumer should consider before making a purchase.

Horsepower

Horsepower is a term that basically means how much output or power the device can produce. It is also useful for determining the overall capacity of the item. You want to make sure you have an air compressor that has enough horsepower for the tasks you will need without buying one that is significantly larger than what is needed.

Air Pressure 

Air pressure, abbreviated PSI, represents pounds per square inch of pressure. PSI is used to measure the amount of air pressure the device can produce, transport and store.

Cubic Feet Per Minute

The cubic feet per minute, which is abbreviated CFM, is a rating of the velocity at which compressed air can move in or out of a specific location. With air compressors, this basically means the amount and rate at which the device can continuously produce compressed air. A minimum CFM rating of around 90 PSI is needed to successfully run most job site type power tools.

Storage Tank Size

Another important factor anyone planning to purchase an air compressor should consider is the size of the storage tank. The models with a larger tank size have a larger reserve of air from which to draw and therefore do not need to run as often.

Oil-Based vs. Oil-Free Air Compressors

Oil-based air compressors are better for business locations, or businesses using it for daily or heavy use and will be leaving it in one place like a shop.

Pros:

  • More powerful due to their overall size
  • More capacity and versatility
  • Better built
  • Significantly longer life
  • Quieter operation

Cons:

  • Bigger, more difficult to store and/or transport
  • More maintenance oil changes etc
  • More expensive 600-1200 dollars
  • Larger extension cord needed for operation

Oil-free air compressors are best for occasional use like a homeowner or DIY individuals.

Pros:

  • Less expensive
  • Smaller and lighter weight making them easier to move or transport

Cons:

  • Louder
  • Less durable and therefore reliable

TOP-5 Best Air Compressors

Below, you will find a review of TOP-5 products at a price ranging from $80 to $450. These models have different capacity and motors, however, such characteristics as design and weight are also important, which is why you will also find here portable and lightweight models that are easy to carry and transport. We recommend that you take a look at the Makita high-end model which is able to deliver industrial power and improved performance.

Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor | PORTER-CABLE C2002

Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor from PORTER-CABLE: photo

This model has proven to provide good performance for a variety of tasks and needs for homeowners and small business owners. The model received a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It is a 1-horsepower, oil-free compressor with a convenient short, compact design making it easier to use in a variety of locations that have limited space.

The unique design also makes transporting the item simpler and easier. With a 150 PSI capacity 6 gallon tank, the Porter-Cable C2002 allows for longer continuous usage time when using power tools. The 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI gives this unit a fast recovery time. It also has a water drain valve to rid the unit of any moisture buildup. The durable rubber feet keep the unit in place during transport or usage.

The motor works at 120 volts, low amp motor is ideal for easy starting in cold weather. The oil-free design assures a low maintenance life. The product offers a larger storage tank and higher PSI than many similar products on the market.

Pros: Cons:
  • 1 HP Motor
  • Rated at 150 PSI maximum capacity
  • 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
  • Compact design
  • 6-gallon tank capacity
  • Low amp motor
  • Dual air couplers
  • Low maintenance oil-free design
  • 1-year warranty
  • Pressure hose not included
  • Renewed Item

The Porter-Cable C2002 model is an ideal product worth purchasing for most consumers. The C2002 comes in red or black and offers a larger storage tank and higher PSI than many similar products on the market.

PORTER-CABLE C2002: Check the current price

3-Tool Small Air Compressor — Combo Kit | BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT 

3-Tool Small Air Compressor — Combo Kit: photo

This model is an impressive product indeed. With a 6-gallon tank and 150-PSI maximum capacity, this compact device packs quite a punch. The high-performance motor provides an impressive 2.6 SCFM. The Brad Nailer has the ability to drive 18 gauge nails that are 5/8” - 2” allowing versatility for a whole range of different applications.

The straight finish nailer can drive 1-1/4” - 2-1/2” nails that are 16 gauge in size. There is also an impressive heavy-duty crown stapler with the ability to sink 3/8” Crown staples that are 1/4” - 9/16”.

