When an air compressor and its uses comes to mind, what’s the first thing you think of? Most people would answer with “tire inflation”, and it’s true that this is one of the most common uses for air compressors.
However, air compressors can be used for much more than pumping up your deflated tires, especially ones of the smaller variety. Used to power tools such as spray guns for painting, and for inflating smaller items such as pool accessories, small air compressors are actually a really versatile piece of equipment.
You can even get creative with how you use your small air compressor. For example, you could use it to clear away dust and debris by turning it to a lower pressure power and blasting it over your work surfaces, although be sure to wear protective eye goggles!
Whatever your reason for wanting to buy a small air compressor, it can be difficult to choose one from all the different options available each with their own information and product specifications.
Our buyer’s guide will hopefully clear up some of the more technical terms often thrown around when talking about air compressors and we’ll discuss some of the key things you’ll want to look out for when deciding which one to purchase.
If you’re in a hurry, check out our top pick to see a small air compressor that ticks all the boxes on our checklist for what makes the best small air compressor.
Top 5 Best Small Air Compressors
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
The EPAuto AT-010-1Z is an impressive piece of equipment that can be used for a whole range of functions, and it’s easy to get to grips with thanks to a large, clear display unit. You can read the current PSI level as you’re using the air compressor, so you’ll easily know when you’re done.
Considering it’s small, convenient size, the EPAuto AT-010-1Z is a powerful air compressor, with a power rating of 120 Watts and a 1.06 CFM rating. You don’t have to worry about overloading your unit by running it for too long with all that power, as it features an auto shut off function as an additional safety measure which will protect your air compressor against overheating.
It can inflate various types of tires, including cars, bikes, SUVs - as long as the engine size is smaller than 3.5 liters - although seeing as it is a smaller tool this air compressor isn’t suitable for inflating truck tires.
A universal valve connector is included so you can connect your air compressor to Schrader valves, and a needle valve connector allows you to inflate small items such as swimming pool accessories and soccer balls.
Another cool feature is the bright light that’s attached to the unit so you can illuminate the surrounding area for ultimate user convenience. It’s a versatile tool that will serve you well, whatever your needs, and at a reasonable price it offers great value for money. That’s why we’ve chosen it as our top pick!
- Incredibly versatile
- Carry bag included for easy transportation
- CE certified
- Connects to cigarette lighter socket plug
- Auto shut off
- LED flashlight
- Can’t be used to inflate truck tires
As one of the smallest air compressors on this list, the Campbell Hausfeld EP2028 is a great entry-level choice. It only has a 1-gallon air storage capacity, yet it’s still quite powerful. It has a PSI rating of max 110 and a 0.36 CFM rating at 90 PSI, and it operates on a 120-volt current so it will work in most American households.
It has a pancake design and is lightweight at under 13 pounds, although don’t equate this with being short-lived as the durable handle means you can comfortably carry this air compressor and easily store it away when not in use so it doesn’t get damaged.
It’s best suited for inflating bicycle tires, soccer balls, inflatable pool accessories and other similarly sized items.
An oilless pump also helps to extend the life of this air compressor as it requires less maintenance, and it’s extremely portable due to its smaller size and the design. The gauge is well placed for user convenience so you can monitor the pressure accurately at a glance.
Whatever your next project is, you can get stuck right in as the Campbell Hausfeld FP2028 comes with a range of attachments including a 25-foot recoil hose, needle and adaptor, 2 inflator nozzles, air chuck, and even on-board storage so you have a space to keep it all in for ultimate organization.
There is also a regulator kit (CV223900AJ) available for separate purchase.
- Oilless pump
- Lots of attachments included for versatile use
- Operates on 120-volt household current
- Slightly more expensive option
- Can be noisy when in use
You can DIY until your heart’s content with this 6-gallon Craftsman air compressor, as it can handle lots of jobs around the home thanks to a max PSI of 150. It also has a 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI, which provides appropriate cut in pressure for a range of uses.
A 13-piece accessory kit is included, with attachments such as an air hose with coupler and plug already assembled, a PVC air hose which measures 25-inch by 1/4-inch, a blow gun, a tire gauge, and 3 inflator adapters, so you can complete various different jobs using this versatile air compressor.
Additionally, it features a low-maintenance, oilless pump for durability and long-lasting use, so even though it’s a slightly more expensive option you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
Designed with convenience in mind, the pancake shape allows for easy portability and works effectively even in cold weather. This air compressor has a speedy start up time so you can get your jobs finished quickly, and it doesn’t create too much noise so you won’t annoy your neighbors while you work.
- Oilless pump
- Quick start up time
- 13-piece accessory kit
- Not too noisy
- More expensive option
The Avid Power ACAP322-CA has a great overall design for both a streamlined look and convenient use. One example of how it combines sleek style with practicality is the clear, easy-to-read digital pressure gauge which allows you to keep track of your current pressure level.
You can also preset the desired PSI and your air compressor will automatically switch off when it’s finished, which is a useful safety feature.
The dual-functioning air compressor can either inflate or deflate, and it’s powered by two powerful metal motors for impressive performance. It won’t take long to get the job done with the AVID Power ACAP322-CA because it inflates quickly and effectively.
It can be plugged into either a 110-volt AC wall outlet or a 10-volt DC cigarette lighter port, and multiple included nozzle attachments allow you to inflate a variety of items.
One of the interesting things we found with the Avid Power air compressor is that it can reach different max PSI levels for different items. The ACAP322-CA can achieve 80 PSI for car tires and motorcycle tires, 100 PSI for bicycle tires, and 125 PSI for various other inflatable items, so it continues to work at its best no matter what you’re inflating.
