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Best Portable Air Compressor Reviews & Ultimate Buying Guide

If you are a DIY enthusiast or a professional, you probably already know how invaluable it is to have a best portable air compressor as part of your inventory. These machines can help you do almost anything from filling up tires and powering tools to blowing out hoses in the yard during winter.

However, there are so many compressors to choose from that it can be quite a chore finding best air compressor to fit your needs. Do you need a gas or electric powered compressor? Do you need a high-powered two-stage compressor, or is a single-stage unit good enough? What power ratings should I be looking for? This portable air compressor review will answer these questions, as well as give you some advice on which of the five tools you should use depending on the type of work you would like to do.

Best Choice

Kensun YS-205 Portable Air Compressor Inflator
4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)
A versatile compressor is the best description for multi-function Kensun YS-205 Portable Compressor Inflator. This model has been tested to service with 33 inches tires pumping up to 40 psi in a gauge measuring 250 psi. Feel safe and secure in the road with the easily portable Kensun air compressor in your trunk!

Short Reviews of the Best Portable Air Compressor

1. Porter-Cable C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor

PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK is basically a step up from the PCFP02003 that was covered earlier. Despite its larger size, it is still as portable and easy to use as its younger sibling is, and only weighs in at 34 lbs.

Our Pick
4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Big size tank help working times are extended. It can start up easily even in the dead of winter.

Its performance figures are also an improvement, and it can deliver 90 Psi at 2.6 CFM, and is capable of a maximum of 150 PSI, allowing you to work for longer. Working times are extended even more by the size of the tank, which at 6 gallons is pretty big for the weight of the machine.

The power provided by the compressor means that you will be able to carry out a wide range of jobs, from menial work like blowing up tires and footballs, to using a framing nailer. The 0.8 hp motor runs on 120 volts, but has such a low amp draw that it can start up easily even in the dead of winter.

Just like it’s the PCFP02003, it runs at 82 dBA, making this one of the noisier units on this list, however, the fact that it comes with a 13 piece accessory kit that includes a 25’ hose makes the noise bearable.

The major problem with this unit is that the regulator tends to be weak, and breaks with at the slightest provocation after just a few uses. This usually means that after just a few uses, you can barely get the unit above 80 PSI, and sometimes even that is a challenge.

The main reason for this is the fact that the regulator valve is plastic, and connected to a metal component. This increases the wear on the plastic component causing it to fail sooner than it should. The worst part is, it cost about $60 to replace, which is close to half the price of the actual compressor.


2. Porter-Cable PCFP02003 Pancake Compressor

The Porter-Cable PCFP02003 3.5 Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor is one of the smallest and lightest of the compressors in this review (weighing in at a paltry 26lbs), and is ideal for use with tools for the smaller, finer jobs, as well as for general inflation. Its weight means that it is very portable, and its 3.5 Gallon tank means that you will not have the motor running all the time as you use it.

Also Great
4.6 Stars (4.6 / 5)
This is the smallest and lightest. Giving you a longer running time and quicker recovery. The oil-free pump has a long shelf life and requires no maintenance.

It can deliver 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI and has a 135 PSI maximum limit, giving you a longer running time and quicker recovery than most other compressors in its class. The low amp 120V motor will start with no issues even in the dead of winter or when connected to an extension cord. The oil-free pump has a long shelf life and requires no maintenance.

Its small size allows it to fit almost anywhere in a shop or garage, and the ease of use means that you do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to start it up. It takes a short time to fill up the tank, (sometimes as little as two minutes) which saves you time and money.

However, it does have a few flaws. For instance, to take full advantage of the compressor, you need to buy an accessory kit which will set you back another $15-$20.

There have also been a number of reports of parts failure resulting in the unit being unable to hold pressure. For instance, the tubing is prone to leakage, while there are parts in the manifold that are easily damaged, and cost slightly more than $45 to fix, which is almost half the purchase price for a new unit. Additionally, this is the noisiest unit in this review. At levels of 82dBA, it is quite noisy in comparison to the other compressors on this list.


3. DeWalt DWFP55126 Pancake Compressor

DeWalt DWFP55126 is ideal for the smaller air tools in your inventory, however, it can also run higher rated tools with no problem. 2.6 SCFM is delivered at 90 PSI, allowing you to run tools for longer periods with a quick recovery time. The 165 max PSI 6 gallon tank also contributes to the longer running times that this machine is capable of producing.

Also Great
4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)
The motor is very efficient and starts up easily, regardless of low temperatures, and works well when connected to an extension cord. One of the best things about this unit is that it allows you to run two tools at once. And It is very quiet.

The motor is very efficient and starts up easily, regardless of low temperatures, and works well when connected to an extension cord. It also runs on an oil free pump, meaning you do not have to worry about maintenance costs. One of the best things about this unit is that it allows you to run two tools at once.

This is one of the quietest unit in this review, and produces about 75.5 dBA, meaning that you could use it anywhere and not have to worry about disturbing your neighbors. It is relatively light, and weighs only 30lbs, making it quite portable. Unfortunately, it does have a few flaws that need to be pointed out.

For instance, the hoses are prone to leaking due to a problem with the bearings inside the hose fitting. In some cases, this can lead to it leaking at a rate of about 100 PSI an hour, making the compressor restart every 20 minutes on average.  Additionally, despite the fact that you should be able to run two tools smoothly, it tends to lose some of its efficiency when you try to use the two outputs simultaneously.

However, once you fix the hose issue (easiest way is to just get better hose fittings) the only real downside to this unit is its inefficiency when it comes to running two tools.


4. Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor

This is by far the heaviest air compressor on this list. The 81lb cast iron pump is bulky, but ensures that you can use it in almost any working environment. The MAC2400 comes with a 2.5 HP motor whichdelivers and impressive 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI, or 4.8 CFM at 40 PSI, allowing you to run two nailers at the same time. It uses very little power on start up, giving you a lower chance of tripping breakers.

Also Great
4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)
It uses very little power on start up. The large, industrial style air filter. And very quiet.

The large, industrial style air filter resembles older automotive air filters, which is ideal for those who are going to be working on dusty construction sites for long hours. A large intake,coupled with the air filter complement the big 4.2 gallon twin-stacked tank, while the oil-lubricated pump and finned discharge tubing help to keep working temperatures down.

The pump runs at only 1730 RPM, making theMakita MAC2400 one of the quietest units in its class as it only produces 79 dBA. This means that unlike most compressors of this size, you can use it indoors and have it in the same room with you without worrying about wearing earplugs.

However, like all good things, a few faults need to be pointed out. For one thing, the likelihood that you will get a damaged unit is quite high. There have been numerous complaints, from units with broken oil housings to broken gauges. Another problem is the weight. The 81lbs take away from its portability, and makes you think twice about transferring it from one place to another.

There is also a problem with some units and their ability to maintain air pressure. Some units have been unable to maintain pressures of as little as 80PSI, with one user complaining that it would not do even half of that. However, regardless of the faults, this unit if used properly will last you for years.


5. Senco PC1010 Air Compressor

The smallest compressor in this review, the Senco PC1010 air compressor is by far the quietest air compressor on this list as well, and only produces 68 dBA when running. It has a small, 1 hp (peak) motor that is capable of delivering 1.0 CFM at 40 PSI, 0.7 CFM at 90 PSI and 0.6 CFM at 100 PSI. It has a very short recovery time, averaging 48 seconds, and this, along with the 125 PSI maximum means that you will be able to use it for longer.

Also Great
4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)
Smallest and quietest. It has a very short recovery time. The Senco PC1010 comes with a number of safety features.

This makes it ideal for small jobs such as tire inflation. Unfortunately, the low CFM ratings mean that it will not be useful for much more, so if you are planning on doing anything more intense than what the casual hobbyist would get into this is not the compressor for you.

The size of the jobs it is capable of may be reflected in its weight as well, as it only weighs 20 lbs. This makes it extremely portable, and its small dimensions mean it can fit almost anywhere. The light weight may be thanks, in part, to the strong aluminum tank which is resistant to corrosion and will take a few knocks before it even begins to complain.

The Senco PC1010 comes with a number of safety features, including a protective breaker that is activated when the amperage gets too high, and a pressure switch that shuts down the motor should the pressure get too high.

The major issue with the Senco PC1010 is that it does not really last, and you will be lucky if you have it for more than two years. It seems something is always going wrong, for instance, there have been numerous issues with the check valve, pressure switch and regulator. However, probably the most disappointing thing is the size of the tank. At only 1 gallon, it does not allow you to work for long periods.


The Different Air Compressors

Quite a few differences can be used to describe air compressors. However, the easiest one to remember is the different between gas and electric air compressors. Gas compressors run off gasoline, and are ideal for situations where there is restricted or no access to electricity, for example on outdoor jobs.

Gas air compressors

Gas air compressors run off gasoline suitable with outdoor jobs

Electric compressors run on electricity, and are more common than their gas powered counterparts. These are ideal for DIY enthusiasts because they are much easier to use and maintain, and they usually cost less than gas powered compressors. However, most are not that effective when it comes to heavy-duty work but do better with more delicate tasks.

Electric air compressors

Electric air compressors is much easier to use and maintain

Two-stage compressors are generally used for tools that need high pressures (usually about 175 PSI) which is achieved due to the fact that the air is compressed twice. Single-stage compressors are much less complicated but supply lower pressures and usually max out at around 150 PSI.

There are four main terms used to describe the power that compressors can supply: PSI, HP, CFM and SCFM. The most important term in this list is CFM, which stands for Cubic Feet per Minute. It describes the cubic feet of air that the compressor can deliver in one minute. The SCFM is the Standard CFM, and is the CFM when everything is running as standard. However, there are few situations where everything will be running as standard and so this rating will vary in the real world.

The PSI stands for Pounds per Square Inch, and refers to the pressure that is supplied by the compressor. HP stands for horsepower; most compressors run between 1.5 and 6.5 HP. Generally, the HP a compressor delivers will affect the PSI that it can deliver as well.

How to Choose and Use an Air Compressor

Conclusion

All of these compressors would be good to own, however, it depends on what you would like to do. If you are a hobbyist, then the Senco PC1010 is the compressor for you. It will allow you to do light tasks like air brushing and pumping tires, but not much else, and the noise rating means you can use it in a room without having to worry about waking up your neighbors

If you would like a portable compressor to do light work like small framing and roof jobs, trim finishings, or pumping the odd tire then you should choose the DeWALT.

The Porter-Cable Unit PCFP02003, despite its light frame, has too many issues to sort out before you can use it, while the PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK has too many reliability issues once you have got it going. All you have to do with the DeWALT DWFP55126 is remember to change the hose fittings and you should be good to go.

If you are looking for an Air compressor that will allow you to work on a wider range of projects, then the Makita MAC2400 is the way to go. You may need to bulk up some just to drag it around, but the benefits of having such a heavy unit heavily outweigh the disadvantages of getting one.

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