An air compressor is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your shop. It may generate the compressed air that powers your lightweight pneumatic tools. If you’re running a small business, you could use the compressed air to clean your workbench quickly or speed up the painting process. Or you may use it to top off car tires and inflate children’s toys.
However, there is no one size fits all air compressor. The needs of a hobbyist’s workbench are very different from what a construction crew requires. The compressed air systems used in a medical office to run drills obviously have a different capacity than the ones generating snow at a ski resort. But in every case, you want the best overall value. This is why we’ve compiled a list from which you can choose the best air compressor for under 500 dollars.
If you do not know how to use an air compressor effectively you should read the running process.
Best Air Compressor Under 500 Reviews
01. Makita Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor, Model MAC2400
We’re recommending the simplest configuration of this air compressor by Makita, though you can buy it with additional air hoses, couplers, and plug kits.
It delivers up to 130 PSI from the tank. The air compressor can deliver either 40 PSI or 90 PSI while running. That’s enough to power two pneumatic nail guns. It runs off 120 volt power, so you can power it with a standard wall outlet.
The unit has built-in overload protection and has good lubrication. It has a high-capacity air-filter, too. It is unusually quiet for an air compressor.
This tool is unusual for having a built-in roll cage, so that it won’t be damaged if it tips forward. It is designed to be used on the average worksite.
The entire thing weighs around eighty pounds. This means it isn’t very portable. However, that’s not unusually heavy for an air compressor.
We mentioned the high PSI it can deliver from the tank. The problem is how slow the air compressor is to recharge that tank. If you can’t run the tools off the air compressor and plan on a long job, don’t expect this air compressor to be good enough. It won’t sustain tool used for several hours off the tank pressure and can’t recharge fast enough.
Quality and reliability are an issue. The unit may only work for one to two years if it is subject to heavy use. If parts wear out, it is difficult to get replacement parts, and they’re expensive.
- Relatively quiet
- Can’t deliver a high CFM for a long time
02. Bostitch Brand Air Compressor Kit, Model BTFP3KIT
This is the best air compressor under 500 for those who need the air compressor and all the accessories in one set. It comes with a crown stapler, finish nailer, and brad nailer that are compatible with the Bostitch air compressor. Note that you can attach other tools to it; these are just what come with it. Nails and staples for these pneumatic tools are sold separately.
The compressor air tank holds six gallons at 150 PSI. More importantly, it is cordless, so you can take it anywhere you need to go. The unit comes with a relatively long 15 foot hose to let you move around without having to keep the air tank right next to you. That makes this ideal for roofers and others who don’t want to be using long compressed airlines as they work. The system can put out up to 2.6 SCFM.
It is a cheap little air compressor. The problem is that the compressor is not rugged. It may give out after a few days or weeks of heavy use. Furthermore, the air pump is somewhat weak. It may not be able to deliver air pressure over 100 PSI, though many pneumatic tools need at least 90 PSI. That happens even if there are no leaks from the air tank or air lines. The tank itself may not charge to more than PSI, too.
If the nailer jams, you have to disassemble it with a metric hex key to release the jam. That’s a source of frustration with the brad nailer. The finish nailer is less prone to jamming. Clearing its jams is an even more difficult process.
The unit is louder than average, despite its smaller size.It is one of the best air compressors for a home garage.
- Cordless compressed air system
- Comes with compatible pneumatic tools
- Hard to clear jams
- Can’t generate high air pressure
03. California Air Tools Model CAT-4610AC Air Compressor
This is a corded electric air compressor with a large twin tank. These tanks allow it to hold up to 4.6 gallons of compressed air. The aluminum tanks can’t rust like steel tanks, reducing the possibility of air tank leaks. The aluminum tanks also reduce the weight of the entire system to less than 50 pounds.
It can deliver 3.10 cubic feet per minute at 40 PSI and 2.2 cubic feet per minute at 90 PSI. It is driven by a 1 horsepower motor for its standard load, though it can kick in 2 horsepower during peak loads. And you can plug it into a standard 110 volt power outlet.
The pump is oil-free. The manufacturer says this reduces maintenance requirements.
This California Tools brand air compressor can work with a wide range of pneumatic tools. This may be the best air compressor under 500 for those who want to use pneumatic tools by a number of different manufacturers.
The hoses periodically leak air from the fittings. This can be a problem since it is hard to replace fittings relative to the process of replacing defective hoses or air filters.
The tank won’t leak air, but the motor is slow to replenish it. This system can only be used for a few hours on projects that don’t require a higher CFM output.
It is louder than expected. That’s a frustration given that it is advertised as ultra-quiet.
- Lighter than average
- Can use almost any tools with it
- Limited air capacity
04. Craftsman Brand 1.8 HP 10 Gallon Air Compressor, Model CMXECXA0201041
Craftsman is known for its power tools, and this air compressor is made to power them. This may be the best air compressor under 500 for those who need both a high CFM and portability. The model CMXECXA0201041 air compressor has a 1.8 horsepower motor.
It has a relatively large ten gallon compressed air tank plus the compressed air motor. You can bring it to your worksite by pulling on the handle. That handle won’t make it easy to carry up onto a roof for powering nail guns, but it allows you to move it closer to your workbench or allows you to take it out to the driveway to fill up your tires. It can put out up to 175 PSI. The motor easily produces 5 CMF at 40 PSI and 4 CFM at 90 PSI. The airflow of course decreases with increased air pressure. The air hoses and fittings rarely leak air.
One point in favor of this air compressor is the rapid recharge rate. It can in theory refill the tank in less than two minutes.
This air compressor comes with just the essentials. There is the compressor, a quick coupler, a short six foot cord, two gauges, an air filter, and a ball valve.
The tanks are easily beat up, especially during shipping. The air cleaner in particular is prone to damage.
Combine the tanks, the motor and the carrying frame, and it may not be possible to store it under your workbench or take it somewhere without putting it in the back of a truck.
- Can put out high air pressures for an extended period
- Fast recharge rate
05. Senco 0.5 Horsepower Air Compressor, Model PC1010
This air compressor has a peak power output of one horsepower, but running power is 0.5 horsepower. It has a small one-gallon tank. This small size makes it capable of running small pneumatic tools or filling up inflated toys. It also makes this one of the most affordable air compressors on our list.
The compressor has standard features like a quarter inch quick disconnect coupler, gauges, and hose. The small size makes it very portable. It is only twenty pounds. It even comes with a carry-handle. Note that it is a corded electric unit, so you do need electricity to run it.
It is relatively quiet, though this is partially due to the weaker motor. The tank can provide some supplemental air pressure after the motor turns off, but that is short-term. Use this for running low-power pneumatic tools or inflating car tires.
The oil-less motor means you don’t have to replace the oil periodically.
Quality is a concern. It may not work after a few months. Nor can you easily get it repaired. If a valve cap or hose breaks, you may not be able to find a replacement.
The on-off switch is on the handle. This makes it harder to move without turning it on or off, if it is plugged in.
- Low cost
- Relatively quiet
- Limited capacity
The best air compressor under 500 dollars will run the tools you want to use and go where you want to go. The only question is what you need out of an air compressor, and then you can choose one off our list.