Looking For The Best Portable Air Compressor That Suits You? Here You’ve Got Some Tips

Portable air compressors review and buying guide. Features to look for. Advantages and disadvantages. Best models.

Choosing a portable air compressor could take you a long time if you don’t know what to look for exactly. Buying a portable compressor for your home, car, truck, tire, camping, power tools and small jobs around the house… can be extremely useful considering that there are many things you can do with it, and in the meantime, it’ll help you to save up energy, not to mention it’ll save you time and money.

Here we’re going to explain to you how to choose a good portable air compressor for your home, what are the important features to look for, and we’ll give some great choices of our own.

There are many kinds of air compressors, many types, brands, and models. It is important that you consider what you need your compressor for before deciding, so you don’t invest your money in a system that you’ll never need. There are two main types: stationary, which doesn’t move from site to site, and portable, which provides flexibility as it compresses the air anywhere. There are many applications where they can be used:

  • Personal use. Buy an air compressor in case you need one for filling the tires on your car, truck or bike, soccer balls, inflatable toys, camping mattresses, and power some air tools. Here you can choose a lightweight compressor, also known as the handheld or portable compressor, which is more affordable, convenient and easy to move and store.

  • Professional use. These ones have enough capacity to last hours without frequent air compression and can be used by more than one person at a time. They’re great if you need to use one for more than average home tasks or hobby use.

  • Industrial use. If you’re looking for a constant supply and the ability to have more than 1 set of air tools working at the same time, your best option is an industrial grade air compressor. The price will be higher, but it’s going to be totally worth it – especially if that is your profession.

General use

  • Car, truck and bike tires
  • Inflatable toys, mattress, sports equipment…
  • Nail guns
  • Staple guns
  • Impact wrench
  • Paint sprayers
  • Rotary tools
  • Grinders
  • Air hammers

Let’s concentrate on the most important word: portability. Oh yes. We all love portable things, especially because that characteristic gives us the possibility to get away from trouble or to solve emergencies in a fast way if we’re far from our homes.


These are the options you have if going for the portable air compressors:

  • Pancake compressors
  • Hot dog compressors
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Twin-stack

Portable compressors are made small, have one low profile, low capacity storage tank such as the Pancake (round shape) or Hot dog type (cylindrical shape), or more cylindrical tanks such as Twin-stack type, and handles or wheels such as Wheelbarrow type, to move them easily.

Gas vs. electric

Also, the air compressors can be powered by gas or electricity. The problem with the electrical type is the limited mobility as they have to be plugged into the outlet, while gas type has to be filled often. Electrical type is meant for indoor use mostly, while gas-type for outdoors. Electrical needs less maintenance, while gas-type is more powerful.

Note: The smallest type of compressors is called an inflator. Inflators do not utilize a storage tank and the motor must run non-stop. These are ideal for the light use such as repairing the flat tire out on the road.

Tip: An air hose must meet the specifications of the compressor.

Tips for buying a portable air compressor

There are plenty of options when you search for a portable air compressor and at least these two factors should be considered; airflow and tank size.

When talking about the airflow, make sure that the PSI and CFM of the compressor exceed these two factors of the highest rated tool, or if more tools are used - the sum because these are important for the effectiveness of the device. The recommendation is to buy a compressor which has approximately 1.5 times more airflow than your tool requires.

And here we’re going to give you tips so you know what to look at when searching for your perfect tool:

  • PSI (Pounds per Square Inch). The higher the number, the larger the volume of air that can be compressed in the tank, so you can operate it longer.
  • Power source. The power source is the basic thing to consider because you want to know which power source the compressor will use (fuel or electricity, or battery operated (cordless)).
  • CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute). It’s the number that indicates how fast the compressor can provide air to an appliance. If you’re going to use a portable air compressor for home jobs (painting, filling, etc.), you probably won’t need a powerful one with a high CFM number.
  • HP (Horsepower). Horsepower rating indicates the power output of the device. With the higher HP, you will get the greater air pressure.
  • Noise level. Many air powered tools come with a noise problem: they can be loud. Even great portable compressors marked as “quiet” can be the opposite. Be prepared for a little bit of noise. Nevertheless, some compressors which have low-noise systems, also have low power.
  • Tank size. For smaller tasks such as some home projects, or inflating tires, toys, balls, and mattresses, use the compressor with the tank capacity of 4 to 6 gallons, or if you can - the tire inflator. The tank size is also important as the compressor mainly works from the air stored in the tank. If you plan to use the compressor occasionally, the portable ones with the smaller capacity are good enough, but for continuous work, you might want to consider other options.
  • Single-stage or two-stage air compressor. Two-stage type moves the air from cylinder to cylinder and then into the tank. It is used in applications where high pressure is needed, which is rare in homes. That is why a good quality single-stage model is recommended for hobbyist and homeowners.
  • Direct drive or belt drive and oil or oil-less. Oil-lubricated compressors could last for a long time but are not recommended if you have to carry it around, while the high speed and oil-less compressors are noisy. The belt driven type is more efficient with a lot less stress impact.
  • Duty cycle. This is another important characteristic that tells you how long the compressor will run of a 10-minute period. If the duty cycle is 50%, the device shouldn’t run more than 5 minutes and before it starts getting too hot.

