If you have pneumatic tools in your shop, you are going to require an air compressor. You don’t have to use pneumatic tools. You can always rely on their electric counterparts. But pneumatic tools are cheaper and more durable.
But if you want your tools to deliver the results you expect, you need to get the right compressor. However, the best shop air compressor is not easy to find. There are so many factors to consider and so many models to browse.
You need to ensure that the compressor you select can perform the tasks you have in mind. If you can secure a decent compressor, it will serve the needs of your shop for years to come.
Our top pick
If you are hesitant to go air compressor shopping on your own, save some time by trying our top pick:
Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor: This unit is far from cheap. However, it is an industrial-grade product that uses a US-made Baldor motor. If you have the money and you have a lot of work around the shop, you will get a kick out of this compressor, especially when you consider the 30,000-hour pump life rating and customer-friendly warranty.
Click Here to Read Full Review
Our budget pick
If you have financial constraints but you still want a powerful compressor, consider out budget pick:
Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV: Don’t let this compressor’s 3-gallon tank fool you. It is still a reliable unit with a strong motor output, a 10-accessory kit and conveniently positioned gauges. It will make finishing your projects faster and easier.
Click Here to Read Full Review
How to choose the best air compressor for home shop
If you are determined to get the best shop air compressor on the market, you need to keep the following factors in mind:
1). Tank Size
Tank size matters a lot because it will determine how long you can work without interruption. You can get by with smaller tanks if you have no choice. But for the most part, you are better off prioritizing larger tanks.
It is also worth noting that compressors with small tanks tend to overheat.
PSI refers to the amount of pressure a compressor can release in a specific period. The PSI you select will depend on the size of the project you need to do. The greater the maximum PSI, the more expensive the compressor. There is no point in buying a compressor with a massive PSI rating when you only have small projects on hand.
It would be a waste of resources.
You should think carefully when considering the dimensions of your compressor. The smaller and lighter the compressor, the easier it is to transport. The larger the unit, the more immobile it becomes.
Find a unit whose dimensions suit your needs.
You have to choose between corded and cordless compressors. This involves taking the strengths and weaknesses of each type into account. Corded units, for instance, are limited in their movements. You can’t take them away from their power source.
But because of their continuous access to the power source, they deliver more power. Cordless compressors, on the other hand, are portable.
Some compressors use oil. Others don’t. Oil-free pumps don’t require maintenance. This makes them cheaper to operate. They are also quieter. But oil-based compressors have more power and greater durability.
Find a model that suits the projects you have on hand.
How much money are you willing to spend on the best home shop air compressor? Set your budget first before looking for a compressor. You can find units in every budgetary range.
Base your choice, not on the price, but the features. The features should justify the price. Don’t buy expensive compressors if their features are not worth the money you are expected to spend.
Referring to ‘Cubic Feet per Minute’, the CFM is concerned with the amount of air made by the compressor. Every power tool in your shop requires a particular CFM. Find a compressor whose CFM is suitable for the majority of tools in your shop.
This is concerned with the compressor’s motor output. You don’t have to consider this factor individually. It is affected by the CFM and PSI. If the CFM and PSI figures are strong, you won’t have to worry about the horsepower.
9). Tank Volume
This speaks to the amount of air a tank can hold. The larger the volume of the tank, the less work the motor will do, the longer it will last. This is because it won’t encounter as much stress while you do your work.
10). Duty Cycle
This is concerned with the amount of time you can spend using an air compressor before you have to turn it off. The best shop compressor should have a duty cycle of at least 50 percent.
This will make it compatible with tools that are used for long projects.
Types of air Compressors
Air compressors can be divided into two categories, namely:
1) Stationary units
These are large items that have a lot of power. They have a large tank that allows them to work continuously for several hours. You find them in industrial processes. Not only do they rarely move but they take up a lot of space.
2) Portable units
These are lighter compressors with smaller tanks. Some of them are somewhat heavy but they have wheels that simplify the process of moving them from place to place.
They include pancake compressors, hot dog compressors, twin-stack compressors, pontoon compressors, and inflators.
Before you can start looking for a decent air compressor, you need to first identify the type of compressor you want.
Related: Air Compressors For Impact Wrench
10 Best Shop Air Compressor Reviews
1) DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Air Compressor
When you get DEWALT, you know you’re in good hands. This 6-gallon unit has a high-efficiency motor that will start quite easily even when the weather is cold. The PSI and SCFM are decent, designed to permit the tool to run for long periods. You are guaranteed quick recovery and a high flow regulator that, along with the couplers, maximizes performance.
The pump is oil-free. It will work for a long time without maintenance. With the two universal couplers, you get support for two users. The ball drain valve will make draining the tank a quick, thorough, and simple process.
