This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links.
Spray painting significantly reduces the amount of time you spend applying a fresh paint coat to your car. However, to complete this task successfully, you’ll need a car paint sprayer, an air hose, and an air compressor.
While some spray guns can be used without an air compressor, performing powerful and quick paint jobs with such devices is almost impossible. This is because applying a quick and even coat of paint to a large surface requires consistent airflow.
Something you can only get from the best air compressor from spray painting cars. Plus, the right air compressor gives your car an excellent finish, thanks to its utmost efficiency and high speed.
But, how do you find the most efficient air compressor for car painting in a market with so many options? Way ahead of you! In this article, we’ve listed some of the best air compressors for spray painting and their incredible features.
First, let’s look at some of the features you should be looking out for when comparing different air compressors!
Important factors to consider when looking for the best air compressor for spray painting cars
CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute)/ Flow Rate
CFM of an air compressor shows the amount of air it delivers per minute. In essence, it’s the speed at which the air compressor can supply a certain amount of air at a specific pressure level.
A device with a high CFM rating is recommended if you need paint droplets from a spray gun. For that reason, it’s important to check how much CFM your car paint spray requires.
Then choose an air compressor that delivers a higher value of CFM for constant operation. More importantly, avoid choosing an air compressor with a lower CFM rating than your spray gun demands.
Or else you’ll experience various issues like uneven coating or paint splatter when spraying paint on your car.
Normally, power painting tools require air compressors with a CFM rating of between 14 and 110 CFM for industrial applications. However, these air compressors can be a bit costly.
Luckily, if you’re on a budget, there are more affordable air compressors with a CFM rating of about 5 CFM, which are good enough for handling minor tasks like a retouch.
Air spray guns use higher volumes of air over a given period since they require a continuous stream of compressed air to work correctly. Therefore, choosing an air compressor with a larger rank will ensure you get a continuous air supply for your car painting project.
At the same time, this will increase the efficiency of the compressor to release consistent airflow over a large surface area.
In most cases, 50 – 60 gallon compressors are recommended for serious paint jobs. However, if you intend to use the air compressor for small touch paint jobs, you will still get great results with a 25 to 35-gallon air compressor.
There are 2 factors you need to check when buying an air compressor as far as power is concerned; voltage and horsepower (HP) rating.
The HP rating of an air compressor is influenced by various factors such as the tank size, type of air compressor, overall air flow, overall pressure, and more.
For instance, an air compressor with a high HP rating has higher compression, leading to a fast flow rate and maximum pressure.
In general, you should choose an air compressor that can generate about 3HP for single-tool operations. However, 5 HP is the recommended minimum horsepower rating for multi-person shops, while large shops require a production air compressor with an HP rating of at least 10 HP.
In addition, if you’re planning to buy an electric air compressor, make sure you check its voltage rating before you settle on any model. Some states have 110 – 120 voltage standards, while others have 220 – 240 V electrical grids. For that, you might need to buy an adapter for compatibility depending on where you live.
Although both HVLP and LVLP spray guns require low pressure to work, it’s good to check how much PSI (pressure) an air compressor can deliver before making the final buying decision. Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI) measures the maximum air pressure a specific air compressor can produce.
When using a spray gun for a large car painting project, the air pressure should be high enough to offer consistent results. Low pressure creates large paint droplets, preventing them from laying down smoothly.
Besides, each spray gun comes with specific requirements that must be followed carefully including air pressure (PSI) and airflow (CFM).
Having an air compressor that delivers the right air pressure helps you undertake your car painting projects smoothly and effectively, giving you a high-quality finish.
Electric Vs Gas-Powered Air compressors for Car Painting
Air compressors can be broadly classified into 2 categories depending on the power source; electric and gas-powered models.
Gas-powered air compressors are recommended for heavy work, while electric models are better suited for DIY projects. This is because gas-powered compressors are more versatile and reliable, making them ideal for industrial and heavy-duty applications.
However, you should avoid using them in enclosed spaces since they tend to cause pollution. In addition, they’re more costly than their electric counterparts, which are more budget-friendly and efficient to use.
