Though you may have seen one before, you may not be thoroughly familiar with how an air compressor operates. Essentially, these unique appliances use a form of internal displacement to create pressurized air and feed it to tools and other appliances that require it. Air compressors are used in both professional and amateur settings to power everything from nail guns and drills to pistons and jackhammers.

As you might expect, though, modern air compressors come with varying capacities and differing price tags. As such, it's important to understand what constitutes a quality air compressor before making such a valuable investment. This guide and its reviews of the top 8 best air compressors for a home garage will help you do just that, regardless of your budget.


Preview

Product

Tank Capacity

Max Pressure

Check Price

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

Makita MAC2400

4.2 Gallons

130 PSI

Powermate Vx PLA4708065 80-Gallon Electric...

Powermate Vx PLA4708065

80 Gallons

155 PSI

DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 20-Gallon Portable Air...

DeWalt

DXCMPA1982054

20 Gallons

155 PSI

California Air Tools CAT-60040CAD Ultra Quiet...

California Air Tools

CAT-60040CAD

60 Gallons

125 PSI

PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake...

PORTER-CABLE

C2002-WK

6 Gallons

150 PSI

Rolair JC10 Plus 1 HP Oil-Less Compressor

Rolair JC10 Plus

2.3 Gallons

N/A

Campbell Hausfeld 8 Gallon Portable Quiet Air...

Campbell Hausfeld DC080500

8 Gallons

125 PSI

California Air Tools 10020C Ultra Quiet...

California Air Tools 10020C

10 Gallons

125 PSI


Benefits of Having Air Compressors In Your Garage

Having an air compressor in your home garage is chiefly a matter of convenience. This is because you'll be able to power your specialized tools and appliances without needing to rent a less reliable air compressor repeatedly. For much the same reason, owning your own air compressor is a much cheaper prospect in the long run.

Also, if you operate an industrial contracting service, having your own air compressor will really come in handy. This fairly simple appliance will allow you to take on larger jobs that require more specialized tools without hesitation.


Choosing A Quality Home Garage Air Compressor

Type

There are several types of home garage air compressors out there, so be sure you are getting a model that is compatible with your tools. Most often, you'll see a tank or tankless units, which trade-off portability for overall output capability. Also, tank units are more stationary than tankless units, which can be easily moved about on-demand.

Oil vs. Oil-free – lubrication

Air compressors also come in oiled and oil-free variants. This demarcation refers to the lubrication method used to keep the unit's main piston operational. Oiled units require more maintenance and use conventional oil, while oil-free units utilize a Teflon pre-lubrication to ensure that the piston pump operates smoothly.

Noise Level

Anyone who has worked around an air compressor knows that they can be noisy. Some newer models, though, have really changed the game on this front. As such, you can compare compressor models based upon their decibel (dB) rating to determine how much noise they make while in operation.

Pressure Rating

An air compressor's primary function is to output a reliable stream of pressurized air, so it only makes sense that you pick out a model with the best possible pressure rating. This metric is usually denoted using pounds per square inch or PSI, with a higher PSI indicating a greater output capacity.

Power Source

Air compressors today can be built to run on several types of fuel, including electricity, diesel fuel, or gasoline. Depending on how much you intend to use your air compressor and where you intend to use it (indoors or outdoors), you should choose an affordable fuel source accordingly.

Horsepower

All air compressors communicate their core motor power via a horsepower rating. In essence, this measurement can tell you how much force the unit’s core more uses when displacing air. Most units today range from as low as 5 HP to as high as 30 HP.

Operating Principle

Though new air compressor users usually don’t need to worry about it, it is good to know what operating principle your chosen model utilizes. Among others, there are single and double reciprocating compressors, compound compressors, rotary screw compressors, rotary vane compressors, scroll compressors, and more.

Price & Warranty

Don’t forget to look for a good deal while comparing air compressors. Generally speaking, a worthwhile model on this front will be priced just below the average for its size and capacity without sacrificing any productive features. Also, while a warranty may add to the tag price of an air compressor, you should carefully consider how much money that warranty might save you down the line if your air compressor breaks down.


8 Best Home Garage Air Compressors Reviewed

1. Makita MAC2400

Our Top Pick

Dimensions

20 x 18 x 18.8 inches

Motor Horsepower

2.5 HP

Noise Level

79 dBa

Tank Capacity

4.2 Gallons

Max Pressure

130 PSI

CFM @90 PSI

4.2

Weight

81 lbs.

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

“For the money, this is truly an excellent machine and I don't think you could ever possibly go wrong with the Makita MAC2400.” – RVC1965

First up, let’s look at my top pick for best home garage air compressor. If you guessed that it’s the Makita MAC2400, then you’d be correct. This small but mighty model will serve the needs of most at-home handymen and DIYers with its 130 max PSI. Along the same lines, this models 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI is notable above average for units in its size class, making it a real value.

