Updated on May 18, 2023
An air compressor, by itself, is not really a tool you can get a bunch of things done with. Instead, it’s a necessary power source for other air tools. Tools such as an air impact wrench, air ratchet, brad nailer, blow gun, grinder, and even a small sandblaster can all be run using compressed air.
This makes an air compressor one of the most versatile pieces of equipment for your garage or shop.
In addition, air tools have the advantage over their respective power tools when it comes to size and weight since each air tool runs off a power source that does not need to be part of the tool itself.
One other advantage over power tools is that you never have to worry about constantly charging batteries since a compressor can run nonstop for hours on end. Even if you were to only inflate tires with it, the best tire inflator in the world is worthless without an air compressor.
That said, most people find that they end up using them for a variety of things making compressors one of the most important things to have in a garage or shop. Below are our top picks.
TIP: Don’t forget the air compressor hose! Many compressors include a short, cheap hose you’ll want to upgrade right away or maybe not include one at all.
Our 6 Favorite Garage Compressors
|Product||Capacity||CFM @90 PSI||Decibels|
|California Air Tools 10020C||10 gallon||5.3 CFM||70 dB|
|Husky C303H||30 gallon||5.1 CFM||78 dB|
|DeWalt DXCM271||27 gallon||5.1 CFM||78 dB|
|California Air Tools 8010||8 gallon||2.2 CFM||60 dB|
|Industrial Air ILA1883054||30 gallon||5.7 CFM||70 dB|
|Rolair JC10||2.5 gallon||2.4 CFM||60 dB|
Air Compressor Reviews
#1 – California Air Tools 10020C 10-Gallon Compressor
Even though brands such as Makita, Craftsman, and DeWalt get all the attention, California Air Tools makes some of the best home garage air compressors in the business.
The CAT-10020C is a 2 horsepower, 10 gallon unit that puts out 5.3 CFM of airflow at 90 PSI, enough to power pretty much any air tool you throw at it with the maybe exception of a heavy duty impact wrench or sander.
See Also: What size air compressor do you need?
The 10 gallon tank is large enough that the compressor can run for longer periods of time while small enough that it’s still easy to wheel around and quickly fill up with air. 2 quick release connectors allow two tools to be used at the same time.
Perfect when multiple people are involved in a project. Large wheels make moving it around and storing the CAT-10020C a breeze.
One of the best things about this California Air Tools compressor is how quiet it is compared to others.
Measuring at only 70 decibels, it’s one of the quietest around, especially for an oil-free model (requires almost no maintenance). You’ll be able to carry on a conversation without shouting or listen to music while working.
Sure, you can buy a similarly sized unit from a cheaper, more common company, but what good will that do you when it breaks down in a couple years.
If you want a solidly-built, good performing, quiet compressor that requires almost no maintenance, be sure to check out the California Air Tools CAT-10020C. This unit is quite possibly the best 10 gallon compressor we’ve used and it means business!
>> Check current price <<
#2 – Husky C303H 30-Gallon Air Compressor
Designed to give more bang for the buck, this 30 gallon air compressor from Home Depot has a high performance pump and motor capable of churning out 5.1 CFM at 90 PSI. With a high 175 max PSI, it allows for up to 40 percent more run-time than 26 gallon compressors.
This Husky compressor can handle just about any task, from inflation to nailing, with equal efficiency, while the 9-inch wheels allow for easy mobility.
Best of all, the compressor will run at a surprisingly low 78 decibels, making it a fairly quiet compressor, especially for the price.
There’s a lot to love about this compressor. More quiet than similar models, this compressor can handle multiple tools at once.
Minimal maintenance and a high capacity further impress its users. The device has two quick releases to accommodate two tools and allow for quick decompression.
There have been several complaints of leakage. In some cases, a loose fitting was discovered, while in others the hose itself was damaged prior to or during delivery.
While most of these leaks are minor and easily fixed, it’s best to thoroughly inspect the unit as soon as possible to find any potential issues.
>> Check current price <<
#3 – DeWalt DXCM271 27-Gallon Compressor
Continuing to uphold their reputation for excellence, this 200 PSI compressor from DeWalt can provide 83 percent more tool runtime than similar models.
At 90 PSI, the compressor is able to provide 5.1 CFM for faster recovery times and 6.0 SCFM at 40 PSI, making it perfect for HVLP spray guns.
