With so many air compressor options on the market and such a wide range of prices, it can be hard to know what you should pay for a good air compressor. Many homeowners who want an air compressor for small DIY projects and filling tires decide on a mid-range compressor. And while this is a viable tactic, there are other things you should consider besides price. This is what we’ll cover in this article on how much a good air compressor should cost.
Depending on the size of the compressor and what you want it for, you can expect to spend anywhere between $125 and $2000. This is because air compressors range in size from 1-gallon to big 80-gallon units.
The Factors for a Good Compressor
As you can see, it’s important to determine what you will mainly be using the compressor for. But we’ll help you do that in this article by going over typical sizes, CFM, PSI, and HP, and how each of these factors come together to determine the best use for the compressor.
We’ll also show you some examples of good compressors and what they’re typically used for. So whether you know exactly what you’re looking for in a compressor and just need a recommendation, or you’re new to the compressor world and need a little guidance, we’ve got you covered.
What to Look for In a Good Air Compressor
There are many things that you need to consider before buying an air compressor. And in this sense, there are two different types of “good” when we’re talking about a good air compressor.
- Good for you
- Quality construction
A compressor that’s good for your needs might not be good for another person, and vice versa. As such, it’s important to know what you’ll be using it for.
Quality construction, on the other hand, is not subjective. Things like brand name, lifespan, materials, and customer satisfaction all go into the quality construction factor for a good compressor.
So let’s focus on what’s good for you. And to do this, we need to explain the following factors:
- PSI and CFM
- Duty Cycle
- Oil or Oil-less
Let’s get started.
PSI and CFM
PSI stands for pounds per square inch and is a measure of force. CFM stands for cubic feet per minute and is a measure of flow. It’s important to understand these both because they relate to each other and to what kind of tools you can use with a given compressor.
You’ll see that most air tools need 90 PSI to run. The CFM required varies depending on the tool. Most nail guns, for example, require low CFM, so most small compressors will work for them. Things like large impact wrenches require a higher CFM to run at 90 PSI.
This is one of the most important things to consider. If you get a compressor that’s only capable of a 3 or 4 CFM @ 90 PSI, you won’t be able to properly operate tools that require a higher CFM. Luckily, air tool manufacturers make clear the requirements of their tools. So it’s easy to look up what kind of pressure and flow you’ll need for a given tool.
HP stands for horsepower, and it’s a term most people are familiar with in regards to car or truck engines. And while this is certainly important if you’re trying to haul a boat or a heavy trailer, it’s not something that you need to be overly concerned with an air compressor.
Plus, there’s only so much horsepower that you can get out of a compressor that runs off a normal 110-volt wall outlet. But as long as that compressor is capable of delivering enough air in terms of CFM and PSI, you should be fine no matter what the HP is.
Knowing the duty cycle of a compressor may or may not be important to you. It really depends on what you’ll be using the compressor for.
Simply put, a duty cycle is generally expressed in a percentage and tells you how long the compressor can deliver air in a given cycle. The higher the number of the duty cycle, the longer it will deliver air.
This is important when you’re using air tools that require constant air delivery, such as a paint sprayer or a sander.
For example, a 50% duty cycle would mean ten minutes on and ten minutes off — if the compressor had a total cycle time of 20 minutes.
How Long Do Air Compressors Last?
It’s also important to know the average lifespan of a compressor. Compressor lifespans are usually defined by hours of operation. Depending on the style and build of the compressor, you’re looking at anywhere between 15,000 and 60,000 hours.
Most compressors built for home use are on the lower end, and industrial compressors are at the higher end. However, most compressor warranties don’t cover the full lifespan of the compressor. You’ll find that most compressor warranties are limited and only last between one and three years for home-use compressors.
What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?
Compressor size is only important as it pertains to the CFM and PSI of the compressor. You can find compressors with big tanks and low CFM ratings. Or you can find compressors with small tanks and high CFM ratings.
So when determining compressor size, you’ll want to look at the requirements of your air tools and whether or not they will need continuous air. If you have an air tool that requires 10 CFM @ 90 PSI constantly, you could find yourself waiting for air with a smaller tank. But, if you get a compressor that’s capable of around 15 or 16 CFM @ 90 PSI, you won’t have to wait for air.
However, you’ll find that most compressors capable of delivering this much air have larger tanks than those that don’t deliver a high CFM. It’s just a good idea to make sure before you buy.
How Much Does a Good Air Compressor Cost?
Now that we’ve discussed everything you should consider prior to buying an air compressor, were going to look at how much a good one cost. We’ll do this based on size so you can get an idea of how much you’ll have to spend to get a solid air compressor that fits your needs.
1. Portable Air Compressor
If you just want a compressor for filling up tires, sports equipment, and air mattresses, this DeWalt Cordless Tire Inflator is just the thing. It has an LED light, making it ideal for use in emergency situations when you need to fill up a tire at night. It comes with accessories to help you fill various items, including tires and sports balls. It can also be used to inflate things like rafts, bike tires, and air mattresses.
Cost: About $130
What Are Its Limitations?
This is not a traditional air compressor. It’s called a tire inflator for a reason. If you want an actual compressor that you can use with air tools in your shop or garage, this is not it.
How Fast Can This Fill Tires?
It can fill a car tire from 0 to 35 PSI in under five minutes. It can fill a truck tire from 0 to 35 PSI in just over eight minutes.
Does it Come With a Battery?
This tool does not come with a battery. It runs off of a 20V MAX battery that’s common with other DeWalt tools, which is nice if you already have a battery or two like this. If not, you’ll need to purchase one.
