Reviews

Best Pancake Air Compressors: Simple and Portable Pressurized Air

Enjoy simple and portable compressed air anywhere you need it.

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BY Andra DelMonico / LAST UPDATED ON September 6, 2021

Work smarter, not harder, with a pancake air compressor. These small yet powerful compressors are perfect for all of those tasks around the house that require a bit of air. From bicycle tires to small pneumatic tools, your portable pancake compressor is just what you need. The small tank quickly fills with pressurized air and stays filled while you work.

 

You can even use your compressor to fill your car tires when they get low. This saves you time and money as you do a quick top-off in your driveway. When you have the right tire pressure, you get better gas mileage and your tires last longer. This will have you saving money all over the place. This guide is the first step to having a pancake air compressor to make your life easier.

Best Overall
Ridgid Six Gallon Electric Pancake Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This bright orange 6-gallon pancake compressor delivers 150 PSI and has two universal couplers. Included is a 50-foot lay-flat air hose.

Pros
Pros
  • 360-degree swivel fittings
  • 300 maximum PSI capacity
Cons
Cons
  • Loud 
  • Plastic components
Best Overall
Ridgid Six Gallon Electric Pancake Air Compressor
Best Value
Powermate Portable Electric One Gallon Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This 1-gallon pancake air compressor has an oil-free design. This helps it to be small and portable. It comes with a 25-foot recoil air hose.

Pros
Pros
  • Centralized handle 
  • Five nozzles
Cons
Cons
  • Struggles to get up to pressure 
  • Couplers not secure
Best Value
Powermate Portable Electric One Gallon Air Compressor
Honorable Mention
Bostitch Six Gallon Pancake Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This 6-gallon air compressor achieves 150 PSI and has an oil-free pump. It weighs 29 pounds and comes with high flow regulators and couplers.

Pros
Pros
  • Cold weather easy start
  • Two outlets
Cons
Cons
  • Heavy 
  • Loud
Honorable Mention
Bostitch Six Gallon Pancake Compressor

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Benefits of Pancake Air Compressors

  • Versatile. You can use your pancake air compressor for a variety of uses. They make quick work of filling bicycle tires, sporting equipment, and rafts. More powerful or larger pancake compressors can fill small car tires or small air tools. 
  • Portable. The small size of a pancake air compressor makes it easy to carry and move around. Many have a large handle on the top to make it easy to lift. They’re also lighter weight than other compressor options, making them easier to carry in the trunk of your car or bed of your truck. 
  • Easy maintenance. Small pancake air compressors tend to have a simpler setup, making them easier to maintain and care for. Even a beginner can operate and maintain their compressor, making them a smart choice for the average homeowner. 

Types of Pancake Air Compressors

Oil-Free

The standard air compressor uses oil to lubricate the piston that pushes the air into the tank. To keep the compressor in optimum running condition, you have to periodically oil the parts. An oil-free air compressor removes this maintenance task. Instead of oil, the manufacturer uses Teflon to oil the piston. The design is meant to be a permanent lubricating solution, so you don’t have to worry about lubricating. 

Quiet Operation

Air compressors are loud, and that noise is unpleasant for both you and everyone around you. While you can’t buy a totally silent compressor, there are some pancake compressors that are described as quiet. These machines have a lower decibel rating than others. If you live in a neighborhood or plan on using your compressor in small spaces, then look for one of these. 

Rugged 

The standard design for an air compressor is a flat and round pancake-like shape for the air tank, and the motor is affixed to the top of it. This makes for a simple and convenient design. Rugged compressors take this a step further. They will have a large metal handle that sits about the motor and a metal cage that wraps around the motor and tank. It gives the compressors a more box-like appearance. The metal cage protects the compressors and gives them more durability, making them better suited for worksites and construction applications. 

Top Brands

Ridgid

Founded in 1923 in Ohio, Ridgid’s claim to fame is its invention of the modern pipe wrench. The company’s commitment to effectiveness and strength has helped it build a legacy of quality tool production. The Ridgid Six Gallon Air Compressor comes with a lay-flat hose for easier operation. 

