What Size Air Compressor Do I Need For Air Tools?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve come through this question. What size air compressor do I need for air tools? It took some time, but I finally found the answer.

There are three aspects of determining an air compressor size- Air pressure, tank size, and CFM. Most air tools run around a 90 PSI range, so you don’t have to worry about air pressure variation. As for the CFM and tank size, it varies in an extensive range.

Each air tool comes with some specifications included by the manufacturer. The air compressor size is depended on these specifications. I’ve included a CFM chart later in this post for your convenience.

What Size Air Compressor Do I Need For Air Tools?

As I said, you will need to consider three things to determine the size of the air compressor you need. I’ve briefly discussed what you need to go through to determine the air compressor size for air tools.

Air Pressure

Most air tools can efficiently operate from 70 to 90 psi. So, you can stop worrying about that. What you need to consider are the CFM rating and the tank size.

Just to be sure, get an air compressor that’s at least 90 psi. You can run tools with lower psi with a higher psi compressor. But you can’t run a higher psi tool with a lower psi compressor.

Tank Size

Tank size is important when you don’t want any interruptions in using your air tools. There is a rule you can use to determine the ideal tank size for any given air tool. You’ll have to multiply the required CFM by a tool at a given psi by 1.5.

For example, if you are using an air tool that requires a CFM rating of 20, you need to multiply 20 by 1.5. You got 30 by using this equation. So, you should use an air compressor that’s at least 30 gallons.

Using a smaller tank than required by your tool will cause you to stop in the middle of your work and wait for your tank to fill again. So, I guess it’s easier to get the work done with one turn.   

See the table below for a more straightforward understanding.

CFM Requirement

Multiply by 1.5

Required Tank Size



30 gallons



50 to 60 gallons



100 to 120 gallons

CFM Rating

The most crucial aspect to consider while deciding air compressor size is the CFM rating. Abbreviation for Cubic Feet per Minute, CFM indicates how much air your air compressor can deliver.

Different air tools require different CFM ratings. The number can range from 30 up to 140. Air compressors that feature a low CFM range are more suitable for tires, whereas a higher CFM range is an indicator of commercial air compressors.

If you use multiple air tools with different CFM requirements, look for the highest CFM rating tool. Match that to determine what size air compressor you need.

I’ve included a table below with different tool requirements to provide you with a clearer idea.

 Air Compressor with 30 to 40 CFM

Air compressor with 60 to 70 CFM

Air compressor with 150 CFM

Tire inflation

60lb jackhammer


Chipping Hammers


90lb jackhammer

Backfill tampers

1-inch impact wrench

Pneumatic saws

2-inch horizontal grinders

Large vertical & horizontal grinders

Trenchless piercing tools

¾-inch impact wrench

Backfill tampers

Air knives

Die grinders

OTR tire inflation

Rock drills

Why Is It Essential To Pick The Right Size Compressor?

When you don’t consider your air tool requirements, you increase the chance of damaging both your air compressor and the tool. You may think that you will save money by not getting a suitable air compressor, but that’s where you are wrong.

Instead of saving money, you’re damaging your existing compressor and your air tools. Soon, they’ll both stop working permanently, and you will have to buy new ones.

There’s also a safety concern where these tools and machines are concerned. Using a compressor that doesn’t match your air tool requirements can lead to potentially dangerous situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the most important factor to consider while determining air tool compatibility with an air compressor?

Even though air pressure and tank size matter, CFM is the most crucial thing to consider. Make sure your air compressor’s CFM rating meets the air tool requirements.

Q. How to determine the CFM if I use multiple air tools?

If you are individually using the tools, go for the highest demanding tool. If you own a range of tools that require a CFM range from 30 up to 150, you should go for a 150 CFM air compressor.

Q. What if I use multiple tools at the same time:

When using multiple air tools simultaneously, you have to add all their CFM rating before deciding what size air compressor is ideal for your tools.

Q. Why do I need to consider air tank size when using air tools?

Some tools like a spray gun to paint your car will require a tank size that doesn’t need refilling. If you want to get your work done without stopping midway, tank-size should be one of your primary considerations.

On the other hand, some situations don’t require your compressor to feature a tank at all.

Final Verdict 

There are debates among users about which factors are dominant in choosing the right size air compressor. You can figure it out yourself if you evaluate what your air tool manufacturers are emphasizing about. The instruction manuals we through out so easily are actually pretty useful. 

So, next time someone asks, what size air compressor do I need for air tools and need to paint a car? Are you prepared to guide them? Let’s revise you through the process again.

The primary thing to consider is the CFM rating. Then comes air pressure and tank size. Match these specifications of your air tools with your air compressor, and all your questions should be answered.


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