This model’s affordable price tag also hides an exceptional amount of durability across the Makita MAC2400. This model’s cast iron pump and reinforced piston are prime examples on this front. Though its 79 dB noise production is a bit on the louder side, you'll quickly forget and put that drawback aside when you learn about how easy it is to maintain this unit using its built-in oil drain, oil sight glass, and a tank drain valve.

Pros

  • 4.2-gallon twin-stacked tank provides 130 max PSI
  • Easy to maintain due to inclusion of oil drain, oil sight glass, and a tank drain valve
  • Cast iron pump is extra durable
  • Piston is of a larger diameter than most models in this price range

Cons

  • Can be prone to oil leaks
  • Subpar customer service and warranty

2. Powermate Vx PLA4708065

Best Electric Air Compressor for Home Garage

Dimensions

31.5 x 34.8 x 77 inches

Motor Horsepower

4.7 HP

Noise Level

N/A

Tank Capacity

80 Gallons

Max Pressure

155 PSI

CFM @90 PSI

14

Weight

354 lbs.

Warranty

Yes, 2 year limited

“Couldn’t be happier. Seems to never run out of air. The three cylinder motor pumps fast and holds up well to grinding and spraying.” - Peppy

Among the options in this collection, I must say that the Powermate Vx PLA4708065 has exceeded my expectations to become my pick for best electric air compressor. This high flow, single-stage unit is capable of achieving 4.7 horsepower and a 155 PSI max while operating at maximum capacity. That’s thanks to a 240-volt induction motor that won’t give up the ghost after years and years of daily use.

This model’s 80 gallon cast iron cylinder isn’t just voluminous and durable (though it is certainly both of those attributes). This tank is also oriented vertically, allowing users without a ton of spare floor space to keep this unit in the garage without crowding their other appliances. You'll find exceptional durability throughout the rest of this air compressor, too, as best exemplified by its stainless steel flex valves and a 12-inch cast iron flywheel.

Pros

  • 80-gallon cast iron cylinder stands vertically and can provide an impressive 155 PSI
  • Durable construction throughout, including Swedish stainless-steel flex valves and a 12-inch cast iron flywheel
  • 14 CFM at 90 PSI rating is enough to power water pumps and generators with ease
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Very heavy and not at all portable
  • Bulky, especially in smaller garages

3. DeWalt DXCMPA1982054

Best 20-Gallon Air Compressor for Home Garage

Dimensions

32 x 21 x 32 inches

Motor Horsepower

1.9 HP

Noise Level

N/A

Tank Capacity

20 Gallons

Max Pressure

155 PSI

CFM @90 PSI

5.7

Weight

166 lbs.

Warranty

Yes, 2 year on pump and 1 year on all other parts

“This compressor rocks. 4.5 minutes from 0 psi to 155 psi. It's very quiet compared to my old oil free unit. The large pneumatic tires make moving the unit very easy. It can keep up with most air tools with ease. I highly recommend this compressor.” – Lowe’s customer

Though there are a number of 20-gallon air compressors to choose from right now, I am confident that the DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 is the very best among them. This is true of almost all of its core specifications, including its 155 max PSI and 1.9 horsepower. Even this model’s weight is a little lower than similarly capable models, though you will hardly notice as you roll along on its built-in pneumatic wheels.

As with many DeWalt products, the DXCMPA1982054 model has been built with durability in mind. This can immediately be seen with this model’s aluminum head and valve plate, both of which contribute to its considerable heat dispersion capabilities. This model’s heavy-duty dual voltage motor will even hold up to a decade or more of continuous use because it utilizes twin cast iron cylinders.

Pros

  • Thermally-stable cast iron cylinder body won’t degrade with daily use
  • Built-in pneumatic wheels allow the 166 lbs body to be moved easily
  • Aluminum head and valve plate allows for more rapid heat dissipation
  • Comes with first oil replacement

Cons

  • Oil that comes in it needs to be replaced almost immediately
  • Requires some prior knowledge to clean properly

4. California Air Tools CAT-60040CAD

Best Quiet Air Compressor for Home Garage

Dimensions

21 x 29 x 66 inches

Motor Horsepower

2 HP

Noise Level

75 dBa

Tank Capacity

60 Gallons

Max Pressure

125 PSI

CFM @90 PSI

10.6

Weight

213 lbs.

Warranty

Yes, 1 year limited

When I first saw the California Air Tools CAT-60040CAD and learned that it was being called the best quiet air compressor for home garage, I was a bit confused because this model is rated to put out 75 dB of noise when in use. But clearly, this model’s manufacturer has overestimated the amount of sound it produces because it was one of the least obtrusive in this collection. For a 2 horsepower air compressor, that kind of noise minimization is a real accomplishment.