Bostitch

Founded in 1896 in Arlington, Massachusetts, Bostitch produces tools, fasteners, air compressors, and tool accessories. The company remains one of the most well-known names in tools, thanks to its commitment to quality and innovation. The Bostitch Six Gallon Pancake Compressor has an impressive tank capacity for larger jobs. 

DeWalt

Founded in 1924 in Pennsylvania, the company’s first product was an electric universal woodworking machine that can be configured in nine different ways. Today, the company distributes its tools worldwide. The DeWalt 2.5 Gallon Cordless Air Compressor Kit is rugged enough to withstand the toughest of environments.

Pancake Air Compressor Pricing

  • Under $150: The smallest of pancake air compressors fall into this price range. They have a simple operation, typically oil-free, and won’t come with any accessories or hose. 
  • $150 to $250: The majority of air compressors fall into this price range. They’ll have slightly larger tank capacities and come with the accessories you need to use them, such as a hose. 
  • $250 and up: The air compressors in this range will have a larger tank capacity and come with everything you need to use the air compressor. Some will also come with additional accessories, such as a nailer, hose, battery, and charger. 

Key Features

Max PSI Rating 

The most important feature you should consider is the max PSI rating. This is how much air pressure it can handle. For a decent quality machine that can handle most home tasks, look for a maximum PSI of at least 90. Some might be a bit higher. However, higher PSI also means it moves air more and drains the tank faster. 

Tank Capacity 

The typical pancake air compressor will hold about 6 gallons. Some models are as small as one or two gallons. The larger the tank capacity, the more air it can hold and the longer it will last before it needs to kick on and refill the tank. However, a larger tank also means the entire unit is bigger and heavier. If the PSI or CRM capacity is low, compensate with a larger tank. 

Noise Level 

The noise level is how loud the compressor is while it’s running. Despite pancake compressors being quite small, some of them are unbearably loud. Most air compressors will put the noise level rating on the packaging. Look for anything lower than 80 decibels. The lower the number, the quieter the machine will be. 

Other Considerations

  • Durability. If you plan to occasionally use your compressor to fill vehicle tires, then you’ll be fine with almost any decently-sized pancake compressor. If you want to use it more often for construction or heavy-duty use, then look for a rugged design. A metal cage around the compressor will give it extra durability and protection. 
  • Portability. Technically, all pancake compressors are pretty portable. However, some make it easier than others to carry. If you plan on bringing your compressor with you, look for a large handle on the top. It should also have rubber feet on the bottom. This will protect your floors and prevent vibrations. 
  • Pump Type. Do you want an oil or oil-free pump style? Oil-free is more convenient, cleaner running, and tends to be lighter than the oil pump alternative. This is because the oil-free style has fewer parts. The simpler design results in a noticeable price difference, with oil-free options being more affordable.

Best Pancake Air Compressors Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Ridgid Six Gallon Electric Pancake Air Compressor

This 6-gallon air compressor delivers 150 PSI with a maximum air pressure of 300 PSI. It has two universal couplers and a 50-foot lay-flat air hose. The dual couplers allow you to use two nailers at once. What makes this unit stand out is the 360-degree swivel connector on the hose to make it easier to maneuver. The oil-free pump is low-maintenance and smooth-running. Unlike other hoses, the lay-flat design helps the hose to keep its shape and resist tangling. It also only weighs three pounds, making it manageable and maneuverable.  


Unfortunately, this air compressor can be loud. It also has some plastic components, which can make it less durable than others. However, the plastic parts will be fine for occasional home use.

Best Value
Powermate Portable Electric One Gallon Air Compressor

You can take this portable 1-gallon pancake air compressor anywhere. It has a low-maintenance, oil-free setup. Included is a recoil 25-foot air hose. For versatility, it comes with two raft/mattress inflation nozzles, adapter fittings, a ball tire chuck, inflation needles, and a quick coupler with a male thread connector. Rubber feet on the bottom of the compressor stabilize the machine and reduce vibration. A centralized handle on the top of the compressor makes it easier to carry. The placement of the pressure gauge and on/off switch make the compressor simple to operate. 


