The main thing you’ll be looking for when it comes to picking your shop compressor is the capacity. Which one will be right for you will greatly depend on the type of work you do. In general, continuous tools like grinders and sanders will require a greater reservoir to draw on and a higher input, while tools used intermittently like air guns won’t need quite as much to draw upon.
Below we consider the 4 best shop air compressors on the market:
DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Air Compressor
- DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor, 6 Gallon, 165 PSI (DWFP55126),Multi
- Price: $199.00
- Price as of 09/30/2023 14:22 PDT(more info about ad)
If you’re just looking for something for a home shop, this little pancake compressor from DeWalt has you covered. It’s not exactly suitable for grinding or sanding, but if you’re running a finish nailer or an air gun to change out a tire it’ll perform the job admirably. The only real disadvantage to this compressor is the relatively low capacity of its air tank, but for a lot of homes it will be the perfect fit and it definitely comes in at a fair price.
Best of all it only weighs around thirty pounds so you’ll be able to easily maneuver it wherever you may require its power. Hands down, this is one of the best garage air compressors you can buy.
NorthStar Air Compressor, 60-Gallon
- NorthStar Belt-Drive Electric Stationary Air Compressor - 3 HP, 60-Gallon Vertical Tank
- Price as of 09/30/2023 16:16 PDT(more info about ad)
While it’s not the strongest compressor around, this 3HP NorthStar air compressor makes a great addition to a professional shop which is just starting out due to its low price point. Residential use isn’t likely to be happening with it anytime soon since it requires a 230V power supply to keep it going but you’ll be able to run any tools you need for a considerable period once the tank is charged.
Itmoves a considerable amount of air at a decent rate, but the main attraction here is the bargain price. This is truly one of the best garage air compressors for the money.
Quincy QT-54 Air Compressor
- Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor - 5 HP, 230 Volt, 1 Phase, 60-Gallon Vertical, Model Number 2V41C60VC
- Price: $2,350.00
- Price as of 09/30/2023 14:19 PDT(more info about ad)
Quincy is the go-to brand for professionals who like their pneumatic tools, and this vertical compressor is no exception. It has an absolutely huge tank and pulls a massive amount of air in a relatively short period. The working PSI rating is at 145-175 so you can be sure it’ll easily power even the beefiest of air tools and it makes for a great addition to any professional’s shop.
It’s definitely not for at home use though, like most compressors of its size it requires 230V to run. This is really the top of the line, and probably the best shop air compressor you’ll run across without having to get into truly massive industrial products.
DeWalt DXCMLA1983054 30-Gallon Air Compressor
- DEWALT DXCMLA1983054 30-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
- Price: $1,099.00
- Price as of 09/30/2023 16:16 PDT(more info about ad)
Whether you’re at home or just running a small business, this 30-gallon compressor is pretty much perfect. While you’re not going to be spraying down whole cars with it anytime soon, at least not without cycling it a few times, you can power most air tools with few interruptions thanks to its large tank.
The vertical design ensures that it won’t take up much room in the garage or workshop and you’ll be able to move it wherever you want thanks to the wheeled design. We can’t recommend it for a shop specializing in body work, but for general auto repair, nail guns, and other tools which don’t require a long and constant intake of air you simply won’t be able to beat it.
Which is Best Shop Air Compressor?
Like any power supply, you’ll need to know which tools you’ll be using with these air compressors. While a small pancake compressor might be perfect for someone who just needs to power up their tack gun for putting up a bit of paneling or molding, it’s definitely not going to let you spray paint a car or use an angle grinder for more than a minute or two at a time.
Vertical compressors are going to be the best you can find for most professional applications, and the truly massive ones aren’t really portable. If you’re still working in a small shop, however, something on wheels might be the way to go until you can afford better equipment. The 30 gallon DeWalt (see full specs) above represents a perfect compromise there and it’ll be more than sufficient for many auto mechanics.
The technical specifications behind these compressors can be a bit opaque to the layman and what many people don’t realize is that there’s a lot of proprietary information out there and you might end up comparing statistics that are labeled the same but not measured in the same way.
In general, however, horsepower will show you how quickly a compressor will refill and CFM@PSI will be pretty much equally measured across the board. The best way to ensure that you’re getting the right compressor for what you’re doing is to take a look at the CFM@PSI requirements of your tools.
For a shop compressor, you’ll definitely want things to be overpowered, after all, time is money and if you’re having to stop and wait for a compressor to charge for as long as you’re working then you’re going to be in a bind pretty quick.
Shop compressors occupy a spot a little bit between home compressors and industrial ones, so the actual definition will vary widely depending on what your exact plans are. Of the above the vertical compressors should be more than sufficient for a two to four man shop and the portable DeWalt compressors will be much better suited for a single person working from their home.
One last thing to keep in mind is to always make sure that you have the power hookups you need since larger compressors will require more than the 110V generally supplied in residential areas.
With the best shop air compressor, you’ll be able to tackle almost any task. Your best bet is to go with what you can afford at the start, then upgrade to the best you can get as time goes on. They’re indispensable in a lot of technical fields, and you’ll soon see the reason that air powered tools have dominated many industries for time immemorial. Good luck!