Reviews

20-Gallon Air Compressors: Portable and Versatile Pressurized Air

Power your favorite pneumatic tools with these powerful and compact 20 gallon air compressors.

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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON September 6, 2021

When it comes to powering pneumatic tools in your workshop, garage, or job site, you have plenty of options. For those times when a portable pancake compressor isn’t strong enough to run what you need, but you need something more portable and space-saving than a larger, permanently installed air compressor, a 20-gallon air compressor can be the ideal solution.

 

While 20-gallon air compressors aren’t strong enough to power most industrial-grade pneumatic tools, they’re great for running air brushes, brad nailers, frame nailers, pneumatic drills and sanders, and much more. They’re a versatile and practical addition to almost any DIY workshop or construction site, improving your job efficiency.

 

If you’re in the market for a new 20-gallon air compressor, take a quick read through our top product review and buying guide. It will enable you to confidently choose the best 20-gallon air compressor to suit your needs and get you up and running in no time.

Best Overall
Craftsman 20 Gallon Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This is a space-saving vertical air compressor that is capable of reaching 175 PSI, with an airflow rate of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI.

Pros
Pros
  • Equipped with two quick couplers for simultaneous use of two tools
  • Slim, vertical design is very space-saving
  • Backed by a one-year warranty
Cons
Cons
  • Functions noisier than some other models
  • Warranty is not as long or comprehensive as some similar options
Best Overall
Craftsman 20 Gallon Air Compressor
Best Value
WEN 20 Gallon Portable Vertical Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This vertical air compressor is capable of reaching 135 PSI, giving you airflow rates of 3.8 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI.

Pros
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Automatic shut-off guarantees safer operation than some other models
  • Backed by a two-year warranty
Cons
Cons
  • Oil-lubricated pump is not as low-maintenance as some other models
  • Single coupler system doesn’t allow for use of more than one tool at a time
Best Value
WEN 20 Gallon Portable Vertical Air Compressor
Honorable Mention
DEWALT 20 Gallon Portable Horizontal Electric Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

A single-stage horizontal air compressor with an impressive 200 PSI capacity that produces airflow rates of 6.2 CFM at 90 PSI and 7.7 CFM at 40 PSI.

Pros
Pros
  • Offers the power of a dual-stage compressor in a single-stage set-u
  • Capable of providing up to 53 percent more run-time than many other models
  • Can power a wider variety of tools and equipment than most other options of comparable size
Cons
Cons
  • Pricier than many other models
  • Oil-lubricated belt driven pump is not maintenance-free
  • Heavier and bulkier than some other models
Honorable Mention
DEWALT 20 Gallon Portable Horizontal Electric Air Compressor
20-Gallon Air Compressors
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Best 20-Gallon Air Compressors Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
CRAFTSMAN 20 Gallon Air Compressor

The Craftsman 20-Gallon Air Compressor is our obvious choice for the best overall 20-gallon air compressor. It combines big power, reliability, and portability at a decent price point. This is a single-stage air compressor that is capable of producing 175 PSI, giving you an airflow rate of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI. 


It’s powerful enough to run impact wrenches, spray guns, grease guns, hammers, nailers, air brushes, and more. The best part is that it comes equipped with a dual quick coupler set-up so that you can run two tools simultaneously. It’s also equipped with a maintenance-free, oil-free pump for ease of use. 


A strong handle and durable rubber wheels make it easy to move this air compressor wherever you need it. It comes backed by a one-year warranty, which is a far cry from the lifetime warranty Craftsman used to provide, but we’ll take what we can get. It also runs a little on the loud side compared to some other models on the market.

Best Value
WEN 20 Gallon Portable Vertical Air Compressor

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly air compressor that doesn’t skimp on reliability and performance, check out the WEN 20 Gallon Portable Vertical Air Compressor. It’s a single-stage air compressor that’s capable of reaching 135 PSI, giving you airflow rates of 3.8 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI. It’s ideal for airbrushing, sanding, spraying, surface prep, brad nailing, frame nailing, grinding, and much more. 


Its space-saving vertical design and rugged wheels and handle make it an economical and portable option. It features a handy automatic shut-off that turns the compressor off once it has reached the maximum PSI for safe operation. We also like the fact that it’s backed by a two-year warranty.


