While air compressors might not be at the top of every DIYers’ must-have list, these tools are actually very useful for a wide range of purposes. The right air compressor can do everything from inflating your car tires and pool floats to putting the “power” in your power washer to running pneumatic tools such as paint sprayers and air-driven nail guns.
Of course, it’s not just a construction tool. Automotive, woodworking, aviation, marine, and many others use a compressor to power air tools. When we got our team together to decide on the best air compressor, we sparked a fierce debate concerning brands, styles, prices, and much more.
There are portable air compressors and models intended to remain stationary—generally, portable models are best for homeowners or DIYers, while stationary models are better suited to professional purposes. Tank size is another important consideration, as the larger the tank, the more power the tool can provide. Still, for most DIY projects, a 4-to-6-gallon tank is sufficient.
What do you need to know about Air Compressors?
Whilst how a compressor works stay the same, the best models change constantly with manufacturers bringing you enhancements and better models. We have updated this article for 2021 to keep up to date with the very best the industry has to offer.
In writing this article we wanted to achieve two goals. Firstly, to help someone who is looking to purchase an air compressor by identifying some of the best models available. Secondly, to arm you with all the information you could possibly need to make that decision.
We don’t like being told what is best for us, how does someone else know us or our needs well enough to make that decision? With this air compressor buyers guide we will hopefully answer all of your questions regarding air compressors so that you can make that decision for yourself.
Benefits of Air Compressors for Home Garage
- Powerful. Using an air compressor to power pneumatic tools like staplers, brad nailers, paint sprayers, and other tools greatly increases your efficiency and cuts down on the time it takes to complete a job.
- Versatile. An air compressor in your home garage can do a wide variety of tasks. Whether you’re an artist, hobbyist, DIY enthusiast, or automotive guru, you likely have a power tool or piece of equipment that could run better with the aid of an air compressor. You can also use it to quickly inflate tires, paddleboards, basketballs, and plenty of other outdoor gear in minutes.
- Portable. Most air compressors for home garages are sized to be space-saving and highly portable so that you can easily move them from one area of your garage to another, or even take them to a job site or friend’s workshop for use in different locations.
- Low-maintenance. Most of today’s air compressors that are sized and suited for home garage uses are low-maintenance and economical, saving you time and money over owning a larger capacity air compressor.
How We Selected
To find the best compact compressors, I evaluated available models in terms of portability, power, professional features, and my experience testing them (for the ones I’ve gotten my hands on). Two important criteria were that each one here has an oil-free pump and produces between 90 and 165 PSI of air pressure. (Most air tools require 40 to 90 PSI.) And compressors are rated by the size of their storage tank, so I’ve chosen the best on a range—five different sizes from one to six gallons.
Another reason these models earn the title of best is because each is engineered to withstand the rough and rigorous demands of professional contractors, but they’re all priced well within the budget of most DIYers. Plus, despite their small size, they sacrifice very little when compared to a large, traditional model. In fact, since getting my compact compressor three years ago, I haven’t moved my 30-gallon one from its cozy corner in the garage.
Our Top Picks
With those buying factors in mind, we chose the best home air compressors available, taking into account price, effectiveness, and reputation.
For the best air compressor, look no further than the Industrial Air’s 20-Gallon Electric Air Compressor. It offers the perfect combination of reliability and power. And if you have to move it, the 159-pound unit has handles and wheels to make transporting it not an impossible task.
It’s also an effective compressor, with 135 max pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure and rugged cast-iron construction for the body. The pump is oil-lubricated (which cuts down on noise), and while the motor is wired for 120-volt power, it can be converted to 240-volt if necessary.
Customers also give props to this Industrial Air unit for its quiet operation, made-in-the-USA tank and price tag that won’t ravage bank accounts. All in all, it’s enough to make Industrial Air’s model our top overall choice.
This capable air compressor comes with three included air tools to get you started on any project. The kit includes it a 6-gallon compressor, 18-gauge brad nailer, 3/8-inch crown stapler, and 16-gauge finish nailer. The compressor’s oil-free electric motor is rated for a maximum of 150 psi and durable enough to last a long time.
For outdoor projects, this option really shines. The high-efficiency motor is designed to easily start up in cold weather. The included extension cord also makes it easy to use outdoors around the yard. At 29 pounds, this compressor is also one of the lightest options on this list. Pick it up, carry it to your work spot, then set it down as much as you want without straining your back.
