There’s nothing more satisfying than painting one’s own car. Well, it’s not that difficult, to be honest. You can easily achieve that smooth & professional finish by using a top-quality air compressor for support. Yes, every spray-painting expert relies on a heavy-duty air compressor.
Now, the question is, which air compressor are we talking about? There are a huge number of options in the market. Don’t worry; we won’t let you spend your money on the wrong one.
Here we are with essential buying tips as well as the exclusive list of the 10 best air compressors for painting cars at home.
Our top 3 picks:
What Type of Air Compressors are Best for Spray Painting Cars at Home?
There’s hardly any air compressor specifically made for car painting. So, you have to be really careful to avoid picking the wrong one. No need to be nervous, though. All you have to do is ask these three questions before settling on a particular unit.
Type-1: Pancake Compressors
Portability is a big factor for some users. Even more so, if you are in an early stage and don’t own a shop. We suggest you opt for a compact-size pancake compressor.
Their specialty is the portable size with a round base. You can carry it with you anywhere. The biggest tank size in this category is around 6 gallons.
On the contrary, if you have an established workshop with lots of space. You can go for a big tank size (60-gallon) for longer run-time and fewer refill breaks.
Type-2: Oil-Free Compressors
Most older units used to run on oil. But not anymore. We have included a lot of compressors in our list that are oil-free.
The major benefit of an oil-free compressor is its ease of use. You can turn on the switch any time and get it spraying. Another huge benefit of oil-free compressors is the lightweight. Since you are spraying at home, you would want something easy to carry. On the other hand, oiled compressors are quite heavy. However, they tend to be more durable and industry-friendly.
Type-3: Noise-Free Compressors
You have to look at the noise level. Normally, every compressor comes with a decibel rating. The higher the number, the noisier it is going to be. For example, a compressor with 90 DB of noise level produces more sound than one with 60 DB. It’s pretty basic.
Of course, you should check out this aspect at last. You don’t want to lose a robust compressor with a high capacity just because the sound is 5 DB higher.
10 Best Air Compressors for Painting Cars at Home
You will find a lot of options in the stores. But only a few are small yet powerful enough to be used at home. To make the search easier for you, here we go with our top 10 list of air compressors.
1. CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K 6 Gallon Air Compressor – Best Overall
CRAFTSMAN is a family name when it comes to air compressors. But their 6-gallon air compressor for painting walls, called the CMEC6150K, is what we have picked today. It was made for farm men who require a compressor to serve multiple purposes.
- Accessory Kit
We have found the 13-piece accessory kit as the highlight of this compressor. The package includes an air hose with two couplers, a blow gun, gauges, adapters, and so on. It’s perfect for users who don’t like to research a lot for the right accessories. Here, you are getting everything you will need wrapped inside a package.
Even though some of the accessories might have average quality, it’s better to have something to start with. Eventually, you will understand what the tools are missing and find something more suitable.
- Portable Design
The CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K air compressor is extremely lightweight. It was around 32.5 pounds. You know what it means, right? You can transport it without stressing your muscles. The use of an oil-free operating mechanism contributes a lot to its portability.
However, the lightweight doesn’t seem to interfere with its robust build quality.
- Versatile Capacity
The max capacity mentioned by the manufacturers is 150 psi. That’s actually too much for spray painting. However, CMEC6150K was designed to perform multiple activities. Hence, the air pressure capacity is kept top-notch.
That being said, for regular or low-stress tasks, you would be fine using 90 psi (2.6 CFM).
Why We Like It
- Portable size (6-gallon)
- Recovers fast
- Very affordable
- Comes with 13 accessory items
- Less effort is required for maintenance
- You will hear loud noises as long as it runs
- It’s an LVHP (low volume, high pressure) compressor. Not ideal for commercial spray painting
We believe the CMEC6150K is the best 6-gallon unit you can buy within such a price range. It might lack some premium features you are expecting. But the affordability and versatility will win your hearts for sure.
2. Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor – Editor’s Choice!
The XC602100 was designed for users who value build quality. Running a small shop or considering one? Look no further than the Campbel Hausfeld 60-gallon compressor.
