The 7 Best Portable Air Compressors – Reviews & Buying Guide

Best Portable Air Compressor

If you were to make a small list of some of the most useful equipment to have in the workshop, garage or just around the home, a portable air compressor would probably be among the first ones to write down.

Air compressors can be handy for everything from inflating tires to powering tools but the portable ones also of the advantage of allowing you to use them from almost anywhere.

But, when it comes to portability, the term can mean different things to different people. For many users, they are the lightweight and easy to move around air compressors.

However, for others, they are the battery-powered models you can carry in your car or bike for dealing with emergency flat tires.

Regardless of what portability means to you, this piece is for you as we explain the important things to consider when picking the best portable air compressors, and also review 7 of the top-rated models in the market

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Product Name

Power

Tank Capacity

Weight

Rating

Current Price

Porter-Cable C2002 Pancake Compressor

Porter-Cable C2002 Oil-Free Portable Air Compressor

Electric, 10 Amp

6.0 gal.

34 lbs

4.4

Kensun AC/DC Swift Performance Portable Air Compressor

Kensun AC/DC Swift Performance Portable Air Compressor

Electric, 10 Amp

N/A

3.95 lbs

4.2

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Portable Air Compressor

Electric, 13.8 Amp

5.2 gal.

104.4 lbs

4.2

Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor

Bostitch BTFP02012 Oil-Free Portable Air Compressor

Electric, 10.5 Amp

6.0 gal.

29 lbs

4.3

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

Makita MAC2400 Portable Air Compressor

Electric, 12.3 Amp

4.2 gal.

77 lbs

4.5

Senco PC1131 Portable Air Compressor

Senco PC1131 Portable Air Compressor

Electric, 14 Amp

4.6 gal.

60 lbs

3.6

Campbell Hausfeld 3-Gallon Portable Air Compressor

Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Portable Air Compressor

Electric, 3 Amp

3.0 gal.

20.1 lbs

3.5

#1. Porter-Cable C2002 Oil-Free Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating: (4.4 / 5)

Porter-Cable C2002 Oil-Free Portable Air Compressor
  • Power: Electric, 10 Amp
  • Tank Capacity: 6.0 gallons
  • Weight: 34 pounds

The relatively larger tank capacity, high-pressure output, and relatively affordable price tag combine to make the Porter-Cable C2002 the best portable air compressor for the money on our list.

Although there are still a few other cheaper options on our list, none of them have a higher tank capacity or pressure output than this.

It features a 150 PSI max 6-gallon tank that will store a lot of air to ensure long run times. And with its 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI you will also get significantly quicker compressor recovery times.

The tank comes in a pancake style for added stability, and it also includes some rubber feet and a drainage valve to make it even more convenient when using it for various applications around the home.

With the durable oil-free and maintenance-free pump on this portable air compressor, you can also be confident of a long and cost-effective service life. There are also two factory installed air couplers which means that the air compressor can support two users.

Also, you will get a 13-piece accessory kit on your purchase to make the Porter-Cable C2002 useful for a variety of cleaning and inflation applications.

Pros:

  • Relatively larger tank capacity
  • More stable pancake-style tank
  • Durable oil-free pump
  • Easy start motor
  • Quick compressor recovery time

Cons:

  • Quite a loud compressor

#2. Kensun AC/DC Swift Performance Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)

Kensun AC/DC Swift Performance Portable Air Compressor
  • Power: Electric, 10 Amp
  • Weight: 3.95 pounds

For those that are shopping for something to help with simple tasks like inflating tires, this is the best budget portable air compressor for you.

It is a small and compact air compressor that is very convenient to store and carry around in your car. And to make it even more convenient, it is adaptable to both AC and DC which means you can use it either from your car's cigarette socket or wall socket at home.

This air compressor uses an analog gauge that is quite accurate to help prevent over-inflation and it also comes with multiple accessory nozzles for increased versatility.

The compact portable air compressor is the cheapest and lightest item on our list. And it also includes a handy built-in handle for easy carrying and will come with a durable carry case.

Pros:

  • Adaptable to both AC and DC
  • Accurate analog gauge
  • Multiple accessory nozzles
  • Convenient carry handle included
  • Comes in a durable case

Cons:

  • Low maximum pressure output

#3. Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Portable Air Compressor
  • Power: Electric, 13.8 Amp
  • Tank Capacity: 5.2 gallons
  • Weight: 104.4 pounds

Makita MAC5200 is by far the most powerful portable air compressor on our list, and so if you are looking for something for medium and heavy-duty applications, this is what you need to buy.

Although it is also the priciest item on our portable air compressor reviews, the massive power, and impressive performance make it worth it.

