You’d agree with me that an air compressor can supply a single source of power for a variety of tools. But, without the best air compressor, your automotive air tools would otherwise be useless no matter how top notch they are.
This is because air compressors are the real horsepower.
That is why we recommend that you take out time to know which brand is the best for the money. And if you don’t have that time to research the benchmarks, then we’ve got you covered.
But, the truth is that choosing a single product is a pretty hard task to do, especially when there are a lot of options to choose from in the market.
So, we had to sift through a lot of air compressors on the market and dig out the 5 best air compressors for air tools in 2018. Without wasting more time, here are our recommended air compressors with up-to-date pricing on each.
5 Best Air Compressors for Automotive Air Tools Review
Operating noise level
|BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT||6 gallon||2.6SCFM @ 90 PSI||150 PSI||0.8 HP||78.5 dBA||Check Price|
|California Air Tools 5510SE||5.5 gallons||2.20 CFM at 90 PSI||120 PSI||1.0 HP||60 dBA||Check Price|
|California Air Tools CAT-4620AC||4.6 gallons||5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI||125 PSI||2.0 HP||70 dBA||Check Price|
|Porter-Cable C2002||6 gallons||2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI||150 PSI||1 HP||100 dBA||Check Price|
|DBPOWER 150PSI 12V DC||Portable Compact||0 - 42 PSI||150 PSI||DC 12V||Extremely quiet||Check Price|
1. BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT 3-Tool and Compressor Combo Kit — Our Editor’s Choice of the Best Air Compressors
The Bostitch BTFP3KIT 3-Tool turns your mild-mannered automotive air tools into an air tank beast for storing pressurized air. The Bostitch earns the top position on our list by serving up a high flow regulator as well as couplers to optimize the performance of air tools.
The Bostitch BTFP3KIT 3-Tool is now the go-to air compressor if you’re looking for a brand that delivers 2.6 SCFM @90PSI for Inflating flat tires, sports gears, and home renovation projects, which translates to longer tool run time and quicker recovery.
The best part is that it is sufficiently available in a 1-, 2- or 3-tool combo kit for versatile use.
Place the Bostitch BTFP3KIT 3-Tool alongside similarly priced air compressors, and there’s no contest at all. Apart from using it for garage air tools, the Combo Kit is perfect for exterior and interior finishing for a variety of crafts like cabinets, furniture, and staircases.
In addition to commendable performance, I am also a fan of the flat and round 150 max PSI 6.0-gallon tank (22.7 L), which packs plenty of power to air up to 110 psi trailer tires without any problem.
Indeed, the Bostitch we reviewed includes a maintenance-free and long-life oil-free pump for convenient use.
That’s all good, but it was its ability to drive ⅜” crown staples from ¼ inches to 9/16 inches, using its heavy-duty 3/8″ crown stapler that clinched the deal. Similarly, the Bostitch BTFP3KIT heavy- duty ⅜ crown stapler can also drive 18GA brad nails from 1/2″ to 5/8″.
Well, that’s not all: its combo also includes 1/4″ x 15′ PVC air hose with fittings and T50 staples. Also, you will get 1-1/4″ 18GA brad nails alongside 2″ 16GA straight finish nails as well as a framing nailer for specific applications.
However, before you run out and buy the Bostitch BTFP3KIT, there are a few things I think you should know about. Chief among them is that the pressure regulator is not as accurate as we wished. Meaning, the air pressure fluctuates a bit when put into heavy use.
But, I think Bostitch goes a long way to overcome this deficit by featuring an air regulator to help you stabilize the air pressure. Its powerful air pressure is incredibly quiet at only 78.5 DBA and delivers an operating noise level as well as a quiet work environment.
Should You Buy It?
The Bostitch BTFP3KIT has a lot going for it, and not just because it produces much pressure. There are so much you are going to benefit using this air compressor.
- The instructions are well written for easy understanding
- It is rugged, lightweight for easy transport and seems well made and sturdy
- No issues with air leakage
- Works perfectly for any projects around the house or for framing nail gun
- It comes with a lot of pressure to drive different tools
- No oil, so no maintenance cost
- It’s a little bit louder and heavier than the California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra
- Great for tire inflation, stapling, small nailing, but not enough HP for painting
2. California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra — The Best Air Compressor With the Quietest Sound
If you think the Bostitch BTFP3KIT is quiet, then wait till you see the California Air tools. While the Bostitch keeps boasting of its 78.5 DBA sound, the California air tool came on board to give it a knockout by delivering only 60 decibels of sound.
That means its powerful 1.0 HP motor operates only at 1680 RPM creating less wear and less noise. Yes, you’ll be able to listen to cool music while working and carry on a conversation without raising your voice.
Still yet, the Bostitch decided to flaunt its 6.0-gallon tank capacity to the world, but the California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra chose to take another route to beat the competition. California came out smart and bought the heart of many by integrating a full-fledged 5.5 Gallon Aluminum Air Tank, making it very lightweight only at 37.5 lbs.