2. 6-Gallon Air Compressor
For a small yet powerful air compressor that’s good for a variety of uses, this Craftsman 6-Gallon Air Compressor is an excellent choice. It’s a pancake-style compressor that features an oil-free pump for no maintenance. It has a 150 max PSI and is capable of delivering 2.6 CFM @ 90 PSI. Perhaps best of all, it’s highly affordable.
Cost: About $150
Uses and Limitations
The recommended uses for this Craftsman compressor include roof nailing, brad nailing and stapling, frame nailing, bolting, finish nailing. It’s also good for filling car tires, sports gear, and bike tires. Its not great for things like spraying, grinding, sanding, air brushing, and surface prep.
3. 10-Gallon Air Compressor
For a larger but still portable air compressor, this 10-Gallon Craftsman Air Compressor is a good option. This hotdog-style compressor features a 1.8 running HP and a powerful, oil-free pump. It has two large rubber wheels and a carrying handle for easy transport, although it’s not small enough to be taken up and down ladders like smaller options. It’s capable of 4 SCFM @ 90 PSI and 5 SCFM @ 40 PSI. It has a 175 max PSI and is made from high-quality steel manufactured in the USA with global materials.
Cost: About $315
Uses and Limitations
It’s ideal for inflating, cleaning, brad nailing, finish nailing, roof nailing, drilling, caulking, chiseling, and stapling. It also comes with a quick coupler and a 1-year limited warranty. Its not ideal for tools with high CFM requirements that run continually.
4. 20-Gallon Air Compressor
If the 10-gallon compressor above doesn’t have the capacity that sounds right for your needs, this 20-Gallon Craftsman Compressor could just be the best. This large tank and powerful motor make for longer run times, making it ideal for tools that require constant airflow. It’s sturdy, durable, and made of stainless steel. It’s capable of 4 SCFM @ 90 PSI and a max pressure of 175 PSI. It features sturdy rubber wheels for easy transport around the jobsite or the garage.
- Large 20-Gallon Stainless Steel Tank
- High-Performance Motor
- 2 Gauges – 1 for Tool and 1 for Tank
- 2 Quick Couplers
- Manufactured in the USA with Global Materials
- Starts Easily in Cold Weather
- High-Quality Steel Construction
- Rubber Wheels and Carrying Handle for Transportation
- Oil-Free Pump for No Maintenance
- 4 SCFM @ 90 PSI & 5 SCFM @ 40 PSI
- 175 Max PSI
- 1-Year Limited Warranty
Cost: About $450
Uses and Limitations
This Craftsman compressor is good for use with the following air tools: framing nailer, flooring nailer, finishing nailer, air ratchet, die grinder, angle grinder, brad nailers, impact wrenches, caulking and grease guns, chisel, shears. However, its not good for use with a cut-off tool. It’s also limited in the use of paint sprayers, sanders, and polishers. These tools can operate for a limited time before the compressor will need to re-pressurize.
5. 30-Gallon Air Compressor
For a big compressor that’s capable of tackling projects in the home, jobsite, and anywhere in between, this 30-Gallon Campbell Hausfeld compressor is a great choice. This is an oil-lubricated, two-stage compressor that requires some maintenance but is powerful and can run for a long time. It has a dual-voltage motor that can be operated on a standard 120V or a 240V used by professional contractors. It has wheels and a carrying handle for easy transport.
Cost: About $1050
Uses and Limitations
You can use this compressor for framing nailer, flooring nailer, finishing nailer, air ratchet, die grinder, angle grinder, brad nailers, small impact wrenches, caulking and grease guns, chisel, shears. However, the manufacturer recommends intermittent use when using spraying and sanding. Some sanding and spraying tools will require more CFM than this compressor can deliver.
6. 60-Gallon Air Compressor
If you’re looking for a high-capacity compressor that is capable of a high CFM but is also super quiet (for an air compressor), then check out this 60-Gallon California Air Tools Compressor. It has an oil-free pump for low maintenance. Plus it features a 2 HP engine and is capable of delivering 10.6 CFM @ 90 PSI and 12.6 CFM @ 40 PSI.
Cost: About $1500
Uses and Limitations
You can use this compressor for staple guns, finish nail guns, nail guns, brad nail guns, airbrushes, and blow guns. It works great for most applications. It is only limited by the CFM and PSI, which means it won’t work for some industrial applications. Make sure to check the CFM and PSI required for any air tools you’ll want to use with this compressor.
7. 80-Gallon Air Compressor
For a very large-capacity compressor that can deliver a high CFM at a near-constant rate, this 80-Gallon Campbell Hausfeld compressor is a great choice. This is an oil-lubricated, two-stage compressor. It has a heavy-duty induction motor that has a running HP of 5. It has a 175 PSI max pressure and can deliver 11.9 SCFM @ 90 PSI and 11.3 SCFM @ 175 PSI.
Cost: About $1900
Uses and Limitations
You can use this compressor for framing nailer, flooring nailer, finishing nailer, air ratchet, die grinder, angle grinder, brad nailers, small impact wrenches, caulking and grease guns, chisel, shears, paint spraying, inflation, sanding, grinding, stapling, and bolting. Just make sure to check CFM and PSI requirements for any air tools you plan on using.
As you can see, the cost of an air compressor varies widely depending on size and capability. What’s a “good” compressor for you may not be good for your neighbor. It really depends on what you’ll be using the compressor for, and how much you’ll be using it.
The examples in this article are a combination of high-quality and low-cost, bringing you the best of both worlds, no matter what your needs. Whether you’re going to be running spray paint guns continuously or just using the compressor to fill up tires and air mattresses, there’s a good option above that will work for you