Best Portable Air Compressors – Ultimate Guide and Reviews in 2020

Best small air compressor

There is a misconception among people that small air compressors cannot run all the air tools as like as larger units do. But do you know mini air compressors outperform those big ones in many cases?
Small compressors are lightweight, less expensive, and easy to carry. While the homeowners and DIYers prefer them thanks to their special applications, professionals love them because of ease of portability. Besides, the smaller the compressors in size, the less space they occupy, making them perfect for home use.

A portable air compressor with 2 CFM can operate almost all pneumatic tools including, nail guns, air guns, hobby painting, and inflating tires and home equipment.

If you are looking for the best small air compressor, this comprehensive guide will help you short out and find the right one. Plus, you will know some tips on how little air compressors outreach the large industrial models.

1. btfp02012 review - bostitch 6 gallon air compressor

BOSTITCH-Pancake-Air-Compressor,-Oil-Free,-6-Gallon,-150-PSI

Top 3 Features

  • 150 PSI maximum pressure
  • 6-gallon tank
  • 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI

BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor holds the top position not only for it’s from a famous and trusted brand but for it has industry rated power. If you plan on purchasing a small compressor but still large enough to run your air tools for a long time, this is going to be your best option. With a 6-gallon tank, it can deliver up to 150 PSI with faster recovery.

But it’s compact enough as well. The pump weighs only 29. Although the pancake-shaped tank looks like tiny but can store more air. If you look at the tank, you cannot believe it has a 6-gallon capacity. The carry handle mounted on the top gives an added portable feature. All you need is to hold the handle and move to the desired place.

The compressor features a high flow regulator and couplers to increase the performance of your tools. Boasted with a low amp motor that starts easily in cold weather, it shows its worth with 2.6 CFM air delivery. As this is an oil-free pump, no or low maintenance is required, saving you an additional charge for lubrication and basic preservation.

The 78.5 decibels operational noise level keeps it fit for a calm environment. It won’t disturb people around your workplace. The well-built portable compressor can work for many projects, including nailing, blowing, inflating, sandblasting, and other jobs around your house.

What I Like

  • Low amp 120V moto for easy start-up
  • High flow regulator and couplers for optimum efficiency
  • Oil-free design for low maintenance and longer life
  • Easy to move around 

What I Don't Like

  • Doesn’t include air hose and gun kits

2. california air tools cat-1p1060s

California-Air-Tools-CAT-1P1060S-Light-&-Quiet-Portable-Air-Compressor,-Silver

Top 3 Features

  • 56-decibel noise level
  • 120 PSI maximum pressure
  • 1.2 CFM at 90 PSI

As the name implies, this model from California, one of the well-reputed pump manufacturers, is the quietest version of air compressor. You will not get the second one as quiet as this unit. California designed it to be the ultra-quiet in the air compressor industry with only 56-decibel noise level!! If you are worried about the extreme noise, this pump is your ultimate solution.

One may have doubts about how a small device like California 1P1060S could operate pneumatic equipment. But it removes your suspicion by fixing your problem in real-life situations. The lightweight pump produces 1.2 CFM at 90 PSI, allowing you to use nail guns, brad guns, finish guns, airbrushes, and blowgun.

It has no issue with different temperatures because of the oil-free pump. While other comparable compressors have less than 250 hours lifecycle, this machine has more than 3000 hours. The tank is made of stainless steel for added durability. But surprisingly, the weight is still only 29 lbs.

Coming to the motor, the company made this unit with 0.6 horsepower motor that operates only at 1680 RPM, resulting in less noise and less wear. The motor is oilless and can refill the tank from empty to full within only 50 seconds. And the recovery time from 90 PSI to 120 PSI is only 15 seconds.

What I Like

  • Ultra-quiet pump for quieter workplace
  • Ultralight for portability
  • Steel air tank for durability
  • Oil-free pump for longer service

What I Don't Like

3. Craftsman 6 gallon - best portable air compessor

CRAFTSMAN-Air-Compressor,-6-gallon,-Pancake,-Oil-Free-with-13-Piece-Accessory-Kit-(CMEC6150K)

Top 3 Features

  • 6-gallon pancake tank
  • Max. pressure 150 PSI
  • 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI

Coming in the third position, CRAFTSMAN Air Compressor offers 13 pieces of accessories, making it ready to go out of the box. The kits include a 25-foot PVC air hose with coupler and plug, tire chuck with plug, blow gun with plug, tire gauge, safety nozzle, rubber tip, and three inflator adapters.

