Best Portable Air Compressor

One of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can purchase for using around the home workshop is an air compressor.

These are ideal for powering air ratchets, staple guns to inflating flat tires.

Many compressors are big and bulky, and they have a permanent home in a garage or workshop, but now, there are portable models that are just as capable.

portable air compressor comparison

We will look at a few to see how they compare at each other, and by the end, we should be able to show which is the best air compressor on the market, and which delivers the best value for money.

Why a Portable Air Compressor is Important

There are many reasons why a home can make use of a portable air compressor, but it is for the home mechanic, or anyone who is getting started in woodworking where they really show their value.

If you build many things, then you will use nails. There are plenty of battery-operated nail guns, but they are limited in function and are expensive.

Pneumatic nail guns can snap on the end of your air hose and will nail all day without losing power.

Painting of your finished woodworking projects is also a breeze. Snap on a paint sprayer and you can paint anything that needs a high quality finish in no time.

Flat tires also happen at home on many occasions, and it is far easier to use the best quiet air compressor than a foot pump.

Top Portable Air Compressor Reviews

Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor

1. Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor

The Bostitch pancake air compressor has been designed with powering air-tools and inflating tires in mind while remaining portable. It delivers a very high 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI, and this matches the more expensive competition.

A 120v motor that is capable of cold weather starting powers it. Therefore, even on frosty mornings, you won’t have any struggles.

It does come with a few plastic parts, and this may be a concern, however, in testing we saw that there was little chance of these breaking if the best portable compressor was used correctly.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • High 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • Six-gallon tank
  • Two hose connectors
  • 1 year warranty

Cons

  • Can be loud
  • Heavier than some
  • Some plastic parts

Technical Specifications

  • Type: oil-free tank
  • Weight: 31 pounds
  • Dimensions: 17 x 17 x 19.2 inches
  • Power: electric cord
  • Maximum PSI: 150
  • CFM: 6 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • Motor: 120v

From start, it takes only 3 minutes to reach the maximum 150 PSI from the 0.8 HP motor. In enclosed spaces, it may seem loud, but like any power tools that are running for long periods, ear protection is necessary.

It does come with two hose outlets, so you can easily power two tools at one during use.

You can get the Bostitch compressor kit with a variety of tools and hoses, but the base unit comes in with a guide price of not much more than $105.

For the performance and power you get, this is the best air compressor for home garage.

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor

2. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor

The Porter Cable C2002 is a decent performing portable air compressor, although weighing in at 34 pounds; it can take some lugging around the home.

From start, it takes a few minutes to reach three quarter maximum pressure, which for some is more than enough.

For two users, it comes with dual hose connectors; however, these are right next to each other at right angles. One hose could pull against the fitting rather than having a natural curve.

During use for testing, we saw that the motor does run hot, and from the many Porter Cable air compressors reviews we read, there were concerns about the breaking-in period before first use.

From Porter Cable air compressors, we would expect the compressor to be ready to go as soon as it was unpacked and prepped.

Pros

  • High 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • Six-gallon tank
  • Two hose connectors
  • 1 year warranty
  • Can run over long periods

Cons

  • Loud
  • Runs hot
  • Air nozzle is flimsy
  • Needs breaking in before first use

Technical Specifications

  • Type: oil-free tank
  • Weight: 34 pounds
  • Dimensions: 19 x 19 x 18 inches
  • Power: electric cord
  • Maximum PSI: 150
  • CFM: 6 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • Motor: 120v

The Porter Cable pancake compressor delivers power, but it comes with a high guide price of anywhere to just over $200, it is a lot to pay for performance that doesn’t go much further than any of the competition.

It is more suited to stay in one place, and if you need a compressor for that, there are better alternatives.

Goodyear i8000 120-Volt Direct Drive Tire Inflator

3. Goodyear i8000 120-Volt Direct Drive Tire Inflator

The Goodyear air compressor is a dedicated tire inflator. This means it isn’t suited for any other purpose. If you need tires inflated on a regular basis, then this small compressor is ideal.