Pros: Cons:
  • Rated at 150 PSI maximum capacity
  • 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
  • 6-gallon tank
  • Brad Nailer included
  • Straight finish nailer included
  • Crown stapler included
  • 2 air hoses with fittings
  • 1-year warranty
  • Weighs 42.8 pounds
  • Air hose only 15 ft long

The Bostitch BTFP3KIT model also comes with a 15-foot standard air hose and a 1/4” PVC air hose that is an impressive 25 feet long. Both air hoses come with fittings allowing for quick connection. It also has a 1-year warranty.

BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT: Check the current price

Quiet Air Compressor | California Air Tools CAT-1P1060SP

Quiet Air Compressor from California Air Tools: photo

This item is an impressive consumer product with a lightweight design for easy transport. It has a small design with a weight of only 34 pounds and operates at a comfortable 56 decibels making it ideal for jobs with limited space and indoor tasks. This option is among the quietest portable air compressors on the market.

With a motor rated at .6 Horsepower and 1.5 peak Horsepower running at 1680 RPM the CAT-1P1060SP typically has an extended life beyond that of similar products. It also supplies a steady 1.2 CFM at 90 PSI making it an excellent choice for the operation of nail guns, staple guns, airbrushes and blowguns.

The single piston oil-free motor is engineered to meet high performance and durability standards within the industry. The oil-free pump also provides safe operation in cold temperatures and on unlevel ground. The device is also great for keeping around the house for small jobs like inflating tires, inflatable beds, balls and toys. It works on 110 volts and has a 1-year warranty. 

Pros: Cons:
  • 6 HP/1.5 peak HP motor at 1680 RPM
  • Provides 1.2 CFM at 90 PSI
  • Operates at only 56 decibels
  • Compact design
  • Maintenance free oil-free motor
  • Weighs only 34 lbs
  • 1-year warranty
  • Only 1-gallon tank size
  • Some exterior plastic parts

The California Air Tools CAT-1P1060SP model is a quality product with a level of performance ideal for both consumers and small business owners alike.

CAT-1P1060SP: Check the current price

Portable Air Compressor | Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV

Portable Air Compressor Campbell Hausfeld: photo

This model is a great choice for any home or small business. The oil-less design provides quiet and maintenance-free operation over the life of the product. The Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV operates on standard 120-volt house current and can supply 110 PSI maximum and 36 CFM at 90 PSI providing steady and uninterrupted airflow for taking on various jobs around the house or small business.

The 3-gallon horizontal tank weighs only 20.2 lbs and is sufficient for nearly all home construction type jobs. Appropriately located tank and outlet pressure gauges make viewing PSI quick and convenient. The device also comes with a 10-piece accessory kit which includes a coiled 25-foot coiled hose, blow gun, inflation needles and fittings.

The product is ideal for powering nail guns, brad nailers, airbrushes and other small to medium size pneumatic tools. It comes with a 1-year warranty.

Pros: Cons:
  • 110 PSI maximum
  • Provides 36 CFM at 90 PSI
  • Compact size
  • Standard 120 volt operation
  • Low maintenance oil-free design
  • Weighs only 20.2 lbs
  • 10 piece accessory kit
  • 1-year warranty
  • Horizontal design unsteady on uneven ground
  • Noisy operation

The Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV is a good choice for most small jobs around the home or small business. The 10 piece accessory kit, included air hose and inflation gun provide plenty of versatility over that of similar products.

Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV: Check the current price

Big Bore Cylinder Air Compressor | Makita MAC2400

Big Bore Cylinder Air Compressor: photo

This item is outstanding when speaking of portable job site air compressors. It outdoes the competition with a cast iron pump having a big bore piston and cylinder. The 2.5 Horsepower 4 Pole motor stands out above all the others with more power and smoother operation. The motor works at only 1730 RPM providing lower noise and improved reliability.

