Best Portable Air Compressors of 2024

Best Portable Air Compressors of 2024

Best-Selling & Top-Rated Portable Compressors

More and more people are discovering the benefits of portable air power. From inflating your tires to powering paint and heavy construction tools, portable air compressors have many different uses.

Still, not all portable air compressors are for everyone. To help you find the best for your needs, I've compiled this list of the best portable air compressors. Click on each model below to view the product page filled with more features, specs, reviews, and other great resources.  

 

The Best Portable Air Compressors

 

Best Portable Air Compressor Best Small Air Compressor Best Portable Air Compressor for Tires Best Pancake Air Compressor Best Wheelbarrow Air Compressor Best Truck-Mounted Air Compressor Best Air Compressor for Sprinkler Blowout

California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor

California Air Tools CAT-10020C

 

California Air Tools 4620AC Air Compressor

California Air Tools CAT-4620AC

 

Rolair VT25BIG Air Compressor

Rolair VT25BIG

 

MEGA 1.5-HP Air Compressor

MEGA MP-1506S

 

Rolair 7722HK28 Air Compressor

Rolair 7722HK28 

 

EMAX EDS185TR Air Compressor

Rolair 13GR30HK30 

 

MAXair 18G55TRKE-H-MAP Air Compressor

MAXair 18G55TRKE

 

 


 

How We Picked the Best Portable Air Compressors

When recommending portable air compressors, we take five features into account. 

 

Power

We start with the amount of power the air compressor can produce. There are two main characteristics of air compressor power: Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) and Pounds per Square Inch (PSI). CFM refers to how much air the air compressor can deliver per minute (the volume), while PSI measures the force of the air. These two characteristics work together in a crucial balance to satisfy the needs of your application. 

For example, if you're using a tire inflator, airbrush, or dental tools, then having high pressure is more important than high volume. The opposite is true for paint sprayers, nail guns, and other tools where you need more volume. Many of our best air compressor categories are based on application, so you can be sure we're recommending the product with the best PSI or CFM-whichever is needed. Finally, both CFM and PSI are determined by the motor's horsepower, which is another aspect of power we consider, along with the voltage requirements.

 

Versatility

Many folks scratch their heads trying to figure out if a particular compressor will work in their space and in their particular air system setup. Versatility describes how adaptable or configurable an air compressor is to different applications and environments.

Although some people buy an air compressor for one specific use, many will have more than one job for it. For example, if you have to move the compressor from one place to another, you want it to be easily transportable, whether that means lightweight, towable, or on wheels. Those who need to power various air tools could benefit from adjustable or moveable air inlets that allow you to regulate pressure or quickly change connections.

Other features, like an automatic drain valve or multi-layer filtration systems, can protect the compressor from harmful contaminants and corrosive environments. We look closely at any feature that makes the compressor work better in multiple situations and applications.

 

Efficiency

We measure efficiency by how well an air compressor can deliver your air needs with minimal downtime, and at the lowest cost to you as possible. Compressors that can do both very well rank highly because they perform almost continuously, don't slow down your performance and save you money in the process.  

One of the key measurements in this is an air compressor's duty cycle, which represents how long it can operate before needing to cool down or refill the air tank. The higher the duty cycle percentage, the longer it can operate continuously without issue. For example, an air compressor with a 50% duty cycle will run 50% of the time without needing a break.  

Efficiency can take many forms in an air compressor, so we look at the whole unit to determine what features are in place to help bridge the gap between cost and performance. Motor and pump RPMs, tank-fill time, after-cooling technology, and other factors are all considered.

 

Noise

Sound level is an increasingly important factor, especially when it comes to traditionally loud piston air compressors. That's why we reward quieter air compressors with a higher ranking. The best piston air compressors today are barely louder than the average human conversation. When it comes to rotary screws and other heavier-duty compressors, silent operation is standard in the nature of the design.  

When you need a compressor running in a workshop, the garage, a tire shop, or on the factory floor, there are certain safety standards that must be met to prevent hearing loss and other problems, like not being able to hear someone shouting. In short, we think you should be able to work on your projects safely and without worrying about going deaf! 

