What is a Good Size Air Compressor for Spray Painting Cars?

Are you planning to spray paint a car at home yourself, and that’s why you are looking for a reliable and best air compressor for spray painting cars? But now you are wondering; what is a good size air compressor for spray painting cars and how to choose the right air compressor for spray painting a car? If yes, then this guide is an extremely useful resource for every automotive enthusiast like you.

Car painting does not even look similar to what it looks like painting a piece of wood. From glossier and shiner finish to an even color distribution, there are a lot of things you need to consider while painting your car. Though paint quality has its own role to play, the application of the paint is way more critical when it comes to the look and feel of the car paint.

No matter if you are a DIY auto enthusiast or a small car paint shop owner, having the right car painting tools and equipment is necessary to spray paint cars. And when it comes to spray painting a car, an air compressor is a piece of indispensable equipment in the automobile painting process.

air compressor for spray painting cars
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But it’s never like you can just randomly pick any kind of air compressor available in the market and use them for spray painting your car.

Do you know why?

It’s because there are various factors you need to consider before you get your hands on the right tool. Talking about the best air compressor for spray painting cars or pickup trucks, the first question that comes to anyone’s mind is, “What size air compressor do I need?”.

In a hurry? Here are our top choices:

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You don’t need to hover around the internet to get your queries (such as; what is an air compressor and how it works? what is a good size air compressor for spray painting cars? Or, what is the best air compressor for paint sprayer?) resolved. Here in this guide, I’m going to talk about all the nitty-gritty of air compressors. So, let’s dive in.

What is Air Compressor and How It Works?

From inflating tires, kiddie pools to unclogging the sink at your home, an air compressor can come in handy anytime. But if we talk only about professional requirements, then we must say an air compressor is a truly essential tool for regular mechanical work.

Whether you are looking to power a paint spray, a nail gun, or drive some pneumatic devices, an air compressor is a tool you need on all these occasions. If you have ever got confused thinking about how does an air compressor work, let us explain it to you here!

An air compressor forces air inside a container by pressurizing it. Now when needed, the air is forced out of the tank through an opening while maintaining the pressure. You can think of it as similar to an open balloon; now, in the case of an air compressor, you can control the air pressure and use the energy.

how does an air compressor work
How does an air compressor work? Here’s your answer. Image Credit: Bigrentz

Air compressors come with an engine that converts electrical energy into kinetic energy. Just like a combustion engine, air compressors use a crankshaft, valve, piston, and a connecting rod along with the head; the pressurized air powers various tools like paint sprayers, sanders, and wrenches.

Depending on the working principle, there are various types of air compressors available in the market. Mainly there are two methods that air compressors use to achieve air compression. One is known as positive displacement, and the other method is dynamic displacement.

So, these are the basics of how does an air compressor work. Now before moving forward to find out what size air compressor is needed for spray painting a car or what is the best air compressor for automotive painting, let’s first check out what is an air compressor used for in automotive work.

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What is an Air Compressor Used for in a Car?

If you are an avid automotive DIYer, then an air compressor is one of the essential tools that you should have in your garage. Starting from pressure washing to spray painting, an air compressor can come in handy on many occasions.

Are you still wondering, what all can you do with an air compressor? Here we have listed a few basic applications that an air compressor has for your car. Let’s have a look:

Spray Painting

This is one of the most crucial reasons why you need an air compressor. If your car requires a little touching up paint with a spray gun, then a top-rated air compressor for spray painting cars is what you need.

Seal off the area you are going to paint so that the things nearby remain protected from the paint. You must mask off the windows and other parts of your car on which you don’t want to get paint. Try to use a respirator for your own safety.

Then set the compressor with the right pressure so that it can draw the paint out of the gun. You can test-spray on cardboard before the paint actually comes out in a fine mist.