While being the size of a handheld compressor, the size of the Goodyear hides the amount of power the direct drive motor holds, and it can push up to 150 PSI when required.

If you have regular tires, then it is capable of delivering 28 PSI in 2.5 minutes from flat.

This can be the best air compressor for tires in a garage scenario.
It comes with an eighteen foot coiled hose, so you can locate the compressor in the smallest of places and leave access to your nozzle.

Pros

  • Silent
  • Long coiled hose included

Cons

  • Included fittings are low quality
  • No quick release tire valve
  • Tire and other inflatable use only

Technical Specifications

  • Type: direct drive pump
  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Dimensions: 10.4 x 7.9 x 7.4 inches
  • Power: electric cord
  • Maximum PSI: 150
  • Motor: 120v

For users who have lots of inflating to do, there are numerous attachments included with this silent air compressor; however, these are not as well built as the compressor itself.

Additionally, the tire valve was screw on rather than quick release, so it is hard to maintain your pressure. With a guide price of just over $50.00, it is a lot for something that is for tire use only.

However, if you are in the situation where you have a business, or you need plenty of tire inflating, this small nifty Goodyear tire inflator will deliver plenty of years’ service if you purchase better attachments.

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

4. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

The Makita air compressor is a beast in construction compared to many on this list. Like all Makita power tools, the compressor is built to last and the roll cage cast iron construction shows this.

While the quietest air compressor with an oil lubricated pump, the maximum PSI is only 130, which is lower than some of the competition.

It does offer a dual tank design to maintain pressure, so it does have quick recovery times during use.
Versatility isn’t its strong point, and it is geared more to a construction site use, or remaining fixed in position for a serious woodworker.

Pros

  • 1 year parts and labor warranty
  • Quiet
  • Roll cage construction
  • Cast iron materials
  • Dual nozzle attachments
  • Built-in thermal overload

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Low maximum PSI

Technical Specifications

  • Type: oil lubricated
  • Weight: 81 pounds
  • Dimensions: 20 x 18 x 18.75 inches
  • Power: electric cord
  • Maximum PSI: 130
  • Motor: 120v/ 12.3 amps
  • CFM: 4.2

The Makita compressor may also be out of many peoples budget with a guide price of around $450. It is clear they are aiming at one specific market, and that is businesses.

With a built in shut off, it won’t run if it begins to overheat, and being oil lubricated, it prevents wear and tear.

The downside of this compressor is it may require more maintenance than oil free alternatives in the list.

One other safety feature is the low amps it draws; this can prevent breaker trips on startup, which can happen with compressors of this type.

For serious woodworkers, or on construction sites, the Makita Big Bore can make all day working a possibility, but for smaller jobs, it is a little too much.

ONTEL Air Hawk Pro Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator Portable Air Compressor, Easy to Read Digital Pressure Gauge, Built in LED Light

5. ONTEL Air Hawk Pro Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator Portable Air Compressor, Easy to Read Digital Pressure Gauge, Built in LED Light

There are countless Air Hawk Pro reviews, but to find if these are real or not, we ran this cordless compressor through the same tests as all the others.

It isn’t intended for tool use, and is strictly for ties, however, we found tire sizes need to be medium sized at best.

For large tires, which reach 100 PSI, or above, then there is no way this Air Hawk Compressor can cope. For quick use, it may be the best portable air pump for car tires.

You can use it with the rechargeable battery, or it can plug into the cigarette lighter for convenience.

Pros

  • Automatic pressure cut off
  • Digital display
  • Built in LED light
  • Rechargeable battery
  • 12v car adapter included

Cons

  • 6 inch hose
  • Tire or inflatable toy use only
  • No quick release tire adapter
  • Unsuitable for large PSI tires

Technical Specifications

  • Weight: 2.93 pounds
  • Dimensions: 11.5 x 9 x 4 inches
  • Power: battery powered/ cordless
  • Motor: Lithium Ion battery

This Air Hawk air compressor review found the device capable when out on the road, but the 12v portable air compressor comes with a short hose and there is no quick release. Removing it from the tire can be fiddly, and you may lose pressure doing so.

