The Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars 2021 : Top 5 Picks Plus Buying Guide

Looking for the best air compressor for painting cars is one of the most confusing tasks for beginners. And we can’t blame you - with the many options out there, it’s easy to feel lost and intimidated by all the specs being thrown at you.

In most instances, a 60-gallon air compressor is often recommended, but these large machines also come with hefty price tags. That’s not very practical, especially if you’re only planning to use it for residential use.

In this article, we will introduce you to the best air compressors for spray painting cars without hurting your wallet. We’ll help you realize that you don’t need a large capacity tank - all you need is to know how to paint a car with a small air compressor.

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Top 5 Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars Product Reviews

In identifying the best air compressors in the market today, we looked into its airflow rate, the type of motor used, and how durable they are to ensure that you get your money’s worth. And once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you can look into its tank capacity, which greatly depends on the kind of paint job you have to do.

We’ll discuss more on the buying guide later. For now, here are our top 5 picks for the best air compressor for painting cars.

DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor

DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor
Features :
  • Maximum Capacity : 6 Gallons
  • Maximum PSI : 165
  • Flow Rate : 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
  • Motor : 120V, 10-amp universal motor
  • Weight : 30 pounds
  • Warranty : 1-year limited warranty
Pros :
  • It is easy to operate.
  • The high-efficiency motor offers easy startup even during cold weather.
  • It offers easy and thorough tank draining.
  • It is low maintenance.
  • The protective rubber leg keeps the unit in place.
  • It has a compact and portable design.
  • It offers good value for the money.
Cons :
  • It has a low tank capacity.
  • Some users report air leaks.

If you’re looking for an efficient yet compact air compressor for painting cars, we believe the Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor is right up your alley.

It features a powerful 10-amp universal motor that helps pump up to 165 PSI. It has an impressive flow rate of 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI or 3.7 SCFM at 40 PSI. This is a decent flow rate that can certainly get the job done.

The Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor has a 6-gallon tank, which often invites the question, “can you paint a car with a 6-gallon air compressor?” Considering the airflow on this unit, you can definitely get by with painting your car with this 6-gallon air compressor. This unit would be great if you’re planning to paint small portions of your car at a time, or if you’re painting in details.

We also love that this air compressor is easy to operate. It has a minimalist control panel that will not leave you guessing as to its functions. This makes it perfect for beginners since you won’t have to deal with a complicated setup.

You don’t have to worry about disturbing your neighbors, either. The Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor has a noise level of 75.5 dBA, which is similar to the sound of a vacuum cleaner. While it doesn’t offer completely silent operation, it’s not as loud as the other air compressors in the market.

And once you’re done painting, storage won’t be a problem. It has compact dimensions and only weighs a little over 30 pounds. This makes it highly portable, so taking it in and out of your storage space won’t be troublesome.

Overall, we believe the Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor would work best for minor paint jobs. If you're a beginner or someone who has taken an interest in painting in interesting designs on cars, this is the best air compressor for you.

California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor

California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor
Features :
  • Maximum Capacity: 8 Gallons
  • Maximum PSI: 120
  • Flow Rate: 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI
  • Motor: 1-Horsepower Motor
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • Warranty: 1-year limited warranty
Pros :
  • It has a sturdy and durable construction.
  • It offers a smooth and reliable performance.
  • It operates quietly.
  • It is low maintenance.
  • It offers the best value for the money.
Cons :
  • It is heavy and bulky.
  • It is prone to overheating.

The California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor is another top contender for the best air compressor for auto body work.

It has a powerful 1-horsepower motor that allows it to pump up to 120 PSI. It also produces an airflow of 2.20 CFM at 90 or to 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI. This is a decent airflow to help you finish minor paint jobs on your car.

The California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor has an 8-gallon maximum tank capacity, which is a decent size for an auto body air compressor. Nevertheless, it has a 165-second time to fill in the tank, which saves you a lot of time. So even if you have to keep refilling the tank to finish painting the whole car, you won't waste time at all.

We must also note that this air compressor has an oil-free pump, which saves you a lot of time and money on maintenance work. This also guarantees that the unit will be useful for a long time.

While we’re on the subject of longevity, the California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor has a steel tank and frame. This material is known for its durability, so you know that it’s built to last - definitely worth the money.

While this air compressor weighs around 48 pounds, it comes with a convenient handle and a pair of wheels so you can move it around with ease.

And finally, this unit has an ultra-quiet operation, which you can already guess from its name. It has a noise level of just 60 dBA, which is not bothersome at all. In fact, it is 30% quieter than other air compressors in the market. Thus, you never have to worry about disturbing the neighbors when you're using this unit.

Overall, the California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor certainly gets the job done. It is sturdy, reliable, and has an impressive airflow that makes it a great air compressor for painting cars. It is also the best air compressor for painting furniture, so you can use it for other purposes.