Pressure Washing

You can attach your air compressor with a high-pressure water spray gun and use it as a pressure washer. To use an air compressor with your pressure washer firstly:

  • Turn on the air compressor and allow it to build the required pressure.
  • Connect one end of your garden hose to a faucet that is outside of your garage.
  • Once you are done with that, connect the other end of the hose with the water line connection available on your pressure washer attachment.
  • Plug the air hose directly for the air compressor in the airline connector.
  • As you are done, your air compressor will surely make your pressure washing hurdle simpler. Moreover, you can use your air compressor and a water spray gun to pressure wash your car.

Inflating Tires

You can use your air compressor to inflate the flat tires of your car. It’s a simple step by step process that you need to follow to inflate the tires. Firstly, learn about the optimum pressure for your vehicle’s tire. Now, if you were driving the car before this, make sure you offer enough time to cool down the tires.

Once the tire you want to inflate cools down, adjust the valve and after that:

  • Turn the air compressor on.
  • Attach the air hose with the compressor.
  • Make sure you attach the quick coupler at the end. The fastener available will help to push air in the valve stem.
  • Keep a tab on the air pressure monitoring gauge.
  • Once the pressure reaches the required PSI disconnect the hose. Now put the nozzle back on the tire valve.

Air Blow Gun

Air blow gun is extremely useful when it comes to cleaning your car’s interior. The car’s interior is one of the most complicated places when it comes to dusting. You can use your air compressor by connecting an Air blow gun with it and use the tool to dry clean the car interior.

Air Sanders

Air sanders are essential when it comes to painting your car. You can achieve that polished and shiny finish only if you proceed with your sanding job properly before applying the actual paint. However, if you have got an air compressor that can operate at a pressure of around 90PSI, you can easily connect it with an air orbital sander.

Now you know exactly what is an air compressor used for in automotive work after checking out the large array of applications it has. Here, let’s take a moment to concentrate on the main purpose of this article (What size air compressor is needed for spray painting cars?). So, let’s scroll through and learn about the recommended air compressor size for spray painting.

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What is a Good Size Air Compressor for Spray Painting Cars?

While setting up a home automotive shop, some of the most common questions that come up in our mind are “What size air compressor do I need for spray painting a car?” or “What is the minimum size air compressor for painting a car?”.

Are you having a similar short of a query? Well, here in this section, we are going to discuss specifically about the air compressor sizes and air compressor requirements for spray painting.

To get optimal performance while spray painting your car or truck, you need to get an air compressor with a tank capacity of around 50 to 60 gallons with a 3HP to 6HP compressor. Ensure that it produces enough CFM, which can run your spray gun. You should ensure that your air compressor for the paint sprayer has a CFM ranging from 14 CFM to 18 CFM at 90PSI.

Air compressors with a smaller tank may be able to get your job done. But if you talk about professional-quality finishing for your paint job, a small tank may not work that good. A small air compressor does not have enough air volume to paint your entire car. Hence, your spray gun will struggle, so the air compressor. As a result, there will be uneven paint spitting, and ultimately an uneven paint will not look good on your car.

Apart from that, if you have a smaller air compressor tank, you might have issues with the condensation of the paint. A smaller tank will get warm inside and form moisture for constantly being up and running.

If you don’t have space for a full-size air compressor to store inside your garage, you may consider checking out a turbine-style paint gun kit. These self-contained spray gun kits come with in-built air compressors but don’t have an air reservoir with them. And you can easily store them right under your workbench.

Also, if you compare an air compressor and a turbine-style paint gun kit, both the tools fall under a similar price range. Hence, the equipment will cost you as much as the air compressor costs. However, apart from spray painting, an air compressor has a handful of applications. You can use it to run several power tools. Therefore, if we talk about value for the money, then an air compressor is always a better option.

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What is the Best Air Compressor for Spray Painting Cars?

After going through all the above-explained paragraphs, now you know precisely what is a good size air compressor for spray painting cars and what are the minimum air compressor requirements for spray painting a car. Right?

