Whether car painting is just a hobby or you do it as your profession, there’s always going to be one common issue that you may face-air compressors.

If you don’t own the proper air compressor for painting cars, then you can’t do it correctly or as efficiently. If you plan to operate more than one sprayer at a time, it’s important to take that into consideration when shopping for an air compressor. 

The best air compressor for painting cars will offer consistent airflow and air pressure. As you may already know, pneumatic tools require a specific CFM and PSI to properly operate.

The CFM is how much airflow comes from the compressor and the PSI is how much pressure the compressor can handle. These two paired together to determine whether or not your pneumatic tool can operate to its full extent. 

It’s recommended that you choose an air compressor that has a 3-5 HP motor with a CFM delivery between 4-6.5 CFM at 90 PSI. The compressor may have a lower HP and still deliver the recommended CFM. 

Based on our testing, The California Air Tools 20020 air compressor is the best air compressor for car painting, because it meets the criteria above. It produces 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI, which means you can get more out of it at 40 PSI. Additionally, it’s ultra-quiet and durable. 

Best Air Compressors for Car Painting

ModelCFM @ 90 PSIMax PSIHPTank SizeDecibelsWarranty
California Air Tools 200205.30 SCFM1202.020 Gallon701 year
WEN 2289T4.0 SCFM1501.510 Gallon681 year
CMXECXA03310424.0 SCFM1501.810 Gallon801 year
Stark Portable3.5 SCFM1253.510 GallonN/A2 Years
Ford SIlent Series2.9 SCFM1252.015 Gallon592 Years

1.California Air Tools 20020

The California Air Tools 20020 has been chosen as the best compressor because not only is it rugged, but it’s one of the most durable and quiet machines on the market. This particular model only emits 70 Decibels of sound, quiet enough to work right next to without damaging your ears. 

The CAT 20020 has a 2.0 HP motor that operates at 1680 RPM, which helps with the noise level and doesn’t allow for much wear and tear. Additionally, it has an oil-free dual-piston pump that lasts at least 3,000 hours before you begin to notice wear.

Other similar compressors only have a lifespan of 500 hours or less. Since the pump is oil-free, you can use the compressor in cold temperatures or on uneven terrain and it will start right up each time. 

Furthermore, this compressor can disperse 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI, which is a generous amount. This is more than enough pressure to operate your spray gun with ease. The air is stored in the 20-gallon tank and can be transported easily thanks to the two “no flat” wheels. It’s sturdy and comes with a 1-year limited warranty. 

California Air Tools 20020 Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air...
  • Ultra Quiet only 70 Decibels
  • Oil-Free Pump for Less Maintenance & Costs
  • 20. 0 Gallon Steel Tank with Wheels

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • Decent warranty
  • Quiet operation
  • Ideal CFM rating
  • Oil-free
  • Sturdy & portable
  • Powerful motor

Cons

  • Poor customer service

2.Craftsman 10 Gallon Air Compressor

Craftsman is one of the most well-known tool manufacturers in the world. Their unmistakable red colored tools and equipment sit on the shelves of some of the largest hardware stores.

This particular air compressor is just one of the popular products that many homeowners utilize. It comes packed full of features that will make your car painting experience easier and more efficient. 

One of the most notable features of the Craftsman air compressor is it’s powerful and long lifecycle. It has a 1.8 HP induction motor that allows for quiet operation.

It can fill the 10-gallon storage tank from empty to full in 180 seconds, which is 3 times extra longer life cycle. There are two couplers on the tank that allows you to use two tools at the same time. 

Additionally, this air compressor has the capability of distributing 4.0/5.0 CFM @ 90/40 PSI. This can run one to two paint guns depending on their CFM requirements. On top of the tank, you will find two gauges. They are there to help you keep track of the pressure that’s going to the tank and tool you’re using. 

Lastly, transporting the compressor is a breeze. It comes equipped with a rubber-reinforced handle and two rugged wheels for maximum portability. It can easily be stored wherever there’s enough room and moves freely.

Craftsman Air Compressor, 10 Gallon Peak 1.8 Horsepower...
  • spring cleaning promotion, special price!
  • imported
  • powerful and long lifecycle-this unit build with 1.8 peak horsepower induction motor, generate quite few noise and pretty strong power. fill tank from zero to full less than 180 seconds, 3 times extra longer life cycle

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • Easy portability
  • Great CFM rating
  • 1-year warranty
  • Powerful 1.8 HP motor
  • Quick air recuperation
  • Large storage tank

Cons

  • Complaints of broken wheels upon arrival
  • Loud

3.WEN 2289T 

The WEN 2289T is the ideal air compressor for your garage, work shop, or even your worksite. You can use it to plug in a variety of tools including staplers, nailers, and spray guns.