It runs on a powerful 3.0 horsepower motor that will deliver 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI for increased productivity, and the 5.2-gallon tank should also be large enough for most users.

The durable cast-iron cylinder reduces wear to ensure that the pump lasts for a long time, and is also removable for fast and easy maintenance.

This powerful air compressor also includes some rugged wheels for easier job site portability and low-profile folding handle to make moving and storing it easier.

There is also a built-in compartment for convenient fittings and accessories storage, and some handy tool hangers that will hold the tools when not in use.

Other great features on this portable air compressor include the large automotive style air filter that increases air intake for greater efficiency and the roll cage design for an additional pump and motor protection.

Pros:

  • More powerful motor
  • Durable cast-iron cylinder
  • Protective roll cage construction
  • Built-in storage compartment
  • Rugged wheels included

Cons:

  • Quite pricey for small air compressor
  • Oil-lubricated pump can be messy

#4. Bostitch BTFP02012 Oil-Free Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating:  (4.3 / 5)

Bostitch BTFP02012 Oil-Free Portable Air Compressor
  • Power: Electric, 10.5 Amp
  • Tank Capacity: 6.0 gallons
  • Weight: 29 pounds

Electric portable air compressors like the Bostitch BTFP02012 are always great equipment to have at home as they can be useful for a variety of inflation and cleaning applications and also for operating tools.

This top-rated portable air compressor has a 6.0-gallon tank with 150 PSI max and 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI for longer run times and quick recovery.

It also uses a highly efficient 10.5-amp motor that ensures easy start even in cold weather to make this a great air compressor for use in any season.

This pancake-style air compressor uses a long life oil-free and maintenance-free pump that is very convenient as it eliminates the need for daily maintenance and the risk of staining surfaces.

With a noise rating of 78.5 dBA, this is a relatively quieter air compressor. Although it still makes some noise it is significantly low noise when compared to many other similar air compressors.

There is also a high flow regulator and coupler which play an integral role in maximizing the performance of air tools.

Pros:

  • Convenient oil and maintenance free pump
  • Easy motor startups
  • Relatively low operating noise level
  • High flow regulators and couplers
  • Quicker recovery and long runtimes

Cons:

  • Does not comes with the accessory kit

#5. Makita MAC2400 Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating: (4.5 / 5)

Makita MAC2400 Portable Air Compressor
  • Power: Electric, 12.3 Amp
  • Tank Capacity: 4.2 gallon
  • Weight: 77 pounds

Besides being powerful and highly efficient, a good portable air compressor should also be tough enough for improved job site durability. The Makita MAC2400 is a great example of one such air compressor.

It uses a 2.5 horsepower 4-pole motor that is one of the most powerful on our list. The motor delivers 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI for increased productivity, faster recovery time and low noise levels. And it makes this one of the best portable air compressors in its class for small and medium tasks.

The roll-cage construction is another great feature as it provides complete protection for the air compressor to ensure it can withstand regular job site abuse.

With this portable air compressor, you also never have to worry about tripping the circuit breaker because the motor is low Amp draw type.

Another impressive feature that many users will love is the large automotive style air filter as it increases air intake and ensures greater efficiency.

Also, the Makita MAC2400 is fitted with a highly durable cast iron cylinder that minimizes wear to increase pump life. And it has an oil sight glass that will make maintenance fast, easy and more efficient.

Pros:

  • Powerful and low amp draw motor
  • Durable cast-iron construction
  • Larger and more efficient air filter
  • Protective roll-cage

Cons:

  • Relatively pricier and heavier

#6. Senco PC1131 Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating: (3.6 / 5)

Senco PC1131 Portable Air Compressor
  • Power: Electric, 14 Amp
  • Tank Capacity: 4.6 gallon
  • Weight: 60 pounds

The impressive fill and refill speeds when using the Senco PC1131 to power tools make it one of the fastest portable air compressors both on our list and in the market.

But besides the impressive speed, this 4.6-gallon air compressor also performs well in various other aspects.

The first and probably some of its best features are the direct drive pump and induction motor as they provide an efficient and more reliable operation.

This air compressor also comes with a tough and highly durable cast-iron cylinder that helps to ensure a long pump life. And if you combine this with the oil-splash design you have an exceptionally durable air compressor.

It draws only 14 Amps, and so you will never have to worry about tripping the circuit breaker. Also, it uses a cold start valve to ensure easy start-up even in cold weather.

And because it generates up to 4.4 CFM, it will be a great choice for a variety of applications from inflation to powering finish and framing nailers.

