California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor

Last updated date: May 28, 2019

DWYM Score
8.9

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We looked at the top 1 Portable Air Compressors and dug through the reviews from 5 of the most popular review sites including BestReviews, Best Air Compressor Reviews, Wise Pick, Budget Air Compressors, RX Tooler and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Portable Air Compressor you should buy.

Overall Take

The California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor is heavier than many other portable air compressors, weighing 90 pounds. However, it comes with wheels, making it easy to transport around a specific area. Its oil-free pump reduces maintenance, and the lower noise level makes it perfect for using at home. In our analysis of 99 expert reviews, the California Air Tools California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor placed 2nd when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note July 2, 2019:
Checkout The Best Portable Air Compressor for a detailed review of all the top portable air compressors.

Expert Summarized Score
8.7
5 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.9
608 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
Extremely powerful,yet quite pump. You can have a normal conversation while standing right next to it.
- BestReviews
Here is where the CAT-10020 shines. Putting out only 70 decibels, it’s a huge difference from the normal 80-90 decibel models out there. It may not seem like a huge difference, but trust us, you’ll be thankful for it. You won’t be annoying any neighbors even when you’re working in the garage at night and carrying on a normal conversation with another person standing right next to the compressor is completely doable.
- Best Air Compressor Reviews
Many users turned to this air compressor because it is rated as the quietest 10-gallon air compressor on the market today, which can make a big difference if you are planning to use it frequently.
- Wise Pick
The problem with using an air compressor indoors is the noise so the California Air Tools CAT -10020 gets off to a great start – it’s a damn quiet air compressor. At 70 decibels it is quieter than the average conversation. Despite this, it has a two horsepower motor that keeps the noise down by powering two pistons to fill up the tank.
- Budget Air Compressors
Since this air compressor operates with an oil-free pump, you can expect the least amount of maintenance. Not only is it oil-free, but the pump is also durable and long-lasting.
- RX Tooler
May 17, 2017 | Full review
What experts didn't like
At 90 pounds, it is not as easy to move around as some other units.
- BestReviews
On/off switch not in the best location.
- Best Air Compressor Reviews
Many users report that the unit stops working within the first year of use and that California Air Tools frequently declines to honor their already short one-year warranty.
- Wise Pick
Wheels not exactly the best – that’s why we didn’t mention them.
- Budget Air Compressors
Rather massive for a portable air compressor (90 pounds).
- RX Tooler
May 17, 2017 | Full review

From The Manufacturer

The CALIFORNIA AIR TOOLS 10020 Ultra Quiet air compressor is designed to be one of the quietest 2.0 Hip electric air compressors in the industry having only 70 decibels of sound. The powerful 2.0 HP motor operates at only 1680 RPM creating less noise and less wear. The Oil-Free Dual Piston Pump System is engineered for high performance and durability. The oil-free pump allows you to use in different temperatures and uneven terrains. The 10.0 gallon steel air tank with wheels is easy to store and move freely. The 10.0 gallon air tank will fill (from empty to full) in less than 130 seconds. The control panel comes complete with 2 - 1/4" quick release connectors that will allow you to use up to 2 tools at the same time. This air compressor delivers 5.30 CFM at 90 PSI allowing you to use larger air tools and more air tools at the same time. Having a low amp draw of only14.0 amps allows you to use normal 15 amp outlets. Powerful and maneuverable this air compressor is ideal where noise in a shop, garage or work area is a major issue.

Overall Product Rankings

1. Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor
Overall Score: 9.6
Expert Reviews: 9
2. California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor
Overall Score: 8.9
Expert Reviews: 5
3. DEWALT Pancake Compressor
Overall Score: 8.9
Expert Reviews: 8
4. PORTER-CABLE Pancake Compressor
Overall Score: 8.8
Expert Reviews: 8
5. Helteko Portable Air Compressor
Overall Score: 8.7
Expert Reviews: 9
6. EPAuto Portable Air Compressor Pump
Overall Score: 8.7
Expert Reviews: 21
7. Kensun Portable Air Compressor Pump
Overall Score: 8.6
Expert Reviews: 7
8. STANLEY FATMAX Air Compressor
Overall Score: 8.6
Expert Reviews: 5
9. Senco Portable Compressor
Overall Score: 7.9
Expert Reviews: 9
10. Campbell Hausfield Air Compressor
Overall Score: 7.8
Expert Reviews: 13

An Overview On Portable Air Compressors

An air compressor is a must-have tool for any DIYer. Even if you only ever use it to make sure your vehicle tires stay properly inflated, it’s handy to have around. You can use an air compressor for everything from spray painting a wall to doing minor car repair work. But perhaps the biggest reason to buy an air compressor is to power tools like nail guns, air impact wrenches and air hammers. You can also use a portable air compressor to quickly clear debris from a work area, boosting its versatility.

