Painting a car isn’t as easy as painting a wall or a piece of wood. Of course, you can’t exactly swipe acrylic paint over a car with a paintbrush, nor can you simply use spray paint from a can.

Autopainting (the term for painting a car or vehicle) requires a lot more than a spray paint can or paintbrush. 

You won’t see an auto body repair shop that doesn’t have an air compressor for autopainting. But, surely these pieces of equipment are impossible to find?

Luckily for you, we’ve got you covered. We have found the 10 best air compressors for autopainting for avid DIYers and expert auto body repairers alike.

We’ve also compiled a useful buyer’s guide to help you understand the type of air compressor you should buy. 

Let’s get started! 

Table of Contents

10 Best Air Compressors For Autopainting

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Master Airbrush Professional Cool Runner II Air Compressor

This is a great product for those on a budget. The Master Airbrush air compressor comes in a large kit that is ideal for painting cars and other painting jobs, with six acrylic paint colors, cleaning solution, paint thinner, and three airbrushes.

Not only does it come with a money-back guarantee, but the motor runs very quietly. 

The motor itself has ⅙ horsepower, which means that while it doesn’t have enough horsepower to paint an entire vehicle, it is most ideal for creating details and accent colors.

Pros

  • Affordable – Kit comes with everything necessary for a reasonable price
  • Good for details – ⅙ horsepower motor makes this ideal for painting smaller details
  • Money-back guarantee – Compressor can be refunded or replaced up to 5 years

Cons

  • Motor size – Not large enough to paint a whole vehicle 

Industrial Air 20-Gallon IL1682066.MN Air Compressor

With a horse power of 1.6 and the ability to hold 20 gallons of paint, this is an ideal size air compressor for autopainting. This is an upright cast iron compressor that comes with wheels and a handle for easy portability.

Plus, this air compressor comes with an oil-lubricated pump, so you won’t need to buy and install a pump. 

Industrial Air is also one of the best brands for air compressors, so buyers can feel comfort in knowing they have bought from a reputable manufacturer. 

Pros

  • Portable – Wheels and handle make it easy to transport the air compressor
  • Good size – Capacity of 20 gallons is ideal for autopainting a car
  • Reputable manufacturer – Industrial Air is one of the best brands of air compressors

Cons

  • Wheels – While convenient, tire wheels will need pumping

DEWALT Air Compressor D55146

While this DEWALT air compressor might seem smaller than other compressors, its 1.6 horsepower would argue otherwise, as it still has the ability to successfully paint a car.

This air compressor can be used either vertically or horizontally which is handy for a variety of spaces, plus the collapsible handle and wheels are useful for portability. 

The air compressor makes an operational noise level of 78 decibels, which isn’t the quietest or loudest air compressor on the market, but is good enough for a quiet work environment.

This product also comes with an oil pump and comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Pros

  • Great portability – Collapsible handle, wheels, and vertical stand feature is good for transportation
  • Fairly quiet – Work in a bearable quiet environment 
  • Warranty – Comes with a one-year limited warranty

Cons

  • Wheels – Wheels will need pumping after a while

Industrial Air ILA1883054 30-Gallon Air Compressor

Remember the previous Industrial Air product on our list? Yeah, this is basically the same, except with a 30-gallon capacity.

This makes this unit best suited for larger paint jobs. With a vertical design, a handle, and wheels, this product is easy to transport around, plus you get free synthetic oil with the air compressor.

With a 155 PSI maximum pressure, this product performs brilliantly to evenly paint a vehicle. 

As with most air compressors, the wheels will need pumping when they deflate. 

Pros

  • Large capacity: 30-gallon capacity is ideal for large paint jobs
  • Portable – Handle and wheels allows the unit to be transported easily
  • Warranty – Two-year limited warranty if something goes wrong

Cons

  • Wheels – Tires will need to be inflated 

PORTER-CABLE 6-Gallon Air Compressor

This small air compressor is best for beginners, those on a budget, and those who want something portable.

With a 6-gallon capacity, it’s not going to be enough to paint an entire vehicle, but it’s ideal for details and accents and other paint jobs.

The 6-gallon capacity is matched with a 120V low amp motor that can start well in the cold and doesn’t waste unnecessary energy. 

Weighing just over 30 pounds and with a useful handle, this product is ideal for portability. It also comes with an extension cord and replaceable brushes. 

