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The Beginner’s Guide to An Air Compressor

If you are looking to purchase an air compressor for your very own needs, you might not think there is a lot that goes into the process. I mean, you just go to the store and pick out the cheapest one, right?

Well, that is one way to go about doing it, but it’s not the best way.

It turns out that air compressors are incredibly complex. There are many different models that offer you different things depending upon what you are looking for and what will best fit your needs.

It is best to do your research ahead of time to find out what products will be the best for you. This is always the key to being a smart shopper and a wise consumer so that way you can know going into your shopping ahead of time what you are looking for and what will be the ideal product option made just with you in mind.

Here in this article, we will provide you with the very best information you need to make the best choice for your air compressor needs! Everything you can think of will be presented here in this article for you, so you don’t need to go anywhere else! Stay tuned for the best information this side of the Mississippi.

Are you ready?

Let’s go!

Different Types of Air Compressors

There are many different types of air compressors. The first time I learned of this, I was kind of taken back by surprise, not expecting there to be a lot of differences between them! I thought all air compressors were essentially the same, with only a few minor differences from one brand to the other. Well, it turns out I was wrong (like in most cases).

Air compressors are popular and well known for their productivity because of their reliability and ability to provide safe, clean, flexible, and convenient. If you have a tire running low on air, you can simply whip out your air compressor to fill up your tire in just a matter of moments, rather than travel to the local gas station or auto service station and have the service provided for you at a fee that would not only be more expensive, but would also take more time away from you.

Although there is a multitude of different types of air compressors, they all perform the same essential functions.

The most common type of air compressors are called positive displacement compressors. These work by filling a chamber with air and then releasing that chamber to reduce it’s volume and thus pop out the air you are desiring and longing for. This type is the most commonly available and the most easy to be found in the market. Additionally, this type of air compressor includes the various sub-types of compressors which are reciprocating, rotary screw and rotary vane compressors.

Reciprocating compressors and piston compressors are the most commonly air compressors available on the market from the positive displacement compressor category. Both of these can be found on the market in a wide variety of ranges, with anything from fractional to very high horsepowers, so no matter what job you might need done or no matter the multitude of the word you do, you will be able to find the right option made just for you.

These air compressors are found throughout the world in various retail stores and mass market showcases. We will get to the air compressor price of these products in just a few moments.

Rotary air compressors include the screw and vane type products. There belong to the centrifugal branch of air compressors and are more commonly found in the industrial and commercial environments than in the everyday home environment. This is because they are typically operated at much higher horsepowers than would usually be needed in the home environment. They are built to be successful in large jobs and projects, so they do the hardest and toughest of work. With the increased horsepower that is given from these compressors, the flow rate is subsequently much higher as well.

As you could imagine, since these products are at the top of the line for their productivity, their magnitude, and their operating performance, they are more expense to purchase than the at home air compressors that are build for everyday jobs for the everyday user. Along the same lines, the industrial rotary air compressors are much more expensive to operate too. Again, we will check on the air compressor prices momentarily.

Here is some more general information on the air compressors you would purchase for your home and for your own individual use:

Reciprocating air compressors (piston compressors) are mainly found in two different configurations: Single stage and Two stage.

What does this mean and how does this work, you ask?

I’m going to tell you!

Single stage air compressors draw air in. Then, the air is compressed down to its final pressure. This occurs in one single piston stroke, hence where the name comes from. With single stage air compressors, a pressure of up to 150 PSI (pounds per square inch, the unit of measurement for air pressure) can be achieved.

Two stage air compressors work in a manner that is very similar to single stage compressors. The major difference is that in these models, the air is compressed during two steps or stages, which gives this kind its name. In the first step, the air is drawn in and then immediately compressed to give an air pressure right away. Then once the air is compressed in the first stage, it is piped through a system of channels. In these channels, the air is usually taken in by an intercooler which helps to allow the air to cool. It is then compressed in the second and final stage. These two stage air compressors are beneficial if a higher air pressure is needed, since these can provide air up to pressures of 200 PSI. Additionally, they then to be more efficient at higher air pressures because they cool the air between the stages, which allow for greater compression.

