The 5 Best Trim Air Compressors [Updated October 2020]

Last Updated on October 6, 2020 by Paul King

Home remodeling enthusiasts have many uses for a contractor-grade air compressor. Not only are they necessary for powerful nailing and painting work, but many of them can run two tools simultaneously for use at a busy job site or for a family DIY renovation team.

Airbrush tools, cleaning instruments, and nail guns require air compressors to operate. Depending on the scope of your project, you may need heavier and more expensive options or may want to settle for the lighter and quieter alternatives.

This is a guide to the best trim air compressors available in 2020, including a short buyer’s guide into what aspects should be compared between units so you can make the best possible purchase for your needs. Regardless of which unit you choose, any of those listed should be able to get the job done right.

The Makita Big Bore is a staple of the air compressor industry for both its power and versatility. Its cast-iron pump promotes fast recovery times and its low amperage ensures that it can run on any available power supply without tripping your breakers.

Moving a compressor from room to room while completing the trim on a remodeling project can be a hassle. The 81-pound Makita is not the easiest to move on this list, but it beats out the vertical compressors, which often weigh hundreds of pounds.

The Makita runs on a huge 2.5 HP motor and produces 130 PSI of operating pressure. The twin tank construction used on the Big Bore allows you to multitask with multiple tools simultaneously, which is ideal for home renovation projects among families or on busy construction sites.

Its roll cage construction promotes durability while still being compact enough to be moved with a little help. Many contractors prefer to have their air compressors on a dolly or rollable surface so it’s easy to maneuver around the job site. Its low operating noise output compared to larger compressors also makes it convenient on busy job sites or for use inside the house.

The compressor will run in cold temperatures owing to its oil-free pump, so if your storage area is outside, you can still start the Makita easily in the morning and get started on your trim.

Why we like it

  • Oil lubrication promotes quick startup in low temperatures
  • The ability to split the operating PSI allows multiple tools to be used at once
  • Industry-leading horsepower
  • Roll cage construction promotes durability
  • Removable cylinder can easily be cleaned and maintained
  • Competitive recovery time

Our Verdict

Any contractor that needs the heaviest duty air compressor on the go would do well with the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore. It can be transported to multiple sites, started in the cold, and used for extended periods on its 4.2-gallon tank. The Big Bore’s ability to split its operating pressure for multiple tools combined with its power makes it ideal for any renovation team looking for a contractor-grade air compressor to add to their arsenal for under $500.

Our Rating

5/5

The DeWalt 6 Gallon Pancake Air Compressor is compact enough to be run on an extension cord. Its maximum operating tank pressure of 165 PSI promotes fast recovery times and the unit can run two tools at once. It is extremely easy to maintain due to its oil-free pump and removable cylinder. 

This compressor has a much smaller storage footprint than the Makita, weighing only 32 pounds. This means that it can go in your trunk, up onto the roof, and into the shed with ease. Any home remodeler would appreciate this portable, powerful DeWalt compressor, which makes good on the company’s long-standing promise to provide durable equipment at budget prices.

Why we like it

  • 165 maximum operating PSI promotes fast recovery times
  • Lightweight 32-pound design for easy portability
  • Low amperage requirements
  • Easy startup in cold weather
  • 6-gallon tank capacity
  • Competitively low noise output (75.5 decibels)

Our Verdict

The DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor makes good on its brand’s tradition of compact, powerful construction equipment at a low price of under $300. Its low noise output and high PSI storage capacity make it an easy choice for those remodelers that prefer portability and a low storage footprint over raw horsepower. 

Our Rating

5/5

The Porter-Cable UMC Pancake Compressor is similar to the DeWalt in that its 6-gallon capacity and 150 maximum operating PSI can handle most home remodeling projects involving nailing, trim, or painting, or framing with an air compressor.

Like the DeWalt, the Porter-Cable is also oil-free, which lends to a long lifetime and easy maintenance. The pancake design offers stability and easy storability owing to its small dimensions. At 31 pounds, this is also the lightest unit reviewed so far, and simple for one person to transport between job sites or to different rooms if you prefer DIY.

The low amp requirements and optional accessory kit for novice remodelers who need to flesh out their tool supply make this an easy budget choice for those looking to save a dollar and get a mid-range compressor in the process.

Why we like it

  • Lightweight for easy portability
  • Oil-free pump for easy startup
  • Record low price
  • Optional accessory kit
  • Multitasking capabilities
  • Low amperage requirements
  • 1-year warranty

Our Verdict

The Porter-Cable is the cheapest and lightest option reviewed so far, a particularly good choice for novice remodelers who need a hand on the job. Its low amp requirements make it suitable to any home outlet. The option to bundle accessories should be particularly attractive to those just starting out on their remodeling projects and need a boost to their toolkit for under $200.

Our Rating

5/5

The Bostitch Pancake Oil-Free Air Compressor has a competitive 6-gallon tank capacity and a 150-PSI maximum operating pressure. Its pancake design promotes easy portability and the motor starts even in cold temperatures due to an oil-free pump.

