Best Compressors for Air Tools (2022)

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Introduction to Air Compressors

Air tools have evolved greatly since their invention in the 1890s. Pneumatic technology is now more efficient and safer, hence its application in virtually every industry, from construction sites to water treatment plants.

In the home, air compressors fill car tires, help people paint models, and blow away dust from the garage floor. In the home shop, air compressors are used to power brad nailers, impact wrenches, air hammers and other similar air tools. More powerful tools like grinders need more advanced compressors because they can’t run reliably on the usual 6-gallon compressor.

Are you ready to find out the best compressor for air tools? This article gives an extensive coverage of what we think are the best products available in 2022. In creating this list of the best air compressors for pneumatic tools, we have considered quality, power, durability and other important criteria. Before we view the list, here are some important basics about air compressors for air tools. 

If you’re looking for an air compressor for use with cars, try our more specific guide “Best Air Compressors for Automotive Air Tools“, which features air compressors more suited to that work.

What is an air compressor for air tools?

As experts in air compressors, we find a lot of erroneous information out there, but the most common is that a compressor for air tools is a tool. As a matter of fact, an air compressor is actually a device or machine with the cylinder and the piston as the primary components. The simple operation of the compressor creates pressurized air that runs the air tool.

Air tools are common in many cadres of industry, including construction, automotive, woodwork and agriculture. The accuracy and swiftness needed in drilling, sanding, nailing is exactly what the air-powered tools were created for.

As the tools come with individual requirements, it is important to align those requirements with the right compressor. For instance, a drill needs about 5CFM at 90 PSI, while a brad nailer works with about 0.3 CFM at 90 PSI.

What are the advantages of using an air compressor for air tools?

An air compressor does more than just one job. It is multifaceted, capable of operating and powering a huge number of pneumatic tools. This is its biggest advantage. Compressors for air tools are extremely cost effective, not only because of their affordability, but also energy efficiency. The best air compressor for air tools is safe and easier to use than their electric alternatives. No wonder air compressors are associated with higher productivity!

What are the disadvantages of using an air compressor for air tools?

Have you worked in some industries where technicians clean themselves using compressed air? It looks fun doesn’t it? However, compressed air can be extremely dangerous if used casually. Instances of incapacitation have been reported. Direct contact with the air can cause serious injury or even death. Possible serious consequences include skin wounds, ruptured internal organs (if blown into the mouth), heart attack or stroke.

Additionally, if water accidentally finds its way into the air compressor’s system, freeze-up may follow and cause significant problems. The system is also sensitive to temperature changes. Note also that some compressors can also be extremely loud and distractive.

What size compressor do I need to run air tools?

Check the specs on compressors for air tools. They are usually rated at between 30 and 140 CFM (cubic feet per minute), which is the airflow range for most air tools. CFM is crucial because it answers the “how much” question.

Now, don’t fall for the trap set by some manufacturers about the tank size. Tank size doesn’t tell you much about the capacity of the compressor. Liters don’t tell the whole story – liters/minute do. To determine the size of the compressor you need, identify all your pneumatic machines and tools. Add up their CFM requirements. The total is what the compressor should deliver. While it is not common to use all the tools and machines concurrently, it is better to be prepared to the unlikeliest of scenarios than be sorry.

How many CFM do you need to run air tools?

Every pneumatic tool comes with a Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) rating because air volume matters. This rating gives an idea of what kind of compressor to pair the tool with. However, this may not be enough to determine the CFM, as there are several other factors to consider:

  • Intermittent vs. continuous application
  • Air receiver tank
  • Use of multiple tools

The first step is to determine the total amount of CFM for all the tools that you are using concurrently on the compressor. If it’s only one tool, use its CFM rating. The minimum air volume that the compressor needs to supply is the total CFM times 1.5.

For example if a drill requires 30CFM at 90PSI, the CFM of the compressor for air tools should be 30*1.5= 45CFM. The factor of 1.5 makes sure that the air compressor does not strain, so it can last longer. Please note that this calculation is based on the assumption of 25% duty cycle for the air compressor. For a pneumatic tool running continuously, the CFM should be multiplied by 4, thus giving 120CFM. 

How much air pressure do you need to run air tools?

