The Best 6 Gallon Air Compressor — Buyers Guide, Review, and Comparison
6 Gallon Air Compressor Product Comparison Table
|Check Price at Amazon Bostitch BTFP02012 Review Bostitch BTFP02012 Review|
|Check Price at Amazon DeWalt DWFP55126 Review DeWalt DWFP55126 Review|
|Check Price at Amazon Metabo HPT EC914SM Review Metabo HPT EC914SM Review|
|Check Price at Amazon Check Price at Tractor Supply Porter-Cable C2002 Review Porter-Cable C2002 Review|
|Check Price at Amazon Craftsman CMEC6150K Review Craftsman CMEC6150K Review|
Best 6 Gallon Air Compressor Buying Guide
Pleasingly compact, these units can comfortably fit into the smallest of garages or workshops — or be conveniently stored away in a cupboard. And, being wallet-friendly, they permit the most frugal of home-improvers to have a brawny powerhouse at their fingertips.
Whether you plan on wielding an airbrush, firing nails, or riveting metal — the six-gallon compressor is the consummate machine for the dedicated DIYer or light contractor.
When selecting your ideal machine, consider:
- Wearing a contractor-grade respiratory mask.
- Always drill or demolish in a well-ventilated area.
- Elevating air throughflow with an electric fan when inside.
- Taking frequent breaks.
- Working outside wherever possible.
- Frequently cleaning your operating area
- Using water to damp down dust on floors and surfaces to reduce airborne particles.
What Is A Six Gallon Air Compressor?
Unsurprisingly, a six-gallon pneumatic power unit has an air tank with a capacity of six gallons. For more information on compressors in general, check out my complete 101.
Often referred to as pancake compressors, due to their characteristic squashed reservoir build, they’re impressively compact machines — yet can still knock out 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI.
A favorite among DIYers and trade pros due to their portability and affordability, they can drive a multitude of light-use or short-burst pneumatic tools. Furthermore, being oil-free, they’re straightforward for the air-powered novice to maintain and pleasingly low on running costs.
Driven by mains electricity rather than gasoline, there are no damaging fumes or requirements to purchase liquid fuel. And, with effortless operation for the newbie user, they’re an excellent introduction to the pneumatic world.
Do You Need A Six-Gallon Pancake Air Compressor?
While these units are the stepping stone into the ‘real’ world of air-driven equipment — they’re by no means the most basic and can be considered overkill for genuinely low-intensity use. So, if your greatest compressor demands include nothing more than filling your tires or putting air into Little Jimmy’s inflatable unicorn — opt for a tankless electric machine instead.
However, for more committed and serious home users, a six-gallon unit is optimum. Typically knocking out 2.6 CFM or greater at 90 PSI, they can drive a multitude of pneumatic hand tools. That said, bear in mind that due to their compact reservoir volume, they’re best suited to short-burst operation — you’re not going to be rotary hammer drilling with a six-gallon model.
These compressors are ideal for:
- Blowgun cleaning.
- Small nail guns.
- Rotary tools.
- 0.675-inch impact wrenches.
- Micro grinders.
- Multi-function tools.
- Air shears.
- Straight air screwdrivers.
The Benefits of Six-Gallon Air Pneumatic Pancake Compressors
- Versatile — able to drive a plethora of pneumatic tools.
- Affordable — within reach of the DIYer’s budget.
- Compact — ideal for short-on-space garages, a footprint typically 18 sq-in.
- Portable — generally weighing around 30 pounds.
- Oil-free — low on maintenance and fumes.
- Low-noise — excellent for home use and hearing safety.
- Straightforward operation — even for the pneumatic newbie.
- Working when not horizontal — due to no oil requirement.
How to Choose the 6 Gal Portable Air Compressors
When choosing the best 6 gallon air compressor for your DIY or trade needs, I recommend checking out the following:
CFM – Cubic Feet per Minute
Undoubtedly, the most important factor when selecting your ultimate pneumatic powerhouse. Get it wrong, and your machine may not drive your air tools — and you’ll have a useless lump of pancake metal sitting on your garage floor.
CFM — or Cubic Feet per Minute — describes the amount of air that a 6 gallon air tank compressor can produce at a given pressure. And, it has an inverse relationship with the pressure, usually measured in PSI, output — in that as PSI decreases CFM increases, and vice versa.
To make the comparison between different machines more straightforward, manufacturers usually declare the CFM output at an industry-standard pressure of 90 PSI.
In general, machines with a higher CFM rating makes them suitable for running larger pneumatic tools or those with significant air demands. For light DIY pneumatic tools, such as airbrushes and small nail guns, a CFM of around 2.6 will be sufficient. For more demanding units, such as air-powered drills, you’ll need about 4.0 CFM or higher — exemplified by the Metabo HPT EC914SM.
PSI – Pounds per Square Inch
The pressure output of a 6 gal air compressor is explained in PSI, or Pounds per Square Inch. For the pneumatic newbie, you would consider that this specification is absolutely crucial when selecting your ideal unit. However, it actually isn’t that significant.
Sure, you want a machine that has the grunt to drive your air tools — but as most handheld pneumatics demand around 90 PSI of pressure, manufacturers simply ensure that their machines can at minimum deliver this degree of output. As mentioned above, it’s more important when differentiating units you look at the CFM demanded by your tools and delivered by your air powerhouse.
