Shopping for the best air compressor for automotive air tools?
In today’s guide, we will showcase what we think are the 5 best air compressors on the market. To help you better understand our picks, we will have an in-depth look at their specs, features, and disadvantages.
On top of that, we’ll glance over the key things to consider when shopping for a garage air compressor.
With that, let’s move on to our reviews without further ado!
Top 5 Best Air Compressor For Automotive Air Tools Review in 2021
To make sure that the review is well designed, we spent 100s of hours researching the products, watching videos about the products, and analyzing the brands to come up with options that you will be comfortable buying.
This article includes the product reviews, a comprehensive buying guide, and enough options to shop around for you so you have all the information you need to take informed decisions.
DEWALT DWFP55126 PANCAKE AIR COMPRESSOR
- Delivers very high pressure.
- Very good airflow.
- Reliable enough to start in cold weather.
- Quality control issues.
Up first on our list is DEWALT DWFP55126.
The highlight of this air compressor is its high pressure – up to 165 psi. This is the highest on the list, so you should be able to run pretty much any pneumatic tool with the DEWALT air compressor.
The airflow is also very good in DWFP55126, although it’s not the highest on the list. You may be able to power multiple low-demand tools with this thing. The 6-gallon air tank is pretty nice as well, allowing you to avoid too frequent refills.
What we also like about DWFP55126 a lot is its lightness. Weighing just about 30 pounds, this air compressor is among the lightest on this list. If you think you will have to move your air compressor around often, DWFP55126 might be your best bet.
The DWFP55126 air compressor is reliable enough to start in reasonably cold weather as well, and it also runs fine on< 50 feet,14-gauge, or larger extension cords.
The pump in the DWFP55126 air compressor is oil-free too, which means little to no maintenance compared to oil-lubricated compressors.
Unfortunately, DWFP55126 has a few quality control issues – its plastic components are particularly flimsy – but it’s a solid little air compressor overall. Thanks to its high pressure, it’s also arguably the best air compressor for blowing air or powering demanding tools.
BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor
- High max pressure.
- Very good airflow.
- Can start in reasonably cold weather.
The BOSTITCHBTFP02012 air compressor is very similar to the DEWALT unit we’ve just reviewed, but its air pressures go up to “only” 150 psi. 150 psi is still a lot, so if the extra 15 psi isn’t going to play a huge role for you, perhaps BTFP02012 is the best air compressor for your needs.
The BTFP02012 listed weight is 1 pound lower as well – 29 pounds. The 1-pound difference probably isn’t that significant, but if every ounce matters to you, then BTFP02012 will be a better choice than the DEWALT air compressor.
On the other hand, BTFP02012seems to be a little louder than the DEWALT air compressor. Not that the DEWALT unit is quiet, but if you want to minimize noise, then the DEWALT compressor might be a better choice.
Other than these differences, the BOSTITCH and DEWALT air compressors are nearly identical. Both have maintenance-free oil-less pumps, 2.6 CFM @ 90 psi airflow, and can start-up in cold weather or when running on an extension cord.
Senco PC1010 Air Compressor
- Quieter than other air compressors on the list.
- Very light.
- Relatively low airflow.
The Senco PC1010 air compressor is a wonderful option if you want something on the lower end. PC1010 is a rather inexpensive compressor, so it’s a good choice if you are on a budget.
What’s also super-nice about this air compressor is that its noise level is at a mere 68 dBA – much quieter than all other compressors on this top. PC1010 is light as well – just 20 pounds – so it's easiest to carry too.
Now, what about air compression? Here, PC1010 is comparatively weak. The max pressure goes to 125 psi, which is fairly decent, but the airflow is low – 0.7 CFM at 90 psi. The air tank is sized at just 1 gallon as well, so it’s really small.
With that in mind, PC1010 wouldn’t be a good choice for high-volume jobs. The small tank will force you to put your tool aside and wait for the compressor to refill the tank very frequently.
Besides, this compressor may have inadequate airflow to power demanding tools. Check the specs of your pneumatic instruments to see whether PC1010 will be enough for them.
BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT Air Compressor Combo Kit
- The same benefits as in BOSTITCH BTFP02012.
- Includes not only an air compressor but also a brad nailer, finish nailer, crown stapler, and an air hose.
- Great for the money.
- The included air tools aren’t the greatest for demanding, high-volume jobs.
The BTFP3KIT consists of 3 air tools plus the BOSTITCH BTFP02012 air compressor we’ve reviewed earlier. There is nothing much to add about the air compressor since it’s the exact same unit.
- SB-1850BN brad nailer. This nailer is intended to drive 18-gauge 5/8- to 2-inch brad nailers.
- SB-1664FN straight finish nailer. SB-1664FN is designed to drive 16-gauge 1-1/4- to 2-1/2-inch finish nails.
