Best Air Compressor for Painting Cars [2020 Update]

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After staring at your car for a while, you’re thinking it doesn’t look that posh as it used to. The last time you saw it, your vehicle had the shimmering shine with its glossy color. But now, it looks more like junk.

And here you are, staring at it, knowing what to do but you don’t have enough cash to hire someone for a paint job.

Who says you need to hire anybody? If you have the best air compressor for painting cars, you'll be able to paint your car all by yourself. On top of that, it will save you money as well.

best air compressor for painting jobs

Need to get your hands on the perfect air compressor? We’re reviewing the top 7.

Our top Choices:

Budget Pick

Best Pick

Overall Pick

DEWALT Pancake DWFP

Industrial Air IL1682066

California Air Tools 8010

List of 7 Best Air Compressors for Painting Cars

So, after a lot of research, we’ve decided to come up with 7 products that have been dominating the marketplace. These air compressors have unique features that will make you go wow. Give these reviews a read and pick your best bet.

 1. California Air Tools 8010 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor

From now on, painting your car will be more like a breeze. 'Ultra-quiet,' as the name hints, with this air compressor in your arsenal, you can say goodbye to those noisy days that used to get on your nerves.

The sound it makes is no more than 60 decibels, which makes it one of the quietest air compressors in the marketplace. Being made with solid stainless steel, this heavy-duty beast talks durability to the fullest.

Even though it can store about 8.0 gallons of air inside it, the air compressor is pretty lightweight. It’s no more than 54 lbs. So, you can move it anywhere you want without giving yourself a hard time.

Besides, when it comes to power, you get everything you need from it. The 8010 from California Air Tools comes with a 1.0 HP motor. It spins super-fast at 1680 RPM. Compared to the typical ones in the marketplace, the lifespan lasts before it wears up to more than 3000 hours.

At 40 PSI, you're getting up to 3.00 CFM, while on the other hand, you're getting 2.0 CFM at 90 PSI. Besides, unlike the mainstreams, you're getting up to 120 PSI at max.

Thanks to the anti-rust feature it comes with, you won’t have to worry about rust and corrosion at all. Besides, since it’s an oil-free pump, you’ll need less maintenance.

Pros

  • Noiseless operation; the sound is no more than 60 decibels
  • Made of solid stainless-steel for ultimate durability
  • Can hold up to 8.0 gallons of air inside it
  • Pretty lightweight, so you can transport it anywhere easily
  • 1.0 HP motor spins at 1680 RPM
  • Survives before it wears up to more than 3000 hours
  • The maximum PSI you’re getting is 120
  • Features anti-rust and anti-corrosion coating for maximum durability

Cons

  • It comes with a less amount of horsepower

2. Industrial Air IL1682066 Compressor for Painting

If you want reliable performance and power, you can get your hands on the air compressor from Industrial Air. This time the giant brings the IL1682066. What makes it stand out? That’s what we’re about to find out right now.

This one comes with a 1.6 HP motor that gives you the maximum speed you deserve. To take the performance into its peak, the makers have included a special cylinder technology known as the V-twin.

Let's not ignore the fact that at 40 PSI, you're getting as much as 6.2 CFM, while on the other hand, you're getting 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI. That being said, the maximum PSI you're getting from this beast is 135.

You can wire the dual voltage motor with the 120-volt outlet. When you want, you can easily convert it to a 240 volt.

Besides, this one comes with an oil-lubricated pump joining hands with the advanced belt-drive technology. So, you won’t need much maintenance at all.

All these being said, even though the air compressor is pretty powerful, it’s so silent that you won’t even feel it’s operating. The operation may seem complicated to you, but the on-board controls makes it easy for you.You can have easy access to tanks, regulators, and pressure gauges.

As for the size, it can hold up to 20 gallons of air inside it. So, you won’t run out of air anytime soon. Thanks to pneumatic wheels it comes with, you get to transport it anywhere you want. The front handles make transportation easier.

Pros

  • 1.6 HP motor gives you maximum speed
  • Special cylinder technology
  • You're getting 135 PSI at max
  • Compatible with both 120-volt outlet or 240 volts
  • Comes with oil-lubricated pump and belt-drive technology
  • You get to experience a noiseless operation
  • On-board controls for easy operation
  • Holds up to 20 gallons of air

Cons

  • A bit expensive compared to what it offers

3. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Pancake Compressor

If you’re still on the search for the best air compressor for automotive painting, you might want to have a look at the oil-free compressor from Porter Cable.