A dual-purpose handle helps protect the compressor while also serving as a hose wrap. Large, easy to read gauges and an easy start motor that requires no fuel make this an one of the best shop air compressors.
See Also: Single-Stage vs Two-Stage Air Compressor
Whether in the home shop or an industrial setting, this compressor packs a lot of power. The small footprint makes it popular with a lot of people who have less shop space.
It also holds pressure for a long period, even when not in use. You can run everything from a spray gun to industrial pneumatic tools on this compressor without having to worry about losing efficiency.
It’s very difficult to find fault with this model. One consumer noted that the pressure exceeded 200 PSI, but otherwise ran smoothly and didn’t require charging breaks.
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#4 – California Air Tools 8010 8-Gallon Air CompressorCalifornia Air Tools compressors are highly underrated and this 8 gallon compressor has a lot of features that make it the perfect choice for home shops.
With an airflow of 2.2 CFM @90 PSI and a maximum PSI of 120, the compressor is incredibly quiet – running at only 60 decibels! The 1 HP motor operates at only 1680 RPM for less noise and wear and has a longer run cycle.
The oil-free dual piston pump means better performance and very little maintenance. The 8010 also includes a thermal overload protector to help ensure your compressor has a longer life.
Owners of this compressor love the quietness and reliability, reporting that it can quickly inflate even the large tires and handle nail guns like a pro, but may not be suitable for more demanding tools.
Like other compressors of this size, some users recommend to fully drain the tank every couple days. Failing to do so can cause the motor to burn out, as some unfortunate owners have found out. Burnout from failing to empty the tank isn’t covered in the manufacturer’s warranty and is serious enough that it can’t be repaired.
With this being the biggest issue and easy to prevent, it’s easy to recommend the California Air Tools 8010 when looking for a small to medium size air compressor.
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#5 – Industrial Air ILA1883054 30-Gallon Compressor
This 30-gallon Industrial Air compressor is one of the best values for a powerful, long-lasting unit. It’s for those that require a larger tank size than the California Tools model due to air tools requiring continuous use such as die grinders and sanders. The 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI makes it all possible.
These units also run cooler since they don’t have to work as hard. Sure, the huge tank will take a good 5-6 minutes to fill up but you can literally let it sit for a couple weeks with absolutely no air leakage.
The ILA1883054 is wired for a standard 120-volt outlet but can also be converted to 240-volt. You will be hard pressed to find another large air compressor with the specs of this one that you can simply plug in to any outlet.
If you’re worried about the noise factor, you’ll find that this Industrial Air model is extremely quiet and your neighbors will have a hard time noticing you’re running the unit even at 10pm.
Build quality is excellent and there’s no reason this oil-lubricated unit won’t last a good 20 years with minimal maintenance.
Don’t be tempted with similarly sized Craftsman or Campbell Hausfeld units… the Industrial Air ILA1883054 is a far better option due to the low noise and better build quality. It’s arguably the best 30 gallon air compressor for the money.
>> Check current price <<
#6 – Rolair JC10 2.5-Gallon Portable Compressor
Not everyone needs a large compressor to have around the house. If you only plan on using a compressor for inflating tires, installing trim, or putting up a fence, a smaller and more portable unit makes more sense for all-purpose home use.
The 2.5-gallon Rolair puts out 2.4 CFM of airflow at 90 PSI which is plenty for most homeowner tasks.
Weighing under 40 pounds, the JC10 is easy to move from room to room and is considered by many to be the quietest portable air compressor out there measuring at only 60 decibels (compared with the normal 80-90 for oil-free models.
It offers excellent quality and features for the price. Unlike the larger models, you can easily stow it under your work bench or carry it to your tool shop that’s behind the house.
>> Check current price <<
24 thoughts on “6 Best Air Compressors for a Garage (That You Won’t Regret)”
Why no love for Makita? I’ve never even heard of the top two picks.
Nothing particularly wrong with Makita compressors for a portable unit… they seem to be pretty popular and I personally still use my 5 year old Makita cordless drill. But California Air Tools models are at a different level. Bigger tank size, more CFM, and much quieter for only a bit more money. They also have a great reputation for quality.
Same goes for Industrial Air when you need something a bit bigger.