It's important to point out that the measurement of loudness in decibels is not standardized across the industry, and different manufacturers may test the loudness of their compressors differently. To combat the discrepancies, we typically consider brands that pledge to test their loudness consistently through organizations like C.A.G.I. or publish their testing standards so we can fairly compare them with other compressors. Of course, the best and most accurate way to know is to listen to as many compressors as we can in person and make determinations on our own. 

 

Overall Value

Taking all the above criteria into account, along with price, leads us to an overall value appraisal for each air compressor recommendation. We don't go by the "cheapest" air compressor alone because you'll get what you pay for, and we prioritize performance and quality. The sweet spot of affordability and performance is what we're after.

 


 

Best Portable Air Compressor: California Air Tools CAT-10020C 

California Air Tools CAT-10020C 

The 10020C air compressor from California Air Tools fuses portability with power to create a versatile machine that can help with most home air needs. Capable of providing 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI, and a maximum of 125 PSI, the 10020C offers some of the highest air delivery in its class. Plus, the 10-gallon tank can go from empty to full in just two minutes. Two wheels and a handle grip make moving this power where you need it a cinch. The compressor's pressure regulator knob lets you adjust the PSI as needed for added versatility when switching between air tools. 

I think a huge plus for homeowners is the compressor's quiet performance. At 70 decibels, it's only a little louder than a normal human conversation. Noise reduction is made possible by the low RPM motor, which also helps reduce wear. Another benefit is provided by the oil-free, dual-piston pump system. The absence of oil makes this compressor safe for quality-sensitive jobs like painting, and it can be used in a variety of temperatures and uneven terrains. 

Other highlights include two air filters for better air quality, dual gauges that allow for quick monitoring of tank and tool pressure, and two 1/4" air outlets with quick connectors for fast tool changes. A thermal overload protector prevents overheating. Overall, this is the perfect air compressor for basic household and garage tasks, and you can get it at a very affordable price. 

 

Spec Details Rating
Power 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI; 125 PSI maximum;
2-HP SP-Series 110V Motor
4 Stars
Versatility Easy to move with wheels & handlebar; Oil-free operation suited for quality-sensitive uses; Pressure regulator; Quick connectors on air outlets 5 Stars
Efficiency Low 1680 RPM creates less noise & wear; 120 seconds to fill tank; 3,000+ hour life cycle; 10-gallon tank 5 Stars
Noise Only 70 dBA; Great for indoor use 5 Stars
Overall Value Affordable all-around compressor for all basic household needs. 5 Stars

 

Who It's For:

  • General homeowners
  • Hobbyists
  • Contractors doing light air work

 

Who It's Not For:

  • Contractors
  • Commercial/Industrial users

 

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Runner Up: Campbell Hausfeld VT6271

Campbell Hausfeld VT6271We chose the Campbell Hausfeld VT6271 as our runner-up best portable air compressor primarily for its power. If you don't have garage space for a stationary compressor but need more airflow, the VT6271 is your ticket, providing 10.2 CFM at 90 PSI. It requires 230-volt power and is great for serious DIY users, professionals, or contractors.

 


Best Small Air Compressor: California Air Tools CAT-4620ACCalifornia Air Tools CAT-4620AC

 

If all you need is a basic small air compressor for hobbies, cleaning, tire inflation, and other light tasks, go with the California Air Tools model 4620AC unit. It's extremely portable, weighing only 65 pounds. Although it's lightweight, it still has two 2.3-gallon aluminum air tanks, and its 2-horsepower motor can provide 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI. 

One of the best parts is it's ultra-quiet. At only 70 decibels, you can comfortably use it at home without causing a ruckus. If you need it for painting or other sensitive work, no problem. The oil-free dual-piston pump system ensures you'll get untainted air. Plus, with no oil, you don't have to worry about using your compressor in varying temperatures or uneven terrain. Need some versatility? Quickly switch between tools using two 1/4" air outlets with quick connectors. A pressure regulator lets you adjust the PSI based on your tool's needs.   

