Best Portable Air Compressors Review and Buying Guide: Having a quality air compressor at home or in your car can work a lot to your advantage. In fact, these life-saving tools rank among the essential equipment every homeowner should invest in and for good reason. For those in the dark, air compressors are multi-purpose tools that come in handy for a number of projects ranging from inflating car tires to driving power tools. Like taxes, our lives are intertwined to air compressors in many ways. While quality portable air compressors can be hard to find due to the infinite range of products available, looking out for the features below can go a long way in making your search easier.
Things to consider before buying a Portable Air Compressors
As always, the features of any product will always separate the chaff from the wheat and air compressors are certainly no exception. Here are some of the essential things to consider with air compressors.
Before investing in a portable air compressor, it is paramount to ask yourself whether you want a gasoline or electric driven motor. The latter models are widely preferred not only for their quiet nature but also less maintenance. Besides, the lack of exhaust gases can be a plus for those intending on working indoors.
CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)
A compressor’s CFM basically refers to how fast it pumps air. With this, it’s safe to assume that this is indeed the essential feature to consider when out shopping for one of these tools. The main idea is to basically find a compressor that meets your demands – the greater the CFM, the faster it is for delivering air and hence, ideal for heavy applications.
Most compressors have sufficient tank capacities ranging from 1 to 6 gallons and while it may not really matter as much, having one with a large capacity can save you numerous trips to the refilling station. You obviously would hate leaving your work midway just to refill your compressor’s tank. The larger your tank, though, the heavier things get.
The Vetting Process – How We Selected Our Best Portable Air Compressors Products:
Our team of experts thoroughly scrutinized a wide range of quality air compressors before compiling the following list below. The selected products rank as the best Portable air compressors currently on the market; in regards to performance, value for money, functionality, and price. That said, let’s dive right in and have a look at the top six best portable air compressors.
Best Portable Air Compressors Comparison Table
|3.5gallons||26 pounds||Electric||4.5||Check Price|
California Air Tools CAT- 10020
|10gallons||91 pounds||Electric||4.2||Check Price|
CAMPBELL HAUSFELD FP209499
|3 gallons||20.1 pounds||Electric||3.6||Check Price|
MAKITA MAC2400 BIG BORE 2.5 HP
|4.2gallons||81 pounds||Electric||4.5||Check Price|
|4.3gallons||60 pounds||Electric||4.4||Check Price|
MAKITA MAC5200 BIG BORE
|5.2gallons||104.4 pounds||Electric||4.3||Check Price|
#1. PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003:
Porter-Cable is a well-known brand that has a knack for manufacturing high-quality products, yet at affordable prices. This compact air compressor is certainly no different. If you are in the market for an affordable compressor to use for in medium-sized tasks at home or workplace, this is your safest bet and for good reason. Let’s have a look at why it ranks tops in our review, shall we?
When it comes to power, this compressor will easily handle all low to medium-sized tasks in seamless fashion. While the 0.8 rating may not seem as much compared to larger models, it is worth noting that the PCFP02003 has a convenient amp draw of 10. This basically means the compressor will run off any home circuit without overloading the system.
The 82Db noise level of this compressor is not actually its greatest strength and the truth of the matter is, Porter Cable would have done better in this regard. However, it’s worth mentioning that the surface you place it on will actually determine how loud it is.
The pump on this compressor is worth talking about considering it is an oil-free model. Yes, you now don’t have to worry about dealing with oil filters and the maintenance costs pegged to such models. In fact, the oil-free pump not only guarantees durability but also saves costs while at it.
Another notable feature is the CFM which stands at 135PSI max. In a nutshell, consider your mid-sized applications as good as done. Moreover, this compressor has one of the best motors there is. It will easily start with an extension cord regardless of whether it’s extremely cold or hot. The bottom line is, this portable tool by Porter-Cable packs the perfect combination of features to make up for a quality product overall.
- ✘ Comes with no added accessories meaning you’ll have to purchase them separately.
- ✘ Significantly loud for a compressor its size.
- ✓ It is extremely compact and lightweight considering its sufficient tank capacity of 3.5 gallons.
- ✓ The pump is oil-free making it more durable and easy to maintain.
- ✓ The 10 Amp draw makes it ideal for use at home.
- ✓ The reliable motor that doesn’t malfunction in extreme weather conditions.
- ✓ Inexpensive to run and maintain.
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#2. California Air Tools CAT- 10020
When it comes to portability, the CAT-10020 sets the standard. It is an aesthetically pleasing compressor and by just looking at it, you can tell it’s something special. While it’s not the cheapest best portable air compressors out there, it certainly has a lot going for it as you will see below.
