The two main types of paint sprayers are air and airless. Choosing the right type of paint sprayer for the job you are undertaking will affect the overall outcome of your paint job. It is important to consider the differences between the two paint gun types before committing to one or the other.

An air paint sprayer is the best option for jobs that require the use of expensive paint or materials. Since an air paint sprayer is less prone to overspray, they are the best option for detail spraying. An airless paint sprayer is better suited for larger surfaces where a large spray area is necessary.

This guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to decide which of the two popular paint sprayers is right for your particular job. It is important that you choose the proper paint sprayer type for the job you wish to ensure that it is completed in the most efficient way.

Air Vs Airless Paint Sprayer Price

Air paint sprayers are generally much cheaper than airless types. Air paint sprayers are not quite as complex internally, so they can be produced for much cheaper than airless types. You can purchase a new air paint sprayer for an average price of $125.

Airless paint sprayers are more modernized and complex internally, which makes them a bit more expensive than an air paint sprayer. You can purchase a new airless paint sprayer for an average cost of $325.

Because of the price difference, it is important that you consider the nature of the job you are using your paint sprayer for. Choosing the right one for the job can save you money and hassle if you find that you have not purchased the proper type.

You can save money by purchasing your paint sprayer online. The table below contains the average price of both paint sprayer types at some of the most popular online vendors.

VendorAvg. Air Paint Sprayer CostAvg. Airless Paint Sprayer Type
Lowes$135$315
Walmart$122$322
Amazon$125$325
Ace Hardware$137$330
Harbor Freight$140$320

Air Vs Airless Paint Sprayer Performance

The air paint sprayer is the best option when it comes to performance in most situations. Air paint sprayers offer high spray quality due to the flexible nature of the pressure created by the sprayer’s compressor.

The air paint sprayer’s compressor generates heat when used which will accelerate the drying process when it is sprayed. Air paint sprayers also have a lower noise level and are easier to clear off excess paint. That being said, the airless paint sprayer has a much faster spray rate and is more suitable for large-scale jobs that need to be completed quickly.

Performance for both of these paint sprayers is generally dictated by the amount of pressure they are able to generate when spraying. An airless sprayer has a much higher pressure rating than an air sprayer. Most airless paint sprayers can reach a psi rating of 2500.

The air paint sprayer has an average psi rating of 25. This is often much more manageable for people who are new to paint sprayers and are only tackling small, DIY-style projects. If you are using an airless paint sprayer, you should be aware of the pressure rating, as it could potentially damage some more sensitive surfaces.

The table below contains the psi ratings for both types of paint sprayers.

Paint Sprayer TypeAvg. PSI Rating
Airless Paint Sprayer2500
Air Paint Sprayer25

Air Vs Airless Paint Sprayer Transfer Rate

Air paint sprayers have a much higher transfer rate than airless types. The transfer rate of a paint sprayer refers to the amount of paint that covers the intended material. Since some paint loss is expected due to overspray using either of the sprayer types, it is important that you choose the paint sprayer that is the most efficient for your job and wastes the least amount of paint.

Most air paint sprayers have at least a 70% percent transfer rating. This means that you can expect only 30% of the paint to be wasted due to overspray. Airless paint sprayers have a much lower transfer rate of only 45%.

You should consider the transfer rate of both paint sprayers to ensure that you choose the one appropriate for your job. If you are using expensive paint, you will likely be better off with the air paint sprayer, as you will waste less paint.

The table below contains the transfer rates for both types of paint sprayers.

Paint Sprayer TypeTransfer Rate
Air Paint Sprayer70%
Airless Paint Sprayer45%

Air Vs Airless Paint Sprayer Finish Quality

Airless paint sprayers have a higher finish quality than air sprayers. Airless paint sprayers reduce the possibility of air blending with the paint and creating paint bubbles once sprayed on the material. This will reduce spots and result in an overall smoother finish.

The air paint sprayer’s use of compression creates a low-pressure spray that is prone to mixing with air. This causes unsightly bubbles and an uneven finish in some circumstances. While this issue can be minimized when using an air paint sprayer for a smaller surface area, it will be more prevalent when trying to cover a large surface.

Air Vs Airless Paint Sprayer Paint Thickness

Airless paint sprayers can handle a wider variety of paint thicknesses when compared to air paint sprayers. Because of the high pressure utilized by airless paint sprayers, the material you use will not need to be thinned out before use.

Air paint sprayers will have trouble working with thicker material. If you wish to use thicker material with an air paint sprayer, you will need to ensure that you thin it out properly before attempting to run it through your sprayer.

Air Vs Airless Paint Sprayer Safety Concerns

When using both types of paint sprayers, there are certain safety precautions that should be abided by. These include covering any nearby items to minimize accidental spraying and wearing the proper safety equipment while spraying.

You should always wear a gas mask or goggles when using a paint sprayer. This can ensure your safety and will make your paint job experience much more pleasant. When it comes to airless paint sprayers, there are additional safety concerns that you should be aware of.

Airless paint sprayers utilize high pressure and heat to operate. You should keep this in mind while using one as operating one improperly could be dangerous.

Air Vs Airless Paint Sprayer Uses

Air paint sprayers are best suited for detailed spraying jobs utilizing expensive paint, while airless paint sprayers are more appropriate for large-scale jobs. If you are painting a small area where detail and precise coating are important, you will need to use an air paint sprayer due to its smaller spray area and more precise coverage.

For larger surface areas that do not call for detailed paintwork, the airless paint sprayer is the best option. Airless paint sprayers have a faster spray rate and can cover a larger area much faster than an air paint sprayer.

Final Thoughts  

This guide has provided you with all of the information that you need to choose the proper paint sprayer for any job. Choosing the proper paint sprayer type will help you complete your paint job more efficiently.

As this guide indicates, both types of paint sprayers have their own strengths and weaknesses. You can use the information provided in this guide to help you decide which one is best for you.