One drawback is that this is equipped with an oil-lubricated pump, which requires more maintenance than some other models on our list. It’s also only equipped with a single coupler, so you won’t be able to run more than one tool at a time.

Honorable Mention
DEWALT 20 Gallon Portable Horizontal Electric Air Compressor

The DEWALT 20 Gallon Portable Horizontal Electric Air Compressor is a compact and quiet single-stage air compressor that delivers the power of many dual-stage air compressors. With a maximum 200 PSI capacity that delivers impressive airflow rates of 6.2 CFM at 90 PSI and 7.7 CFM at 40 PSI. It’s capable of providing up to 53 percent more run-time than many other 20-gallon air compressors.


This compressor’s increased capacity makes it one of the most versatile picks on our list, capable of running a wide variety of light- and medium-duty tools and equipment. It operates at 78 decibels, which is surprisingly quiet, given its capacity. It’s also backed by a respectable two-year warranty.


There are a couple of things we don’t like about this unit. It’s one of the heaviest on our list, weighing in at 137 pounds. It does have large, 10-inch pneumatic wheels to help make it more portable, though. Secondly, it’s equipped with an oil-lubricated belt drive, which requires more maintenance than many other options on our list. And lastly, it’s one of the priciest options on our list.

Honorable Mention
Campbell Hausfeld 20 Gallon Horizontal Portable Air Compressor

The Campbell Hausfeld 20 Gallon Horizontal Portable Air Compressor offers impressive power and performance for a wide variety of tasks. It’s ideal for the DIY specialist, hobbyist, or for doing your own home renovations. This compressor features a maximum PSI of 150 that pushes air at a rate of 4 CFM at 90 PSI.


That is strong enough to power most nail guns, staplers, hobby painters, bolting tools, and inflators. It’s equipped with a clean and easy oil-free pump for long-term, maintenance-free functionality. It is quick and straightforward to assemble and will easily and inconspicuously store in your garage or workshop. 


This unit isn’t really powerful enough to be used for sanding, roofing applications, or HVLP painting jobs. It comes with a one-year warranty and only has a single coupler, but it’s a rugged and durable compressor that reviewers have few complaints about.

Honorable Mention
California Air Tools 20 Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor

If you are looking for an air compressor that won’t give you a headache from the noise of running it, you need to consider the California Air Tools 20 Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor. Operating at a low noise level of only 70 dB, this is one of the quietest running air compressors in the industry. As an added bonus, this model also features a long-lasting oil-free, maintenance-free, dual-piston pump that is designed to last more than 3,000 hours. 


This compressor has a maximum output of 125 PSI that gives you generous airflow rates of 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI and 6.40 CFM at 40 PSI, all with a low power draw of only 14 amps. Another great feature of this compressor is the dual coupling system that lets you run two tools at the same time. It has a fast recovery time, going from 95 to 125 PSI in less than a minute.


On the downside, this air compressor is one of our more costly recommendations. There are also some concerns over poor customer service and several units being constructed with the tank not being welded in a straight vertical position and slightly leaning off to the side.

Honorable Mention
Porter-Cable 1.5 HP 20 Gallon Quiet Vertical Air Compressor

Another super quiet option is the Porter-Cable 1.5 HP 20 Gallon Quiet Vertical Air Compressor. It has an operating noise level of only 69 decibels, eliminating the need for ear protection for many users. In fact, this unit functions up to 80 percent quieter than other comparable models.


The oil-free, maintenance-free pump offers up to four times the lifespan of oil-driven pump compressors. With a max pressure of 150 PSI and airflow rates of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI, this unit is a solid contender. It’s a great choice for airbrushing, blowing, nailing, bolting, stapling, and even roofing applications.


The dual quick connectors, onboard air hose storage, and a one-year limited warranty make this an even more enticing choice. Given the fact that this compressor weighs more than100 pounds, it would be nice if the wheels were a little bigger and more robust to make transporting it easier.