- 2-Stage Operation
We get a 2-stage operation with the Campbell Hausfeld 60-gallon compressor. The main advantage is obviously its ability. A single-phase compressor is good when you don’t go too rough. However, most commercial places prefer a 2-stage operation for undertaking difficult jobs.
- Oiled Compressor
This 2-stage compressor from Campbell Hausfeld requires oil to operate. That’s a good sign. Even though the compressor felt a bit heavy (around 300 pounds), it produced less noise. For someone who has been working in the shop for a long-time, it’s a huge bonus.
- Optimum Pressure
175 psi is the maximum level of pressure we measured for this compressor. It’s more than enough to perform heavy tasks like nailing, sanding, and drilling. However, manufacturers recommend sticking at a 90-psi level with a capacity of 7.6 SCFM. You can pursue all of your spraying needs within this threshold.
Why We Liked It
- Produces significantly less noise during Operation (65 DB)
- Apart from spray painting, it can be used to loosen up stubborn nuts & bolts
- No need to wait a long time to let it recover
- Great value for money
- The weight is not ideal for portability
- Getting help regarding your warranty might be a little tough
The XC series offers both 30-gallon and 80-gallon options with the same features. Those units have a separate customer base. But this 60-gallon unit from the XC series is perfect for someone undertaking DIY projects at home or running a small shop.
3. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor (DWFP55126) – Best Pancake Compressor
DEWALT’s 6-gallon pancake compressor is a classic example of portability. Beginners love the compressor because it is easy to store and maintain.
- Easy To Store
Compact compressors take less space. That’s a no-brainer. But DEWALT really took the assignment to the next level. With this 30-pound compressor, we got a cord wrapper. That’s super travel friendly. The structure of the compressor also makes it easier to take down the stairs without a partner.
Just tuck it inside your truck when you are done with the job. It’s as easy as it sounds.
- Maximum Air Pressure
The DWFP55126 from DEWALT offers the highest air pressure: 165 psi. That’s rare for a pancake compressor. In contrast, some bigger units with 60-gallon tanks limit the air pressure to 150 psi.
If you love high-pressure spraying, you should definitely check out this air compressor for spray painting.
Apart from that, the 2.6 CFM capacity is average for most pancake compressors.
- High-Quality Accessories
We absolutely loved the accessories included in the package. First of all, the package includes a drain valve. It drains any unwanted liquid gathered inside the tank. Moreover, there were rubber caps under the compressor legs. Hence, you can say goodbye to exterior damage.
Besides, two universal couplers are attached to fasten the entire procedure. If you have a partner, both of you can spray the vehicle simultaneously. That makes the job ten times quicker and easier. What do you say?
Why We Like It
- Compact size and lightweight (22 pounds)
- Faster recovery time
- Thermal protection included
- Maximum air pressure: 165 psi
- Extremely noisy
- The air hose is missing from the package
DEWALT DWFP55126 is a minimum-size air compressor for painting a car. It would be unfair to judge its potential against the regular ones. So, keeping that in mind, we think the DWFP55126 works pretty well for its category. If you are looking for something portable with strong capacity, we will surely recommend it to you.
4. Senco PC1010 Hot Dog Air Compressor – Best Under Budget
Senco PC1010 is not a typical commercial-grade compressor. It’s a small unit (only 20 lbs) only made for seasonal hobbyists or DIYers. Moreover, it wins the title of best budget air compressor for painting cars.
- Compact Footprint
We have reviewed several pancake compressors before. But this one is the lightest. It almost looks impossible to have a 20 lbs compressor. You can place it on a shelf or carry it from one site to another.
- Decent Air Performance
Of course, it would be unfair to expect top-notch capacity from this 1-gallon compressor. But it works decently considering the motor power (1/2 HP). The gauge shows a max output of 125 psi. However, it does halt the operation in the middle to refill the air.
Why We Like It
- Pretty affordable
- Weighs only 20lbs
- Easy to carry due to the handle
- 1-gallon tank has a backup of ½ HP motor
- You will be interrupted multiple times while spray painting
There’s nothing to hate about this compressor. However, we think it better suits nailing than spray painting. You need a continuous air supply that the Senco PC1010 cannot provide. Buy this compressor if you only want to practice at home without spending much.
