Top 5 Best Portable Air Compressor Units – 2018 Reviews

Last updated on August 13th, 2018 at 09:37 am

Natural air is not only meant to be breathed in. It can also be utilized as a form of energy for home and industrial use to operate light and heavy duty pneumatic tools. This is achieved using an air compressor device that converts power to potential energy that is stored as compressed air. The compressed air or rather pressurized air is then used to drive air tools, inflate tires and sports balls among other purposes. These devices come in various types and sizes but the portable air compressor units are the most versatile and useful for small and medium duty and sometimes heavy duty applications. In this article, we review the 5 best portable electric air compressor units that can be used with a 120V power supply at home or job site.

5 Best Portable Air Compressor Units for Small and Medium SCFM Needs

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Portable Air CompressorMakita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air CompressorExcell U256PPE Excel Pancake Air CompressorBostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free CompressorCalifornia Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air Compressor, Silver
Users' Ratings
  • Includes 13 piece accessory kit
  • Features an oil free pump.
  • Features a 1.0HP motor.
  • Has rubber feet
  • Motor comes with an extension cord and replaceable brushes.
  • Delivers 90PSI @ 2.6 SCFM and 40PSI @ 3.7 SCFM.
  • Has 2 standard size quick connect couplers
  • Low amp 120V startup capability
  • 6 gallons capacity pancakes-style tank.
  • Lightweight
  • Oil lubricated pump
  • Features a 2.0 HP brushed motor
  • Low ampere draw to reduce instances of tripped breaker.
  • Includes oil and 1/4 inch universal quick coupler.
  • Features a 2.6 gallon tank
  • Delivers 3.3 cubic feet per minute at 90PSI
  • Pump runs at an RPM of 1720
  • Has a roll bar handle for easy portability and additional protection.
  • The discharge tubing is finned to discharge more efficiently.
  • Convenient oil drain and oil sight glass
  • Fitted with rubber feet for dampening noise from vibration and to prevent it from scratching wood floors.
  • Features a heavy (14 AWG) long power cord.
  • Uses an oil free pump
  • Features a 1 HP heavy duty direct drive injection motor that provides 125 PSI
  • Features a proprietary cold weather start as low as 14° F (-10° C).
  • Has a compact design.
  • The control panel is conveniently located for easy access to gauges, regulator, and air valve.
  • Features a quick connect coupler for easy connection of air hose
  • Has a low voltage startup capability of 90V
  • Ultra quiet at only 61 dba.
  • Roll cage offers protection to all internal components
  • Has rubber feet
  • Has an oil-free pump.
  • Runs on a 1 HP motor.
  • Features two pressure gauges; one for tank pressure and one for regulator pressure
  • Has two outputs; one on each side.
  • Has rubber footings on the base to dampen vibration while in operation.
  • Lightweight and compact configuration.
  • Features a pressure release valve next to the regulator gauge to release pressure after use
  • Automatically shuts off when pressure builds up to 150PSI
  • Oil-free single piston pump.
  • Operates on a 0.6HP motor.
  • Features a 1 gallon steel tank.
  • Lightweight for easy transportation.
  • Ultra quiet at 56 dB.
  1. Supports two simultaneous users with its 2 regulated factory-installed air couplers.
  2. Its lightweight characteristic allows for easier transportation
  3. Rubber feet dampen vibration and prevent it from scratching the floor
  4. Has a nice sturdy and durable plastic carry handle
  5. The oil-free pump allows it to be transported in any orientation without fear of spilling oil
  6. Ships with 13 pc accessory kit for a variety of inflation and cleaning tasks
  7. Has a small size (about 18" x 18") so it wont take a lot of space when transporting
  1. Designed for industrial performance with a 2HP output.
  2. Quick recovery period of about 1 minute from 0 to 130 PSI
  3. Pressure indicators are strategically located for easy reading.
  4. Its handle is fitted with a nice solid rubber with finger notches for easy handling and maximum comfort
  5. Roll cage protects the components from damage
  1. Ultraquiet therefore no need for ear protection equipment when using it.
  2. Easy and simple to operate
  3. Low startup voltage allows it to operate on a 14 gauge 100 ft long extension cord
  4. Quick air replenishment
  5. Rubber feet keep the unit from walking, vibrating or scratching the floor.
  6. Can operate at temperatures as low as -14 degrees F
  1. Compact pancake shape that makes it easy to transport.
  2. Maintenance free and can be carried in any orientation without fear of spilling oil or any fluids.
  3. Rubber footings prevent vibration and equipment from scratching wooden floors.
  4. Two outputs allow the use of two air tools simultaneously.
  5. Tank size is big enough to store more air and last longer before replenishment.
  1. Ultra-quiet
  2. Light and easily portable
  1. Quite loud (about 100dB)
  2. Can potentially damage your ears if you are in the same room without ear protection gear
  1. Requires regular maintenance
  2. Quite loud (about 80 dB at a 10ft distance
  3. Quite heavy to lift and bulky to transport in limited space.
  4. Only has a 2.6 gallons tank that is not sufficient for very long hours of use before replenishment
  5. Must be carried in an upright position to avoid oil spillage
  1. Does not store a lot of air because of the limited tank storage.
  2. Not useful for heavy duty applications
  1. Does not deliver enough power for heavy duty applications
  1. Delivers less than 1 HP
  2. Limited tank storage.
  3. Quite poor fit and finish
Hose Power 1.0HP 2.0 HP 1 HP 0.8 HP 0.6 HP
Pump type Oil-free Oil Lube Oil-free Oil-free Oil-free
Tank Size 6 Gallons 2.6 Gallons 2 Gallons 6 Gallons 1 Gallon
Max Pressure 120 PSI 130 PSI 125 PSI 150PSI 120 PSI
SCFM 2.6 CFM @90PSI and 3.7 CFM @ 40PSI 3.3 CFM @ 90PSI and 3.8 CFM @ 40PSI 3.0 CFM @40PSI and 2.0 CFM @ 90PSI 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI 1.20 CFM @90 PSI
Weight 30 lbs 59.6 lbs 39 lbs 20lbs 29.5 lbs
Voltage 120V 110V 110V 110V 110V
Warranty 1 Year Limited Warranty on Compressor Components 1 Year Warranty + Labor 1 Year 1 Year-Limited Warranty

