Home Home & Patio Best Portable Air Compressors [Buying Guide] in 2020

Best Portable Air Compressors [Buying Guide] in 2020

by Jonathan Logtenberg
PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)
BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor, Oil-Free, 6 Gallon, 150 PSI (BTFP02012)
PORTER-CABLE Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor
Bostitch 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor
California Air T4ools Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor
PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)
PORTER-CABLE Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor
BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor, Oil-Free, 6 Gallon, 150 PSI (BTFP02012)
Bostitch 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor
California Air T4ools Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor

So what is an air compressor? An air compressor is a mechanical machine which uses energy to harness and compress air for a specific purpose. The energy which is used to compress the air can be of any type as long as it gets the job done. For example, modern air compressors make use of electricity to compress the air. Air compressors are popularly used in our environment today. You can find them in homes, in the garage, at automotive body shops, agricultural facilities and industrial centers among other places. This is because air compressors have a variety of applications. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them have a cylindrical shape like a tank while others are shaped like a pressed hour glass.

The latter shape is known as the pancake design. Some air compressors are so small that they can be placed on a desktop, others are large enough to require hauling on a truck and installation using a special crane. Here’s the thing: as a general rule of thumb, the larger an air compressor is, the more capacity it has. It can have a single tank or dual tanks depending on the capacity that you want. If the machine is large, then it most likely has a frame holding the tanks and little wheels to help you haul it. In addition to that, there are two main types of air compressors. These are the centrifugal and the reciprocating air compressors.

Both types are highly effective but the reciprocating compressors tend to be more powerful. Air compressors are used for various purposes; for both leisure and mechanical work. Consumer grade air compressors are used for leisurely tasks such as inflating tires or bouncing castles and powering tools such as nail guns and heavy duty staplers. These are not very powerful but they get the job done. Industrial grade air compressors are more powerful and perform more strenuous work. They are used for tasks such as powering an entire HVAC system for facilities such as factories and stadiums. They are also used to power tire removal machines, oil rigs and heavy machinery in and around an industrial plant. Now, enough with the basics.

Let’s go through the top 5 portable air compressors in 2020.

Top 5 Portable Air Compressors

1. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor

PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)
  • 150 psi max tank pressure stores more air in the tank for longer tool run times
  • 2.6 SCFM at 90 psi allows for quick compressor recovery time, per ISO1217
  • Six-gallon pancake-style tank for stability, includes water drain valve and rubber feet
  • Low-amp 120-volt motor starts easily in cold weather or with extension cord
  • 150 psi max tank pressure stores more air in the tank for longer tool run times


First of all, air compressors are required for working with various air tools around your home or workshop. One of the best performing ones is the PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor. It has a pancake style design which promotes stability. This guarantees positional safety and optimized water drain. Furthermore, it has rubber feet to prevent the chance of slipping during use or storage. To give you long hours of service, this air compressor has a large capacity of 6 gallons. In addition to that, you can get up and running with it as soon as it arrives after purchase thanks to a 13-piece accessory kit.

It arrives packaged with the air compressor. Capacity is important whenever you are working with air tools. This air compressor has a maximum pressure rating of 150 psi. As a result, it can store more air in the tank for your convenience. For you to enjoy a comfortable experience when working with this air compressor, the manufacturer built it to have a 2.6 SCFM at 90 psi. This design ensures that the machine recovers very fast. As such, you do not have to worry about overheating or malfunction due to long hours of use. The PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor has an oil-free pump that requires no maintenance. The unit also has a low AMP, 120V induction motor that operates with low noise levels. As a result, you have ample, silent power at your disposal.


  • The PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor satisfies ISO1217 requirements. This the latest quality control certification. Thanks to this, you can be sure of reliable service at all times.
  • Convenience is one of the outstanding features of this air compressor. That’s because it comes already fitted with an air coupler and plug too. Therefore, you do not have to go shopping in search of these accessories for more effective use in your home or workshop.
  • Its motor is optimized to start in cold weather too. Moreover, it is compatible with a variety of power accessories such as an extension cord. They come in very handy for air pressure activities such as filling up tires or shooting nails.
  • Your safety comes first. Hence, the PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor comes with protective features such as an upgraded shroud. There are also some hand and console covers which protect the vital components of the machine. They work together to boost its longevity.
  • After you buy this air compressor, you can plug it into your regular home sockets and it will work properly. That’s because it has been designed to work with regular home power circuits. Some of the items which are available in its accessory set include a tire gauge, plugs, blow gun, assorted attachments, and a 25-foot long hose.