5. Makita MAC5200 3.0 HP Big Bore Air Compressor – Best Value for Money
MAC5200 is the epitome of an industry-level compressor. It’s not specifically made for spray painting. But the 6.9 CFM (90 psi) capacity is decent enough to get you through most of the auto paints.
- Better handling
The first thing we noticed in the MAC5200 was the ease of transportation. It comes with a handle as well as wheels. So, you can carry it from one location to another without any havoc.
Also, you get a storage box attached to the compressor. It was so easy to store all the air fittings and other tools.
- Industry Level performance
An air compressor made for industries should have enough potential to handle stress-full tasks. Don’t worry. The MAC5200 doesn’t disappoint in that department.
Makita ensures less recovery time, longer operation cycles as well as improved output. a 3-Hp motor installed for a 5.2-gallon tank screams power and strength.
- Thermal Protection
The MAC5200 goes to a great length to ensure thermal protection. First of all, it comes with discharge tubes (finned shape) to reduce the temperature. The material used for these tubes is copper.
We all know copper has the properties to distribute heat evenly across a machine more efficiently.
Apart from this genius feature, a regular thermal overload switch is added. Hence, the compressor won’t be damaged due to overheating any time soon.
Why We Like It
- Easy to handle
- Suitable for industry use
- Safety features included in the package
- Bearable noise level (65 DB)
- It works less efficiently with paint guns. You have to spend some time finding how to set the spray gun for better performance
Don’t underestimate the small size of this Makita MAC5200. This 5.2-gallon tank has more than enough strength to handle job-site tasks. It is designed to provide 140 psi for continuous running. If you have a multi-purpose shop, you should consider this powerful compressor.
6. California Air Tools Portable Air Compressor – Best for Noise-Less Operation
Frustrated with the gurgling compressor noise in the background? Is it the most important thing you look for? Then, you don’t have to look further. We bring you the quietest air compressor in the market: California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S.
- Single Piston
This CAT-1P1060S comes with a single piston. According to the specifications, the piston will last 3000 hours of the work cycle. If you remember, that’s the same for California Air Tools compressors with dual pistons. That’s a sign of good quality.
On the other hand, it is quite difficult for regular pistons to complete 250 hours of the life cycle. The reason is its low rpm. Almost every California Air Tools compressor we have included here runs on 1680 rpm.
- Ultra-Quiet & Compact
What’s the noise level of a normal conversation? It’s around 60 dB. Now, guess what? The CAT-1P1060S can operate, keeping the noise level under 56 dB. That’s more shocking than interesting.
This feature makes this compact air compressor stand out among the rest. Apart from that, the unit is extremely lightweight (29 lbs) thanks to an oil-free mechanism.
- Faster Recovery Time
We didn’t expect this small 1-gallon compressor to provide high air pressure. But it proved us wrong. The gauge clearly indicates 120 psi as the highest capacity.
Plus, it took around 15 seconds for the tank to reach this level. If you want to work on lower pressure, the recovery time will be even faster.
Why We Like It
- Ultra-quiet (less than normal talking sound)
- Thermal protection available
- Provides 1.2 CFM at 90 psi
- Lasts longer (steel tank)
- Not meant for larger air tools
We are overall satisfied with the performance of this interesting air compressor. Its price point is also affordable. The only disappointment we have is its functionality. This 1-gallon compressor is not the right choice for heavy spray-painting needs.
7. Ingersoll Rand Air Compressor – Exclusive Pick!
If you are aiming for a premium single-phase air compressor, the SS5 from Ingersoll Rand is all you need. It comes with sufficient CFM needed for a detailed finish. At the same time, the 5HP compressor is perfect for fulfilling personal workshop requirements.
- Better Customization
At first, we were disappointed since there are no electric cables, oil filters, or air pressure regulators with the main unit.
However, if you think closely, it’s actually better this way. The manufacturers don’t want to limit your freedom of using the accessories given within the package.
You can attach any type of cable, filter, or regulator you like best. You are not forced to use specific accessory sets.
- Safety Accessories
Safety features like thermal overload protection increase the lifespan of the SS5 compressor. Such features keep the operating temperature in check.