Detailed Review of 5 Best Portable Air Compressors

Porter Cable C2002 Oil-free UMC Pancake Compressor

Measuring only 19 inches long, 18 inches wide and 20.94 inches tall and weighing about 30lbs, the Porter-Cable UMC Pancake air Compressor Considering that it only weighs 34 pounds, it will be very easy to store. Even if you already have other compressors, this little one will ease your job, without digesting your space. Moreover, it is very easy to maintain and oil free. At 150 psi max pressure, the pancake-designed tank holds enough air, at the same time ensuring stability. Weighing only 34 pounds, this compressor is sturdy and its induction motor ensures expanded life and increased performance. It also works well in winter, when temperatures are low.

The Porter-Cable UMC Pancake Compressor starts up quickly and it does not leak. It is equipped with replaceable brushes, to keep the motor in good condition and ensure extended life. The maximum pressure of 150 PSI enlarges the runtime and the High-Flo air regulator protects against large pressure drops.

The compacted design sees that the vital parts are protected, at the same time making the compressor easy to carry around and including cord wrap. The main characteristics of the Porter-Cable UMC Pancake Compressor are its low weight -which makes it incredibly easy to control and to carry with you everywhere, its compacted design, its sturdiness, and its extended life. It is great for those looking for a little compressor to help them do some this and that around the house.

The Porter-Cable UMC Pancake Compressor by Porter-Cable is a handy portable air compressor suitable for jobs involving small and medium CFM needs. It is perfect for everything from filling tires to firing nailers and can be easily moved around because of its lightweight and compact design. Its induction motor guarantees long life and optimum performance. Although a little loud, this unit is an ideal companion for every handyman or DIYer.

Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor

The Makita MAC700 is a high performance oil-lubricated portable air compressor. It is capable of delivering up to 3.3 cubic feet per minute at 90 PSI and has a maximum pressure of 120 PSI. The unit features a large yet low RPM pump that enables it to operate at lower noise levels than the competition. Although the unit will still wake up a sleeping baby when used around the house, it will not necessarily pose damage to a user’s ears. However, it is advisable to use ear protection gear when using it.

It is not enough to just have a portable air compressor that is quiet. You also need one that provides enough power to get the job done. Of course, there are different grades of air compressors and choosing one largely depends on the type of work to be done. The Makita MA700 features a 2.0 HP motor that powers a cast iron pump which features a big bore cylinder with piston that delivers an impressive performance.

Besides noise levels and power output of an air compressor, durability is also another critical factor to consider when choosing an appropriate portable air compressor. The good news is that the Makita MAC700 is designed for industrial performance with increased durability. Not only does its low ampere draw reduce the number of times the breakers trip and voltage drops, an issue that causes premature motor failure, but also has a cooler running pump that minimizes wear. The cast-iron hot-dog shaped cylinder and roll-bar handle means that the Makita MAC700 is built to last. The feet have rubber all round to dampen vibration that can otherwise damage components.

The makita air compressor is compact although relatively larger than some of the portable air compressor units. It sits 22 inches high with a length of 18 inches and width of only 10 inches. It is small enough to fit in a truck but might be too large to fit into a small car. However, the cast-iron construction of the MAC700 that is partially responsible for the ruggedness of the unit makes the portable air compressor quite heavy, at a weight of 52 lbs.

