Whether you’re an artist specializing in airbrush work, you run your own custom car design business or you’re looking for a way to power the air tools that you use at home and on-site, you know how invaluable a portable air compressor is, and can be.
Without one, you’re chained to doing things the old-fashioned way and don’t have the freedom to fully explore all of the facets of your artistic pursuits and hobbies and your business won’t be able to grow and flourish in the manner you’d like it to.
But choosing the right portable air compressor, the one that fits all of your demanding criteria and that will do everything that you need, and expect it to isn’t exactly easy.
In a market flooded with an ever-increasing number of manufacturers and models of compressors, how do you know which one to choose?
How do you know which portable compressor is the right one and that you’re not going to end up wasting your hard-earned money on a unit that turns out to be dud and is about as useful as an oversized paperweight?
That’s where we come in. We’ve been working with portable air compressors for more than a decade, they’re an invaluable tool of our trade, and learning how to use them, and what we needed them to do, helped us to establish our successful custom shop.
That’s why we put together this list of the ten best portable air compressors that you can invest in so that you could secure your future and succeed in your chosen endeavors the same way we did.
Our grandfather always taught us to pay it forward, and that’s what we’re trying to do, in some small fashion, by helping you to choose the right portable compressor so that you can hit the ground running and never look back.
And on that note, it’s time to move on to our top ten portable air compressors…
Table of Contents
Ten Best Portable Air Compressors
Porter-Cable built their reputation the hard way, by making the tools that tradesmen could, can rely on.
They’ve been doing what they do best for more than a hundred years and in that time they’ve forgotten more about tool design and manufacture than most companies could ever hope to learn in a dozen lifetimes.
Best of all though? They specialize in power and pneumatic tool manufacture.
This thirty four pound pancake compressor ticks all of the boxes on the portable checklist, as it’s light enough to be humped from one place to the next without having to worry about back strain.
It’ll also knock out one hundred and fifty pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure, and because it has two couplers, you and a buddy can work, paint and work some more with it together.
- It’s Light – At just thirty-four pounds, you don’t need to be a bodybuilder to move it from job to job while you’re working or room to room while you’re painting.
- Dual Couplers – It uses a dual coupler system, so you don’t have to work alone. Or if you choose to, you can connect two airbrushes to it and reduce the amount of time that it takes to swap and clean them out, which means you’ll be able to work and paint faster and more efficiently.
- PSI – As it’ll punch out one hundred and fifty PSI or pressure, it has more than enough power to make you the master of any nail gun or airbrush. And speaking of nail guns, the compressor comes with two included, and an industrial-strength stapler too. It’s an all-in-one package for contractors.
- It’s A Quality Thing – Some reviews have highlighted the fact that it isn’t the sturdiest or most reliable of compressors. It’ll do the job, but according to some users, it won’t do it for as long as you’d like it to.
If you’ve ever picked up and used a power tool, then the chances are that you’ll already know who DeWalt is.
They’re the DaVinci of the tradesman’s world and their artisan tools allow whoever uses them to shape the world, so it’s no wonder that they’ve popped up on our best compressors list
With a fifteen-gallon capacity and a five-standard cubic feet per minute flow at ninety PSI, which speeds up the compressors recovery rate and minimizes downtime, the DeWalt uses EHP (efficient high pressure) technology, to increase the work time you’ll get out of any air tools connected to it.
It may not be the best-looking compressor that you can lay your hands on, but it’s got it where it counts, and that’s all that really matters.
- Zero Maintenance – It’s an oil-free compressor that uses an EHP technology motor, which means that it’s essentially maintenance-free. Just plug it and you’ll be good to go.
- It’s Kind Of Quiet – At full tilt, the DeWalt will only make seventy-eight decibels of noise, which is quieter than the average clean-burning diesel motor. Once you switch it on and start working with it, you’ll barely know it’s there.
- Pressure Time – Five standard cubic per minute at ninety PSI? That’s more than powerful enough for anything that you’ll need it to do and more than capable of handling any job that you’ll want it to.
- A Little On The Chunky Side – There’s no way to avoid the truth, so we’re just going to come right out and say it. The DeWalt is a little chunky, and at one hundred and twenty pounds it’s a good job that it’s got those wheels to help you to move it around.
Compressors aren’t just about air tools and airbrushes, sometimes you just need a compressor to get you out of a jam, or to be on hand to inflate all of the things that make RV vacations and camping trips so much fun.
And when you need a compressor to just pump some air and keep on pumping until whatever it’s attached to is absolutely full and can’t, and shouldn’t, take another pound of air pressure, that’s when you turn to EP Auto.
Primarily designed to put a little extra air in your tires when they need it, this lightweight (and when we say light, we mean light as it weight just over one pound) compressor was made to draw power from the cigarette lighter in your car and can be set to deliver as much or as little pressure as you want it to.