Are you wondering if a compressor will be OK for a big project? You need to look at another important parameter when choosing the best air compressor for your air tool – Pounds per square inch or PSI. A higher PSI enables you to handle bigger jobs faster.

It is more desirable to use a compressor that finishes the job in one go than one that needs refilling halfway. This explains why you will rarely find a contractor with a small tank and low PSI air compressor. Such a unit would underperform and ultimately waste a lot of time and money.

Where can I purchase a good air compressor for air tools?

If you are looking for a new air compressor for air tools, we would recommend you visit Amazon.com. The low prices on the site are obviously the biggest motivator for many buyers, but for us, the ease of returns and speed of delivery are the most attractive reasons.

Top Considerations Before You Buy an Air Compressor for Pneumatic Tools

Capacity

The capacity of an air compressor is depicted by the tank size, and given in gallons. Smaller tanks may be easier to carry, but larger tanks deliver more powerful airflow and work for longer. If you must use a smaller tank, you want to pair it with a compressor with high CFM. This helps in refilling the tank faster.

Type (Oiled or Oil-Free Air Compressor)

Some air compressors are oiled, meaning that they need constant oiling of the moving parts. Oiling is necessary for not only sealing air, but also efficient performance. There are also oil-free compressors. The oil-free design basically refers to the way the compression chamber works. Instead of using oil in the chamber, these compressors have an intercooler. In general, oiled air compressors are more durable, and more suited for longer running hours, such as in industrial applications, while oil-free compressors are usually lighter, more affordable and do not require as much maintenance, making them ideal for home use.

For more information on oil, check out our comprehensive guide What is Air Compressor Oil?

Power (HP, PSI and CFM)

When a user says that the compressor for air tools is incapable of meeting HP (Horsepower), PSI (Pounds per Square Inch) and CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute) requirements, the implication is that the machine doesn’t have enough power. Horsepower shows how powerful or quick the motor is in refilling a tank or generating particular pressure. The CFM is the volume of air that can flow through the hose and outlet nozzle. PSI refers to the level of pressure that the full tank holds.

Size & Weight

The Stealth 20 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor (SAQ-12018) is ultra-quiet and powerful. But are you ready to move this product up the stairs every day? Larger, heavier units like this one are best suited for professionals and industrial settings. Noise is not a big concern for such applications. If you need to travel a lot, or can’t have your compressor out all the time, then you need to choose a smaller and lighter unit. Of course, this comes with downsides, such as a smaller tank.

Loudness (Noise Rating)

Before selecting the best air compressor for air tools, consider where it will be used and how it may affect the neighbors. Some compressors may be small, but they produce a lot of noise. In the yesteryears, oil-free models used to be louder than oiled ones. Fortunately, technology has since resolved that problem.

Cost

Air may be free, but compressed air isn’t. The question is, how much are you willing to pay? Many factors affect the initial cost of an air compressor including PSI and design. In general terms, reciprocating designs tend to be more affordable than centrifugal and rotary screw air compressors. After that, the cost is affected by the capacity, the power, and all of the other factors described above.

Warranty

A warranty gives peace of mind, because you know there is someone to turn to in case things go awry. Most quality compressors for air tools come with a full warranty. However, you will note some disparities when it comes to the specifics. Some providers cover specific components of the air compressor on popular terms such as 10 years, 7 years and 3 years.

Customer Reviews

Finally, remember to go through customer reviews. Manufacturer ratings such as CFM and noise can sometimes be exaggerated to make a product seem like the best compressor for air tools. If a product is good, the reviews will generally suggest so and vice versa. 