The downside of this air compressor is that it struggles to get up to the maximum air pressure. The couplers are also not secure, which can make it challenging to attach different accessories and tools. 

Honorable Mention
Bostitch Six Gallon Pancake Compressor

This bright yellow 6-gallon air compressor is durable and sturdy. It has solid rubber feet on the bottom to give it stability and absorb vibration. It produces 150 PSI with its oil-free pump. This gives you maintenance-free operation with no need for oil changes or belt replacements. It has a noise rating of 78.5 dBA. There are two couplers so that two users can work from the compressor simultaneously. The compressor weighs 29 pounds, making it easy to carry and store. What makes this compressor stand out is that it’s easy to start up, even in cold weather. 


The drawback of this air compressor is that it’s heavy and loud. However, it’s still smaller and quieter than compressors that are larger than the pancake design. It also comes with additional power for the weight.

Honorable Mention
DeWalt Six Gallon Pancake Air Compressor Combo Kit

This oil-free pancake air compressor delivers a maximum of 165 PSI. It has a 6-gallon tank and a 25-foot hose and coupler. What makes this compressor stand out is that it also comes with an 18-gauge nailer. The noise rating is 75.5 decibels, making it quieter than other compressors on this list. During continuous running, the compressor maintains 90 PSI and has a quick recovery. You’ll find the compressor easy to carry with its 30-pound weight. You’ll appreciate the ball drain valve for quick and thorough tank draining. 


Unfortunately, you may find the hose to be bulky and heavy to maneuver. It also lacks lay-flat or anti-tangle features. The compressor also lacks a pressure regulator gauge. Instead, it has a turn knob, which isn’t as effective.

Honorable Mention
Campbell Hausfeld Six Gallon Electric Pancake Air Compressor

Purchase this air compressor with up to four times longer useful life than the standard compressor. The 6-gallon tank has an oil-free pump for minimal maintenance. It also stands out for being incredibly quiet, at 68 decibels. This makes it ideal for use in places where noise is an issue. It can achieve a maximum PSI of 150 and 2.4 CFM at 90 PSI. You’ll like the rubber grip steel handle that makes carrying the compressor more comfortable. 


Unfortunately, the pump doesn’t start cycling to refill the tank until it reaches 90 PSI. While it can reach a maximum of 150 PSI, don’t expect to be able to maintain this level. This makes it less than ideal for larger tools that require more power.

Honorable Mention
Briggs & Stratton Three Gallon Pancake Air Compressor

This 3-gallon pancake air compressor has a 1/3 horsepower DC motor. The pump is an oil-free design to make the required maintenance minimal. It can achieve a maximum of 100 PSI working pressure. The top of the unit has a flip-up handle to make carrying it easier. There are large gauges on the top to make operating your compressor easier. This compressor’s small size and lighter weight help it be portable and ideal for small projects around the house. 


Unfortunately, this air compressor lacks power when compared to other units. This makes it less than ideal for filling large vehicle tires or running larger tools. However, if you have a smaller vehicle or need it for filling recreational equipment, this compressor will work fine.

Honorable Mention
DeWalt 2.5 Gallon Cordless Air Compressor Kit

You can take this air compressor anywhere with its 2.5-gallon tank and heavy-duty roll cage. It has an oil-free brushless motor that can deliver a consistent 135 PSI. It can achieve a maximum of 300 PSI for those tougher projects. This makes the compressor strong enough for filling your vehicle tires and running pneumatic tools. A quarter-turn ball drain makes emptying the tank easy. Included with your air compressor are an 18-gauge nailer, battery, charger, and 50-foot hose. The compressor weighs 21.5 pounds, making this entire kit easy to take wherever you need it. 


One drawback of this unit is the hose. While the compressor may be lightweight, the hose is heavy for its size. It also doesn’t have any nice features like lay-flat, recoil, or anti-tangle.