- 165 Max PSI
- 6-gallon tank
- 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI
- 75.5 dBA noise level
- 120V, 60 Hz, 10amps
The legs are covered with rubber to keep the unit from marring the floors. With the cord wrap, storage couldn’t be easier. At 30 pounds, you shouldn’t have a problem carrying the product from place to place.
The unit isn’t necessarily quiet but the noise levels are manageable. The compressor is unlikely to deafen you even when you put it on a higher usage. The removable cover console enhances the compressor’s durability by protecting all the vital parts.
However, you still have easy access to all the components you need to reach while you work.
- The oil-free pump doesn’t require maintenance
- High-efficiency motor starts easily in the cold
- Removable cover console enhances durability
- Slightly noisier than advertised
- Slow to build up pressure
You can’t use this unit for grinding, sanding or any other intense activities. But it is still a handy compressor to keep around the shop, especially if you want to run a finish nailer or air gun. Because it is so light, you will have an easy time maneuvering it as you work.
2) NorthStar Belt-Drive Electric Stationary Air Compressor
With a 60-gallon tank, this compressor will keep you working for a long time without any interruptions. The oil-lubricated pump is cast iron which is durable, meant to last a long time even with extensive use. The pump’s crankshaft features ball bearings on either end that will keep it running smoothly.
If you still have doubts about the pump, you should know that the v-style 2-cylinder stage design eliminates hotspots. This will provide consistent cooling which should add to the length of the pump’s life.
- Cast iron oil-lubricated pump
- 20,000-hour bearing life
- ASME-Certified 60-gallon tank
- Weather-resistant powder-coat finish
- Motor runs at 3,450 RPM
- Tripe-ringed piston
- Pump runs at 920 RPM
The reed valves, which are made of heat-resistant alloy steel, come from Sweden ASSAB. You are assured a long head life and very low oil consumption because of the triple-ringed piston.
The ASME-certified tank is compatible with commercial shops. For a compressor of this size, it is surprisingly quiet. You cannot ask for a better heavy-duty compressor; though, at 305 pounds, it is far from light. Then again, it has a mechanism that allows you to drag it around with ease.
- Consistent cooling
- 60-gallon tank
- Not as much CFM as you might expect at this weight
This is a heavy model. However, it is also durable, boasting a strong body. As such, it is perfect for people working in difficult environments. It will also appeal to individuals that want to work uninterrupted for long periods. You can blame this on the large tank and considerable PSI.
3) Porter-Cable C2002 Oil-|Free UMC Pancake Compressor
This 6-gallon air compressor is small, compact, and portable. And yet it packs quite the punch. You can use it for everything from filling tires to firing nailers. You can look forward to a higher-pressure design that allows longer air tool performance, quick recovery, an oil-free pump that doesn’t require maintenance and an efficient motor that can start easily in cold weather.
- 150 PSI max pressure
- 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI and 3.7 SCFM at 40 PSI
- 6-gallon tank
- Low-amp 120-volt motor
- Oil-free pump
- 31.3 Pounds
The vital components of the unit are protected by a console cover. Because of the high-flow air regulator, you can do more work at a higher pressure. This gives you the sort of flexibility that is missing in other units.
Along with automatic thermal overload protection, you get two regulated factory-installed air couplers that support two users at once.
- Quick recovery
- Rubber feet will prevent marring
- Low-amp motor starts quickly in cold weather
- Oil-free pump doesn’t require maintenance
- One-Year Warranty
- Air escapes between the hose and accessories
4) Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor
At 475 pounds, this is a very heavy air compressor. That might put you off until you realize that it is actually an industrial-duty product that is as long-lasting as they come.
It is designed to deliver efficiency whilst also lowering costs. It produces more compressed air at a lower horsepower. It has a 60-gallon tank that allows you to work for a long time without interruptions, especially in light of the slower RPM and cooler operations.
- 145-175 working PSI
- Pump RPM 1310
- 475 pounds
- One-year limited warranty
- 30,000-hour pump life rating
You get a one-year limited warranty that should eliminate any risk associated with purchasing the unit. Even though it is so powerful, the compressor is much quieter than you think.
- One-year warranty
- Can run for a long time without interruption
- Lower operating costs
- Poor customer service
This is a stationary air compressor. It is too heavy to move from place to place. But it has the power to perform big projects and yet it is so quiet which is why some people are calling it the best air compressor for shop use.
5) Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Air Compressor
Campbell Hausfeld opened its doors in 1836. During that time, it manufactured horse-drawn wagons and agricultural equipment. After centuries of experience, you can trust them to make the best air compressor for home shop use, which is exactly what some people call this unit.
The item comes with a 10-piece accessory kit that allows you to finish your DIY projects like a pro. Sufficient for stapling, painting, and any inflation needs you might have in mind, the product has a 3-gallon horizontal compressor design.