  • The machine can arrive with a malfunctioning starter. Some consumers have complained that it will not turn on after a few uses. In addition to that, its fuse can blow if the unit is kept running at high power levels for long periods of time.
  • The instructions for use are vague and unclear. The manufacturer should include clear illustrations to guide setup.


If you are searching for a versatile air compressor, this is the best unit to invest in. You can use it for various purposes such as filling up tires and powering air tools. The PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor has a large tank capacity and a strong motor. These features cooperate to give you long hours of service. Its pancake design and rubber feet guarantee stability during use. Within a few minutes of receiving the unit, you can get right to work. A 13-piece accessory set ensures this. Thanks to full compatibility with the socket system in your house or workshop, the PORTER is perfect portable air compressor for your home or industrial air compression needs.

2. Bostitch 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor

BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor, Oil-Free, 6 Gallon, 150 PSI (BTFP02012)
  • Note:Item does not includes hose or gun kit
  • 150 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank (22.7 L) and 2.6 SCFM* delivered @ 90 PSI pump
  • High efficiency motor for easy start up in cold weather ; BOSTITCH high efficiency motor for easy start up in cold weather or extension cord application [14 ga or larger, 50 ft. (15.2 m) or less]
  • 78.5 dBA** operational noise level for a quiet work environment
  • High flow regulator and couplers to maximize air tool performance


Whenever you need to work with air tools at home or in your commercial establishment, you will require an air compressor. One of the units available for you is the Bostitch Oil-Free Compressor. It has a pump which does not need any oil to work, hence it is a low maintenance piece of equipment. Moreover, this feature increases its lifespan. This pump can provide you with enough power to run literally any air tools thanks to a high capacity tank coupled with a capable pump. The tank on this unit has a capacity of 6.0 gallons (22.7 liters). It is coupled with a 90 PSI pump that can run at a maximum power of 150 PSI. This combination guarantees high performance every time.

Are you experiencing cold weather? If so, you do not have to worry about the motor not starting on time. This air compressor is fitted with a high-efficiency starter system that can work even in the coldest temperatures. Weighing only 31.5 pounds, this air compressor can be moved around your garage or storage facility easily. The Bostitch Oil-Free Compressor measures 17 by 17 by 19.2 inches in size. As a result, it is compact and easy to store too. One of the most attractive features of this air compressor is convenience. It arrives with two universal couplers which can easily support two users at the same time. In addition to that, the air compressor is compatible with all types of home and workshop socket circuits. Hence, all you need to do after purchase is plug it in and start working.


  • Comfort is guaranteed when you invest in this air compressor thanks to low noise production. The machine is capable of running at low noise levels of 8.5 decibels. As such, you never have to worry about disturbing other occupants of your home or your neighbors.
  • To grant you the best performance while working with air tools, the Bostitch Oil-Free Compressor comes with couplers and a high flow regulator. They ensure that you experience high power whenever you hook up a pressure nail gun or tire inflator to this compressor.
  • Prior to delivery at your home, this air compressor is tested according to the requirements of ISO1217 certification guidelines. Moreover, you can begin working with it the moment it arrives at your doorstep. That’s because this unit comes with a 50ft hose and full accessory kit. They help you to set it up and get working as fast as possible.
  • An attractive quality of this air compressor is that you do not need to oil it regularly. This saves you time and prevents the dripping of oil on your floors or clothes. Moreover, its regulator helps to boost performance.


  • The unit can arrive with problems with its start-up system. Consumers have reported experiences where the Bostitch Oil-Free Compressor didn’t work right after arrival at their doorstep.
  • Its regulator is made of plastic which is highly prone to leaking. As a result, the compressor can leak out the entire tank of air in a few seconds after hooking it up to some air tools. This makes it frustrating to use.


For your home and commercial air compression, the Bostitch Oil-Free Compressor is a great bet. It is oil-free hence does not need any maintenance whatsoever. The machine is lightweight and compact in size as well. Thus, you can transport it easily while storage is convenient too. You can be sure of good service thanks to the ISO1217 certification. The machine works at low noise levels. As such, you can use it at home without worrying about disturbing your neighbors or other occupants of your house. Full of accessories on arrival, this air compressor is perfect for you.

