Best Air Compressors For Home Garage (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Find out which air compressors you’ll want to keep in your shop or garage.

byHank O'Hop| UPDATED Nov 16, 2021 8:45 AM
Best Air Compressors For Home Garage (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022
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Has the air compressor seen its day? Electric tools, both corded and cordless, have become powerful enough to rival, if not surpass, many of their pneumatic counterparts. That's great news for DIYers that want as little dependency on compressed air as possible but it doesn't mean the air compressor has been phased out entirely just yet. Even if you're only getting your feet wet in some minor maintenance, you'll want to keep one around the shop. One size doesn't fit all, though, and the person who just maybe needs to fill a tire here and there or run a nail gun for quick projects, doesn't need the same compressor as a full-fledged gearhead or bodyline master will. That's why we want to talk a little about how you know what air compressor to choose and make some recommendations along the way.

Our Methodology

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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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Though we have officially tested plenty of air compressors here at The Drive, few fit the mould of what you'd want to depend on in the shop. Therefore, we had to lean heavily on personal experiences and preferences to come up with a list of compressors we think best suit the average home garage. 

That isn't exactly enough to tell us what brands or features are hot right now. So, we did plenty of second-hand research during our quest to build a definitive list. Of course, aside from checking out what suppliers and competitors have to say, we spent plenty of time cruising the internet for consumer reviews. At the end of the day, we feel you've come to the right place for air compressor suggestions. 

Best Air Compressor For Home Garage Reviews & Recommendations

We're kicking off our list with a Craftsman 20-gallon compressor that resembles what you’d find in the home garage where more demanding projects exist. Of course, it is a Craftsman, and right away, that should tell you this model is largely targeted toward the DIYer and the middle-of-the-road pricing does confirm that. As for the specs, this features a 20-gallon tank and can run at  5.0 SCFM at 40 PSI or 4.0 SCFM at 90 PSI and has a 175 PSI tank maximum. All of that makes it a good choice for most projects you'll tackle at the home base. Of course, two hose ports, a large adjustment knob for regulation of flow, and the large wheels only make it friendlier to many projects.


While there is a lot to appreciate here, it isn't perfect. This thing runs at about 80dB which is certainly not the loudest compressor, but it is loud enough to drive some home shop owners nuts. Also, it's worth noting that this model does damage easily in shipping due to poor packaging, and you'll want to inspect it thoroughly upon arrival.


Product Specs

  • Part Number: CMXECXA0232043
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 5.0 SCFM @ 40 PSI / 4.0 SCFM @ 90 PSI

Pros

  • Competitive pricing
  • More than capable for average projects
  • Features two air hose ports
  • Easy to move around 

Cons

  • Relatively high running noise
  • Easily damaged in shipping

Let's face it—having an air compressor doesn't necessarily mean you will use it for sanding or busting frozen bolts and this Bostitch 3-gallon compressor may be all you need. It will allow you to fill tires, but it’s bundled with some tools that will prove useful for miscellaneous home projects, all at a ridiculously good price point. This pancake compressor runs at 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI and comes with two nailers—one for general work and another for finishing—along with a stapler and a 25-foot air hose. Also, because it's a pancake, it's effortless to relocate as necessary and won’t take up much floor space wherever you decide to store it.


While this is a decently capable setup, there are complaints surrounding quality control that warrant ensuring everything is operational as soon as this kit arrives. Also, it seems as though the included nailers are only good for a few odd jobs before they suffer from performance issues.

Product Specs

  • Part Number: BTFP3KIT
  • Tank Size: 6 gallons
  • CFM/PSI:  2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI 

Pros

  • Affordable price point
  • Includes hose, nailers, and stapler
  • Easy to transport 

Cons

  • Quality control issues are common
  • Included nailers have relatively short lifespan

It's hard to talk about air compressors without mentioning Campbell Hausfeld. Many feel the brand has some of the best compressors on the market, and you'll find them in many professional settings because of it. If you want that kind of dependability but don't need a full-size compressor taking up room in the garage, this is a great option to consider. This handy little 4.6-gallon compressor can deliver 2.2 CFM at 90 PSI and 3.2 CFM at 40 PSI with two hose ports. It is great for filling tires and running small tools around the shop, but you can very easily carry around the house for small projects or even use it for work and side jobs. Also, it runs at just 68 dB and is advertised to last four times longer than the competition.