Honorable Mention
Goodyear 20 Gallon Vertical Air Compressor

Another budget-friendly option that produces a respectable amount of power without being too much of a drain on your bank account is the Goodyear 20 Gallon Vertical Portable Air Compressor. It is equipped with a 1.5 HP motor that is capable of producing up to 165 PSI, giving you solid airflow rates of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI. This is a great space-saving option for powering a lot of your home workshop or light-duty construction tools, including nail guns, staplers, hobby painters, wrenches, blowers, and more. 


As an added bonus, this affordable unit comes equipped with an easy-to-read, proprietary digital regulator and gauge. No more messing around with inaccurate knobs, as you can set your exact desired pressure with the touch of a button. It also has an oil-free, maintenance-free pump that gives you hundreds of hours of reliable, easy use. It also features a dual coupling system for added versatility.


The one thing we would improve about this air compressor is to give it more rugged and durable wheels and a stronger handle for safe and easy transport and maneuvering around the shop. There’s also no warranty that we could find for this particular item.

Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of 20-Gallon Air Compressors

  • Portability. Twenty-gallon air compressors are an ideal option if you need a portable unit to move from room to room on a construction site, or if your workshop is limited on space and you can’t accommodate a larger option.
  • Versatility. Most 20-gallon air compressors are powerful enough for most hobbyist needs, but they can also easily meet the needs of many garage and light industrial jobs, making them a great all-around option for a wide variety of tasks. You can also use them to inflate sporting equipment and car and truck tires.
  • Low maintenance. Most 20-gallon air compressors come almost fully assembled and ready to use. Many of them are equipped with oil-free pumps that require little to no maintenance.
  • Economical. Twenty-gallon air compressors are a much less expensive option compared to their larger, permanently installed counterparts. There’s no need to invest thousands of dollars if a more budget-friendly compressor can do the job.

Types of 20-Gallon Air Compressors 

Single-Stage

Single-stage air compressors are also known as piston compressors. In a single-stage air compressor, the air is compressed only once before it is stored or used to power tools and equipment. Air is initially sucked into a cylinder and compressed to a pressure of around 120 PSI. That compressed air is then moved into a storage tank until it's needed.

Dual-Stage

Dual-stage air compressors are also referred to as two-stage air compressors. In these, air is compressed twice to give you double the pressure, usually 175 PSI or more. These are excellent options for larger tools or continuous operations that have a higher demand for power.

Top Brands

DeWALT

DeWALT got its start back in 1922, when founder Raymond DeWalt invented the first woodworking machine. Today, the company is a globally known behemoth in the industry, manufacturing innovative and durable products like the DeWALT 20V Max XR Brushless 1/2-Inch Cordless Drill/Driver Kit.

California Air Tools

California Air Tools is located in San Diego, Calif., and was founded in 2002. Even though it’s a relatively newer manufacturer of air compressors, the company produces some of the quietest air compressors on the market, including its 2.0 HP professional-grade air compressor, the California Air Tools 4620AC Air Compressor.

Craftsman

Another long-time industry leader, the Craftsman Tool Company has been around since 1927. It was the first manufacturer of vanadium steel wrenches, which were 50 percent thinner and 200 percent stronger than previous models. It continues to produce top-quality products such as the Craftsman 3,300-watt Portable Inverter Generator.

Porter-Cable

Porter-Cable was founded in 1906 and now is a subsidiary of the Stanley Black+Decker family. The Tennessee-based power tools and equipment manufacturing company prides itself on setting high standards for performance, quality, and reliability. Some of its popular products include the Porter-Cable 15-amp Corded Circular Saw and the Porter-Cable 6-Inch Variable-Speed Random Orbit Sander Kit.

20-Gallon Air Compressor Pricing

  • Under $200: This is the price range in which you’ll find the most budget-friendly 20-gallon air compressors. Most will be capable of producing up to 135 PSI and are suitable for light-duty applications only. They may or may not come with a manufacturer’s warranty. While there are several high-quality options in this price range, pickings are much slimmer than at the higher price points.
  • $200-$500: This is the price range in which you will see the majority of light- to medium-duty 20-gallon air compressors. Many can produce around 150-175 PSI, making them a more powerful option for running a wider variety of tools and equipment. Most air compressors in this range will come with a solid warranty.
  • $500 and up: This price range will get you the more heavy-duty single- and dual-stage 20-gallon air compressors. The more power you need, the bigger the price tag will be. Compressors in this range are more suited to garage, industrial, and agricultural applications versus personal hobby and light-duty work.

