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Best 2 Stage Air Compressors: Big Tools and Big Jobs Need More Air and More Power

Have all of the power you need with a two-stage air compressor.

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BY Andra DelMonico / LAST UPDATED ON August 12, 2021

Do you have the ultimate versatile tool in your garage? An air compressor can do everything from fill your truck tires to run your pneumatic tools. While a small pancake compressor is suitable for small, one-off jobs, it won’t keep up for bigger tasks. What you need is a two-stage compressor. These compressors are bigger and more powerful, making them capable of maintaining pressure over long periods. While these larger tools are typically meant for commercial and industrial use, they can also be the answer to your air pressure needs in your home garage. This guide will help you find the perfect two-stage compressor for your garage.

Best Overall
DeWalt 20 Gallon Oil LUBED Belt Drive Electric Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

Have plenty of power with this 20-gallon oil lubed and belt-driven compressor. It has a maximum PSI of 200 and 6.2 SCFM at 90 PSI.

Pros
Pros
  • 53 percent longer tool running ability
  • 78 decibels operational noise
Cons
Cons
  • Can trip circuit breakers
  • Wobbles while running
Best Overall
DeWalt 20 Gallon Oil LUBED Belt Drive Electric Air Compressor
Best Value
Stealth 20 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

The 20-gallon tank on this compressor will give you a large capacity. It has a peak PSI of 150 and 6 CFM at 40 PSI and 5 CFM at 90 PSI.

Pros
Pros
  • 80 percent quieter than other machines
  • Refills empty to full in 70 seconds
Cons
Cons
  • Manual drain
  • Very heavy
Best Value
Stealth 20 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
Honorable Mention
MegaPower Vertical 20 Gallon Air Compressor
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Summary
Summary

This vertical air compressor has a 20-gallon tank. It generates a maximum PSI of 150 and a working PSI of 100 to 150. 

Pros
Pros
  • Small footprint 
  • 12,000-hour pump life
Cons
Cons
  • Oil lubricated
Honorable Mention
MegaPower Vertical 20 Gallon Air Compressor
2 stage air compressor
Amazon

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Benefits of Two-Stage Air Compressors

  • More power. The two-stage air compressor process helps these compressors to achieve a higher overall air pressure. They can also compress more air at a single time. This gives you more power to operate larger tools or several tools at once. 
  • Faster recovery. The two-stage process helps these compressors to fill faster, which gives them a quicker recovery time. You’ll have fewer and shorter down moments while you wait for the compressor to refill. 
  • Use less energy. Because two-stage compressors are better able to maintain pressure and are faster at refilling, they are also more efficient. This means they use less energy to get the job done. 

Types of Two-Stage Air Compressors

Vertical 

A vertical air compressor refers to the shape and position of the tank. The engine is positioned on top of the tank to reduce the amount of horizontal space the compressor takes up. The small footprint is perfect for those who don’t have a lot of floor space. 

Horizontal

This style of compressor is low and long. It’s essentially the equivalent to the vertical tank, laid on its side. Then the engine is either placed on top of or next to the air tank. They fit nicely under shelving or a counter. 

Top Brands

DeWalt 

Founded in 1924, DeWalt is known for producing high-quality consumer and commercial tools. Air compressors are just one of the many products produced by this Pennsylvania-based company. The DeWalt 20 Gallon Belt Drive Electric Air Compressor will perform well and look great with its bright yellow coloring. 

FS-Curtis

Founded in 1897, FS-Curtis is one of the most well-known and trusted names in air compressors. Its products deliver dependable performance, durability, and quality. Based in California, its products are engineered to last a lifetime. The FS-Curtis 60 Gallon Air Compressor is a high-quality compressor that’s built to last. 

Two-Stage Air Compressor Pricing

  • Under $1,000: Two-stage compressors in this price range are better suited for personal garage use. They will have less powerful engines and smaller air tanks. 
  • $1,000 to $2,000: The majority of two-stage compressors fall into this price range. They’ll have air tanks that are in the 80-120 gallon range and suitable for consistent commercial use. 
  • $2,000 and up: The compressors in this price range are typically designed for commercial use. They have air tanks that are 100-200 gallons and several nice features, such as a quick starter, quiet operation, and automatic drain valves.  

Key Features

Horsepower (HP)

As a general rule, the more horsepower your compressor has, the more power it has to achieve a higher air pressure rating. However, keep in mind that you aren’t buying a sports car, so don’t buy your compressor based solely on horsepower. One horsepower of force lifts 550 pounds one foot in one second. Consider the horsepower in combination with the CFM. 

Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM)

More importantly, the CM will tell you how the compressor will perform. Look at the tools you want to use and find out their CFM requirements. This will tell you how powerful your compressor needs to be. The higher the CFM rating, the more air volume is required. If you plan to use more than one tool at once, you’ll need to add the individual CFM ratings together for your total power pull at a time. 

Voltage

There are single and three-phase voltage models. If you’re buying a compressor for a residential setting, then you’ll buy a single-phase voltage unit. Commercial applications use the three-phase option. What this refers to are the waves that electricity moves in. The up and down motion of the wave can create dips in power. A three-phase system uses three waves, so there’s a steady power level at all times. 

Other Considerations

  • Gallons. Compressors will have a gallon size listed. This refers to the size of the tank that holds the compressed air. Typically, two-stage compressors are meant for heavy-duty work, so their tanks are large. You’ll find them in sizes between 60 and 200 gallons. Keep in mind that while larger tanks hold more air, they are also heavier and harder to move. 
  • Style. There are two tank styles to choose from, vertical and horizontal. If you don’t have a lot of floor space, then consider buying a vertical compressor. If you have height limitations, then consider a horizontal compressor. There is no difference in how the machines perform; it’s simply how the tank and motor are arranged. 
  • Noise. Generally, two-stage compressors are louder than single-stage compressors. They are larger and more powerful, which translates to more noise. Some compressors have additional features that help them to be quieter. If you plan to use your compressor in a residential area, look for a quieter machine.

Best 2 Stage Air Compressor Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
DeWalt 20-Gallon Electric Air Compressor

This horizontal air compressor comes with a 20-gallon air tank. The motor is affixed to the top of the tank and uses a two-stage process for air compression. It can achieve a maximum PSI of 200, which is 53 percent more than other 20-gallon compressors. It can maintain 6.2 SCFM at 90 PSI for operating larger tools. The sound produced is at 78 decibels. A high-flow regulator and coupler give you the maximum level of pressure and power. This compressor stands out because it has a large handle on the front and two large ten-inch wheels on the back. This makes it easy to wheel this compressor to where you need it. 


Unfortunately, this air compressor can trip your circuit breakers. This can make it difficult to use in a residential setting.  

Best Value
Stealth 20-Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor

Easily move this compressor around with the two large wheels attached to the base. It comes with a 20-gallon air tank and can achieve six CFM at 40 PSI and five CFM at 90 PSI with a maximum PSI of 150. The compressor measures 19.67 x 17.52 x 41.81 inches. It stands out for its quiet operation with an operating sound level of 68 decibels, making it 80 percent quieter than other comparable compressors. The 1.8 horsepower motor can fill the air tank from empty to full in 70 seconds. 


One drawback of this compressor is that it has a manual drain valve. You’ll need to monitor and maintain it to ensure it drains properly. The compressor is also very heavy. 

Premium Pick
MegaPower Vertical 20-Gallon Air Compressor

This durable compressor comes with a 20-gallon tank and a 115-230-volt motor with five horsepower and overload protection. It delivers a CFM of 6 at 90 PSI. It has a steel and cast iron construction for maximum durability. It can achieve a maximum PSI of 150. A wire-formed belt guard gives you better cooling for more efficient operation. It’s a one-phase electrical operation, so it’s best used for residential applications. Another nice feature is the large wheels located on the compressor’s base and the handle on the top. This makes it easier to move the compressor to where you need it. 


A potential issue with this compressor is that it’s oil-lubricated, which means it will require more maintenance. 

Best For Commercial Use
Speedaire Electric Air Compressor

This stationary horizontal air compressor comes with a tank-mounted compressor and an 80-gallon tank. The air tank is made from aluminum with a cast iron liner to keep the compressor weight down. The motor is 7.5 horsepower and operates at 81 dba when standing three feet away. The maximum pressure it can achieve is 175 PSI and 23.5 CFM. The compressor and tank measure 22.5 x 49 x 66.5 inches. This compressor stands out because it’s suitable for commercial use with a three phases electrical system. 


The downside of this tank is that it isn’t portable. It weighs 581 pounds and doesn’t come with wheels or a handle. It also has a manual drain underneath the tank that can be hard to reach.

Honorable Mention
BelAire 80-Gallon Two-Stage Air Compressor with Starter

This vertical air compressor has an 80-gallon air tank with the motor positioned on top. It has a start and stop switch control. A standout feature of this compressor is that it comes with ASME safety valves with a fully enclosed belt guard. It also comes with a tank drain and discharge valve. The motor is 7.5 horsepower and 208-230 volts with single-phase electricity. It achieves 25.3 cubic feet per minute at a rate of 100 pounds per square inch. The two-stage hybrid pump is designed for greater efficiency and longer useful life. The valves are stainless steel with 3/4-inch outlets. There’s also a sight glass for monitoring the oil level. 


