When space is tight, getting the best small air compressor to match the needs of your workshop is a good route to take. These machines may not bring heavy-duty performance along, but they most-certainly provide support for home workshops and DIYers in general.
Air compressors come in a variety of sizes and they are handy in all sorts of projects, from contracting work to roadside emergencies. If the world of air compressors has got you confused, don’t worry, we have made a list of portable air compressor reviews to help solve your dilemmas. Investing in a small air compressor like this (even as a backup) will surely pay off down the road. Let’s begin!
Small Air Compressor Advantages and Drawbacks
With every machine, there are pros and cons, and a lot of things we must carefully consider before choosing a small air compressor. You don’t want to hand over hundreds of dollars only to find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the right tool for the job, especially if you’re working as a handyman or a contractor.
The pros of having a portable version of anything lies in being able to take that machine anywhere you need it to be. Be it a roof, an apartment, the second story of a house, the attic, or somewhere high on a job site. Especially if you don’t have enough outlets or if the circuit breaker can’t handle the load that power tools put into it.
For all of these reasons, a portable air compressor would be an ideal solution. Many portable air compressors are made with smaller, more efficient motors so they run a much lower risk of tripping the breakers and leaving your job site without power.
Additionally, they far lighter to carry and transport so there are far fewer opportunities for injury while transporting your equipment. Portable air compressors more often than not, come with oil-less pumps meaning it is a much smaller hassle to maintain these machines.
Another advantage portable air compressors have is that they can save you from bad situations in roadside emergencies. There are even special lines dedicated to a battery or car engine powered compressor which you can use in a tight situation. Plus, because they are made to be very compact, storing them will never be an issue.
You can check our 12V air compressor reviews to learn more.
The main disadvantages of portable air compressors are their size. Because they are portable they can only have a tank that isn’t that big. If you can’t put it on wheels and drag it with one hand, then it can’t be portable.
Because of the limit of the tank, you are limited to what kind of a job you can do. You can’t do anything that is very intensive like painting an entire car or house. You can’t do high-intensity work on your car like sanding for example.
Airflow can be another issue as well. Because while you may have the tank capacity, sometimes you will not have the adequate flow rate to run the air tool. This is because portable air compressors have smaller motors and can’t produce a lot of SCFM.
Basically, by getting a portable air compressor, you are limiting yourself to what tools you can use and what jobs you can perform with them. The portable air compressors are used more by hobbyists, DIY homeowners and construction professionals working on small projects because of these limits.
Best Small Air Compressors Comparison Chart
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Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV
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California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S
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Central Pneumatic 8 Gallon
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Best Portable Air Compressor Reviews (Updated List)
1. Porter-Cable PXCMF220VW
The first on our list comes in the form of a dolly type portable air compressor from Porter-Cable. This machine weighs 97 lbs. You may think that such a heavy dolly air compressor isn’t that portable, but don’t worry, it comes with a set of 7-inch semi-pneumatic wheels. So, you will be able to drag it around and because of the rubber feet, it won’t roll away anywhere.
This machine comes with an SCFM rating of 4.0 at 90 psi. This power comes from the heavy-duty induction drive motor sitting on top of the machine. That motor produces 84 dBA of noise. The pump is oil-free which means less maintenance work for the user.
The design is user-friendly since gauges and the regulator is conveniently located near each other for easy monitoring. This compressor can handle inflating various objects, painting projects, stapling, nailing and even some light auto-repair. This powerful unit is covered by a 3-year limited warranty.
Read More: Porter-Cable PXCMF220VW
2. Makita AC001
Here we have one of the quieter models on our list, made by the well-known manufacturer Makita. The noise level when it is running is 72 dBA, and that makes it an ideal choice for working in smaller areas like a garage or home workshop. The compact roll cage design makes it easy to move around, given it has only 23.1 lbs.
The compressor packs only a 0.45 SCFM rating at 90 PSI. The motor producing 1/6 HP may seem like it’s not a lot, but this compact model is a good choice for hobbyists or people doing small projects at home. And inflating balls and other small capacity things would be a breeze for this unit.
The pump doesn’t use oil, which means less fiddling with the machine and less maintenance as well. This unit also has a low AMP draw, a feature that reduces the chance of your circuit breakers being tripped on start-up. The unit is covered by a 1-year limited warranty.