The lightweight, hotdog shape of the California Air Tools Portable Air Compressor makes it easily transportable, and its low price is tempting for any DIYer. A 0.6-HP motor provides up to 120-PSI of pressure at a rate of 1.2-CFM, allowing you to handle most DIY tasks with ease.
The oil-free electric motor operates at a volume lower than a conversation and is suited for indoor use without the risk of hearing damage. The 1-gallon tank doesn’t store a significant amount of compressed air, making it a poor option for sanding, grinding, or painting, but it does allow for a modest overlap in supply and demand. Indeed, it is an excellent purchase for the price.
We appreciate the WEN 10-Gallon Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor for being an affordable but impressively powerful and space-saving air compressor that is a pleasant surprise to many users. This is a 10-gallon vertical tank compressor that can fit in a lot of spaces that other horizontal tanks can’t. It’s equipped with a 15-amp motor that offers a maximum PSI of 150.
It boasts airflow rates of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI, which is not as strong as some other models on our list, but still plenty strong enough to power a plethora of pneumatic tools. The oil-free pump is easy to maintain and has a long lifespan. This unit also comes equipped with rugged 7-inch never-flat wheels and an ergonomic handle for easy steering of its 71 pounds.
There is some concern about the long-term durability of the base of the unit and the tank itself. However, this air compressor comes backed by a solid two-year warranty for added peace of mind. It also has a relatively noisy operation compared to some other models and a slower recovery time.
The Craftsman 20 Gallon Air Compressor deserves a shout-out for being a rugged and versatile compressor that’s offered at a decent price point. It features a 20-gallon tank, which allows for long tool-run times. It has a large 175 PSI maximum tank pressure and a solid airflow rate of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI, which allows you to easily power most light commercial tools in your home garage.
As with most other air compressors on our list, this model features a single-stage, oil-free pump that offers a long lifecycle and no maintenance. We really appreciate that this unit comes with a dual coupling system so you have the versatility of being able to run two tools at the same time.
This unit weighs in at 90 pounds, which is less portable than some, but still maneuverable with oversized wheels and a sturdy, ergonomic handle. It comes backed by a one-year limited warranty. This unit does lose marks for being one of the louder functioning options on our list.
Why Trust Us?
The internet is full of review sites that claim they have bought and rigorously tested every product so they can give you the best buying advice. PowerBor has some fake reviews, so who can you trust?
At PowerBor, we pick individual products, ranges or whole categories of tools and spend hours pouring over technical information, manuals and forums to find out everything you could possibly want or need to know about the products.
We bundle all that information into a buyers guide so you can make an informed decision based on your needs without doing the legwork.
We pride ourselves on being independent and objective – if we don’t like a product we’ll tell it as it is.
You should never buy a product before being satisfied that all of your questions have been answered. Take a look at these frequently asked questions about air compressors and their answers below.
How does an air compressor work?
An air compressor works by converting power into potential energy in the form of compressed air, using an electric motor or gas engine. Air is forced into the tank where the pressure begins to build. Once the pressure within the tank reaches the tank’s upper safety limits, it shuts off until the air is released or used with a pneumatic tool.
When used, the air compressor provides a burst or stream of powerful, compressed air to fire nails from a nail gun, spray paint from a sprayer, or loosen automotive nuts with an air ratchet. The tank will then begin repressurizing until it returns to its upper-pressure limits. To shut down the air compressor, simply turn it off and release the compressed air with the ASME safety valve. When the PSI has been lowered to 10, release the drain valve at the bottom of the unit to allow any accumulated moisture to drain from inside the tank.
Are air compressor hoses universal?
Yes, to a degree. Whilst commercial air hoses may be a different size, in the main domestic air hoses are universal and can be used with any air compressor. There may be a need for different adapters and couplers depending on your compressor.
My air compressor will not start!
There are several things that could be causing this, the first things to check for would be, is the compressor plugged into a socket directly and not an extension lead, is the fuse good, does the compressor have oil in it. After this, it is worth consulting the manual for more troubleshooting steps.
What is the best air compressor for home use?
The best compressor for home use totally depends on what you’ll be using the compressor for. If you’ll just be airing up tires occasionally, a small air compressor that runs off a car’s accessory outlet will likely serve you best. If you want to run power tools with it, you’ll need to look at bigger, more powerful models with air tanks.