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Top 5 Best Portable Air Compressors Reviewed – [2019]

The 5 Most Lightweight and Top-Performing Portable Air Compressors as Rated By Professionals

In this side-by-side comparison we review the 5 top-rated portable air compressors used for inflating tires and powering air tools. Also see our buyer’s guide later in the article, How To Choose A Portable Air Compressor.

The products we chose come in a variety of specs and designs suited to several special usage scenarios. So what is the best portable air compressor for the money?

Quick Answer: The 5 Best Portable Air Compressors

  1. DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
  2. Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor
  3. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor
  4. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor
  5. Hitachi EC28M Ultra Quiet (59 DB) Oil-Free Portable 1 gallon Air Compressor

Best Portable Air Compressors

 DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake CompressorEagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air CompressorCalifornia Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor
editors choice
Maximum Pressure165 PSI125 PSI120 PSI
Tank Size6.0 Gallons1.0 Gallon1.0 Gallon
Special Features75.5 dBA noise level for a quiet work setting and high flow regulator and couplers to maximize air tool performance
Oil free piston pump and ultra-quiet settings56.0 dBA noise level, lightweight, oil free pump
Customer Ratings4.2 / 5.0 Stars4.1 / 5.0 Stars4.4 / 5.0 Stars

Best Portable Air Compressors Reviews

#1 – DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor

best portable air compressors

DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor at a Glance – Best Pancake Compressor:

  • 165 PSI
  • 0 Gallons
  • 5 dBA noise level for a quiet work setting
  • High flow regulator and couplers to maximize air tool performance
Starting our list we have the DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor. On the higher end of our price spectrum, you can be sure you’re getting a quality air compressor supported by a well-respected brand.

This air compressor is a great choice for those looking to get some heavy use out of it. Its 6.0 gallon tank means it will run your tools for a long time before you have to stop and refill it, and its high PSI means it’s up to just about any task. It also has high flow regulators and couplers to ensure your tools perform at their best. Best of all, for such a heavy duty air compressor it is relatively quiet. While smaller compressors may boast quieter dBAs, they can’t compare to the power of the Dewalt.


#2 – Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor

Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor at a Glance – Best Shop Air Compressor:

  • 125 PSI
  • 1 Gallon
  • Oil free piston pump and ultra-quiet settings
 Next on our list we have our most expensive air compressor, the Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor. With this price you’ll find yourself getting a high-quality and, best of all, portable air compressor.

This air compressor’s small tank size makes it easy to carry around your garage or workshop. It can be positioned wherever you need it and can be used in a variety of tight situations the larger Dewalt might struggle in. Additionally, this air compressor comes with some great low-noise settings to help you enjoy a more peaceful experience while using it.


#3 – California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor

California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor at a Glance – Best Quiet Air Compressor:

  • 120 PSI
  • 1Gallon
  • 0 dBA noise level
  • Lightweight, oil free pump
By far the standout option in terms of noise, the California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor makes even the Eagle EA-3000 sound like a rumbling beast in comparison. Additionally, this air compressor is the cheapest on our list, while still coming with a lot of great features for the price.

Its small 1 gallon tank is plenty big for most home applications and is easy to carry with you wherever you need it, while its oil free pump makes it low maintenance and low mess when in use. For anyone looking for a solid budget air compressor, this is a great option.


#4 – PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor at a Glance – Best Air Compressor for the Money:

  • 150 PSI
  • 0 Gallons
  • Comes with a complete accessory kit
  • Pancake style means optimum stability
Returning to one of our mid-range options, the PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor is a great large compressor at an affordable price. Its 6 gallon tank means it’ll last longer during use, and it’s pancake style design helps keep it stable and reliable, either on your work bench or on the floor beneath you.

What’s extra special about this air compressor is the complete accessory kit it comes with, saving you the hassle (and extra money) you’d spend trying to hunt down these individual accessories on their own.


#5 – Hitachi EC28M Ultra Quiet (59 DB) Oil-Free Portable 1 gallon Air Compressor

Hitachi EC28M Ultra Quiet (59 DB) Oil-Free Portable 1 gallon Air Compressor at a Glance – Best Home Air Compressor:

  • 90 PSI
  • 1 Gallon
  • 0 dBA noise level
  • Oil free pump
  • Portable at only 25.5 pounds
Last but not least, we have the Hitachi EC28M Ultra Quiet (59 DB) Oil-Free Portable 1 gallon Air Compressor. This quiet, portable air compressor is an awesome choice for home renovations or indoor use, making it the perfect choice for the DIYer or home handyman.