Read More: Makita AC001
3. Wen 2202
Here we have a vertical style air compressor with a big tank and a lot of possibilities. This big compressor is considered portable since it was designed with wheels and an onboard handle which makes it easy to move around the job site. The 86 pounds of this unit makes it a very stable compressor. This model is a little noisy even with the noise level rating of 83 dBA.
The 20-gallon tank is made of reinforced steel and can withstand a maximum PSI of 135. The motor on this compressor produces a flow rate of 3.8 SFCM at 90 PSI. The pump is oil based, meaning you will have to check the oil levels when using it and replace the oil after every 200 working hours.
Additionally, this machine comes with an easy-to-reach quick drain valve, ¼ inch NPT quick coupler and two pressure gauges. The unit is covered by a 2-year warranty. A compressor this size can handle painting, inflating, bolting, and even sanding. It can surely be used for a wide variety of jobs.
Read More: Wen 2202
4. Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV
The motor produces a flow rate of 0.39 CFM @ 90 PSI. That power is good enough to handle most inflation jobs and plenty of small projects around the house. But it won’t be able to handle painting or other intensive use.
The compressor weighs only 19.6 pounds which makes it very easy to transport. The compact, user-friendly design makes it easy to store in any garage or workshop. The pump is oil-free, which will save you maintenance time.
Additionally, the compressor comes with a 25-foot recoil hose, a blowgun, inflation needles, and fittings. The unit is covered by a 1-year limited warranty.
5. Viair 400P
We’ve covered a few types of portable air compressors but this one is the best one to have in your car or truck. This little unit weighs a minuscule 10.40 lbs. Its size and ultra-compact design make it an excellent inflation tool for when you are on the go.
It is designed to be an inflation tool to handle any tire up to 35 inches. It is powered by your car engine which needs to be running for it to work. All you do is attach the heavy-duty battery clamps to your engine and flip the switch. It can push out an impressive flow of 1.28 at 90 PSI, also it has a max working pressure of 150 PSI.
Besides all that, the unit comes with a 25-foot 5-in-1 hose, a heavy-duty sand tray, an 8-foot power cable, a 3-piece inflation tip kit, an inline fuse holder and a deluxe zippered carry bag with storage compartments. The machine is backed by a 1-year limited warranty.
Read More: Viair 400P
6. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S
Our next air compressor is the quietest one on our list, made by a company that specializes in ultra-quiet air compressors. The unit itself weighs about 29.5 lbs, which is still light enough to carry around the work site. The unit has a max working pressure of 120 PSI.
The steel tank has a capacity of 1 full gallon. The motor works at a lower RPM which creates a good flow rate of 1.20 SCFM at 90 PSI. That alone is unusual to have such a high flow rate for such a small compressor. The operating noise level is at a low 56 dBA.
In this video you can see how quiet the unit really is:
The oil-free pump means less maintenance and costs for the user. Given that it is also a budget-friendly model and the versatility you get for your buck this is the best small air compressor in its performance and price range. The machine is covered by a 1-year limited warranty.
Read More: California Air Tools Cat-1P1060S
7. Hitachi EC99S
This air compressor is a bit on the pricey range but it delivers solid performance for a portable air compressor. Hitachi puts in a strong 15-amp motor that produces an impressive air flow of 3.1 SFCM at 90 PSI with 2 HP to boot. The motor has been equipped with thermal overload protection to stop it if an overheating situation occurs.
The unit itself is a twin stack configuration with a 4-gallon capacity. The max operating pressure for the compressor is 135 PSI. The pump uses oil for lubrication, and you have to maintain it by checking the levels every day. Also, the filters and oil need changing after about 300 hours. The noise level was also pretty low at around 70 dBA.
The power and capacity of this compressor allow for a wide variety of jobs from inflation to doing trim work or even brad nailing. The compressor comes with a bottle of synthetic oil, a dip stick, and is backed by a 1-year warranty.