Porter-Cable Pancake Air Compressor

PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor
Features :
  • Maximum Capacity : 6 Gallons
  • Maximum PSI : 150
  • Flow Rate : 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI
  • Motor : 120-volt motor
  • Weight : 34 pounds
  • Warranty : 1-year limited warranty on compressor components
Pros :
  • It is affordable.
  • It is easy to operate.
  • It delivers unmatched accuracy.
  • It is lightweight and portable.
  • It is low maintenance.
  • It has an impressively quick compressor recovery time.
Cons :
  • Some users report air leaks.

Another top contender for the best air compressor for automotive painting is the Porter-Cable Pancake Air Compressor. This compact unit proves that you don’t need a big machine to get the job done.

This portable air compressor has a low-amp 120-volt motor that can produce air pressure of up to 150 PSI. This works well to produce a reliable flow rate of 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI or 3.7 SCFM at 40 PSI. These numbers instantly tell us that this works great for retouching paint jobs on your car and for other household chores.

Also, the low-amp motor easily starts up, even if you’re using it under cold weather conditions. So even if you have to take a quick break, you won’t be wasting a lot of time and get things done immediately.

The six-gallon Porter-Cable Pancake Air Compressor comes with a durable oil-free pump, making it low maintenance. This takes a lot of time off of your shoulders, so you can focus on more important tasks at hand.
The pancake design on this compressor makes it incredibly compact for convenient storage. And at just 34 pounds, you won’t have a problem with carrying it to wherever you want to work.

All things considered, the Porter-Cable Pancake Air Compressor is an affordable all-around air compressor for residential use. Whether you plan to use it for painting your car or other furniture, you can expect this to work beyond expectations.

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor
Features :
  • Maximum Capacity : 5.2 Gallons
  • Maximum PSI : 140
  • Flow Rate : 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI
  • Motor : 3-horsepower motor
  • Weight : 75 pounds
  • Warranty : 1-year warranty on parts and labor
Pros :
  • It has an impressive flow rate of 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI.
  • It is easy to operate.
  • It boasts a quick compressor recovery time.
  • It has a very stable construction.
  • The engine is very powerful.
Cons :
  • It is heavy and bulky.
  • It is quite pricey.

In terms of tank capacity, you might think that the Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor is the smallest air compressor for painting cars. But what it lacks in capacity, it makes up for in its unrivaled airflow - making it the most efficient unit in this list.

With a powerful 3-horsepower motor, this air compressor helps deliver an impressive 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI or 6.9 CFM at 40 PSI. These are the perfect rates to help you complete your car-painting project as efficiently as possible.

Also, it uses a cast iron pump with a Big Bore cylinder and piston that produces the right amount of pressure you need for every job with the least recovery time. This allows you to finish the job fast, so you can work on other projects.

The Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor has an oil-lubricated pump, which helps maintain the temperature levels. This prevents the whole unit from overheating, so you can use it for extended periods. As a result, you’re assured that your air compressor won’t easily break down.

We also love how portable it is. While it is considered a heavy machine at 75 pounds, it comes with a pair of wheels and a handle, so transporting it won't be a problem. This is convenient if you do your work all around the house. And even if you have to work away from home, the wheels are rugged enough to take on whatever path you're traversing.

The Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor has a low-profile design that helps give it a stable footing while you work. And since the handlebars can be folded over the air compressor, it becomes a compact unit that can be safely stored away when you’re not using it.

Thus, the Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor is one of our choices for the best air compressor for painting cars because of its efficiency, power, and convenience.

California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor

California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor
Features :
  • Maximum Capacity : 10 Gallons
  • Maximum PSI : 125
  • Flow Rate : 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI
  • Motor : 2-horsepower motor
  • Weight : 82.5 pounds
  • Warranty : 1-year limited warranty
Pros :
  • It has an impressive airflow.
  • It operates quietly.
  • It has a rugged construction.
  • The oil-free pump makes it low maintenance.
  • It offers good value for the money.
Cons :
  • It is heavy and bulky.
  • It is not easy to operate.

If you’re looking for a heavy-duty air compressor for spray painting cars, then look no further than the California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor.

This air compressor has a powerful 2-horsepower motor that works to produce an airflow of 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI or 6.40 CFM at 40 PSI. These are the recommended flow rates for painting, especially if you have to work on the whole car. And with a 10-gallon tank, you’re sure to get the job done without any problem.

The California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor is made with a steel tank and a cast aluminum cylinder. These materials are known for their strength and durability, so you know that it’s built to last for a long time. This assures you that your money won’t go to waste.

Despite being a heavy-duty air compressor, we were surprised by how quietly it operates. It has a noise level of just 70 dBA, which is just as loud as your regular vacuum cleaner. This quiet operation allows you to confidently use it without disturbing your neighbors or sleeping family members.

