Small air compressors are great for blowing dust, others do a great job powering nail guns, and some are used with impact wrenches. A small compressor is an air compressor that is designed to be compact and portable with medium-duty power.
None of the small air compressors that we tested will be ideal for air-hungry tools like pneumatic wrenches, sanders, or paint sprayers. To operate those tools, you’ll need a much larger compressor.
Small air compressors are referred to by many names such as mini compressors or handheld compressors or even portable compressors. In this detailed buyer’s guide, we selected the best small air compressors for medium-duty applications.
10 Best Small Air Compressors
|Product name||Manufacturer||CFM @ 90 PSI||PSI Max.||HP||Tank Size||Best Use / Feature|
|Porter-Cable C2002||Porter-Cable||2.6 SCFM||150||8||6 Gallons||Best value for money|
|MASTER G22||Master Airbrush||0.7 SCFM||60||1.5||0.92 Gallons||For powering airbrushes|
|Bostitch BTFP02012||Bostitch||2.6 SCFM||150||1.5||6 Gallons||For home / garage use|
|DEWALT D55153FR||DeWalt||3.8 SCFM||125||1.1||4 Gallons||For framing nail guns|
|Studio Series Ninja Jet||Porter-Cable||2.0 SCFM||150 psi||0.8||1.5 Gallon||The most powerful small air compressor|
1. Makita MAC2400 – The Best Small Quiet Air Compressor
Makita’s 2.5 HP Air Compressor features Makita’s unique Big Bore™ pump cylinder and a heavy-duty piston for maximum output.
It can easily power up to two nail guns while at the same time providing a quieter working environment on the job site. Despite its small size, the MAC2400 compressor delivers industrial power and better results because of its enhanced durability.
Our rigorous tests have confirmed that it can easily cope with some pretty rough job site conditions. The MAC2400’s heart is a 2.5 HP motor that guarantees its continuous operation and high productivity.
Also, the Makita Big Bore™ pump with cast iron cylinder has a higher quality bore and stroke for higher maximum compression.
Long Bore, Short Recovery
Additionally, the big-bore provides a shorter recovery time and makes the air compressor less noisy.
Additionally, the cast-iron structure is designed for the ultimate durability even under rough weather conditions.
Cool Running And Long Lasting
MAC2400’s oil-lubricated pump is equipped with a large filter that maximizes the air intake and provides higher productivity.
We were pleased to find that the MAC2400 air compressor runs much cooler and at half the RPM (Rotations Per Minute) of most of its competitors. Because of this, it’s motor and pump have a generally more extended lifespan.
Low Current Startup
The compressor’s 4.2-gallon twin-stacked tank can hold a maximum operating pressure of 130 PSI and delivers 4.2 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) at 90 PSI, which is enough to power two pneumatic tools at the same time.
The low amp current draw reduces the chance of experiencing tripped breakers and voltage-drops, which is the leading cause of premature motor failure. The roll-bar handle increases the unit’s portability and provides additional protection for its components.
Convenient Oil Drain And Sight
The MAC2400 air compressor also has a convenient oil drain and oil sight glass, while its tank-drain valve supersedes the standard petcock design and provides even easier maintenance.
Also, its finned discharge tubing dissipates heat more efficiently.
2. PORTER-CABLE CMB15 – The Most Powerful Small Air Compressor
Porter-Cable is well known for its innovation in the air compressor market, and the Porter-Cable CMB15 is no acceptation. This air compressor is the most effective small air compressor that you can buy online. There isn’t any light or medium-sized job that this little air compressor can’t tackle.
Its got a really nice design with rounded edges and a nice soft-touch plastic grip. This air compressor looks more like a home appliance than a tool. The gauges and knobs are all right on top, and they are well labeled.
150 PSI in Cold Temperatures
Its 0.8 HP electric motor generates 2.0 CFM CFM at 90 PSI, and the tank can store a max pressure of 150 PSI. This is sufficient airflow to power up to two or three medium-duty pneumatic tools at the same time.
The motor runs on a 120V AC power supply and has a shallow current draw at startup so that you won’t be tripping any circuit breakers with this machine. This air compressor is great for colder climates, as it starts without any problems in sub-zero temperatures.
Fully Protected Internals
While the two compressors reviewed above have no tanks, this one has got a 1.5-gallon tank. However, you cannot see it in the picture because the tank is fully shrouded.
This allows the compressor to be carried around the job site without any problems. Best of all, this unit is oil-free, and you’ll hardly ever need to perform maintenance.
This compressor comes with a 25-feet coil hose and an 8-piece accessory kit that facilitates several inflation tasks. While testing it, we were impressed by the low recovery time that this small but extremely powerful air compressor shows.
3. MASTER G22 – The Best Small Air Compressors for Airbrush
Master Airbrush’s model G22 features high-quality components that have been designed for efficient operation.