Count on this compressor for years to come. Whereas many comparable units only have a roughly 500-hour lifecycle before they start wearing out, the 4620AC promises 3,000 hours. This is largely thanks to its low 1680 RPM, 110-volt motor that spins slower to reduce wear. Air filters protect against dust and dirt, and the thermal overload protector prevents overheating. If you've never owned an air compressor before and your needs are basic, this is the one to get.

 

Specs Details Rating
Power 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI; 125 PSI maximum;
2-HP SP-Series 110V Motor
4 Stars
Versatility Weighs only 65 lbs; Oil-free operation suited for quality-sensitive uses; Pressure regulator; Quick connectors on air outlets 5 Stars
Efficiency Two tanks for less downtime; Low 1680 RPM creates less noise & wear; 60 seconds to fill tank; 3,000+ hour life cycle; Two 2.3-gallon tanks 5 Stars
Noise Only 70 dBA; Great for indoor use 5 Stars
Overall Value Perfect for small household air tasks and a fair price. 5 Stars

 

Who It's For:

  • General Homeowners
  • Hobbyists
  • Contractors doing light air work

 

Who It's Not For:

  • Contractors
  • Commercial/Industrial users

 

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Runner Up: Rolair JC10PLUS

Rolair JC10PLUSThe JC10PLUS from Rolair is a great hotdog-style air compressor that weighs only 50 pounds and provides 2.4 CFM at 90 PSI. It's also only 60 decibels, which is as loud as a normal conversation. Perfect for powering inside finish air tools, the VT6271 is a reliable, unobtrusive compressor for contractors needing a simple tool on the job site. 

 


 

Best Portable Air Compressor for Tires: Rolair VT25BIGRolair VT25BIG

For those seeking an air compressor primarily for filling up their car tires, I recommend the Rolair VT25BIG direct-drive air compressor. It's full of pleasant surprises. For one, even though it's consumer-grade and runs on 115 volts, it can deliver an astounding 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI. That's extremely impressive for an air compressor of this size. I was even more amazed after learning that it provides a duty cycle of 100% for continuous performance. 

Inside the compressor, you'll find contractor-grade construction. Durable stainless steel reed valves and a cast iron cylinder maximize lifespan, all guarded by a protective roll cage. You'll also find a built-in pressure regulator with gauges to adjust PSI between air tools. Plus, two quick-connect inlets will let you run two tools at once.  

Beyond this, I think it's one of the most portable units available. It has extra-large, fully pneumatic tires and an exceptionally high handle that prevents you from kicking the compressor with your heels while pulling it. When you're done moving it, the handle folds for easy storage. With the Rolair VT25BIG, you get great power, features, and portability at a relatively low price. Use it for car tires, sprinkler blowouts, and other basic tasks.

 

Specs Details Rating
Power 6.5 CFM @ 90 PSI; 135 PSI maximum;
2.5-HP SP-Series 115V Motor
4 Stars
Versatility Weighs only 65 lbs; Tires & extra-high handles for moveability; Pressure regulator; Quick connectors run two tools at once 5 Stars
Efficiency 100% duty cycle for continuous use; 5.3-gallon tank 5 Stars
Noise Estimated 80 - 90s dBA 4 Stars
Overall Value Great value for home maintenance tasks like tire inflation and sprinkler blowouts 5 Stars

 

Who It's For:

  • General Homeowners
  • Hobbyists
  • Contractors

 

Who It's Not For:

  • Commercial/Industrial users

 

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Runner Up: Campbell Hausfeld VT6182

Campbell Hausfeld VT6182Our runner-up is the Campbell Hausfeld VT6182 3.7-horsepower portable air compressor. It runs on 230 volts and delivers 10.2 CFM at 90 PSI and a maximum of 135 PSI to power tires and a variety of air tools. Contractors and other professional users will like this unit for housing developments or busy work sites

 


 

Best Pancake Air Compressor: MEGA MP-1506S 

MEGA MP-1506S 

Pancake air compressors (named for their shape) are great for a range of household air needs, including tires, spray guns, nail guns, air mattresses, and more. Of the many options available, I like the MEGA 1.5-horsepower pancake air compressor. It provides 3.5 CFM at 90 PSI, which is great air volume for small tasks. Not to mention, it's quiet. At only 69 decibels, the MEGA is barely louder than a normal human conversation. 