- Reliable brand
- LED lights
- Two power supply
- Instructions could be more comprehensive
If you’re tired of lugging heavy tools around with you, then this reliable Hausbell air compressor is a great option to consider for anyone who needs a new tire inflator. They’re a brand known for manufacturing durable tools and equipment, and the Hausbell portable air compressor is no exception.
It’s incredibly compact in size so it can be easily stored in your boot, leaving you more room for luggage. Its small size also means it’s highly portable, and it has a handle on the side of the unit so you can carry it with ease.
This Hausbell air compressor is surprisingly powerful for such a small unit, and it has an inflation rate of 35 liters per minute powered by a 120-Watt engine. The maximum working pressure this 12V DC air compressor can reach is 150 PSI and it has a useful auto shut off feature.
It’s perfect for inflating tires, from Jeeps to bicycles, although it’s not suitable for truck tires. It can also be used for other smaller inflatables, such as air mattresses and pool accessories, and it comes with 3 nozzles to allow for versatile use.
Auto shut off feature
Doesn’t support truck tires
Best Small Air Compressors Buying Guide
What is an air compressor?
An air compressor is a piece of equipment that delivers pressurized air by converting power into energy. Put simply, they supply air to whatever item you’ve connected via a compressor hose, and they’re used in a number of different industries as they can suit a range of purposes.
Where large air compressors are capable of more industrial tasks such as supplying high-pressure air to gas cylinders, small air compressors are more commonly used for inflating tires or powering tools.
Small air compressors place a lot of emphasis on portability, for obvious reasons, but there are many other important considerations you’ll need to take into account before you decide which one to purchase.
Shapes and Sizes
Air compressors come in all sorts of various styles, from large sizes to smaller, more compact units.
There are 3 main types of smaller air compressors, and each one is suited to similar uses with different designs.
Aptly named after their round, flat shape, pancake air compressors are the most easily portable due to being lightweight and small in size. They’re low-maintenance with an oilless pump and can be stored away even if you’re tight on space.
Hot Dog Compressors
Popular amongst hobbyists and home DIY-ers, hot dog compressors are ideal for powering smaller tools including airbrushes and staple guns. Typically you’ll find these types of air compressors have handles for improved portability.
These types of air compressors feature two air tanks, capable of storing larger volumes of air to reduce the number of times you’ll need to run the air compressor. Twin compressors are another great choice for DIY jobs as it can easily run tools such as nailers and other finish trim tools.
Why choose a small air compressor?
There are many benefits to small air compressors which sets them apart from their larger, more industrial-size cousins.
For example, they tend to be more portable and easier to store, which is perfect for someone who wants a decent air compressor in their arsenal without cluttering up their workspace.
Smaller air compressors also require very little maintenance and they’re long-lasting tools which can handle repeated use over extended periods of time.
However, as with any piece of equipment, the pros and cons vary between brands, and with so many different options out there, it can be difficult to find the perfect small air compressor to suit your needs.
It takes more than just a small size to make something portable, and air compressors are no exception. If the reason you’re looking for a smaller air compressor in the first place is because you’re going to be using it in different locations, portability is going to be a large factor in your decision.
Look out for additional useful features that will make it easier to transport your air compressor, as well as choosing a size and shape that’s suitable. Handles, for example, make it much easier to carry your air compressor from place to place.
Horsepower (HP) or PSI?
If, like me, you’re the type of person who likes to compare different model specifications, then it can be confusing to find that some brands include horsepower in their product specifications, where others use PSI.
One of the reasons why choosing an air compressor that is powerful enough to suit your needs can be difficult is because Horsepower and PSI are used interchangeably. How do you compare them? Which one is more important?
The simple answer is: the higher the horsepower, the higher the PSI. Horsepower will therefore give you a better indication of how much pressure your air compressor is able to generate, and will determine what kind of use it’s suitable for.
This is one of those technical terms that, unless you’re already familiar with power tools and equipment, you probably don’t know what it means.
All it stands for is ‘cubic feet per minute’, and it’s simply a measurement of how quickly the air compressor can supply a feed of air to the item you’re inflating.
If you’re working to deadlines or need something inflated in a short amount of time, then you’ll want to choose an air compressor that suits those needs, which would typically be a unit with a higher CFM rating.
Oil or Oilless tanks
You’ll find that some small air compressor models require oil to work, where others boast of being oilless. This will vary depending on which brand you choose, and whether you should or shouldn’t go for an oil tank air compressor depends on what use you’re looking to get out of it.
Some of the pros of oil tanks is that they tend to be more powerful than oilless air compressors, and have a capacity for bigger tasks.
However, if you’re looking to purchase a small air compressor, oil-free tanks are undoubtedly the way to go. They require far less maintenance than oil tanks which helps to extend the lifespan of your tool, and they more easily adapt to different tasks.
With less noise and less mess, oil-free tanks are also better for the environment, and they’re becoming the dominating type of air compressor on the market due to their increasing popularity.
Frequently Asked Questions
How loud are air compressors during use?
The standard noise level produced when using an air compressor is around 90 decibels (dB) although you can find units that are specifically designed to perform more quietly.
These will usually reach between 80-85 decibels.
Do you have to break in an air compressor?
Yes, most air compressors will need to be broken in before first use.
This is done by running the unit with the unloader valves open for approximately 30 minutes. After this, you can reset your air compressor and it’s ready to use.
What is oil carry-over?If you have an oil tank, a small amount of oil will be carried over, although this is made worse when your compressor is running particularly hot.
Try using a cooling fan near the air compressor to reduce the temperature and the amount of oil carried over between uses.