Air compressors are extremely handy tools to have. They are flexible, powerful, and make a whole lot of tasks a whole lot easier. Using compressed air to get jobs done is far from high-tech or modern, but the advances in the machines and the technology that powers them are impressive.
One of the professions that can benefit most from having an air compressor is auto body technicians. Auto body shops that offer car painting rely on air compressors to power their paint guns and help them achieve an optimal finish on every task.
Picking the right air compressor to use for auto bodywork is essential for any professional who wants their work to shine.
There is a lot to consider, and it is not always an easy decision, so we have put together a brief buying guide and highlighted some of the best air compressors for auto body work in 2022.
What Type of Compressor s Best for Auto Body Work?
In short, you need a reliable air compressor with steady pressure and easy control. Because auto bodywork and paint jobs rely on consistent air release and quality, it is essential to pick a machine with an advanced pressure regulator.
The best air compressor for auto body work is usually a large capacity tank with an advanced rotary system and easily adjustable pressure gauges.
Rotary vane compressors are more cost-effective long-term, but rotary screw compressors are more robust for this type of task. It is best to choose a rotary screw compressor for auto body repair and painting.
You can use a pancake air compressor for auto body paint guns if you are only working on a small area, but they are unlikely to have enough capacity for a whole vehicle. A hot dog compressor with a large tank capacity is best.
What Size Air Compressor Do I Need to Spray Paint a Car?
The question is: just how large does it need to be? Figuring out the right size of air compressor to buy for auto bodywork or any other task in auto repair shops is not always easy, but here is a rough guide.
There are three main things to consider when deciding what sized air compressor to buy: CFM, PSI, and tank capacity. The latter is the most straightforward: how many gallons of air does the tank hold? This is what is going to affect the size the most, which is worth considering based on the size of your workspace.
An automotive air compressor should ideally be around 20-30 gallons. 10-gallon air compressors are great for smaller tasks, and some jobs may require up to 60-gallon or 80-gallon air tanks.
The trick is to balance the size of the tank with the available space in your workshop, then consider how much air you need for the kinds of jobs you do.
PSI is the maximum pressure. Different air tools require different levels of air pressure, so this really depends on what attachments you use.
Most spray guns need somewhere between 20 and 40 PSI. It takes a lot more to inflate tires with tire machines or operate heavy-duty industrial air tools.
What Is CFM?
CFM stands for cubic feet per minute, meaning the amount of air consumed in 60 seconds with the air compressor is in use. The CFM rating of an air compressor is one of the key features that can help you decide if it is right for you.
It goes hand in hand with the air pressure to give you an idea of how long-life the capacity is.
How Many CFM does it Take to Paint a Car?
Most paint jobs require between two and 10 CFM. Busy body shops that paint cars and trucks regularly should look for an air compressor that can handle the top end of that range, but most normal tasks are fine with around six CFM.
How Many Gallons of Air do you Need to Paint a Car?
Again, the amount of compressed air needed to complete an auto paint job varies depending on the vehicle, the tools used, and the intricacy of the work.
A commercial auto body technician may want a larger capacity tank (over 20 gallons) so it can power most air tools in their shop. Anything less than 10 gallons may not be enough to finish a complete paint job in one go.
You can buy air compressors up to 200 gallons, but that is way more than is required for this type of work. A 60 or 80-gallon tank capacity is more than enough for just about any auto body work.
Auto Body Air Compressor Buyer's Guide
Price: Your available budget is always going to be a factor. Air compressors vary in price based on their features, capabilities, and brands. You can still find a great air compressor on a tight budget if you shop around.
Power: The horsepower and maximum pressure of an air compressor matter greatly. Some jobs require a more powerful air compressor than others, so be sure to buy one with enough power for the type of work you plan to do.
Compatibility: Think about what power tools and air tools you plan to use in combination with your air compressor. Does the tank capacity meet your needs? Is the air pressure compatible? Powering air tools requires specific settings, so you need a machine that can handle them.
Noise Level: If your auto body shop or garage is in a residential area or somewhere where neighbors could complain, you want an air compressor with a manageable noise level. Some make a lot less noise than others! Check the decibel rating and test it out before you get stuck into a task.
Portability: A portable air compressor is ideal for people who move around for work. If you need to take the machine to a different site, it helps if it is easy to move. A large automotive body shop may need some large, static tanks for heavy-duty tasks and some smaller more portable models to move around as necessary.
Our Top Picks: Four Best Air Compressors for Auto Body Work
All the air compressors on this list have all the features needed for auto body works and other automotive shop tasks. We have considered the key factors needed in an air compressor for this purpose and picked the best high-performance models for auto painting.
1: Best Air Compressor Overall: Ingersoll Rand 60 Gallon Single Stage Air Compressor
Ingersoll Rand is a premium brand that makes several of the best air compressor models on the market today. This particular design is the perfect air compressor for auto painting and other auto bodywork.
It has an impressive 60-gallon tank and a mammoth five-horsepower pump. The high capacity and power setting make it easier to maintain a steady, continuous airflow and perfect finishes.
Made from cast iron and capable of delivering 14.3 CFM at 90 PSI or 14 CFM at 175 PSI, it is one seriously powerful machine.
Rather than use a traditional oil-lubricated pump, this air compressor has synthetic oil for energy efficiency and durability. Safety features include manual thermal overload protection, an enclosed belt guard, and an oil sight gauge.
It is pretty expensive, so it definitely doesn’t fit into the budget-friendly category. However, it is hard to beat for quality, reliability, and durability. If you are looking to invest in your business, this Ingersoll Rand model is tough to beat.
2: Best Extra-Large Air Compressor: DEWALT Two-Stage Industrial Compressor
Some jobs just require a little extra, especially in a professional body shop. There are no extra-large air compressors that measure up to the DEWALT Two-Stage Cast Iron Cylinder Air Compressor.
It is tough to find any list of the best air compressors without seeing the DEWALT name, and this one is no exception. Large garages and workshops could benefit from the capacity and power of this 80-gallon, five-horsepower motor compressor.
Useful for far more than operating spray guns, the 17.9 CFM performance is perfect for inflating tires and power heavy-duty tools.
Unfortunately, it is not very easy to move around. As you can imagine, 80 gallons of compressed air gets pretty heavy!
We would say this air compressor works best as a stationary machine in a commercial automotive shop. As always, DEWALT does not disappoint.
3: Best Portable Air Compressor: Industrial Air ILA1883054
Industrial Air is another brand that is recognized for high-quality air compressors. The ILA1883054 is an excellent portable model for auto painting. Small automotive shop owners, independent workers, and passionate DIYers are sure to love the device.
It is easy to move around a job site thanks to sturdy pneumatic wheels. The dual voltage motor and 155 PSI adapt to most air tools and make light work of heavy tasks. Combine that with a 30-gallon tank and twin cast-iron cylinders and you have a pretty impressive machine.
4: Best Quiet Air Compressor: Stealth 20-Gallon Ultra-Quiet Air Compressor
Noise levels matter, especially for workshops in built-up areas. The hint is in the name: Stealth. It has all the top-grade features of every other professional air compressor but with a lot fewer decibels.
With 20 gallons and a little less than two horsepower, it is the perfect tool for mid-size tasks. The alloy steel construction is sturdy and durable while remaining reasonably lightweight.
Workshops in residential areas don’t need to worry about noise. The maximum decibel rating is 68- well below the average.
Air compressors for auto bodywork are easy to find, but narrowing it down to the best choice for you is trickier. The four models highlighted here are each excellent choices. Our overview buying guide is a great place to start when shopping for a new machine for your auto body workshop.