This is a premium product, and it is tied to a relatively high price point because of it. That does make it easier to go with something a little more affordable for home use. We should also mention that a few too many complaints of faulty compressors show up for us to ignore as well.


Product Specs

  • Part Number: DC040500
  • Tank Size: 4.6 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 2.2 CFM @ 90 PSI/3.2 CFM @ 40 PSI

Pros

  • Superior quality
  • Low running noise 
  • Two hose ports 
  • Long lifespan

Cons

  • Relatively high price
  • Issues with faulty units are relatively common
Best Portable Air Compressor
Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

This Viair portable compressor takes the title a little more seriously than some might anticipate. While hot dog and pancake compressors are designed to be portable, the nature of this model makes it a premier choice for those with little need for a compressor. It's designed to make filling tires as convenient as possible. Simply hook it up to a 12-volt power port and you're ready to roll. It's easy to move from car to car due to the lack of an actual tank, the quality is far beyond much of the direct competition, and it does sit at a relatively affordable price point. Of course, we also want to point out that it does come with some additional filling accessories and a nice storage bag to keep everything tidy in your trunk.


As we're talking about shop compressors, it's only fair to point out that this will be a pain to run in the home garage as it depends on a 12-volt source. Also, it's not intended for anything other than filling tires and sports equipment, so you will need something else if you have any kind of serious work on the agenda.

Product Specs

  • Part Number: 00085
  • Tank Size: No tank 
  • CFM/PSI: 1.26CFM Free Flow @ 0 PSI

Pros

  • Relatively affordable pricing
  • Convenient for filling tires on the go
  • Storage bag keeps everything organized 

Cons

  • Not intended for anything but filling tires
  • Reliant on 12-volt power 
Best Pancake Air Compressor
Craftsman 6-Gallon Pancake Compressor

Craftsman makes its second appearance on our list with its 6-gallon air compressor. You already know what to expect in terms of quality, and the price, of course, lands well within reason for most consumers. It's hard to beat this for use in the home garage as it's right in the sweet spot for those with moderate use in mind. It's compact and takes up little space, but its ability to deliver 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI combined with the 6-gallon tank does bring busting lug nuts with pneumatic power into the equation. It is also easy to move around because the size and two hose ports make it friendly to more demanding projects.


Unfortunately, this is another compressor plagued with quality control issues, and it's worth inspecting thoroughly to find any problems before the return deadline. Also, it does come with some accessories and a hose, which is great, but the included air gun is very flimsy.

Product Specs

  • Part Number: CMEC6150K
  • Tank Size: 6 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI 

Pros

  • Relatively affordable pricing
  • Accessories and air hose included 
  • Two air hose ports 

Cons

  • Quality control issues are common
  • Included air gun is flimsy
Best ‘Quiet’ Air Compressor
Stealth 20 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor

The Stealth 20-gallon Ultra Quiet air compressor is hard to leave out of the conversation. After all, a lot of people try to break away from pneumatic tools because they are typically attached to loud air compressors. Seeing as this model only runs at 68 dB, it just may be the compromise you're looking for. That low noise level is no interference with performance as this unit can still provide CFM at 40 PSI and 5 CFM at 90 PSI with two air hose ports. That's more than enough for the average home project. Of course, the fact that it has a large, easy-to-use interface is easy to adore, as are the large wheels that make it easy to haul around the shop as needed.


As you might expect, quality control is an issue as there are reports surrounding faulty units showing up on people's doorsteps. Unfortunately, routine reports of poor customer service make it more pressing than ever to go over this model with a fine-tooth comb before the return deadline.