With a 70dB noise level, this is easily one of the quietest products in the niche. At first, you’ll even wonder whether it’s really working. If the noise level of a compressor is a deal-breaker for you, this is the one to go for. In a nutshell, it will save you a lifelong agony of gruesome noise.
Similar to our top product, the CAT-10020 features an oil-free pump that perfectly complements its quiet nature. Good luck in finding another product that saves time, money and your health – ears to be specific – as well as this compressor does.
As if that’s not enough, California Air Tools decided to throw in a 10-gallon tank to save you time and energy that would otherwise be spent on refilling. In a nutshell, this is the one feature that really justifies its somewhat hefty cost. Just in case you are worried about how to move it around, CAT has you covered thanks to a set of sizeable wheels.
For a powerful compressor of its nature, the 10020 CAT product offers great bang for the buck. You get a low draw of only 14 amps and this combined with the easy start valve, make up for a really reliable tool when it’s all said and done. In case you are wondering just how powerful it really is, how about the fact that you get a whopping 2HP rating? The long and short of it is, it will handle any low to mid-sized abuse thrown its way. It is a portable monster capable of handling most tasks in a simplistic fashion.
- ✘ The set of wheels get worn out fast and will eventually stick together as time goes by.
- ✘ Quite expensive compared to what the competition offers.
- ✓ Comes with a thoughtful dual port for multi-tasking purposes.
- ✓ Extremely quiet for a powerful tool of its caliber.
- ✓ Possesses an impressive low recovery time.
- ✓ Boasts an automatic shut-off feature intended for enhancing user-safety.
- ✓ Sports a set of wheels to facilitate mobility.
#3. Campbell Hausfeld FP209499
The fact that this compressor ranks among the most popular on the market speak volumes about its quality. Even though its popularity has a lot to do with the affordable price tag, it is a beast worth its salt. Here’s an in-depth look at what to expect.
It goes without saying that most air compressor buyers want an affordable and low maintenance model they can rely on. If you fall into this category, you are in safe hands with this compressor boasting an oil-free pump. The long and short of it is, most premium compressors nowadays come with oil-free pumps to enhance durability and this one is certainly no exception despite its low cost. With this, you are guaranteed of low-maintenance free from monthly checks.
The main reason why this compressor makes our cut has to be its affordability and value for money. If you love extras, you’ll be happy to know that this compressor comes with ten additional accessories for the same price. From a blow gun to inflation needles and even a coiled hose, this tool has you covered in every way possible.
Another feature that stands out is its user-friendly design that works at enhancing portability. For starters, it boasts easy to read dials located right at the tip of the compressor, unlike most horizontal models. Secondly, the compact overall design of this compressor means you don’t have to worry about finding space to tuck it away. In fact, you get a carry handle to enhance mobility for those always on the move.
Unfortunately, you don’t get as much power as the products above, but what more would you surely ask for such an affordable solution? You get 0.33HP and 40PSI – just about enough to fill your car tires and balls, or blow debris. In short, it will easily handle low-requirement tasks in the simplistic fashion. If you are looking for a powerful tool to handle heavy-duty applications, you are better off looking elsewhere.
- ✘ Its low power and CFM means it can’t handle mid-sized to heavy-duty tasks.
- ✓ Offers great value for your investment considering the affordable price tag and accessories included.
- ✓ Reliable air compressor with small applications.
- ✓ Portable tool enhanced by carrying handle and compact design.
- ✓ Sufficient tank capacity for small tasks.
- ✓ Comes with a number of extra accessories.
#4. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP:
Makita is a well-known brand synonymous with quality and the Big Bore just goes to prove this. If you are in the market for a reliable and durable compressor that will serve you years, this is your safest bet and for a valid reason. Few portable compressors offer great bang for the buck as well as the Big Bore does. To get an in-depth perspective of what I’m talking about, here’s what to expect.
As usual, you can always count on Makita to veer from the norm. For instance, you get a cast iron cylinder that provides the compressor with better stroke power and overall performance. In short, this tool offers better compression – more than you would get from other tools.
Despite its immense power, it’s worth noting that this compressor is ridiculously quiet and its 79dB level actually rivals competition half its capacity. At 80lbs, this is indeed a heavy-duty machine featuring sturdy materials that guarantee durability. So much so, that its low RPM motor allows you to use it in the rough without having to fret over damage.
Unlike most of the compressors on our list, you’ll have to lubricate its pump with oil. The thing is, Makita focused on efficiency rather than just pleasing users with oil-free pumps that seem to be the trend nowadays. Sure, you’ll have to put up with oil checks and regular maintenance, but that’s just the price you have to pay for efficiency.