3. California Air Tools CAT-5510SE Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor


Sometimes, we may need to work with some air pressure tools in the garage. These could be to inflate our tires, power nail guns or perform high-pressure washing. To accomplish these tasks, we need machines such as the California Air Tools Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor. It requires very little maintenance and is made of high quality, durable materials. Thanks to high tech construction, the machine is able to provide cleaner air to your air tools. Therefore, they can last for longer and perform better too. This feature also saves you money on air tool repairs. You can vary the power produced by the California Air Tools Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor.

It is capable of producing power between 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI. Interestingly, you can crank it up all the way to a maximum pressure rating of 120 PSI. The air tank on this machine has a capacity of 5.5 gallons. It is also quite lightweight at only 46lbs (pounds). As a result, you can store or move the tank around very easily. To make the movement more convenient, it has a wheel kit attached to it. The combination of light weight and low level of noise make the California Air Tools Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor ideal for home use.


  • Comfort is crucial. To provide some, this air compressor is fitted with the new range of California Air Tools Ultra Quiet motors. Not only do they reduce the amount of noise produced by this unit, they also prolong its duty cycles. This technology results in a noise level of only 60 decibels which allows you to use the machine for longer periods of time in a quieter, safer way.
  • Despite being so quiet and clean, the motor on this machine is very powerful. It runs at a power level of 1 Horsepower (SP-9413). In addition to that, the motor operates at a speed of 1680 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute). The California Air Tools Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor has further been developed such that it can provide this high-level of performance with less wear and tear over time.
  • The pump on this machine has dual pistons. Being oil-free, it does into need any maintenance whatsoever. In addition to that, two pistons instead of one result in higher performance. Worried about damaging your new machine with long hours of intense operation? Well, this air compressor has an overheat protector mechanism.


  • The air compressor can arrive with its motor support frames bent out of shape. This is often caused by bumps and squeezes during shipping. The manufacturers should improve the packaging to prevent this from happening to more consumers.
  • It can spontaneously combust. A few consumers have reported that their California Air Tools Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor caught fire all on its own. Due to an electrical mishap in the motor, its inner parts caught fire and nearly burnt down their shop. Despite doing maintenance, it still malfunctioned catastrophically.
  • Over time, the compressor can stop recharging itself. This leads the motor to overheat and stop working indefinitely.


Small, powerful and portable, the California Air Tools CAT-5510SE Oil-Free Steel Tank Air Compressor is perfect for your use. It requires no oiling hence does not need much maintenance. In addition to that, it produces cleaner air and has variable power. At 5.5 gallons, the unit has a high capacity air tank whose contents can be delivered to an air pressure tool of your choice through an efficient dual piston mechanism. It is portable and easy to move around because it is light too. For lightweight, convenient power, the California Air Compressor is a great choice to pick.

4. DEWALT 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor

DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)
  • 165 max PSI 6.0 gallon tank (22.7 L) and 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI pump. SCFM @ 40 PSI 3.7 SCFM
  • High efficiency motor for easy start up in cold weather or extension cord application. [14 ga or larger, 50 feet. (15.2 m) or less]
  • 75.5 dBA noise level for a quiet work setting
  • High flow regulator and couplers to maximize air tool performance
  • Power Supply 120V, 60Hz, 10 amps., universal motor. The air compressor should be located at least 12 inch away from the wall or other obstructions that will interfere with the flow of air


For your air tools to work perfectly, you need to use a good quality air compressor. The DEWALT 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor is a good example of one. Featuring a pancake design, it is physically stable and compact enough for easy storage. The air compressor has an air tank with a capacity of 6.0 gallons (22.7 liters). This provides you with enough air for any project you could have at home or in your commercial establishment The pump is able to deliver this amount at a rate of 90PSI. Effectively, it can achieve a power rating ranging between 90PSI and 165PSI. This power rating allows the machine to power your air tools for long periods of time while ensuring a quick recovery.

On close observation, you can notice rubber foot covers. They prevent the machine from scratching up your floors. In addition to that, there’s a power cord wrap too. It helps to guarantee convenient storage. This DEWALT compressor weighs only 30lb (pounds) and measures 17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1 inches. As such, it is quite easy to move around and store as well. After purchase, you can be sure of reliable manufacturer support through a 1-year warranty.