You'll find it's extremely usable around the house and garage. It weighs only 44 pounds, so you can easily carry it wherever needed, and it plugs into a standard three-prong wall outlet. You can easily monitor and adjust the pressure with top-view gauges and a regulator dial. Since this compressor is oil-free, you can use it on more delicate tasks like painting without worrying about oil contaminating your work. 

Overall, this compressor is perfect for those on a budget with basic air needs. You'll get a good return on your investment because the MEGA promises to last four times longer than most other oil-free compressors. That's thanks to its simple design and one-piece protective cover. I believe every homeowner should have one of these in their garage. 

 

Specs Details Rating
Power 3.5 CFM @ 90 PSI; 150 PSI maximum;
1.5-HP 120V Motor
4 Stars
Versatility Weighs only 44 lbs for easy movement; Oil-free operation suited for quality-sensitive uses 5 Stars
Efficiency Easily supports two tools; 6-gallon tank 4 Stars
Noise Only 69 decibels; One-piece cover for sound reduction and job site protection 5 Stars
Overall Value Great budget compressor for basic needs at home & the job site 5 Stars

 

Who It's For:

  • Budget-conscious Homeowners
  • Hobbyists
  • Contractors with low CFM needs

 

Who It's Not For:

  • Contractors using heavy-duty air tools
  • Commercial/Industrial users

 

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Runner Up: Campbell Hausfeld DC060500

Campbell Hausfeld DC060500The Campbell Hausfeld DC060500 pancake air compressor is great to take anywhere and can produce 3.5 CFM at 40 PSI. At only 68 decibels, this unit is about as loud as a normal conversation and up to 50 percent quieter than conventional 1-horsepower compressors. Packed with power, it'll also produce up to 25 percent more air compared to other 1-horsepower units. 

 


 

Best Wheelbarrow Air Compressor: Rolair 7722HK28Rolair 7722HK28

Wheelbarrow air compressors are so named because their wheeled design makes them easily moveable, just like a wheelbarrow. They provide significant airflow for contractor-grade jobs in construction, agriculture, and outdoor maintenance. My pick for the best is the Rolair two-stage wheelbarrow air compressor. 

The heavy-duty, two-stage pump provides 16.2 CFM of air volume at 90 PSI, and it's powered by a 9-horsepower commercial-grade Honda engine. The tank holds 9 gallons of air. All this power is protected by hardened steel reed valve plates and a low oil shutdown feature. An air-cooled aftercooler lowers the air temperature before discharge for less wear and tear, and an enclosed steel belt guard protects the belt.  

The compressor also includes pressure and oil sight gauges for easy, accurate monitoring. Keep in mind that this unit is gas-powered, unlike many other picks on my list, so it will require proper engine care and maintenance. Also, you cannot run it indoors. That's the price of power sometimes. At the end of the day, you can rest assured that this compressor will handle tough, onsite air jobs reliably for years to come.

 

Specs Details Rating
Power 16.2 CFM @ 90 PSI; 150 PSI maximum;
9-HP Honda GX gas engine
5 Stars
Versatility Wheelbarrow-like handles and dual wheels for balance and moveability 5 Stars
Efficiency Automatic idle control boosts fuel economy; Aftercooler optimizes pump performance; 9-gallon tank 5 Stars
Noise Estimated 80 - 90s dBA 4 Stars
Overall Value Powerful air compressor worth it for contractor-grade projects 5 Stars

 

Who It's For:

  • Contractors
  • Hobbyists with high airflow/pressure needs

 

Who It's Not For:

  • General homeowners

 

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Runner Up: Puma PUK-8008HGE

Puma PUK-8008HGEThis 8-gallon Puma PUK-800HGE wheelbarrow air compressor can provide 20 CFM at 40 PSI. No need to pull a rope as the 5.5-horsepower Honda engine starts with a 12-volt key. In addition, two tanks provide eight gallons of storage, and three individual cylinders make this unit tough enough for professional use and larger air tools.

