Best Air Compressors Under $200 (2021 Budget Reviews)

Cody
| Last Updated: January 30, 2021

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The same reasons that make you reluctant about buying a cheap air compressor can easily push you towards choosing an overpriced one.

In this buying guide, we’re going to show you that there is plenty of value to get from an air compressor under $200. You just need to know how to spot it. So, here’s what to look for:

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best air compressors under $200:

  1. Craftsman CMEC6150K
  2. California Air Tools 8010
  3. Central Pneumatic 2 HP

Comparison Chart of the Best Air Compressors Under $200

Product

Our Rating

Price

Craftsman CMEC6150K

  • 0.8 HP, 150 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120 V

California Air Tools 8010

  • 1 HP, 120 PSI
  • 8 gallons
  • 110 V

Central Pneumatic 2 HP

  • 2 HP, 125 PSI
  • 8 gallons
  • 120 V

Bostitch BTFP02012

  • 150 PSI
  • 6 gallons
  • 120 V

Puma Industries LA5721

  • 1 HP, 135 PSI
  • 2 gallons
  • 120 V

Can You Find a Quality Air Compressor Under $200? 

Each air compressor manufacturer out there strives to offer customers a wide range of products. This translates into various specs and price points. You can find a quality air compressor under $200, as long as you don’t expect it to be a commercial-grade model.

In other words, more affordable models simply have lower specs that make them ideal for less demanding air tools. You should be able to tell how much value you’ll get from an air compressor by carefully inspecting its technical features AND matching them with your needs.

You’ll have to carefully review a model, but, also, to have a clear image on the type of products you’ll use. To kill the suspense, quality air compressors under $200 can have a power output of 1-2 HP and a 6-8-gallon tank.

How to Choose an Air Compressor 

From all the details used to advertise an air compressor, a few of them are particularly important. Here they are:

The Air Flow Rate

Also known as the refill rate and measured in CFM, this feature indicates the rate at which the air compressor will refill its tank. When you know this value, you can tell with what type of air tools the compressor is most compatible.

For quick guidance, check your air tools and spot the one with the highest CFM rating. Multiply that by 1.5, and pick an air compressor that supports the resulting CFM. Pick a model for the tools you have, while also planning for what you might add to your arsenal.

The Tank Size

From 1 to 80 gallons, the options vary. But when you know what you’ll be using it for, you can tell if you need the smallest model, of under 6 gallons, or a hefty one of above 20 gallons. Luckily, when you’re specifically shopping on a budget, most of the options under $200 are under 8 gallons.

For indoor projects that don’t require a professional touch, a 2-4-gallon unit might work wonders. If you’re having bigger plans or trying to use two air tools at once, look up in the 6-8-gallon range.

The Motor

A large tank is useless when the motor can’t refill it fast enough. Always check the power output, as indicated by the number of HP and the maximum PSI. These two should be in balance, meaning that for a higher HP you can have a lower PSI and the other way around. Still, expect for the budget-friendly air compressors to have a 1-2 HP motor with 120 – 150 PSI.

Review of the Best Air Compressors Under $200 

Are you eager to see some specific options? We’ve shortlisted the best air compressor under $200 from some reputable manufacturers. Here’s a sum-up of our hands-on experience with these models.

Best Overall:
Craftsman CMEC6150K

PROS

  • Starts easy, even in cold weather
  • Doesn’t require daily maintenance
  • Price tag is highly-attractive for what it offers
  • Comes with a generous accessory kit in the package
  • Maximum PSI makes it compatible with lots of applications

CONS

  • Limited warranty of only 1 year
  • Noise level a bit above the average

Our Review:

The best air compressor you can get for under $200 carries the Craftsman label. Rest assured, it’s not just the 6 gallon pancake compressor in itself, which does a more than decent job for the price tag! It’s also the option to purchase it with a generous kit of 13 accessories.

The maintenance-free, oil-less pump can reach a maximum 150 PSI with 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI, facilitating a quick recovery time. And the 0.8 HP motor with easy startup will keep up with any small to mid-sized task. What’s more, the compressor only weighs 32.5 pounds, which makes it highly portable.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

When searching for air compressors under $200, we want to get the most bang for our buck. That’s precisely what the Craftsman CMEC6150K does, without any compromises in terms of quality! It’s a sturdy, versatile tool that you can depend on in any weather condition and take with you anywhere you need!