The California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra competes with the Bostitch BTFP3KIT by delivering 3.10 CFM @ 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI with 120 PSI Maximum Pressure.
That said, the 5510SE Ultra wields a modest Oil-Free Dual Piston Pump, but it spins it up by ensuring it gives you high performance and durability.
Even as an Ultra-quiet Air Compressor, the 5510SE Ultra behaved well, by maintaining and delivering longer continuous run times and increase in duty cycle.
Just like the Bostitch BTFP3KIT, the 5510SE Ultra decided to appease its fans by making sure its Air Compressor can be used in uneven terrain and a variety of temperatures where other air compressors can't be used.
- Amazingly quiet while running
- Its Pressure builds up pretty fast
- Compact and very handy
- The Aluminum tank resists rust
- The tank fills quickly
- Not powerful enough to tackle sophisticated work and continuous construction work
3. California Air Tools CAT-4620AC — The Best Upgrade Pick
So, can the competitive, top dollar price earn our recommendation? Let's start with its specs and dig in from there.
No doubt, the California Air Tools CAT-4620AC came with some unique perks and features. Unlike the 5510SE Ultra, the CAT-4620AC offers a large 4.6 Gallon Aluminum Air Tank with a Modest Dual Piston Pump.
Indeed, the CAT-4620AC lives up to the company's reputation with its remarkable Easy Start Valve feature that produces a no-load condition when it releases air from the pump to start-up. With this in place, the motor will spin freely even in cold temperature with less amps for fluid startup.
That said, the CAT-4620AC brings roughly the same sweet spots as the 5510SE Ultra by retaining the same essential features. You still get the same low maintenance cost at only 30% less noise at 70 decibels. It still delivers an Oil-Free Pump System and a powerful 2.0 HP motor that operates at 1680.
However, there's a little twist when it comes to the weight of this model and that of the 5510SE Ultra. While 5510SE pride itself for housing a 37lbs air compressor, the CAT-4620AC decided to be different by featuring a 67.2 pound machine.
But guess what: the air compressor is still as light as a feather and gives you the needed flexibility to move around your working area.
So, should you buy this upgraded version of the California Air Tools CAT-4620AC?
First, the reason why California Air compressor 4620AC made it to our list is that it was able to retain a quiet operation even as an upgraded model. Its high 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI and 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI and fast recovery of the dual cylinders makes it a force to reckon with.
- A large 4.6 Gallon Aluminum Air Tank and Dual Piston Pump, which is perfect to air up tires and other interior or exterior work
- Extremely quiet while working only at 70 decibels
- Easy Start Valve with no-load condition
- It runs excellently on nailers, butterfly, Air chisel ratchets and other pneumatic air tools
- It takes up to 90 seconds to fill the 4.6-gallon tank
- Works with cold temperature with less amps for fluid startup
- The face plate comes with a light gauge sheet metal, which makes it difficult connecting properly to connectors when plugging in an air hose
4. PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC - The Best Air Compressor For Versatile Use
As the model suggests, this is a Pancake style tank unit with optimal stability, water drain valve, rubber feet and a 150 PSI.
Getting acquainted with the PORTER-CABLE was a painless process as it wields a higher pressure longer air tool and also features a 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI, paving the way for a quick recovery time.
Included is an oil-free pump with no maintenance, as well as a low AMP 120V motor for easy starting even in cold weather. Unlike other air compressors on this list, the PORTER-CABLE C2002 offers a 6-gallon capacity, which is fit enough to run @ 3.5 SCFM.
That said, the replaceable brushes that extend the motor life and 150 PSI max pressure for extended runtime are dominant, without question. With a 13-Piece Accessory Kit and a 25-foot nylon hose, tire chuck, tire gauge, and blow gun, we were blown away to see all the attachments that came along with this machine to give you the best experience.
Not to forget that it houses a 120 PSI cut-in pressure that delivers 30 PSI "Bonus Air" as well as High-Flo air regulator to shield against a massive pressure drop. To replenish the air after it runs out, just attach the hose to an AC power outlet and blow into it until it’s full.
Great, right? But here is the downside: with 100dB, this machine is louder than the noise of a television, which is one of the main reasons it is number 4 on our list.
- The pressure regulator perfectly controls the output pressure to blow out air
- The unit is lightweight and comes in handy
- Works optimally with pneumatic tools
- Large enough to be used with impact wrenches
- Reaches 150 psi on a couple of minutes
- The machine is so noisy while working
- A little bit on the heavy side(30 lbs)
- It unleashes strong vibrations while working
- The user manual is a challenge to use
- A break in might be required for it to work effectively
- The accessories are kind of cheap
5. DBPOWER 150PSI 12V DC — The Best Portable Compact Tire Inflator
The fundamental reason we added this product on our list is that it does two main things, and it does them pretty well. First, it inflates vehicle tires and other inflatable objects you can think of. Secondly, it gives you the right information on whether you have the correct tire pressure or not.
