The humble air compressor is an underappreciated piece of equipment with a variety of applications in any traditional home. Whether you’re an amateur carpenter, an auto enthusiast, or simply a responsible homeowner, the best 20-gallon air compressor can help you complete a range of tasks to minimize your effort.
As a pretty sizeable investment, an air compressor isn’t something that you just rush into buying. There are lots of factors to take into consideration – from the cost of your pick to the purpose, it will serve once it arrives at your doorstep. Of course, the specific features that set each choice apart should also be factored in.
Not everyone knows what makes a good air compressor right off the bat, and that’s probably why you’re here. So, to help you narrow down your options and dial in on a model that’s truly right for you, we went on ahead to get the research done.
We looked into the best 20-gallon air compressor choices for home use and compared each one to give you this complete review (In case you find the following models not powerful enough for your needs, take a look at our list of the best 60-gallon air compressors).
Now, without further ado, here’s everything we pieced together through our extensive research.
Aside from the fact that the knowledge of air compressor features can be pretty niche, the extensive selection available on the market makes it even harder to zero in on a suitable model. For your convenience, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the 8 best 20-gallon air compressor models presently available.
Our team looked into factors including noise level, efficiency, ease of use, portability, durability, and overall value to come up with this expertly ranked list for your buying guidance.
- Airflow: 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 155 PSI
- Oil-free: No
- 166 pounds
The DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 is a premium 20-gallon air compressor that was designed for seamless, effortless use. The oil-lubricated model features a cast-iron twin-cylinder design that helps to double up the volume output of air between 90 to 120 PSI. For better heat dissipation and temperature management, the design also comes equipped with an aluminum head and valve plate that work quickly to release pent up heat.
As our top choice for the most convenient design, the DeWalt uses a quick-access panel with all the controls you’ll need to get any job done. The high-flow regulator, tool and tank pressure gauges, quick connect air outlet, and on-off switch are all on the same panel. This puts everything within reach so you can make adjustments without having to bend over or walk around.
To move the nifty little pump around, two heavy-duty pneumatic tires connect to its body. This combined with the design’s small footprint makes it exceptionally easy to pull around your job site, on virtually any kind of terrain.
The only problem we found with the DeWalt is that it’s pretty pricey. Compared to some of the other choices on our list, it comes in at over double the cost. But at the end of the day, you get what you pay for which is a premium 20-gallon air compressor that doesn’t disappoint.
- Convenient all-in-one control panel streamlines work
- Comes with a high-performance dual voltage induction motor for supreme power
- Quiet operation
- Fast to build pressure letting you work without delays
- Ready to go right out of the box, just unpack and get to work
- Comes at a significantly higher price point
- Air flow: 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 175 PSI
- Oil-free: No
- 180 pounds
- 175 PSI max
Making its way to the second position on our list is the Husky 20-Gallon Air Compressor. This powerful piece of machinery generates a maximum of 175 PSI – a whopping 20 PSI more than others in the 20-gallon range. This gives it greater power to work on more stubborn jobs, like removing rusty nuts and screws.
Its sleek vertical body is the epitome of expert design, boasting a reinforced casing that encloses the entire motor and a pump to keep them in pristine condition and safe from damage. The frame itself is also especially impressive, fitted with two large 7-inch never-flat heavy-duty wheels that can carry the weight of the burly machine over any sort of terrain.
Delivering sustained, consistent power, the Husky 20-Gallon Air Compressor is just about as reliable as they get. The only issue that most users have run into is that it might generate quite a lot of noise, making it a better choice for use outdoors or in spacious interiors.
- Higher PSI capacity for more power to work on stubborn jobs
- Completely encased motor and pump for better durability and safety
- Reinforced steel frame
- Never-flat tires for all types of terrain
- Longer air-tool run-time compared to lower PSI models
- Generates quite a lot of noise
- Airflow: 5.0 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 135 PSI
- Oil-free: No
- 205 pounds
- Ultra-silent operation
If noise is an issue, the Northstar Belt-Driven 20-Gallon Air Compressor makes a suitable indoor companion. As one of the few of its kind that features a belt-driven motor, the Northstar produces a modest 135 PSI of power. But what you get in return is an ultra-silent hum that lets you work in relative quiet. That’s what makes the Northstar model especially popular among indoor workers.