At the same time, they provide exceptional atomization and accurate spray control. This model is very versatile because it works well with most paint tools and surfaces.
If you remove the needle and nozzle caps, you will be able to spray a more extensive range of textures and achieve stippling effects. This combo unit can spray a hairline up to a 1-1/2-inch-wide pattern.
It has got a 1.5-HP motor that enables it to deliver higher air volume CFM and air pressure (PSI) for a more extended period. At the same time, this combo unit is very portable, thanks to its compact design. The built-in carrying handle provides more comfortable transportation and storage.
Nice Finish But Sticky Trigger
This compressor has a nice finish, it feels good in the hand, and the trigger feels very smooth. There is a slight catch when you press the trigger.
This may be because the pin attached to the trigger slides past a rubber seal, and rubber is not a very slick material. A drop of needle lube should help.
True Diaphragm Pressure Regulator
The “True Diaphragm” pressure regulator allows an exceptionally precise adjustment. Also, the gauge and water trap filter provide a clean and dry airflow.
The motor automatically shuts off when the pressure in the tank reaches 60 PSI. It turns on again at 35 PSI.
Master Airbrush Cool Runner II Dual Fan Air Tank Compressor System Deluxe Kit with Gravity Feed Airbrush, 24 Color Acrylic Paint Artist Set, Hose, Holder, Cleaning Pot, Mixing Cups Sticks How-To Guide
4. Porter-Cable C2002 – The Best Small Air Compressors For Your Money
Porter-Cable’s C2002 model was named the best buy on this list, mainly for its veracity. It’s got a really affordable price tag, but you will find that reviews of this model range from full five stars to only two stars.
Pancake Style Tank
However, there are relatively few users on the web who demonstrate utter dissatisfaction with this product and give it only one star. Porter-Cable’s 150 PSI 6 gallon oil-free pancake-style model is the best air compressor in the small air compressor’s category.
It is designed with a pancake-style tank for maximum stability while in use. This model also features a water drain valve and strengthened rubber feet.
Long Life Span
The high-pressure design of the tank maximizes your air tools’ performance. This unit is capable of delivering 2.6 CFM at 90 psi, and it’s got a relatively quick recovery time.
The oil-free pump requires little maintenance and has a longer life span. Also, the integrated cord wrap facilitates the compressor’s mobility.
5. Bostitch BTFP02012 – The Best Small Air Compressor For Your Home
The BTFP02012 model by Bostitch very much resembles Porter-Cable’s C2002 pancake compressor that was reviewed above.
Great for DIY
Here, we again have a 6-gallon pancake tank that can hold a maximum pressure of 150 PSI. This makes BTFP02012 a very robust unit, perfect for your DIY projects, or the garage.
Its 1.5-HP electric motor delivers 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI and has no problem starting up in cold weather.
Lightweight And Portable
This compressor has a high flow regulator, and two universal quick-connect airline fittings to support two air tools at the same time easily. The manufacturer says that this unit is easy to carry and store, as it weighs in at just 29 lbs.
Yet, we would have liked to see a couple of wheels on this model for more comfortable transportation. Their absence, however, means that this compressor is very stable when in operation.
Quiet Operation With Convenient Cord Storage
Please note that this air compressor does not include a hose or gun kit. Its motor is suited for extension cord application, so it will have no problem starting up with long cable runs.
It got pretty low noise figures at only around 78db. And like other oil-free air compressors, you won’t have to worry too much about regular maintenance.
6. DEWALT D55153FR – The Best Small Air Compressor For Framing Nail Gun
Everyone loves saving money, and this combo kit saves you up to 100 dollars as compared to purchasing the air compressor and nail gun separately. This air compressor sports a 1.1-horsepower motor that has electric overload protection.
It provides all the air you need to run a framing nail gun, plus a bunch of extra features into a small, compact unit.
High Flow Rate For Its Size
This little beast is capable of delivering 3.8 CFM at 100 PSI, while the 4-gallon tank can retain 125 PSI maximum pressure. The manufacturer also vows that all fittings are made in the USA.
The DeWalt model D55153 has an oil-lubricated shoe and is built with a cast-iron cylinder, for added durability.
High Tech Lightweight Durability
The compressor comes with an initial fill of DeWalt’s special synthetic air compressor oil, plus an oil regulator. DeWalt’s round-head framing nail gun combo kit has enough power to sink nails into even the hardest woods.
Powerful, Yet Lightweight
Powerful enough to conquer any wood, yet it weighs in at just 7.6 pounds. This is achieved by the use of titanium and magnesium build materials.
This not only adds to its initial durability but also makes it able to withstand extreme job site conditions. Also, at 12-3/4-inches tall, the nail gun is compact enough to drive nails into some tight spaces.
Patent Pending Technology
DeWalt’s internal valve design generates plenty of power while producing minimum recoil. This compressor is excellent for tasks such as sheathing and decking, and the nail depth is controlled with an innovative tool-free push-button adjustment.
