The 7 Best Small Air Compressors [Updated for 2021]

Last Updated on June 8, 2021 by Paul King

With the best air compressors, you’ll be able to blow dust and power air tools, such as nail guns and impact wrenches, among several others. However, portability is a must-have feature for many jobs, ensuring less hassle and freedom to work where you need.

And that’s precisely what small air compressors provide. In this comprehensive guide, you will find our top picks of the best small air compressors. We discuss what features each entry offers, as well as why it might make a great fit for your needs.

As one of Craftsman’s newer entries in its expanded series of tools and equipment, the 6-gallon CMEC6150K small air compressor steals the show, both in performance and reliability. Craftsman went with premium materials and components in the manufacturing of this air compressor, delivering a high-quality unit that won’t let you down.

As we mentioned, portability is key in small compressors. After all, if you’re looking for a smaller unit, you probably need it to be easy to haul around and use. This is a fact that wasn’t lost on Craftsman, and it shows in the final product. On the CMEC6150K air compressor is a handle that makes maneuvering and operation a breeze.

You’ll also find rubberized bumpers on the bottom of the unit that not only helps it stay put when you set it down but also protects it from wear and tear. Combined with the durable materials Craftsman used to make this air compressor, you can rest assured that you’re investing in equipment that’s built to last.

And thanks to 150 PSI and 2.6 standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) at 90 PSI, you get plenty of power to complement a wide range of jobs. This is a great air compressor for trim and a variety of other applications like framing, finishing, roofing, siding, and more.

What’s more, Craftsman includes the following 13 accessories with the CMEC6150K to assist you in your duties:

  • Inflator adaptors (x3)
  •  25’ x ¼” PVC air hose
  • OSHA safety nozzle
  • Air hose coupler
  • Tire chuck plug
  • Blowgun plug
  • Air hose plug
  • Rubber tip
  • Tire gauge
  • Tire chuck
  • Blowgun

You also get a 1-year warranty from Craftsman that protects you from manufacturer defects. When you factor in the stellar performance and reliability, you’re getting one of the best small air compressor models on the market today.

Pros

Cons

Our Verdict

Craftsman delivers a sure-fire air compressor that performs at a high level. And thanks to quality components, you aren’t likely to have to replace this entry any time soon.

Our Rating

5/5

Makita’s Big Bore air compressor makes an excellent companion for carpenters. It can simultaneously run two tools depending on the type. Armed with Makita’s proprietary pump cylinder and heavy-duty piston, you can look forward to maximum output when you need it.

The MAC2400 is relatively quiet, too, which is appreciated on some job sites. Makita earns top marks for building this small air compressor with high-quality materials. As such, the MAC2400 is built for heavy-duty use while withstanding normal wear and tear.

If you’ve been searching for a reliable air compressor that you can trust to serve you well, Makita’s entry is definitely worth a look. It has plenty of power to keep you up and running, and the 2.5 HP motor ensures uninterrupted operation.

What’s more, the MAC2400 is one of the best air compressors for roofing nailers and framing crews. This is all thanks to the cast-iron cylinder, the Big Bore. Because of this beast of a pump, you get incredible compression, ensuring a wider variety of tools can be used.

Plus, this adds to the compressor’s longevity, so you can use it in a wider variety of conditions and still enjoy optimal performance. The MAC2400 is also a cool compressor, meaning it doesn’t get hot like some other units. Once again, this is a good sign that Makita’s entry will last you a good while.

Unlike Craftsman’s pancake compressor from above, the MAC2400 features a twin-stacked tank system. It is capable of providing 130 PSI and 4.2 SCFM at 90 PSI. As such, you can operate many pneumatic tools with ease, some of which can be run two at a time.

We’ve used our fair share of air compressors that ended up tripping our breaker, but that’s not a problem here. We are happy to report that the MAC2400 is equipped with a low-AMP-current draw startup. By having this feature, breaker tripping is highly unlikely.

And although the MAC2400 is a well-designed machine, too many tripped breakers can destroy equipment. Knowing this, it’s nice to see the minimal startup feature included on Makita’s air compressor.