Pros:

  • Heavy duty induction motor
  • Durable cast iron cylinder
  • Easy cold weather start-up
  • Low amp draw
  • Durable dual vertical stack tanks

Cons:

  • Inconvenient pressure gauges placement

#7. Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating: (3.5 / 5)

Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Portable Air Compressor
  • Power: Electric, 3 Amp
  • Tank Capacity: 3.0 gallons
  • Weight: 20.1 pounds

Here is another lightweight portable air compressor that will be great for use around the home and for carrying for your hobby projects.

It is a 3-gallon horizontal tank air compressor that will operate on standard house voltage and is capable of producing 0.36 CFM at 90 PSI. This means that it will be very useful for applications like tire and ball inflation and for powering airbrushes and brad nailers.

The oil-less pump is also a great addition to the air compressor as it not only ensures maintenance-free ownership but also eliminates the risk of staining your surfaces when using it.

This handy portable air compressor also has conveniently located gauges that are fast and easy to read. And its lightweight and compact design mean that it will take up little space in your garage when not in use.

You will also not need to wait before using it thanks to the 10-piece accessory that is included in the package as it makes it ready for immediate use. The accessory kit also includes some highly useful things like a hose, inflation needles, and the necessary fittings.

Pros:

  • Oil-less and maintenance-free pump
  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Accessory kit included
  • Convenient placed and easy to read gauges

Cons:

  • Relatively smaller tank capacity

How to Buy Portable Air Compressors

How to Buy Portable Air Compressors

Portability means convenience and so this is one of the key elements that many people will look for in an air compressor. And because manufacturers understand this, what it means is that there are many good portable air compressors in the market.

But, picking the right one for your needs should not be a hassle if you know what to look for, and all it takes is to understand the following points.

#1. Purpose

Like with most other tools and equipment, the first step is always to understand how you intend to use the portable air compressor.

While portability can mean that you want something to carry around in your car or to different job sites, you still need to determine the particular tasks you want to use it for.

For example, if you only want something to carry to the court for inflating basketballs, a small and less powerful air compressor can be good enough.

However, if you also want your air compressor to be able to inflate large tires or power pneumatic tools you need something more powerful and with a larger tank capacity.

#2. Power

An air compressor's power is measured in horsepower and it is one of the key determinants of its overall performance and usefulness.

Even for portable air compressors, the power will depend on the size and design. But it is important to note that the higher the horsepower the more flexible the air compressor will be and the higher the CFM it will generate.

However, as you are considering the horsepower, it is also important to keep other facts in mind such as more power often means a larger motor which in turn translates to a heavier air compressor. And this can affect its portability.

#3. Tank Capacity

The tank is what stores the compressed air that makes the air compressor function, and so its capacity is an important factor that affects the performance.

Tank capacity for air compressors will range anywhere from 1 to 10 gallons but portable ones will often have relatively smaller tanks to keep their weight down to enhance portability.

The biggest shortcoming with small capacity tanks is that they can only be used for short periods before giving the compressor time to refill.

When it comes to tank capacity, you should always go for the largest possible that will not affect the portability of the air compressor.

#4. Performance

Although you cannot be certain how a particular portable air compressor will perform until you get to use it a few times, there are some things that can give you some good hints.

Key among these things is CFM and PSI. The higher the PSI the better as it means the compressor can store more air for longer run times.

Also, higher CFM air compressors are a much better option as they are more versatile because they can run larger tools or be used for more demanding applications.

Generally, you should watch out for the recovery time and run times as they will always give you a good idea of how the portable air compressor will perform.

#5. Warranty

Whether you are buying a portable air compressor for domestic or commercial use, you should never settle for anything that does not come with a warranty.

Also, make sure that the warranty is reasonably long enough. Because, you will hardly get a manufacturer that will provide a lifetime warranty for an air compressor, something backed by at least a 1-year limited warranty should be good enough.

And also remember to read different portable air compressor reviews on the brands and models you are interested in buying to determine if the company has a reputation of honoring warranty terms or not.

#6. Price

Price will always be an important factor when it comes to making your buying decision on which portable air compressor to buy.

Luckily, these air compressors are some of the cheapest and this is more so if you do not plan on going for the battery-powered models.

You can get a good portable air compressor for just over $100 but some models will go for close to $500 or even more depending on the size and capabilities.

Hence, once you identify your needs you should come up with a budget and look for a model that suits the intended purpose and is within or close to your budget.

Conclusion

A portable air compressor is very convenient as you can move it around your home or carry around from one work site to the other almost effortlessly.

But, to get this and the many other benefits that come with these tools, you need to choose the best by considering factors like power, tank capacity, and overall performance.

With our 7 best portable air compressor reviews for recommendations, you also now have some high-quality models to choose from, and you only need to go for what best suits your applications.