5 Best Air Compressors for Spray Painting Cars
1. California Air Tools 10020C Air Compressor for spray painting cars
Over the years, California Air Tools has established its brand as a reputable manufacturer of quality air compressors in various categories. It’s an ultra-quiet and oil-free air compressor for spray painting.
This compressor provides cutting-edge technology to professional and inexperienced DIYers, making it a popular choice among car paint enthusiasts.
The first incredible feature offered by this device is that it provides ultra-quiet operation, seeing that it produces just 70 dB (decibels) of noise during use. This allows you to use it for hours without disturbing the neighbors.
Surprisingly, despite its ultra-quiet operation, it generates enough power to handle small car painting projects, thanks to its 2 HP motor that runs at 1680 RPM.
In addition, it’s equipped with a 10-gallon air compressor tank that is crafted from solid stainless steel. As if that’s not enough, it has an antioxidant coating to protect it from oxidation or corrosion, increasing its durability further.
Talking of durability, this air compressor can last for over 3000 hours while providing robust performance and endurance, making it a great choice for long auto painting jobs.
Even better, it has an oil-free twin piston pump that makes it easy to start at lower amperage even at colder temperatures with its Easy Start Valve mechanism.
At the same time, the absence of oil in the cylinder allows you to move it steadily on various surfaces including uneven terrain. In addition, it has a small and compact design with wheels, allowing you to muse and move it quickly.
- 10-gallon tank size
- 70 dB noise level
- 125 PSI air pressure
- 2HP motor
- 3000 hours life cycle
- 6.4 CFM at 40 PSI and 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI power capacity
- Dedicated 15 A outlet
- Includes plastic wheels for easy portability
- Fewer maintenance costs
- Easy start valve feature
- Large 10-gallon steel tank
- Durable construction
- A bit pricey
2. CRAFTSMAN CMEC6150K Pancake Air Compressor
Craftsman CMEC6150K is one of the most commonly used air compressors for spray painting cars and other jobs that don’t require a large air compressor. Thanks to its lightweight and portable nature, and ability to provide exceptional performance.
Best of all, it’s ideal for performing a wide range of tasks apart from spray painting like inflating the tires of vans, repairing bicycle tires, and powering pneumatic framing nailers.
That aside, this air compressor requires less maintenance as it comes with a high-quality oil-free pump and a 6-gallon pancake air tank. On top of that, the kit comes with 13 accessories including a tire gauge, PVC air compressor hose, 3 inflator adaptors, coupling, plug assembly, and a blow gun.
Not to forget that you’ll also get a 1-year warranty.
Moving on, the pancake shape and handle design make this lightweight air compressor relatively easy to move from one place to another.
In terms of performance, this air compressor has a flow rate of 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI and a maximum pressure of 150 PSI. Moreover, it’s equipped with a safety valve to prevent overloading and rubberized feet to increase its portability and durability.
- Weight: 32.5 lbs
- 6-gallon air tank
- Maximum pressure: 150 PSI
- Airflow: 2.6 CFM
- 0.2 HP
- Ideal for spraying, airbrushing, drilling & nailing
- High-quality construction
- High-performance motor
- Lightweight & portable design
- Ideal for various tasks
- Comes with 13 accessories
- Rubberized rubber for enhanced durability & portability
- Quick compression
- Slightly noisy during use
3. Dewalt DWFP55126 Air Compressor for spray painting cars
Dewalt DWFP55126 pancake air compressor is an affordable compressor for painting cars. Not to forget that it’s highly portable, thanks to its compact weight and integrated carry handle.
More notably, it’s crafted from stainless steel and features a 6-gallon air tank that provides a maximum pressure of 165 PSI. This allows it to generate enough pressure for your spray gun while undertaking various car painting projects.
In addition, it has an exceptional ability to maintain a cool temperature during use, preventing it from overheating as you paint your car.
You’ll also find this air compressor to be quite versatile. So, apart from painting, you can also use it to impact hammers, fill car tires, or power pneumatic nail guns and framing nailers under 2.2 CFM.
To enhance its performance, this air tool is equipped with highly efficient couplings and flow regulators, while its engine is designed to start quickly even in cold weather.