Though you got all the technicalities, you should know before buying an appropriate and best air compressor for spray painting cars still, recommendations from an experienced campaigner do help! I’m into DIY car projects for the past 13 years, and I have used quite a few different types of air compressors for auto bodywork so far.

That’s why here I’ve sorted out three best-rated and best air compressors for spray painting cars that you can use without any complexity. Have a look at the list and decide which 60 gallon air compressor is the best for you. Here we go:

Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor

The Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor comes with a two-stage oil-lubricated pump. The pump is prepared with the best quality material and is meant to run long enough even after heavy usage. The best thing about this air compressor is that it has a dual voltage motor. This means the motor adjusts according to your power source. It can run both on 120Volt and 240 volts.

You can use the Campbell Hausfeld 60 gallon 2 Stage Air Compressor for your paint spraying, and pressure washing works efficiently. The compressor within the machine has a quick recovery time. Therefore, you don’t need to take extended breaks and finish the job at hand quite fast.

campbell hausfeld air compressor

The Campbell XC 2 stage series comes with a built-in cooler, which is what reduces the chance of your air compressor getting overheated. Not only for your household car washing, painting, and other DIY jobs, but you can use this air compressor for professional requirements as well.

  • Size: 60 gallon
  • Item Weight: 255 pounds
  • Package Dimensions: 71.75 x 31.75 x 28.25 inches
  • Power Source: Corded Electric
  • Voltage: 230 Volts (AC)
  • Maximum Pressure: 12.06 Bars
  • Warranty: 3 Year Limited

Available at a pocket-friendly price, Campbell Hausfeld 60 gallon Air Compressor is a perfect fit for DIY auto enthusiasts and small shop owners. This top-rated compressor features 175 maximum PSI and 7. 6 SCFM at 90 PSI. In simple words, this product is the answer to your questions; “what size air compressor do I need for spray painting a car at home” and “what is the best air compressor for painting cars?”.

Product Highlights:

  • Enclosed metal belt guard to ensure additional safety.
  • Made up of cast iron, the air compressor has a compact design.
  • Comes with a dual voltage motor that works both on 120V and 240V.
  • It has oil-lubricated two-stage pumps.


  • The compressor is a little noisy.

California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Compressor

In the list of most popular and best air compressor for spray painting cars and trucks, California Air Compressors always hold a top position and this Ultra Quiet 60 Gallon Compressor is one of them. Among the quietest air compressor on the market, this is the most reliable one because of its ultra quiet (75 decibels of sound) feature and oil-free dual piston pump system.

This air compressor from California Air tools comes with an oil-free pump and is one of the quietest air compressors available in the market. The compressor has a 4.0 HP motor that can generate up to 1860 RPM. The dual piston highly efficient pump system is made to offer superb performance for a more extended period.

california air tools compressor

Its oil-free feature has made the maintenance work pretty straightforward and quick. As the company claims, the piston pump can have a life cycle of 3000 plus hours. Whereas other air compressor pumps come with a maximum life cycle of 1500 hours or less.

Made up of iron, this ultra-quiet and oil-free air compressor has a sturdy build quality. You can generate a maximum pressure of 125 bars. The best thing is the company offers one year of limited warranty against any manufacturing defects. The steel ASME air tank (60 Gallon) is just the right size for all kinds of shops or garages.

  • Size: 60 gallon
  • Item Weight: 213 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 29 x 66 inches
  • Power Source: Corded Electric
  • Voltage: 220 Volts
  • Maximum Pressure: 125 Bars
  • Sound Level: 75 dB
  • Warranty: 1 Year Limited Warranty

The California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Air Compressor is specifically designed for all those automotive enthusiasts and professional automotive painters who are looking for extra power, airflow and less service with at least 30% less noise. We hope now you know what is the quietest 60 gallon air compressor. Right?

