10 Best 20-Gallon Air Compressors of 2021 – Reviews & Guide
Every good tool collection needs a stout compressor to power the pneumatic tools. From nail guns, to paint sprayers, to air-powered vehicle lifts, just about every type of tool comes in a pneumatic version that produces reliable power when you need, provided it’s backed up by a compressor that can supply enough air and pressure.
If you’re looking for a compressor for your garage or workshop, a 20-gallon tank offers the right amount of air to keep your projects moving so you’re not constantly waiting for the tank to refill. But that doesn’t mean that just any 20-gallon compressor will do.
You would be quite disheartened to purchase that new compressor just to find out that it can’t power your pneumatic tools! We don’t want that to happen to you, so we decided to test some of the best and most popular 20-gallon air compressors on the market, writing up short reviews comparing each so you can see how they stack up.
A Quick Comparison ofair Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Industrial Air IL1682066.MN Belt Driven Air Compressor||
|Best Value||WEN 2202 Portable Vertical Air Compressor||
|Premium Choice||DEWALT DXCMPA1982054 Portable Air Compressor||
|Porter Cable PXCMF220VW Portable Air Compressor||
|Campbell Hausfeld DC200000 Air Compressor||
The 10 Best 20-Gallon Air Compressors – Reviews 2020
1. Industrial Air Belt Driven Air Compressor – Best Overall
Powerful and versatile, this belt-driven air compressor from Industrial Air was the top performer overall. It’s got a powerful 1.6 horsepower motor that’s capable of moving up to 6.2 CFM of air at 40 PSI, making it one of the most capable compressors we’ve seen.
This compressor produces a maximum of 135 PSI, which is plenty for operating pretty much any type of tool. That said, it is pretty noisy, running at about 100 decibels. It’s definitely reliable though; a fact that’s backed up by the inclusion of a two-year warranty.
This compressor features a dual voltage motor. It’s wired for 120V electricity when you get it, but you can easily convert it to 240V if desired. Large pneumatic tires make it easy to move around the workshop, though at about 160 pounds, you probably won’t want to move it often.
2. WEN 2202 Portable Vertical Air Compressor – Best Value
Most of the 20-gallon compressors we tested were pretty pricey, making them difficult to afford for most hobbyists. However, the WEN 2202 Portable Vertical Air Compressor offers a more affordable solution. That doesn’t mean it’s lacking performance though.
This compressor is well designed, with smart additions like the large wheels and handle that make it easy to move. It does help that it only weighs 86 pounds.
Performance-wise, the WEN compressor creates a max airflow of 5 CFM at 40 PSI and a maximum pressure of 135 PSI. At 90 PSI it makes 3.8 CFM, which is enough to power most standard air tools, though some tools will require more airflow than this.
For such an affordable compressor, we were surprised to see that it’s warrantied for a full two years, helping to make this one of the best 20-gallon air compressors for the money.
3. DEWALT Portable Air Compressor – Premium Choice
This DEWALT portable air compressor is more expensive than most of the others we compared it against, but it also provides superior performance that we feel warrants the higher price tag.
To start, it’s capable of supplying a maximum pressure of 155 PSI, which is higher than the compressor from Industrial Air that earned our top recommendation. It also moves an impressive 7 CFM of air at 40 PSI, allowing this compressor to power just about any pneumatic tool you might want.
You’ll find a stout 1.9 HP motor installed on this compressor in order to put up those impressive numbers. Despite the power it puts out, it’s pretty quiet, operating at just 76 decibels. The motor is also dual voltage, so you can wire it to work with 240V electricity, though it’s wired for 120V from the factory.
At a hefty weight of 166 pounds, this compressor isn’t the easiest to move. Making matters worse, the handle doesn’t feel secure and tends to flex while moving the compressor. But with such excellent stats, we can overlook the lack of movability.
4. Porter Cable PXCMF220VW Portable Air Compressor
It didn’t quite earn its way into our top three, but this Porter-Cable air compressor is a very capable device with some great features. With an operating volume of 84 decibels, it’s quieter than most compressors in the price range. It’s also capable of higher pressures, up to a maximum of 150 PSI.
At 40 PSI, this compressor will move five CFM of air, so on paper, it’s capable of powering most air tools without issue. In reality, this compressor had trouble keeping up with a lot of our bigger tools. The tank just doesn’t seem to fill up fast enough for tools that are at the top end of this compressor’s capabilities.
We like the oil-free motor that requires almost no maintenance. Usually, oil-free motors are obnoxiously loud, so this one is a nice change. But the fittings on this machine were leaking when we got it, so we had to tear it down and Teflon tape them all. Still, considering the quiet operation and low-maintenance motor, this is a great unit overall.