This air compressor is best known for its compact shape that blends in with a unique aesthetic. As you take a look at it, you won’t forget to feel that it’s quite cute. On top of that, the air compressor is pretty lightweight, so you can simply carry it using your one hand. 

However, you better not judge its functionality with its look. Unlike the mainstream ones, this air compressor offers you 150 PSI at max. You didn’t see that coming, did you? At 90 PSI, you’re getting as much as 2.6 SCFM that makes sure the compressor recovers very fast.

The motor, on the other hand, eats up 120 volts to run effectively. And guess what? Even in cold weather, you can start the motor just like that. To make your painting job smoother and easier, you can connect multiple tools with this compressor; working with them all at the same time is easy-peasy.

While it comes with a wide range of amazing features, it actually has a 6-gallon tank. This might be a bit disappointing to you after you’ve read about the 8-gallon and 20-gallon tanks above.

However, if you do your home garage work and compare, you’ll find that air compressors with this size, has lesser tank-capacity. Now, that’s a bright side for you.

To enhance the durability, the makers have made the pump heavy-duty, which can withstand all the beatings. Besides, the set offers you console cover that makes sure all the vital components of the compressor stays protected.

Pros

  • Boasts a premium aesthetic
  • It's lightweight and has compact shape
  • You're getting up to 150 PSI at max
  • At 90 PSI, you're getting 2.6 SCFM
  • Highly efficient motor
  • Has a 6-gallon capacity tank
  • Sports a heavy-duty pump
  • Console cover protects the vital components

Cons

  • Could be more durable

4. DEWALT Pancake Air Compressor Spray Gun

We don’t think we need to tell you much about DEWALT. When it comes to hardware, this giant is one step ahead compared to the rest in the marketplace. This time DEWALT brings you the Pancake air compressor.

First off, as you take a look at it, the premium aesthetic will make you go wow. The DEWALT pancake air compressor delivers 165 PSI at max, unlike the mainstreams.

Getting 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI is just a piece of cake from now on. This means the compressor can run for a long time while it gets a faster recovery as well. On top of that, you can start this motor up within a blink. It’s quite a highly efficient one which eats up 124 volts to run.

Even though it’s a bit budget-friendly, the makers didn’t fail to include a high-flow regulator in this pancake compressor. As a result, it gives you enhanced feedback when it comes to performance.

From now on, you won't be running out of the air, though. For a pancake compressor, this one comes with a 6.0-gallon tank, which is enough for you to get constant air pressure.

As it’s a powerful compressor, you are obviously going to think it makes one hell of a sound, right? Wrong! The noise level it has do not exceed 75.5 decibels at all. This means you’re getting a quiet environment.

For maximum durability, the pancake compressor from DEWALT comes with a sturdy body. The console cover makes sure the controls and vital parts of the compressor always stay protected.

Since it weighs no more than 30 lbs, you can lift it with your bare hands and take it anywhere with you. This air compressor from DEWALT certainly is a top rated air compressor for painting cars.

Pros

  • Holds a premium design and aesthetic
  • Delivers as much as 165 PSI
  • At 90 PSI, you're getting 2.6 SCFM
  • Has got a high-flow regulator
  • Its tank can hold 6.0 gallons of air
  • Sound level does not exceed more than 75.5 decibels
  • Boasts a sturdy body
  • Console cover protects the controls and vital parts
  • It's lightweight and easy to carry

Cons

  • The ball bearings you get in the fitting hoses are quite small

5. Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

How do you know if you’re using a good air compressor for painting cars? The brand says it all. So, we talked about giants like Porter Cable and DEWALT, and now we have the MAC5200 from Makita.

This air compressor comes with a 3.0 HP motor that gives you the efficient performance you need to make sure your painting job goes right. The motor has got a built-in thermal overload, which enhances its protection system.

Besides, at 90 PSI, you’re getting 6.5 CFM, while on the other hand, you’re getting 6.9 CFM in 40 PSI. The maximum PSI you’re getting is as much as 140, meaning, you get to take your productivity at its peak.

To add more to the productivity, the compressor comes with a large industrial style filter that helps to increase the air intake. As a result, you get more efficiency than ever.

Now, that’s just the performance. When it comes to durability, this beast right here knows how to withstand all the abuses. The Big Bore cylinder and the pump is made out of solid cast iron. This reduces all the wears the compressor can get while increasing the pump life. For which, you can use this compressor for years to come.

You can use this compressor even in harsh job sites. It has got a roll-cage construction that makes sure the whole body itself is protected from any type of threat.

Even though the MAC5200 from Makita comes with heavy-duty construction and a handful of mindboggling features, it’s pretty lightweight.