Of course, I don’t want you to be left thinking that the California Air Tools CAT-60040CAD’s minimized noise performance is its only good quality. In fact, this unit has a massive 60-gallon tank that fills up in only 6.5 minutes. At that point, you’ll be able to use almost all of your high-end pneumatic tools at this unit’s 125 max PSI. This compressor’s piston is oil-free as well, so you won’t need to spend almost anything extra to maintain it over the years.

Pros

  • Absolutely massive 60-gallon tank made from lighter, more resilient steel
  • Tank fills up in only 6.5 minutes to reach 125 PSI max
  • Oil-free pump requires minimal maintenance
  • ASME certified, allowing it to be used commercially

Cons

  • Very expensive at over $1,000
  • Slightly lower max PSI than expected for unit of this size

5. PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK

Value for Money

Dimensions

18.3 x 18 x 19 inches

Motor Horsepower

N/A

Noise Level

N/A

Tank Capacity

6 Gallons

Max Pressure

150 PSI

CFM @90 PSI

2.6

Weight

34 lbs.

Warranty

Yes, 1 year limited

If you’re working on a tight budget, then the PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK will be just right for you. Though I usually try to spend a little bit extra on my air compressors, I can say that I was impressed at what this compact unit had to offer. Not only was its pancake-style architecture rather novel, but it also resulted in this model only weighing 34 lbs. As a result, this model is by far the most portable option on this list.

Porter-Cable certainly didn’t sacrifice much to achieve this convenient form factor, either. To be honest, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen such a small air compressor with a storage tank as large as 6 gallons. Better yet, this model didn’t leave out the High-Flo air regulator, which helps minimize sudden pressure fluctuations.

As if this model’s value weren’t already clear enough, it’s worth noting that it comes with 13 accessories that will allow you to start using it almost immediately.

Pros

  • High-Flo air regulator prevents sudden pressure drops
  • Tank fills up in only 6.5 minutes to reach 125 PSI max
  • Pancake-style frame is 34 lbs. and easy to transport

Cons

  • 6-gallon tank is small for large jobs
  • Lacks a horsepower rating

6. Rolair JC10 Plus

Best Small Air Compressor for Home Garage

Dimensions

17 x 16 x 15 inches

Motor Horsepower

1 HP

Noise Level

60 dBa

Tank Capacity

2.3 Gallons

Max Pressure

N/A

CFM @90 PSI

2.35

Weight

43 lbs.

Warranty

N/A

The Rolair JC10 Plus also deserves credit as one of the best small air compressors in its class. At only 43 lbs., you should have no trouble lifting this unit in and out of your truck bed. Better yet, you’ll be able to get a grip on this model’s roll cage exterior, which itself is exceptionally resilient and capable of protecting the compressor's major hardware. This frame also includes a cord wrap for added convenience while storing the compressor away.

Meanwhile, when it comes to this compressor’s active capabilities, you shouldn’t let its slightly smaller-than-average 2.3 gallon tank dissuade you. Instead, you should be impressed (as I was) that this little unit's motor manages to output a full horsepower reliably. Perhaps more impressively, the Rolair JC10 Plus does this while only outputting 60 dB of noise, making it a super quiet pick ideal for small garages.

Pros

  • Roll cage allows for enhanced resilience and easy transport
  • Cast aluminum cylinder is both light and durable
  • 1,725 RPM motor only produces 60 dB of noise
  • Compact form factor is easy to store

Cons

  • Lacks max PSI rating
  • May seize up if not reoiled promptly

7. Campbell Hausfeld DC080500

Best Portable Air Compressor for Home Garage

Dimensions

11 x 23 x 26 inches

Motor Horsepower

1 HP

Noise Level

68 dBa

Tank Capacity

8 Gallons

Max Pressure

125 PSI

CFM @90 PSI

2.4

Weight

67 lbs.

Warranty

Yes, 1 year limited

Though I wasn’t initially convinced, I eventually came around to the Campbell Hausfeld DC080500 and found that it was among the best portable air compressors for a home garage.

What really sold me on this was its rubber-grip steel handle, which bends at such an angle that you won’t need to stoop over to guide this 67 lbs. unit about. The Campbell Hausfeld DC080500’s wheels can also take a beating, making it a good pick if you also intend to take their compress to a work site routinely.

Campbell Hausfeld has also made a special point to highlight the upgrades made to the DC080500. Among other improved qualities, this model's manufacturer has re-engineered it so that its oil-free pump lasts 4x longer than previous units in the same product line. They've also relocated the gauges and regulator so that you can always keep an eye on this compressor’s status while it is in use.