Pros

  • Compact – Great for small projects and details on cars
  • Portable – Lightweight and can be used anywhere, from a garage to house projects like inflating air mattresses
  • Oil-free pump – No need to worry about spilled oil and maintenance

Cons

  • Strength and size – Not strong or big enough to paint an entire vehicle, but can do detailing and accents 

Rolair Air Compressor VT25BIG

With a tall handle, a small frame, and wheels, this is probably the most user-friendly air compressor on our list. While it might only have a 5.3-gallon capacity, the 2.5 horsepower motor makes this a small yet powerful product.

The standout feature for this product, however, is the tall vertical handle that makes transporting the air compressor easier (as well as the wheels!). 

This air compressor is also compatible with most paint guns, so you don’t have to buy a new one if you have a paint sprayer already. Just be aware that this air compressor is quite noisy! 

Pros

  • Powerful – 2.5 horsepower motor makes this a small yet powerful product
  • User-friendly – Tall handle and wheels for easy transportation
  • Versatile – Compatible with most paint guns and sprayers

Cons

  • Noise – This is a fairly loud air compressor that could disrupt the work environment

Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor

Not everyone will be looking for an air compressor to paint an entire car! This small Viair portable air compressor is ideal for painting small details and accents, as well as for inflating tires.

Its size and handle (not to mention the fact it only weighs 4.5 pounds) makes it the best portable product on our list – very handy for professionals on the move and those with trucks and small ATVs for wheel pumping (up to 33”). 

Despite its size, the 12 V motor and 120 PSI maximum working pressure makes this a small yet powerful air compressor. Plus, it’s a very affordable option. 

Pros

  • Portable – Lightweight, small, and handle makes this very easy for portability
  • Small projects – Power and size makes this ideal for autopainting details, accents, and pumping tires
  • Affordable – Great addition to a garage without breaking the bank

Cons

  • Not large enough – Cannot paint an entire car (as opposed to details and accents)

California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor

This air compressor is the best for hobbyists and professionals in a small working environment who want to keep the noise down. Producing only 70 decibels of sound, this is one of the quietest air compressors available.

The pump is also oil-free, which makes for less maintenance, cleaning, and costs. 

With a 10-gallon capacity and 125 PSI maximum pressure, this air compressor is great for hobbyists who want to paint their cars.

It’s also powerful, with a 2.0 horsepower motor. Also, not only are the wheels good for transportation, but they won’t need pumping!

Pros

  • Quiet – 70 decibels makes this a quiet air compressor, ideal for small workshops and garages
  • Large capacity – 10-gallon capacity with powerful motor makes this a good size for painting a car
  • Oil-free pump – Minimal maintenance, cleaning, and extra costs

Cons

  • Wheels – While they don’t need pumping, the wheels aren’t as sturdy as other products

Senco PC1010 Portable Air Compressor

This Senco air compressor is nicknamed a “hot dog” air compressor for its cylindrical horizontal shape, which means it takes up minimal space in a workshop or garage.

Not only this, but the handle and weight of the compressor makes it ideal for portability. Its size means that the capacity is only 1 gallon (with a 1.5 horsepower motor), which is ideal for home DIY, hobbies, and details on a car. 

As an extra bonus, this air compressor does not require oil to run. 

Pros

  • Good for small spaces – “Hot dog” shape is a space saver
  • Ideal for small projects – Great for car details, home crafts, and DIY
  • Oil-free – Minimal maintenance, cleaning, and extra costs

Cons

  • Not large enough – Not suitable for painting an entire car

Makita MAC5200 Air Compressor

Last but not least, this Makita air compressor stands out for its industrial-standard power of a 3.0 horsepower motor.

The built pump and cast iron cylinder is designed for an enhanced pump life, expanded compression, and less noise.

Despite its industrial body, this is a portable compressor with wheels and a retractable handle. 

This air compressor is most ideal for heavy-duty jobs like painting entire cars in busy workshops and garages. 

Pros

  • Industrial-quality – Hardy structure and powerful 3.0 horsepower motor is the standard for professional garages
  • Portable – Retractable handle and wheels makes this easy to move around
  • Quiet – Design allows for less commotion and noise

Cons

  • Heavy – Weighs over 70 pounds, which can be fairly heavy to carry around

Buyer’s Guide

What To Consider When Looking For An Air Compressor For Autopainting

The way air compressors work is by pressurizing air to produce a steady, even stream of paint to paint a car.