Aside from that, the design also incorporates a range of features that improve performance. Heavy-duty paper elements keep the cylinder heads free from debris and dust, reed valves help to keep the machine from overheating, and a double ringed-style piston works to keep oil-consumption to the bare minimum. Altogether, the machine comes equipped with everything it needs for efficient functionality and a long lifespan.
So, why didn’t it rank higher on our list? For as impressive as the Northstar’s high-points might be, it did have some low points. First, the regulator that comes with it might be restrictive, calling for a 3/8” replacement. Secondly, its drain valve’s position off to the side of the machine means you won’t be able to drain condensate completely unless you tilt the machine over.
- Ultra-silent operation
- Low oil-consumption
- Paper elements prevent the cylinder from getting dirty too soon
- Low maintenance design
- Quick to build up pressure from empty after just a few minutes
- No full drainage unless tilted
- Stock regulator is restrictive
- Airflow: 3.8 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 135 PSI
- Oil-free: No
- 86 pounds
- Auto shut-down feature
The WEN 2202 is a reliable workhorse that brings you all the bare essentials you need. The machine, delivering a maximum of 135 PSI of air pressure, is perfect for typical household applications. Its 15A motor and reinforced steel tank are rigged with an auto shut-down feature that maintains your safety by turning the machine off once it reaches maximum PSI.
Some other features worth appreciating include the standard pressure gauges for airflow and internal pressure and the 1/4-inch NTP quick-coupler air outlet. This nifty little feature lets you change hoses quickly and easily, even opening the opportunity for one-handed replacements.
The built-in handle comes with a reinforced rubber grip, making it easier to pull and push the machine around. When stationary, two rubber-tipped feet lock the air compressor where it stands, so you can work with complete confidence and safety.
Relatively lightweight and affordable, the WEN 2202 is a great choice for those who are just starting to appreciate the importance of an air-compressor. Had the motor been quieter and the recovery speed been a little faster, it would have found a higher spot on our list.
- Auto shut-down feature prevents building up of too much pressure
- Reinforced steel tank for maximum durability and lifespan
- Easy-to-read gauges for pressure and airflow
- 1/4 quick-coupler air outlet streamlines hose replacement
- Rubberized feet and handle allow ease of transport
- Generates quite a bit of noise – keep your earmuffs at the ready
- Slow recovery speed after using moderate to high-power air-tools
- Airflow: 5.3 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 135 PSI
- Oil-free: No
- 159 pounds
- V-Twin cylinder
Joining the DeWalt model at the higher end of the price spectrum is the Industrial Air IL1682066. This premier choice from the Industrial Air brand uses a cast-iron V-twin cylinder in tandem with an oil-lubricated pump, brought to life by its reliable belt-driven motor. Its design delivers sustained and silent performance, offering supreme thermal stability and safety all throughout its operation.
Although belt-driven, Industrial Air IL1682066 comes at a steeper price than most others on our list. That’s because almost all of its parts – from its crankcase to its valve plate, and its cylinder body – are all made from reinforced cast iron. This helps guarantee that your machine will last for several decades with the right kind of care and maintenance.
Up top, the model features a compact control panel where you’ll find the easy-access features you need to get the machine up and running. An on-off switch, tank, and tool pressure gauges and a quick connect air outlet all sit conveniently on the top panel for seamless accessibility.
Durable and highly efficient, Industrial Air IL1682066 definitely pays you back given its price. Sure, it’s air release valve might be a little clumsy to use, and the water draining valve might be a little out of reach. But if these are things you can come to forgive, then the Industrial Air IL1682066 can easily meet your expectations.
- Almost noiseless operation, ideal for indoor applications
- Reinforced design uses cast iron for most of its parts for better durability
- Easy-access control panel lets you operate the machine and see its status at a glance
- Quick connect air outlet simplifies hose attachment and replacement
- Efficient and sustained air pressure and flow even after using high-demand air tools
- Clumsy air release valve
- Water drainage valve might be a little out of reach
- Airflow: 5 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 175 PSI
- Oil-free: No
- 60 pounds
- Vertical or Horizontal storage
At under $200, this 20-gallon air compressor packs a powerful punch that competes closely with more expensive items on our list. The Industrial Air IT20ASMME is one of two horizontal models on our list, and also features the lightest build across the board at just 60 pounds.
