Which Type Of Air Compressor Do You Need For Car Painting – Right For You 2020

Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you are looking for an air compressor to paint a car, you should consider some facts. You know that air compressors’ features are similar to pumps. They reduce the volume of air and thus increase the pressure that helps at your work. While in need of car paint, it requires high pressure and some unique quality. So, you have to choose a perfect air compressor that fulfills your needs. And based on the demand, finding the actual size is not easy. Let’s go through the features to choose the best air compressor for painting cars

Which Type Of Air Compressor Do You Need For Car Painting

There are too many brands of air compressors available in the market. Among them, you have to find the best air compressor for car painting. To choose the right air compressor, you have to consider several features: tank size, CFM, horsepower, air pressure, paint gun. Some more things come on the way too. We have researched these points so that you can get a clear view of your car paint solution quickly.

Which Type Of Air Compressor Do You Need For Car Painting

Tank size:

The tank size of the air compressor is a crucial point. When you look for the best air compressor for an impact wrench, you can use a compressor of 20-30 gallons. But in choosing the perfect air compressor for your car paint, this range will not be able to give you the best output. And you don’t want a product that will give you troubles. So, we recommend you to choose a compressor of at least 50 gallons. For better output, you can use up to 60 gallons. But why would you use this high volume air compressor?

An air compressor with a small tank can hardly provide you the needed air volume to paint the car at one shot. That is, you can not paint your car smoothly. Instead, you have to suffer as your tank will get hot as well as having inadequate air supply. So, to avoid difficulties and to have a nonstop and smooth car painting, experts recommend using a 60-gallon tank or above.

CFM rating:

CFM (cubic feet per minute) is another vital thing to choose a perfect air compressor for car paint. At this point, you have to keep in mind that the higher the CFM will be, the better it can pump out the air. But air compressors with higher CFM are expensive than the ones with lower CFM. Regarding this, you have to choose the compressor considering both CFM and budget. Experts recommend that the CFM range should be between 14-18.

If you choose the one with lower CFM, you may face some severe troubles. The painting may create bubbles. So, some areas of the car may be painted well, and the rest will not, which can be a significant loss of your money and time. So, you should check the feature with care. 


Horsepower is not as much as important, similar to the above points. But you should know about the fact. It resembles the amount of work that you can do with an air compressor. Unlike CFM and tank size, you can not consider an air compressor better since it has higher horsepower. 

However, 5-6 horsepower is enough to give you a good outcome. But you can also use more than this range. In that case, you can use the air compressor in other works that need high horsepower.

Amount of Air Pressure:

Air pressure is another considerable fact. But as many people exaggerate its vitality, it’s not like that. To get a good result, you don’t need a high PSI. With a high volume low pressure (HVLP) spray painter, you can function smoothly. Having a high PSI is not very important.

Experts suggest using 10-15 PSI while spraying the base coat and about 20-25 PSI to spray a clear coat when you are using an HVLP spray painter. And it’s not only for specific HVLP or similar spray painters. Very high PSI is not needed for even low volume low-pressure spray painters. However, using a 90 PSI air compressor will be perfect for your painting work.

Paint gun for a car painting:

Paint guns have a significant role in car painting. It utilizes the air from the compressor and works on the sprayer. You have to follow some specific rules to paint a car. It needs to start with two coats of base and two coats of clear varnish. Then you need to let it dry for one day. After several days, you have to paint the roof and doors of the car. Then complete the other parts.

Paint gun for a car painting

However, according to experts, your paint gun may need only 5 CFM, and you may need to use two or three times more if you apply for highly professional needs.

Major compressor technology:

While selecting the air compressor to paint cars, you need to contemplate the major compressor technology used in the air compressor. You can divide air compressors into two parts regarding this point: rotary screw compressors and reciprocating compressors.

In rotary screw compressors, there are two rotors which are moving in opposite directions. This type is quieter than the other, but this type is expensive and complicated. When it needs servicing, it is not that easy.

And reciprocating compressors, having pistons running into the cylinders is easy to maintain. The models range from 1 HP to 30 HP. It’s less expensive too.


When you will think about the portability of the air compressor, at first find out your needs. Consider what you will use this for. If you use this air compressor at a fixed place, you don’t need to worry about portability. But if you need to move it, find a portable one.

Use of oil:

In the past, all of the air compressors were oiled. Then it needed maintenance largely. To get rid of this toil, pre-lubricated air compressors are used nowadays. It doesn’t need to be oiled regularly. That’s why they are considered as oil-less though they need Teflon or equivalent coating.

As oil-less air compressors need less effort for maintenance, it is used largely by hobbyists and professionals. On the other hand, the oiled air compressors are costly, heavy, but more durable than the oil-less air compressors. Still, this type of air compressor has a high demand in the industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ Is a 10-gallon air compressor perfect for car painting?

It’s quite sturdy because this small tank can not give enough CFM. Experts recommend using 50-60 gallons to paint a car.

✅ What is the required CFM to paint a car?

It needs more CFM than the other air tools, as you need to work continuously to paint a car. You can use 14-18 CFM air compressors.

✅ Do I need to use an HVLP gun to paint a car?

HVLP (High volume low pressure) guns are mostly used today. It’s so powerful that it can operate at a little pressure. So, it’s better to use this gun.

✅ How many coats of paint are needed to paint a car?

It needs to spray two coats of primer and two or three coats of clear paint. However, if you can spray three coats, it will be better. Most higher quality shops spray three coats.

✅ Can I paint a car with a pancake-shaped air compressor?

A pancake-shaped air compressor is too small to hold air for the car paint. You won’t get enough CFM and air pressure to paint the car properly. It won’t be money worthy for painting a car. 

✅ What is the best pressure for painting a car?

Try to keep 10-15 PSI while spraying the base coat and 20-25 PSI to spray the clear coat. You can do that easily with a 90-PSI air compressor.

Final Thought

In this article, we tried to provide you some ideas to choose the best air compressor for painting cars. Here you can come to know what points you should consider while buying an air compressor. We also checked out some products so that you can compare them and find out the right product according to your needs.

So, now you know the standard size of the air compressor to paint a car. You should consider the points carefully so that your money and time do not become just a wastage with no outcome. Always try to select the best product for the best result. 

Leave a Comment