More importantly, it delivers decent air pressure to keep a constant flow of car paint into your spray gun. On top of that, it only generates 75.5 dB of noise during use, making it ideal for indoor use as it creates a quiet working environment.
- Maximum Pressure: 165 PSI
- Voltage Rating: 120V
- Weight: 30 lbs
- Air flow capacity: 2.6 CFM
- 6-gallon air storage tank
- Noise level: 75.5 dB
- Oil-free pump
- I year warranty
- 0.2 peak horsepower
- Easy to store and carry
- Oil-free pump for low maintenance
- Efficient performance
- Low noise level
- Starts up promptly even in cold weather
- Great cooling system
- Not suitable for commercial & industrial applications
4. Porter Cable C2002 Air Compressor
Although this Porter Cable C2002 air compressor isn’t great air too for a professional painter, it’s an excellent option for DIYers. It generates enough power to spray paint cars, power up brad nailers of up to 18 gauge, and get through your car tires.
Moreover, it’s equipped with an oil-free pump to ensure less maintenance, giving you more time to work on your project.
Another stand-out feature of this compressor is that it’s relatively easy to move around, seeing that it only weighs 34 lbs. In addition, it comes with 2 air couplings, meaning two people can use it to paint at the same time.
On top of that, even with its compact design, this air compressor has a rating of 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI to ensure fast recovery time. Not to forget that its 6-gallon air tank can generate a maximum pressure of up to 150 PSI, making it ideal for use with various pneumatic tools.
In addition, this compressor comes with a low amp, but powerful 120V motor that starts easily, even in cold weather. Its components are designed to ensure lifetime performance without causing a lot of problems.
For instance, its pancake-style air tank is stable and durable, while its rolled steel construction extends its longevity.
Moreover, it includes a console cover to protect it from debris and rubberized feet to prevent slipping and absorb vibration, ensuring that the device runs quietly.
- 1-year warranty
- 6-gallon air tank
- Oil-free pump
- Weight: 34 lbs
- 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI power capacity
- 150 PSI pressure rating
- 120V powerful motor
- Dual air couplers
- Oil-free pump
- Efficient performance
- Supports 2 users
- Durable oil-free pump for reduced maintenance
- Quick compressor recovery time
- Easy to carry around
- Durable and stable construction
- Doesn’t include an air hose
- Louder than most air compressors
5. Makita MAC5200 Big Bore Air Compressor
Last on the list is the Makita MAC5200, which is another great air compressor, especially for those looking for a reliable air tool for car painting tasks. It’s equipped with a 3.0HP motor that generates enormous power to drive the pump, generating a maximum pressure of up to 140 PSI.
On the same note, its powerful motor provides a high CFM rating of up to 6.5 at 90 PSI for increased productivity.
Unlike the air compressor for spray painting cars we’ve reviewed above, the pump of Makita MAC5200 is oil-lubricated. While this may increase the maintenance requirements, oil lubrication improves the durability of the compressor by reducing wear and providing a cooler running temperature.
The other unique feature displayed by this air compressor is that its pump is made from cast iron and features a patented Big Bore cylinder & piston. This unique design provides faster recovery time for enhanced performance and increased pump life while making it easy to remove for maintenance.
Even better, this compressor can serve 2 tasks at the same time, thanks to its powerful engine.
Lastly, this air tool is equipped with sturdy wheels to make it easy to move from one place to another. In addition, it has a folding handle with a low-profile design for convenient storage and portability.
- Weight: 75 lbs
- 5.2-gallon air tank
- 65 dB noise level
- 6.5CFM at 90 PSI power capacity
- 140 PSI maximum air pressure
- 3.0HP powerful motor
- Rugged wheels for convenient portability
- Foldable handles and low profile design for easy storage
- Inbuilt storage compartment for storing air fittings and other accessories
- Quick air refill
- Copper finned discharge tubing to increase heat dissipation
- Requires more maintenance than oil-free compressors
Having the best air compressor for spray painting cars will provide the excellent air force needed to atomize paint in your spray gun. In return, this will allow you to quickly and easily apply an even coat of paint on your car surface, giving you a higher quality finish than you would get with other methods while saving you time.
Read Next: How to set up the perfect pressure for your spray gun.