  • To make sure that our tools receive the optimum amount of air pressure, this air compressor has a high tech regulator. In addition to that, it is designed such that it has couplers to further ensure efficient flow into any air tool you desire.
  • The DEWALT 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor has a high-efficiency motor which can start up even in cold weather. In addition to that, you can use the machine while attached to an extension cord of 50ft or less connected to any basic socket in your home or workshop. That’s because it is designed to have a versatile power input.
  • It is important to be comfortable as you work with power tools. This air compressor has a noise rating of only 75db (decibels). As a result, it does not make excessive noise during use. As such, it is ideal for homes or populated commercial settings.
  • Convenience is further boosted in the design and placement of the controls in the DEWALT 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor. There is a removable console cover to protect its controls. Moreover, it has features such as two universal couplers and a ball drain to allow for quick draining of the tank if required. As a result, you can maintain this air compressor with no hassle at all.


  • It can leak at the joint between the air hoses of your power tools and the tank. This is caused by ball bearings which are smaller in size in the fitting compared to the tip of the hose. Due to this structural problem, this air compressor can end up giving fewer hours of service than you desire.
  • The compressor can stop working over time


One of the top, small and compact pancake air compressors is the DEWALT 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor. Thanks to a maximum air pressure rating of 165PSI, it is a powerful machine. As such, you can use it with a variety of types of air tools. The unit is durable and designed to have low levels of noise. It has an efficient start up system which can work even in the coldest weather. Moreover, it is designed such that there is a cover for the console controls of the machine. Compact and light, you can pick it up and carry it to any location you desire. As such, it is perfect for home and commercial use. This compressor is a little machine that packs a big punch.

5. PowRyte Elite Oil-Free Pancake Portable Air Compressor


To use power tools such as a nail gun, power washer or tire inflator, you need to utilize an air compressor. One of the most capable and reliable ones today is the PowRyte Elite Oil-Free Pancake Portable Air Compressor. With no oil required for maintenance, this compressor machine is perfect for use in your home or commercial location. This compressor machine has a 6-gallon tank which has enough air to handle small to heavy duty compression jobs. The tank is placed vertically so as to improve its center of gravity and ensure stability. In addition to that, the machine can produce power up to 150PSI. As such, you can use it to drive in as many nails as you want.

To ensure quick, efficient work, the machine can also recover quickly thanks to 90PSI SCFM. One of the most attractive features of this air compressor unit is its portability. It is designed to have a fully packed shroud featuring an innovative carry handle. There is a cover over the handle to protect your hands as you carry the machine around or as you store it. The PowRyte Elite Oil-Free Pancake Portable Air Compressor guarantees maximum user friendliness. It has a pair quick couplers which work with a push-to-connect mechanism. The couplers are factory-installed to guarantee good quality service. As such, you can quickly attach automotive, industrial or ARO industrial plugs with relative ease. You can actually connect them single-handedly.


  • While using this air compressor, you may need to maintaining or adapt it for a specific application. To help you achieve this, the machine comes with an accessory set that has 20 pieces. They come in handy for purposes such as inflating your tires, checking their pressure, air dusting and connecting airlines and contribute to a better user experience.
  • The PowRyte Elite Oil-Free Pancake Portable Air Compressor is designed such that you can use it for a variety of purposes. It can be utilized for roofing, framing, trim finishing and blowing and all general inflation jobs.
  • The machine is energy efficient. That’s because it relies on a 120-volt motor which can start in cold weather while connected directly to the main power or an extension cord. Weighing only 31lbs (pounds), this air compressor is easy to move around and store too.


  • The accessories provided with this air compressor are incompatible. Some of them don’t even fit properly on the unit. Those which are supposed to connect to each other don’t do the job which leads to dissatisfaction.


Are you in search of a small, portable and highly versatile air compressor? If so, the PowRyte Elite Oil-Free Pancake Portable Air Compressor is perfect for you. It has a powerful 120volt motor that can produce up to 150PSI of air pressure on demand. The machine comes with 20 unique accessories and has an upright, pancake-style tank which guarantees stability on use. It can be coupled to a variety of plugs and comes with a one year manufacturer’s warranty. To maximize your satisfaction as you use it, this air compressor can be connected to your regular home socket circuits or an extension cord. You can be sure of high-quality service when you use the PowRyte Elite Oil-Free Pancake Portable Air Compressor.

How to Distinguish a Quality Portable Air Compressor From a Cheap One

There are a number of features to look out for when trying to distinguish between a good quality air compressor and a cheap one. First, consider its power source. Air compressors can be powered by electricity or by gasoline. Electrically powered air compressors are commonly used for home activities and light professional garage work. Gasoline powered varieties are more commonly found in industrial plants. The majority of consumers prefer the electrically-powered ones because they do not require much maintenance or oiling. Gasoline powered air compressors require tedious maintenance in the form of regular cleaning and oiling. Therefore, a good quality air compressor should maximize your convenience. It should essentially be electrically powered.