- BTFP71871 crown stapler. The stapler is designed to drive 3/8-inch crown staples with lengths from 1/4 to 9/16 inches.
Additionally, BOSTITCH includes a 15’ x 1/4” air hose in this kit.
These tools aren’t the most heavy-duty tools you can find out there, but they are decent for starters. Besides, for the money, the BTFP3KIT kit offers excellent value. If the tools included in the kit are just what you are looking for, then you will probably struggle to find a better offer.
Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor
- Excellent choice for demanding applications.
- High airflow.
- Reliable oil-lubricated pump.
- The air tank is kind of small.
Finally, we have the Makita MAC2400 air compressor. This is a rather expensive unit, but it’s an excellent choice if you want something heavy-duty.
Unlike all previous air compressors, MAC2400 has an oil-lubricated pump. This pump design requires some maintenance, but it will live longer and ensure a more reliable engine operation.
The components used in the MAC2400 air compressors are tough as well – most importantly, the cast-iron cylinders and pistons are durable enough to serve you for years. With proper care, of course.
What’s also very nice about the MAC2400 air compressor is its high airflow - 4.8 CFM @ 40 psi and 4.2 CFM @ 90 psi. This is the highest on our list, so if you want to run high-airflow tools, MAC2400 is the best option.
The pressure goes up to a pretty solid 130 psi as well, though this isn’t the highest we’ve seen.
On the flip side, MAC2400 is really heavy – 77 pounds. This is due to the tougher build. But although MAC2400 is difficult to carry, it offers much better longevity and reliability in return compared to the previous picks.
What To Consider When Shopping For A Garage Air Compressor
Now, let’s talk about the key features and specs to consider when shopping for a garage air compressor. Much of what we’ll cover below applies to compressors in general, so if you have previous experience with shopping for an air compressor, it will be very useful for you.
First up, consider CFM, or cubic feet per minute. This spec measures the volume of air that is delivered by the air compressor to your tool.
To pick the right CFM, you should have a look at the CFM requirements of your tools. Say, if your pneumatic impact wrench requires 10 CFM @ 90 psi, then your air compressor should be able to deliver at least 10 CFM at the required pressure. Just in case, you may add 20% on top to have extra CFM.
If you are going to use multiple air tools at once, then add their CFMs together to determine how much airflow you need to power your tools simultaneously at a given pressure.
Keep in mind that CFM is closely tied to compressor airflow because CFM differs based on the pressure you select. With that, when choosing an air compressor, make sure to check how much CFM it produces at several pressure levels. Compare this against the requirements of your tools.
Next, pay attention to the air compressor’s max psi, which is a unit of pressure. This is a no less important spec than CFM.
An important thing to keep in mind with pressure is that if a tool requires specific psi, your compressor must be able to deliver as much pressure as required. For example, if your air impact wrench requires 90 psi, your compressor should be able to deliver exactly that much.
If you fed 80 psi air into a 90 psi tool, then it wouldn’t operate properly because it would lack the air necessary for operation. And on the other hand, if you were to feed 100 psi into the tool, it would probably get damaged.
With that, aside from CFM, also consider how much pressure your pneumatic tools require. Determine which tool needs the highest psi and get a compressor that can deliver at least as much as needed. A good rule of thumb is also to have 20% headroom over what your most demanding tool requires.
Air compressors may store some amount of compressed air in integrated tanks. The larger the tank, the more air you can get out of the compressor without having to refill it.
Tank capacity is quite crucial if you are going to do high-volume jobs and especially if your compressor has high CFM. A high-CFM compressor will run out of air quicker than a low-CFM unit.
If you don’t think that you will be needing plenty of air at a time, then you might be able to get away with a smaller tank. Compressors with small tanks are lighter and cheaper too, so it’s a good idea to stay smaller, if possible.
Next, consider the power source. Since we are talking about automotive uses, your only reasonable option is an electric air compressor. Gas air compressors are much more powerful than electric compressors, but they require maintenance and produce dangerous fumes.
The fumes alone are a huge reason not to buy a gas compressor for garage use. Unless you are going to run the compressor outdoors, a gas compressor is a dangerous tool for automotive applications.
When shopping for an electric air compressor, make sure to check out its power requirements as well. Most air compressors sold in the US-run on 110-120V, while some larger units may require 240V.
Aside from voltage, also check out the amperage to make sure that your garage’s electrical system can power the compressor. If the amperage of the air compressor is too high, the compressor will trip your circuit breaker when running, or it may fry your lines.
Some manufacturers list the engine horsepower of their compressors. Generally, the higher the horsepower, the tougher jobs the air compressor will be able to complete. Air compressors with higher horsepower will produce higher pressures, more CFM, and compress air faster.