Top 10 Air Compressors for Air Tools in 2022

1. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126)

(Our #1 Budget Recommendation)

This air compressor is equipped with a big tank and an oil free pump, making it applicable for various environments. It can run for some time before requiring a refill. Compact, lightweight and with a cord wrap, the DWFP55126 is easy to store and transport. We think it was specifically designed for heavy duty applications- features like protective rubber leg, high flow regulator, couplers and powerful brushless motor suggest so. There are a few reported flaws in some of the shipments, but the item has the positives to warrant a mention as one of the best compressors for air tools, and Amazon’s return policy is so good that we would say it is well worth the very minor risk of having to return.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1 inches

Weight:  30 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oil-free

Capacity: 6 gallons

Power Source: Electric (AC)

HP (Horsepower): .9 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 165 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 3.7 scfm@ 40 PSI, 2.6 scfm@ 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 75.5 dBA

Package Includes: 1 compressor

Warranty: 1 year limited manufacturer’s warranty

 

Pros

Lightweight, Sturdy, Quiet

Cons

Short power cord, some faulty products reported

2. BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit, 3-Tool (BTFP3KIT)

(Our #1 Best Value For Money Recommendation)

The 3-tool BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT has an oil-free pump that delivers up to 150 PSI. The compressor comes with a finish nailer, a crown stapler and a brad nailer. Easy to use for most users and fast-filling, this good air compressor for air tools can be a wonderful addition for a hobbyist. The device has a 15-foot air hose, which should suit most home projects. It is relatively lightweight and small-sized, making portability and storage manageable. If you are a homeowner looking for the best first experience with air tools, this kit will not disappoint because it is designed for a wide range of interior and finish applications.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 21.13 x 19.5 x 18 inches

Weight:  41.8 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oil-free

Capacity: 6 gallons

Power Source: electric (ac)

HP (Horsepower): 0.8 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 150PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.6SCFM

Noise Rating: 78.5 dBA

Package Includes: 1) 6-gallon Pancake Compressor, 1) 18GA 2 in. Brad nailer, 1) 2-1/2 in. 16GA Straight Finish Nailer, 1) Heavy Duty 3/8 in. Crown Stapler, 1) 25′ Air Hose

Warranty: 1-year limited warranty

Pros

Fast-filling, Easy to use

Cons

A bit loud, perhaps some quality control issues

3. California Air Tools 8010A Aluminum Tank Air Compressor | Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free, 1.0 hp, 8 gal

(Our #1 Overall Recommendation)

Are you searching for an all-round best air compressor for air tools? This ultra-quiet, oil-free, lightweight air compressor from California Air Tools is a complete package. With its 60 decibels noise level, it is one of the quietest you will ever find. This best compressor for air tools is also durable; a feature supported by the low speed of 1680 RPM and an oil-free dual piston pump system. Equally admirable is the 3000 hours life cycle. The machine is rust-free, easy to transport and affordable.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 26 x 14 x 23 inches

Weight:  37.25 lbs.

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oil-free

Capacity: 8 gallons

Power Source: Corded Electric

HP (Horsepower): 2.0 HP (peak)

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 120 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 3.10 CFM @ 40 PSI

2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 60 decibels

Package Includes: 1 air compressor, Wheel Kit & Air Filter

Warranty: 1 Year Limited Warranty

Pros

Fast-fill, quiet, easy to set up/use

Cons

Price fluctuation, quality control issues

4. Campbell Hausfeld 8 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor (DC080500)

This is another quiet compressor for air tools that suits home environments for DIY projects. On top of that, the machine is oil-free and low maintenance, thus promising many years of service. Even better is the fact that the compressor is designed for a wide range of applications that include air ratcheting, air brushing, air nailing and inflating. Its compatibility is on another level; you can start your projects as soon as you have Campbell 25 ft. Air Hose and 17 Piece Accessory Kit in place.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 11 x 23 x 26 inches

Weight:  67 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 8 gallons

Power Source: Electric (ac)

HP (Horsepower): 1.0 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 125 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 2.4 CFM at 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 68 dBA

Package Includes:  1 air compressor

Warranty: 1 Year Limited Warranty

Pros

Quiet, durable, fills quickly

Cons

Perhaps some minor quality control issues

5. DEWALT FLEXVOLT 60V MAX Air Compressor Kit, Cordless, 2.5 Gallon (DCC2560T1)

(Our #1 Cordless Recommendation)

For anyone with a small shop, a product that eats minimal space is usually desirable. The DEWALT DCC2560T1 is compact and lightweight. Portability for contractual or renovation jobs is further supported by the top-mounted sturdy handle. We consider it the best small air compressor for air tools. Don’t worry about any damage on your client’s tiles – the machine features rubber feet. Its operational noise level is 79 dB, but I think this is attributed to the high-speed brushless motor. Remember that this is just a small machine, so its highest pressure of 135 PSI and 1.2 SCFM @ 90 PSI are understandable. Even the 2.5 gallons tank reiterates this fact. Overall, the performance of this best portable compressor for air tools is impressive – excellent recovery time, portable, enough pressure for a variety of light tasks and much more.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 15 x 12 x 18 inches