Honorable Mention
Porter-Cable Six Gallon Air Compressor and Nailer Combo Kit

This air compressor is one that’s ready for work, coming with a 6-gallon tank and an oil-free motor. It delivers 150 PSI and weighs 30 pounds. It’s rated for quiet operation, making this compressor suitable for filling your vehicle tires while in your driveway. The kit also comes with a 25-foot hose, couplings, and three brad nailers (16, 18, and 23 gauge). These aren't are just cheap brad nailers, as they have a tool-free jam release, maintenance-free motors, durable construction, and tool-free depth-of-drive adjustment. 


One issue with this kit is that the air tank has an expiration date. According to the owner’s manual, you shouldn’t use the compressor past this date. You’ll want to check your manual to ensure your new compressor doesn’t have a looming expiration date.

Honorable Mention
Fini Six Gallon Electric Pancake Air Compressor

This small 6-gallon air compressor has a 1.5 horsepower motor. It delivers 2.8 SCFM at 90 PSI and has a maximum PSI of 150. The startup PSI is 125. This gives you plenty of professional-grade power for running nail guns. The advanced oil-free pump reduces the sound level and maintenance requirements. The decibel rating is 76 decibels. There are two couplings, so you can simultaneously run multiple tools. You’ll appreciate the durability of this compressor with its robust metal handle and impact-resistant shroud. A quarter-turn ball valve drains the tank for quick tank emptying. Once you purchase a hose, this compressor has built-in hose storage for compact keeping. 


Unfortunately, this compressor doesn’t come with any accessories or a hose. This means you can’t use the compressor until you buy these other parts.

Honorable Mention
K Tool International Air Compressor One Gallon

Take this lightweight and small air compressor anywhere, thanks to the oversized handle on the top. It has a 1/3 horsepower motor that achieves a max PSI of 100. The engine on top of the 1-gallon tank may look large, but the entire compressor weighs only 18 pounds. This small compressor is perfect for small crafts and projects around your home or filling sports balls and pool floats. There are large rubber feet on the bottom to keep the compressor stable and absorb all of the vibration created during operation. This helps to keep the compressor quiet during operation. 


Unfortunately, this air compressor isn’t powerful enough to fill vehicle tires but it may be able to fill your bicycle tires. It also lacks accessories or an air hose, so you’ll need to buy them before using the compressor.

Tips

  • Because pancake air compressors are smaller, make sure the one you buy has enough power for what you want to use it for. Many tools have the minimum air pressure needed for optimum operation.  
  • If you’re struggling to use your air compressor because you don’t have enough reach, look for a longer hose. This lets you leave the air compressor in one spot and move around with the hose. You’ll find this easier than buying a longer extension cord. 
  • Check your owner’s manual for break-in requirements. Some manufacturers require you to run the compressor with the drains open for at least 30 minutes before you start using the compressor for projects. 

FAQs

Q: Can I buy a pancake air compressor at Harbor Freight?

Yes, you can. There are several pancake air compressors available for sale at Harbor Freight. 

Q: Which is better: a pancake or hot dog air compressor?

Hot dog air compressors tend to have more power because the tank is larger. This helps them to last longer between each refilling. This can also make them louder than their pancake counterparts. Neither has a better build quality than another. 

Q: Are pancake air compressors any good?

These small compressors are worth buying if you have small projects. They are lightweight and portable, making them perfect for projects that require you to bring the compressor to the project and not the other way around. 

Q: How does a pancake air compressor work?

The tank fills with air until pressurized. You can then use the attached hose to harness the power of the compressed air to fill tires or use a pneumatic tool. As you use the compressed air, the tank will continuously refill to maintain pressure. 

Final Thoughts

Our top pick for the best pancake air compressor is the Ridgid Six Gallon Electric Pancake Air Compressor. It has an impressive max capacity of 300 PSI and an operating PSI of 150 PSI. It also comes with a 50-foot lay-flat air hose. 

For a more affordable option, the Powermate Portable Electric One Gallon Air Compressor comes with five nozzles for maximum versatility and a centralized handle for easy carrying.