Best California Air Compressor Under $200:
California Air Tools 8010

PROS

  • Facilitates ultra-quiet operation
  • Equipped with a large steel tank
  • Built-in thermal overload protection
  • Features a powerful motor that runs at low RPM
  • High-performance, durable pump without oil lubrication

CONS

  • No after cooler
  • Horizontal tank creates a larger footprint

Our Review:

Part of the Ultra-Quiet California Air Tools series, this unit is great for anything from inflating and engraving to airbrushing, with lots of other applications in between. Its 1 HPM motor will run at 1680 RPM, recovers from 90 to the maximum 120 PSI in just one minute, and it can fill back the empty tank in about 165 seconds.

The pump promises a life cycle of over 3000 hours. And the dual piston, oil-free design certainly contributes to this kind of extended lifespan. What’s more, the unit takes a low amp draw of 8.5, suitable for the majority of household outlets, while the motor itself is protected against overheating.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

California Air Tools is famous for its quiet air compressors. And with the CAT-8010, you get one of their best budget-friendly models. It runs at about 60 dB noise level, and it is equipped with a special air filter for cleaner air, enhanced tool operation, and prolonged lifespan.

Best Central Pneumatic Air Compressor Under $200:
Central Pneumatic 2 HP

PROS

  • Overheat protection built-in
  • Relatively easy to carry around
  • Designed with clear view oil window
  • Equipped with high-impact ABS shroud
  • Reliable motor, direct-drive induction type

CONS

  • Only one-year warranty
  • A tad noisier compared to similar models

Our Review:

If you’re looking for a Central Pneumatic air compressor that works well and doesn’t drain your wallet, consider this 8-gallon model! It is designed with portability in mind, featuring smooth rolling wheels and a comfy handle. It tucks a high-efficiency motor under the hood. And it comes with an oil-lubed pump, making for a long-lasting tool.

The maximum PSI it can reach is 125, with the air delivery parameters labeled as 5.5 CFM @ 40 PSI, respectively 4.5 CFM @ 90 PSI. Pneumatic powered, with high-impact ABS shroud, you can tell it aims to be both effective and safe to use. Needless to say, it will work well with most of the air tools you’re planning on using around the house or in your small workshop.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This affordable air compressor from Central Pneumatic relies on a sturdy motor with a 2 HP power output. The direct drive induction design makes it reliable, and the fact that it comes with thermal overload protection will contribute to your peace of mind. Portable and dependable, it will suit both hobbyists and pros!

Best Bostitch Air Compressor Under $200:
Bostitch BTFP02012

PROS

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Long-lasting oil-free pump
  • Designed to facilitate quick recovery
  • Enough power for long tool run time
  • Comes with two universal couplers built-in

CONS

  • Not as quiet as similar models
  • Occasional reliability issues reported

Our Review:

Bostitch delivers quality, dependable tools, and the BTFP02012 6-gallon air compressor is here to testify just that. With an airflow of 2.6 SCFM @ 90 PSI, it can reach a maximum PSI of 150. It starts easily, regardless of the temperature outside. And you can pair it with an extension cord if the job site requires it.

The pump is maintenance-free, and the high-flow regulator contributes to its increased performances. Given the two couplers, you can use two air tools at the same time. Since it weighs as little as 29 lbs, it’s easy to move around and not complicated to store.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This pancake air compressor from Bostitch isn’t just affordable but also built to last for many years. It is convenient to use, equipped with a maintenance-free pump, and will recover quickly, allowing you to make the most of your air tools, for extended operation.

Best Puma Air Compressor Under $200:
Puma Industries LA5721

PROS

  • Requires little maintenance
  • Features a patented design for the pump
  • Equipped with thermal overload protection
  • Lightweight and with cushioned handle grip
  • Twin stack tanks facilitate optimum pressure

CONS

  • Not ideal for heavy-duty tasks
  • Noise level is above the average

Our Review:

For some reason, twin stack air compressors aren’t that common. But Puma Industries is making it a good choice among consumer-grade units, with this 2-gallon model. The 1 HP motor and the reliable pump are everything it takes to reach a maximum PSI of 135 and deliver an airflow of 2.2 CFM @ 90 PSI.