The compressor features a quick drain valve that’s easy to reach as well as a ¼ inch NPT quick coupler. You can keep tabs on the pressure within your tank and coming from your tools with the easy-to-read pressure gauges. 

The WEN compressor is equipped with a 1.5 HP, 15 AMP motor. It has the capability of producing 150 PSI and stores the air in the generous 10-gallon reinforced steel tank.

Once full, it can put out 4.0/5.0 CFM @ 90/40 PSI. This should be plenty to run your spray gun with ease. The compressor is also relatively quiet, putting out only 68 Decibels of sound. 

Since this is an oil-free unit, it does not require extra lubrication, which means less maintenance that you have to worry about. Additionally, this single-stage compressor has an easy-to-reach drain valve that allows you to release built-up air and condensation with ease. 

Lastly, the compressor has an auto-shutdown feature that will shut the compressor down when it reaches max PSI for more reliable use. It is also backed by a generous 2-year warranty and you will have access to skilled technicians and customer service representatives to make sure you are always satisfied with your WEN compressor. 

WEN 2289T 10 Gal. Oil-Free Vertical Electric Air Compressor
  • Provides air flow rates of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI
  • Oil-free pump requires no external lubrication for a longer lifespan
  • 10 Gal. tank constructed with reinforced steel for a maximum pressure of 150 PSI

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • Ideal CFM for spray guns
  • Oil-free pump means less maintenance
  • Generous 10-gallon storage tank
  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • Reports of product being damaged from the start

4.Ford Silent Series

Everybody on the planet knows the name Ford, but they only know them by their vehicles. What they may not know is that Ford also makes the Ford Silent Series air compressor. Just like their vehicles, they’re Built Ford Tough. It’s durable, portable, quiet, and affordable. 

To start, this compressor features a strong 2.0 HP motor with a maximum pressure of 125 PSI. This compressor has an oil-free pump, which keeps it quiet and lessens the wear and tear on the internal components. With an oil-free compressor, you will notice that it starts in all weather conditions and it can be used on uneven terrain. 

Along with the benefits of the oil-free pump, you will also find that the pump emits 2.9/3.9 CFM @ 90 PSI/40 PSI. Additionally, you can keep track of the pressure with the two easy-to-read pressure gauges on the machine. You can keep track of the pressure in the 15-gallon storage tank and the airflow output. 

Lastly, this compressor is one of the quietest on the market. It emits just 59 Decibels while being used. When compared to other similar models, this one blows them out of the water in terms of noise level. 

Ford Silent Series 15 Gallon Vertical Tank 2 HP, 125 Max PSI...
  • 15 Gallon Vertical Air Tank
  • 2 HP/ 125 Max PSI/ 120V, 60Hz
  • Super Quiet Operation (~59dB)

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • Has wheels for portability
  • Ultra quiet
  • Powerful motor
  • Ideal CFM for spray gun usage
  • Easy-to-read gauges
  • Oil-free pump

5.Stark Portable Quiet Air Compressor

Last up is the Stark Portable Air Compressor. Stark is a lesser known name, but they boast of amazing capabilities such as automatic shutoff features, low amp draw, and it’s 50% quieter than other similar units. 

To start, the Stark portable air compressor has a maximum PSI of 125 and a CFM rating of 7.2/3.5 CFM @ 40/90 PSI.

This is more than enough to power at least one spray gun for painting your vehicle. It has a 3.5 peak HP and a cast iron pump with a big bore cylinder and piston. This provides you with quicker recovery time for exceptional performance.

Additionally, there is a large automotive-style industrial air filter that greatly increases the air intake for optimal efficiency. The cast iron cylinder helps reduce wear and tear and increases pump life. When combined with the 10-gallon storage tank, this makes for a user-friendly machine. 

Unfortunately, we could not locate the exact Decibel rating of this machine, but user reviews boast of it being quieter than other comparable compressors. 

Stark Portable Quiet Air Compressor 10-Gallon Tank 3.5HP Air...
  • Boasting a maximum PSI of 125, the compressor is ideal for a variety of projects including nailing, bolting, stapling, fastening, hobby painting, and inflation.
  • Automatic shutoff stops pumping air when the object is fully inflated for safety
  • It 50% quieter than comparable units, you can use this compressor indoors without worrying about noise

Last update on 2021-12-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Pros

  • Quiet operation
  • Durable components
  • Ideal CFM rating for spray guns
  • Portable
  • Affordable
  • Automatic shutoff

Cons

  • Complaints of missing parts upon arrival

Frequently Asked Questions 

In this section we will cover some of the most common and even uncommon questions that you may have regarding your air compressor choice. 

Do Air Compressors Have A Power Rating?