Product Specs

  • Part Number: SAQ-12018
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 6CFM @ 40 PSI 5 CFM @ 90 PSI 

Pros

  • Runs very quiet for a compressor of its capabilities
  • Large easy-to-use interface
  • Features two air hose ports 

Cons

  • Quality control issues are common
  • Customer service issues are common

The Makita Big Bore compressor nearly took the award for Best Portable as the price is right, the quality is there, and it's easy to carry around with just a 2.6-gallon tank. Still, we opted to call it the best hot dog instead as it's clearly not something you'd keep in your trunk for filling tires. There are a lot of comparable models, but few do what the Big Bore can. The name Big Bore comes from the larger-than-normal piston in the pump that gives it the ability to recover much more quickly than the competition. In other words, you'll spend less time waiting for this to refill. As for the specs, this can supply 3.8 CFM at 40 PSI and 3.3 CFM at 90 PSI, making it a solid choice for miscellaneous projects and commercial work.

 

You can already guess that this model is easily damaged in shipping, like so many others, which is linked to poor packaging. However, it is worth pointing out that this model is relatively heavy and runs at 80 dB, meaning you'll have more to consider than just a thorough inspection upon arrival.

Product Specs

  • Part Number: MAC700
  • Tank Size: 2.6 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 3.8 CFM @ 40 PSI/ 3.3 CFM @ 90 PSI

Pros

  • Big bore reduces recovery time
  • Competitive pricing
  • Cut out for home and commercial use

Cons

  • Easily damaged in shipping
  • Relatively heavy
  • High noise-output for the size

Most of the compressors we're talking about are oil-free, so what makes the California Air Tools compressor stand out? The combination of features it has to offer. For starters, this model operates at just 60 dB, making it a close contender for the title of Best 'Quiet' as well. The fact that it has an 8-gallon tank and can deliver 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI and 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI also makes it a viable option for those with an impact waiting for intermittent use. That said, the large wheels and handle make it easy to haul around the shop as is, but an aluminum version makes doing so effortless.


You didn't see the fact that quality control issues are common, did you? Well, they are as there are plenty of complaints of faulty models showing up. Also, the wheels work but are worth being leery of, as a few reviews point out that they're a little wobbly until washers are added to the setup.

Product Specs

  • Part Number: 8010 
  • Tank Size: 8 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 2.2O CFM @ 90 PSI / 3.10 CFM @ 40 PSI

Pros 

  • Exceptionally quiet 
  • Low maintenance design
  • Wheels and handle make it easy to move

Cons

  • Poor quality control
  • Wheels need modification for security

Makita is another repeating name here, this time with its Quiet Series compressor taking a spot on our list. This is a hot dog compressor, and that already makes it a convenient option for a lot of people. However, that's not why we picked it for Most User-Friendly. The layout of the gauges, regulator, and hose connection port is to thank for that. Not only are they all in close proximity to one another, but they’re also all sitting on an angled panel that's easy to operate from a standing position. You won't need to bend over, adjust your belt, and hike up your pants whenever you need to make adjustments. Also, it is a Makita, so the quality is there, and it is priced competitively. As for performance, it's working with a 2-gallon tank and the ability to deliver 2 CFM at 90 PSI.


While quality control issues aren't much of an issue here, there are potential setbacks. This is a rather heavy model that can be tiresome to transport, and it does need to recover frequently due to the small tank.


Product Specs

  • Part Number: MAC210Q
  • Tank Size: 2 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 2 CFM @ 90 PSI

Pros

  • Angled interface keeps setup simple 
  • Easy to transport design
  • Competitive pricing

Cons

  • Relatively heavy
  • Frequently needs to recover

We're wrapping up by highlighting the SS5 from Ingersoll Rand, a compressor you shouldn't take lightly. We consider this to be the most versatile due to its ability to tackle more than any other compressor on our list. Its 60-gallon tank combined with the ability to supply 18.1 CFM at 90 PSI suits this for the kind of work serious car builders and mechanics demand in professional settings. If anything, it's overkill for your home garage, and not just because of the flow specs. Its 5-horsepower motor blasts through recovery, it's built to last 5,000 hours of run time, and the high-quality construction of every last component makes it something you can keep around for a lifetime.


What's not to love? It's price. This is a pro-grade piece of equipment, and it's hard to justify the expense for a home shop unless you're a high-caliber hobbyist. Also, there's no arguing that it's going to take up a considerable amount of room in any setting.