With so many great additions, why didn’t the MAC2400 rank higher? Well, for a small compressor, it’s pretty heavy. Weighing in at 77 pounds, it’s not as portable as Craftsman’s CMEC6150K. Thus, Makita’s offering moves down a spot.

Pros

Cons

Our Verdict

Sure, the MAC2400 is heavier than some other models, but don’t let that deter you from having a look. Makita once again proves why it is one of the most trusted and respected brands in the industry with this small air compressor.

Our Rating

5/5

“The Tank” from Metabo (formally known as Hitachi) is another pancake model that is ideal for the budget-minded individual. If it had a red paint job, this small air compressor could easily be mistaken for Craftsman’s CMEC6150K. And that’s not a bad thing, as Craftsman’s offering is incredibly portable.

So, does Metabo’s unit follow the same trend? We’re pleased to report that The Tank weighs just 41 pounds. This makes it only slightly heavier than the CMEC6150K and significantly lighter than Makita’s MAC2400.

But portability is only part of the equation when rating a small air compressor. You need reliable performance, too, and you certainly get that with The Tank. Capable of delivering 200 PSI and 4 SCFM at 90 PSI, you can use two or more tools at once.

A great example of this is brad nailers, in which five can be used simultaneously! As such, you can power your team with the compression needed to get the job done faster. Other tandem uses include three finish nailers, two siding nailers, two roofing nailers, and two framing nailers.

If you work on a busy job site or have several members on your team, you’re definitely going to want to check out this compressor. It has the capabilities of providing lasting air to multiple people and tools. As such, it’s ideal for getting a greater amount of work done.

Investing in The Tank will surely speed things up around the job site. And although it’s noisy, The Tank isn’t really meant for indoor use. So you’re not really going to have to worry about sound output.

Besides, you’re getting a 6-gallon tank that ensures you have all the air you need to complete a variety of tasks. And thanks to Japanese-made parts and components, you know Metabo’s air compressor is a well-made unit.

In the end, the only real downside is that The Tank is loud. But considering the affordable price and high level of performance, we can deal with a little bit of noise.

Pros

Cons

Our Verdict

Noisy as it may be, The Tank is well worth the price of admission. Metabo uses the highest-quality components to deliver a respectable entry in the small air compressor space.

Our Rating

5/5

DeWalt’s DWFP55126 pancake compressor is another unit that closely resembles Craftsman’s CMEC6150K. This is understandable, as it is a convenient design choice that works well for air compressors.

We’re quite pleased with the performance of DeWalt’s offering. It is nicely powered and does a fine job of providing the air needed for a variety of applications. Thanks to a 6-gallon tank and 165 PSI, the DWFP55126 makes an excellent addition to your shop.

With 3.7 SCFM at 40 PSI, you’re not quite getting the powerful compression offered by our previous entries. But as long as you understand what DeWalt’s unit is intended for, you’ll be happy with what it brings to the shop table.

We were able to get a considerable amount of work completed around the shop with this compressor. The DWFP55126 did struggle a bit on jobs that demanded higher air output. But for that, we simply switched to a compressor that was intended for such use.

We found it to work well for hobby use, such as building furniture or putting chairs together. Tasks like that don’t require extended air output, and the DWFP55126 is ideal in this regard. It’s a breeze to move around the shop and maneuver around jobs.

So while it can’t handle industrial tools, the DWFP55126 is more than capable of powering a variety of nailers and other hand tools. What’s more, the small air compressor reflects its title well, as it weighs in at just 30 pounds!

A true portable air compressor, the DWFP55126 can easily be transported around the shop without breaking a sweat. And when you need to set it down, rubberized feet protect the unit from scuffs and scratches.

Another nice feature is the relatively quiet operation, which again, makes it ideal for indoor shop use. Factor in its affordable price, and you’re looking at a quality small air compressor that holds its own among the competition.

Pros

Cons

Our Verdict

Although the DWFP55126 doesn’t give you the same powerful compression that other entries provide, you’re still getting a respectable unit that is perfect for smaller tasks. And if portability is your main concern, you’re going to love this small air compressor.

