These days you don’t have to be a grease monkey to value a good air compressor in your garage. Air tools inspire jealousy and with good reason; the sheer efficiency and scale of projects that become doable is amazing. From filling up tires to specialized usage like car tools and nail guns. One of the best things about an air compressor is that it is heavy duty enough to inflate car tires in minutes while occupying modest space in your garage. Air compressors are sized according to standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) and this means how much air a compressor is capable of providing when it is continuously operated.

Air compressors vary in size and utility; the SCFM of any compressor is reliant on the performance requirement of the system it is connected to and the need of the tools that are being operated by it. Some air tools have a higher consumption rate while basic needs like filling up tires of cars and bicycles doesn’t require a special compressor.

Top 10 Air Compressors for the Home Garage

ImageProduct NameManufacturerPrice
Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air CompressorMakita Power Tools$$$
Rolair JC10 1 HP Oil-Less Compressor with Overload Protection and Low RPM for Quiet OperationRolair$$
PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake CompressorPorter Cable$
California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor, 2 hpCalifornia Air Tools$$$$
Air Compressor, 80 Gallon Vertical Two Stage 14CFM 5HP 208-230V 1PH (Campbell Hausfeld HS5180)Campbell Hausfeld$$$$$$$
DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake CompressorDeWALT$
Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor 125 MAX psi Hot Dog with panel, Blue, 1 gallonEagle$$
Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air CompressorMakita$$$

Our Pick

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

MAC 2400 Big Bore Compressor

Makita’s Big Bore compressor is a market favorite and with good reason as it is one of the best and most reliable machines to purchase for long term use. The MAC 2400 is good in a shop or a garage. This air compressor caters to every hobbyist and needs of the average homeowner by providing the best value in a reasonable price bracket.

How to Choose the Best Air Compressor for a Home Garage

While making a purchase for an air compressor; especially one for the house many factors come into play. You cannot simply buy the best rated one. Air compressors must be purchased with a strict idea of the scope of their utility in mind. Here are a few important things to know and to keep in mind when purchasing an air compressor.

Types of Air Compressors

There are two basic types of air compressors:

Single-stage Units

The single stage unit is smaller, easily movable and manageable. However, they are also much louder and cycle more often. While single unit compressors are less expensive and good for small jobs it is never recommended for hobbyists that need to run tools.

Two-stage Units

The two stage compressor is quiet and cycles less often. Due to larger capacity these units deliver constant pressure; excellent for people that are looking to run tools. However, larger air compressors take up space and require maintenance not to mention some are quite expensive.

For home garages the best air compressors are usually portable smaller ones if you are not using them often. The compressor can be connected to a variety of extensions and tools (not heavy duty ones). If your need is occasional consider getting a longer air hose that way there is no need to lug the compressor around.

In the end buy one that fits your needs. A smaller compressor is perfect if it is going to be used for filling up air and using small scale tools every now and then. However, if you are running something of a workshop from your garage then invest in a good large compressor that makes working on a variety of projects easier. Larger models make working on cars easier too. Air tools and a larger air compressor are the trusted companions of any true hobbyist.

 Pressure Tanks

Pressure tank is an important variable in the purchase of an air compressor. Greater capacity means more work done in a single sitting and more air in the tank for continuous usage. Larger tanks don’t kick and smaller ones are portable. Another trick to get more capacity is by attaching additional tanks to a quick-disconnect coupling via a rubber hose. However, this is not an ideal option if you are looking at everyday use.

Space Allocation

Space is a main concern whenever you are purchasing anything, especially if it’s something heavy duty like a large air compressor for your home. Some of the best portable air compressors barely occupy a tiny corner of your garage till you need them.

However, if you have a project like roofing tiles smaller compressors will do you no favors. Air compressors come in varying sizes from portable noisy ones to larger quieter ones. If you have limited space a larger compressor can become a hindrance. However, if you have a spacious garage and it is your portable workshop than a larger compressor should fit right in. Smaller compressors can be put anywhere and they do the job just fine of that job is air filling and operating minimal tools.

Types of tools

Air compressors convert air into kinetic energy and some tools need a little while other need a lot more to run properly. For tire inflation you need basic air pressure while operations like power washing, air brushing, air nailers, staple guns, power drills etc. are heavy duty machinery that requires great and constant pressure to function properly.

Some people need more work from their compressor and often buy smaller options because they seem convenient. However, medium to large scale compressors are excellent for operating air tools.

Piston vs. Portable

Air compressors that have a piston-type function rely on pistons for air pressure. These are efficient but they might require oil and/or gas to operate. Piston-types are good for work but the added expenditure, fumes and the maintenance of parts can be a hassle for some. A piston-type air compressor generates 150 to 200 pounds per square inch (psi) of air pressure on an average. For moderate home usage a single-stage, piston compressor is perfect and covers most basic needs. If you are looking for one with more capacity a larger model is more suited.

Portable compressors are loud and can get seriously annoying if you are using them regularly. These units often have wheels to easily move them and are good for operating power caulkers, tire filling and small glue guns.

Why is horsepower Important?