In a portable air compressor, it’s important to take weight and size into consideration. Some air compressors come with wheels, but that won’t help while taking it up and down stairs. If you opt for a larger air compressor without wheels, consider purchasing a cart with wheels or casters if you need to even occasionally move it around.

You should also consider size when choosing an air compressor. Chances are, you’ll want it out of the way when it’s not in use, but some can be massive, especially for an air compressor billing itself as “portable.” Take a look at where you’ll store your air compressor, and pay close attention to dimensions to make sure you don’t end up with a space hog.

You’ll likely put your compressor through some challenges during use, especially if you’re transporting it on a daily basis. If you fear you might accidentally drop it, it might be worth it to look for a model that builds in protection against shock.

Of course, you’ll also need to consider noise. It can never hurt to have even a slight reduction, even if you aren’t concerned with disturbing neighbors. You’ll find many air compressors output between 80 and 90 decibels, but newer models cut this down as low as 75 dB. At the lowest ranges, you’ll find that people can even carry on conversations near where you’re working without extra effort.

DYWM Fun Fact

You probably already know you can use an air compressor as a spray painter. But did you know you can also use it to paint walls inside your home? It’s a faster, easier way to apply paint without the unsightly roller marks you risk with traditional painting. You’ll need a spray gun and your desired color of paint to get started. You should also cover all areas you don’t want painted with masking paper and painter’s tape. Before you start, check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the exact pressure level for painting with the spray gun you’re using. You’ll also need to adjust the spray from low to high as you work using the pattern control knob located on the gun.

The Portable Air Compressor Buying Guide

  • Air pressure is important when choosing an air compressor, and that’s measured both in operating pressure and output. The DEWALT Pancake Compressor and PORTER-CABLE Pancake Compressor are the leaders in this area, sustaining an operating pressure of up to 165 PSI and 150 PSI, respectively. The Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor maintains an operating pressure of 130 PSI, and the California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor also impresses, maxing out at 125 PSI.
  • It’s also important to consider output, not only for effectiveness but also recovery time. The California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor handles up to 5.60 cubic feet per minute at 40 PSI and 4.40 CFM at 90 PSI. Compare this to the PORTER-CABLE Pancake Compressor, which outputs 90 PSI at 2.6 CFM. It’s important to pay attention to this number because some power tools have a minimum PSI per CFM. You’ll need more air output than the tool states. For instance, if a tool says it needs 5.0 CFM at 90 PSI, you’re going to need an air compressor that outputs 6.25 to 7.5 CFM at 90 PSI.
  • All that power can push your utility bills up a little, though, so consider power usage when you’re shopping. Although it’s powerful, the 2.5 HP motor in the Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor is built specifically to minimize draw on your power supply. That not only means lower electric bills, but also less worrying about tripping a breaker during your next project.
  • If you’re shopping for a portable air compressor, chances are you want it to be portable. The DEWALT Pancake Compressor is the lightest, at only 30 pounds. Its size also makes it easy to store. The PORTER-CABLE Pancake Compressor comes close, at only 34 pounds. Although it’s a whopping 90 pounds, the California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor has wheels, so you can easily move it around if you plan to keep it in the same area. Its massive 18.7-inch X 16.2-inch X 29.6-inch size would hardly make it inconspicuous when you aren’t using it, though. The Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor is 81 pounds with no wheels, although you could put it on a cart with wheels. Unlike the California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor, the Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor is small enough to remain out of the way when not in use.
  • Portable air compressors can go through some tough challenges, especially if you’ll be tossing them in the back of your truck to take to job sites. The Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor boasts cast-iron components, as well as a metal roll cage to protect it if you accidentally drop it. The low RPM also keeps it going longer than air compressors with more robust motors.
  • Experts differ in whether you need an oil-lubricated pump or one that is oil-free. On the one hand, oil-lubricated pumps like you’ll find on the Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor keep the air compressor going longer and avoid overheating by keeping operating temperatures low. An oil-free pump, though, like the ones found on the California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor and the PORTER-CABLE Pancake Compressor reduce maintenance needs, making them more convenient to operate.
  • Depending on how and where you want to use your air compressor, noise levels may be important to you. You’ll usually find air compressors put out 80 decibels or more, making it tough to work while having a conversation or in close quarters. The California Air Tools Steel Tank Air Compressor and DEWALT Pancake Compressor operate at 75 dB and 75.5 dB, respectively. You’ll find the Makita Big Bore Sir Compressor a little noisier, at 79 dB, but still quieter than the PORTER-CABLE Pancake Compressor, at 82 dB.