Among all the attachments, the PVC air hose comes in more useful. You don’t need to plug and unplug over and over again after each tire inflation done when you have long hose like this one. This is an excellent value at this price!

The 6-gallon tank delivers 150 PSI adequate pressure for a variety of applications such as brad nailing, stapling, bolting, finish nailing, framing nailing, roof nailing. Proudly made in the USA, the compressor is equipped with an oil-free pump that doesn’t require maintenance, ensuring a long life service. With 2.6 SCFM airflow at 90 PSI, it cycles quickly for a faster recovery.

Two large built-in pressure gauges are easy to read. You don’t need to break your back to have a clear view of pressure readings. One of the latest features is twin ¼ inch NPT ports that let you connect two tools to the compressor at the same time. The pancake shape tank along with the carry handle makes the machine much handier and portable.  craftsman 6 gallon portable electric pancake air compressor perfect for home and garage.

What I Like

  • Durable oil-free pump
  • No maintenance and lubrication required
  • Includes 13 pieces of necessary accessories
  • Easy to transport 

What I Don't Like

  • Somewhat noisy

4. Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV 3 gallon air compressor

Air-Compressor,-Portable,-3-Gallon-Horizontal,-Oilless,-w-10-Piece-Accessory-Kit-Including-Air-Hose-&-Inflation-Gun-(Campbell-Hausfeld-FP209499AV)

Top 3 Features

  • 3-gallon horizontal tank
  • Maximum 110 PSI pressure
  • Weighs only 21lb

Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV is ready to help you finish your projects with its tremendous features. Its 3-gallon horizontal tank, capable of building 110 PSI pressure, provides plenty of power to tackle your DIY project. The compressor boasts 0.36 CFM at 90 PSI to provide a consistent flow that is ideal for stapling, fastening, inflating, and hobby painting.

While 90 PSI consistent output is ample for powering a variety of pneumatic devices, including airbrushes, brad nailers and upholstery projects, and more. The 21lb lightweight construction is portable enough to move one site to another.
If you are in a hurry and want to start your air jobs just right now, you have no option other than this ready-made model. Cambell Hausfeld 3 gallon oilless air compressor equipped it with all basic kits and fittings you need to install the item right out of the box. The kit accessories are 25-foot recoil hose, blow gun, female coupler, two inflation needles, two male plugs, air chuck, inflation adapter, nozzle, and PTFE tape.

The machine is easy to operate. A household 120 V current is enough to operate the motor, and the motor starts quickly even in the higher humidity area. Additionally, the pressure gauges placed conveniently allow the users to read and control the pressure when in use. 

What I Like

  • It’s a very lightweight design
  • Comes with all necessary kits
  • Oil-less pump for maintenance-free operation
  • Ideal for small air projects

What I Don't Like

  • Not suitable for medium and heavy tools

5. northstar 20 gallon air compressor

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

Top 3 Features

  • Gas-powered OHV 163cc engine for low oil shutdown 
  • 130 PSI maximum pressure
  • An incredible 13.7 CFM airflow

Are you fed up with the poor performance of your previous light construction electric-powered compressor? If yes, this sturdy and reliable gas-powered one guarantees the lifetime service. You will never have to worry about your compressor breaking down in the middle of your work. The NorthStar built it with a powerful 163cc engine to withstand heavy-duty applications.

Engineered with superior technology, the compressor keeps working with no interruption. What keeps the compressor running smoothly and dynamically balanced is low vibration technology. While the cast iron made components make it more durable, Swedish premium quality steel valves help it operate without any trouble.

Keeping in mind that the heat is the only roadblock to the longevity of any compressor, the manufacturer designed this unique pump with a V-style cylinder to reduce the heat generation and provide consistent cooling. The overhead-valve engine generates unbelievable 13.7 CFM airflow, meaning that you can operate any powerful tools like paint sprayer and impact wrench.

As regards to the portability, the compressor has two wheels along with a handle for easy transportation. No matter how far your Jobsite is, it will take you on there. Nothing surprising for a powerful pump that it is heavier than most of the other models I have reviewed. 