Standard mistake that every rookie makes is that they don’t factor in the horsepower rating of the compressor. Horsepower measures the strength of the motor and what level of air pressure the compressor is capable of. Low horse power usually means less of everything, from energy to utility. So, once again it all depends on your usage. If you’re looking to conserve energy, go for low horsepower that covers your basics. If you are using heavy duty tools the compressor will have more horsepower and more energy will be needed for the entire setup to work to a satisfying degree. The CFM or the (cubic feet per minute), measures the amount of air passing through the hose in a tool per minute. Air compressors that have a higher “CFM” tend to utilize more horsepower and produce greater pressures. CFM is subject to a number of factors and can change with variations in temperature, atmospheric pressures, elevations above sea level etc.

Horsepower for air compressors is between 1.5 to 6.5 horsepower; this is a pretty wide range with every type of air compressor in between, so choosing one that fits your needs like a glove, should not be a problem.

Power Source

Some of the best air compressors in the market require gasoline and it makes the compressor more portable as electrical compressors require an electrical outlet. However, portable electrical air compressors are also available.

Home Garage Air Compressor Reviews

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore Compressor

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

One of the leading names in construction tools and machinery is Makita. As a company Makita has little competition when it comes to a lot of machinery however, their air compressor; the MAC 2400 big bore model is not just a great machine it has a number of features that make it top of the line. The big bore compressor has two nozzles and two air tanks which means plenty of consistent air pressure. This feature also assures that you are running not one but two machines at a time. The compressor also comes with an automotive style filter that provides excellent air flow.  The overall capacity of the compressor is 4.2 gallons that generates 130 psi and low amp usage prevents your house circuit breakers from tripping.

The MAC 2400 is a piston-type compressor with an iron construct that is designed like a roll-cage to protect it from damage caused by bumping or shaking. The big bore compressor is a perfect fit for the hobbyist that needs to operate say, a nailer and a grease gun at the same time. The compressor is perfect for smaller shops too.

The MAC 2400 is larger than the portable compressor with a 2.5-horsepower motor; this makes it mid-range in terms of power. The power rating is essential for anyone looking to use the compressor for more than air filling purposes. This compressor requires oil for maintenance and since it is operated by gasoline it is not very indoor friendly. The machine has a glass part attached to it that easily tells the oil color and level without the help of a dip stick making the maintenance easier as compared to other comparable models in the same price range.

Pros

  • Sturdy iron built
  • Cage-like design
  • Consistent air pressure for long durations
  • Compared to other compressors of the same range the Makita runs at half the RPMs

Cons

  • The compressor is large and not portable
  • Gasoline fumes make indoor usage impossible

Rolair JC10 Compressor Protection Operation

Rolair JC10 1 HP Oil-Less Compressor with Overload Protection and Low RPM for Quiet Operation

Rolair’s JC 10 is another favorite for the home garage. This air compressor is quite similar to the MAC 2400 in terms of construction except this one offers more mobility than the Makita option. The roll cage is higher than the rest of the system. The JC10 has an aluminum construct and is a piston-type air compressor. The lightweight body makes it is easier to move and handle as compared to iron body models.

The JC10 has an impressive tank capacity at 2.5 gallons capable of generating 90 psi at 2.35 CFM. While these figures are not the best in the market this compressor is a good choice for a few applications in a week. However the low Psi and CFM rating does not make it a good choice for daily use and in that instance the Makita model serves better.

The shape of the compressor is cylindrical and it does not need oil for operation making the maintenance a lot easier as opposed to other models. This air compressor does not have the power to meet regular usage due to a weaker motor. However, it is a very quiet compressor as opposed to other options.

Pros

  • Does not need oil for operation
  • Lightweight
  • Mobility is easier

Cons

  • Weaker Psi and CFM rating
  • Not suited for heavy-duty work
  • Horsepower for the motor is merely one

PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor

PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor

This is one of Porter-Cable’s larger models featuring one of the larger capacities available in the market at 3.5-gallon. This capacity is in the shape of a reserve tank that is a part of the base structure of this compressor which forms the base of this air compressor. This model can reach pressure level of 135 psi on its best days. The Pancake compressor offers quicker recovery along with longer runtimes making it an ideal choice for regular usage. Since this compressor has an oil-free pump, it is easier to maintain. The weight of this machine makes it an idea choice if mobility is an important feature for you. The Pancake weighs 26 pounds and even without any wheels the weight is easy to move and manage.

The design of the compressor is compact and it can be lifted easily from underneath, there is also a way to lift it from the top as well. The body and design is plastic making the grip a bit slippery. The roll-bar styles, of other models offer better mobility.

If you are a beginner this is a good compressor to opt for and if your usage is limited. All the gauges, heads and knobs are visibly placed on the anterior of the tank while the rubber feet keep it fixed to a spot. In short this is a straightforward compressor that has almost no fuss in terms of usage or maintenance. It is not ideal for heavy duty work.

