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Buying an Air Compressor

Whether you're a professional contractor or homeowner who takes a do-it-yourself approach, an air compressor is an essential component for any workshop or jobsite. This unit is can be used for powering a wide variety of pneumatic tools or inflating different equipment, such as tires and air mattresses. Before tackling another project, consider these key features and specifications when buying a new air compressor.

Why buy a new air compressor?

A new air compressor lets you control pneumatic power tools used for highly skilled projects ranging from woodworking to painting.

Sometimes, you don't need a bulky commercial model. A portable model can be used anywhere from camping to construction sites, and they are easy to store in your car or garage.

A modern air compressor comes in a variety of sizes and air pressure levels, giving you the power needed for small tasks like inflating a tire, filling an air mattress or powering a nail gun.

If you have bikes, basketballs, footballs or other inflatable gear, an air compressor comes in handy to fill all types of recreational equipment.

Features of air compressors

Pump Style

  • A piston pump, also known as a reciprocating pump, emits high pressure air using pistons
  • A rotary screw pump uses screws that compress gas to power high-power tools
pump style air compressor


  • A single-stage compressor uses a one piston stroke and typically puts out up to 150 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure
  • A two-stage compressor normally emits up to 200 PSI of pressure, which is ideal for high-powered tools 
air compressor stages

Types of air compressors

Electric air compressors

These models run efficiently using power from a compatible outlet.


  • Price range: $90-$17,000
  • Weight range: 15-250 pounds
  • Gallon size: 1-60 gallons
  • Pressure range: 100-175 PSI
  • Horse power: 1-20 HP
types of electric air compressors

Electric air compressors are best for…

Working in the garage or home: Electric compressors are ideal for basic home projects in a confined area. These types of air compressors don't emit exhaust fumes like gas compressors, which can be problematic in a small garage or inside your home.


Those on a budget: While large rotary screw units can cost thousands of dollars, many small electric compressors are available at affordable prices. These compact models are suitable for home improvement tasks or moderate professional-grade projects.


Gas air compressors

Gas-powered units provide power in areas without readily available electrical outlets.


  • Price range: $800-$5,000
  • Weight range: 150-970 pounds
  • Gallon size: 8-80 gallons
  • Pressure range: 130-175 PSI
  • Horse power: 5-25 HP
types of gas air compressors

Gas air compressors are best for…

Jobs away from an electrical outlet: Portable gas compressors are ideal whenever you're working on a construction site or remote area awat from an electrical power source.



Major home improvement projects: Gas models are perfect for major outdoor projects so you can power many tools and devices for long periods of time. Make sure if you're using this model on indoor projects to keep it running in an open garage or outdoors to prevent exhaust buildup in your home. 

Bottom Line

Certain tools require more than just electricity to function; when you're using pneumatic tools, an air compressor might be needed. When buying an air compressor, consider the projects you'll be doing before determining which tank size and power supply is necessary. An electric compressor runs as long as you need it and is ideal for home improvement projects. A gas compressor, on the other hand, is best suited for outdoor tasks and heavy duty tasks.