Great info. I just bought a smaller model California Air Tools compressor (the 1610A) since it will only be for light duty work. Awesome compressor. So quiet and plenty of air for my needs. I’ve been using it with an old air hose I had from an old Central Pneumatic compressor. Is it worth getting a new hose?
Great choice. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Cali Air Tools. A big YES on the new air hose. You most likely have a cheap PVC hose. Check out one of the two options here: https://www.garagetooled.com/air-tools/top-rated-air-compressor-hoses-that-wont-kink/
If you have a long hose run and your flow rate is barely cutting it, get a new larger diameter hose. Otherwise you might as well stick with what you have until it gets brittle and cracks into pieces, which is one of the biggest disadvantages of the PVC hoses… but they are also very light weight and if the self-coiling type, easy to stow away without fighting kinks rolling them up.
Do try to keep a PVC hose out of both direct and indirect sunlight as the UV exposure is responsible for their getting brittle.
Can I get the Rolair at the local big box harware or Sears? I would like to save the shipping cost.
Actually, shipping is free using the link above. But if you still prefer to buy from a brick and mortar store, Rolair has a dealer locator here: http://www.rolair.net/dealers/index.html
What about for a poor man’s garage compressor that can handle framing as well?
Honestly, I’ve used a cheap Porter Cable pancake compressor for framing projects for years before upgrading. It worked just fine. Here are a couple options: Porter Cable or DeWalt
I am trying to build a budget garage in my house for restoring my 1955 GMC. I would like a compressor that can handle some 1/2″ drive impact work as well as some sand blasting and painting down the road. Everything I find for myself seems to suggestI need industrial grade, but I’m not running a mechanic shop all day every day, just want enough power to tear down an engine or suspension when I am doing the work. Any suggestions?
For an impact wrench, any compressor with around 5 CFM & 90psi will do, even portable. The issue with sand blasting and painting is that you need continuous air meaning that you’ll need at least a 20-30 gallon tank. Even then, you’ll still need to let it catch up once in a while. The 30-gallon Industrial Air unit above would be a good choice without moving up into a much higher price range. Much better performance in my opinion than something like a similar sized Craftsman compressor.
What about for continuous use like sand blasting?
Is it worth paying for the auto drain function on the California Tools Model?
Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the extra money. Nice to have but not necessary. Instead of manually draining the tank after use, it has two adjustable timers (frequency and duration). It’s basically “set and forget” vs making it part of your normal shut down routine.
I like your top 2 recommendations. I bought a small Dewalt pancake last year thinking it would be enough. I learned this summer how important a larger tank actually is. Let’s just say blowing up a large inflatable pool with a small compressor is almost impossible. Ended up borrowing my neighbor’s 20-gallon to finally get it done.
That has nothing to do with tank size. It’s all about CFM. Get a larger tank and you just end up running the compressor longer to get the tank up to pressures which is air you would have just directly pumped into the think being inflated.
All a larger tank really gets you is that normally a larger tank comes with a larger compressor head that has higher CFM, but otherwise, you don’t need a tank at all to inflate a pool/etc, could hook the compressor head directly up to the pool with no tank in series and get the job done FASTER because you’re not spending compressor time filling a tank in addition to the thing you’re inflating.
Recently bough an 8 gallon compressor from HF. Not very impressed. Had a slight leak from the get go. Returned it and got an Industrial Air. World of a difference.
@Bryan – I had the same experience with Harbor Freight. They have some decent stuff but if their compressor lasts over a year, consider yourself lucky.
Great info. I just bought a small model California Air Tools compressor (1610A) as it will only be for light duty work. Extraordinary compressor. Is it worth getting a replacement hose?
As far as I know, California Air Tools doesn’t include an air hose with any of their compressors (unless you purchased as some sort of retailer-specific bundle). But even if it did, it would likely be a cheap PVC hose. In that case, yes, I’d recommend a better hose.
lookiing for 30 gallon 10cfm probably 220 volt. Look for a good trouble free air compressor
For that output (10cfm @ 90psi) you would definitely need 220v. Here are a few good ones worth considering:
Can I get the Rolair at the local big box harware or Sears? I would like to save the shipping cost.It is helpful.
I don’t believe any big box home improvement stores carry it but you can find a local seller using this page: https://www.rolair.com/buy-now/find-a-local-dealer