However, a single stage air compressor typically has a higher CFM rating. This rating stands for Cubic Feet per Minute. Single stage air compressors tend to be more proficient in this category because every cylinder (the only one) is drawing in air and is then compressing it on every single rotation.

So, depending on your needs and your uses for the air compressor, you will be able to find the product that works the best for you according to the plans you have in mind.

Now, let’s take a look at the prices!

Air Compressor Prices

Air compressor prices can vary tremendously depending upon the type of compressor you are looking to purchase for your needs.


The smallest and most inexpensive air compressors are called inflators. Inflators are small air compressors that are designed for minute, but important, projects, such asinflating tires, inflating sporting gear, inflating air mattresses, and inflating pool accessories. These air compressor prices of the inflators can range anywhere from $10 to upwards of $600. The most inexpensive inflators are actually ones that you pump the air by hand, using a lever that is provided with the device. The simplicity of the device makes it ideal for a low cost, but is still effective and efficient in the work that it can provide. The air compressor prices that are more expensive belong to air compressors that actually mount in your vehicle, giving you an onboard air system for any time you may need air while you are on the go. The high technology and the convenience of these compressors add it their increased price. The Husky Home and Auto Inflator sells for $35. This inflator is perfect for small needs in the home or relating to your auto vehicle since it is powered by electricity from the auto or home. When plugged into a vehicle’s power source, this inflator uses a 12 volt power source while it would use an 120 volt power source when getting its electricity from the home. The device automatically shuts off when a desired air pressure is achieved, making it easy to know when you have the proper amount of air for whatever you might be filling up. The PSI of what you are filling can be read easily on a nice and large LED screen. This product is perfect for filling up bicycle tires and sports equipment, so if these are projects commonly related to what you might be needing on a regular basis, this device in particular might be a nice fit for you. Various accommodating accessories are provided with this particular air compressor from Husky. Attachments like sports needles, mattress nozzles, and a presta valve adapter are included.

The Black + Decker 12 volt cordless inflator sells for $58. This device is super portable and very compatible for a multitude of small projects that might be in the toughest to reach places. This inflator is characteristic of the average air compressor prices for inflators. With this tool itself, you can use high or low pressure to fill a whole boatload of things that need air, including air mattresses, rafts, tires, and exercise equipment. A maximum PSI of 160 is possible with this inflator. Additional special features include an automatic shutoff to prevent from overinflation, a digital gauge to monitor quick change measurements, and a vacuum suction to help you get the best air pressure you can.

Small but mighty, inflators are great resources for those with small but mighty jobs to complete. Plus, these are the most affordable of the air compressor prices.

Portable and Job Site Compressors

Portable and job site compressors are small to medium sized air compressors. They are noted for their versatility and ability to be transported easily which makes them ideal for use on job sites where the location and vantage point of need is always changing.

These air compressor prices range from $60 on the low end to over $2,000.00 on the high end.

The most inexpensive of these products are of simple style and small demand. They are able to provide air when it’s needed, but don’t expect to take on a large product all at once with these. For example, tank sizes of two to three gallons are common for the air compressors on the more cheap side. While this amount of air will be able to provide what’s needed during a pinch or in an immediate action, they won’t be able to sustain endurance of being beneficial for an extended period of time all at once, simply because they will run out of air. With many portable air compressors, these are filled from larger tanks and work like the battery on your phone where once you run out of battery, you need to charge it again. The same concept goes for the portable tanks, where once you run out of air, you need to fill it back up. But the portable qualities of these devices make them ideal for many people who work on the run.

The more expensive products in air compressors price are more industrial in nature. Even though they are portable, they are still made for industrial use and use of similar kinds. The most expensive features a 30 gallon air tank, so it is able to hold much air which would be beneficial for those who are frequently using air compressors and who have a constant need of a lot of air. These products are also more expensive because they are constructed to be durable and to last a long time, so not only are you purchasing a high-quality product, you would be purchasing one that is aimed at longevity.