Read More: Hitachi EC99S
8. Central Pneumatic 8 Gallon
Our last model squeezes in the middle ground price-wise and performance-wise. This particular model sports an 8-gallon tank capacity which allows you to get a lot of work done. The maximum pressure this unit can handle is 125 PSI. The splendid motor provides a good airflow of 4.5 SCFM at 90 PSI. The motor is shrouded in a high impact ABS material for great protection.
With that much capacity and power, you can easily handle light woodwork, heavy nailing, metalwork, some hobby spray painting, and some basic car repair. But this model couldn’t handle any heavy auto restoration like sanding. The model is on the loud side with 88 dBA when it is working.
The compressor is a bit on the heavy side weighing in at 64.5 pounds. But it does come with 2 wheels and an easy-to-carry handle that makes transportation less difficult. The pump is oil-based meaning you have to check and maintain the machine. The compressor has a 1-year limited warranty.
Read More: Central Pneumatic 8 Gallon
Small Air Compressor Buying Guide
Air compressors are a solid investment as they allow you to use air tools that consume less power in total. Portable air compressors give you that same benefit but also give you the freedom to use those same tools in hard to reach areas or places that you normally couldn’t access because of heavy tools or compressors.
They are an ideal solution for DIY projects around your home, fixing up your car or even construction projects where an electric tool just isn’t good enough. In this buying guide, we will clarify the portable air compressor specific point of view. In addition to that, you should check our air compressor reviews buying guide.
Who Should Buy A Portable Air Compressor?
Once you have come to the point of deciding that you want to have an air compressor, you have to make the important decision of getting a portable unit, or not. There are various types of jobs which are better suited for portable air compressors.
1.1 Road-side assistance
If you are a truck owner then you must know the rules about air pressure in your tires. Adjusting the air pressure in your tires for long trips on-road and off-road is not only smart but also prevents accidents from happening. Now imagine you are about to head off-road and you have forgotten to check your tires before leaving the city.
With a portable air compressor, this would not be an issue as you could easily inflate a flat tire in under 5 minutes. Or let’s say you get a flat tire and you are having trouble loosening up the lug nuts. A strong portable air compressor could save you time, energy and elbow grease getting that tire off of your car.
There are also other small air tools you could easily use to perform routine maintenance if your car happens to break down in the middle of the road or field. Some come with batteries, for others you need a generator or a car engine to power them, but they can always be useful. You can
1.2 For the DIY handyman and carpenter
Often, we aren’t able to perform certain repairs because the tools we use are too loud to use in the home or too heavy to lug up the roof. Air tools are lighter, use less power and can perform all of the jobs just as well as electric tools like small electric compressors can.
Another benefit if you are stapling or nailing something, you can have a portable air compressor with 2 people working at the same time. Thanks to bigger tank sizes you won’t even have to wait for recovery time. Instead of having a couple of people making all sorts of noise in your house, the compressor will be the only thing that’s loud while it’s filling the tank.
You can even have the option of putting the tank outside the window and use an air hose to make even less noise in the work area. When fixing your roof, you often have trouble getting the power to the tools. But with a portable air compressor, the power source is secure and you can get to work.
Also using a portable air compressor can mean fewer wires, extension cords and risks of overloading your circuit board.
1.3 The Hobbyists
Another popular usage for the portable air compressor is of course for various hobbies. Especially those that have anything to do with woodworking, metalwork or painting. Air tools cover all of these areas with a variety of choices.
With a small portable air compressor, you could cut, hammer, staple and paint a birdhouse if you want. Or give your kitchen a new coat of paint that’s equally distributed with your spray paint tool.
You could also just convert your compressor to an airbrush kit to give a little color and flair to your projects or even decorate your vehicles. Since it is portable, you can easily take your compact air compressor and air tools to a friend’s garage or workshop to work on a project together.
Deciding on a portable air compressor is very similar to buying a new PC or a car. You have a growing sea of choices and it’s up to you to make the most of what the market has to offer you. Portable air compressors come in all shapes and sizes with varying performance ratings and noise. To make the smart choice you need to explore the market to find the best portable air compressor for yourself.
Always be mindful of what type of job you need to do with your air compressor and what tools you are going to need. We hope we have helped you with the information we have provided from our unbiased portable air compressor reviews. If we have looked over any important points please feel free to write to us in our comments section and we will reply as soon as we can.