You don’t have to worry about it over-inflating anything either because as soon as it reaches the desired pressure setting, it’ll just turn itself off.
- Light And Ready To Go – At just over a pound you can throw it in the trunk of your car and as it won’t take up too much space, you can just leave it in there until you need it.
- Four Valve Mambo – EP Auto supplies the compressor with four different valve attachments, so it can be used to inflate anything from tires to mattresses to dinghies. If it has a valve and it needs to be inflated, the EP Auto Compressor can pump it up.
- Battery Powered – Just plug it into the cigarette lighter of your car, switch the motor on and it’ll be ready to inflate anything that you want, or need it to.
- Pump It Up – It’s really just about pumping stuff up, and isn’t capable of handling much more than that.
Life isn’t all about the big jobs, and when you need something a little smaller and lighter that’s rugged and powerful enough to help you to adapt, overcome, and conquer whatever it is that you need some airborne assistance with, Senco is there to help.
Its single horsepower motor is capable of producing twenty to forty drives per minute, and it has a peak output of ninety PSI.
So, it isn’t the most powerful compressor on the market, but as it weighs less than twenty pounds, and only makes sixty-eight decibels of noise, it is one of the lightest and quietest.
And as we’ve already said, life isn’t always about the big jobs. Sometimes you need to let the smallest dog in the yard step up to the plate and take control.
- It’s Light – At a tad under twenty pounds, anyone and everyone should be able to carry the Senco around with ease. It’s the very definition of portable.
- It’s Quiet Too – Even at peak output when it’s straining against its leash and operating at full power, the Senco only makes sixty-eight decibels of noise. There are microwave ovens that make more noise than that. Granted, they’re not very good microwave ovens, but they are microwaves nonetheless.
- PSI Time – Even though it’s more amateur gym enthusiast than muscle beach powerlifter, the ninety PSI that the Senco makes should be more than enough pressure to guide you through whatever it is you’re doing. Unless you’re using an air wrench or an industrial nail gun, in which case it probably won’t be enough.
- It’s On The Small Side – It only has a one-gallon tank, so it’s a little on the small side and isn’t suited to, or capable of doing the “big jobs”.
No, you’re not alone. Before we got to grips with this air compressor, we hadn’t heard of Makita either, which seems slightly odd to us, as apparently, they’re one of the biggest and most trusted names in Japanese tool production.
Powered by an induction motor, this remarkable little compressor knocked us for six, as it’s much stronger and durable than it looks.
Capable of producing one hundred and thirty-five PSI, the Makita Quiet Series weighs less than thirty pounds and as its name suggests, is also incredibly quiet.
At peak output, it makes just fifty-eight decibels of noise so you won’t disturb anyone while you’re using it, and its dual-piston pump motor is oil-free, so you won’t have to worry about becoming an expert in compressor maintenance to make the most of it.
- Light And Strong – It weighs less than thirty pounds so you’ll be able to carry it wherever you go, and its roll cage construction makes it durable and strong, so it’ll survive being dropped a couple of times and keep on ticking.
- Pushing Up The PSI – It also pumps out one hundred and thirty-five PSI, so it can easily handle the big jobs as well as the small tasks. Given its size, it’s remarkably powerful.
- Tank Size – Again, it’s slightly let down by its smaller, two-gallon tank size but being a portable compressor, it was never going to be saddled with an enormous, and unnecessary tank.
The name of the manufacturer says it all, doesn’t it? California Air Tools only make one thing.
Air tools and everything related to them, which is probably why we became so obsessed with this compressor. Because it was made by a brand that knows how to get the best performance out of the smallest compressors.
Weighing in at just forty-five pounds, this dual tanks air compressor has a nine-point two-gallon capacity, and its oil-free one horsepower, dual-piston motor produces one hundred and twenty PSI at peak output.
And even at peak output, it doesn’t make more than sixty decibels of noise. It’s everything that a portable compressor should be.
- Powerful And Light – A nine-point two-gallon capacity compressor that weighs just forty-five pounds and kicks out one hundred and twenty PSI? It’s every compressor fanatics’ dream.
- Looks To Die For – It’s golden age of Science Fiction design and retro good looks didn’t go unnoticed when it first caught our eye, and we don’t mind admitting that we fell a little bit in love with this compressor.
- Silence Is Golden – Even when it’s pushing out one hundred and twenty PSI of pressure, it won’t exceed sixty decibels. It loves peace and quiet almost as much as we do.
- Shaking All Over – If it’s used for too long, it has a tendency to vibrate, but that’s about it. Other than that, it’s a practically perfect compressor in every way.
Fortem calls it an air compressor, but we know what it really is. It’s what our dad used to call a pump, and it has one purpose and one purpose only.