If you are looking to inflate tires, clear leaves from the yard, or power an air tool, the Makita MAC700 portable air compressor will provide the output you need. Its valve regulator will ensure that the right amount of pressure is delivered to your air tool. The unit has a fast recovery (will get from 0 to 130 PSI in a minute) so that you won’t have to wait for long before the tank is filled up with air and available for use again. The only major downside with this tool is the regular maintenance required because of its oil lube pump type. Its size also can be a bit of a problem during transportation especially if you have limited space on the trunk of your small car

Portable Air Compressor Buying Guide

There are many different kinds of air compressors on the market. Some are good for home users, while others are suitable for portable use or for use in a machine shop. Before you buy an air compressor, you should think carefully about what you want to use it for and how heavily it will be used. This will help you to ensure that you are satisfied with your purchase for many years to come.

Power Supplies

The first thing that you need to consider is the kind of power supply that you want for the air compressor. You can find air compressors powered by gas or electricity. Gas powered air compressors are very reliable, and have the added benefit of being relatively portable since you can power them via free-standing gas cylinders. A good gas compressor will last you for many years and offers a lot of power. However, gas compressors can be expensive and they also have the added downside of requiring good ventilation. A gas compressor is not a good choice for a cramped workspace.

Electric compressors are available in several styles, and are perfect for workshop use. There are smaller, portable compressors that can be used via a car’s cigarette lighter system, but these are low powered and only really for inflating tires and performing other minor jobs. Bigger electrical compressors are suitable for use in a static environment such as a garage or workshop, but it is important to note that if your household has older wiring you may struggle to power a bigger 110V electrical compressor, and a 220V compressor may require you to have extensive electrical work carried out. Smaller compressors should not be a problem, but they are often lower quality and underpowered compared to the high end workshop systems.

Oiled or Oil Free?

One recent innovation in the world of electrical compressors is the oil-free compressor, which is also known as the maintenance-free compressor. These systems are designed for people who do not know a lot about power tools and do not want to invest time into learning how to maintain them. The benefit of oil-free compressors is that you do not have to be pro-active about maintaining them. You will get a much longer useful life out of an oil-free compressor than a neglected oiled compressor. However, an oiled model will run quieter, prove more reliable and last for a lot longer if it is properly maintained.

This advantage becomes even more pronounced if you use high quality synthetic pump oil for your oiled compressor, because it will last for a long time between changes and support smooth and efficient running. One thing to remember is that no compressor, even an oil-free one, is really completely maintenance free. Even oil-free compressors will need drained periodically. If you expect to put your compressor through heavy use then you should purchase an oiled one.

How Powerful a Compressor Do You Need?

Another consideration is how much power you need. More horsepower is not necessarily better in the world of air compressors. The most important thing is the air flow and the efficiency of the device. If you are planning on buying a compressor for home use then two horsepower should be fine. If you want one for a workshop then get one that is slightly more powerful.

The Big Question – PSI

A low PSI pump is perfectly acceptable for inflating tires. However, if you want a compressor that can tackle some bigger or more demanding tasks then you should look for one that offers at least 125 PSI, or 150PSI is ideal.

The Importance of Air Flow

Air flow is the single most important feature of compressors. Think carefully about what you want to use your air compressor for. If you want to use an air ratchet or a small impact wrench then you will need an air compressor that offers 6.0 SCFM at around 90 PSI. Some other tools, such as tools for spraying paint, will work at 40PSI, but most tools require 90PSI. If you want to use bigger tools, then you will need a more powerful compressor. Do not purchase a compressor that is lower performance if you think that you will want to use tools with it. This is a false economy and you will end up wanting to replace the compressor quite quickly.

What Size of Tank?

The size of tank that you need for your air compressor depends on the purpose of the compressor. If you plan on using the compressor exclusively to pump up tires then a small pancake type tank will be fine. For that kind of use the most important thing is that the compressor offers at least 125PSI. If you want to use air tools, however, then you will need a 20 gallon tank, or bigger. A 30 gallon tank is a good choice for a dedicated home mechanic or a small workshop. Bigger tanks and higher SCFM ratings are better for tool use.

Getting The Best Deal

Air compressors are typically promoted as being consumer, contractor or commercial grade. Consumer grade compressors are adequate for casual garage use, but many dedicated mechanics leap straight up to contractor grade compressors because they can cope with bigger air demands and run a wider variety of air tools. Commercial grade air compressors are incredibly large and expensive and are overkill for most people. They are designed for use in environments where the compressor will be running all day, every day. They are very powerful and reliable, but they are not necessary unless you know that you will be using them in extremely demanding situations.

Buying an air compressor is a big decision, and you should think carefully before you spend a lot of money on one. If you have any doubts, err on the side of slightly more power and features, so that the compressor will serve you well as your needs evolve.

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