The best part is that the machine offers a quick and effortless operation, which gives a big relief against getting a flat tire.
We were overly impressed by its durable design and how accurate the tire pressure gauge was.
With a Maximum Pressure at 150 psi and Working Pressure of 0-42 psi, the DBPOWER 150PSI 12V DC can only carry on a continuous Working Time of 10 minutes.
My little gripe about this unit is that you have to let it cool down for like 15mins when it reaches its maximum working time. This alone hampers flexibility and doesn't portray the quality of a horsepower air compressor.
But, the fact that the DBPOWER 150PSI 12V DC goes up in a flashing speed to inflate a standard midsize car tire, starting from 0-35 psi in only 3 minutes gives us a course to rejoice and overlook the above deficit.
Yes, I earlier said it could only deliver continuous Working Time of 10mins, but even at that, this machine is still active and durable compared to others in this price range.
But keep this in mind that you won't be able to pump up 4 flat tires within the 10 minutes maximum working time. However, if you just need to top off your tires, then I think this will be something ideal for you.
- Perfect for inflating tires
- Very lightweight and compact
- Fills tires and other inflatables very quickly
- Very easy and straightforward to use in case of emergency
- Cheap and affordable
- It can’t inflate four flat tires with the 10 minutes set time
- Not powerful enough for heavy use and some automotive tools
On a practical budget, it's critical to find air compressors with the best ratio of price to performance. That's why we've previously looked at air compressors in the $20-$200 range.
You can argue about price and whether or not you really need the 3-Tool and Compressor Combo Kit, but right now, the Bostitch BTFP3KIT is our best air compressors for automotive tools.
While the Bostitch BTFP3KIT is the air compressor we'd recommend to most, it's not the only option worth considering. Performance scales, the California Air Tools 5510SE and CAT-4620AC are a similar story that can give the Bostitch BTFP3KIT a fight to remember.
But if you need a lightweight and flexible air compressor specifically for inflating car tires and checking on the tire pressure, then the DBPOWER 150PSI 12V DC Portable Compact Tire Inflator, should be your go-to air compressor.
How We Carry Out Our Test
Compressors Buying Guide
An air compressor consists of three major parts: the motor, the pump, and the tank.
Most portable air compressors are single staged. In this case, the intake air is compressed once, and then stored in the tank, and they are usually about 90 Psi.
The larger compressor can be two-staged. The intake air is compressed twice by two different size pistons, and then stored in the tank. This type of compressors produces a larger volume of air at higher pressures of 351 PSI.
How to Choose the Best Air Compressors
Nowadays, there are tons of air compressors in the market, and this actually begs the question: what should you be looking for when you want to buy an air compressor?
Here are a few handy tips that will help you find the one that perfectly fits what you are looking for.
Consider the Specs?
When shopping for a compressor, there are two specs you want to focus on: the first one is the PSI (Pounds per Square Inch), which is the measurement of the force of air coming out of the compressor. The other one is the CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute), which is the volume of air coming out the machine.
Although you need to be careful not to miss CFM with SCFM as they are quite different. If you already have air tools such as a nailer, drillers, impact wrenches, make sure you look for a compressor with an SCFM is that matches the rating of your tools. You also want to check that the coupler on the air compressors is at the right size.
What are you going to be Using the Unit for?
This is important because some of the tools can consume a lot of air. And the more air they consume the larger tank you are going to need. An air compressor with a 2-4 gallon tank and an SCFM rating of 0.6-3 SCFM, @90PSI will be sufficient for Inflating flat tires, sports gears, and occasional home renovation projects.
But for more continuous construction work or auto repair, the tools require a tank that holds 4-15 gallons with an SCFM rating of 3.5 to 5 @ 150 psi.
If you are working in a garage or a workshop and you are planning to do a lot of sanding and grinding or using air sprayer, then step things up to a 20-80 gallon tank with an SCFM rating of 6.5 or higher.
Is the Compressor Portable?
Some compressors have wheels on them, and they are very portable. If you have got jobs in front of the garage and or you want to do jobs outside the house to help out your neighbors, you might want to look out for a compressor with wheels on them and a smaller unit with a handle.
How Much Noise?
You need to find out the noise level of your compressor before you anger your neighbor. Anything starting from 90 decibels is pretty loud and noisy, especially if you plan to work with it through the night.
Frequently Asked Questions
For what tools are air compressors required?
How much air do I need to power my air compressor tool?
How often should I change oil in my air compressor?
What are the best materials for air compressors?
Wrapping it up
Our different recommendations are based on performance combined with current prices. If you are looking for the most reliable model to buy, then look at the above-recommended products and choose the one that best fits your budget.
Those who already own the BOSTITCH BTFP3KIT 3-Tool and Compressor Combo Kit or California Air Tools 5510SE Ultra should be able to run any automotive air tools conveniently with less noise and low maintenance. These air compressors happen to be the best in the market for the money.
Have you used an air compressor before? What are your experiences? Let us know in the comments.