The power input of an air compressor is another very important factor to consider. For versatility, a quality machine is usually rated at an input of 120 volts. This is so that it can be used with literally any home or garage power socket. On the other hand, if you are shopping for a gasoline powered air compressor, check on its capacity and exhaust system. The larger the capacity, the longer your machine can run. Consequently, it should have an exhaust system that is commensurate in size to the capacity of the machine.

Factors to Consider When Purchasing an Portable Air Compressor

There are a number of factors that you should consider when in search of an air compressor. They determine your satisfaction as you use the device in your home or your workshop. Seeing as it can be an expensive piece of equipment, it is always best to get an ideal one for the purpose instead of having to buy one and then replace it later. These factors point you in the right direction in terms of purchasing an air compressor. While considering your needs, they help you to get exactly what you need. Here’s the Surf’n’Buy’s list of factors that you should consider when buying this piece of equipment.

The Size of the Unit

This is the very first thing you should consider when buying an air compressor. Size means both the physical expanse of the machine as well as its capacity. In terms of physical expanse, the air compressor that you want should fit in the space that you intend to place it in for use and storage too. Moreover, it should have the right amount of capacity for the jobs which you intend to give it. Check its tank capacity as well as its CFM ratio to get its functional size. As a guideline, the capacity of your air compressor should exceed its CFM rating so as to give you efficient service.

Its Power Source

Air compressors can be powered by various types of energy. Some of them are run by gasoline while others are electrically powered. Each type is ideal for a particular environment. Electrically powered air compressors are ideal for home or light industrial use while the gasoline powered ones are perfect for heavy duty jobs and can be hauled to areas where electrical outlets are unavailable. Therefore, choose a power source depending on the area where you want to use the machine. Also, note that majority of the electrically – powered air compressors do not require oil to run. On the other hand, gasoline powered ones need to be oiled so as to run smoothly and also cool down the motor. Naturally, it is more advisable to pick an air compressor that requires very little to no maintenance.

The Tanks, Pumps, and Pistons Involved

Air compressors have tanks of various shapes. Some of them have horizontal, cylindrical tanks while other have upright ones. As a rule, air compressors should have tanks in these two orientations. However, horizontal tanks are easy to move while upright ones have a smaller footprint on your shop floor or garage. Therefore, pick their compressor with the tank shape that is most applicable in the environment that you want to use the air compressor.

The PSI Rating Involved

PSI stands for Pounds per Square Inch. It is the measure of power that the compressed air punches through the delivery hose and into the air tools that you have hooked up. The higher the PSI rating, the more powerful the air compressor. If you intend to use heavy duty air tools, then you should go for an air compressor that has a high level of PSI. This can be between 150 PSI and 200 PSI. On the other hand, if you intend to use it only on light duty tools such as nail guns, tire inflators, and airbrush machines, then you can pick an air compressor that has a low PSI. Levels such as 90 PSI are ideal for this purpose.

Any additional features

Just like any other machine, air compressors are also manufactured with extra features to help improve or increase the convenience of use. They can be thought of as the added bells and whistles of the machine. You are bound to encounter a collection of added features as you shop for an air compressor. While picking the machine that you intend to use, consider your working environment. If you work outdoors, then you can pick an air compressor which has added features which promote outdoor durability. Such an air compressor can be made with a heavy duty cast-iron casing to boost durability.

Also, if you plan to use the air compressor in a light industrial location, you will need a machine which has fitting accessories to allow you to couple various types of hoses and air tools to it. Therefore, take the time to check the extra features provided as you buy an air compressor machine.

The Portability of the Machine

To use your air compressor machine, you need to get it in and out of storage. This process should be as easy as possible. Therefore, make sure that the machine which you choose is made such that it has features designed for better transportation from one spot to another. Examples of these are little wheels or a frame which has a handle on it. This is especially important if you are shopping for an air compressor for heavy duty work. Some popular styling designs that are used to promote portability are the slim upright tank design used for heavy duty air compressors and the pancake design that is used for domestic, light duty air compressors.

Noise Level

Air compressors can be very noisy machines. They can produce high amounts of sounds while delivering the compressed air to your tools. However, innovations in the technological field have resulted in air compressors that produce low levels of sound. Examples of these are 65db to 70db of sound. If you intend to use your compressor in a home setting, then you can pick one that has a low level of noise production. However, if you plan to use your air compressor in an industrial area, you can pick one that is a bit noisier but more powerful.