Thanks to its low-profile design, you can store it anywhere that has space issues. You can also fold the handles. When needed, the rugged wheels will help you up to transport the compressor anywhere you want.

Pros

  • The motor comes with 3.0 Horsepower
  • Built-in thermal overload enhances the protection system
  • You’re getting 140 PSI at max
  • Large industrial filter increases air intake
  • Both the cylinder and pump are made of solid cast iron
  • Roll-cage construction for maximum durability
  • Lightweight and compact in shape
  • Rugged wheels help you up to transport it anywhere

Cons

  • The wheels are not as durable as it seems

6. California Air Tools 10020C for Painting Car

Love the air compressor from California Air tools we’ve reviewed before? Maybe you want to go for something else from the same brand? Well, here’s the 10020C that can fill your cup when it comes to painting your car.

The 10020C, just like the 8010 is from the ‘Ultra Quiet’ series. As you run it, the 10020C goes through a very silent operation, while the sound is no more than 70 decibels.

It comes with a powerful 2.0 HP motor that makes sure you get the efficiency you deserve. As the motor begins to work, it operates at 1680 RPM while allowing no space for wear.

At 40 PSI, you’re getting 6.40 CFM. On the other hand, you’re getting 5.30 CFM in exchange for 90 PSI. At max, you’re getting up to 125 PSI of pressure. Besides, it doesn’t matter if you use it for hours; the compressor comes with an overload protector that makes sure it doesn’t overheat at all.

While the typical compressors have a lifecycle of 500 hours, this one stands out completely while beating off their pants. The 10020C from California Air Tools can run without wear for 3000 hours or more.

The dual-piston pump holds the ultimate durability, and you can use it even when it's cold.

As for its capacity, it can hold up to 10 gallons of air. The tank is built with solid stainless-steel and boasts anti-rust and anti-corrosive coating. To make sure you can easily transport it anywhere, the makers have included a wheel kit. You want the best air compressor for painting cars? The 10020C can be your best pick.

Pros

  • Comes with no more than 70 decibels of sound level
  • 2.0 HP motor gives 1680 RPM
  • You're getting 125 PSI at max
  • Prevents itself from overheating
  • Can survive for up to 3000 hours or more
  • Dual-piston pump holds the ultimate durability
  • Boasts a large tank of 10 gallons
  • You're getting a wheel kit with the set

Cons

  • Compared to others, it still lacks when it comes to horsepower

7. Senco PC1010 1-Horsepower Peak Compressor

Your search for the best air compressor for spray painting cars can come to an end right now with the PC1010 from Senco. What makes it stand out compared to the rest? Let’s give you some ideas.

This one is probably the smallest air compressor in this write-up, and that's what makes it completely different than others. Since it has a 1-gallon tank capacity, it may not be the best for painting a car, and you can carry it with you for an emergency backup.

It's small, and on top of that, it's pretty lightweight. Lifting it with your bare hands and carrying it conveniently won't be much of a problem.

But hey, don’t you mistake its functionality for its small size. It allows you to experience a steady airflow as it gives you 20 to 44 drives per minute. While the maximum PSI you’re getting is 125, you’ll be able to get 1 SCFM at 40 PSI and 0.7 SCFM at 90 PSI.

When it gets empty, the compressor needs no more than 2 minutes to get back to 120 PSI. It has got a 1 HP motor that makes it quite efficient for a small-sized air compressor.

As for its durability, the Senco PC1010 is made of pure aluminum, so you won’t have to worry about the toughest challenges; the device can go with the flow for years to come. As for noise, it makes no more than 68 decibels of sound, so what you’re getting is a complete noiseless operation.

Pros

  • Compact in shape and small in size
  • Delivers 20 to 44 dives per minute
  • You're getting 125 PSI at max
  • Needs 2 minutes to get back to 120 PSI
  • Made of pure aluminum for enhanced durability
  • 68 decibels of sound level for noiseless operation

Cons

  • The tank capacity is only 1 gallon

How to Pick the Right Air Compressor for Painting Cars?

Getting an air compressor for painting your car might seem like an easy job for you. However, if you don’t know what features you have to judge to know if your compressor is a good one, you’re going to end up buying the wrong product.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, you should know the things to consider before buying it.

Motor

If the motor of your compressor isn't good enough or it doesn't have good horsepower, the compressor won't be much efficient. So, whenever you're buying an air compressor, make sure it sports a motor with formidable power value.

You can go for the compressors that have about 1.6 HP motor, at least. If you can increase the budget a bit, try something that comes with 3.0 HP.

