Portable air compressors have become more and more popular for the homeowner as well as the professional.
With all the options on the market, it may be hard to choose a good portable air compressor especially if you’re not sure what features to look for and how they work.
This is why we’ve tailored this guide to help you pick the best portable air compressor to suit your needs.
Portable Air Compressors – Comparison Table
Air Compressor Maximum Pressure Motor (HP) Weight (lbs)
Bostitch BTFP02012 2.6 SCFM 0.9 30.9
Makita MAC2400 4.2 CFM 2.5 81
California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S 1.20 CFM 1.2 29.5
DeWalt DWFP55126 2.6 CFM 0.9 30
California Air Tools 8010 2.20 CFM 1 54
Porter-Cable C2002 2.6 CFM 1 34
VIAIR 400P 2.3 CFM 1 .2 8.5
1. Bostitch BTFP02012 6-Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor
The Bostitch BTFP02012 is an updated version of a previous model, so it has some basic features with reduced noise, a narrow diameter tank, and small modifications with the plastic construction shroud.
Running on a 0.9 HP motor, the Bostitch BTFP02012 draws 15 AMP to operate at 2,700 RPM.
Moreover, its lube-free maintenance pump spares you the need to oil the pump for it to work properly. This also means the pump is easy to start.
Impressively, it can reach a maximum of 150 PSI inside the thank in under 2.5 minutes.
The 6-gallon pancake-style air tank is spacious enough for carpentry applications without the need to stop and wait for the tank to refill in the middle of the job.
But even if, the device recovers quite quickly in just 25 seconds.
As for the pressure, the Bostitch BTFP02012 can reach 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI which is suitable for running many tools around the house.
Working at 78.5 decibels of noise means that it operates quietly.
At 33 pounds and a 17 x 17 x 19.2 inches, the Bostitch BTFP02012 is quite easy to move around and doesn’t take up that much space.
- Quite portable
- Easy to store and mount
- Low-noise operation
- Ability to work with two tools at a time thanks to the double coupler
- Hoses and additional accessories aren’t provided
- Requires proper draining after every use
At an affordable price and a compact size, the Bostitch BTFP02012 is one of the best small portable air compressors you can get on the market.
2. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
The Makita MAC2400 comes with a cast iron pump and a Big Bore cylinder and piston that were designed for the fastest recovery time and enhanced performance.
It doesn’t require high amperage to run which minimizes the tripped beakers incidences at start-up.
Moreover, the 4.2-gallon twin-stacked tank keeps the compressor working at pressures of 130 PSI and delivering 4.8 CFM at 40 PSI as well as 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI –enough pressure to operate two nailers.
The Makita MAC2400s’ pump runs at 1,730. This results in less heat damage affecting the motor as well as less operating noise (around 79 dB).
To reduce the wear and running temperatures, the Makita MAC2400’s pump is oil-lubricated. On top of that, there’s a built-in thermal overload to ensure protection.
Furthermore, there’s a tank drain valve for easier maintenance and a roll-cage construction that gives the compressor a greater ability to withstand extreme job site environments.
When it’s up and running, the Makita MAC2400 measures 20 x 18 x 18.75 inches and weighs 81 pounds, which is pretty heavy and sturdy.
- Quite durable
- Enhanced efficiency
- Operates without noise
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Controls aren’t placed conveniently on one front panel
- Heavy and not portable
- Not very affordable
With its sturdiness, smooth and efficient performance, the Makita MAC2400 is one of the best 120 V portable air compressors you’ll find on the market.
3. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor
If you’re looking for the ideal portable compressor for tires, the California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S is the one for you.
Being only 12.5 x 14 x 14.75 inches in size and 29.5 in weight, it’s very easy to carry around with you to different sites.
Its compact size does affect the size of its tank, however, as it’s only 1 gallon. This small size means fast refills to 120 PSI at only 50 seconds.
Moreover, to go from 90 PSI back to a full 120, it only needs 15 seconds.
The fact that it’s equipped with a 1.2 HP motor is quite impressive relative to its size.
The California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S is quite great for inflating tires and other items and powering finish and pin nailers as well as small airbrushes.
Moreover, the California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S features a 1P series motor that has overload protection to extend its durability.
On top of that, the large single-piston pump can do 3,000 hours’ work before needing maintenance.
- Very portable
- Fast performance
- Quiet operation
- Maximum pressure is inferior to many rivals
- Small 1-gallon tank
If your main concern is portability and quality of operation over spacious tanks and higher pressures, then you’ll be satisfied with the performance of the California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S.
4. DeWalt DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
Looking for a spacious 6-gallon tank on a compact compressor that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Although it seems impossible to find, the DeWalt DWFP55126 is there.
It provides you with a maximum pressure of 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI.
At 75.5 dB, its noise is also manageable and the regulators and couplers are of high flow, so you’ll be getting the most air to your tools.
Moreover, for the features on it, the DeWalt DWFP55126 is rather light at only 30 pounds.
The console cover protects the important components of the device but still gives you access when you need it.
And although it might face some problems when it comes to the dual-tool features, it’s still an overall great purchase for a portable jump starter and air compressor.
When it’s up and running, the DeWalt DWFP55126 has a 17 x 16.6 x 20.1-inch footprint and weighs around 30 pounds.
- Big storage tank
- Quiet operation for its class
- Premium-quality construction
- Comes with two hose connectors
- Portable for its functionality
- Mostly suited for smaller or non-continuous tools
- Doesn’t work well for sealing or painting
- Horsepower is a little disappointing
The DeWalt DWFP55126 is a very solid and sturdy air compressor that’s made from high-quality materials. It’s also quite durable and portable for the features. However, to get the best performance, you won’t be able to use its features to their extreme.
