What Size Air Compressor Do I Need? – CFM Chart Included

| Last Updated: January 21, 2021

Tool Tango is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

You'll need to answer many questions before purchasing an air compressor; the reason for this is to find the air compressor that best suits your needs.

In the following article, we'll discuss what size air compressor can handle the different tasks you'll be carrying out.

How Big of an Air Compressor Do I Need?

There are a few aspects of an air compressor that you need to consider; air compressors all have different capabilities depending on multiple variables.

What Tools Will You Be Using?

The CFM (Cubic feet per minute) of the tool is an important point to remember; if your compressor doesn't provide the same or higher CFM ability, it won't operate the air tool.

Air Compressor CFM Chart

Curious about the average CFM and average operating PSI for your favorite tools? Below is an air compressor CFM chart to help provide some clarity. 

Air Compressor CFM Chart

Storage Space

If you've got a small 6-gallon pancake air compressor, chances are, you'll have no problem finding a space to store it. However, if you're looking to store an 80 gallon air compressor, this soon gets a lot harder.

Where Will You Be Using It?

If you're using your air compressor in a garage or workshop, it doesn't matter how big it is. However, if you're going to be using it throughout different work sites, possibly in construction, you'll be best suited to something more lightweight and easy to transport.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need For Air Tools?

The required size of your air compressor depends on what tools you'll be using it with. If you're going to be using tools for occasional DIY in the garage, you could use a small 6 or 8-gallon pancake air compressor as they'll be easy to store and can get the job done for around 3 - 6 minutes of continuous run time.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need For Impact Wrench?

Impact wrench tools can come in various sizes and are used on different construction or DIY tasks. Your simple ¼ inch impact wrench will require between 1.5 and 2 CFM to operate.

If you're looking to use an impact wrench with some more power, such as the common ½ impact wrenches, require up to 4 CFM.

You'd be fine for standard jobs to use a pancake air compressor with a 6 - 8-gallon tank size. Industrial level impact wrenches such as the 1-inch model would require up to 12 CFM. You'd expect a standard 25 - 30-gallon tank to operate such an industrious tool.

What Size Air Compressor For Painting?

Many people like to keep themselves busy at the weekend with DIY projects or even have a side hustle bringing old furniture back to life.

If you're looking to paint furniture or touch up the garden fence out front, you'll require an air compressor between 30 - 50 gallons; although you'd only require between 4 - 8 CFM, you'd need a larger tank to operate a continuous flow of paint.

50 Gallon tanks are heavy, so you'd best have a suitable place to store it, like a garage or workshop. These size tanks can run continuously for around 20 - 30 minutes.

What Size Air Compressor For HVLP Spray Gun?

HVLP spray guns are mainly used in the automotive industry but can be used on furniture, boats, and buildings. The main reason it's more favorable than its LVLP counterpart is that it uses less base resin and can be applied from further away and has very minimal air pollution.

Due to the high volume, you'll require a CFM of at least 8 and a PSI of only 40 as it's a low-pressure device. The nature of work that these tools are used for means that they'll be expected to operate continuously; therefore, a 60-gallon tank or higher would be suitable as they have longer runtimes.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need To Paint A Car?

Painting your car is a little different from painting your bedside cabinet; two coats of the base layer and then two coats of clear coat are required; you then need to wait a few days to paint isolated parts of the car.

Because it takes so long to paint a car, you'll require a minimum of 60 gallons for continuous airflow, as well as a minimum of 8 CFM for painting a car. Realistically you're probably a qualified bodyworker and know what you're doing; you'd expect to have a large garage to store a large-sized air compressor inside.

What Size Air Compressor For Framing Nailer?

A framing nailer is a pretty standard tool for anyone working in construction or carrying out renovation work. The typical CFM level required to operate such a tool is roughly 2 CFM; that's an easy ask for a standard 6-gallon pancake air compressor.

The best thing about these compressors is that they're super easy to store in almost any home or site. You wouldn't need anything larger than that; you always want to find the perfect balance between portability, storage, and sufficient quality.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need To Fill Truck Tires?

You can easily purchase a small portable air compressor to inflate your truck tires. Modern technology has allowed drivers to store a small air compressor in their trunk for emergencies; they operate at roughly 1.5 CFM and run using your truck's battery.

Alternatively, if you're going to top them up at home, you'd want a compressor with a decent runtime; anything between 20 - 30 gallons would be suitable. One thing to consider is your tires' thickness as small portable compressors usually inflate tires of up to 35 inches.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need To Inflate RV Tires?

If you're looking for an air compressor to keep RV tires inflated, I'd assume you're looking for something portable.

To inflate your RV tires, you'll be looking for an air compressor that can offer at least 2.5 CFM; you wouldn't necessarily look for a compressor tank but something that hooks up to your RV battery which you would leave running.

You'd also ideally purchase a compressor with a longer hose as the RV would be much larger than your typical car, a 60-foot air hose would be one of the best options.

What Size Air Compressor For Sandblasting?

Sandblasting has a few important areas to consider before you can run the tool effectively. You'll be looking for a continuous airflow because it'll take some time before you fully sandblast something; a recommended 80 gallons would suffice. You'll need to remember that the CFM on the compressor is higher than the actual blaster itself.

A 14 CFM with a PSI of 90 is suitable, so long as the nozzle's CFM is under 20. As long as both the nozzle and blaster CFM rating combined is lower than the compressor, you'll be able to run the tools effectively.

What Size Air Compressor To Blow Out Sprinkler Lines?

You should sprinkle the lawn at least twice every week for 10 minutes each time. For this reason, you'll be looking at purchasing roughly a 10 - 15-gallon air compressor to give you that continuous flow.

If you had something smaller, your compressor motor would struggle to keep up by constantly refilling and being in operation. Most professionals would also recommend purchasing an air compressor that can provide a 20 CFM or more.

Hold up, are you interested in other topics related to air compressors? If so, these might be something to check out: 


The main points you'll need to remember are every tool requires a different CFM capability, your best bet is to get the highest CFM rated compressor available to you. If you can get a compressor with a large tank, that's also a bonus as you'll not want to stop and start every 5 minutes to operate your tools.