Thanks to its low dBA noise level of only 59.0 as well as its oil free pump, this air compressor is a no fuss and no mess unit that is right at home when doing interior DIY work. Best of all its extremely light weight compared to other air compressors at only 25.5 pounds. All around, this is an excellent option for those comfortable spending a bit more, while still wanting a quality air compressor for their home projects.


Portable Air Compressor Comparison Table

Best Portable Air Compressors PriceMaximum PressureTank SizeSpecial FeaturesCustomer Ratings
DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor$169.99165 PSI6.0 Gallons75.5 dBA noise level for a quiet work setting and high flow regulator and couplers to maximize air tool performance
4.2 / 5.0 Stars
Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor$209.72125 PSI1.0 GallonOil free piston pump and ultra-quiet settings4.1 / 5.0 Stars
California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor$102.50120 PSI1.0 Gallon56.0 dBA noise level, lightweight, oil free pump 4.4/ 5.0 Stars
PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor$164.99150 PSI6.0 GallonsComes with a complete accessory kit, pancake style means optimum stability 4.3/ 5.0 Stars
Hitachi EC28M Ultra Quiet (59 DB) Oil-Free Portable 1 gallon Air Compressorfrom $57.5290 PSI
1.0 Gallon
59.0 dBA noise level, oil free pump, portable at only 25.5 pounds
4.0/ 5.0 Stars

How to Choose a Portable Air Compressor

If you’re a home handyman and are looking for a reasonably priced and convenient way to power all of your pressurized tools, then a portable air compressor is exactly what you’re looking for! These useful pieces of equipment are a great addition to any household’s garage, workshop, or shed, and are even great for backyard projects.

However, portable air compressors come with a lot of confusing terms and measurements; things like PSI, tank size, dBA, and flow regulators. If you’re unfamiliar with the world of air compressors, how do you sort out what you need and what you don’t? How do you tell which portable air compressor is best for you and your household’s needs?

DEWALT best portable air compressor guide image 1

There are some important things to keep in mind before you begin shopping for a portable air compressor. First of all, what tools do you intend to use it with? Will you be using air-hungry framing nailers, or are you just looking to use a brad nailer, tire inflator, or orbital sander?

Secondly, where will you be using your new portable air compressor? While all of our picks are portable their level of portability varies. If you plan to use your air compressor mostly in your garage or home workshop, this isn’t a big deal.

However, if you’ll be doing lots of outdoors projects or even going to various job sites or friend’s houses, then portability should be a concern. Overall, there’s a lot to think about when purchasing a piece of equipment like this one.

Fortunately, we’re here to help! In our roundup we’ve chosen five of the best portable air compressors on the market and broken them down with a handy chart to give you an immediate idea of their features. Better yet, this  buyer’s guide answers all of your questions and help you pick the best air compressor for your uses and budget.

Our roundup includes 5 of the best portable air compressors in a range of prices and designs. We want you to get a good sense of what’s available on the market so you can make an informed decision and pick an air compressor you’ll enjoy using for years to come. Whatever your budget and needs, we’ve got you covered.

PSI

When looking at portable air compressors, you’ll want to choose a model with a high enough PSI for your use. Check your tools before you purchase your air compressor and see exactly how much psi is necessary for each of them. Once you know exactly how much PSI you need you’ll know what level of PSI your air compressor should have.

Capacity

When looking at the capacity of your air compressor, think about the length of time you intend to use it. Will you be using it continuously with high PSI tools, or will you be using it more sporadically, for example with a brad nailer or other small nail gun? Capacity determines how long your air compressor can go between stopping to refill, so find the size that works best for your intended use.

Noise Level

If you plan to use your air compressor indoors, you’ll want to find one with a low dBA, around 50-60 if at all possible. This makes for a more pleasant experience and keeps you from annoying your family members! However, many high powered air compressors are going to be loud; that’s ok, just keep in mind you’ll want hearing protection when they’re in use, whether that’s in your garage, outdoors, or inside your home.

Portability

Last but not least we have portability. Portability will determine how easy and convenient it is for you to move your air compressor around your work space. How frequently will you be using your air compressor, and in what setting? If you intend to keep it in your garage or workshop, or to only use it on occasion, a larger pancake style air compressor will be more stable and usually have a larger tank.

However, if you plan to do a lot of home renovations, a smaller compressor will likely suit you better. These should be lighter weight and designed in a more carrying friendly style, letting you reposition it often for DIY home projects and other tasks. These smaller air compressors are also better suited for inflating car or truck tires, as they’ll fit better inside the trunk of your car and be easier to maneuver when on the side of the road.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What type of equipment can my air compressor run?