Product Specs

  • Part Number: SS5L5
  • Tank Size: 60 gallons
  • CFM/PSI: 18.1 CFM @ 90 PSI

Pros

  • Professional quality
  • Capable of running most air tools
  • Long lifecycle on pump

Cons

  • Premium price point
  • Takes up a lot of space

Our Verdict on Air Compressors For Home Garage

The Craftsman 20-Gallon Air Compressor may not be the biggest, most impressive model on the market, but we still think it to be the best choice for the average home garage. Then again, the Bostitch Air Compressor Combo Kit may be perfect for someone on a tight budget. What's your take? We'd love to know what compressor you suggest for the kind of work DIYers tackle!

What to Consider When Buying an Air Compressor For Home Garage

Picking an air compressor isn't as simple as buying one with a bigger or smaller tank. It is heavily dependent on the type of work you intend to do. If you're just here to inflate tires and maybe use a compressor to dust the shelf off, you can pretty much go with whatever tank you want. If, however, you have any kind of specialty work in mind that requires pneumatic tools, a little bit of homework is in order. Don't worry—this buying guide is here to help you kickstart your research.

Types of Air Compressors For Home Garage

Portable

What we're deeming a portable air compressor is any model that's specifically designed for regular transportation. Generally speaking, these models have a 1-gallon tank or so, and smaller, less capable motors than your other options. This is just a general rule and there is room for some exceptions. We say that because there are portable models that are intended for more serious use than others.

On the lower end of the spectrum, these are the kind of compressors you keep around for inflating tires and maybe some sports equipment. On the other end, you can find portable compressors that are intended to run small air tools—such as nail guns—for quick projects. In either case, they're small and compact enough so that you can feasibly carry them around from tire to tire or project to project.

Pancake and Hot Dog Compressors

Pancake and hot dog compressors aren't one and the same. We're only lumping them together because they both serve similar purposes. Both models do have transportation in mind. However, they are larger than what we’re calling portable compressors, and are better suited to sit in the middle of a room with a long hose rather than being carried directly to whatever you’re working on. Also, these are designed specifically for use with pneumatic tools, such as nailers and some impact tools.

Which to choose does depend on the area you’ll work in. Hot dog compressors feature a long and narrow body, while pancakes are flat and round. Either of which offers unique space-saving advantages. For the most part, pancake compressors are the go-to for many DIYers and professionals because they are the more capable units better-suited to longer projects.

Full-Size Compressors 

If you intend to rely on pneumatic tools, a full-size compressor will likely be your best choice. We say that because these are usually built with larger tanks—20 gallons and up is typical. They are also generally attached to more powerful motors that help them to build pressure more efficiently than some smaller models.

Full-size compressors also come in various shapes and sizes. While all will feature a 20-gallon tank or larger, some are intended to be moved around and others are to be bolted to the floor. As a rule of thumb, the more serious you are about using pneumatic tools, the bigger the compressor should be. Don't just look to the tank, though, as motor performance and air supply are equally as important.

Air Compressor For Home Garage Key Features

PSI and CFM Ratings 

Every air compressor is going to give you some specs surrounding CFM and PSI. For example, the Craftsman 20-Gallon Air Compressor can supply 5.0 SCFM at 40 PSI  or 4.0 SCFM at 90 PSI. These are the first details to look at if you're running pneumatic tools because they tell you if the compressor is capable of supplying them with the air that they need.

This is also the detail that immediately stops a lot of potential consumers in their tracks as it's hard to gauge what tools you'll anticipate using. For now, we'll say that it's not a bad idea to go a little bigger than you think to give yourself some cushion during tool selection.

Tank Size

The air tank is your storage system and the bigger the tank is, the less frequently you need to stop and let the system recharge. That means less wear and tear on your compressor, and you can spend more time working and not waiting around.

In any case, you want the biggest tank you can feasibly fit into your environment. However, bigger tanks cost more money, and they are harder to move around. Therefore, you can expect to balance demands against reality and make the right compromises to ensure you get the compressor you can work with.

Motor Type

At its core, an air compressor uses a piston-driven reciprocating system to move air, much like the engine in your car does. There are some variations between designs to be aware of, though. For starters, you can go with an oil or oil-free engine.