Despite being pretty feather-light compared to most others we’ve picked out, the IT20ASME delivers a whopping 175 PSI of pressure. This puts it ahead – right next to the Husky model – in terms of sheer power and run-time length.
With its higher PSI, the IT20ASME can power up air-hog tools for longer periods of time without having to take too long to recover. This makes it a suitable choice for heavy-duty jobs that require long periods of tool use for completion.
Another thing you’ll notice about this model from Industrial Air is that it seems relatively stripped down when compared with other more expensive choices. Two quarter-turn valves on its side drain out water and air. Between them is a gauge to indicate pressure. Other than that, there’s not much else to see.
The rest of the controls are at the head of the cylinder where you’ll find everything else you need to operate the equipment. The package comes with a vertical base for vertical storage and four vibration-isolating feet for horizontal. Along the sides are two welded handles that let you carry the thing around for transport.
Budget-friendly, efficient, and powerful, the Industrial Air IT20ASME can deliver premier functionality at a reasonable cost. It should make a suitable choice if portability isn’t the main priority and if you don’t mind reverting back to horizontal orientation every time you need to drain from vertical.
- Exceptionally affordable at under $200
- Delivers a whopping 175 PSI despite its humble build
- Easy quarter-turn valves for draining simplify the process
- Streamlined design does away with fancy bells and whistles for efficient use
- Stores vertically or horizontally for your convenience
- No vertical drainage valve, so you need to keep turning it to its side to drain from standing
- Welded handles and no wheels make it a hassle to move around
- Airflow: 4.0 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 150 PSI
- Oil-free: Yes
- 97 pounds
- Low voltage start-up
Our bet for the best oil-free air compressor comes in the form of the Porter Cable PXCMF220VW 20-Gallon Air-Compressor. Oil-free air compressors are cheaper, lighter, and less demanding when it comes to maintenance. For that reason, this Porter Cable model makes an ideal companion for carefree users who want to enjoy the function of an air-compressor without having to spend too much time keeping it in shape.
The PXCMF220VW produces an impressive 150 PSI of pressure, enabling you to power up some of the more demanding air tools in your arsenal without having to worry about erratic pressure. It also comes with a fully enclosed shroud that conceals all of its working parts. This keeps your motor and pump in pristine condition, away from dirt and debris, and also minimizes the risk of accidents, injury, and damage.
Being an oil-free model, the machine doesn’t call for too much of your maintenance effort. The compressor won’t need regular oil checks or replacements, letting you fire it up any time without worry of hiccups. This also means that the machine is capable of supplying air pressure to some of the most demanding tools for a much longer period of time without the need for frequent recovery.
To keep the motor safe from the dangers of wear and tear, the design was wired for a low-voltage start-up. This reduces the current draw on the motor and imposes a lesser starting torque. In effect, it doesn’t jolt the motor to life, instead of bringing it to a gentle start that protects it from damage in the long-run.
Obviously, the Porter Cable PXCMF220VW fights for its position among the best 20-gallon air-compressors. Efficient, powerful, and low-maintenance, it would have made a perfect choice.
The only problems are that it can generate quite a lot of noise and its build isn’t as reinforced as you might expect. It won’t explode on you or anything like that, but it will leave room for a little doubt which can always play with your head when working with hazardous air tools.
- Low-maintenance design doesn’t require time or effort for oil checks and changes
- Powerful pressure output at 150 PSI
- Fully enclosed working parts for greater protection for both you and the machine
- Longer run-time for even the most demanding of air tools
- Low-voltage start-up keeps the motor in optimal condition even after years of use
- Significant noise during operation limits use to the outdoors unless you’re wearing the right protective gear for your ears
- Build doesn’t feel quite as reinforced as you might prefer
- Airflow: 3.7 CFM at 90 PSI
- Maximum pressure: 150 PSI
- Oil-free: Yes
- 83.8 pounds
- Intuitive handle and frame design
Last on our list but definitely not the least is the Briggs & Stratton 074064-00. Another oil-free model, this design minimizes the need for checks and replacements, letting you work right off the bat without worrying about performance issues. At just 83.8 pounds, it might be heavier than the Industrial Air IT20ASME, but it still comes out as the best portable choice.
