• Best Small Air Compressors

Everything you need to know about small air compressors, and the best ones you can buy today

Air compressors are the go-to equipment for powering pneumatic tools ranging from sprayers, nail guns, impact wrenches, jackhammers, etc. Small Air compressors are known by many names including mini compressors or handheld compressors or even portable compressors. From homeowners, DIYers to professionals, use the small air compressors or low noise compressors as they are designed to be extremely light and portable.

Though there is no small silent air compressor, we have excellent options that keep the noise to a minimum. They aren’t high CFM products, yet they with just the flip of a switch, pack plenty of power for useful & everyday tasks such as inflating vehicle tires, ATV, power water pumps, and cleaning equipment.

Finding the right small air compressor is a mix of knowing the type, size, and purpose for that particular air compressor. Every one of the top-rated small air compressors is less than 1 HP, allowing them to be plugged into any standard home electrical outlet. In this article, we go through a detailed 2021 review of some of the best air compressors for garage, home, and small shops.

Best Small Air Compressor Reviews and Recommendations 2021

Craftsman CMEC6150K 6-Gallon Air Compressor

Best Small Air Compressors
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This 6-gallon pancake-style small air compressor is proudly made in the USA and allows you to move on projects faster. The unit generates adequate cut-in pressure for a variety of applications, rated at 150 Max PSI. The recovery time is quick, thanks to 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI. With this unit, you will save on maintenance costs as the oil-free pump offers long-life and durability. Be it in cold weather, the small air compressor starts without any hassle and the dual couplers allow users to attach multiple hoses and tool combinations. Also, the unit comes with a 13-piece accessory kit and a one-year limited warranty. The Craftsman CMEC6150K 6-Gallon Air Compressor ticks all the checkboxes of portability and efficiency.

The only limitation of this small compressor is the amount of noise it puts out. Rated at 78.5 decibels, the air compressor has average noise ratings but can challenge normal indoor conversation.

Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Portable Air Compressor

Best Small Air Compressors
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For those who demand, affordable, highly-portable, and powerful compressor option, the 3-gallon Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Portable Air Compressors is a great option. It comes standard with a 10 piece accessory kit to help you start your DIY projects right away. The unit is comparatively small and lightweight, weighing around 21 pounds. Despite its small size, this small air compressor is quite powerful, delivering an airflow of 0.36 CFM @ 90 PSI and generates a maximum pressure of 110 PSI. With the unit comes a 25 ft. recoil hose, air chuck, and a blowgun.
However, The compressor provides users a low 0.36 CFM at 90 PSI and is comparatively loud with a noise rating of 93 decibels.

California Air Tools 8010A Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 1.0 HP Air Compressor

Best Small Air Compressors
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The CALIFORNIA AIR TOOLS 8010A Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free Air Compressor is one of the quietest air compressors in the market, having only 60 decibels of sound. This unit is extremely lightweight, weighing in at only 37.25 pounds. It has a powerful 1.0 HP motor that operates at only 1680 RPM creating less wear. This unit comes with an eight-gallon vertical aluminum air tank with a maximum pressure rating of 120 PSI. It has a wheel kit that makes it very easy to transport. The Oil-Free Dual Piston Pump System is designed for high performance and reliability. Also, it comes with a 1-year limited warranty, and Wheel Kit & Air Filter

The biggest limitation to this compressor is its price and size. For premium features, you will have to shell out extra money.

Bostitch BTFP02012

Best Small Air Compressors
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The Bostitch BTFP02012 is engineered with a 0.9 running Hp motor which can be powered by a regular outlet at home. It is a lube-free, maintenance-free pump, and easy start-up. This pump can max out 150 PSI. The standard 6- 6-gallon pancake-style air tank is big enough for varied applications. The good news is that the unit has a faster recovery rate, just about 25 seconds recovery time. The unit yields 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI. Weighing 29 pounds and having a 14" dimension, this unit is one of the lightest air compressors and is highly portable.

The Bostitch BTFP02012 noise is rated at 78.5 decibels which is not as quiet as many small air compressors out there. It is the best choice for semi-professional applications.

Smittybilt 2781 5-65 CFM Universal Air Compressor

Best Small Air Compressors
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A Smittybilt Air Compressor is the most powerful compression unit in its class with a 1/3 horsepower oil-less motor and a 30 amp inline fuse. This air compressor is a tankless unit which relies on 12-volt car batteries for power. It is capable of generating 40 PSI for 40 minutes in 85-degree temperatures. The air flow is rated at 5.65 CFM, while the 24-foot long coiled hose enables long reach especially in cases of easy tire inflation.The auto-shutoff feature also reduces the cognitive load and protects the unit from overheating.

The resuable air filter can be cleaned but the occasional maintenance incur a minor cost. The price tag is high in comparison to others, but for such high performance ance and comfort it becomes valid.

