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Choosing The Best Air Compressor For Your Toolkit Or Shop

teal blue air compressor resting on a metal floor in a workshop

There are a lot of useful tools that rely on an air compressor to function, which makes compressors an important power tool in any workshop. So, whether you’re furnishing your shop or replacing your old pump, getting a decent air compressor is an important upgrade to keep your shop functional and in tip-top shape.

What To Look for in an Air Compressor?

Air compressors aren’t a cheap investment, so before purchasing one it is important to consider exactly what you’re looking to get out of one.

  • Pressure: The most important thing in an air compressor is, of course, the ability to compress air. Some tools require—or operate more efficiently at—higher pressures (PSI), so it’s important to choose a compressor that fits the tools you’re planning on using.
  • Capacity: Differences in tank capacity change how long you can use the compressor before it needs to kick back on and repressurize. If you’re working away from a power source, the tank capacity is going to matter a lot more than if you can always work while plugged in.
  • Power Required: One negative to electric air compressors is that they can draw a lot of power at once. They even have a history of tripping circuit breakers because of this. So, making sure the compressor that you buy will work in all your shop outlets is incredibly important before you waste your money buying something that shuts your power off every time you plug it in.

If you have figured out what you’re looking for, we have picked out a few great options and listed them below.

Best Overall: PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor

air compressor atop a round red base

If you need an air compressor for your shop or jobs around the house, Porter-Cable compressors are some of the best you can purchase. The six-gallon tank on this compressor has a max PSI of 150, which should be enough for most tools. The motor draws power at a low amperage which should help it start without tripping your circuit breaker even in the cold. The pump doesn’t use any oil which means you don’t need to spend any extra time maintaining the machine, just plug and go.

Best Overall

PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)

This six-gallon air compressor has a max PSI of 150 and runs at a low amperage to help it start in all conditions.

Best Value: BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo

air compressor atop a round yellow base with a cord and three tools

This is a great air compressor from Bostitch. It has a six-gallon capacity and a max PSI of 150. The pump is made to be quiet while in use and oil-free which saves maintenance time. The compressor also comes with three air-powered tools: An 18-gauge brad nailer that can handle nails from 5/8″ to 2″, a three-eighths inch crown stapler that holds stapes from 1/4″ to 9/16″, and a 16-gauge straight finish nailer that can drive in nails ranging from 1.25″ to 2.5″.

All of these tools come together in one package that will let you hit the ground running with your next project.

Best Value

BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit, 3-Tool (BTFP3KIT) & 18 Gauge Brad Nails, 2-Inch, Coated, 1000 per Box (BT1350B-1M)

This six-gallon compressor also comes with a brad nailer, a crown stapler, and a straight finish nailer.

Best For Tires: EPAuto Portable Air Compressor

handheld black and blue air compressor

If you like to always be prepared while on the road, a portable air compressor like this one is useful to keep in the trunk with you. The compressor draws power using the standard 12V car socket, so you should be able to run it off just your car battery. It also comes equipped with a small, easy-to-read pressure display and has buttons to set your desired pressure. When the compressor reaches the set pressure, it automatically shuts off, so you don’t overfill your tires.

It’s important to note that this air compressor does not work with truck tires, so if you need something more heavy-duty, then you’re going to have to look elsewhere.

Best For Tires

EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator

This portable air compressor draws power from the cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle and is perfect to keep with you in case you need to fill your tires.

Best Premium: Makita Big Bore Air Compressor

teal blue air compressor

If you need more than the standard compressor will give you, this one from Makita has you covered. It has two separate 4.2-gallon tanks that deliver 40 to 90 PSI each—enough to operate two separate nailers at the same time. The pump is made of cast iron and is oil-lubricated, which might add to maintenance, but it helps the compressor run cooler and more efficient than an oil-free model.

The compressor is covered by a roll-cage that is built to take some serious beatings without damaging the compressor. It also has an industrial air filter designed to intake air as quickly as possible. From capacity to construction, this compressor is designed with quality in mind.

Best Premium

Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP* Big Bore™ Air Compressor

This air compressor lets you use two tools at the same time with its twin 4.2-gallon tanks and efficient cast-iron pump.

Whether you need an air compressor for spray painting, tire filling, or nailing, purchasing a high-quality option will make sure you’re always prepared for whatever job comes your way.

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