Companies have made amazing strides in battery technology. Modern battery-powered tools are more powerful than ever before and can run longer than before. There are hundreds of good things to say about battery-powered tools, but if you’ve ever tried to remove a crankshaft bolt with a battery-powered impact gun, you know that they lack that oomph. The firepower is missing. Removing crankshaft bolts and rusty lug nuts is an easier task if you have an air compressor and an air impact wrench. Air compressors can also be used to inflate tires, wash your car with a pressure washer, and quickly remove loads of bolts with an air ratchet.
Beyond being useful for automotive work, air compressors can be used around the house for DIY tasks. While expensive, air compressors are a must-have for any auto enthusiast that works on their vehicle and has access to some kind of storage or garage. There are a variety of air compressors on the market, including ones that run on gas, have wheels for extra portability, and that operate quietly.
If you’re looking to get an air compressor, these are the nine best options on the market.
Best Small Air Compressor: Metabo HPT “The Tank”
Called “The Tank,” probably because of its stubby design, the six-gallon Metabo HPT pancake air compressor is the best small compressor you can buy. Its design means that it’s lightweight, tipping the scales at just 41 pounds. Despite its small stature, The Tank can operate at 200 PSI and is capable of handling five 18-gauge brad nailers simultaneously. As far as pancake compressors go, The Tank wipes the floor with the competition.
Best Cordless Air Compressor: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2-Gallon Quiet Compressor 2840
One of the best aspects of battery-powered tools is their flexibility. While everyone would love to work out of a spot-free garage, breakdowns can happen anywhere. And for car owners that live in apartment complexes and don’t have the need for a massive air compressor or tons of wall outlets to plug into, a battery-operated compressor like the Milwaukee M 18 Quiet Compressor is an excellent option.
Not only is the battery-powered M18 Quiet Compressor supremely portable, it’s also quiet. The company claims it operates at 65 dB. That’s quieter than a lawnmower or a vacuum cleaner. Depending on what kind of work you need to get done, you’re going to have to invest in some serious batteries, as Milwaukee claims the best battery in its arsenal can provide up to 1,600 brad nails per charge. When it comes to maximum portability and versatility, nothing quite matches this battery-powered air compressor.
Best Shop Air Compressor: Ingersoll Rand SS5L5
The Ingersoll Rand SS5L5 is for professionals. If you spend countless hours in your garage working on cars until the wee hours of the morning, then this is the air compressor for you. Be warned, it’s insanely expensive. But you’re getting a 5 horsepower, 60-gallon tank, a maximum pressure of 135 PSI, a cast-iron design, and a recovery rate of 18.1 CFM at 90 PSI. At 310 pounds, this air compressor is massive and should remain in one spot after it’s been plopped down. For DIYers that only want the best, this is the compressor to have.
Best Overall Air Compressor: Rolair VT25Big Air Compressor
Usually, consumers like to get one thing that can wear many hats. If you’re in a similar boat where you’re looking to find one air compressor that can do it all, the Rolair VT25BIG air compressor is an excellent do-it-all option. It has a 5.3-gallon tank and a maximum of 90 PSI. With two wheels and a nifty fold-out handle, the compressor is easy to handle. The one downside with Rolair’s air compressor is that it has a splash lubricated design, so you’ll have to keep a watchful eye on its oil levels.
Best Portable Air Compressor: Viair Portable Air Compressor
If you’re looking for a highly portable air compressor that you’ll primarily use to fill up your car’s tires, the Viair 88P is a good option to keep in the garage. It comes with two alligator clamps to run on your car’s battery and has a 16-foot hose to ensure you’ll be able to reach all of your tires. If you plan to go off-roading, this is the kind of air compressor you’ll want to bring along when you’re finished hitting the trails and need to get your tires back up to the right pressure again.
Best Wheelbarrow Air Compressor: Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 Air Compressor
The Campbell Hausfeld air compressor has a useful wheelbarrow design that lets you lug it everywhere you want to go. It’s got a large eight-gallon tank and a maximum 125 PSI rating. The compressor’s design makes it 50% quieter than the majority of other similarly sized compressors on the market. Apparently, this compressor is only 68 dB loud when it’s running. Additionally, because of its oil-free pump and induction motor, you won’t have to worry about constant maintenance.
Best Quiet Performance: California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor
One of the worst things about air compressors is how they loud they are. Even if you live in a rural area, some neighbors won’t like the fact that you’re using a compressor on the weekends. If noise is a major factor for you, California Air Tools’ 8010 Ultra Quiet air compressor is the best option. The company claims the air compressor is only 60 dB loud when it’s running, which means you’ll be able to hold a normal conversation or work inside your garage when it’s on. It’s also super quick, as it only takes 130 seconds to fill the eight-gallon tank from empty and has a recovery time of 30 seconds to go from 90 PSI to 120 PSI.
Best Wheeled Air Compressor: Dewalt D55146 Air Compressor
Sticking wheels to an air compressor greatly improves its mobility. While some compressors come with wheels, not all of them are built equally. The Dewalt D55146 air compressor has relatively massive, 10-inch non-flat foam tires to handle rigorous trips from one garage to another. The compressor also has a collapsible handle and vertical stand for ease of use. Max PSI is rated at 225 and the design of the compressor is oil-free, which drastically reduces maintenance.
Best Gas-Operated Air Compressor: Industrial Air Contractor CTA5090412
If power outlets and batteries are in short supply, gasoline is the only power source you can really count on. When it comes to trusty gas-powered air compressors, Industrial Air Contractor’s is a good option. It features a 5-horsepower Honda motor and an oil-free direct-drive pump for little maintenance. The pontoon-style design of the two-gallon tank makes it easy to store in a garage, too.
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