Weight:  21.5 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oil-free

Capacity: 2.5 gallons

Power Source: DC/cordless

HP (Horsepower):  0.4 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 135 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 1.2 SCFM @ 90 PSI

1.5 SCFM @ 45 PSI

Noise Rating: 79 dB

Package Includes: 1) Dcc2560 air compressor, 1) DCB606 flexvolt Lithium Ion battery, 1) fast charger.

Warranty: 3 years

Pros

Portable, compact, convenient, attractive warranty

Cons

Noisy, many malfunctions, battery dies fast

6. Stealth 20 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor,1.8 HP Oil-Free Peak 150 PSI 68 Decibel Air Compressor

(Our #1 Recommendation for Bigger Home/Garage Jobs)

This product by Stealth is highly regarded as the best air compressor for automotive air tools and there are several reasons for this. It is not only quieter than most products in its class, but also offers up to 3-times longer life. It is built to last, a fact that is depicted by the Q235B special alloy metal heavy duty construction. It is also easy to cold start. Combining this with low voltage (120 Volts) makes the product ideal for outdoor jobs, even in winter. No wonder this good air compressor for air tools already passed the ETL certification.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 19.67 x 17.52 x 41.81 inches

Weight:  121.4 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: oil-free

Capacity: 20 Gallons

Power Source: Corded Electric

HP (Horsepower): 1.8 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 150 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 5 CFM@ 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 68 decibels

Package Includes: User Manual x 1, Electric Cord x 1, Stealth SAQ-12018 Air Compressor x 1

Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Pros

Durable, safe, lifetime warranty, versatile, quiet

Cons

Instructions a bit unclear

7. Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

Would you believe that the Makita MAC5200 has been in the market for over a decade? Despite the many revisions over this period, the model still carries its reliable pump performance. Although the pump needs oil, the manufacturer used superior pressure seals that keep the oil inside. It doesn’t matter what type of tool you have in your shack. The MAC5200 can handle a wide range of small-scale jobs, so a contractor may find it worthwhile. Of course, the biggest selling point is the “big bore”, which promotes efficiency. I have an issue with the short cord, but getting an extension shouldn’t be a struggle.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 29 x 19.5 x 19 inches

Weight:  75 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oiled

Capacity: 5.2 gallons

Power Source: Corded Electric

HP (Horsepower): 3 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 140 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI

Noise Rating: 90 dB

Package Includes: 1/4 inch.Universal Quick Coupler Male

Warranty: 1 Year Parts & Labor

Pros

High build quality, durable, kicks on quickly

Cons

Challenges during winter, noisy, short cord

8. Industrial Air Contractor 4 Gallon Portable Pontoon Air Compressor with 5 HP Honda Gas Engine

(Amazon’s Choice for ‘gas powered air compressor‘)

The CTA5090412 is one of the best compressors for air tools 2022, chiefly by virtue of its clean and powerful performance. Being oil-free and capable of offering 155 PSI from a 5 HP Honda engine, this product enhances productivity and keeps work space cleaner for longer. While not the lightest in its category, this compressor has a “Pontoon” style tank for added portability.  Prepare your ear muffs because it can be a bit loud!

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 24.4 x 21.9 x 19.8 inches

Weight:  74 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oil-free

Capacity: 4 gallons

Power Source: Gas Powered

HP (Horsepower): 5 HP        

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 155 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 5.0 CFM @90 psi

6.9 CFM @40 psi

Noise Rating: ??