Answer: When looking at your options for a portable air compressor, know that most all of them can run any type of equipment you need. However, it can’t hurt to look specifically at your different tools and see if any of them need unusually high PSI.

One exception to this rule is framing nailers. These require an extremely high PSI, upwards of 120 PSI, meaning some of these options will struggle to keep up or outright be unable to do the job. Keep in mind that, just because the air compressor can put out 120 PSI, that doesn’t mean it’ll be able to do so fast enough to keep up with your nailer. For someone looking to do intensive trim work with their air compressor, you will be better off investing in a heavy duty, high-PSI model from the start.

 

Question: Can I run high demand tools with my portable air compressor?

Answer: Simply put, no. If you’re looking to run large, high demand, and air intensive tools such as pneumatic wrenches, these are not going to have enough power to suit your needs. However, these compact, portable air compressors are a great option for smaller tasks such as nail guns.

 

Question: How portable is my air compressor?

Answer: Much like PSI, portability comes down to preference. Where do you intend to use your air compressor? Will it mostly stay in your workshop or garage, or will you be using inside your home where you need to maneuver around potentially tight corners or large pieces of furniture?

Once you know how you intend to use your portable air compressor, you can decide what level of portability is right for you. Try to find an air compressor that is not only light weight, but also shaped in such a way that it’s easy to carry. While pancake compressors are more stable when they’re set on the ground, they’re also much more bulky, and better suited for garages and workshops than for DIY home projects.

 

Question: Can I use my air compressor inside my home?

Answer: Of course! You’ll just want to make sure your air compressor meets a few requirements; portable, oil free, and low dBA.

You want your air compressor to be portable because this will ensure you can move it around wherever you need in your home. It should be oil free to prevent any mess or dripping inside your home on carpets or nice floors. Lastly, it should have a low dBA, meaning it’ll be much quieter in use; you don’t want to disturb the other people living in your home but so much!

 

Question: How loud is my air compressor?

Answer: The noise levels of your air compressor are determined by its dBA. A higher dBA in the 65-80 range is much louder, and may require ear plugs or ear muffs to protect your hearing. On the other hand, a unit with a lower dBA around 50-60 should be fairly quiet, and can be comfortably used inside your home, even when your family is in the house!

 

Question: How large is my air compressors tank?

Answer: When looking at air compressors, you want to keep in mind that both tank size and shape influence how portable your new portable air compressor really is. Pancake style compressors are more stable when set on the floor, but are also significantly bulkier, especially since they usually come in larger tank sizes. If you’ll be moving your air compressor around a lot, or in tight spaces, pick one that is both lightweight and a convenient size for being carried around.

Buyer’s Tips

After reviewing all of these options and the how to choose section, you may find yourself overwhelmed. There are a ton of variables to keep in mind when purchasing a portable air compressor, and finding the best compressor for your needs can be difficult. Fortunately, we’re here to help!

The best small air compressor for you will really depend on how you intend to use it. If you’re looking to use your air compressor for basic home renovation projects, a smaller tanked model with a lower PSI will suit your needs just fine. These will likely be more suited for carrying around and for frequent movement, be lighter weight, and a move convenient shape for small spaces.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a sturdy shop air compressor, a larger tanked, pancake style compressor will be more stable and will likely have a higher PSI. This will be ideal for heavy duty tasks, though it will be heavier and less convenient to move around.

Overall, the best portable compressor will depend on your needs. Use the how to choose section above and make sure to check out our recommendations; between the two, you should walk away with a good idea of how to pick a compressor that fits not only your budget but also your lifestyle!


Thanks for reading The 5 Best Portable Air Compressors. We hope this article has helped you to discover the best air compressor for your needs and preferences.

If you have any questions or comments for us just use this Contact Form.

And if you’re shopping for other gear take a look at these related review articles from Outside Pursuits:

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R. L. Moore "El Tigre"

Richard M. aka El Tigre is an avid adventure traveler with extensive trekking experience throughout Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 1998 he weathered category 5 Hurricane Mitch on the northern coast of Honduras. He has mountain-biked, hiked and 4x4 toured extensively in Central America, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. In the summer of 2004 he lived among the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands in Panama. Today, he manages a real estate investments company based in San Jose, Costa Rica and organizes adventure travel excursions to Costa Rica. He is a motorcycle enthusiast and enjoys sport touring and dual-sport riding. Richard lives in Arizona.

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