Why is that? Well, the Briggs & Stratton design boasts an intuitive handle and frame design that doesn’t just support the tank but also protects the working parts. This holds everything in place, paving the way for solid construction that can make any worker feel confident.
The frame – in combination with the heavy-duty never-flat tires – make it a dream to pull the thing around your job site. Whether you’re towing her over to your garage or across a gravelly work site, the Briggs & Stratton will feel exceptionally well put-together – no jingling or loosening parts.
Delivering 150 PSI of pressure, the model can sustain demanding air tools for longer run-times. Its powerful 1.5 horsepower induction motor also helps generate far more oomph, providing sustained performance for decades after purchase. Other than that, everything else is pretty much industry standard. Easy-access controls, airflow, and pressure gauges, and a quick connect air outlet make it relatively convenient and effortless to use.
Now, for the downsides. While we’d hate to be a buzzkill, there are some features on the Briggs & Stratton that prevent it from rising through our ranks. The biggest issues users have with the model are its slow recovery and high noise level which sounds more like a roar than a gentle hum.
- Easy to bring around a job site thanks to its lightweight build and intuitive handle and frame
- Very well put-together, allowing confident, worry-free use
- Sustains demanding air tools for longer periods of time
- Heavy-duty motor can take years of use with no issues
- Low-maintenance oil-free model
- Probably the noisiest of the bunch
- Slow recovery means you’ll have to wait a while between tools before resuming your work
Even the most affordable 20-gallon air compressors aren’t actually cheap. No matter what your purpose is, an air compressor should be seen as an investment. That means taking your time, doing your research, and understanding exactly what each choice brings to the table to get a better perspective of which one will give the best value for every dollar you spend.
Needless to say, there are quite a few features you need to look out for if you’re buying an air compressor. Knowing how each one of these factors adds up should help you determine what you need and prefer, so you can opt for a model that won’t fall short of your standards.
One of the first things you need to consider before buying an air compressor is its PSI rating. Most others would tell you to look into horsepower. But unfortunately, smaller air compressors for residential use will rarely tell you its accurate horsepower rating. That’s mostly because big-box stores have managed to obscure the actual values to help advertise their wares. So, even if a machine claims to run on 1.5 or 2 HP, there’s no way to verify whether or not that’s true.
Instead, looking into PSI might offer a more accurate representation of the model’s power. PSI – or pounds per square inch – tells you how much pressure the machine can bust out during operation. The typical range for 20-gallon air compressors is around 135 to 175 PSI. The higher the PSI, the more pressure you have to power your tools.
It pays to keep in mind that while that air travels through your compressor, it will lose some pressure through the hose and the coupler which will inevitably have leaks – no matter how seemingly insignificant. That means that even if you set your compressor to 90 PSI, the actual pressure delivered at the end might be slightly less.
That said, if you’re using air tools that require lots of pressure, you might consider buying an air compressor with a higher PSI. That way, you can bump up the PSI settings to push 100 or 120 PSI to get the ideal pressure in your tool without overworking your compressor’s motor.
CFM – or cubic feet per minute – is a measure of the volume of air that an air compressor produces for every minute it’s turned on. Every tool requires a certain level of air volume. If the air compressor falls short of that volume, then it may require a longer recovery period at regular intervals, delaying your work. That’s why some models tend to require that you put down your tools for a while especially if you’re using a demanding air tool or if you’ve been operating the equipment for too long.
CFM rating tends to change depending on the PSI pressure rating. Unfortunately, they won’t be too accurate either, just like the horsepower rating. When buying an air compressor, the most important CFM rating should be the one corresponding to 90 PSI because that’s the pressure that most tools require in order to function.