Another safety accessory you will notice is the belt guard. The purpose is to enable the compressor to run for a long time without interruption.
- Durable Structure
The 60-gallon air compressor for painting cars is made of heavy-duty cast iron. So, you can expect it to last long. The vertical design makes it suitable for various purposes, including nailing, drilling, airbrushing, and of course, spray painting.
But you have to ensure the compressor is lubricated before pumping air. For that, we suggest synthetic lubricants instead of petroleum ones.
Why We Liked It
- You can use any length of electric cable you like
- 18.1 CFM is higher than what you will need for your personal workshop
- The 60-gallon tank ensures you never have to wait for the air to refill
- More safety features mean you can spend less money on repairs
- Not appropriate for heavy commercial work (single-phase)
- Doesn’t come with a regulator or oil filter
Most users dislike this unit because of the wrong setup. If you have the right set of air compressor paint sprayer kits, you will definitely love the smooth finish every time. Also, it’s perhaps the only compressor on our list eligible for both personal and industry-level spray painting.
8. California Air Tools Twin Tank Air Compressor
What makes this California Air Tools compressor stand out to us is its unique set of benefits. It is a lightweight and oil-free unit that produces less than 60 DB of noise. You see, oil-free compressors have a bad reputation for generating loud noises. That’s why we are so amazed by the CAT-4610AC.
- Oil-Free Operation
Here we have an oil-less compressor. It saves you time and money for regular oil injections. As a result, there are fewer steps involved to start the procedure. Also, maintenance is extremely easy for such compressors.
- Aluminum Twin-Tank
Robust aluminum twin tanks are the biggest attractions of the CAT-4610AC. The 4.6-gallon tank is around 45 pounds. Compared to the heavier units we reviewed in this article, it’s really lightweight which means you can easily carry it along with you. We find it extremely helpful for users working in a garage or basement.
Another plus point of having twin tanks instead of one is better air supply.
- Super Quiet
When it comes to noise reduction, the CAT-4610AC has really taken it seriously. All thanks to the low RPM (1680). Even though noise-less and oil-free don’t go hand-in-hand, California Air Tools showed us it’s not impossible.
If you have neighbors, you are going to love this feature the most. We know we did.
Why We Like It
- The quietest compressor you will ever use
- Extremely lightweight and easy to move around
- 1 HP motor is more than enough for this 4.6-gallon tank
- Perfect for personal DIY projects
- You might experience overheating issues
Not everyone requires a high-capacity commercial air compressor. If you are a hobbyist, your needs will be a bit different than a busy shop owner. In that case, you will find a high value within the 1 HP 4.6-gallon (2.2 CFM) unit. It’s manufactured to let you enjoy your hobby from any place you desire.
9. BOSTITCH Pancake Air Compressor (BTFP02012)
Surprised to see the smallest air compressor for painting here? Well, we did promise to include one compressor for each user level. This pancake, oil-free compressor is designed to occupy less space and be more travel friendly.
- Compact Pancake Size
The BTFP02012 is about 22 pounds. Plus, the base is round, making it easier to set anywhere. It’s perhaps the most travel-friendly compressor on our list.
Even though we have shown a 6-gallon tank above, that wasn’t a pancake compressor. In case you didn’t know, a 6-gallon is the largest tank size available for pancake air compressors. So, you are getting the biggest in its category, even if it’s quite compact and small. That’s a win.
If there’s one thing you would love about this compressor, it’s the price point. It showed us that affordable compressors don’t have to be flimsy and cheap. Besides the size and CFM, almost every other feature and accessory (flow regular, couplers) are top-notch.
One thing you have to compromise is the noise level (75 DB). It’s not the quietest on this list. But we think as you become used to the regular workshop sound, that won’t bother you much.
- Easy To Maneuver
Pancake air compressors are not the ideal choice for spray painting. But the BOSTITCH is an exception to the rule. It ensures the great stability of your spraying output.
The 150 psi (maximum level) was quite unexpected, to be honest. Sticking with 90 psi (2.6 CFM) should work for regular use.