Choosing the Best Portable Air Compressor for Your Needs

Some air compressors are developed for residential, leisure or casual use while others are industrial grade machines. It is important to pick the one that fits your intended use so as to save money, energy and still accomplish your desired objective. There are many types of air compressors in the market today. To pick the right one, you should follow a systematic procedure. Here is how to pick the best air compressor for your needs.

Identify What You Will Be Using Your Air Compressor For

Some of the most versatile machines in the world are air compressors. They can be used for various purposes such as inflating toys, powering nail guns and running pneumatic machinery. As such, your search for an air compressor should begin with the question, “What am I going to use it for?” If you intend to use the air compressor for simple jobs in and around your house, then you can pick a portable, light duty model. On the other hand, if you intend to power heavy machinery, then an industrial grade model with a large capacity tank is in order. A rule of thumb while choosing the air compressor model to pick is considering the volume and pressure demanded by the tools you intend to use with the machine.

If the tools demand high pressure and volume of air, then you should pick an industrial grade machine. On the other hand, if you are powering lightweight tools such as nail guns, caulking machines, airbrush machines or tire inflators, a low pressure, low volume model is applicable. For example, an air compressor with a capacity of 5 liters and a pressure rating of 30PSI is advisable. On the other hand, one that has a capacity of 10 liters and pressure rating of up to 150PSI is good for heavy duty jobs.

Piston vs Portable Air Compressors

Ther are two main types of air compressors. These are piston powered and portable models. The piston-powered ones use a motor which collects and stores pressurized air in a tank. You can then use the stored air to run pneumatic tools. On the other hand, portable air compressors do not have tanks and provide pressurized air continuously on demand. The piston type compressors have high power motors and large power ratings of up to 200PSI hence are ideal for industrial use. On the other hand, the portable ones do not have high power ratings, do not have tanks and are perfect for light, home use. As such, choose between these two types depending on the tasks you intend to perform with the air compressor.

Identify the Horsepower Rating and CFM of the Machine

The capability of an air compressor is measured using horsepower. This is essentially the power of the motor. Air compressors range in power from 1 to 2 HP (horsepower). Both of these power ratings are perfect for home or light industrial work. However, if you find an air compressor with a horsepower rating that is higher than this, it is applicable for heavy industrial jobs and not applicable for your domestic use. After statistical feature that you should observe in your search is the CFM rating.

This is the Cubic Feet per Minute rate of your machine. It’s the measure of the volumetric flow of air provided by the compressor. To pick the right one, look at all the air tools which you intend to use and identify their CFM ratings. For example, you can have a nail gun with a rating of (~2 CFM @ 90 psi) and a sanding machine with a rating of (~11 CFM @ 90 psi). To identify the right rating of the machine to pick, simply add up the CFM ratings of the machines that you intend to use. In our case, this is (~13 CFM @ 90 psi). The final sum you get is the power rating you should target.

Best Portable Air Compressor Brands

There are many brands of air compressors in the market today. Due to innovation and advancement in technology, they use a variety of operating mechanisms. Every brand has something special hence creating room for competition among the brands to determine which are the most effective. Here are the best air compressor brands available for you today.


This is a brand of air compressors that manufacturers units which are portable and easy to move from one location to another. Their machines have a hot dog shape and are designed for use at home and in hobby workshops. Moreover, Senco air compressors have tanks with a capacity of 1gallon and deliver maximum power level of one horsepower. This brand has the average Do-It-Yourself (DIY) individual in mind when they are designing and creating their air compressors.

The machines are designed for activities such as renovation and home improvement too. You can use them to power nail gun, paint sprayers, and many other pneumatic tools too. Convenience is one of the characteristics of Senco products. Their pumps do not require any oil at all. In addition to that, the tanks are made of strengthened aluminum so as to be durable and resist wear and tear. Moreover, Senco provides a one year warranty on their air compressors.


Based in Japan, Makita is a brand that manufactures various types of power tools. Thus, they have a well-developed line of air compressors too. They manufacture big bore, powerful air compressors which have a power rating of two horsepower. Their machines use oil to lubricate the moving parts and cool down the motor as well. To guarantee convenience, their air compressors are electrically powered and fitted with an amp draw system that can derive electrical power from your home socket without tripping the circuit breaker.