A portable air compressor from California Air Tools is on the market for a few dollars shy of $300. This product in particular features a ten gallon air container for a decent amount of air that can be stored at a single time. A quiet two horsepower motor operates the machine and uses no oil, making it additionally compatible for various projects on the run with a need for low maintenance. This air compressor can be filled with air, from empty to full, in less than 130 seconds, making it a great product for immediate jobs that are requiring a somewhat high level of air. Many additional features are characteristic of this particular air compressor, which increases the benefits it is able to provide to you. This brand is not as well known to the average consumer, but it is a fantastic product overall that has been very well received and reviewed.

A Husky model of portable air compressor has an air compressor price of $300. This model features a 33 gallon air holding tank, making it an extremely useful product for larger projects outside the home the require a strong need for portability. The large air container stands vertical on the wheel apparatus, making it easy to roll around for travel, even though it is a bigger tank. This air compressor is quiet, much like the compressor sold from California Air Tools that is mentioned above. The quietness of the model is attractive for those who often work in loud conditions and environments. A 1.7 horsepower oil-free pump is used to get the air going, which allows it to deliver a maximum PSI of 165. This would be beneficial for workers in the construction, agriculture, and trucking industries who often work with large pieces of equipment and tires that often need refilled. Furthermore, a high flow regulator ensures maximum performance of the tool and the most efficient run time possible.This product is a sure bang for the buck in which you will get a great deal of benefits with the investment you would making in purchasing this air compressor, if you find it is the right fit for you.

Garage and Industrial Compressors

Garage and industrial compressors are bigger than portable air compressors and these begin the stationary compressors that are not portable, but rather are stationed in one spot. This allows for more air to be produced at higher intensities and velocities. Garage and industrial air compressors are ideal for industrial use and applications as well as work on auto machinery and machinery servicing. For those who dedicate a particular area to their service work, such as body shops, garages, and tool sheds, these types of air compressors are a fantastic option.

Regarding the air compressor prices of these tools, they are more expensive than those of portable compressors and inflators, as you would expect.

The most inexpensive air compressor price for this type is around $540. The most expensive is priced at $13,000.

The air compressors valued on the lower end of the price scale are typically around 60 gallons. As you can see, this is much more than the highest capacity of the portable type of compressor. This stationary air compressor delivers a PSI of up to 135 and is of the two stage type as it features two cylinders that pump the air to provide as much quality as it can. A six horsepower engine is characteristic of these lower models. These particular compressors that are around this price range are vertical, making it nice and easy for them to fit in your garage or in any work station you use, especially if finding space is a concern for you.

The most expensive air compressors in this category, the ones that are valued near or above $13,000, are definitely made for industrial use. These are ones that you would not purchase for your own home or for your individual use. Rather, these are made with large industries in mind to provide them with the mass quantity they need for their air demand. Unique technology is found in these models that make them powerful in the variety of tasks they can perform. These higher models feature 30 horsepower motors, five times more powerful than the more inexpensive models in this same category. The increased horsepower allows for more air to be compressed at fast speeds to keep up with a large supply of demand that might be required. These compressors feature variable speed start motors that reduce the demand of energy needed to operate these hefty machines. This is a beneficial technology for these pieces because it allows for companies and industries to save some extra dollars when it comes to the operating costs of these mammoth machines. Also, tool free macitence is provided within these machines to make repairs and servicing both a snap, allowing for the compressors to get back up and running to maintain the productivity required of them in their particular industry.

Some of these air compressors can be considered portable types as well, featuring wheels that allow the tanks to be transported safely, efficiently, and soundly from one place to another. These relate more to the garage size compressors and the ones that are indicated for home use or use that is small to medium size in nature. Industrial air compressors are likely to not be portable because of their much larger size that prevents them form being easily moved. Plus, if you are in the market and need for an industrial sized compressor, you likely wouldn’t want it to be moving around anyway.