- 3-gallon tank
- 0.36 CFM at 90 PSI
- 110 Max PSI
- Oil-less pump
- 10-piece accessory kit
- 21 pounds
It only weighs 21 pounds. That lightweight construction and handle make it so much easier to transport. You have gauges that are easy to read, simplifying pressure control.
Keep an eye out for the 25-foot recoil hose, air chuck, and the blowgun, to mention but a few.
- The oil-less pump doesn’t require maintenance
- Gauges are easy to read
- Lightweight and portable
- Motor is loud
- Takes longer than expected to build up pressure to full for a 3-gallon unit
This air compressor is suitable for many DIY projects you might want to do at home. However, because of the 3-gallon tank, there is a limit to what you can do with it. The weight works in your favor. You can carry it with ease to any location in your home or shop. It is suitable for inflation, brad nailing, stapling, airbrushing, and the like.
6) DEWALT DXCMLA1983054 30-gallon Portable Air Compressor
This electric-powered unit weighs 190 pounds. So, it isn’t exactly light. But this should give you an idea of what you can expect, that is to say, the air compressor has a strong body that makes it suitable for tough jobsite duties.
It uses cast iron. The twin-cylinder pump offers faster heat dissipation resulting from the aluminum head and valve plate. You will find that it is much easier to remove stubborn bolts and nuts because of the high flow regulator which supplies 20 percent more torque.
- 7.0 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI with 1.9 RHP
- 155 Max PSI
- 30 gallons
- Dual Voltage Motor that is wired for a standard 120-volt outlet
- 2-year pump warranty
The on-board controls provide easy access to the on/off switch, high flow regulators, tank and tool pressure gauges, and so much more.
If the weight sounds like a difficult barrier to overcome, you should know that the unit comes with pneumatic wheels and a front handle that increase mobility.
- Pneumatic tires enhance portability
- 30-gallon tank
- 2-year pump warranty
- High flow regulators supply 20 percent more torque
- Some drainage issues
This is the unit you buy when you want a compressor with a lot of power. It is also the unit you purchase when you want a machine that can take a beating at tough jobsites. Its considerable weight speaks to the product’s productivity and durability.
7) Bostitch BTFP0212 Pancake Air Compressor
This 6-gallon tank, which boasts a maximum PSI of 150, has a high-efficiency motor that makes it easy to start in cold weather. The noise levels are decent, adequate for use in a quiet work environment.
The pump is oil-free which means that it does not require maintenance. That makes it quite convenient to use. You also don’t have to worry about staining your home or shop surfaces with oil.
- 150 max PSI
- 6-gallon tank
- 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI
- 78.5 dBA
- High-flow regulator and couplers
- Oil-free pump
The high-flow regulator will maximize air tool performance. It is quite affordable, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that it is only 31 pounds. The minimalist design makes it suitable for various work environments.
All the components that matter are easily accessible via a convenient control panel.
- Oil-free pump doesn’t require maintenance
- High-flow regulators and couplers maximize air tool performance
- High efficiency motor starts in the cold
- Relatively quiet
- Extremely loud when you depressurize the tank
This is the unit you get when you want an affordable 6-gallon air compressor that can outperform its high-priced counterparts in the same class. You can rely on it for your hobbies as well as professional jobs. It can tackle medium-sized projects.
8) Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor
This compressor comes with a cast-iron cylinder with a greater bore and stroke. This increases compression, promising faster recovery and less noise. The cast iron body is meant to increase the durability of the unit so that you can expose it to tough job site conditions without fear.
The large automotive style filter guarantees an increase in efficiency and air intake. If the weight (88 Pounds) worries you, you should know that the unit is designed to deliver an industrial-grade performance.
- 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI
- 3.0 HP motor
- Oil-lubricated pump
- Big Bore cylinder and piston
But that doesn’t make it immobile. You get rugged wheels that add to the product’s portability. Keep an eye out for the copper finned discharge tubing that increases heat dissipation and reduces water in the tank, not to mention the integrated storage compartment that allows you to store your air fittings and accessories.
- Inbuilt compartment stores air fittings and accessories
- Folding handle and low-profile design make storage easy
- Oil-lubricated pump reduces wear
- Fast recovery
- Rugged wheels enhance portability
This is not necessarily the best small shop air compressor because it weighs 88 pounds. Yes, it has a folding handle, a low-profile design, and wheels, so you can still move it if the need arises.
But for the most part, the unit was made for people with larger, more intensive projects in mind. You can tell by simply looking at its durable build and the power it produces.
9) California Air Tools CAT-10020 Ultra-Quiet and Oil-Free 2.0 HP Air Compressor
As its name suggests, this is a quiet unit with an oil-free pump that does not require much in the way of maintenance. The 10-gallon tank allows you to do a decent amount of work without interruption, especially if your projects are on the smaller side.