This convenient feature eliminates the need for special wrenches or changes to air pressure to get a job complete. Designed with input from professional framers, this versatile combo kit by DeWalt boasts other unique features such as a patent-pending quick-release jam clearing mechanism.
Feature Packed Versatility
Some of those features include a rafter/belt hook, an impact-resistant cast-titanium exhaust plate, and an injection-molded rubber grip.
Adding to this kits versatility, this framing nail gun can hold up to sixty 20-degree full round-head nails ranging from 2 to 3-1/2 inches in length and up to 0.148 inches in diameter.
What Size of Small Air Compressor Do I Need?
For single tool use, such as a 1/2″ impact wrench, you’ll need about 5.0 CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute) @ 90 PSI (Pounds per Square Inch). For multiple tools use, you need something that can deliver a higher flow rate.
A general rule is that for numerous tool use, you must add the CFM of each machine together to determine your needs.
How to Choose The Best Small Air Compressors
When you’re shopping for a small air compressor, the first thing you’ll notice is that they’ve plastered with specifications: 2 HP, 3 gallons, 2.8 CFM, 130 PSI, 73 dB. But don’t let all those specs confuse you. We’ll tell you what they mean, and help you choose a compressor to suit your needs.
We made a list of the 15 best small air compressor that we thought were the best choices for light-duty use. We focused on small to midsize models because they were affordable, portable, and also powerful enough to handle most common DIY projects.
Oil-Free Is The Norm
Almost all small air compressors are now oil-less. This means you never have to worry about checking or changing oil. An oil-less small air compressor generally wears out faster than oil-lubricated models, but that’s not likely to be an issue with regular DIY use.
To get the best read on the amount of airpower a small air compressor can deliver, focus on the air compressors CFM rather than its HP.
Small air compressors don’t have large motors, so comparing them based on a motor’s horsepower isn’t very helpful.
Buyer’s Guide: How To Choose A Small Air Compressor?
Choosing the best small air compressor is not an easy task. For one thing, there isn’t a single unit that stands out in the crowd. One look at the table above reveals that the field of small air compressors is much diversified, and each of the reviewed products is highly specialized.
Given the above considerations, we can conclude that your choice of a small air compressor should be motivated first and foremost by the specific task you have to do.
If, for example, you are planning to open a beauty salon, you may need the Iwata Studio Series Ninja Jet compressor, which is powerful, compact, and quiet.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast and a 4×4 maniac, you must have the mega-powerful Micro Pro Inflator by Dynaplug for everything that the rugged terrain you are trying to conquer has to throw at you. For more common tire-inflating tasks, you may choose the less powerful and affordable Digital Tire Inflator by EPAuto.
If, on the other hand, you want to have a genuinely universal soldier that can inflate anything from car tires to garden inflatable tools, you should think of a compressor like Viair’s 70P model – the best small electric air compressors that our testers could find online.
For heavier-duty jobs, we recommend the Porter-Cable’s CMB15 model, or Porter-Cable C2002, which is the best small unit for your money.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Much Is A Small Compressor?
Depending on their application, the price range of small air compressors is vast – from around $50 (most inflators and light-duty units) to just under $500 (larger, heavier-duty models).
2. What Is The Best Small Air Compressor?
- Porter-Cable C2002 – The Best Small Air Compressor for Your Money
- PORTER-CABLE CMB15 – The Most Powerful Small Air Compressor
- Bostitch BTFP02012 – The Best Small Air Compressor for Your Home / Garage
3. What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?
It depends on what exactly you need it for. For more substantial jobs, you should choose one of the larger and more powerful compressors reviewed above. For lighter tasks, you should go for a cheaper and less powerful unit.
4. What’s The Smallest Air Compressor For Air Tools?
Iwata’s Studio Series Ninja Jet compressor is the smallest air compressor on our list. It is made to operate on a desktop or bench and is really easy to move around.
5. What’s The Best-rated Small Air Compressor?
With a rating of 4.3 out of five, the DEWALT D55146 model is the best-rated small air compressor on our list. Its got an excellent design, and its a compelling model that provides a high CFM output.
In the paragraphs above, we took a closer look at some of the best small air compressors currently available online. The field of larger air compressors is dominated by three to five manufacturers, while the competition in the world of small air compressors is much more robust.
With such cut-throat competition in the field, it is not a surprise that the price range of small air compressors can be broad (see the FAQ section above). Yet, when choosing such a unit, you should first and foremost assess the difficulty of the task you are planning to carry out and the capacity of the air tools that you will need.
You do not want to select too powerful of an air compressor for a light job, as you would be trying to kill a mocking bird with a gun for elephants. To avoid such a situation, you should consult the shop assistants at your local hardware store or the online retailer. Of course, you can always reach out to us and read our expert reviews!