Pros

  • Conveniently places gauges and regulator allow for easy monitoring of tank and line pressure
  • Oil-free pump lasts 4x as long as previous models
  • Rubber grip steel handle makes it easy to pull 67 lbs. weight

Cons

  • Hard to find replacement parts
  • May show up with damage due to rough shipping

8. California Air Tools 10020C

Best Rated

Dimensions

16 x 15.1 x 35.9 inches

Motor Horsepower

2 HP

Noise Level

70 dBa

Tank Capacity

10 Gallons

Max Pressure

125 PSI

CFM @90 PSI

5.3

Weight

82.5 lbs.

Warranty

Yes, 1 year limited

I can’t say that I was surprised to learn that the California Air Tools 10020C is one of the best rated models for use in a home garage on today’s market.

If I were to guess, this high rating is the direct result of its excellent 4-pole motor, which can operate at up to 1,680 RPMs and 2 horsepower when it’s at maximum capacity. This unit only puts out 70 dB of noise when its fully utilized, too, so you can operate a fair number of tools at once without causing a fuss.

One feature I was really impressed with on this unit was its low-energy startup. To be precise, the California Air Tools 10020C’s easy start valve only draws 14 amps of power to ignite its motor. As such, you can count on it to minimize its electricity draw while it works to fill up its modest 10-gallon tank.

This model is known to have some complex problems, though, so be sure to keep that in mind as a necessary repair down the road.

Pros

  • Built-in overheating protection makes this model more resilient
  • 4-pole motor can operate at up to 1,680 RPM
  • Only produces 70 dB of noises when operating at 125 max PSI
  • Easy start valve only draws 14 amps

Cons

  • Warranty is rarely honored
  • Manifold problems are common

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?

Air compressors are not so much about size, but rather their capabilities. That being said, larger units tend to be more able to put out a larger, stronger amount of pressurized air.

So, to answer this question, you’ll need to figure out where you intend to use your compressor and what types of tools you intend to use it with. Answering the latter question may be challenging on your own, though, so be sure to check out the handy chart included in this guide.


Setting Up & Using an Air Compressors in the Garage

Setting up and using your air compressor for the first time can feel intimidating at first. Air compressors have a variety of moving parts, all of which can run into trouble if you don't set them up according to the manufacturer's instructions. Fortunately, first-time users can turn to this video guide to gain a fully-fledged understanding of their new appliance from a professional.


Air Compressor Maintenance

If you treat your air compressor well, it will remain reliable through decades of use. That's why proper maintenance is an absolute must.

This includes changing and replacing the oil in an oil-lubricated unit, as well as routinely checking the air filter element. To learn how to accomplish these tasks and more, check out this handy guide.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What oil goes into a garage air compressor? How often does it need to be changed?

You have several different options when it comes to lubricating oil for an air compressor. This brief video will take you through the pros and cons of each. As for changing this oil, you should always follow the recommendations printed on the oil bottle. However, most experts recommend changing air compressor oil once every 7,000-8,000 hours of use.

What are the main air compressor applications for a home garage?

Air compressors are usually used in a home garage setting to power pneumatic power tools. Pneumatic tool variants are available for most professional and amateur applications, though pneumatic drills, ratchets, nail guns, and paint sprayers are among the most common in home garage workshops.

What’s the difference between CFM and SCFM?

CFM (short for “cubic feet per minute”) differs from SCFM (short for “standard cubic feet per minute”) when it comes to the context in which they are applied. SCFM is used to measure a compressor's airflow under "standard" conditions, which is to say, around 68° F. Meanwhile, CFM describes the same airflow but under "actual" conditions, which may be better or worse than the standard.

What brands make the best home garage air compressors?

There are several popular air compressor brands today. However, when it comes to home garage use, brands including DeWalt, Porter-Cable, and California Air Tools are preferred by most.

What is the difference between a piston and a portable air compressor?

Piston air compressors use, as their name implies, a sizable piston to internally facilitate air pressurization. Portable air compressors use a less efficient and less bulky method that allows the unit to be moved from place to place rather than requiring mounting.

How much space does an air compressor require?

This will vary depending on how physically large the unit is. As with other appliances, air compressors should be given at least a few inches of clearance on all sides, especially if it requires venting. Also, be sure to keep the control panel accessible to ensure that the unit operates safely at all times.


Conclusion

That just about wraps it up for home garage air compressors. With everything you’ve learned in this guide, you should be ready to check out your local hardware store or favorite online retailer and pick out a model that is compatible with your tools and safe for your wallet.

However, I want to take a moment and give one more shout out to the Makita MAC2400. Though smaller than most, this air compressor will get the job done for most amateur pneumatic tool users. Better yet, this model is exceptionally easy to maintain thanks to its implementation of a lever handle ball valve and a tank drain valve.