However, horsepower alone isn’t a good criterion for choosing an air compressor – you should consider it along with other features and specs we have in our buyer’s guide.
If you are worried about noise, then also have a look at the noise level of the desired air compressor, measured in dBA.
Typically, manufacturers give dBA ratings at a distance (e.g. 70 dBA at 50 feet). However, commonly, they only list the noise level without specifying the conditions in which it has been measured.
For objective comparison between compressors, you should know in what conditions their noise ratings have been measured. Otherwise, you can’t know if the 68 dBA of Senco PC1010 is comparable to BOSTITCHBTFP02012’s 78.5 dBA. Maybe Senco measured the noise from 100 feet, while BOSTITCH from 25 feet.
If you are going to use the air compressor often or for extended periods, then also pay attention to the pump lubrication.
The most durable air compressor pumps are oil-lubricated. These pumps stay cooler, experience low friction, and generally work longer than oil-free pumps.
On the other hand, oil-free pumps are completely maintenance-free, but once the Teflon coating on the cylinder wears out, you may have to replace the entire compressor.
Air compressor form factor
Also, consider the form factor of the desired air compressor. Air compressors come in the following styles:
- Pancake. Pancake compressors (like the DEWALT and BOSTITCH compressors we reviewed) have a small footprint and are often lighter than other compressor types.
- Hot dog. Hot dog compressors are called so because of their horizontal cylindrical tank. These compressors require a lot of floor space, but they are short and thus don’t need much headroom.
- Twin-stack.Twin-stack compressors consist of two horizontal tanks stacked on top of each other. These compressors are large and heavy, but they offer higher tank capacity than the other two types.
- Wheelbarrow. Wheelbarrow air compressors have two horizontal tanks placed next to each other. These compressors are called “wheelbarrow” because they have a wheel and handles to assist with transportation – just like in a wheelbarrow.
Choose an air compressor style based on available space and your needs.
Weight & dimensions
Your garage most likely doesn’t have an endless amount of space in it, so you should pay attention to the dimensions and the weight of the desired air compressor too. Air compressors can be quite bulky and heavy, so size and weight may matter a lot to some homeowners.
Determine how much garage space you can dedicate to an air compressor and choose a unit that fits your constraints. As for weight, a lighter compressor is generally better. But do keep in mind that powerful compressors with large tanks are inherently heavier, so you can only get so light if you need something heavy-duty.
How To Use a Portable Tire Air Compressor
Frequently Asked Questions
What size air compressor do I need for air tools?
This depends on your tools. You should have a look at your air tools’ psi and CFM requirements to determine what you need.
For CFM, you should add together the CFM @ psi requirements for the tools that you want to use simultaneously.
As for psi, make sure that your compressor supports the required air pressure – your tools should get exactly as much as they need, no more and no less.
What is the best air compressor for automotive work?
We think that it’s the Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor. This is a heavy-duty air compressor that will serve you for years and deliver plenty of air for your tools.
How much psi do I need for pneumatic tools?
Typically, air tools require 70 to 90 psi pressure. Most modern air compressors provide way more, so you should be fine.
With that said, make sure to check the psi requirements of your tools before buying anything. Once you do know what your tools require, pick an air compressor accordingly.
What is the best compressor for a home garage?
This depends on your needs. For high-volume jobs, the Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor is a wonderful choice. This is a tough air compressor with a durable engine and plenty of airflows.
If you don’t need the power and durability of MAC2400, then also have a look at the DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Air Compressor or BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor. These air compressors deliver high pressure, decent airflow, and don’t cost a lot.
If you are looking for pneumatic tools as well, then consider the BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT Air Compressor Combo Kit – it includes the BTFP02012 compressor plus a brad nailer, finishes nailer, and a crown stapler.
And finally, if you want something cheap, then the Senco PC1010 Air Compressor may work for your needs just fine. This compressor is pocket-friendly, light, compact, quiet, and is a good pick for lighter jobs.
What is a good compressor for inflating car tires?
To inflate car tires safely, you need to know the air pressure required by the tires. Typically, you can find psi recommendations on a sticker placed on the door jamb on the driver’s side. Follow the pressure recommendations to choose the right compressor for the job.
Any of the air compressors reviewed earlier could work for inflating car tires. Just make sure to check out your tires’ recommended pressure and choose an air compressor accordingly.
So there you have it!
If you still aren't sure, then here are a few recommendations for choosing the best air compressor for automotive air tools:
- For most homeowners, we think that DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake Air Compressor or BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor are excellent choices. If you want some air tools too, then consider the BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT Air Compressor Combo Kit as well.
- For low budgets, the Senco PC1010 Air Compressor is the right option.
- And for heavy workshop use, the Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor is one of the best air compressors out there.
Feel free to look around more if you don't think that these compressors are right for you!