Benefits of Small Air Compressors

Buying a small air compressor has many benefits as they are lightweight, compact, and cheap. Some of the key benefits of the small air compressor are listed below:

  • Save Space and Portable: Although small air compressors vary in size and shape, they are a space-saving tool. Rated high for their portability, these air compressor’s lightweight and compact size allow easy storage and transportation as well. For the best space-saver, look for a vertical portable air compressor for sale.
  • Enhanced productivity: Like the larger units, small air compressors can be used with pneumatic tools. They offer comfort for long jobs like woodworking and can be used for varied applications.
  • Inexpensive Cost: Small air compressors are relatively affordable than larger compressors. For 2021, most air compressors with 5-gallon tanks have an average cost of around $150 or less. For a fact, air comes free, so you may not even have to pay for filling your tank at any roadside stops, like gas stations.
  • Environment Friendly: Apart from cost-saving, efficient air compressors also help control pollution. How? To generate 1 hp of compressed air, if you spend 8 hp of electricity, the annual cost of electrical power exceeds the output. Reducing the electricity needed for compressed air units can help significantly improve air quality.
  • Produce Less Noise: We can not say they are quiet air compressors, but they produce less noise than the larger, non-portable units. This is because it provides less power. Also, the gas-powered alternatives produce even less noise than diesel-powered air compressors.
  • Multi-function utility and versatility: The portable nature of small compressors makes them usable for kinds of industrial uses. Before buying the ideal small portable air compressor for sale, specify why you need it.
  • Cleaning Abilities: For places or equipment that cannot be accessed by hand, equipment such as the small portable air compressor can be quite efficient for cleaning equipment.
Best Small Air Compressor
 Small Air Compressor Best Overall Best Value Honorable Mention Best Small Air Compressor For your Home Most Popular Air Compressor
 Model Craftsman CMEC6150K 6-Gallon Air Compressor Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Portable Air Compressor California Air Tools 8010A Ultra Quiet 1.0 HP Air Compressor Bostitch BTFP02012   Porter-Cable C2002
Pros ●     Stable and decent flow rate ●     Negligible maintenance ●     The package includes a one-year limited warranty plus a 13-piece set of accessories ●     Small size and lightweight ●     High portability as compared to rivals ●     The oil-less motor makes it maintenance-free ●     Extremely quiet, Below average Noise rating: 60 decibels ●     Dual-stage motor ●     Extremely lightweight (just 37.25 pounds) ●     Lightweight (29 lbs) and Portable ●     High flow regulator ●     Low noise figures at only around 78db ●     Standard with 8-piece inflating kits ●     High portability:20 pounds weight ●     Optimized for easy start-up at varied temperature
Cons ●     Noise (78.5 decibels) while running ●     For household and small applications ●     Noise (93 decibels) considerablly loud ●     Low flow rate: 0.36 CFM ●     Comparatively large for a home use ●     Relatively Expensive ●     Ear protection is required when you depressurize the tank ●     Accessories quality is questionable ●     Not for medium-duty air tools. ●     Rubber legs are quite small
Summary and Spec ●     Pancake-style air compressor ●     Oil-less motor ●     Air tank pressure: 150 PSI ●     Flow rate: 2.6 SCFM ●     Portable 3-gallon compressor ●     Flow rate: 0.36 CFM ●     Mobile air compressor type ●     Tank Capacity: Eight-gallon tank ●     Flow Rate: 2.2 CFM at 1680 RPM ●     6-gallon pancake tank ●     Maximum pressure:150 PSI. ●     Flow Rate: 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI ●     Most popular portable air compressor ●     Relatively affordable price ●     Flow Rate: 2.6 CFM ●     Tank Capacity: 6-gallons ●     Motor Power: 1HP

Types of Small Air Compressors

Before you purchase a small air compressor, consider your power source. Small air compressors run on either electricity (AC or DC) or gasoline, and each of these power sources have its own pros and cons, explained below.

Electric small air compressor

Electricity is a more popular power source as a small air compressor plugs into standard outlets. These machines are reasonably lightweight, and the electric motors need little to no maintenance. These small units become a good choice for home workshops and garages, specifically as you can use them indoors without worrying about the exhaust.

But electric air compressors do have a few shortcomings. These types of small air compressors aren’t serviceable, as the cost of replacing the motor, and the pump will often cost as much as buying a new compressor. They can be further categorized into AC-powered and Battery Powered (Direct Current):

  • AC-POWERED: Most small air compressors available in the market are powered by alternating current (AC) electricity. Generally, these types of compressors need a standard 120-volt power outlet to operate, available at home as well.
  • BATTERY-POWERED: There are selective small air compressors that are rechargeable, and use battery packs as a power source. Mostly these units are used for inflating tires or if you have a limited capacity of use. As such, they also come in handy while traveling to and fro.

Gas small air compressor

The Gas-powered small air compressors use a gasoline engine to drive their compressor pump or in other words, they use an internal combustion engine. The best gas air compressors offer higher efficiency at a partial load. The best gas air compressor will be durable, while the quality depends on the manufacturer of the gasoline engine, including Honda, Subaru, Kawasaki, and Briggs & Stratton. These units feature a compact design, and can also be used indoors.