Like the Porter-Cable, it weighs 31 pounds and comes with an optional accessory kit, making it the clear equivalent to that model in terms of specifications.

Depending on the brand you trust, the Bostitch and Porter-Cable are both amazing portable options for novice enthusiasts that don’t need the most power and would rather settle for portability and low noise output instead. For beginners, the accessory kit only sweetens the deal.

Why we like it

  • Compact pancake design, tied for the lightest on the list
  • Multitasking capabilities with split PSI
  • 6-gallon tank
  • Optional accessory kit
  • Low noise output

Our Verdict

Bostitch is another reliable brand when it comes to budget air compressors. The compact size of this pancake model combined with its competitive operating PSI, huge tank, and an optional accessory kit makes it a great choice for contractors who want an extra compressor to throw in their trunk or remodeling enthusiasts who want a model they can easily move from room to room while they work on their trim.

Our Rating

5/5

The Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor has many of the same features as other similar models on this list, including an oil-free pump that promotes easy startup in cold temperatures, a 150-PSI maximum operating capacity, and a 6-gallon tank.

The Craftsman is unique in that it comes packaged with a versatile 13-piece accessory kit, which is perfect for renovators just starting out who want to bolster their toolbox with a ton of options.

This kit includes a coupler, air hose, tire gauge, blowgun, safety nozzle, inflator adaptor, and much more. For those who want a ton of options for their new compressor’s work capacity, look no further than the Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor.

Why we like it

  • Lightweight 32-pound construction makes for easy transport
  • 13-piece accessory kit
  • 6-gallon tank capacity
  • 150 max PSI, able to run multiple applications at once
  • Oil-free pump
  • 1-year limited warranty

Our Verdict

This Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor is perfect for beginners with its easy portability, solid construction, and versatile 13-piece accessory kit. Those looking for a complete air compressor package at a budget price would do well with the Craftsman, no matter the workload they plan on undertaking.

Our Rating

4.5/5
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Buyer’s Guide

Compressors used predominantly for trimming may require certain specifications. A compressor in general, however, has several main features that you should compare to your intended projects and your experience level to decide which is right for you.

The compressors mentioned above are all of the highest calibers and can handle your trimming work no matter which you choose. For a finer comparison of their features, however, use this buying guide to see which best suits your needs and experience level.

Motor Capacity

The power of the motor will dictate how long the compressor can be used before it needs to be charged again. The horsepower and compressed air storage capacity directly impact the duration that a compressor runs.

For maximum power, you should expect to pay more, up to the most expensive model on this list, the 2.5 HP Makita Big Bore. If you don’t need the most power, however, you can sacrifice a strong motor for more portability and a lower price. It just depends on your priorities.

Noise Output Level

These compressors feature easy startup even in low temperatures due to their oil-free pumps. This means that you can use your compressor early in the morning around the house or on the job site.

Noise level becomes a consideration when you think about your family and neighbors’ comfort level as you embark on these renovations. Those who plan on using their compressor at a busy job site should also consider that hearing directions can make a significant impact on your team’s efficiency.

Maintenance Requirements

For those that will be using the compressor regularly, eliminating maintenance should be a priority. Looking at whether the compressor uses oil and has a detachable cylinder or motor cover can help you determine how much maintenance each unit requires and whether you have the experience to pull that off when the time comes.

Whether the pump has to be oiled also influences how much maintenance it will require, so that’s something to watch for as well.

Sturdiness

The stability of a compressor is going to matter as you tote the unit up stairs and ladders, around the outside of your house, and to various job sites. A compact, durable design will ensure that the compressor is not damaged during a fall or in transit.

Portability

Trim jobs often require you to carry your nailer from room to room. A heavier compressor can be cumbersome on extended projects, especially if you’re working alone. Storage of larger compressors can also be an issue if your garage is already full of different renovation tools and equipment. 

A 30 to 40-pound pancake model compressor may be more manageable, particularly if you plan on taking it upstairs. 

Multitasking function

Using multiple tools at once allows for a larger working capacity. Having multiple people working on the same compressor can help you finish a trim job in half the time. Additionally, you can use the air compressor for painting or the air compressor for framing at the same time you are working on the trim, baseboards,  and crown molding. Since renovation projects can be accomplished by couples, families, members of a construction team, the ability to run multiple tools simultaneously could make a huge difference in your productivity.

Check to see if the operating PSI can be split to run multiple nailers or airbrushes at the same time.

The Takeaway 

A trim project requires a contractor-grade air compressor to power your nailers. The ability to run multiple tools at once, easily carry the compressor between rooms, but still have enough power to complete the project, are staples of many of the units we reviewed. 

Understanding how your experience level can affect your choice of equipment can be daunting. However, the DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor is our top choice because no matter your experience, this unit is easy to use, convenient to transport, and still has plenty of horsepower in its motor and operating PSI in its tank for you to use multiple nailguns efficiently.

Depending on your personal needs, you may decide you need less or more power. Regardless of which model you choose, any of these compressors should serve you well on a job site or in a home remodeling project, finishing your trim, painting, framing, or doing any construction work that you have planned.

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.