Air Compressor Reviews

December 19, 2013

Air Compressor Reviews

One of the most versatile tools that one can own is an air compressor.  Used everywhere from tiny bike shops to huge manufacturing warehouses, the compressor has become a cornerstone of the world’s economy.   One thing that people fail to realize is that not all compressors are built the same or used for the same purpose.  With this being said it is important to get good air compressor reviews as there are big differences between the different models.

With over 20 years in the automotive industry we have owned hundreds of different compressor units.  We have owned small ones to fill up moped tires and huge ones to work on commercial vehicles, and everything in between.  Besides being “experts” in this field our goal was to seek out others who had experience using air compressors on a day to day basis.  We use them in many of our tools that we use and we use them at home.  With a crew of handy guys, we know our power tools.



We have talked to people in almost any field that you can think of that works with compressor machines (airline workers,  plant operators, construction foremans, semi truck owner/operators and manufacturing supervisors).   One thing that we have found that was a common theme was that they all feel that there are certain good companies and bad companies when it comes to building compressors.

After doing our due diligence and research in this field we as a team (myself and several of my co-workers)  have come up with a chart of the best air compressors on today’s market.   Led off by our choice for the #1 air compressor the Makita MAC5200  Air Compressor we hope to give a full review of the best compressors that we have found.  Feel free to click through each column to sort.

Interactive Chart of the Best Air Compressors

Item Picture
Model Name
Size (Gallons)
Power (HP)
Weight (lbs.)
Bostitch BTFP1223761.0334.6$$
California Air Tools Cat-6310 Ultra6.31.0494.6$
Campbell Hausfeld HU502000AV201.3100.53.9$$
Dewalt D55167121.6894.3$$$
GMC Syclone Portable6.31.0494.5$$
Ingersoll Rand Garage Mate202.02004.8$$$$
Makita Mac24004.22.5814.6$$$
Rol-Air Air Compressor4.32.0654.4$$
Senco PC 10101.00.5204.5$

This is not an all inclusive list of the air compressors that we have reviewed or a list set in stone.  As we do more air compressor reviews we plan on updating the chart on a regular basis to fit our criteria as the top 10 air compressors in the world.    While name brands such as Dewalt and Makita dominate the current compressor market, there are other up and coming brands that rank well within our reviews.  Also, it is important to note that when ranking these items we look at a number of different criteria and rank them without giving any impartiality to brands that we prefer.

Electric vs. Gas Air Compressors

One of the things that we take into consideration is whether the unit is powered by electric, gas or air.  Much like chainsaws, powerdrills and other different  power tools, using gas or electric is more dependant on your work environment.   Many shop owners that I know work exclusively with electric air compressors as they work in small enclosed environments that are not condusive to running gas.  While on the other hand some of my friends that are in the air maintenance field or construction field prefer the use of gas air compressors as they are outside and don’t always have the option of having a power outlet nearby.   In our reviews we will cover both gas powered air compressors and electric powered air compressors and make the judgement based on the machines capabilities rather than the power source.

What We Look For

There are several things that we look for when making our judgements on the air compressor reviews.  Why we know that a 7 HP air compressor is going to have much more power than a 3 HP air compressor we like to base our decisions on comparing air compressors in the same class.   Here is the criteria we use below.

Air Compressor Power:   Air compressor power is measured in horsepower or (HP)  just like any other engine.   While smaller units tend to have about 1 or 2 HP, some of the bigger more expensive units can run upwards of 12-13 HP.   Even more than that the ones used at manufacturing companies can triple those numbers, but those are ones that most people will never have the need for unless they are opening a large type of manufacturing company.  The HP of the compressor is basically the power of which it operates and the speed of which it can compress something.    Most units that we will cover will range from 3-8 HP with a couple being higher and lower.

Size:   The size of air compressors is measured in gallons.   This is pretty self explanatory but on the average the size ranges from 2 gallons to just over 20 gallons.   Most of the compressors that we look at run in the 3-5 gallon size range with a couple that are more.  The gallons are basically how much air that the unit can hold at a time and will give you an idea of how long before you have to replace the item.

Pressure:   Air compression maximum pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) and can range anywhere from 100- 200+  PSI.   The PSI is the same as what is used when you are inflating tires as the average tire on today’s market needs between 30-36  PSI depending on the make and model.   Just like the power and size of the unit, the PSI gets higher as the price of the unit grows.