Guide prices range around the $45.00 mark, so it falls into the cheap air compressors bracket, than most of the competition for this type of compressor.

With the adapters, the digital display with automatic cut-off, it may be the best 12-volt air compressor you can keep in your vehicle in case of emergencies.

The Air Hawk air compressor has its uses, and there are many individuals who are happy with the performance of this best budget air compressor.

Uses of Portable Air Compressor

Portable Air Compressor Guide

When looking for an air compressor for around the home, there are a few things to consider. In this guide, you will see what you need to look for.

How to Use an Air Compressor

There are many ways you can use an air compressor, so the use will vary. If you are just looking for tire inflation, then you need one that can ideally be taken on the road.

A battery powered air compressor can be suitable for a flat tire, and can easily be stored in the trunk of your vehicle.

A handheld air compressor has no other use, so they are restricted in purpose. When it comes to jobs around the home, then things differ. A small portable air compressor is very different to a commercial air compressor.

Nonetheless, for jobs around the home, a small electric air compressor is asked to do jobs these larger compressors do, but on a smaller scale.

Oil vs. Oil Less Air Compressor

The way compressors work is, they suck in air via a piston. This is compressed inside the air compressor tank, from here; the air is passed to the tire or the air tools.

To maintain efficiency, the piston chamber requires lubrication.

In oil-free compressors, there is pre-lubrication, and in most cases, Teflon. Oil air compressors will need continual maintenance to keep check of oil levels, but they can be more durable and last longer.

A compact air compressor is more often oil less as they need fewer parts in their construction.

Deliver Continual Power

An air compressor is no good if it can’t deliver continual power to your power tools. This is where the tank capacity comes into play and needs to be sufficient to maintain enough pressure before the pump kicks in again.

A small air compressor often comes without a tank and only relies on the motor running to deliver air.

Pancake compressors are the ideal type for this as they have large tanks, and can easily maintain pressure.

Not only this, they often reach up to 150 PSI, so they are capable of inflating very large tires or running multiple tools without the need to be a really heavy duty compressor.

Power Source

A small compressor for tire inflation can be battery powered. However, for other uses, you will need an electrical power source.

Anything larger than this for full portability and you will be looking into a different realm of gasoline-powered compressors. Home compressors usually run on 120v where larger variants run on 240v.

Other things to Consider

A few other things to consider when purchasing an air compressor is the quality of the air hose, this needs to be strong enough to cope with high pressures.

Not only this, but if they are dragged around a garage or workshop, they will suffer from wear and tear.

For tire inflation, you need a good attachment that comes with a pressure gauge. While the compressors have them built in, this is the tank pressure and not what the compressor is delivering through the pump connector.

One thing that is often overlooked is how well the compressor copes with cold weather. Some may not start easily, or may not start at all if the climate is too cold. Tank pressures will also be different in a colder environment than if it is warm.

Bostitch BTFP02012 Best portable air compressor

Final Verdict

While there was a range of compressors in the reviews, the testing was ideally to find the best small air compressor for home use.

Because a couple didn’t support air tools, these were ruled out because they were limited in use, and not because of performance.

Out of the remaining, the winner became known very quickly. This was the Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor. While it had a couple of faults, none of these was down to performance.

The Bostitch air compressor could deliver better performance than both the more expensive compressors.

Startup times and recovery times were quicker (even in colder weather), and noise levels were lower in many of the tests.

It was capable of running multiple air tools at once with the high 2.6 CFM, as it was to inflating bike tires or inflatables.

The Bostitch compressor is highly affordable, and when cared for, it will deliver years of trouble free service.

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