Key Features

Maximum Pressure Rating

In air compressors, the amount of pressure they can produce is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). Knowing the max PSI rating for your air compressor is vital to ensuring you purchase one that’s powerful enough to run your chosen tools or equipment. For most hobby and general applications, you’ll need an air compressor that offers at least 100 PSI. For more industrial applications and larger tools or equipment, look for a PSI of 200.

Air Flow Rate

The airflow rate of an air compressor is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and is directly related to the compressor’s maximum PSI capacity. Pneumatic tools and equipment have specific CFM requirements in order to have them function properly. For example, a typical brad nailer needs air to move through it at a rate of 0.3 CFM at 90 PSI. Most orbital sanders require 6-9 CFM at 90 PSI. Be sure to check your equipment requirements prior to purchasing an air compressor to ensure you’re getting one that’s strong enough.

Compressor Pump

Twenty-gallon air compressors offer two different types of pumps. One is an oil-lubricated pump that is typically more powerful and durable. However, it also requires more maintenance. Oil-free pumps are usually less expensive and more user- and environmentally-friendly, but they may not be as powerful.

Other Considerations

  • Couplers. Most 20-gallon air compressors come equipped with a single coupling system that is capable of powering one tool or piece of equipment at a time. Some, however, offer a dual coupling system that allows you to simultaneously power two items, giving you more job versatility, which is great if you share a compressor with someone.
  • Noise Level. This is a consideration for anyone who uses their air compressor often, for prolonged periods, or at their home workshop during late hours. Consider getting the quietest functioning compressor you can find so you won’t risk damaging your hearing during prolonged or frequent use, or waking up other members of your household if you like to work well into the night.
  • Warranty. It’s always a good idea to seek out an air compressor that comes backed by a solid warranty. Some of the best companies offer a two- to three-year warranty. We don’t recommend getting an air compressor that doesn’t at least have a one-year warranty.

Tips

  • Twenty-gallon air compressors can be loud, especially if they run for prolonged or frequent periods, so consider protecting your hearing with appropriate ear plugs or ear muffs.
  • Be sure to check valves and hoses on your air compressor routinely and replace them at the first sign of wear. Inspect the tank for signs of damage or corrosion before each use.
  • Never leave a pressurized air compressor unattended. Be sure the compressor comes to a complete stop when switched to off before leaving the area.
  • Keep your air compressor away from curious young children to avoid any accidental injuries.
  • Be sure to check your owner’s manual for any “break-in” period that might be necessary before operating your compressor at peak power.

FAQs

Q: Is a 20-gallon air compressor big enough?

Check your power tool and equipment requirements prior to purchase. A 20-gallon air compressor is usually sufficient to run any tool with an airflow requirement of 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI or less. This includes most pneumatic nail guns, hobby painters, staplers, wrenches, and bolters that are intended as light- to medium-duty tools and equipment.

Q: How many amps does a 20-gallon air compressor draw?

A 20-gallon air compressor usually draws around 15 amps, making it suitable for most 110-volt AC outlets.

Q: What size compressor is best for home use?

 This greatly depends on what you plan to use the compressor for. If all you want to do is inflate the occasional bike or car tire, you can get away with a very inexpensive and compact 12-volt air compressor. However, if you like to do a lot of your own home projects, woodworking, or automotive repairs, you should consider a compressor in the 8-30 gallon range.

Q: Should I drain my compressor after every use?

Yes, definitely be sure to drain your compressor each and every time you’re done using it. Leaving air or fluid in the tank can lead to damage in the tank and make for dangerous working conditions. Compressed air has a high explosive risk, so never leave air in the compressor unattended.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re practically an expert on the topic of 20-gallon air compressors, you can probably see why we chose the CRAFTSMAN 20 Gallon Air Compressor as our top pick. It’s strong enough to power most light- and medium-duty pneumatic tools, has a slim, space-saving design, and a dual coupling system for running two tools at once. And, it comes at a decent price point.

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, definitely check out the WEN 20 Gal. Portable Vertical Air Compressor. It’s a dependable and powerful compressor that doesn’t sacrifice performance for price.