Oil-free and requiring low maintenance, it has no pulleys or belts that would need replacement. Small, compact, easy to pick-up and move, it is equipped with an induction motor and overload protection. For everything that it brings to the table, the price tag is certainly attractive.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Puma Industries built this unit with a patented pump design and thermal overload protection. It works at 3450 RPM, and it facilitates cooler operation. Since it is an oil-free pump, the improved cooling mechanism contributes to extending its lifespan and helping you maximize your investment.

Types of Air Compressors (That Are More Affordable Than You Think)

While you’re researching for the best and most affordable air compressors, certain terms will come up more often. The reason is that such models are, as mentioned, smaller in size and capacity, and can typically be classified as:

Reciprocating Air Compressors

Reciprocating units rely on cylinders or pistons to compress the air, which is why they are also called piston air compressors. The smallest will have one or two pistons that reciprocate (move up and down) inside their cylinders and compress the air in the process. They work best with tools that require a small amount of air, and don’t need a continuous operation.

Pancake Air Compressors

The name comes from the shape of their tank, which is more like a pancake. You’ll typically find these in small sizes of up to 6 gallons. And they are lightweight and portable, thanks to their compact design. For all these reasons, you can expect that many of the quality air compressors under $200 to feature the pancake style.

Hot Dog Air Compressors

Again, this type is also related to the shape of the tank. You’ll often encounter it with slightly larger units, above 6 gallons, though it isn’t uncommon to find smaller tanks shaped like that either. These will also have wheels and a larger handle, giving you an easier option to carry it around. 

Conclusion 

So, not only that you have quite a few options for air compressors under $200, but they can also prove quite handy for various tasks around the house or in a small workshop. Craftsman, California Air, Central Pneumatic, Bostitch, and Puma are some of the brands that closely fight for supremacy in this market segment.

Now that you know you need a relatively small-sized unit, you can confidently check options from these manufacturers, with the above information in mind.

People Also Ask

Before you go choosing your favorite, there are a couple more aspects you should pay attention to. Better not take out your credit card before you know these technical details, too:

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need?

When pondering your options, check whether the air compressor is intended for consumer, professional, or industrial grade. Also, take note of the CFM it supports and match it against the tools you’re most likely to use.

If you’re a DIY-er just starting out or without the intention of tackling demanding projects, a 6-8-gallon air compressor with a 1-2 HP motor and an oil-free pump won’t disappoint you.

What Is SCFM on Air Compressor?

SCFM stands for Standard Cubic Feet per Minute. It is calculated as the CFM (Cubit Feet per Minute) with a 68 degrees Fahrenheit temperature and a 36% relative humidity reference. Basically, setting this standard allows the manufacturers to explain the relativity of their air compressors CFM.

If one unit is rated with a certain CFM and it won’t specifically deliver it in practice, they can point out to the advertised SCFM. The latter is a value that is easily achieved under those very specific conditions.

How To Increase CFM On Air Compressor?

The CFM indicates at what speed the compressor will suck air and compress it to fill the tank. It depends not only on the size of the tank, but also on the size of the cylinders that form the pump, and the pump’s operation speed.

To increase the CFM, you can set its regulator to the lowest level it can work on. Making it operate to the lowest pressure it can stand will prolong its lifespan and increase the CFM. At the same time, it will make you wait longer for the tank to refill.

What is a Two Stage Air Compressor?

An air compressor works by sucking air into a cylinder, compressing it at the maximum PSI that the tool supports (around 120), and then moving it to the tank. A two-stage air compressor will do the first part – compressing the air – twice.

After the first compression, the air won’t directly enter the tank. Instead, it will hit an even smaller piston. In there, it will go through a second stroke, being compressed at a higher maximum PSI of around 175.

How To Quiet An Air Compressor?

Air compressors are supposed to be loud, though not loud enough to make you dread using them. If you haven’t bought a model with a low noise level, you can still get some improvements with small tweaks.

You could have it sit on an even layer of rubber, lubricate its bearings more often, padding the walls of the workshop with soundproof materials, or even taking it outside altogether.

There are soundproof blankets or boxes you can purchase to cover the unit and quiet your air compressor even just a bit more.

Cody

My name is Cody and I've been a writer for Tool Tango for quite some time now. I've always had a knack for building things with my hands and creative writing, so being able to combine the two has been great. I love being able to give back to the DIY-community, while also learning a thing or two along the way. When I'm not writing, I enjoy watching Netflix with my girlfriend, fishing, and working in the shop.