Our Rating

5/5

Makita’s MAC210Q is part of the company’s Quiet Series line of equipment. In that department, the MAC210Q doesn’t disappoint. As such, it’s another quality compressor that is suitable for personal shop use.

In fact, this small air compressor performs at just 60 dB (decibels). Whereas other units top out above 70 dB, the MAC210Q delivers comfortable working conditions for you and anyone nearby. What’s more, this compressor is oil-free, making it ideal for those looking for a unit that requires minimal maintenance.

The 1 HP motor pumps out a maximum of 135 PSI, which we find to be sufficient for a multitude of applications. Nailers and similar tools are handled with ease, and the lightweight design is the icing on the cake.

Sure, it’s a bit underpowered when compared to some other small air compressors. But the MAC210Q is very well-made and reliable in its performance. As such, it’s a nice unit that will serve you well as long as you understand its capabilities.

A word of caution, though: the tank on the MAC210Q is only 2 gallons. Because of this, you’re limited in the amount of work you can do. Again, this compressor isn’t designed for heavy-duty use. But for small tasks around the shop or garage, the MAC210Q handles itself well.

Pros

Cons

Our Verdict

The Makita MAC210Q is one of the best quiet air compressors on the market today. The small tank prevents you from working on jobs that require extended operation. But as long as you understand what this unit was designed for, you’ll be pleased with its performance.

Our Rating

5/5

If you’ve never heard of California Air Tools, don’t feel bad. The company doesn’t have the same footprint as, say, Craftsman or even Metabo. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give this small air compressor some consideration.

Not only does California Air Tools’ 2010A deliver ultra-quiet performance, but it’s also highly-portable. Weighing just a bit over 35 pounds and sporting a large carrying handle, the 2010A is easy to haul around the job site.

Just like Makita’s MAC210Q, this compressor’s pump doesn’t use any oil. As such, it’s a breeze to maintain. The tank is made of aluminum, ensuring its resistance to rust. It is, however, only 2 gallons. So you’re going to be limited in the type of work you can perform.

If you just need a small air compressor for use around the shop or garage, the 2010A is a great fit. As mentioned, this unit is really quiet. In fact, it matches Makita’s MAC210Q at only 60 dB. The operation is so quiet that it’s the perfect addition for indoor use.

The 2010A’s SCFM varies between either 3.10 or 2.20. With the former, you get just 40 PSI. The latter, however, is capable of providing you with 90 PSI. So as you can see, you’ll be able to operate a variety of nailers and similar pneumatic tools.

Just remember that the 2-gallon tank can only give you air for so long. If you require a lengthy air supply, we recommend looking elsewhere. But for quick and easy tasks, the 2010A is just the ticket.

Sure, it’s a rather plain-looking small air compressor; the 2010A certainly isn’t going to win any awards for style. It does, however, excel in its performance, ensuring that you’re investing in a well-made unit for small jobs.

Pros

Cons

Our Verdict

California Air Tools hits a home run with the 2010A. No, it can’t take on large jobs, but it’s not really made for that. In the right hands, this is one of the best small air compressors for handling tasks around the house and shop.

Our Rating

5/5

Senco’s PC1010 is hands-down the best small air compressor for portability. Weighing just a mere 20 pounds, this unit gives you the freedom to move your air compressor around with the greatest of ease. With such little weight, you might be thinking that this compressor is cheaply-made.

On the contrary, the PC1010 is built like a tank and capable of withstanding plenty of use. It’s the unit’s 1-gallon tank size that helps make it so lightweight. As such, the PC1010 is specifically designed for light-duty tasks. If you try to take on anything substantial, you’re going to run out of air in no time flat.

But if you’re looking for a reliable small air compressor for your home garage,  the 2010A will serve you well. Senco built this compressor for just such purposes, and it does so without missing a beat.

Its max air output is 120 PSI, so it’s plenty capable of providing quick bursts. And by using an oil-free compression system, you don’t have to worry about maintenance and upkeep as you do with industrial-grade models.