Pressure

PSI is the unit of air pressure. If the compressor you’re buying doesn’t offer you a good amount of air pressure, it needs to go.

Now, normally the air compressors that offer you about 90 PSI or more are good to go. However, if your compressor has 90 PSI, it won’t be able to make use of it. Even if it does, it won’t be much efficient.

This is why you should go for more than 100 PSI. We’d suggest going for at least 125 PSI if you have got budget issues. However, it is recommended to go for about 135 PSI or more if you want better performance. The more, the better.

CFM

The higher the CFM, the faster air compression you’re going to get. Your air compressor will use up the pressure to turn it into CFM. High performing paint sprayers will need more CFM to function. Otherwise, your painting job might get hampered.

So, whenever you’re going to buy an air compressor, try to see how much CFM it offers while it works at a particular PSI. For example, if air compressor-A offers you 2.0 CFM at 90 PSI while compressor-B offers you 5.0, maintaining the same pressure as compressor A, you should choose the latter one.

Size of the Tank

Your compressor should have a good-sized tank, if not a huge one. The bigger the tank, the more air it will be able to contain in it. The typical air compressor can be a disappointment in such a case.

If the compressor doesn’t have a wide capacity to hold the air, you’ll run out of air pressure pretty soon. This can give you a hard time as you paint.

This is why get yourself a compressor that comes with a big tank. You can go for at least 6 gallons; however, we’d recommend going for 8 or 10 gallons for best results.

Noise-Reduction Feature

Not saying it’s pretty important if you can stand all those noises the air compressor makes. It’s for those who want to experience a silent operation while doing the painting job on their cars.

Speaking of the noise-reduction feature,make sure the compressor you’re buying doesn’t make all those buzzing noises. To check this, you should see the noise level it has. If the sound level is no more than 70 decibels, you can go for it without asking any questions.

Durability

Durability and strength matter a lot. Let it be anything, and of course, you'll want to use that product for a long time, right? The air compressor is no exception in this case.

Whenever you’re buying a compressor, make sure it’s made of either solid stainless-steel or pure aluminum. These compressors are sturdy and hold perfect longevity.

Portability

Obviously, you're going to take your air compressor to certain places, whether you're a professional or some regular guy painting his car. If your air compressor is a heavy-one, you won't be able to transport it anywhere easily.

This is why go for the compressor, which is lightweight. You can go for a pancake air compressor if you want. These are lightweight and pretty easy to lift.

However, if you’re going for something that’s a bit on the heavy side, you should make sure it has wheels or wheel kits.

How to Setup Your Air Compressor Kit with a Spray Gun?

So, you’ve bought your new air compressor kit. You’re all excited to use it to paint your favorite car. But wait, are you missing anything? Do you know how to set up your air compressor kit with your spray gun? If your answer is no, don’t pull your hair right away. We’re going to cover the DYI process for you.

Air Compressor Kit with a Spray Gun

Know Which Goes Where

Your air compressor will come with a lot of tools. It’s pretty crucial for you to understand which kit goes where. Make sure you don’t attach the wrong tool to the wrong place. You can also check your user manual guide to know better.

Attaching the Regulator

Once you’ve done your homework on the tools, you should get your hands on the regulator and attach it to the compressor first. After doing this, you’ll know how much air power is passing through the sprayer.

Attach the Hose

Now, make sure the hose is completely attached to the regulator. To work it out, you'll have to use a female plug. Screw the plug onto the regulator, and it's time for you to turn on the air compressor.

Set the PSI

After you’re done with everything, setting up the PSI on the regulator is the next step you need to deal with. The tool itself will tell you what PSI it needs to run efficiently.

Now, pull the trigger, and the air will come out all by itself. Remember one thing while pulling the trigger, though. As you do it, the arrow you'll see on the regulator will drop. As it drops, it will indicate the PSI you're actually getting. Voila! Now, you should be able to use your air compressor.

How to Paint a Car Using an Air Compressor?

Congrats! You've made this far. It means you've picked up the air compressor (we guess), you've set it up, and now it's time for you to paint your car. Now, painting your car may seem a bit tough, but with the correct DIY tips, you can make it go easier. That's what we're about to discuss right now.

A man Painting a Car Using an Air Compressor

Get Started

Guess what’s the most important thing you need first? Time. Painting a job can go for several days to even weeks. So, make sure you have all the time in the world.

Now, pick a place where you’ll keep your car for the paint job. If you have a garage or a shed, that’s a huge plus for you. After you’ve picked your place, it’s time for you to gather the tools.