Why We Like It
- Easy to handle as a beginner
- Provides better stability
- Does a decent job while painting
- Has two couples for more users
- Not quiet at all
- Too small for professional spray painting
The truth is premium spray guns don’t work well with low-capacity compressors. Even if you find a gun, it won’t be suitable for commercial use. We recommend the BTFP02012 for users still in the learning phase and have a budget constraint.
10. California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor
We highly recommend the California Air Tools 10020C for industry-level spray painting. You name a feature, and it already exists within this compressor. From low noise to longer duty cycles, this particular compressor has immensely impressed us.
- Dual Pistons
It’s an oil-free compressor containing two huge pistons. And according to the manufacturers, the pistons have a life cycle of around 3000 hours. We think it’s pretty amazing since typical pistons don’t last more than 500 hours.
As it is oil-free, we expected some noise. But surprisingly (or not), the operation was smooth without much sound. You do hear a muffled noise, but that’s not very significant.
- More Run Time
The 2.0 HP powerhouse motor runs at a speed of 1680 rpm. Yes, it’s quite low, which means less risk of damage. Hence, you get to enjoy a longer run-time or duty cycle from this machine.
We were able to run it on uneven ground as well since there’s no oil inside the tank and no risk of leaking. You can’t do such a thing with an oiled compressor.
- Easy Start
Whether it’s cold or hot outside, you can always count on the 10020C for an easy start. Oil-free compressors are already easier to start. But California Air Tools takes it one step ahead.
They have installed an “easy-start valve.” The purpose is to reduce the amps required for starting up the compressor. Instead, a no-load mechanism is established to eliminate the effects of temperature altogether.
Why We Like It
- Despite being big enough, it produces little (70 DB) noise
- Super easy to carry around the site due to the wheels
- Oil-free Operation with modern technologies
- Low amps are required for starting
- All the features come at an expensive price
- Smaller details like a plastic drain valve or coupler need more improvement
All air compressors from California Air Tools are noise-free. If you value this feature a lot, both California Air Tools compressors in our list would satisfy you. As for this specific unit, it’s bigger (10 gallons) and has more capacity (6.4 CFM) compared to the 1 Hp & 4.6-gallon unit from the same brand.
3 Factors to Consider When Buying an Air Compressor for Painting Cars at Home
We can narrow down the entire search into three factors. Yes, you can find your dream air compressor by just ensuring these three crucial factors. Here they are.
We know we have praised compressors with high-pressure capacity in the review guide. But that’s useful for versatile tasks like drilling and nailing. When it comes to spray painting from home, having a low-pressure compressor is the best bet.
You see, low pressure ensures a reduced rate of “bounce back” while spraying. That eventually saves a huge amount of paint and your money. Plus, the low pressure allows the paint mist to grip the car’s body better. Hence, the paint doesn’t feel like an orange when it dries.
A low-pressure air compressor will work only if the volume is higher. No need to be confused. High CFM indicates high volume (simple!). So, all you have to look for is a high CFM rating on the package.
For commercial-grade tasks, the CFM rating should be more than 12. Before attaching any spray gun, always check the CFM requirement. Your compressor must have equal or more capacity than the paint gun to perform smoothly.
Bigger tank size is always more comfortable. Once the air refills, you can go a long way without being interrupted. That’s not possible with a small tank. You have to stop the spray gun multiple times for several minutes. If it’s a busy workshop, things might get a bit frustrating.
We suggest 50-60 gallon tanks for busy commercial spaces. But you will be fine with a 20-gallon tank for DIY projects.
We hope you have got your dream air compressor by now. If not, then take your time and reconsider the 10 best air compressors for painting cars at home.
But before we wrap up, let’s make it easier for you. Want a compressor with low noise? Choose California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S. If you have a low budget and still want most of the features, pick the DEWALT pancake air compressor.
Finally, if money is not an issue and you want only the best, go with Ingersoll Rand SS5 5HP 60 Gallon Single Stage Air Compressor.
And that’s all you need to know.
Ed Walker is an automotive cleaning expert with extensive automotive cleaning skills. I have been working in automotive cleaning plants with perfection for the past decade. In addition, I own my cleaning workshop, where we wash away firm dirt and grease out of vehicles and turn them into new ones. Sharing cleaning tips for automotive is my passion.