The In-Depth Guide To Choosing The Best Portable Air Compressor

The In-Depth Guide to Choosing the Best Portable Air Compressor

Does your profession require you to visit remote sites and you need a way to do some cleaning? Maybe you need to clean the sawdust that’s haunting your garage? In instances like these, you can’t beat the effectiveness and versatility of a portable air compressor. You can carry this nifty machine around at will to deliver pressurized air based on the task at hand.

People want the best portable air compressor to use in mechanical workshops, farming sites, construction buildings, manufacturing plans, homes, etc. It can tune up spray guns, drills, sanders, and other similar tools. Ease of carrying, reasonable cost, and all-around utility makes portable air compressors an attractive buy.

However, the duty of finding the best portable air compressor can make you feel lost if you don’t know how this machine functions and what features you need to look for. Although quite small, portable air compressor units come in a large range of models that have an equally large range of features.

Top 10 Portable Air Compressor for Car Reviews (Soure:

**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

How Does The Best Portable Air Compressor Operate?

The best portable air compressor works on the principle that when atmospheric air is compressed, its pressure declines while its volume rises. The air compressor’s compression system (which could be a piston, a vane or an impeller) is where the compression of the atmospheric air takes place. The electric motor or gasoline powered engine also plays a role in the process, providing energy to reduce the air’s volume as its pressure increases.

Portable air compressors have a storage tank which accommodates the compressed air. The tank can be of different styles, but the most popular ones are hot dogs (larger tanks), pancake (lightest), wheelbarrow (horizontally arranged), and Twin-stack (tanks are stacked above each other). It hosts the air inside a pressure range that allows the user to use the best portable air compressor to complete multiple tasks.

Air compressors can be high, medium or low pressure based on the speed of pressure they deliver. An air compressor with high pressure will have a discharge greater than 1000 psi, and it’s also called HPAC. An air compressor with medium-pressure will have a pressure discharge range between 151-1000 psi. An air compressor with low pressure will have a discharge up to 150 psi, and it’s also called LPAC.

Top 3 Best Portable Air Compressor Reviews

Selecting the best portable air compressor comes down to what projects you’re handling, but the range of available brands and models can result in confusion. Which compressor saves energy while delivering air with the right pressure? What brand’s make is too noisy for the home environment? It can be a tough choice to pick one, but you should be able to make a good decision by reading portable air compressor reviews below that compare and contrast the newest offerings.

1. Performance

Often, portable air compressor buying guides talk about the actual pounds created by the machine in terms of psi (per square inch). However, it’s not the most important consideration. Buyers should look further and check the CFM rating (Cubic Feet Per Minute) of different air compressors. It implies the quantity of air delivered by a portable air compressor, and is depicted by cubic feet per minute.

Also, instead of CFM, you may come across the term SCFM (Standard Cubic Feet per Minute). It refers to the CFM of an air compressor if all conditions are considered as “standard”. Smaller tools need SCFM in the range 0-5, while bigger tools require the range to be 10 or greater. It’s important to know the SCFM needs of the tools you want to use, and get a bit extra with the compressor to gain a little buffer.



ImageKensun YS-205 AC/DC Powered Tire Inflator D1002: This portable air compressor delivers pumps of 40 PSI, and it has a gauge capacity of 250 PSI. The rate of air flow is 11 liters per minute. The performance rating is decent enough to inflate tires for cars, motorcycles, trucks and even SUVs.

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor: PORTER-CABLE C2002 delivers pumps of 90 psi with 2.6 SCFM, allowing for fast recovery time, based on ISO1217. It can go up to 150 psi air pressure, so it can be used to drive a wide range of accessories.

PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor: This portable air compressor delivers 2.0 SCFM @ 90 psi pump, and a maximum psi of 135 for quick recovery and longer running time. It can work several accessories, and should last long if used moderately.

Kensun YS-205



PSI: 40, gauge capacity: 250


PSI: 90, max: 150

SCFM: 2.6

PSI: 90, max: 135

SCFM: 2.0

Winner: PORTER-CABLE C2002

2. Tank Size, Power Source &Operation (Oil vs. Oil-Free)

When reading the best portable air compressor reviews, it’s important to consider the compressor tank’s size (measured in gallons usually). A large tank is essential for long usage periods (like spray painting) while a smaller tank should be viable for short spurts in succession.

Other than tank size, power source is also a feature to take note off. Electric compressors work on the standard current range of 110-120V. Gasoline compressors are suitable for outdoors, and work best in situations when users can’t find an appropriate power source. That said, electric devices have low noise levels, and they really cause air pollution. Moreover, many models include a start-stop button that shuts down the air compressor automatically when the tank’s pressure reaches its tipping point.

Also, buyers should pay attention to operation, and whether an air compressor needs oil to function or can do without it. There are oil-lubricated models with lubrication to prevent wear and tear of moving parts. Oil-based compressors require frequent refills. Oil-free compressors, on the other hand, are lighter and smaller than their oil-based counterparts. Homeowners value their mobility and ease of use.



ImageKensun YS-205 AC/DC Powered Tire Inflator D1002: Kensun YS-205 comes with a multi-functional inflator that operates below 110V (AC) or 12V (DC). There’s also a 6 feet 7 inch AC plug (cord) and a 10 inch power cord featuring a cigarette plug. 