You’ll need —

  • Wet and dry sandpaper
  • Electric sander
  • A masking tape
  • Air compressor
  • Spray gun
  • Face masks
  • Safety goggles
  • Paint thinners

If you can get yourself a dust extractor, which is pretty costly, to be honest, you can go for it as well. However, it’s not something you MUST have. It just makes sure the air doesn’t have any debris.

In case, the car you own is more on the small or medium size, you’ll be needing close to a gallon of primer or base coat, 2-gallons of clear coat, and topcoat worth 3 gallons.

If the vehicle is a large one, you’ll need 1 and a half gallons of primer or base coat, topcoat worth 4 gallons, about 3 to 4 gallons of clear coat.

Stripping

So, you've all the products and tools you need, and you've decided which paint to go for. Cool! It's time to get to work.

First off, try to sand your vehicle in a circular motion. This will remove the topcoat, base coat, and clear coat. For best results, you should sand the whole car while making your way down to its bare metal.

This will give the prime coat you’re having right now a perfect and smooth surface.

After you’re done, it’s time for you to use a clean rag along with paint thinners to get the exterior to get wiped. By doing so, all the dust will be removed instantly.

You may see some residue coming from the thinners. Wait for it to evaporate.

Priming

Painting a job can be messy. While giving your car paint, you might end up painting your whole place; you don’t want that, do you? To make sure that doesn’t happen, you have to use the mask tapes to mask off the places and areas you don’t want the paint to sit.

Now, while maintaining the correct ratio, you have to mix the thinners and primers. If you’re a beginner, you can try practicing how to use the sprayer.

After you got the best paint sprayer, you can try painting on a piece of steel. Try holding the spray gun about six inches away from the surface and keep on spraying.

For continuous spraying, you can keep on holding the trigger down. This will allow you to have thicker paints on the spot.

Now that you’ve mastered the painting technique, you can go for priming. Apply the primer on your car in thin yet even coats. Start from the roof and go all the way down.

To cover a surface, two to three coats should be enough. Now, this will kill your time, though. You'll need about 10 minutes to apply each coat while you'll probably need from 20 minutes to an hour so that the primer gets cured.

Once you’re done, you’ll have to make the powdery finish smooth enough by simply using a wet-and-dry sandpaper.

Make sure the spray gun is clean as well. Then, it’s time for you to wipe the cured surface down. You can damp a rag with thinners slightly and use it to get the job done easily.

Painting

The most awaited part; painting. Mix the paint and the thinner with each other while maintaining the recommended ratios. Remember how you applied the primer when you went from the topcoat? You’ll have to go to the same spraying-technique.

Also, remember, it will take about 10 minutes for you to apply the paint in each panel while you’ll need to wait for an hour for the paint to get cured.

For the best results, you can try applying three or more coats. Before going for the last coat, make sure you’ve removed all the powdery residue.

Now, wait for the clear coat to get cured. Use a buffer and buff the paint while you move the buffer in a circular motion. Make sure you don't burn the paint, though. 

After done the painting job don't forget to clean your air compressor ASAP. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many CFM do you need to paint a car?

Normally, compared to others, paint guns themselves need a lot of CFM to run. You can operate a paint gun from 0.3 to 12 CFM. This means you'll need a compressor that gives you at least 4 to 19 CFM, let it be for undercoating or touch-ups.

2. How much PSI do a paint gun need?

It depends on the type of paint gun you’re using. If you’re using an HVLP type spray gun, you can go for 40 PSI. With this, you’ll get up about 10 to 14 SCFM.

For spraying base coat, about 17 PSI will be enough for you. When you’re using an LVLP gun, you can try 20 to 25 PSI for clear coats.

3. How many CFM does an HVLP gun need?

If you’re using an HVLP, you’ll need about 15 to 25 CFM to get a perfect painting experience.

4. Can you use an HVLP gun with an air compressor?

Of course, you can. The air compressor we’ve mentioned in this write-up is compatible with both HVLP and LVLP type spray guns.

5. Which one is the best for painting cars according to you?

All of these compressors are full-functioning and can meet your demands when it comes to functionality. However, if you want us to recommend something for you, you can go for the Makita MAC5200. For a pancake air compressor, you can try the pancake compressor from DEWALT.

Wrapping Up!

Well, with all that being said, we think you can get your hands on the best air compressor for painting cars. From now on, you can paint your car all by yourself without needing someone else to do it for you. Paint your car according to your own desire and take it for a spin right away.

About the Author Todd Davis

Todd Davis is a DIY enthusiast, traveler and writer for a long time. He has a deep understanding of all types of paint sprayers, chairs, vacuums and door hardware.

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