Product Highlights:

  • Super quiet noise-free operation.
  • Dual-piston oil-free pump.
  • Amazing build quality.
  • Pocket-friendly price.
  • Value for the money product.


  • While purging air, it sounds like an extensive braking system.

Ingersoll Rand Two-Stage Compressor

If you are looking for a heavy-duty air compressor, then the Ingersoll Rand Air Compressor can be your best choice. This 5 horsepower compressor comes with a large 60-gallon ASME receiver tank. It can deliver a maximum pressure of up to 175 PSI which meets the demand of every automotive service and body shops, manufacturing lines, woodworking shops, dry cleaners, car washes, and general maintenance shops, and farms.

Alongside that, the machine is made up of high-quality cast iron. Hence, it’s quite evident that the product is going to last for long, even after heavy usage. The best thing about the Ingersoll Rand 60 Gallon Air Compressor is it comes with individually cast cylinders and an overhung crankshaft. Therefore, proceeding through the maintenance work becomes easy and straightforward.

ingersoll rand air compressor

The compressor runs with all season select synthetic lubricant, which is what increases its efficiency quite a fold. Apart from that, the machine provides better runtime since synthetic based lubricant works almost four times better than petroleum-based lubricants.

  • Size: 60 Gallon
  • Item Weight: 430 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 33 x 69 inches
  • Power Source: Corded Electric
  • Voltage: 200 Volts
  • Maximum Pressure: 12.07 Bars
  • Warranty: 1 Year Warranty

In simple words, if you want maximum power and flexibility, then Ingersoll Rand Air Compressor 60 Gallon is the best air compressor for paint sprayer and other automotive works. According to many auto repair professionals, this powerful air compressor is a very long-lasting product. They are using it for auto body work almost every day for the past 6 or 7 years, and it’s working impressively.

Product Highlights:

  • Offers 5 HP compressor with 175 psi max operating pressure.
  • Super-durable cast iron construction.
  • All Season Synthetic lubricant for better efficiency.
  • The high-quality two-stage pump ensures extended life.
  • Two years warranty against manufacturing defects


  • The package doesn’t include synthetic lubricant oil.

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Important Things to Consider When Buying an Air Compressor:

If you are new in the automotive painting field, it won’t be super easy to choose the right air compressor you need to spray paint your vehicles. There are many factors that you must have to pay attention while choosing the best air compressor for spray painting cars or pickup trucks.

What air compressor do I need for spray painting? If this is your question, then you should know that from the air compressor sizes to its CFM, PSI ratings and lastly, the HP rating are the things that you will have to check out while buying an air compressor.

Are you wondering what is an air compressor CFM, or PSI or HP? Well, here I have got answers to all your queries. Please have a look at this list of considerations on how to choose an air compressor for spray painting cars and learn about all the crucial factors. Let’s check out:

What Size Air Compressor is Needed for Spray Painting?

Your air compressor size has a crucial role to play when it comes to spray painting your car. Don’t go with an air compressor that has a tank too small. Smaller tanks result in uneven paint flow. So, consider buying an air compressor that has a tank with a capacity of at least 30 gallon.

Anything smaller than a 30 gallon air compressor will contradict the paint flow. Alongside that, you have to stop your work more frequently, resulting in your painting job taking a much longer time.

If you have a coupe or sedan and are thinking of DIY spray painting, consider getting an air compressor with a capacity of around 30 to 60 gallons. If you are looking to paint an SUV or a van, then you need to get an air compressor that has a capacity of around 60 to 80 gallons.

Are you looking to buy an air compressor with an optimal capacity that allows you to spray paint different vehicles? Then I will suggest going for an air compressor with a tank size of 60 gallons or more.

What CFM is Required for Spray Painting Cars?

The CFM indicates the amount of air an air compressor can provide at a specific pressure. The abbreviation CFM stands for cubic feet per minute. It would be best if you bought an air compressor with the right CFM to spray paint your car. Generally, paint guns require a higher CFM rating to operate compared to other air tools. If you already have a spray gun, you may know that it can operate from 3 to 12 CFM.