Air compressors are also used for small DIY projects and crafts, as well as pumping tires due to the amount of pressurized air they produce.

Here are the key factors to consider when looking for an air compressor for autopainting.

Tank Size

The size of the tank will determine the type of project an air compressor is suitable for. For a car, opt for the largest tanks with a capacity over 10 gallons. Smaller tanks are better suited for painting details and accents on a car. 

Air Pressure

The air pressure (measured in PSI – pounds per square inch) indicates the strength of the air compressor in terms of airflow.

Keep in mind that airless paint sprayers require air compressors with higher PSI figures that HVLP paint sprayers, which require air compressors with a low PSI.

Portability

If you work in a large garage or workshop, or if you’re likely to need to move your air compressor from one location to another, you must consider the portability of the product.

Luckily, most air compressors come with handles and wheels, which makes it far easier to pull a heavy air compressor around.

Some industrial air compressors can weigh hundreds of pounds, which can lead to injury and damage to the unit if mishandled incorrectly. 

CFM

The CFM (cubic feet per minute) figure indicates how much product the air compressor can produce depending on the airflow pressure.

Paint sprayers require high CFM levels to ensure they produce an even amount of paint to a surface.

So, if the compressor’s CFM levels are lower than the paint sprayer allows, then the paint will come out patchy and uneven. 

Problems With Air Compressors

Air compressors come with several common problems which need to be addressed. Here are some of the problems with air compressors and how to fix them!

Low-Pressure

If you’re experiencing problems with low-pressure air, it’s most likely due to the length of the hose. Longer hoses will reduce the pressure of the airflow, so the best cure is to shorten the length of your hose.

However, if you have a large air compressor with a high PSI and you’re still experiencing low-pressure problems, there might be an issue with leaking connectors or the regulator.

Bubbles

If you see bubbles coming out of the paint sprayer, this indicates a problem with the CFM (cubic feet per minute).

The CFM figure shows how much product can be delivered depending on the pressure. Bubbles indicate a leakage, which can be identified and fixed by yourself. This leakage usually comes from the regulator or connectors. 

Uneven Finish

Air compressors are meant to produce a high pressurized air flow to provide an even finish of paint, so when the finish is uneven, this can be down to three issues (not with the air compressor!).

Either you are new to using an air compressor for autopainting, you didn’t prep the surface properly, or your technique isn’t right. 

It all comes down to practice. You need to clean the surface vigorously to ensure there are no textures on the car that will create weird blotches and patches. 

Dripping

Dripping usually occurs when there is trapped water in the line. Air compressors should come with a moisture trap to prevent water traps, so ensure that this is dry.

Dripping isn’t a bad thing, and can be cured by simply wiping the moisture trap dry with a cloth. This usually occurs in humid areas. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What size air compressor do I need to paint a car?

The general rule of thumb with an air compressor for painting a car is to opt for the largest figures when it comes to capacity, CFM, and air pressure.

50-gallon tanks are probably the ideal size for painting a car, but a 20-gallon tank will also suffice for smaller cars.

High CFM ratings will ensure that the paint will cover the car evenly, so we recommend two-stage compressors with a CFM figure of around 20.

As for the air pressure, look for a minimum PSI rating of 90 PSI. The horsepower will indicate how powerful the motor is, so always go for the top figures of this. 

How many CFM do I need for auto painting?

Air compressors require a higher CFM figure than other air tools to ensure an even finish. A small CFM figure will result in splattering and patches on the surface of the vehicle.

We recommend looking for an air compressor with a CFM figure of around 20, as well as a paint sprayer that will accommodate this. 

Can you paint a car with a 20 gallon air compressor?

While the recommended capacity of an air compressor tank for painting a car is around 50 gallons, a 20-gallon air compressor can also paint a car. These tanks are better suited for smaller cars, but they will suffice for large cars, too.

The only issue is that 20-gallon tanks will probably need re-filling for larger cars. 

Can you paint a car with a 6 gallon air compressor?

It’s possible to paint a car with any size air compressor, but a 6-gallon air compressor will simply need frequent re-filling. However, a 6-gallon air compressor is ideal for painting details and accents.

So, if you’re just wanting to paint the door of the car, then a 6-gallon air compressor will be the ideal size!