What I Like

  • Full cast iron pump for durability
  • Low vibration technology for long life
  • V-style cylinder design for cooling operation
  • Swedish steel valves for long valve life
  • Perfect for dense medium to heavy projects

What I Don't Like

  • Too heavy to carry

6. jethax tire inflator - Best Lightweight Air compressor

JETHAX-Air-Compressor-Tire-Inflator,-12V-Portable-Air-Pump-for-Car-Tires,-Tire-Pump-with-LED-Light,-Long-Cable-and-Auto-Shut-Off-Compatible-with-Car,-Bicycle,-Motorcycle,-Balls,-Inflatable-Pool

Top 3 Features

  • 150 PSI maximum pressure
  • 6-gallon tank
  • 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI

Unlike previous versatile air compressors, this tiny compressor is meant for a specific application. Sometimes, you may need a mini air compressor only for inflation. If inflating tires and other inflatable home equipment is your main task, this portable compressor tire inflator is your ideal choice.
Coming with 3 extra nozzles and 1 fuse with long power cord, the inflator fills up the tires of your car, bike, motor and air mattress, boat, ball, and other inflatable things. The eye-catchy design is too appealing and mesmerized me to place it in my top mini compressor list.

One cannot head off to the long ride leaving it behind because of its real-life support on emergency. The inflator is equipped with a long-lasting LED light to help you inflate at night. You are free to travel wherever you wish to go when you have this super handy tool. If a flat tire occurs, the device is ready to air up the tire properly with its built-in digital gauge.


All that you need to do to inflate tires is to plug the compressor into a 12V power outlet and preset the recommended pressure on the digital screen. The rest of the work will be done by the inflator. Thanks to the auto shut off features, the inflation gets stopped automatically when reaching the desired pressure. 

What I Like

  • Low amp 120V moto for easy start-up
  • High flow regulator and couplers for optimum efficiency
  • Oil-free design for low maintenance and longer life
  • Easy to move around 

What I Don't Like

  • Doesn’t include air hose and gun kits

7. senco pC1010 Small air compressor - Electric Powered

Senco-PC1010-1-Horsepower-Peak,-1-2-hp-running-1-Gallon-Compressor

Top 3 Features

  • One horsepower motor
  • 1-gallon aluminum tank
  • 1.4 CFM at 90 PSI

Lastly, I have come with another lightweight and portable air compressor from Senco. This is small yet powerful enough to deal with your household works. It works excellent for airbrush, nailers, pinners, and helps in filling air into tires of bicycle and motorcycle.

Of course, you won’t want your family and neighbors to experience earsplitting noise. Right? This one is as quiet as you wish. The company designed it specially to have an ultra-quiet operation. Even people around the job site cannot realize that the operation is going on. However, this particular unit is easy to operate. Using the carry handle wrapped with foam for comfort, you can carry it site to site as you work.

Built with one horsepower motor that runs without oil, the pump performs all the jobs with no interruption. The aluminum tank comes with a horizontal arrangement and has the 1-gallon capacity. With 120 PSI pressure, it drives 20-44 times per minute. I am sure you will find it better quality than you are expecting, and you will love it thanks to the lowest noise and ultra-lightweight. 

What I Like

  • 20lb lightweight makes more portable
  • Ultra-quiet allows you to talk over the phone at workplace
  • Direct drive motor for efficient operation
  • Ideal for home improvement jobs

What I Don't Like

  • None

best small air compressors - Buyer Guide

Do you know a quality air compressor may not meet your needs? Yes, this happens. If you don’t know what the compressor will be used for, what features it should have, and how powerful it should be, no compressors can solve your problem. There are a few more things to consider before making the final purchase decision. Giving consideration to these important factors can guarantee you that the compressor you have chosen can fulfil your demand. Here is what to look for before buying a mini air compressor.

Noise Level

The first and foremost thing you have to keep in mind when looking for a small compressor is the amount of noise it makes. The small compressors are particularly intended for indoor use. You must be careful about that, especially if you are going to use it in a quiet environment. While some compressors are noisy, others are significantly quieter. Choosing one with more than 80 decibels will hamper you and your neighbors.  

Tank size and design

For small compressors, the tank is a big issue because it is the most significant component of an air compressor. When you look for a best small compressor, you also want it to be compact enough. The tank size and shape of a compressor determine how large or small it would be. For example, a 6-gallon tank must be larger than a 20-gallon.