To pump air into your car tires, inflate bicycle tires after you’ve fixed a puncture and to stop you from having a seizure or a heart attack when you try to blow your kid’s inflatable pool toys up or the spare air mattress when your in-laws come to stay.
It’s light (it weighs slightly less than two pounds), plugs straight into the cigarette lighter in your car, has more than fourteen feet of cable so you won’t have to keep moving your car around to use it, and has one switch, so it’s either on or off.
It’s the height of simplicity that might just save your life one day if you get a flat while you’re driving through the middle of nowhere.
- All-In-One – It’s light, plugs straight into the car, and comes with all of the valve attachments that you need to inflate anything that needs air inside it. And as been designed to live in the trunk of your car, it won’t take up any storage space at home.
- One Thing And One Thing Only – It only does one thing, it pumps air into things. If you’re looking for a little more versatility, then this isn’t the compressor for you.
Good things come in small packages, and those packages don’t come much smaller than the body that Japanese brand Ryobi has wrapped their state-of-the-art, portable air compressor in.
As well as being a powerful little compressor, the thing that we love the most about the Ryobi is that you can literally take it anywhere to use it, as it’s powered by Ryboi’s patented eighteen-volt battery.
As long as the battery is fully charged, this portable compressor can produce one hundred and twenty PSI of pressure whenever you need it, and as it weighs just twenty pounds can literally be taken everywhere with you, and used for anything.
- Look Ma, No Wires – It’s completely battery-powered, so you can use it anywhere in the world as long as the battery is charged. You don’t need a socket to plug it into, you just need to switch it on and it’s ready to go.
- PSI Muscles – And this twenty-pound little compressor can also produce one hundred and twenty PSI or pressure. It’s a miracle of modern engineering.
- Batteries Not Included – We wish it was all sunshine and roses, but it isn’t. You have to buy the batteries and charger separately which will be painful for your pocketbook and bank account.
We know that it seems like we’re paying a little too much attention to compressors that are slowly designed to pump things up and get the pool party started, but Viair’s compressor, or pump if you’d rather call it what it really is, is a little different.
It’s an old-school solution to the tire inflation problem that does things the old-fashioned way.
Unlike almost every other car-friendly compressor, the Viair doesn’t draw its power from the cigarette lighter, with this compressor you have to do things the way they used to be done and hook it up to the battery of your car.
As soon as it’s connected, you can switch it on and it’ll start to make one hundred and two PSI of pressure that you can use to pump up your tires or whatever else needs a little extra air.
- Old School – It’s easy to use. You just hook it up to the battery of your car and it’s ready to start pumping air into anything that needs to be inflated.
- Old Fashioned – The fact that you have to hook it to the battery of your car and that the motor has to be running for it to work makes the Viair feel a little old-fashioned. And it isn’t helped by the fact that it weighs four and a half pounds, which is four times more than the other pumps on our list.
Let’s finish our top ten with our favorite portable air compressor, DeWalt’s Heavy Duty model that can, and will do everything that you’ll ever need a compressor too.
It’s a medium-sized monster that produces two hundred and twenty-five PSI of pressure at peak output, and even when it’s slaving away and working hard, it’ll never exceed seventy-eight decibels of volume.
Its motor is oil-free, so it’s maintenance-free, it has a one-year guarantee and even though it’s far from being the lightest compressor on our list, it weighs close to eighty pounds, it’s on wheels so it’s still easy to move around.
And did we mention that it makes two hundred and twenty-five PSI of pressure? We did? That’s okay then, we just wanted to make sure that we had.
- Third Time’s A Charm – We just wanted to remind you that even though the DeWalt weighs eighty pounds, it also makes two hundred and twenty-five PSI or pressure.
- One-Year Guarantee – It also comes with a limited one-year guarantee, which should give you a little extra peace of mind.
- There Aren’t Any – Seriously, there are absolutely no drawbacks to this air compressor. There’s nothing wrong with it and everyone who has ever used it loves it.
Which Portable Air Compressor Is Right For Me?
That depends entirely on what you want a portable air compressor for. If you just want one to pump up the tires of your car every now and then, then the EP Auto is the perfect tool for the job.
However, if you’re looking for a portable compressor to help you to navigate the highways and byways of your chosen profession, then the only two compressors that you’ll ever need are the California Airtools dual tank or the DeWalt Heavy Duty. And the only person who can choose which of them is the right tool for your job, is you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Portable Air Compressor?
A portable air compressor is a lightweight, easy to move and maneuver, and much smaller version of a standard air compressor.
They can be used to do everything from inflating car tires to powering air tools and airbrushes and give the user a sense of freedom that they can’t find when they’re chained to, and held hostage by a standard air compressor.