Price:   Price is a big turning point for us  when we are doing these reviews.   For example there are several current air compressor that are currently priced at the $350-500 price range on Amazon.   When we make our comparison of two of the most popular ones at this range, one far exceeds the other when put through the different tests that we recommend.   Also, there are some models that are jacked up in price due to a fancy name and they do not compare at all to some of the newer, less popular models that far outwork them when it comes to power, speed and PSI.

Quality Control:  One thing that is hardly ever mentioned on review pages is the quality and customer service that a company gives towards their products.   While most users ever have to contact the manufacturing company,  many products will be faulty or have some type of defect, the same that comes with any mass produced item.  When measuring quality control we look at the reputation of the company, the warranty and how good their customer service is when dealing with a problem.  Almost all “good” companies that have been around a while, have learned that customer service makes up a huge portion of their reputation and have made sure to make that an important asset.

Uses:  Just like any other tool it is not a wise decision to purchase something that is not useful for what you need it for.  If you are hanging a few doors in your home or just using an air compressor to blow up your tires, it is probably not a good idea to spend several hundred dollars.   But if you are opening your own small business and would use the compression unit on a regular basis, you might want to look at that price range.

Some of Favorite Air Compressor Reviews

The interactive chart above has the top 10 choices for air compressors, but we wanted to cover a little more in depth some of our favorites.  Because we know that not everyone has the budget for a 20 gallon 18 PSI model, we chose some of our favorite from all the different price ranges.

Best Cheap Air Compressor

Senco PC1010 1 HP:  When we say cheap air compressor we are talking purely price and not quality as the Senco PC1010 was one of the best small air compressor on today’s market.    This model is very popular among contractors and construction workers that I have worked with as it is extremely portable and versatile.  Popular with contractors that have the need for a nail gun, this compressor is one of the best models that we have found for under $150.  We used this to hang some doors and windows at a one of my friend’s new house and I was impressed with the overall versatility and power of this compressor.   For the price tag, around $130-150 depending on where you buy it,  this is one model that we can recommend for anyone looking to use this tool for some small projects or who is just starting out in the construction field.

Best Portable Air Compressor

Dewalt D55167 Portable Air Compressor:  One of the quietest compressors on the market today and built by one of our favorite tool companies in the world, the Dewalt portable air compressor is one of our favorites on the market today.  With a price tag at just around $400, this is great for those looking to have something that they can carry around in their truck to work on medium sized jobs.   With a maximum PSI of 200, this bad boy is one of the best out of the Dewalt air compressor reviews that we have done.

One of my good friends Doug Sandoval first recommended this model to use in 2012 after loving the way he was able to use it in his motorcycle shop.   He raved at how quiet it was and how versatile it was to use on not only the construction of his business, but also the day to day use of it as a motorcycle repair shop.  Doug is a man that definitely knows his tools as a master bike builder and he loves the Dewalt’s versatility and low price tag.

Best Corded Electric Air Compressor

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP:  Makita air compressors make our list as probably the best overall air compressors on today’s market.  Quiet and powerful this is one of the best air compressors that we have used gas or electric and at any price.   For the model that we worked with we loved the way that we could zip from job to job with little effort.   One of the things that we loved the most about the Makita is that the company has a rock solid customer service department and is there to answer any questions that the user may have.

The Makita is heavy and with good reason, it comes from steel and is a very solid machine.  Many of the current air compressors on the market today are pieces of junk and it shows in their performance.  This machine is built to stay in one place and to be treated as a workstation.   In an enclosed shop, you can barely hear this machine when compared to many of the other loud air compressors on today’s market.

Final Thoughts

As an owner and operator of several businesses over the past few decades I am real leery about sinking money into tools that are inferior.  In the past, are choices were often a few of the models of air compressor units that were available at our local hardware store.   Now, with the internet, we are able to get complete air compressor reviews on hundreds of different models without wasting time or trial and error trying to find one that works for our needs.

My goal at this site is to make an unbiased review of the compression items that myself or other trusted colleagues have tried and give an honest to goodness review for my audience.  The Internet is full of pages of scams and tricksters trying to sell products without giving honest judgements on items.  As a result the companies that give out the most good reviews often have the most sales.  Our goal is to give straight up reviews from people that have been in the field and have used these items so that consumers can make a solid decision without being sold to by a company.