Now that you know the basics, let’s find out what you can get after buying a portable air compressor:

  • They’re great for filling car and bikes tires, balls for kids, and power some air tools. For these purposes, you can choose a lightweight compressor which might be more affordable, easy to carry and comfortable.
  • You’ll be more independent. You’ll be able to do more things yourself which will reduce the service calls.
  • Since some of them are low maintenance (no-oil systems), they’ll be loud, have less power and will need to be filled often.

You can enjoy these advantages sooner than expected because we’re going to present you out 3 best options for portable air compressors, based on price, quality and customers’ reviews online.

Best 3 portable air compressors for you

Our best 3 portable air compressors picked especially for you:

Here we’re going to recommend you three products that might suit you fine and can cover most of your needs. Two of them are from Porter Cable and one is from VIAIR. These are also the most popular and sold models on Amazon.com, and recommended by hundreds of customers.

C2002 Oil-Free Umc Pancake Compressor, by Porter Cable

Porter Cable is a company specialized in power tools and pneumatic innovation. This time we’re going to take a quick look to one of their portable air compressors, the C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake type:

  • This tool can be good for you: the price is affordable and has 4.9/5 stars on Amazon.
  • It counts with 150 PSI (maximum), giving this little machine a huge capability for air power.
  • It comes with the 6-gal storage tank.
  • 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI allowing quick recovery.
  • Durable oil-free pump ensures low maintenance.
  • Equipped with the handle, located at the top of the device, for easy carrying.
  • With the two air couplers factory built-in, the air compressor is at the service for two users.
  • The good things about this compressor: it’s highly portable and easy to use; it could be perfect for many uses, from filling tires to running air tools.
  • It’s compact, powerful and lightweight (31.4 pounds).
  • Electric powered (120 volts).

Like any other product, it has its disadvantages and the ones we’re going to mention here are based on the reviews of clients:

Some of the critics about this product are that the compressor is noisy, heavy and sends strong vibrations to the porch-wood floor on which it sits. But, this is a disadvantage you find in any other small air compressor, not only this model.

CMB 15 Oil-Free Fully Shrouded Compressor, by Porter Cable

We bring you here another great portable compressor by Porter Cable, and this is even lighter than the one reviewed above.

Let’s examine this item:

  • It’s an oil-free system that lasts for long periods of life without much maintenance.
  • Just like the previous model, this air compressor can reach 150 PSI (max), becoming powerful for its size.
  • 1.5-gallon tank, easy to carry.
  • 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI, allowing for quick compressor recovery time.
  • The reviews of the customers are incredible, and they can agree that this little compressor can be useful for their motorhomes, houses, and cars.
  • Comparing the PSI, quality, and price of this compressor and other ones in competition, we might say that THIS could be a great buy.

400P Portable Compressor, by Viair

Now we’re going to take a look at one of VIAIR’s compressors, which is lighter than the ones listed above, making it great for carrying, especially when on the road. This is one of the top models for inflating tires.

  • This model reaches 150 PSI (max) and for tires up to 35”
  • 2.3CFM at 0 PSI
  • From 0 to 30 PSI in less than 5 minutes
  • The unit is powered by a 12-volt battery
  • Since there is no storage tank, the engine must be running during use
  • It’s a light compressor (14.6 pounds)
  • One of the best things about this product is that you can serve yourself quickly, even if it’s just filling your tires, you can do it in less than 5 minutes (testimonies of customers online).
  • It has 4.5/5 stars on Amazon

We might say that VIAIR air compressor could be less problematic, lighter and even faster. It’s more expensive than others but still a good buy.


From the 3 options listed above, the VIAIR’s compressor could be the greatest one because of its easy way to use, the lightweight design and portability. But, this one is the most expensive one. So, if you’re looking for a more affordable choice, you can compare the two Porter Cable’s compressors (both are excellent) and make your own choice. Just keep in mind all the tips we gave you before purchasing.

They don’t require much space and even if you think they’re a bit noisy, think about the time you’re saving while using them. The most important thing: you’re solving your own problems in the commodity of your home without needing anyone else.

Having a portable air compressor at home is becoming necessary because it allows you to solve your problems in a fast way without depending on others, and not only for emergencies, these tools can be used for assembling or filling other products.

More than a buying choice, an air compressor is an investment.

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