And perhaps best of all, Senco’s 2010A costs a fraction of what those high-end units will run you. If you’re on a tight budget or simply looking to save, you’re going to want to check out this small air compressor.

Pros

Cons

Our Verdict

With just a 1-gallon capacity, you’re not going to be roofing with this compressor. But for lighter-duty jobs, the 2010A absolutely holds its own. It is nicely designed and solid as a rock, with excellent durability and longevity.

Our Rating

5/5
best-small-air-compressor

Small Air Compressor Buyer’s Guide

As you shop for the best small air compressor, you might be left scratching your head over all of the options you see before you. This is understandable, as there’s a lot to take in. But don’t get discouraged; we’ve got just the solution to help you out.

Application

The first thing you should do is ask yourself what kind of tasks you’re going to be doing the most. If you’re going to be filling tires on your passenger car, for example, you don’t necessarily need a powerful air compressor with a massive tank.

You will need one, however, if you’re planning on framing a house or redoing your roof. So as you can see, it’s important to consider your needs. This will play a big role in helping you buy the right small air compressor.

Portability

Also important are your capabilities as an individual. Can you easily lift 40 to 70 pounds? If so, you shouldn’t have much to worry about when looking at the various models. But if you’re able to lift a much smaller amount of weight, like between 20 and 35 pounds, then you’re going to be limited in your options.

Fortunately, there are a few small air compressors that fit the bill and are easy to handle. Senco’s 2010A weighs only 20 pounds, for example, while DeWalt, California Air Tools, and Craftsman aren’t much heavier.

Environment

And then there’s the decibel factor. If you are going to be predominantly working outside, the noise level of your small air compressor isn’t going to be much concern. Now, if you’re working in a residential neighborhood or somewhere with people around, you may need to make some considerations.

But most outdoor job sites are going to be noisy anyway, so you have a wider variety of options to choose from. Indoor tasks, however, are a completely different story. Ideally, you’re going to need the quietest unit you can get your hands on – not just for comfort but for safety, as well.

That’s why there are small air compressors that are specifically designed to produce minimal noise. Look for verbiage in the item’s description that mentions its operation, such as “Ultra Quiet” or “Quiet Series.”

Capacity

As you can see in our reviews above, small air compressors come in all shapes and sizes. Some are equipped with 6-gallon tanks; others have 4.2- or 2-gallon tanks, and there are even units with 1-gallon tanks.

The larger the tank, the longer you’re going to be able to work. Air compressors with 6-gallon tanks, for example, can provide enough air for several people in many instances. Not only that, but you can look forward to lengthy performance, providing you with plenty of air for tasks that require extended operation.

On the other end of the spectrum are small air compressors with less capacity. These units are better suited for short bursts of air rather than prolonged use. What’s more, smaller-capacity air compressors are a better fit for your shop or garage instead of being used on a job site where heavy-duty work is being performed.

Price

And lastly, there’s the price to consider. By and large, you’re going to spend more on small air compressors that have bigger tanks. Conversely, you can get a great bargain on units that are equipped with smaller tanks.

You can usually gauge the price by the job you’re going to be doing. If you are planning to build a house, you’re going to be spending a bit more to get an air compressor that is capable of providing for your needs. But if you’re just filling up a bike tire, chances are you’re going to invest in a budget-friendly model.

The Takeaway

In the end, the small air compressor that you ultimately choose will come down to your needs. If you want to ensure that you’re investing in the best unit possible, we highly recommend Craftsman’s CMEC6150K.

It has everything you need to get started and performs at a high level. With 13 accessories included, Craftsman gives you an excellent bargain for the price. Even if you don’t necessarily need the high air output that it provides, you never know what you might need it for later.

Compared to the other units we reviewed, Craftsman’s CMEC6150K is the best small air compressor for your money. In short, you get plenty of bang for your buck, making it an excellent investment that doesn’t disappoint.

Paul King

I have an unhealthy obsession with contracting and renovation. I’ve been a contractor for over 15 years and I love tackling challenging projects to make them look amazing.