And finally, we love how the California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor was designed with our convenience in mind. It uses an oil-free pump that is virtually maintenance-free, so you get to save a lot of money in the long run. This also saves you the time in having to perform regular maintenance checks.

If you plan on working outside, this rugged air compressor comes with a convenient handle and a pair of solid tires for easier transportation.

With an impressive airflow, large tank capacity, and durable construction, there is no doubt that the California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor is the best air compressor for painting cars.

BUYING GUIDE - HOW TO CHOOSE THE Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars ?

At this point, we’re sure that there are still a lot of questions going on in your head. Asking questions like “how do I know if this is the compressor I need?” or “can you paint a car with a 30-gallon air compressor?” is normal, especially if you’re a beginner.

To help ease your worries, we’ve prepared a detailed buying guide for you. Here, you’ll find the information you need to answer these questions - and ultimately help you pick the perfect air compressor for you.
best air compressor for painting cars at home

Airflow

The most important factor that you have to look into is the airflow being produced by the compressor. This is measured in cubic feet per minute, while other manufacturers measure this by standard cubic feet per minute.

Ideally, you need an air compressor that produces at least 4 to 6 CFM if you want to paint a while car. If you’re only doing a minor retouch or simply painting a portion of your car, you can easily get the job done with a compressor producing at least 3 CFM.

Pressure

In most cases, beginners confuse airflow for pressure. Airflow refers to the volume of air that helps break up the paint. On the other hand, the pressure refers to the amount of force being produced by the machine to push the air. Airflow is measured in CFM, while pressure is measured in pounds per square inch or PSI.

The amount of pressure that the air compressor produces is necessary for determining the compatibility of tools. Thus, we recommend looking into the tools you want to use first and make sure that you buy an air compressor that produces the amount of pressure that's compatible with them.

Motor

The motor used on the air compressor is another factor you have to consider. You have to make sure that it is powerful enough to make the machine work consistently, even if it's been working for hours. As a rule of thumb, the higher the airflow produced, the more powerful a motor should be.

Pump

The pumps used on air compressors are often overlooked. But we’re here to tell you that picking the right pump will help save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

As much as possible, go for an oil-free pump. This type of pump does not require frequent maintenance work, and that saves you a lot of time and money. Plus, machines with oil-free pumps are also known to last longer, so you’re assured of the value of your investment.

how to use dewalt pancake air compressor ?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • What is the best air compressor for painting cars?

When it comes to painting cars, we believe that the best air compressor would be the Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor or the California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor. Both of these units deliver an airflow of above 6 CFM which is needed to paint a whole car.

But if you’re planning to paint only a minimal portion of your car, you can do well with the California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor. The fact that it operates quietly is a bonus
  • How many CFM do I need to paint a car?

The amount of airflow that an air compressor can deliver is measured in cubic feet per minute. With that said, you need 4 to 6 CFM to paint a whole car, or around 2 to 3 CFM if you’re only painting portions of your car.

But if you’re planning to run a business by painting cars, you need an industrial-quality air compressor that delivers at least 12 CFM.
  • Can you paint a car with a 20-gallon air compressor?

When it comes to painting a whole car, what matters is that the air compressor you use has both the flow rate and tank capacity to get the job done. With that said, there's no doubt that a 20-gallon air compressor is capable of painting a car, especially one of modest size.

Larger capacity air compressors are often recommended for heavy-duty car painting, usually performed by professional car painters.
  • Can you paint a car with a 21-gallon air compressor?

Like what we have previously mentioned, a large air compressor capacity is usually needed for bigger paint jobs. If you’re simply painting your own car, a 21-gallon air compressor would do the trick. But if you’re planning to start a car painting business, an air compressor of this size would not be enough.

  • What is the best air compressor for painting?

The best air compressor for painting depends on what you’re planning to paint. If you’re painting cars, the best option is the Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Air Compressor. It has a high flow rate that helps you get the job done quickly yet efficiently.

But if you’re using the air compressor to paint walls or furniture, you can get by with the more modest airflow on the Dewalt Pancake Air Compressor.

Our Verdict

All things considered, we believe the Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Air Compressor is the best air compressor for painting cars. Its powerful 3-horsepower motor guarantees a smooth and reliable performance to get the job done hassle-free. It also produces the ideal airflow needed to paint a whole car, so we were quite impressed.

But if the Makita MAC5200’s 5.2-gallon tank isn’t enough for you, then the California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor is the next best thing. With almost double the tank size but producing the same airflow, this air compressor is well worth every penny.

And for those who are on a tight budget, the Porter-Cable Pancake Air Compressor is perfect for you. It produces a decent airflow that can help you finish minor paint jobs on your car. You can also use it for painting furniture and other jobs you can do with an air compressor. This is definitely the best air compressor for residential use.
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