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor: This portable air compressor has an electric power source, a 6 gallon capacity pancake style tank, and an oil-free operation. The 120V motor (low AMP) starts easily in cold weather or using extension cord, shroud (upgraded) with console and hand providing important protection to components.

PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor: PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 comes with an electric 120V motor (Low Amp), a 3.5 gallon tank, and a long-lasting oil-free pump that requires no maintenance.

Kensun YS-205



Power: Electric 12V (DC) or 110V (AC)

Tank: NA

Operation: Oil​

Power: Electric low AMP 120V

Tank: Pancake style, 6 gallon

Operation: Oil-free​

Power: Electric low AMP 120V

Tank: Pankcake style, 3.5 gallon

Operation: Oil-Free

Winner: PORTER-CABLE C2002

3. Features& Extras

Features such as fixtures and accessories included in different models also play a role when it comes to selecting the best portable air compressor. For instance, some compressors come with nozzle adapters that make them viable for inflating different things, while others include attachments and blow gun. Then there are also extras like Teflon tape and nylon hose.

You’ll also find a separate accessory kit on sale along with some portable air compressors. The kits include things like inflation needles, safety nozzle, couplers that can withstand lifecycles, cold-forged plugs, etc. The features and extras determine the size of the air tools you’d be able to run during operation.



ImageKensun YS-205 AC/DC Powered Tire Inflator D1002: This portable air compressor comes with a 55 cm (21.7in) rubber air hose that’s of the highest quality. It has 3 nozzle adapters that is superb for inflating different kinds of things. For maximum efficiency, users are recommended to operate the product for 10 minutes in a run. 

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor: This portable air compressor comes with a factory-fitted air plug and coupler that’s installed on an air hose for leaks prevention as well as to save labor. There’s also a 13-piece accessory kit available for this compressor that includes tire gauge, tire chuck, Teflon tape, plugs, quick coupler, attachments and blow gun, and a 25-foot nylon hose. It’s a separate buy though. 

PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor: This portable air compressor comes with a factory-fitted quick coupler, 2 gauges, and 1 quick-connect coupler. The features support blowing and tiny SCFM air tools, several trim finishing nailers, all general inflation and small roofing/framing tasks.


4. Portability (Size & Weight)

The best portable air compressor is available in different sizes (dimensions) and weights. Some models also come with a carrying handle that makes it easy for the user to transport the machine from one location to another. The gallon capacity of the tank also adds to the weight, so portable air compressor reviews also take this factor into account when mentioning portability.

Granted a light and small air compressor won’t have loads of power that’s required to sustained activity and therefore require greater refill time, it’s still preferred by buyers as it can be carried to any site easily by hand. It’s also easier to store, and may carry features that’re similar to larger units such as the fast release valve.



ImageKensun YS-205 AC/DC Powered Tire Inflator D1002: The dimensions of this portable air compressor are 11.7 inches by 6.3 inches by 5.1 inches. The weight of Kensun YS-205 D1002 air compressor is 4.8 pounds. It’s quite compact, so it won’t take a lot of space in your trunk.

PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor: This portable air compressor has 18.3 inches by 18 inches by 19 inches dimensions. The machine is heavier than the machines offered by other brands, weighing 34 pounds. Then there’s the 6 gallon tank that further adds to the weight of this offering. 

PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor: The dimensions of PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 are 18.1 inches by 17.2 inches by 18.5 inches. Its weight is 26 pounds, so it’s lighter than its closest counterpart (mentioned above). The 3.5 gallon tank adds to the weight, but there’s a robust handle that’s molded nicely inside the electric motor housing.

Kensun YS-205



Dimensions: 11.7*6.3*5.1 inches

Weight: 4.8 pounds

Tank weight: NA​

Dimensions: 18.3*18*19 inches

Weight: 34 pounds

Tank weight: Yes​

Dimensions: 18.1*17.2*18.5 inches

Weight: 26 pounds

Tank weight: Yes​

Winner: Kensun YS-205


Top choices of portable air compressors will fulfill your needs wherever you happen to use the machine. However, too many choices can leave buyers confused, which is why the best portable air compressor choices were reviewed extensively. They’ll help you run air tools conveniently at remote sites, fill up tires in emergencies, and fix leaky roofs fast.

Kensun YS-205







Tank Size

Power Source






Editor Rating*

After doing all the research on the top air compressors available at the best prices in the market, it’s evident that PORTER-CABLE 2002 is the best portable air compressor. It not only delivers superior performance than other models, but also gives the benefit of reliability and the option to choose extra accessories. While it lacks the compactness when compared to other top portable air compressors, the features it offers make up for all the shortcomings.

The Best Portable Air Compressor – Safety

If air compressors are mishandled, there could be serious consequences at the site of use. Therefore, in order to prevent any accidents, it’s important that buyers implement adequate safety measures. As the first step, check if the machine functions properly before using it on a job site. If it’s an oil-based compressor, monitor the level of oil to prevent over filling. The air compressor should also be cleaned properly. The dirt should be swept off after each use if the machine is used in a dust-filled environment.

Buyers should also keep the discharge pressure in check. It should not be allowed to go over the pressure rating of the tool it’s connected to; the best is lower than it or balanced. Also, check if the gauges are properly functioning. Lastly, after finishing your job task with the compressor, shut it down first and then de-attach the power tool, instead of doing it the way around.​

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