To ensure comfort while using their compressors, the units are fitted with a noise reduction system that results in low noise production even at speeds of 1,720 RPM. This brand is well loved by both hobbyists air compressor users and industrial workers because they deliver a lot of power even at low RPM. As such, you do not have to power the machine too much to get the air pressure that you want.

Porter Cable

This brand is well known for producing pancake style air compressors. Their units have impressive design and capability despite their small size. Porter Cable manufacture their machines with  Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts, artists and light industries in mind. They ensure that the tanks have a capacity of 6 gallons and a power capability of 150PSI so as to allow for longer periods of function. With their air compressors, you can work with air tools such as nail guns and paint sprayers for longer periods of time. Their machines have an SCFM rate of 2.5 at 90 PSI. As such, they recover lost air and pressure immediately.

The pumps are oil free and their hoses come with the plugs already installed on the air hose to boosts convenience. To guarantee user satisfaction, Porter Cable has achieved the ISO1217 quality standard for their merchandise. Porter Cable ensure that their air compressors have rubber feet so as to avoid scratching up your floors and have a handle for easy transportation from one point to the other. Due to their compact size, power, and convenience, Porter Cable air compressors are very popular for residential and light industrial use.

California Air Tools

This is one of the most well know air compressor brands. Valued for their quality machines, California Air Tools is more popular among light to medium sized industrial plants than residential users. Their compressors are of heavy duty purpose and have features such as a 2 horsepower motor, 10-gallon tank capacity and low amp draw of only 14 amps. These features work together to ensure that their compressors can be used for various purposes in and around your home.

In addition to that, they are perfect for intense jobs at auto body shops, industrial plants and to run heavy machinery for long periods of time. In such environments, it is important for machines to start up quickly. To ensure this, the California Air Tools air compressors are fitted with Easy Start valves that operate even in the coldest environmental conditions.

Portable Air Compressor Accessories and Parts

We can increase the performance of machines by adding accessories. This applies to air compressors as well. Accessories can be added to improve various aspects of performance. For example, you can increase the air capacity, power of the motor, purity of the air and air compressor compatibility with various types of hoses. Moreover, if your air compressor gets worn out or damaged, you will require some replacement parts for it. Thankfully, they are readily available in hardware stores around you. Here are some air compressor parts and accessories.

Air Compressor Air Filter

This is an essential part which determines the purity of air flowing from the compressor. It is important to ensure that the filter on your air compressor is in great working condition all the time. An air filter which is clogged or missing can significantly damage your pump. It can also reduce the levels of CFM output and lower your general efficiency. Therefore, you should check and replace this part with every oil change that you perform. This can also be according to a schedule of 3 to 4 months at a time.

Interstate Pneumatics SA142 1/2" MPT Compressor Air Filter Replacement - Paper Cartridge + Small Metal Body replaces Campbell Hausfeld p/n HL018200AV
Greater durability than other filters in the market; Designed for use with most of the brand compressors

Centrifugal Unloader Valves

These are an important part of every air compressor. They prevent it from leaking air during use. These valves are utilized with the compressor pumps that have a centrifugal unloader in their front. Some pumps make use of centrifugal weights in the front of the compressor which unloads your pump prior to every cycle of starting and stopping. Always check to see if your air compressor is leaking. If you discover a leak, proceed to inspect and replace the centrifugal unloader valves.

Secbolt Pressure Switch Manifold Regulator Gauges Air Compressor Pressure Switch Control Valve 90-120PSI (American Pattern)
Auto control. Cut off at 120PSI, Turn on at 90PSI; ADJUSTABLE AIR OUT: air pressure from one of the brass coupler is adjustable

Air Compressor Line Fitting Accessories

Some of the most commonly used accessories for air compressors are line fittings. They are attached to the output end of the main delivery hose. There is a line fitting for literally every activity performed with an air compressor. For example, there are line fittings for inflating tires, coupling to power tools, attaching to the manifolds of heavy duty machines and to facilitate quick disconnects. Examples of line fittings available to you are air hose connectors, air chucks, and manifolds.

WYNNsky Air Tool and Compressor Accessory Kit, 1/4 Inch NPT 17 Piece Air Hose Fittings with Blow Gun, Tire Gauge and Storage Case
Quick and easy connect system: 1/4" industrial quick coupler and plug; Air blow gun with safety nozzle /needle.