Yes. An air compressors power rating is the horsepower. Most non-industrial air compressors have a horsepower rating of between 1.5-6.5. However, some larger stationary air compressors can have a horsepower rating of up to 15. 

It is important to know that gas-powered and electric air compressors have different horsepower ratings. If you have an electric air compressor that is 5 HP, a gas or diesel-powered compressor would have to be at least 10 HP to do the same amount of work as the electric compressor. 

Are Electric Air Compressors Better Than Gas-Powered Air Compressors?

Both types of compressors have their advantages. Gas-powered air compressors use gas to make power. These are great because you don’t need to utilize electricity to operate it as you would with an electric compressor. 

Additionally, gas-powered compressors don’t have an automatic mechanism that powers up or shuts it down. Rather, they have a pilot unloader valve. This valve opens and closes depending on what the pressure level is within the tank. Essentially, this means that they will run continuously, which is ideal for when you need constant pressure. 

The downfall to gas compressors is that they’re noisy and can’t be used indoors due to toxic fumes that may be emitted. This is where electric compressors beat gas compressors. They are generally quiet and they can be used indoors. 

Each type of compressor has its advantages, it’s just a matter of what you need the compressor for and where you’re going to be using it. 

What Size Air Compressor Is Best For Air Tools?

When looking at air compressors for your pneumatic tools, you need to look at the CFM requirements. This stands for Cubic Feet Per Minute. You should look at the most powerful air tool that you plan to use and then compare it to the CFM output on the compressor.

If you plan to use more than one air tool at a time, combine the CFM ratings and to determine the power of the compressor.  Once you have determined how much CFM your air tools are going to need, you will then have a better idea of how powerful your compressor should be.

Can A Mini Compressor Be Used For Airbrushing?

As long as it meets the CFM ratings of your airbrush you could, but they are generally not able to keep up with airflow. Sure, they’re much quieter than traditional compressors, but they aren’t as powerful. 

How Do I Make Sure My Tank Is Safe?

A huge concern for homeowners using a compressor is whether or not their tank is safe. You can perform what’s called a “hydrostatic test” on the tank. This method pressurizes your tank well above normal pressure and it measures how much expansion there is when the tank is pressurized. 

Metal will stretch a certain amount before it fails and the test and the test will show a reduced wall thickness. If the tank expands too much, this means that it’s weakened and you will need a new tank. 

Why Is It Called “Airless” When It Uses Compressed Air?

Airless sprayers work by pumping paint from a gun at high pressures up to 3,000 PSI. The pain is pushed through a hose and out of a small hole at the tip of the gun. The paint is drawn directly from a paint bucket or can. The paint compression system within the sprayer doesn’t come in contact with the paint and isn’t involved in the misting of the paint. 

Do I Absolutely Have To Drain My Compressor After Each Use?

If your compressor uses a cast iron, steel, rolled steel, etc. cylinder, then yes, you do need to drain the compressor. The reason is that it helps ensure the lifespan of the seals, valves, and walls and keeps them from corroding. Additionally, your lines won’t fill with condensed air 

If the compressor isn’t drained, water will pool at the bottom of the tank cylinder. It will eventually fail due to corroded seals and the water will eventually turn into oxidizing acid. 

What Are The Top Air Compressor Brands?

Everybody has their own opinion as to what the top brands are. In our opinion and from what we have researched, we have found that California Air Tools, DeWalt, Craftsman, Stark, and Industrial Air are the top air compressor brands.

What Are The Different Types of Air Compressors?

There are three main types of air compressors which include reciprocating, rotary screw,  and rotary centrifugal. 

  • Reciprocating: this is a positive displacement machine. It boosts air pressure by decreasing the volume. A reciprocating compressor can be used in both home and industrial settings. They also have low installation costs, are able to produce high pressure, and they’re easy to operate. 
  • Rotary Screw: Rotary screw compressors are also positive displacement units. They are one of the most popular choices when it comes to manufacturing industries. Each one has a 100% duty cycle and can operate 24/7. 
  • Rotary Centrifugal: These compressors don’t have cylinders, pistons, or valves. They have main bearings that need to be monitored. They can be single-stage or multi-stage units. They work by relying on energy transfer from the impeller to the air. 

Conclusion

We hope that this guide helped you pick the right air compressor for your spray painting needs. As we mentioned before, the Industrial Air Compressor was our top pick due to its  quietness and versatility.

Choosing an air compressor can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to look for, but it is our hope that our FAQ section assists with any questions you may have had.

 It’s important to remember that you can’t just look at how many HP or gallons can be stored in the tank. You have to look at the specifications of your air tools and compare them to the ratings of the compressor you’re considering. 

You may also be interested in our post about the best air compressors for car detailing.