 


 

Best Truck-Mounted Air Compressor: Rolair 13GR30HK30Rolair 13GR30HK30

 

If you're a contractor looking to power air tools on the job site, I recommend the Rolair 13GR30HK30 two-stage truck-mounted air compressor. It's perfect for lawn care, roofing, or other contracting businesses that require portable air, especially if you use a truck to go between sites. The 13-horsepower, electric-start Honda engine provides 23 CFM of airflow at 175 PSI, which is enough for a wide array of professional air tools.  

Rolair paid extra attention to reliability and performance when designing this compressor. For one, the aluminum head and crankcase allows for faster heat dissipation. Stainless steel reed valves and automotive style bearing inserts reduce downtime. A heavy-duty enclosed guard protects the compressor's belt, which is easily adjustable thanks to a built-in belt-tightening device. To increase pump life, a finned intercooler cools the air between compression stages. Finally, the low engine RPM not only increases efficiency but, more importantly, reduces wear and tear. 

Easily monitor compressor performance with the convenient oil sight and pressure gauges. When changing the oil, a drain extension makes it easier. All-in-all, if you own a truck and have a contracting business, investing in this compressor will pay dividends down the road.

 

Specs Details Rating
Power 23 CFM @ 175 PSI; 175 PSI maximum;
13-HP Honda GX gas engine
5 Stars
Versatility Truck-mounted; Powerful enough for many air tools 5 Stars
Efficiency Low RPM for less wear; Aftercooler optimizes pump performance; 30-gallon tank 5 Stars
Noise Estimated 80 - 90s dBA 4 Stars
Overall Value  Great investment for contracting businesses with a truck. 5 Stars

 

Who It's For:

  • Contractors
  • Landscapers

 

Who It's Not For:

  • Typical Homeowners

 

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Runner Up: Eagle 13G30TRKE-V4

Eagle 13G30TRKE-V4Providing 35 CFM at 100 PSI, the Eagle 13G30TRKE-V4 truck-mounted air compressor is a great option for contractors and professionals running multiple tools. The 13-horsepower Honda engine can start with a 12-volt key, and two-stage operation provides continuous air power wherever needed. Plus, it comes with a coveted extended warranty option.

 


 

Best Air Compressor for Sprinkler Blowout: MAXair 18G55TRKEMAXair 18G55TRKE

If you run a lawn care business that offers sprinkler blowout and winterization services, then you need the right air compressor for the job. I recommend the 55-gallon MAXair truck-mounted air compressor, which provides 55 CFM of airflow at 100 PSI. It's powered by an 18-horsepower, commercial-grade Briggs & Stratton engine with electric start.  

One area I seriously look at when it comes to job site air compressors is how easy they are to service. After all, minimizing downtime is a must for any business. The MAXair compressor has removable cylinders, an extended oil drain, and easily replaceable air filters. You can monitor everything with easy-to-read oil filter and pressure gauges. Not that you'll need to worry about many maintenance issues. A rugged, cast-iron, V-style pump minimizes vibration for quieter operation and helps remove heat from the flywheel for cooler running and longer life. Engine idle control further prevents unnecessary wear.  

Besides sprinkler blowouts, this industry-leading CFM compressor is great for spray foaming and other construction jobs. Just set it up on your truck and take it from site to site for fast and efficient work. It's a capital investment in your business but, once you make it, the payoff will last years.

