Which compressor should I get - Oil-less or Oil?

I’m looking to get a compressor to hang up some paneling in our house with a brad nailer but I would also like to use it in the future for filling up tires and possibly some other light air tools when working on my car. At home depot they have the Porter Cable 6 gallon for $99 but that is a pancake oil-less model. Would it be wise to step up to the cylindrical 8-10 gallon models which take oil? There is a Husky at Home Depot for $149 and also a very similar one at Harbor Freight for $119. I’m tacking this project next week while I’m on vacation so unfortunately I cannot wait for an amazing deal and will need to get it locally or with fast shipping through Amazon.

I use a Bostitch 6 gal oilless(twin sister to the porter cable) and put it through the ringer. I do full home framing, roofing, trim and flooring with it and it serves me well. I frequently run 2 framing or roofing guns off it and works just fine. In my humble opinion the Porter Cable will meet your needs more than amplely. I personally would only get a large oil one if I where to set it permanently in a garage to run air wrenches and impacts.


I’m with you on this. A oil-less compressor is generally more noisy - but less maintenance and not as finicky. No need to worry about how cold (within reason) it is outside and not to worry about leveling it. But most of the small jobsite compressors are more suitable for running nail guns rather than air hogs (high cfm users) line air sanders, scalers, pneumatic chisels and some impact wrenches and ratchets. BTW I have an old Emglo which has given spectacular service.

If the use is really going to morph into a compressor for a home automotive shop - then you might want to look at the CFM requirements of you prospective tools. You probably can still get away with a small compressor - using short bursts of tool use - with the compressor cycling on frequently - but down the road you may need to upgrade. Meanwhile you will have had the use of the smaller more portable and affordable machine.

It used to be the oil-less models were noisy, but now there are a number of quiet ones available, so I would go with a small quiet oil-less option for light weight and portability and reconsider the need for air hungry air tools on the car. I have a 20 gal compressor in the garage, but most times I reach for hand tools or a cordless tool it if just spinning a nut/bolt. I think it’s been over a year since I’ve turned on the compressor.

I don’t have and also don’t plan to buy a compressor to run air tools for auto work. Now I DIY but I’m firmly in the cordless is better camp. one you;ll have other cordless tools and if you can live in an eco system then even better.

So impact wrench, later I plan on getting a ratchet. etc. But I have an small pancake airless and I’d happily recommend the PC 6 gallon I wouldn’t get anything smaller. and yes it’s loud but it doesn’t get used much. I have 15, and 18 ga nailers and might end up with a framing one soon. and it works them all great. I put up shiplap against my will in the one living room - and the compressor filled once to start and probably cycled twice over the project. Easily tollerable.

Meanwhile if you even think about painting your oil run compressor has to have a water/oil seperator and an airfilter. so opposed to that, use some airless paint system or HVLP setup.

Point here I see less and less reason for airless. OH and oil filled air is not always good for your modern tiers and the TPMS sensors in them. Tire shops on the ball use a filtered line for tire fills (or upsell people on nitrogen). oilless works fine and won’t introduce random oil to the sensor that it might not like.

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5 years later and I’m going to agree with Napalm that technology has made it easy for people to join the cordless battery overlords in cutting the hose. Just a very select number of tools should remain corded or air powered. And Brad nailers aren’t one of them.

wow I didn’t realize this was 5 years old. It showed up bold on the list when I looked hence the comment. Didn’t mean to thread necromancer it.

It was up on the top because somebody spammed the thread and the post got through before we could delete it.

I’ll certainly agree with Napalm and Fyrfytr998 here. I think these days cordless equipment makes more sense for most users. Most tools which were traditionally pneumatic are now available in cordless versions which may not always be quite as good as pneumatic but are certainly good enough, and the ability to ditch the hose, the noise, worry about air filtration, moisture, lubrication for tools, etc is huge. I think pneumatic still wins for larger size sanders and grinders, autobody, and perhaps for factory type settings where an air tool may be a lot lighter than a battery operated one, but for most DIY and contractor sort of work cordless makes sense.

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I don’t use pneumatic tools, but I’ll just toss in what I read in a Fine Woodworking article some years ago: besides being light as MechaMan says, pneumatic tools last a very long time (being simpler and having fewer parts), run cool (in fact too cool sometimes) and are often more compact than their electical counterparts, battery or not. Whether those advantages outweigh the disadvantages will depend on you. I imagine for most people they don’t.

Oh, and I guess they don’t generate sparks, so they’re safer in explosive or flammable situations.

All good points!
I think it’s worth mentioning the cost too. Many air tools are significantly less expensive than cordless, though there are the added costs of the hose and the compressor. One air tool plus a hose and a compressor is probably going to cost more than its cordless equivalent, but if one needs multiple tools then pneumatic could save a lot of money.

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