Have you ever heard an air compressor? You’d be surprised how noisy these things can get. And because the noise they generate can easily qualify as public disturbance noise, it would help to keep noise levels in mind before you buy. Knowing exactly where you plan to put your air compressor should also provide some insight as to how much noise is too noisy.
Noise levels can be affected by the compressor’s motor and mechanism. For instance, oil-lubricated compressors have been developed to generate far less noise than their oil-free counterparts. Air compressors that use a belt-driven motor also tend to be far more silent, letting you work even in residential areas without waking up the whole neighborhood.
Oil-Lubricated vs Oil-Free
To compress air and build-up air pressure, air compressors have a moving piston that moves up and down to allow air in and to press it down. The oil, as you might have guessed, works to allow the free movement of the piston. As the oil depletes, you’ll have to check and replace it to make sure that the compressor works as intended.
For those who have trouble with the obligation of maintenance, an oil-free air compressor like the Porter-Cable PXCMF220VW would be the ideal purchase.
They’re lighter and require far less maintenance because there isn’t any oil to check or change. They do this by modifying the lubrication that moves the pistons inside.
Oil-free air compressors use a pre-lubricated piston, usually coated in Teflon or a similar material, that maintains the surface of the piston even without routine checks. This also allows manufacturers to reduce the number of moving parts inside an oil-free compressor, so they tend to cost less.
The downside is that an oil-free air compressor also tends to deliver less power than the oil-lubricated option. If you’re particular about noise, it also helps to know that oil-free models are likely to generate far more noise.
There are a few good reasons to inspect an air compressor for the proper build before settling on a purchase. The first is to make sure that there aren’t any leaks that could dampen its efficiency in delivering pressure to your tools. The second is to guarantee that it won’t break down and conk out too soon after you bring it home.
The last is to minimize the risk of accidents. Built-up air pressure can be a very hazardous thing. And if it’s contained in a tank that isn’t reinforced or secure, then you put yourself in very real danger.
Fortunately, most of the air compressors you’ll find take build quality into careful consideration. But that doesn’t mean they all offer the same level of security. Models that use cast iron – like the Industrial Air IL1682066 – are more likely to withstand wear, tear, and rust. And those that incorporate a secure, stable frame with anti-vibration legs can help maintain your compressor in place even during demanding use.
At just 20-gallons, one of the benefits of this air compressor size is that it lets you pull your machine around to bring it to various areas of your home or job site. But just because all of the choices on our list are 20-gallon picks, doesn’t mean they’re all that easy to bring around.
For instance, the Northstar model comes in at a whopping 205 pounds. So even with its wheels and handle, it might be a challenge to pull it around. The Industrial Air IT20ASME, on the other hand, weighs modest 60 pounds. But without wheels, you’d have to carry it around via its welded handles.
If you’re interested in something that will practically follow you around, something like the Briggs & Stratton 074064-00 might be a better fit. Large wheels, a reinforced frame, and great traction on a variety of terrain can make an air compressor a breeze to keep in tow.
Ease of Use
No one wants an air compressor that demands you to hack your mental bandwidth in two to monitor its status while you work on your job. So, an efficiently designed compressor that maximizes ease of use should be your top priority.
Models like the DeWalt maximize ease of use by giving you an easy access control panel that features everything you need to see and adjust. Similar models that place all of the controls and gauges in a single, easy-to-view space should prevent you from having to walk around to make adjustments or to see pressure levels.
Drainage valves can also weigh down or improve the convenience of a model. Some choices will have oddly positioned drainage ports that require you to tilt the tank over to get all the condensate out. The problem with these designs is that they may cause water damage inside over time, especially if you’re unable to fully drain after each use.
Whether you’re interested in becoming your own at-home DIY expert, or if you’re looking for a brand-new piece of equipment for your small workshop, a 20-gallon air compressor can be a great investment. But because they come in a wide array, it pays to know your options before making a purchase.
Our top pick for the best 20-gallon air compressor would have to be the DeWalt DXCMPA1982054 that just shines with efficiency, convenience, and overall great value despite its higher price tag. But don’t just take our word for it.
Check our list of the 8 best air compressors at 20-gallons and find the ideal workhorse to suit your unique standards.