Now coming to the question; how much CFM do I need for spray painting?

If you have ever tried spray painting before, you may be aware of the fact that the CFM output of the air compressor is essential to get optimal performance. Most of the paint guns require a lot of air to operate. Therefore, you need to select your air compressor depending on the automotive paint gun you are going to use for spray painting.

The air compressor needs to have a higher CFM than your paint gun. I will suggest you choose an air compressor with a CFM value between 14 CFM to 18 CFM based on my experience.

How Much PSI Do You Need to Paint a Car?

Apart from the size and CFM, it’s important to take PSI into consideration when it’s about buying an air compressor for spray painting. So, if you are looking for an answer to how much air pressure do you need to paint a car, here we have got the answer for you.

PSI is the unit to measure the pressure rating of your air compressor. It’s a myth that you need to crank the air pressure really high to get an even coat while spray painting your car. In fact, if you are at the beginner stage, you should try your hands on a relatively high volume and low-pressure spray painter that does not require higher PSI to run.

As far as my personal experience is concerned, I use around 10 to 15 PSI when I’m working on the base coat of my vehicle. I will suggest you go for that PSI range as well since this has always worked for me.

On the contrary, you should increase the PSI a bit when painting the clear coat. So, when working on the clear coat, keep the PSI rating around 20 to 25 PSI to ensure an even result.

How Much Horsepower Does Your Air Compressor Have?

Horsepower (HP) measures the amount of work the air compressor can do for you. The horsepower rating of your air compressor is crucial to know what exactly your air compressor can do and how well it can perform. For example, a compressor with a 5HP motor can’t perform even close to what a 10HP motor compressor can do for you.

Generally, the air compressors we use for spray painting come with a horsepower rating of between 1.5HP to 6.5HP. If you are looking to use an air compressor that operates from standard electric power outlets, you should look for a machine that has a 2HP or a lesser power motor.

The horsepower ratings change depending on the type of air compressor you are using. To do the same job with gas or diesel-powered air compressor that a 5HP electric air compressor can do, your gas-powered compressor needs to have a 10HP motor.

The reason behind this lack of efficiency is simple to understand. A compressor engine that runs on gas or diesel generates the power through combustion inside the engine, whereas an electric motor draws the power from a completely external source.

What is a Good Size Air Compressor for Spray Painting Cars? – Author’s View

What size air compressor is needed to spray paint a car? I hope now you know the precise answer to this most frequently asked question. If you want to spray paint a coupe or sedan, consider getting a 60 gallon air compressor. This is the recommended air compressor size for painting cars. And if you are planning to spray paint an SUV or a van, then you need to get an 80 gallon air compressor tank.

In conclusion, I would like to mention all the three air compressors for painting cars that I have mentioned are the best in its class. If you are particularly looking for a powerful, long-lasting, and best air compressor for spray painting cars or trucks, then I would suggest the Campbell Hausfeld Air Compressor 60 Gallon. Available at a cost-effective price and a two-stage oil-lubricated motor, it does the job.

But if you found the constant squealing sound of the Campbell Hausfeld 60 gallon two stage air compressor quite annoying while working on your auto spray painting work, then buying the 60 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor from the house of California Air tools is the most suitable option for you. This 4HP air compressor is the quietest air compressor on the market right now.

That’s it for now, my fellow car lovers! I really hope this guide helped you in choosing the most reliable, long-lasting, and right size air compressor for spray painting cars and pickup trucks. If you find this helpful, feel free to share this guide with your friends and family members on social media sites. Good luck with your spray painting adventure!

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About Jace Cuban

I am an automotive enthusiast who loves to be around cars and pickup trucks. Applying innovative car care products and installing different latest car accessories are my hobbies. Also, I love sharing my adventurous experience with car lovers.

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