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Best Air Compressor for Auto Body Work: Our Three Top Picks

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Finding the best air compressor for auto body work doesn't need to be a difficult task. But it is important to keep in mind that waxing a car takes more precise application of primer, paint and top coatings than many other painting jobs. That's why getting the paint or wax applied evenly, without drips, is best done with the aid of an air compressor.

Unfortunately, not all air compressors are appropriate for the job. A key factor to consider when shopping for a air compressor for auto body work is the CFM, or cubic feet per meter. The CFM indicates how many cubic feet per meter the compressor can cover.

The spray radius is also a vital indicator to getting the correct coverage. And since you'll be moving the compressor around, portability weighs into the equation. After all, you won't want to pull a long hose around your vehicle which can easily get tangled or slap against a freshly painted or waxed surface.

There are plenty of air compressors on the market today, but finding the best one for auto body work might take a little digging. This article will cover our top three picks to help you get started on your hunt for the best air compressor for auto body work.

Best Auto Body Work Air Compressors

In a hurry? Take a look at our three top picks.

DEWALT Air Compressor, 225-PSI Max, Hand Carry with Wheels, 4-1/2 Gallon (D55146)
Best Choice
Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor
PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)
DeWalt D55146
Makita MAC5200
Porter-Cable C2002
@ 90 psi
5.0 SCFM @ 90 psi
6.5 CFM @ 90 psi
2.6 SCFM @ 90 psi
Pump Style
Oil-Free
Oil Lubricated
Oil-Free
Tank Capacity
4.5 Gallons
5.2 Gallons
6.0 Gallons
Horsepower
1.6 HP
3.0 HP
1.0 HP
Noise Level
78 dBA
90 dBA
82 dBA
Portable
Weight
80 lbs
75 lbs
34 lbs
Price
$411.60
$389.00
$129.00
DEWALT Air Compressor, 225-PSI Max, Hand Carry with Wheels, 4-1/2 Gallon (D55146)
DeWalt D55146
@ 90 psi
5.0 SCFM @ 90 psi
Pump Style
Oil-Free
Tank Capacity
4.5 Gallons
Horsepower
1.6 HP
Noise Level
78 dBA
Portable
Weight
80 lbs
Price
$411.60
Best Choice
Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor
Makita MAC5200
@ 90 psi
6.5 CFM @ 90 psi
Pump Style
Oil Lubricated
Tank Capacity
5.2 Gallons
Horsepower
3.0 HP
Noise Level
90 dBA
Portable
Weight
75 lbs
Price
$389.00
PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)
Porter-Cable C2002
@ 90 psi
2.6 SCFM @ 90 psi
Pump Style
Oil-Free
Tank Capacity
6.0 Gallons
Horsepower
1.0 HP
Noise Level
82 dBA
Portable
Weight
34 lbs
Price
$129.00

As you can see, our pick for the best air compressor for body work is the Makita MAC5200 Big Bore. It's big enough to handle a complete auto body job from start to finish, while the other two are limited to smaller jobs.

Of course, in the end, the best one really depends on your needs. If you're doing a complete paint job, including the finish top coat, the Makita MAC5200 is definitely for you. However, if you just need an air compressor for detailing, spot painting, or waxing your vehicle, the DeWalt D55146 or the Porter-Cable C2002 should work fine.

If you're looking for more detailed information on buying an air compressor, check out our buyers guide HERE. Let's take a closer look at each compressor:

DeWalt D55146 Hand Carry Compressor

Although the DeWalt D55146 Air Compressor isn't designed for painting cars from the bare metal to fully finished, it's great for waxing and painting small spots to restore a car to looking its best. It can deliver an impressive 5.0 CFM @ 90 psi, and has a 4-1/2 capacity tank.

DEWALT Air Compressor, 225-PSI Max, Hand Carry with Wheels, 4-1/2 Gallon (D55146)

Weighing it at 80 pounds, the DeWalt D55146 is well balanced and easy to carry, and the steel construction adds to its durability.  The compressor is designed to be operated either laying flat or standing vertical, which gives you plenty of flexibility when you're working in tight spaces.

Specifications

  • The 225 psi maximum tank storage pressure provides 80% more usable air than other top compressors in its class.
  • 5.0 SCFM @ 90 psi allows for quick recovery after the initial tank charge has been exhausted.
  • Equipped with a collapsible handle and a vertical stand saves space during transporting and storage.
  • Quiet operation at 78 dBa operational noise level.
  • 1.6 Horsepower motor.
  • Longer pump and motor life due to efficient high pressure technology.
  • Moves easily with 10-inch non-flat foam tires.
DEWALT Air Compressor, 225-PSI Max, Hand Carry with Wheels, 4-1/2 Gallon (D55146)

Pros

  • Runs very quiet at only 79 decibels, making it possible to have a conversation during operation.
  • Quick recovery time means you'll spend less time waiting for the compressor to recover and get your job done faster. 
  • Compact and light enough to be easily be moved from job site-to-job site.