That said, it’s beneficial to check out the maximum pressure that the six-gallon compressor can provide. Those with high output specifications, such as the 165 PSI knocked out by the DeWalt DWFP55126, indicate that the machine will have a similar function to a unit with a larger tank.
HP – Horsepower
Read any substandard online 6 gallon air compressor reviews, and you’ll believe that the greater the unit’s horsepower — or HP — the more impressive the machine must be. To be honest, a compressor could knock out a megatrazillion horsepower, and still be completely useless.
The HP rating describes the level of work that the compressor’s internal motor emits at a given PSI (for more information on how a compressor works, check out my article here).
For example, you know that your shiny new nail gun requires 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI — so you seek out compressors that have this capability. You find two suitable units, one has a horsepower rating of 3.5, the other 7.8 HP — which one is better?
The answer is, the 3.5 HP machine.
This unit provides the same CFM and PSI output as its competitor, but at a lower HP. Therefore, it’s more efficient — requiring less energy (gas or electric) to drive the machine, saving you on fuel costs.
When searching through online 6 gallon air compressors, look for high-efficiency machines that can knock out 2.6 CFM at 90 PSI with an HP rating of 0.9 or lower — such as the Bostitch BTFP02012.
Let’s face it, compressors are noisy machines — creating air under pressure is hard work, demanding effort and grunt from the motor unit. Trust me, if you find a completely quiet compressor — buddy, it’s broken.
That said, there are many units that utilize a series of baffles, absorbers, and padding to keep volume output to a minimum. Not only creating a more pleasant working environment or allowing your wife to watch The Kardashian’s in the room next door — but also protecting you and your workmate’s health.
Working in high noise environments can lead to a plethora of damaging conditions — including tinnitus and permanent hearing loss. Therefore, I recommend looking for a 6 gal compressor with a rating of 76 dBa or lower, such as the DeWalt DWFP55126.
To be honest, it’s harder to find an oiled 6 gallon 150 psi air compressor than an oil-free model. However, the oil-dependent versions do exist — so if you come upon one in your search for the ultimate pneumatic machine, avoid.
Oilless compressors have numerous advantages over their oiled counterparts, including:
Low maintenance — no filtration or air separators to go wrong.
Reduced cost — no oil or filters to purchase.
Eco-friendly — eliminates the need to dispose of used oil.
Benefits health — reduces workplace fumes.
Shields against contamination — oil droplets can infiltrate your project.
Multi-angle — they can be positioned and work fine away from the horizontal.
Faster starting — allowing you to crack on with your project.
All of the compressors in our top list, including the Porter-Cable C2002, are oil-free units. If you’re interested in discovering more about the benefits of oilless over oiled, check out my guide here.
Size and Weight
If you’re planning on having a permanent home for your compressor — such as a garage, tool shed, or workshop — portability may not be a significant factor. However, if your trade or DIY projects require you to move the pneumatic unit, or you’re short of space in your garage and may need to move it to one side when not in use — size and weight can be crucial.
One of the main advantages of six-gallon pancake compressors is that they’re relatively lightweight and take up little space while offering impressive CFM output. That said, sizes and mass can vary slightly between particular models — the DeWalt DWFP55126 is the smallest and lightest in the six-gallon category.
Perhaps not a dealbreaker, but receiving some additional accessories with your pneumatic powerhouse can save you money and allow you to crack on immediately with your project.
When reading 6 gal air compressor review articles, look out for units that arrive with:
Couplers or splitters — allowing the use of two or more tools simultaneously.
Standard 0.25-inch pneumatic hose.
Of particular note is the Craftsman CMEC6150K, which comes with a tire chuck, blow gun, inflator adaptors, and a PVC air hose.
Smaller than a workbench, yet delivering sufficient brawn to drive nails — the six-gallon air compressor is a crucial weapon in any pneumatic DIYers armory.
Able to power a cornucopia of air tools — including nail guns, blowguns, and mini-grinders — they’re impressively versatile. And, low weight and with a small footprint, these machines are reassuringly portable and ideal for the small garage or workshop.
When choosing your ultimate unit, consider the CFM to PSI output ratio, the level of noise it emits, whether it’s oil-free, and if it includes any additional accessories.
Sure, they’re not ideal for everyone. High-intensity users wanting to air-drill or sand should look towards a pro-grade 60-gallon machine, and those needing nothing more than a football inflator should opt for a tankless electric unit.
However, if you want the seemingly contradictory elements of power and portability in one pneumatic package — I recommend you consider a 6 Gallon Air Compressor.
The Most Popular 6 Gallon Compressor FAQs
Q: What Is a Six Gallon Pneumatic Compressor?
These pneumatic powerhouses boast a compact six-gallon reservoir to drive a multitude of air tools.
Q: What Is a 6-gallon Air Compressor Good For?
These compact machines are ideal for low-intensity pneumatic use and quick air bursts. Excellent machines for the DIYer and light-contractor, they can drive small nail guns, multi-tools, mini-grinders, and blow cleaning guns.
Q: Will A Pneumatic Compressor Six Gallon Fit In My Garage?
Yes! Typically with a footprint of 18 square inches or less, 6-gallon units are ideal home garage pneumatic machines.
Q: What Is the Best Six Gallon Pneumatic Powered Compressor?
Boasting a maximum 150 PSI output, low-noise emission, and oil-free — in my opinion, the ultimate 6-gallon machine is the Bostitch BTFP02012.
Q: What Is A Pancake Compressor?
Typically with a six-gallon reservoir tank, a pancake compressor is a portable and compact machine ideal for home users.