One drawback of this compressor is that it only has one valve for connecting tools. It doesn’t come with a hose, and the drain valve requires manual operation. 

Most Durable
Emax Industrial Two Stage Horizontal 80-Gallon Piston Air Compressor

Bolt this horizontal compressor to your garage floor and have a sturdy and stable machine that’s ready for use. It comes with an 80-gallon air tank and four-volt, 10-horsepower motor. This machine stands out because it’s designed to last for up to 70,000 hours of commercial or industrial use with proper maintenance. The entire tank and feet are powder-coated for corrosion resistance and durability. It’s also ASME certified for safety, with the tank capable of withstanding up to 200 PSI. It can deliver a maximum PSI of 175 and delivers 38 SCFM at 100 PSI. The drain is automatic, which is another nice feature. 


The downside of this compressor is that it’s cumbersome at 945 pounds, making it incredibly heavy—but it's not intended to be portable. 

Honorable Mention
California Air Tools Two-Stage Air Compressor

This large two-stage compressor comes with a 20-gallon air tank and the compressor positioned on top of the tank. It has an easy-to-read control panel with large gauges. The oil-free design of the 1.5 horsepower motor helps it to be noticeably quieter than other similar-sized compressors. It produces sound at 70 decibels. The oil-free design also lets you easily start it when cold and use this compressor on uneven terrain. The entire unit measures 19.30 x 19.50 x 45.70 inches.


One drawback of this compressor is that while it has wheels, they are smaller and skinnier than other compressors on this list. This can make it harder to maneuver and control. 

Honorable Mention
Ingersoll Rand 80-Gallon Two-Stage Air Compressor

This durable air compressor comes with a 100 percent cast iron 80-gallon tank. It can deliver a maximum PSI of 175 and SCFM of 24.9. The motor is 7.5 horsepower for plenty of power. It has high-efficiency stainless steel valves that will give you plenty of airflow for more high-powered tools. It also has oversized industrial-grade bearings for an extended pump life. Then a high-efficiency intercooler works to prevent overheating and keep your compressor running for longer. 


Unfortunately, the air tank drain valve is located on the center bottom of the tank, making it awkward to open and close. The hose valve sticks out awkwardly from the center of the tank. 

Honorable Mention
FS-Curtis 60-Gallon Vertical Two-Stage Air Compressor

Have plenty of air pressure with this compressor that comes with a 60-gallon tank. It delivers 15.9 CFM. This compressor stands out because it has a heavy-duty construction with a cast iron air tank and pump. It also has a slow V-belt drive that helps the compressor to have a quieter operation. The slower speed design also gives the compressor an extended useful life. You’ll appreciate the high-flow stainless steel valve system that delivers more CFM per horsepower. Another standout feature is that it has an OSHA-approved metal belt-guard to make it safe. 


Unfortunately, this compressor has a small footprint and is tall and skinny. This can make it top-heavy with the motor and compressor situated on top. 

Tips

  • Consider how many tools you want to run at the same time with your compressor since you’ll need one that’s powerful enough to run all of them.
  • If you plan to run your compressor in a confined space, then look for one with a quieter operation. The decibel rating will tell you how loud it is. 
  • Look for extra features, like automatic drain valves and easier starters. This will make using and maintaining your compressor easier. 

FAQs

Q: What does a two-stage air compressor mean?

The term two stages refers to how the compressor operates. It compresses the air twice with two pistons. This lets it achieve a higher pressure rating. The two-stage process helps the compressor to have a faster recovery time. 

Q: When would a two-stage air compressor be used?

Large crews and those who need high amounts of pressure should use a two-stage compressor. If you plan on using your compressor for extended periods, then consider a two-stage compressor. You can operate multiple tools at once with a two-stage compressor. 

Q: What is better: a single-stage or a two-stage air compressor?

A two-stage compressor is nice because it can achieve high air pressure. They are best suited for commercial and industrial applications. If you plan on constantly using your compressor, then the two-stage model will be able to perform better. 

Q: How do I know if my air compressor is two-stage?

Look at how the machine operates. A single-stage air compressor has one piston that draws the air in and directly sends it to the tank. A two-stage air compressor has one piston that draws the air in and another that pushes the air into the tank. 

Final Thoughts

Our top pick for the best two-stage air compressor is the DeWalt 20-Gallon Oil Lubed Belt Drive Electric Air Compressor. It has a decently sized 20-gallon tank, runs for longer, and is quiet to operate. 

For a more affordable option, the Stealth 20-Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor is a great alternative. It’s 80 percent quieter than comparable machines and refills in 70 seconds.