Cons

  • Draining the tank can be a bit awkward. The compressor needs to be at a 45° angle to fully drain.
  • On the heavy side for smaller jobs, but for auto body work this shouldn't be a problem.
  • Does not include accessories, which isn't a problem if this isn't you're first compressor.

ConClusion

The DeWalt D55146 is great air compressor for light auto body work, such as waxing and touch-up painting. However, if you're looking for an air compressor to tackle more extensive work, this isn't your best choice. DeWalt manufacturers solid compressors and if you're not looking to do extensive vehicle painting and finishing this is a really good choice. 


Makita MAC5200 Big Bore

The Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor is a popular choice for all types of painting and waxing jobs. It works at a PSI low enough that will allow you to put paint or wax where it needs to be without spraying large amounts into the air.

Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

The Makita MAC5200 Big Bore is equipped with an oil lubricated pump that runs cooler than oil-free models, and the finned discharge tubing dissipates heat very efficiently. The roll cage construction gives the pump and motor assembly extra protection and helps the compressor withstand harsh job site environments. 

Specifications

  • The 5.2 gallon capacity tank allows you to keep spraying longer rather than stopping mid-job to allow the tank to refill.
  • Up to 140 psi can be delivered with the powerful 3 horsepower motor. Which means its capable of running for long periods continuously.
  • Delivers 40 psi (6.9 CFM) and 90 psi (6.5 CFM), allowing the paint or wax to be applied evenly and smoothly.
  • Produces 90 db of noise. 
  • Weighs 81 lbs.
  • Runs on 110 volts and draws 13.8 amps. Other appliances sharing the circuit should not be operated at the same time.
Makita MAC5200 Big Bore 3.0 HP Air Compressor

Pros

  • Cast iron pump with Big Bore cylinder and piston is designed for faster recovery.
  • The cast iron cylinder is durable and designed to increase the pump's service life.
  • Maintenance is easy with a removable cast iron cylinder and a ball valve to drain the tank.  
  • Roll cage construction adds extra protection. 
  • Onboard storage compartment for air fittings and accessories. 
  • Industrial air filter allows for increased air intake and Improves efficiency.

Cons

  • Noisier then the majority of compressors in its class (90 db).
  • Leans towards the expensive side, especially if not used regularly.
  • Weighing in at 81 lbs, it's on the heavy side for moving from job site-to-job site. However, once you have it out of your truck, the retractible handle and rugged wheels make it very portable.

ConClusion

The Makita MAC5200 is among the top choices for painting and finishing work. It's definitely built for performance. With its hefty 6.5 CFM @ 90 psi, and its powerful 3.0 hp motor, this air compressor won't disappoint. If you're looking for an air compressor that can handle auto body work from the ground up, this is an excellent choice.


Porter-Cable C2002

The Porter-Cable C2002 Air Compressor has a 6-gallon tank and is able to deliver 2.6 SCFM @ 90 psi. With it's compact pancake design, and light 30-pound weight, it's easy to move around. Although, there are quieter compressors on the market, this one isn't too loud, which makes it easy to use in an enclosed space for extended periods of time.

PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)

The 1 HP motor and rapid recycle means it can make small jobs go much faster. The construction is durable and the compressor is stabilized during use by it's rubber feet. Read our full review HERE

Specifications

  • 2.6 SCFM @ 90 psi, 6 gallon tank and 150 max psi for longer run times and quicker recovery.
  • Durable oil-free pump for long life and no maintenance.
  • Low Amp 120V motor.
  • Only 30 lbs. for easy portability.
PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)

Pros

  • 150 PSI max tank pressure for longer run times.
  • Pancake-style tank for stability.
  • Durable oil-free pump for long life and no maintenance.
  • Vital components such as the motor and pump are protected by a plastic cover.
  • One of the best consumer-grade compressors for the price.

Cons

  • Oil-less compressors tend to have a shorter service life.
  • Some of the smaller parts such as the pressure regulator, release valve, and pressure switch may need to be replace due to lower quality.
  • Better suited for spot painting jobs and waxing than a "from-scratch" complete paint job.

ConClusion

The Porter-Cable C2002 is an ideal air compressor for lighter duty auto body work, and if you're looking to do more, its great choice finish and trim carpenters, and small framing crews. It's lightweight design makes it extremely portable, and the long-lasting oil-less pump all but eliminates regular maintenance. If you're looking for a solid compressor at a reasonable price, the Porter-Cable C2002 is a great choice.

Last update on 2020-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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