Compared to an electric air compressor, the gas-powered unit will have more weight and be somewhat less portable. In terms of maintenance, they need more attention. Keep checking oil, replace fuel filters, and spark plugs. Moreover, to use them indoors, a ventilation or exhaust system should be in place else you’d risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

How to Pick The Right Small Air Compressor for Me?

To pick the right small air compressor, there are a couple of things to consider. Buy a gasoline-powered unit for outdoor work as the noise and ventilation wouldn’t be a problem. An electric-powered small air compressor would be better for indoor jobs.

How much does a Small Air Compressor cost?

The cost of a small air compressor depends on the type of compressor, power source, and the dealer you buy it through. Following is a general pricing guide to give you an idea of small air compressor pricing in 2021.

  • Under $100: Mostly these types of small air compressors are designed for tire inflation and are battery-powered.
  • $100 and up: Most air compressors in this price range run off of AC power and are more powerful and capable than their battery-powered units.
  • Between $250 and $500: On Average, small air compressor with 1 to 2 HP, approx 15 to 30-gallon air tank, and 120 to 200 PSI pressure output.
  • Between $750 and $1,250: A small air compressor with about 6.5 HP gas engine, a 10-gallon tank, and 135 PSI falls between this price range.

Key Specs and Features: What to Look for in a Small Air Compressor

Power, Performance, and Efficiency

All air compressors have a performance rating, measured in horsepower, CFM, PSI, or standard cubic feet per minute. The air compressor motors are measured in horsepower, which indicates their capability. The more powerful the air compressor, the faster it will fill its tank with air. PSI determines the amount of pressure a full air tank has while the CFM tells you the amount (volume) of air that can flow out through the nozzle and hose.

For your reference, a small electric motor should have at least 1/2 horsepower while the gas-powered unit can benefit from as much as 5 hp. Generally, for maximum capability, you should prioritize CFM first and horsepower last. Also, the numbers will help you compare against any pneumatic tools you plan to hook up to the compressor.

Air Tank Volume and Pressure

The volume of an air compressor tank tells how much-compressed air the unit can hold. The metric also helps in determining how often the compressor will run, and how long it will run. Measured in gallons, the air tank capacity should be large while the flow rate (CFM) lower, for the air tank to last long.

Small air compressors have a maximum pressure rating, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). This metric is important as different tools require different pressure ratings to work properly.

Air Flow Rate

Out of all the metrics manufacturers list for an air compressor, the flow rate of airflow may be the most important. Measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute) or SCFM (standard CFM), it determines the amount of air put out in one minute while still maintaining pressure. The proper CFM rating for your needs will depend on the tools/equipment you want to use, though most air compressors come with a CFM rating of 90 PSI. Buyers should look for a compressor that can maintain at least 2.0 CFM at 90 PSI.

More Considerations

  • Maintenance: Depending on the type of air compressor you buy, maintenance requirements vary. Most air compressors have permanently sealed, oil-free motors, so it kills the need to check, fill, or change the oil. The oil-lubricated compressors do require oil changes and tend to be heavier than the oil-free unit. Also, compressors vibrate quite a bit and operate in dusty environments, so regularly check the compressor for loose parts.
  • Accessories: Manufacturers offer an air compressor with an accessory kit. It often comprises tire inflators, quick-connect fittings, and blow-off chucks. If the accessory kit is not standard with your unit, you can purchase a separate/optional accessory pack that has the basic tools necessary to set up your air compressor.
  • Decibel rating: Noise can be one factor in finding the right air compressor for your need. Since most air compressors are used continuously for extended periods of time, a low decibel rating is prescribed.

Best Ait Compressor Brands

BOSTITCH

Established as Boston Wire Stitch Company, Bostitch made its inception in 1896, courtesy of Thomas Briggs. Initially, the company produced wire stitching machines used in making printed goods, hat boxes, etc. Presently, Bostitch’s headquarter in East Greenwich, R.I., specializes in producing fasteners, equipment, pneumatic tools, hand tools, automotive tools, power tools, and accessories.

CRAFTSMAN

Craftsman brand came into existence in 1927 under the umbrella of Sears, Roebuck, and Co., as a producer of a new line of hand tools. Today the brand is known to produce hand tools, automotive tools, power tools, pneumatic tools and accessories, outdoor equipment and tools, etc.

DEWALT

Here since 1924, Raymond DeWalt established the company specializing in electrically-powered woodworking machines. Currently, DeWalt operates from its headquarters in Towson, Md. Like the companies listed above, the Dewalt produces a wide variety of fasteners and tools, hand and automotive tools, power tools, outdoor tools, etc.

MAKITA

Makita Corporation is one of the earliest brands, founded in 1915. At the time of inception, the company focussed on electric motor sales and repair. Presently, the Japanese company operates in the US from its headquarters in La Mirada, Calif., and Buford, Ga. The company produces power tools, pneumatic tools, and outdoor tools.

Final Verdict:

Our small air compressor buying guide recommends Craftsman CMEC6150K 6-Gallon Air Compressor as the best choice as it offers the right balance between power, stability, and noise. For people looking for the most reasonable air compressor, Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV Portable Air Compressor should be on the list.

Peter Gupta
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