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The Best Air Compressors for Your Home Garage: Portable and Versatile

Ramp up your home garage or workshop efficiency with these powerful air compressors.

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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON May 23, 2021

If you’re one of the many people who has transformed your garage or outbuilding into a workshop, versus just a place to park cars, chances are you’re pretty adept with tools and DIY projects. If so, adding a compact but powerful air compressor to your home garage set-up can really ramp up your efficiency and capabilities when it comes to most automotive or DIY projects that use pneumatic power tools.

Using pneumatic tools with a compressor is so much quicker and easier than using regular tools, or even many power tools. Not to mention the fact that an air compressor has other versatile uses that make it a smart buy. Inflate tires or sporting equipment quickly and with ease. There are plenty of affordable and durable air compressors on the market that are perfect for home garage use.

Take a quick browse through our favorite air compressors and learn what sets them apart from the competition in our informative buying guide. We’ll help you navigate all the ins and outs to ensure that you get the perfect air compressor to suit your home garage needs.

Small portable air compressor at home warehouse garage under wooden workbench
Deposit Photos

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Benefits of Air Compressors for Home Garage

  • Powerful. Using an air compressor to power pneumatic tools like staplers, brad nailers, paint sprayers, and other tools greatly increases your efficiency and cuts down on the time it takes to complete a job. 
  • Versatile. An air compressor in your home garage can do a wide variety of tasks. Whether you’re an artist, hobbyist, DIY enthusiast, or automotive guru, you likely have a power tool or piece of equipment that could run better with the aid of an air compressor. You can also use it to quickly inflate tires, paddleboards, basketballs, and plenty of other outdoor gear in minutes. 
  • Portable. Most air compressors for home garages are sized to be space-saving and highly portable so that you can easily move them from one area of your garage to another, or even take them to a job site or friend’s workshop for use in different locations. 
  • Low-maintenance. Most of today’s air compressors that are sized and suited for home garage uses are low-maintenance and economical, saving you time and money over owning a larger capacity air compressor.

Types of Air Compressors for Home Garage

Single-Stage

Single-stage air compressors are sometimes also called piston compressors. As the name implies, air is compressed only once before it is stored in a holding tank or used to power tools and equipment. Air is initially sucked into a cylinder and compressed to a pressure of around 120 to 135 PSI. 

Dual-Stage

As you can probably imagine, dual-stage air compressors compress air twice to give you double the pressure, usually 175 PSI or more. They’re also commonly known as two-stage air compressors. These powerful compressors are good options for larger tools or continuous operations that have a higher demand for power, like in industrial or commercial pneumatic tools.

Top Brands

California Air Tools

California Air Tools was founded in 2002 and is located in San Diego, Calif. It’s a relatively newer manufacturer that prides itself on producing some of the quietest air compressors in the industry, including its 2.0 HP industrial-grade air compressor, the California Air Tools 20020Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free and Powerful Portable Air Compressor.

Bostitch

Bostitch was founded in Arlington, Mass., in 1896. The company produces tools, air compressors, fasteners, and tool accessories. Bostitch is one of the most trusted names in tools in America, thanks to its commitment to quality and innovation. The BOSTITCH Air Compressor Combo Kit with Brad Nailer is an impressive and affordable combo kit.

DeWALT

DeWALT got its start back in 1922, when founder Raymond DeWalt invented the first woodworking machine that revolutionized the speed and efficiency of cutting wood. Today, the company has a global brand presence, manufacturing innovative and durable products like the DeWALT 20V Max XR Brushless 1/2-Inch Cordless Drill/Driver Kit.

Ingersoll Rand

In 1872, the Rand & Waring Drill & Compressor Company launched. By 1890, the company had introduced the world's first direct-connected, electric motor-driven compressor. Ever since, the company has been expanding its influence across multiple industries. The Ingersoll Rand 212 Impact Wrench is one of the company’s top selling products.

Air Compressors for Home Garage Pricing

  • Under $200: This price range will get you a smaller, very compact air compressor, usually under 120 PSI and with a capacity under 8 gallons. They’re very lightweight and easily portable, but may not be powerful enough to run all your pneumatic tools.
  • $200-$500: In this price range, you’ll find a wide variety of 8- to 20-gallon air compressors that are made by some top manufacturers. Most will still be portable, although much less so than in the lesser price range, but they will be stronger and able to run longer, making them a better option for commercial-grade and serious DIY projects.
  • $500 and up: This price range is where the strongest and heavier-duty home garage compressors can be found. Many will be in the 30-gallon capacity range and will offer significant PSI and CFM for powering large tools.

Key Features

Maximum Pressure Rating

The amount of pressure that an air compressor can produce is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch. The greater the PSI, the larger the tool the compressor can power. Most home garage equipment will need a minimum PSI rating of 100 to start and function reliably. 