 

Specs Details Rating
Power 55 CFM @ 100 PSI; 170 PSI maximum;
18-HP Briggs & Stratton gas engine
5 Stars
Versatility Great for a variety of construction and maintenance jobs 4 Stars
Efficiency V-style pump efficiently removes heat from flywheel for cooler running & longer life; Engine idle control boosts fuel economy; 55-gallon tank 5 Stars
Noise Estimated 80 - 90s dBA 4 Stars
Overall Value Great investment, particularly for landscapers and other maintenance professionals 5 Stars

 

Who It's For:

  • Contractors
  • Landscapers

 

Who It's Not For:

  • Typical Homeowners

 

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Runner Up: Quincy G413H30HCB

Quincy G413H30HCBThis 13-horsepower Quincy air compressor is a great runner-up for dewinterizing sprinkler systems, able to produce 23.6 CFM at 175 PSI. It has an electric start, an industry-leading 50,000+ hour pump life, and an energy-saving two-stage compressor. Plus, Quincy offers an extended warranty for up to 3 years with the purchase of a maintenance kit with the compressor.

 


Portable Air Compressor FAQs 

How Do Air Compressors Work?

Most portable air compressors are reciprocating types, meaning they operate using pistons. An internal crankshaft drives the pistons inside the cylinders in a back-and-forth motion, creating a vacuum that sucks air in when retracting and pushes air into a tank when extending.

 

What is the Difference Between a Single-Stage and Two-Stage Air Compressor?

A single-stage air compressor compresses air only one time while a two-stage air compressor compresses air twice to increase the amount of pressure.

In a two-stage compressor, air comes through the inlet and is compressed by a large piston. It then travels through an intercooler, a copper tubing that helps cool it down, into a second chamber where it is compressed again by a smaller piston. This double-pressurized air is then transferred to the storage tank or output. As a result, two-stage air compressors are better for heavier-duty, professional air applications.

 

What is CFM?

CFM stands for Cubic Feet per Minute and describes "how much" air is produced, or its volume. An air compressor rated for 15 CFM can produce 15 cubic feet of pressurized air per minute.

 

What is PSI?

PSI stands for Pounds per Square Inch and describes the pressure, or force, of air. An air compressor rated for 100 PSI can produce 100 pounds of air pressure per square inch.

 

How Does CFM Relate to PSI?

When reading air compressor specs, you'll find CFM ratings listed at a certain PSI rating, i.e. 15.5 CFM at 90 PSI. That means that, when the compressor is producing 15.5 CFM of airflow, it is doing so at a pressure of 90 PSI. If you increase the pressure in PSI, the air volume (CFM) will decrease and vice versa. Understanding this is important when sizing an air compressor for your tools and equipment.

 

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?

When sizing a portable air compressor, start with what you'll use it for and how often. Having to power a pneumatic nail gun every few months will require much less power and runtime than having an auto shop where you're using air tools all day, every day. This will help narrow down what type of portable compressor you need (pancake, wheelbarrow, truck-mounted, etc.).

Once you've established use and frequency, figure out how much air volume in CFM and air pressure in PSI you need. This should be specified in your air tool manuals. For example, if you'll be running at most three impact wrenches that each require 10 CFM, then you'll need a compressor that can handle 30 CFM to keep up. As always, you can contact us with any questions, and I'll be happy to assist with your sizing!

 

About Melissa 

Melissa has been fascinated by air power since childhood when she would help her dad with hobbies using his old compressor. Years later, she would heavily use compressors herself when powering air tools for building theater set designs.

Her ability to fuse her fascination with air tools with her passion for theater exemplifies how compressors can play a role in almost any profession-from brewing to auto work and dentistry to heavy industry. After designing sets for eight years, Melissa worked as a flooring and window treatments manager for seven years before joining the Air Compressors Direct team.

Today, as the air compressor expert, Melissa sets the stage for customers' success with a whole range of air applications. When not at work, she uses air compressors herself on various home improvement projects. Besides this, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, including her cats, outdoor activities, painting, gaming, and watching musicals.

You can count on Melissa to pull back the curtain on air compressors and answer all your questions and concerns!

Melissa, the Air Compressor Expert
By 
Air Compressor Expert
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