Pros

  • Is lightweight compared to other models of the same range
  • Requires little space
  • Rubber feet keep it steady
  • Capacity is massive
  • Oil free design

Cons

  • Not for heavy duty jobs
  • Lifting is tricky
  • Average Psi in comparison to larger models

California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor, 2 hp

California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet Oil-Free and Powerful Air Compressor, 2 hp

“California Air Tools” is one of the better manufacturer’s out there. The 10020C model is one of the favorite air compressors in the market with a plethora of attractive features. One of the major selling points is the sound; it operates at 70 db, which is 5 decibels lower than comparable models. The compressor is also one of the most efficient ones in our list; at 40 Psi, the 10020C produces 6.40 CFM compared to the 5.30 CFM at 90 psi in other models.

If you are running a shop this compressor can be godsend. The 10020C has a capacity of almost 10 gallons, assuring that continuous usage is clearly not a problem for this compressor. In the market and in our list this is one of the larger capacities that feature in air compressors. While the compressor is on the heavier side the company has added wheels to the model making it portable; a classy feature considering the size and capability. The design is vertical as opposed to the low-on-the-ground varieties by other manufacturers which makes it an easier management option.

Pros

  • A higher CFM
  • Quiet operation
  • Two wheels make it portable
  • 10 gallon capacity
  • Oil free piston

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Hard to lift

Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor, 80 Gallon Vertical Two Stage 14CFM 5HP

Air Compressor, 80 Gallon Vertical Two Stage 14CFM 5HP 208-230V 1PH (Campbell Hausfeld HS5180)

Here is another compressor that was tailor made for heavy duty application. The whopping 80-gallon capacity tank just keeps on going. The compressor runs lasts enough to keep a variety of tools active for long sessions.  If you need a lot of air this is the compressor for you. This is industrial grade machinery, ideal for grease monkeys and work shop owners alike. The Hausfield compressor has the capacity to run up to 20 tools at a time and cater to even the highest demanding air tools.

So far by user reviews this air compressor is in hot demand for carrying out projects like painting cars, sanding, grinding and sheet metal grinding. In short a big garage and in the hands of the right hobbyist this compressor can do wonders for any project. The belt on this machine is mammoth and fully encapsulated safely in a cage to prevent accidental breakage. This compressor has oil needs to keep it from heating up. The oil keeps the operation smooth. Two pistons operate the two-stage pumps for optimum pressure, roughly 170 psi which is definitely higher than an average rating.

Pros

  • For heavy duty usage
  • Can operate up to 20 tools at a time
  • 80 gallon capacity
  • Enclosed belt setup
  • Two Stage compressor with two pumps

Cons

  • Very expensive (But worth it!)
  • Zero mobility; cannot be moved at all
  • Heavy body
  • Highlighted Features

DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon Pancake Compressor

DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor

DeWalt and Makita are neck in neck in terms of quality tool manufacturing. They pride themselves in finding the perfect fit in a given price bracket and they do deliver with the Pankcake compressor. Every project, big or small, in a garage or a shop requires the right compressor. As mentioned before compressors are subject to use and need.

Dewalt is a perfect fit for small jobs and running a small setup. The DeWalt Pancake’s design is similar to the Porter cable model and closer to the ground however, what makes it better is the grip on the compressor; more user friendly than the Porter Cable option. The capacity is good at six gallons; larger than most portable compressors. What makes the DeWalt desirable is the lack of noise; it is surprisingly quiet for a portable mode. At a time the compressor provides 165 Psi while operating at 75.5 db! What maximize the performance of this compressor are the high flow regulator and the couplers.

Pros

  • Easy grip; the handle helps
  • Larger Tank capacity for a portable model
  • Flow regulators give consistent operation
  • Quiet function

Cons

  • Heavier than most portable models
  • Expensive as compared to similar models

Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor

Eagle EA-3000 Silent Series 3000 Air Compressor 125 MAX psi Hot Dog with panel, Blue, 1 gallon

The EA-3000 silent series boasts a longer life than most other compressors. Since there is no oil involved and the low amperage keeps the motor stable the EA 3000 can last up to four times longer than the average air compressor. The model is a good long-term investment if your usage is minimal. However for longer sessions this compressor has little to offer with low amperage and a low capacity of only one gallon! Under good conditions the compressor can provide up to 100 psi. This is below average and since the motor is only 1 horsepower and gives only 2CFM, which is too low.

However, due to two pistons, comparable units don’t perform with such stability as this model. It is truly silent; operating at only 46 decibels at its most strenuous operation making it a very good but basic compressor.

Pros

  • Quiet operation and more stable
  • Portable
  • Two pistons
  • Long life
  • Good for medium strength tools

Cons

  • Low gallon capacity at just 1 gallon
  • Small motor at only 1 horsepower
  • Price is on the higher side

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

After the success of the Makita Big Bore 2400, the company introduced another more powerful air compressor the MAC5200 and this time they upgraded the machine to have wheels and mobility. Two hose are provided for multiple utility and the machine has a 3 horsepower motor. The compressor requires oil for maintenance and at its best provides 6.5 CFM at 90 Psi.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Good horsepower
  • Good for heavy duty usage
  • Storage compartment

Cons

  • Needs oil for maintenance
  • Expensive