CFM Capacity

Cubic feet per minute (CFM) is the measure of a compressor’s air flow rate. This is usually directly related to the compressor’s maximum PSI capacity. Most home garage tools and equipment require air to flow through the tool at a minimum rate of anywhere between 0.5 to 5.0 CFM at 90 PSI to work properly. Be sure to check the requirements on all your pneumatic equipment to ensure you’re getting one that’s strong enough.

Tank Capacity 

Tank capacity can vary greatly among suitable home garage air compressors. Some may only require a 2-gallon capacity, while other larger, more industrial projects do well with a 20- or 30-gallon tank. Logically, the larger the tank capacity, the more air it holds, and the longer it can run before needing to refill the tank. Conversely, the bigger the tank, the less compact and portable the compressor is, so take that into consideration when you think “the bigger the better.”

Other Considerations

  • Noise Level. Air compressors tend to be noisy. However, there are some that are being made recently to be much quieter than earlier models. If you’re planning on using your compressor for extended periods, consider getting one that’s rated to be quieter to help protect your hearing. Otherwise, wear ear protection while operating your air compressor.
  • Compressor Pump. There are generally two types of compressor pumps in air compressors for home garage use. One is a maintenance-free, oil-free pump that is environmentally friendly and relatively inexpensive. The other is an oil-lubricated pump that is more durable and more powerful, but requires more work to maintain. It’s also heavier than the oil-free pump.
  • Portability. If you want to be able to easily maneuver your air compressor to different areas in your garage or workshop, portability is a major consideration. Steer clear of the larger tank capacity and heavier weight compressors unless you really need that for the job. 
  • Warranty. We always recommend going with a manufacturer that backs up its product with a good, solid warranty. In fact, a company that doesn’t offer a warranty on a larger, more expensive piece of equipment like an air compressor should raise a red flag for you. 

Best Air Compressors for Home Garage Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
California Air Tools 15 Gal 2 HP Portable Air Compressor

When it comes to the best overall choice for an air compressor for your home garage that is not only affordable and powerful, but also reliable and compact, it’s hard to beat the California Air Tools 15 Gal 2 HP Portable Air Compressor. This is a great option for those who don’t want something too big, but still want enough power to run almost any consumer-grade or light-commercial pneumatic tools.


It works on your 110-volt household power outlets and comes equipped with an ultra-quiet, maintenance-free, oil-free pump that operates at only 70 decibels. It has a 15-gallon horizontal tank and is capable of 130 PSI of maximum pressure. It has 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI and 6.4 CFM at 40 PSI. This contractor-grade compressor is a single-stage compressor that has a durable powder-coat finish that’s sure to last a long time. 


It comes with a one-year limited warranty, which isn’t the best in the industry, but we’ll take it. One drawback is that this air compressor might be a little overpowered depending on your needs

Best Value
Bostitch Air Compressor Combo Kit

For a compact, rugged air compressor and starter kit that won’t break the bank, you’ve got to check out the Bostitch Air Compressor 3-Tool Combo Kit. This makes a perfect gift or addition for the finish worker or carpenter in your household. It’s a 6-gallon, single-stage pancake air compressor that comes equipped with an 18-gauge, 2-inch brad nailer, a 16-gauge, 2-1/2-inch straight finish nailer, and a heavy-duty 3/8-inch crown stapler. 


The best part is that it’s all offered at a bargain price tag. We also really like the fact that this compressor weighs in at only 42 pounds, making it one of the most lightweight compressors on our list. You can easily take this compressor anywhere. And, it’s compact and can easily be stored in a cabinet or on a shelf when not in use.


It has an oil-free, maintenance-free pump and dual couplers that lets you operate two tools simultaneously. One thing we don’t love is that it’s quite noisy for its size. Also, this compressor might be undersized for larger jobs, like framing or spray painting.

Honorable Mention
Ingersoll-Rand SS3F2-GM Garage Mate 2 Horsepower 30 Gallon Hot Dog Compressor

For the ideal combination of portability and power, take a look at the Ingersoll-Rand SS3F2-GM Garage Mate 2 Horsepower 30 Gallon Hot Dog Compressor. This is a heavy-duty, single-stage, oil-lubed compressor that will be well-suited for almost any DIYer or professional user. It has a whopping 30-gallon tank that allows for 100 percent continuous duty use.


With a maximum PSI of 135 and an airflow rate of 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI, you can easily power most tools and equipment for as long as you need. It has a surprisingly quiet 80 decibel noise level while functioning, considering its size. 


This unit is equipped with a rugged handle and tough, semi-pneumatic tires for maneuvering, which is good, since this beast of a compressor weighs in at 185 pounds. This is definitely the least portable compressor on our list. It’s also the bulkiest and one of the priciest.

Honorable Mention
WEN 10-Gallon Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor

We appreciate the WEN 10-Gallon Oil-Free Vertical Air Compressor for being an affordable, but impressively powerful and space-saving air compressor that is a pleasant surprise to many consumers. This is a 10-gallon vertical tank compressor that can fit in a lot of spaces that other horizontal tanks can’t. It’s equipped with a 15-amp motor that offers a maximum PSI of 150. 