The tank comes with different styles, including vertical, horizontal, pancake, twin stack, and so on. Of all, the pancake is the best choice if the portability is your big concern. The pancake tank is shaped and designed in such a way that it has a carry handle to move place to place and requires low maintenance.

Power source

You also need to consider the power source; I mean whether the compressor runs on electricity or gas. Both give you different opportunities. If you choose one running on electricity, you need to ensure the electricity source where it will be used. For gas-powered one, no matter wherever you are going to use it. Typically, small units operate on 110V to 120V, whereas large models require 240V or above.

Portability

When it comes to choosing a tiny compressor, the portability is a major issue. One of the reasons that people opt small size compressor is portability. The smaller the compressor in size, the easier it is to move around. With some advantages and disadvantages, smaller units work for you wherever you need them. But large groups, although powerful enough to run any tools, cannot help you in case your workplace is not fixed, especially when working in up staircase.

PSI and CFM

Here is where many make mistakes. Instead of knowing the CFM and PSI that the air tools require, people look for air compressors with high CFM and PSI and get convinced by overrated power. A high CFM and PSI air compressor doesn’t mean it will fix your trouble and give the best result.

You should better know how much airflow and pressure your tools need to run. Fox example, if you need an air compressor for a small workshop and home improvement tools, 2-3 CFM at 90-120 PSI should work best. You can be more specific to the flow and pressure requirement if you look at your air device. Every air tool has specific CFM and PSI recommended by the manufacturer.

Additional accessories

Nowadays, many manufacturers offer some kits and standard manual with the compressor. Don’t forget to ask for those accessories. They are very efficient and essential for settings and fittings. Most of the compressors I reviewed come with these extra components, including air hose and a set of fitting tools, saving you money for purchasing additional items.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the small air compressor designed for?

Small air compressors are more versatile and have plenty of advantages over large units. They are handy useful tools designed to perform light to medium tasks around your house. Here are the most common intended usages of the tiny compressor.

Pneumatic tools

Many light air tools don’t require too much pressure and airflow to run. For example, most of the nailers such as bard nailers, finish nailers need not more than 2 CFM. Using a small lightweight air compressor to power them saves you not only money a lot but also fuel and energy. Of course, you can operate them using powerful industrial compressors, but this won’t be a wise decision and will cost you more.

Inflatable equipment

Car, bike, and bicycle tires are easy to inflate with the mini air compressor and tire inflator. Most of the small compressors and tire inflators come with built-in pressure gauges to see the pressure reading while inflating. Thanks to their compact design and lightweight, they are easy to carry and store in your cars. You can also inflate air mattresses and sports items.

Home and automotive application

Nowadays, the use of small air compressors is also noticeable in cleaning jobs. A small compressor is enough to power an air blower to clean dirt and leaves from the floor of your house and garage. In addition to inflation, you can run most of the automotive tools like small paint sprayer and ratchet using a small compressor. The only difference is that mini compressors cannot run tools as long as the big ones do because of the small tank.

What are the benefits of using small air compressor?

Money-saving

It’s obvious that small air compressors are cheaper than their large counterparts. Usually, the price ranges from $100 to $200, saving you a lot compared to the industrial big size compressor. Using a tiny compressor instead of a costlier battery to power tools like a nailer saves you money as well.

Saves Time

These mini pumps alleviate the need for physical labor to perform many home improvements, garage, and automotive works. They also speed up the process of nailing, sanding, inflating, and spraying and save you valuable time at a substantial amount.

Consumes less electricity

Unlike heavy compressors used in industry, light compressors are boasted with small low amp motors which operate on a household outlet, consuming a lesser amount of power
Easy to transport

Since small compressors consist of light and tiny parts and have compact design, they are easy to carry wherever you need them, making your life easier. Professionals also love them as the secondary unit and keep one with them wherever they work for a better professional life.

Less noise

It’s needless to say that the larger the compressors, the louder they are. The small compressors, therefore, makes less noise relatively. That’s why they are suitable for home use and a quiet environment.

Low maintenance cost

Last but not least, as opposed to big size, little compressors don’t require massive maintenance. A routine check keeps them well in smooth operation.

Wrapping Up

Since most air compressors look almost similar due to same design and components, it’s challenging to choose one over another. Having some technical knowledge will help you differentiate them. Then you need to take some factors like tank design, motor power, pressure and air flow portability, and noise level into consideration to know which one suits you best.

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