Despite being a low drawing air compressor, this extremely powerful machine is recommended for industrial use. Yes, it is just that powerful and the best part is, you don’t have to worry about dealing with tripped circuit breakers. The sturdy steel frame it boasts also serves as a plus in regards to safety. It is one of the few compressors without any plastic parts.
- ✘ At 80lbs, it is one of the heavier portable compressors on the market.
- ✓ Ideal for industrial use and other heavy-duty applications.
- ✓ Innovative cast iron cylinder intended for delivering better stroke.
- ✓ Durable air compressor with a steel frame to protect it against damage.
- ✓ Low Amp draw that makes it ideal for household applications as well.
#5. Senco PC1131 Portable Air Compressor:
Senco is one of the less popular brands in the niche compared to powerhouses such as Makita or Porter Cable. With this, it is safe to assume that it ranks among the most underrated brands considering the quality of its products such as this 2.5HP beast. It is a reliable, simplistic portable air compressor that doesn’t cost an arm and leg to own.
Despite its surprisingly affordable price tag, this 2.5HP monster by Senco features premium materials and features such as a cast iron cylinder similar to the Makita above it. Besides making it solid, effective and better, the cast iron cylinder works at mitigating excessive vibrations and hence, producing minimal noise levels while at it.
The recovery time of this compressor is to simply put – ridiculous. Despite having a sufficiently spacious 4.3-gallon cylinder, it only takes roughly 67 seconds to juice it up. Compare this with competition and you’ll realize why this compressor is so underrated. At 100 PCI, the Senco is certainly among the cream of the crop in the niche. You also get an impressive CFM of 4.3, meaning it will gladly take any form of abuse thrown its way.
The long and short of it is, this compressor easily wins hearts with its record-breaking recovery time. Can you imagine you only need 16 seconds to recover from 90 to 125PSI? Yes, this is your safest bet if you are the impatient type that hates, well, waiting.
- ✘ Heavy despite being significantly weaker.
- ✘ Cannot be used in wet conditions outdoors.
- ✓ Ideal for the indoors thanks to low noise levels of only 79dB.
- ✓ Small refresh rate and impeccable recovery time compared to the competition.
- ✓ Sufficient tank capacity.
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#6. Makita MAC5200 Big Bore
Don’t be surprised that Makita once again makes our cut – the brand is just that good. Of all the portable air compressors we’ve reviewed, the MAC5200 ranks among the most popular and rightfully so. It is properly designed with premium features and a worthy price tag to ice the cake. Let’s have an in-depth look at the Makita, shall we?
If you are in the market for a reliable air compressor that can easily handle heavy-duty tasks, this is the perfect machine to invest in. For starters, it churns out 3.0HP – significantly higher than most products we’ve reviewed thus far. Secondly, the RPM of its motor is simply out of this world. Despite the sheer power, the motor will silently run at 3420RPM.
Moreover, the motor is a big bore, meaning it features a large piston that subsequently delivers greater output compared to other models. While it is a big bore indeed, it is a compact compressor that easily maneuvers around thanks to an effective set of wheels. It is one of the most portables, yet effective compressors in its class, considering the motor size of this monster is equal to that of mid-sized models.
Maintaining this Makita product should be a piece of cake thanks to copper tubing intended for maximizing the dissipation of heat while reducing water. In a nutshell, you get a reliable, powerful portable air compressor capable of handling heavy-duty tasks.
- ✘ The heaviest portable compressor on our review.
- ✘ Faulty packaging.
- ✓ Delivers good CFM even under high pressures.
- ✓ Ideal for medium-sized to heavy-duty tasks.
- ✓ Relatively quiet compared to other compressors in its class.
- ✓ Low motor RPM for enhanced durability.
- ✓ Great recovery time.
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q’s)
- How can you mute your portable air compressor?
- It’s worth noting that muting your portable air compressor completely borders on the impossible. The noise coming from the high pressure created in the tanks cannot be eradicated. However, you can invest in ear muffs.
- Is it necessary to check your air compressor on a monthly basis?
- Yes, it is. It is of paramount importance to designate a specific day at the end of each month to check for any faults within your compressor. This goes a long way in enhancing its durability. Always start by checking the air cleaner system and automatic shutdown system – the two systems prone to most damage.
In a nutshell, investing in a quality portable air compressor is not as easy as what most make it seem. It is a process that requires extensive research and sufficient knowledge on what to look out for exactly. The products above, however, serve as your safest bet as there is something for everyone and every budget. Be sure to start by identifying your needs prior to rushing to the store to grab the first machine you come across. Good Luck.