The separation in performance characteristics is narrowing as technology advances. However, professionals or serious DIYers are usually better off with an oil compressor that can move higher volumes of air and reach higher PSI ratings. Oil-less motors have the obvious advantage of requiring less maintenance, however, they usually are best suited for smaller, less demanding situations. This is just a general guideline though, as there are plenty of heavy hitters that feature oilless motors.

What about single-stage and two-stage compressors? To keep it simple, a single-stage is the way to go in a smaller shop where budgets are tighter, while a two-stage is essential to high-demand situations where continuous operation is regular.

Air Compressor For Home Garage No Buy Options

Think of the Tools You’ll Use

You need to pick the right air compressor for your pneumatic tools or those you plan to buy. It really is that simple. That doesn't mean you need to buy and try a bunch of different combinations. You can actually nail down the compressor you need by looking at your pneumatic tool selection and what CFM and PSI requirements are attached to each tool you use—a quick google search can usually get you in the right ballpark.

Once you have the specs of the tools all figured out, you need to compare them to compressor options. At the very least, match it to the most demanding tool in your lineup and always give yourself a little breathing room by considering models that can do a little more than you need them to.

Talk to Like-Minded Wrenchers

You're not the only person in the world using the exact selection of pneumatic tools for the kind of work you're doing. You can really get a great idea of what to look for by talking to other people that do the same kind of work you're interested in. Ask them what tools they run and how the compressor they have performs.

Be sure to ask what they don't like about it as well and ask for specific details about the specs of the model. That way, you can avoid the future expense of upgrading your compressor down the line by buying something a little more capable now.

Watch the Pros

Professionals in every industry use air compressors. A good way to get a feel for what to look for is to watch your favorite programs or read tech articles with air compressors. You're more than guaranteed to find out what brands to keep an eye out for and what characteristics the pros in that field deem important in their compressors.

This isn't to say you need to buy whatever it is they tell you to. Remember, there are obligations to push certain products in every partnership agreement. Still, you can pay attention to what they say makes a product so great to find the details you should be reading into.

Air Compressor For Home Garage Pricing

You can spend a lot of money on a compressor you don't need or too much for a compressor that simply won't cut it. For less than $100, you can expect to find portable compressors best suited for very small projects or simply inflating tires. Many pancake and hot dog compressors begin to appear in the $100-$200 range. For $200 to $300 you can expect to find some decent full-sized units but $500 is about average. In any case, with any compressor type,  don't be surprised to find that the premium models tend to draw in two-three times the average asking price.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and air compressors. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Bigger Isn’t Always Better. If you just need a compressor for the odd job here and there, don't go nuts. A small pancake or hot dog compressor will serve you well.
  • Bigger is Always Better. Go nuts if you run sanders, grinders, drills, or impact tools that use a lot of air. The bigger the model, the better it'll work for your line of work.
  • Set It, Don’t Forget It. Most air compressors come with regulators that allow you to control airflow. Take the time to match your settings to each tool for the best experience.
  • Use the Right Hoses and Fittings. Don't forget the link between the tools. You want to ensure the fitting and hose diameter support the airflow the tools need.
  • Drain Your Tank. Compressing air produces condensation, which builds up in your tank. Be sure to drain the tank after each use to keep water from contaminating the air supply.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

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

What size compressor you need really depends on your intended use. Remember that the tools and work type really should drive your decision. A 5-10 gallon compressor is enough for those who will primarily use it for filling tires and some tools. 10-20 gallon tanks are better choices for those with moderate use in mind, while 30 gallons and up is recommended for those who regularly depend on pneumatic tools.

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

You need to know what type of tools you'll run, how much PSI and CFM they require, how much you intend to use them, and how much money you're willing to spend. Also, know that it's worth going bigger than you may think you need, as it can positively boost your working experience.

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

So long as it can push air at the right CFM and PSI, you can run a 6-gallon compressor with an impact wrench. The compressor will need to refill the tank every few minutes, though. This is why it's better to go with a larger tank if you intend to rely on pneumatic tools regularly.