The Makita MAC2400 has a faster recovery time and better performance than the competition. The motor is also designed for low AMP startup to prevent tripping circuit breakers. The 4.2-gallon twin tank design can supply a stable 130 PSI and deliver 4.8 CFM at 40 PSI and 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI providing enough pressure to correctly use two nail guns simultaneously. The pump is oil-lubricated which prevents overheating and reduces wear on parts. Its motor also has thermal overload protection.

The device has a protective roll-cage for those unexpected incidents that are all too common on job sites. The tank drain makes ridding the unit of moisture simple. The unit has a large industrial type air filter which allows increased airflow and better efficiency. It was built for tough jobs with a durable cast iron cylinder that is oil cooled allowing decreased wear and will add years to the life of the pump. Other features include an easy access oil drain and oil sight glass for easy maintenance.

Pros: Cons:
  • 2.5 HP Big Bore 4 Pole Motor
  • Cast iron cylinder
  • Operates at 1730 RPM
  • Low AMP startup
  • 130 PSI (4.8 CFM at 40 PSI and 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI)
  • Fast recovery time
  • Rollover protection cage
  • Accommodates 2 nail guns simultaneously
  • Cast iron oil lubricated pump
  • Convenient tank drain
  • Industrial style air filter
  • Easy access oil drain
  • Oil level sight glass
  • 1-year warranty
  • Weighs 81 lbs
  • Pressure hose not included

With its high performance and low maintenance, the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP is the best portable air compressor available for the money on today’s market. It can deliver industrial power and improved performance for those tough job site conditions. The Makita MAC2400 comes with a 1-year warranty.

Makita MAC2400: Check the current price

Comparative Chart of Air Compressor Effectiveness

Product Features

PORTER-CABLE C2002

1 HP Motor
Rated at 150 PSI maximum capacity
2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
Compact design
6-gallon tank capacity
Low amp motor
Dual air couplers

Effectiveness: 9

BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT

Rated at 150 PSI maximum capacity
2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
6-gallon tank
Brad Nailer included
Straight finish nailer included
Crown stapler included

Effectiveness: 10

CAT-1P1060SP

6 HP/1.5 peak HP motor at 1680 RPM
Provides 1.2 CFM at 90 PSI
Operates at only 56 decibels
Compact design
Maintenance free oil-free motor

Effectiveness: 9

Campbell Hausfeld

110 PSI maximum
Provides 36 CFM at 90 PSI
Low maintenance oil-free design
Weighs only 20.2 lbs
10-piece accessory kit

Effectiveness: 8

Makita MAC2400

2.5 HP Big Bore 4 Pole Motor
Cast iron cylinder
Operates at 1730 RPM
Low AMP startup
130 PSI (4.8 CFM at 40 PSI and 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI)
Accommodates 2 nail guns simultaneously

Effectiveness: 10

FAQ

What is the best air compressor on the market?
The Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP is the best option on today’s market for the money. It has everything needed for in the home construction industry and other similar types of work.

Can an it run backward?
Some models can be run in reverse while others cannot.

How can I keep my air compressor from freezing?
Entirely drain the tank of any moisture before allowing the device to be started in temperatures close to or below freezing and do not allow the device to become wet or brought through extreme temperature changes which can cause moisture to form within parts of the unit.

Can the device overheat?
Yes. While rare, this device can overheat if allowed to run out of oil with oil-based models or if either oil or the oil-free type is exposed to extremely high temperatures on the job site.
Another cause of its overheating is from low suction pressure causing a high compression ratio.

Is it okay to leave an air compressor pressurized?
No. The pressure should be completely drained daily with air compressors. Leaving an the unit pressurized will allow moisture to build up faster and corrode the inside of the tank shortening the life of the product. This is especially harmful if left pressurized for any extended period of time.

Conclusion

Applying the knowledge and details included in this buyer’s guide for finding the air compressor that fits your needs will allow you to be certain you are purchasing a quality and reliable product that will best meet your needs both now and years into the future.