The Husky portable air compressor that is mentioned above can be listed in this category as well because of its larger size and ability to complete bigger projects than inflators and small portable devices.

Husky also sells an air compressor much similar to the one that is mentioned above, although it is completely stationary and not portable. With a price hovering around $500, this compressor is very much like its relative that is portable. Instead of wheels, the 60 gallon air compressor tank sits on four legs that help to stabilize it and keep the tank off the ground, therefore safe from any unexpected damages that could occur in a garage, like flooding, for example. The tank is vertical, just like the portable type. It allows for a maximum pressure of 155 PSI, so slightly less than the portable version. This model does not include a power cord, so when looking at purchasing any air compressor, make sure you have the required materials that will allow for you to use the equipment properly as soon as your get it. It is recommended that this compressor be hooked up to a 230 volt outlet of AC current which is typical of household currents. The manufacturer recommends that you contact your local electrician for the best wiring and connection practices, just to be safe and sure that everything will be running and operating as smoothly and as great as it can. The last thing you would want to see is your new air compressor get fried because of a improper connection or usage of an outlet! Therefore, doing your research and taking as much precaution as possible will only be of benefit to you and will be something that can really protect you and your device in the long run.

Ingersoll Rand is one of the most recognized brands in the tool industry, providing products of all sorts and sizes for many, many years and thus establishing itself as one of the top names in the industry. They offer many garage and industrial air compressors, many fit for a wide range of jobs.

One of their air compressors in this category sells for $1,500. This particular air compressor would be ideal for the medium to large sized job, but it is considered a stationary compressor because of its build and design, so you won’t be taking this type with you if you need to fix anything on the go. This product is more for the home garage or for repair shops since it is able to accommodate decently large projects. Featuring a 80 gallon holding tank, this type of air compressor is of the two stage configuration that we discussed earlier, making it a very efficient product. It is powered by a five horsepower engine, so it is quite powerful when compared to other products on the market that are similar. This air compressor in itself, along with the entire line of air compressors that are offered from Ingersoll Rand, are known for their durability and functionality that allow them to last over a long period of time, which could add to the higher price of these models. When you think of air compressors as an investment that will last you a life time (or a long time for that matter), the price will be worth the benefit you will receive over many, many years, especially if you regularly use larger air compressors such as this one of others. The company notes this air compressor as being extremely valuable and desirable for the repair industry, such as automotive services and body shops, truck fleet maintenance, machine shops, production lines, manufacturing lines, wood working shops, dry cleaners, car washes, general maintenance shops, car repair shops, and farming usages. As you can see, this product and the size of the product is known for its versatility as it can be used within a variety of contexts and situations. If any of these uses and applications seem similar to what you have in mind for what you might be using your air compressor for, this style of air compressor might be important for you to check out!

Combination Kits

The last major different type of air compressors that are available readily on the general market are combination kits. These are typically found for sale in home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. The combination kits include small portable air compressors with a variety of tools. Different packages contain different tools, but some that are often paired together include air-powered nailers and staplers. These combination kits would be ideal for the home do-it-yourselfer who enjoys small to medium sized improvement projects. The portable air compressors are probably the biggest obstacle in preventing these kits from being ideal for larger products, especially industrial sized projects.

Regarding the air compressor price of the combination kits, the most affordable kit is around a price of $70. The most expensive kits can go up near $8,000. The kits that are on the lower end of the price scale are those that include the portable sized air compressors with different tools and extra goodies you might be interested in and that might help you and your project altogether. On the most expensive end of the scale, there are the industrial sized air compressors that are meant for companies and industries rather than home and personal use. For the best look at what air compressor kits are available to you and for the most up to date information on the air compressor prices of these tools, check your favorite hardware and home improvement store. A great deal of these products are not available in the stores because of their sheer size and because of the wide variety of air compressors that are available, so visiting the website or calling a phone number of your favorite hardware and home improvement stores would likely be of most value and most benefit to you.