5. Campbell Hausfeld DC200000 Air Compressor
Campbell Hausfeld is known for making quality air compressors, so we were pretty disappointed with the poor performance we got with this one. It can supply up to 150 PSI, which is more than many competing models. It’s also very lightweight and portable at just 92 pounds; much lighter than many compressors we were comparing it to.
We appreciated the low-maintenance oil-free motor, but we wish it made more power. At 90 PSI, it moves just four CFM of air, so it will have difficulty powering some pneumatic tools. The motor is just 1.3 horsepower; not as stout as some we’ve tested that produced two horsepower or even more.
If that were all that was wrong with this compressor, it wouldn’t be too bad. But we don’t think this compressor is built as well as others. After a few weeks of light use, it developed a leak at the pressure switch, drastically reducing its usefulness. For the price, we were hoping for better longevity.
6. NorthStar Single-Stage Portable Electric Air Compressor
The NorthStar Single-Stage Portable Electric Air Compressor is a very capable device that’s held back by some obvious oversights. It makes plenty of power, thanks to the dual voltage two HP motor. It comes with a six-foot standard power cord for 115V operation, but it can also be rewired for 230V electricity.
At 40 PSI, this compressor delivers six CFM of airflow, which is plenty to power just about any tool you throw at it. Or, it would be, if it weren’t for the 0.25-inch air pressure regulator bottlenecking the airflow. This prevents the compressor from being able to run larger air tools. We were able to remedy the issue by swapping it for a larger regulator, but we don’t think you should need to upgrade such an expensive compressor because of a factory oversight.
Even though this is a powerful compressor, it’s also on the quiet side, operating at about 80 decibels, which we were thankful for in our workshop where the sound gets amplified. But the drain valve was a different story. It’s positioned on the side, so you have to tilt the compressor to drain it effectively. Even then, there’s no way to evacuate all the condensate.
7. Stealth SAQ-12018 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
If operating volume was the most important factor when comparing compressors, then the Stealth SAQ-12018 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor would be at the top of our list. It’s definitely the quietest out of all the compressors we tested, running at just 68 decibels.
Just because it’s quiet doesn’t mean it’s weak though. This compressor moves a respectable 6 CFM of air at 40 PSI, so there won’t be many air tools it will have trouble powering. Its motor pushes 1.8 horsepower, allowing it to fill the tank in just 70 seconds.
Weighing in at just over 120 pounds, this is a pretty hefty compressor that isn’t easy to move. Most similar compressors are top-heavy, but this one seems worse than others. Once you start tilting it back so you can wheel it, the tipping point comes very quickly where the weight will try to pull it to the ground, which might be useful when attempting to locate the release valve, if it weren’t so difficult to stand upright again!
8. Craftsman CMXECXA0232043 Air Compressor
At a weight of just 83 pounds, this Craftsman air compressor is easier to move than most of the others we were testing it against. It’s also capable of producing higher pressures, up to a maximum of 175 PSI. But it takes a long time to reach capacity, especially if filling the tank from empty. Expect to spend several minutes waiting for it to fill.
This compressor is advertised as running at 80 decibels. In our experience, it seemed much louder than this. But we can get over the noise. What we can’t get over is the 50% duty cycle. You’ll have to spend just as much time letting the machine rest as it runs, so expect a lot of downtime when using this compressor.
9. California Air Tools CAT-20015HP Two Stage Air Compressor
Running at just 70 decibels, the CAT-20015HP Two-Stage Air Compressor from California Air Tools is pretty quiet, even though it can reach a maximum pressure of 175 PSI. But that spec seems a bit misleading. It might reach high pressures, but this compressor doesn’t move very much air. It can move just four CFM at 40 PSI, which means you’re going to have difficulty powering many pneumatic tools with this compressor.
Like most similar compressors, this one has a handle and wheels to make it easier to transport. But after the first time we moved it, one of the wheel supports bent out of place! They don’t seem to be strong enough to support the weight of this compressor. Unfortunately, this is one of the more expensive compressors on our list. Considering the numerous quality compressors available for less, we can’t recommend this one.
10. Pulsar PCE6200 Vertical Electrical Air Compressor
Packing a heavy-duty four horsepower motor, the Pulsar PCE6200 Vertical Electrical Air Compressor should be the most powerful compressor on this list. It moves 6.2 CFM of air at 40 PSI, so it’s no slouch. But it’s got a maximum pressure of 115 PSI, which is the lowest of any compressor we tested.
We were disappointed to find that the Pulsar compressor wouldn’t operate many of our tools that required less airflow than it supposedly creates. Part of this is likely due to the fittings that were leaking when the unit arrived. Even though it’s more affordable than other units, we don’t think it’s a great value when it can’t even do what’s advertised.