- 70 decibels
- 10-gallon steel tank
- Easy start valve that allows a no-load start
- 1680 RPM
- 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI
The tank comes with wheels that simplify mobility. The 2.0HP motor operates at an RPM of 1680 which is why it is not only quiet but it creates less wear. The unit’s durable construction is further augmented by the Dual Piston Pump System that promises high performance.
It only takes 130 seconds to fill the tank when it’s empty. With the 2-1/4” quick release connectors, you can use two tools simultaneously.
- Wheels enable mobility
- Tank fills in 130 seconds
- You can use two tools at the same time
- Tank drain is in the wrong location
- Poor wheel location
This is one of the more versatile air compressors on the market. The tank is large enough to accommodate smaller jobs if you want to work with fewer interruptions. Even though it is somewhat heavy, you shouldn’t have a problem dragging it around your home, shop or job site because of the wheels.
It gives you options. You can use it for both small and large jobs.
10). Industrial Air ILA4708065 80-Gallon Hi-Flo Single Stage Cast Iron Air Compressor
This high flow, single-stage compressor comes with an integrated control panel that includes tank and working pressure gauges. At 80-gallons, you couldn’t ask for a larger capacity. The unit will give you all the air you need to extend the run times of tools like spray guns, hammers, ratchets, and the like.
- 14 CFM at 90 PSI
- 155 PSI max pressure
- 80-gallon capacity
- Full metal belt guard
- Airflow regulator
- Two quick connect air outlets
- Pressure relief valve
At 540 pounds, not only is the unit extremely heavy but it is very expensive. But the features it offers more than justify its price tag. They include a cast iron, V-twin cylinder, an oil-lubricated pump with a one-piece cast iron crankcase, and a thermally stable cast iron cylinder body, to mention but a few.
- Large tank capacity
- Provides more air for longer run times for air tools
- Reaches maximum pressure quickly
This is the wrong compressor to buy if you need a unit that you can move all over the place. It is too heavy. But that isn’t necessarily a problem. The compressor is an industrial-grade model that is perfectly compatible with active shops that have a lot of projects to execute.
Some air compressors are definitely more durable than others. However, even the strongest air compressors in the list below will wear out faster than the manufacturer promises unless you maintain them appropriately. That normally involves the following:
1). Drain the tank
You need to drain the water from the compressor. Otherwise, you might damage your tools. This is why these units come with a draining valve.
2). Read the Manual
Don’t assume you know everything. Once your compressor arrives, read the manual to ensure that you know what is expected of you.
You need to keep the filters clean. They tend to gather dust and debris. Clean filters will permit your compressor to live longer.
When compressors are working, the vibrations produced can loosen the connections and fasteners. Check them on a regular basis and tighten them where necessary.
An oil-lubricated air compressor requires regular oil changes. Dirty oil will bring harm to your compressor.
Be sure to clean your compressor from time to time. The work you do will eventually cover the unit in particles. Clean it to prevent the dust and dirt from accumulating.
Don’t forget to check the hoses whenever you get the chance. They have been known to leak. A leaking hose will prevent the compressor from working.
Q : Does an Air Compressor come with a hose and tools?
ANSWER: When buying a compressor over the internet, you will have the option of choosing a hose and the tools you want. Your local retailer will give you similar options. This is because they know that you need the hose and tools to make effective use of your air compressor.
Q : What Measurements Should You Get When Selecting an Air Hose? ANSWER: Get one that is 3/8 inches (Diameter) and 25 feet (Length). These measurements are suitable for most home-related jobs.
Q : Do you need rubber feet coverings on your compressor?
ANSWER: Rubber feet coverings are not technically necessary for the effective operation of the compressor. But they are convenient because they will protect the surfaces upon which the compressor is standing.
Q : What is SCFM and Why Does it Matter?
ANSWER: The letters stand for ‘Standard Cubic Feet per Minute’. SCFM is concerned with the volume of air delivered from the air compressor to the power tool being used. You are supposed to match the SCFM of the compressor to the power your tool needs to do its work.A compressor whose SCFM is lacking is of no use to you.
Q : What Voltage Do Air Compressors Run on?
ANSWER: The answer to that question will vary depending on the size of the unit. Most of the small ones run on a single 110V outlet. With larger models, the voltage requirements can go as high as 460V.
Q : Can You Use a Generator with a Compressor?
ANSWER: Generators have fluctuations in the power they generate. They cannot give a compressor the constant voltage it needs. As such, generators are not a good idea.
The list above has everything you need to simplify your search for the best shop air compressor. You have a wide variety of brands to choose from, not to mention weight classes.
You also have your pick of features to select from. The key to choosing the right product is to ensure that you match your needs to the attributes of the air compressors listed above.