Exhaust Mufflers

This is an accessory that is handy for gasoline-powered air compressors. The mufflers are attached to the exhaust system of the machine so as to make the discharge area a little quieter. Attached to exhaust ports, mufflers make use of a Constant Velocity (CV) flow factor mechanism to reduce the noise emanating from your gasoline air compressor. The muffler reduces exhaust noise, filters out any smoke, oil fog, and other contaminants. As a result, your working environment is clean and comfortable.

Milton - 1086-8 1086 - 8 1/2" NPT Pneumatic Air Compressor Exhaust Muffler
Maximum operating pressure of 300 pounds per square inch; Maximum air flow of 20 standard cubic feet per minute at 100 pounds per square inch

Portable Air Compressor Tips and Tricks

To get the most out of your air compressor, there are a few Surf’n’Buy’s tips and tricks which you can use. By applying these tips and tricks, you can effectively increase the lifetime of your machine by reducing repairs. In addition to that, they can help you to save money as well. Read on to discover some of them.

Read the Guidebook That Comes With Your Air Compressor

Also known as a manual, your compressor’s guidebook helps you to learn its features, capabilities and working capacity. Every air compressor has some features which are unique from the others. As such, it is important to learn the features of your compressor by reading through its guidebook. Not only will you learn how to use it, the guidebook can show you some methods to increase the machine’s efficiency by between 20% and 50%. In addition to that, it contains instructions which you can follow to avoid using your machine inappropriately and nulling its warranty.

Get Rid of Any Water or Moisture from the Compressor Tank

One of the peculiar characteristics of air compressor tanks is that they take in water as they run. This is a result of the physics of air compression and release. As such, air compressor manufacturers add a special valve to help get rid of the water from the tank over time. This valve lets the water accumulate day by day before flushing it out. To ensure the proper working capacity of your air compressor, check on this valve as often as you can. Use the valve to drain the water out regularly. Remember to discharge air pressure from the machine’s reservoirs before you do this.

Clean the Input Opening

The input tip of your air compressor is a very important part. Since it offers a direct entry into the tank, it should be free of debris, rust, and dust. Clean this part of the machine as often as you can. Otherwise, your air compressor will run inefficiently and cause you sky high electricity bills coupled with working inefficiency.

Keep the Fasteners on Your Air Compressor Tightly Wound

To work effectively, every air compressor has a collection of nuts, bolts, and screws. These features keep major parts such as the delivery hose as well as the accessories well fastened on the machine. You should always check to see that the fasteners are tightly wound on your machine. Doing this prevents them from leaking air and causing operational inefficiency. It also promotes the safety of the entire system.

Test the Air Hose of Your Air Compressor as Regularly as Possible

The air hose is possibly the single most important part of your air compressor. It connects the machine to your air tools. It is the hose that provides them with compressed air necessary for operation. As such, you should always check it to assure a firm connection to the machine and avoid leaks too. It should be robust and deliver the compressed air at the required PSI level. If you notice any cracks or weaknesses on your delivery hose, have it replaced so as not to damage the air tools that you use.

Check the Safety Shut Off System on Your Air Compressor System Regularly

Every air compressor has a safety shut off system. This is included so as to protect you in case of a malfunction. This system can save your life if something goes wrong in the working mechanism of your air compressor. Normally, it is programmed to shut down your air compressor if the air pressure falls below a specific level or if the unit runs too hot. To ensure that it will work properly if called upon, periodically check on the safety shutoff system of your machine.


To power air tools, you need a compressor. This is a machine that collects and compresses air for delivery through a dedicated hose into the air-powered tool of your choice. There is a huge variety of brands and models of these machines. They are available with different power ratings and capabilities too. You should always pick the ones that fit your purpose of use. For example, there are some air compressors that are built with the domestic, home engineer in mind. These ones do not have high power ratings and have low tank capacities too.

On the other hand, there are some air compressors that are designed for industrial locations. They are known to have high capacity tanks and much high power delivery. Therefore, you can use Surf’n’Buy’s guidelines above to pick the most appropriate portable air compressor for your needs. While picking out your air compressor of choice, there are some features and characteristics that you should consider. These include the capacity, power ratio, purpose of use, noise level, power source, and size. You can use the tips above to make an informed choice when picking an air compressor for your home or your workshop.

Once you get the one that you want, proceed to use the tips and tricks of maintenance indicated above to ensure that you boost the longevity of your machine. These involve using the right accessories, cleaning the machine and using the right connectors to couple it to the tools that you use. By following the tips and guidelines above, you can get an appropriate machine for your use, keep it running well and enjoy its benefits for a long time.


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