It boasts airflow rates of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI, which is not as strong as some other models on our list, but still plenty strong enough to power a plethora of pneumatic tools. The oil-free pump is easy to maintain and has a long lifespan. This unit also comes equipped with rugged 7-inch never-flat wheels and an ergonomic handle for easy steering of its 71 pounds. 


There is some concern about the long-term durability of the base of the unit and the tank itself. However, this air compressor comes backed by a solid two-year warranty for added peace of mind. It also has a relatively noisy operation compared to some other models and a slower recovery time.

Honorable Mention
DeWALT D55167 15 Gallon 200 PSI Portable Workshop Air Compressor

The DeWALT D55167 15 Gallon 200 PSI Portable Workshop Air Compressor is the compressor you want to consider when you have some serious power requirements. This is an industrial-strength air compressor wrapped up in a relatively lightweight and portable package. With a maximum PSI of 200, there isn’t much in your home garage or workshop that this air compressor won’t be able to run. It offers airflow rates of 5.0 CFM at 90 PSI and plugs into any grounded 120-volt outlet. 


Weighing only 83 pounds and with rugged tires and a substantial handle, this compressor is a good option if you’re looking for power and portability rolled into one. It does take up more space with its horizontal tank orientation than a vertical tank does, but its low-profile design makes it easy to store under shop tables. It has a surprisingly low operating noise of only 78 decibels, considering its capacity.


This model features quick recovery times, long air-tool run times, and an oil-free maintenance compressor for ease of use. One thing we don’t love is the marginal 90-day warranty. It also comes with a higher price tag than some other models on our list.

Honorable Mention
Craftsman 20 Gal Air Compressor

The Craftsman 20 Gallon Air Compressor deserves a shout-out for being a rugged and versatile compressor that’s offered at a decent price point. It features a 20-gallon tank, which allows for long tool-run times. It has a large 175 PSI maximum tank pressure and a solid airflow rate of 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 5.0 CFM at 40 PSI, which allows you to easily power most light commercial tools in your home garage.


As with most other air compressors on our list, this model features a single-stage, oil-free pump that offers a long lifecycle and no maintenance. We really appreciate that this unit comes with a dual coupling system so you have the versatility of being able to run two tools at the same time. 


This unit weighs in at 90 pounds, which is less portable than some, but still maneuverable with oversized wheels and a sturdy, ergonomic handle. It comes backed by a one-year limited warranty. This unit does lose marks for being one of the louder functioning options on our list.

Tips

  • The type of air compressor you need for your home garage may differ significantly from your neighbor. Assess all your pneumatic tools and their airflow requirements and get the compressor that will best run your specific tools.
  • Read your air compressor owner’s manual to see if your model has a specific break-in period prior to using it at peak power. In fact, just read through the entire owner’s manual prior to use to fully familiarize yourself with operation and safety instructions.
  • Vertical tank air compressors are a better choice for those who are concerned with overall space usage and portability.
  • Regularly examine all compressor hoses, couplers, valves, and other components, and replace any removable parts at the earliest sign of wear.
  • Do not leave pressurized air in the compressor tank when it’s not in use. This is a serious explosive hazard. Bleed air out fully at the end of every use.

FAQs

Q: What should I look for in a garage air compressor? 

The main things you should look for in a garage air compressor are maximum PSI, airflow rates that are strong enough to power your tools, tank storage capacity that suits your needs, and a decent manufacturer’s warranty.

Q: What size air compressor do I need for my home garage?

The ideal size air compressor will vary greatly depending on what you’re using it for. If you’re a serious DIYer who wants to power nail guns, staplers, and drills, you’ll need something in the 15- to 30-gallon range. If you have smaller tools and use them for shorter periods of time, you might find that a lightweight and portable 2- to 6-gallon compressor suits your needs just fine.

Q: What do I need to know when buying an air compressor?

A good rule of thumb when choosing the air compressor that’s best suited for you is to determine which tools have the largest CFM and PSI requirements. Add 50 percent to that required CFM as an extra margin for safety, and select a compressor that meets that need.

Q: Can a 6-gallon air compressor run an impact wrench?

Technically, yes. However, it’s barely strong enough, and you’ll only get a couple of minutes of use before the compressor needs to shut off to refill. You should use a 15- to 30-gallon compressor if you want to run an impact wrench without frustration.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to overall durability, functionality, and portability at a decent price point, it’s easy to see why the California Air Tools 15 Gal 2 HP Portable Air Compressor is our top pick. It’s a high-powered, single-phase, 110-volt air compressor that offers 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI and 6.4 CFM at 40 PSI. It also boasts a quick recovery time and quiet operation.

For a more budget-conscious option, we really like the Bostitch Air Compressor Combo Kit. It’s a compact, highly portable air compressor that comes with three separate tools and is a great option for smaller usage requirements.