5. California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet
The California Air Tools 8010 is one of the best options on the market for a quiet air compressor.
It’s also quite fast as its tank will refill in just 165 seconds and doesn’t draw too much amperage at only 8.5 AMP to run its 1 horsepower motor.
The California Air Tools 8010 can reach impressive pressures of 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI. This means that it’s suitable for use by both amateurs and professionals alike.
It also suits both indoor and outdoor projects and is sufficiently portable at 54 pounds. So you can carry it around with you or even use the wheels if necessary and where possible.
However, it’s not the most compact at 26 x 14 x 23 inches.
- Affordable running cost thanks to the 8.5 AMP
- Easy to maneuver and carry around
- Adequately quiet
- Being a corded-electric compressor spares you the hassle of dealing with oil changes or problems
- The cable may limit the space in which you can work
- Relatively lower horsepower
The California Air Tools 8010 is quiet enough to be used indoor but also powerful enough for outdoor use. It’s pretty versatile, compact, and will give you great value for your money.
6. Porter-Cable C2002 Oil-Free UCM Pancake Compressor
The Porter-Cable C2002 is a pancake-style air compressor that provides you with compactness, portability, and stability.
The 6-gallon storage tank provides you with a lot of air tool performance time.
Moreover, its maximum pressure reaches 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI. This is quite adequate for a lot of tools.
However, its 82-decibel noise can be a little too much for some.
And although it comes with a 13-piece accessory kit, the pieces aren’t of very high-quality.
There’s no need to worry about user labor or leaks as the air coupler and plug are factory installed and ready out-of-the-box.
Its footprint is around 19 x 19 x 18 inches and it has a shroud, a handle, and a console cover to protect it and maintain it for long.
- Large tank capacity
- 90-day return policy
- No assembly required
- Lightweight design
- The attached accessory kit isn’t of the best quality
- Noisy operation
Although the Porter-Cable C2002 is a little noisy when it’s working, it produces great pressure for its compactness and lightweight.
7. VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor
Operating on 12 Volt, the VIAIR 400P has a pressure of 2.3 CFM at 0 PSI.
It’s quite lightweight at only 8.5 pounds, which makes it the perfect car or truck tires portable air compressor.
Moreover, it comes with a 25-foot hose that gives you plenty of space to maneuver it and work freely.
On the other hand, you can use the direct heavy-duty dual battery clamps with 40 AMP inline fuse.
The VIAIR 400P is also quite compact at 13 x 11 x 9.5 inches.
You can rest assured that the VIAIR 400P will last with you for a satisfactory period of time with its 1-year limited warranty.
- Long cable and battery-capable
- Superbly lightweight
- Compact design
- Lack features that you can find on rivals of the same price range or less
While the VIAIR 400P may not seem like the biggest bang for your buck, it’s the most compact and lightweight air compressor you’ll find on the list, so its price would seem justified for catering to this critical need.
What’s an Air Compressor?
Basically, the job of an air compressor is to contain air whose pressure exceeds that of the atmospheric air on the outside.
You can use this air to operate many tools of various sizes and functions.
How Do portable Air Compressors Work?
Air compressors consist of 3 parts
The drive: Provides the compressor with the power to propel its pump. It can be a gas engine or an electric motor.
The pump: Uses the energy from the drive to suck in atmospheric air and compress it until it reaches very high pressures.
Through a discharge tube, the compressed air is sent to the storage tank.
The storage tank: Equipped with a check valve that stops the compressed air from escaping or applying back pressure on the pump.
How to Pick The Right portable Air Compressor for Me?
There a couple of things to consider when you’re buying an air compressor:
Gasoline or electric-powered?
Gasoline-powered ones are more suitable for outdoor work where the noise and ventilation wouldn’t be a problem.
An electric-powered compressor would be better for indoor jobs where there wouldn’t be much ventilation and airflow.
This indicates how powerful the motor is and consequently how high the pressure would be. It’s also an indicator of how effective your air compressor will be at providing your air tools with power.
CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) or SCFM (Standard Cubic Feet per Minute):
This number indicates the volume of air that your compressor will be capable of delivering at specific levels of PSI.
As the PSI decreases, the CFM increases and the higher the CFM is, the more your compressor will be suitable for heavier duty jobs.
Storage Tank Size:
How much air can your device compress and store? Don’t settle for one that is less than 4 gallons. The average would be 6 to 8 gallons.
Air compressors can be used continuously for extended periods of time. This is why you should try to get one with a low decibel rating so that its noise wouldn’t bother you.
Why Are There Different Shapes of portable Air Compressors?
It has to do with functionality. On twin tank compressors, the tank that’s further away from the compressor remains cooler for longer periods.
And of course, on twin ones, you’ll be able to store more air and therefore will be able to run your air tools for longer periods.
If you’re looking for the best portable air compressor, you’re definitely going to find it on that previous list.
You should opt for the California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air if your main concern is getting a budget-friendly model. It’s also a very quiet and portable choice. However, its CFM is inferior to many other choices on the list.
The VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor and the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor has some of the highest pressure ratings. However, only the latter runs on a powerful 2.5 horsepower motor as the former’s isn’t that powerful.
Moreover, the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor is quite expensive and a little noisy.
The California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet is your best bet if you’re looking for the quietest air compressor.
The DeWalt DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor is the model that combines affordability, versatility, durability, and portability. So it gives you the best bang for your buck.
Finally, the Porter-Cable C2002 is on the more lightweight and compact side. It can also store 6 gallons of pressurized air. However, it’s a bit noisy when it operates.
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