As you can see, there are so many different variables to think about when going to purchase an air compressor. Since this is not an everyday purchase you would like make, unlike going to the grocery store and picking up some milk, purchasing an air compressor is one of the bigger purchases you can make that will hopefully last you a long time through which you can get your full money’s worth over the course of its use.

Therefore, it is incredibly important that you do your research extensively ahead of time before going to make your air compressor purchase. It will benefit you tremendously in the long run! You will be sure to what to define what your needs will be when it comes to the air compressor; this will help you understand what size of air compressor to get and what type, including the size of the tank as that will become important when you are in the midst of the situation itself in that you are in need of the compressor. You will also want to think about the versatility you need from the device: Do you need it to be portable? Do you need it to be easy to move so it can be taken easily on the go and on the run with you? If so, how are you going to fill this compressor up, through your vehicle, through your home, or through your best electrical outlets? All of these questions will become very important to you as they will help you to understand the needs you have and what products would work for you the best.

I would encourage you to talk to any of your friends of family members who you know has an air compressor, especially if they have similar uses to yours and the ones that you plan to be using your own for. Ask them what type and model they have. How big is the holding tank? Do they like it or do they not? What would they change about it or what would make it better for them? Getting an opinion from a real user and a real life consumer will help you to create your own vision of what you are looking for and what you need most, additionally helping you to understand the right air compressor for you.

Reading online reviews of various air compressors will also be a good help in your decision making process. Although a lot of online reviews can be nasty and rude, if you are looking for complete honesty and truth telling, this is the perfect route for you to go. You will find yourself reading the highs and lows of the product down to its every most small and seemingly minute detail, but these comments might just be the additional support you need to make a well-informed decision. All of the research you do will be extremely profitable for you because you will be focusing on your needs and what will help you out the most.

 Also, be sure to research the air compressor prices in your area. Once you find the make and model you are looking for, it is time to become a smart consumer. Begin finding the best deals and the lowest prices where your ideal compressor is offered. If you can find slightly used models online at a lower cost and feel comfortable with this option, it might not be a bad idea to investigate that route. But just be careful to not get scammed into purchasing a product that is actually not as good as the owner says it is. Use your best judgement and make sure it works and operates soundly and smoothly, giving it a “test drive” if you will to make sure its the best it can be. If wanting to purchase the model new, find different retailers that are selling it and compare the prices it is being sold for. If a certain store has a price match guarantee, meaning they will match the price of the same product sold at a different store for a lower cost, feel free to give that method a try to see if you can get an even better deal. See what coupons are out there for the store you are going to. Check online and do a quick search engine search to see if there are any online coupons, maybe even from the manufacturer, that you can use in addition to the ones you might have already. Taking a few extra minutes out of your day to be a smart shopper will pay off in the long run because you might just be able to find yourself paying less for a product that you originally thought. It’s always a good idea; I mean, who doesn’t love saving money? Especially when the product will still be the same no matter what cost it is being sold at, so you might as well save a few extra bucks in the process of doing so.

So there you have it, the ultimate guide to air compressors! I hope this has been helpful and beneficial in the purchase of your air compressor or simply in learning more about these useful tools. There is much that can be learned about them and even if you are not in the need or desire to purchase one right away at the current moment in time, it might not hurt having this information in mind in case you need to purchase one down the road or even if one of your family or friends is in the market to buy one.

The best advice I can give off the bat is simply to do your research and find what is best for you. Only you know what you are looking for and what will be the most beneficial product to suit your needs. If you need help in making your decision beyond what this article provides, absolutely do so. Since these purchases can be a little more along the expensive side of things and since you likely don’t want to make this purchase over and over again, meaning you want to get the most use out of it that you can, it is extremely wise to go into the purchase with a sound frame of mind with beneficial knowledge about what you are looking for. You can never be too prepared. The preparation will only benefit you; it won’t ever hurt!

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding anything within this article or your own air compressor needs, feel free to let us know!

Happy compressing!