When you’re looking at compressors, it’s easy to see that these all share a common tank size and assume that they have the same capabilities. That would be a disastrous mistake, however. If you purchase the wrong compressor, it’s quite likely that it won’t perform the tasks you’re getting it for.
To help put everything in perspective, we’ve written this short buyer’s guide that will cover the most important concepts that you need to understand before you decide on a compressor to buy.
You can learn most of what you need to know about any compressor from two main measurements; CFM and PSI. It’s easy to confuse the two, but they’re not interchangeable and if you get a compressor that isn’t matched to your needs, then you might find it can’t do what you want.
Pounds per square inch is how air pressure is measured. Most pneumatic tools will run on 70-90 PSI. The largest tools might need as much as 120 PSI.
This stands for cubic feet per minute, and it represents the volume of air that’s moved. A CFM measurement is represented at a particular air pressure to express the total amount of air moved at that air pressure. For instance, a compressor might be rated for six CFM at 40 PSI, which means that when it’s creating a total pressure of 40 pounds per square inch, that compressor is moving six cubic feet per minute of air.
For the most part, this is the spec that you’ll need to match to your tools. Some smaller tools may only require 3 CFM of airflow at 90 PSI while others might need six CFM or more at the same pressure. If your tool requires more air than your compressor can supply, then it won’t run; or, at least not effectively.
Other Features to Consider
CFM and PSI are the numbers you need to understand whether your tools and compressor are compatible, but they’re not the whole story. Other features can make one compressor preferable to another, even if they both operate the same tools. Let’s take a look at a few of those traits so you can figure out what matters most to you.
If your compressor is outrageously loud, you’re less likely to use it and you’ll enjoy it less when you have to. This effect is exacerbated if your compressor will be working indoors. Since most of us work with our compressors in a workshop or garage, that’s going to be the situation for many.
Operating volume is measured in decibels, providing an easy way to compare the noise that each compressor makes. Granted, not all manufacturers list this specification.
Some of the quietest compressors we’ve used operate around 70 decibels or a little lower. On the other hand, some of the louder ones were over 100 decibels.
Most people aren’t purchasing a 20-gallon compressor for its portability. But there are many times when you’ll end up needing to move it. Sometimes your hose just isn’t long enough, or you want to reposition some of your tools and change your setup.
You can expect your compressor to have a handle and wheels of some type since most of them do. There are differences in wheels, but they only have a minimal effect on portability. There are pneumatic or solid tires and you can find them in different sizes.
The real difference that affects portability is weight. Some of these compressors weigh more than 150 pounds while others weigh about 80. Keep in mind, most of these compressors are vertical, so they’re pretty top-heavy, just making the problem worse.
If portability is important to you, look for a compressor that’s on the lighter side.
The ideal 20-gallon compressor can power all of your pneumatic tools without making you go deaf and it can do so without emptying the tank. Not all of these compressors that made it onto our reviews list were able to manage this, but three of them did it well enough to earn our recommendations over the competition.
Our number one pick is the IL1682066.MN Belt Driven Air Compressor from Industrial Air. It’s got a dual voltage motor that’s compatible with 120V or 240V electricity and a stout 1.6 HP motor that can move up to 6.2 CFM of air and can reach a max pressure of 135 PSI.
We think that the WEN 2202 Oil-Lubricated Portable Vertical Air Compressor is the best value. It manages a max airflow of 5 CFM and a max air pressure of 135 PSI. It’s also priced affordably and is protected by a two-year warranty.
When money isn’t a barrier and you want premium performance, we suggest the DEWALT DXCMPA1982054 Portable Air Compressor. It’s got a maximum pressure of 155 PSI and a max airflow of 7 CFM at 40 PSI. Plus, it’s quieter than other compressors with an operating volume of just 76 decibels.
- A Quick Comparison ofair Our Favorites
- The 10 Best 20-Gallon Air Compressors – Reviews 2020
- 1. Industrial Air Belt Driven Air Compressor – Best Overall
- 2. WEN 2202 Portable Vertical Air Compressor – Best Value
- 3. DEWALT Portable Air Compressor – Premium Choice
- 4. Porter Cable PXCMF220VW Portable Air Compressor
- 5. Campbell Hausfeld DC200000 Air Compressor
- 6. NorthStar Single-Stage Portable Electric Air Compressor
- 7. Stealth SAQ-12018 Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
- 8. Craftsman CMXECXA0232043 Air Compressor
- 9. California Air Tools CAT-20015HP Two Stage Air Compressor
- 10. Pulsar PCE6200 Vertical Electrical Air Compressor
- Buyer’s Guide