Package Includes:  1 air compressor

Warranty: 2-Year limited

Pros

Good pressure regulation, portable, strong build

Cons

Loud, heavy, need for manual priming

9. Campbell Hausfeld VT6271 Air Compressor, 30-Gallon Horizontal Tank, Portable, Single-Stage, 10.2CFM, 3.7HP, 1 Phase

(Our #1 Recommendation for High-Powered Tools)

The Campbell Hausfeld VT6271 has the power, construction and components to serve the needs for the best air compressor for power tools for contractors, professionals or DIY users. Its cast iron pump is designed for durability. It can deliver 10.2 CFM at 90 PSI, but the pressure could go to 135 maximum PSI. This product is nicely designed, with its horizontal 30 gallon tank sitting on a pair of large semi-pneumatic wheels. The long handle of this air compressor for impact tools makes movement across the floor smooth, despite the heavy weight.  

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 46 x 21 x 31 inches

Weight:  163 pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oiled

Capacity: 30 Gallons

Power Source: Corded Electric

HP (Horsepower): 3.7HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 135 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 10.2 CFM at 90 PSI

Noise Rating:  ? HP

Package Includes: Air Compressor Accessory

Warranty: 1 Year Limited

Pros

Powerful

Cons

Cable short, poor packaging

10. NorthStar Portable Gas-Powered Air Compressor – Honda 163cc OHV Engine, 20-Gallon Horizontal Tank, 13.7 CFM at 90 PSI

(Our #1 Recommendation for Professionals)

If you are looking for the best air compressor for air tools in the gas powered category, I highly recommend this 20 gallon option by NorthStar, which is among the very best compressors for professional level use. The secret to this undisputed performance is the popular Honda GX160 OHV engine. The fact that the machine is gas powered means that you can take it to work. With its 13.7 CFM @ 90 PSI, this air compressor for air tools is perfect for sanders, nailers and other demanding tools. The price is a little intimidating, but a professional would want to invest in a quality product that promises years of superior performance.

Specifications

Product Dimensions (inches): 40 x 21 x 33 inches

Weight:  196 Pounds

Oiled / Oil-Free: Oiled

Capacity: 20 gallons

Power Source: Gas powered

HP (Horsepower): 4.8 HP

Max. PSI (Air Pressure): 130 PSI

CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute): 14.6 PSI@40cfm

Noise Rating: ??

Package Includes:  1 air compressor

Warranty: 4 Yr. Consumer/2 Yr. Commercial

Pros

Portable, large tank, powerful engine

Cons

Heavy and bulky

Conclusion

I trust this review and buying guide for the best air compressor for air tools has been of great help to you. However, the analysis may be incomplete without a summary of my recommendations.

Our top pick from the best air compressor for pneumatic tools is the California Air Tools 8010A. This machine has it all, from being one of the quietest in the market to being portable. It is low maintenance and easy to set up, so even novice users will like it.

The compressor that gives the best value for money is the BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit (BTFP3KIT). It could have been quieter, but it fills really quickly and is easy to use. If you need a reliable air compressor for air tools especially if you are a contractor or professional, then go for the NorthStar Portable Gas-Powered Air Compressor (459392).

Below are some other recommendations for the best air compressor for air tools for you.

Best Air Compressor for Automotive Air Tools:

Well, I recommend the Stealth SAQ-12018 here because I am convinced the machine has the flexibility needed in this category. It is low maintenance thanks to the oil-less pump, and a quiet performer.

Best Portable Air Compressor for Air Tools:

The best item in this category is the DEWALT FLEXVOLT (DCC2560T1). You will probably not find a cordless air compressor kit better than this one. Never worry about flat tires when you have the best small air compressor for air tools that weighs in at about 20 pounds and offers the power of a corded tool.

Best Home Air Compressor for Air Tools:

The Stealth SAQ-12018 is also an excellent choice for home jobs, because it is extremely versatile and easy to handle. I find its balance of durability, design for small space, and quiet performance too good to ignore. Competitors like the Husky 20 Gal. 200 PSI Portable Air Compressor, although very good in its own right, don’t come close to being the best home air compressor for air tools when this machine is around.

Best Air Compressor for Impact Tools:

I would highly recommend the Campbell Hausfeld VT6271 as the best air compressor for power tools,for its unmatched power for use with bigger tools.

Jeff Stelling

Jeff Stelling is an air compressor obsessive who has been working with compressors for over 25 years, since he was an apprentice engineer in the mid 90’s. He designed Aircompressorcompare.com to offer technical guidance and buying advice for compressors.

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