What is a 1 gallon air compressor good for? All questions answered here

What is a 1 gallon air compressor good for

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Learn More

1-gallon compressors’ air delivering capacity is between 0.75 CFM to 1.20 CFM at 90 PSI, and the maximum tank pressure level starts from 120PSI. The maximum tank pressure varies on the manufacturer. These specs are suitable for running low air-consuming air tools, such as airbrush, brad nail guns, staple guns, and finish nail guns. Also, you can use it for inflating car tires.

What To Look For in a 1-gallon air compressor?

  • Airflow capacity: The best 1-gallon compressor should have adequate airflow to handle most lower air-consuming air tools—For a 1-gallon air compressor, 1 CFM airflow at 90 PSI is acceptable. These specs may allow you to use brad nailers, staplers, finish nailers, and inflating car tires.  
  • Noise level: Air compressors are louder. It’s natural for their moving parts. Every manufacturer claims the noise level in their product description—our tested most of the 1-gallon compressor’s noise ratings was below 70DB. For a 1-gallon air compressor, if its noise rating is under 65DB, it good, and you can continue normal conversation beside it. 
  • Tank Pressure: For a 1-gallon compressor, the maximum tank pressure from 120 to 135 PSI is ideal. This rating indicates the compressor tank can safely hold maximum air pressure of 135 PSI. The pressure switch will automatically shut off the motor when the tank pressure reaches max pressure.
  • Recovery Time: It indicates how much time it takes to refill the tank pressure at the maximum position from the motor kicks on time. For a 1-gallon compressor, the higher the CFM ratings, the shorter the time it will take to recover the tank pressure. 

In-depth reviews of our recommended 1-gallon compressors 


(Best Value) Makita 1 gallon air compressor – Makita MAC100Q

Makita 1 gallon air compressor

If you need a 1-gallon air compressor with adequate airflow for trim works, the Makita MAC100Q air compressor is worth your investment. The Makita MAC100Q has 0.7CFM airflow capacity at 90P PSI and is reasonably compact, weighing about ‎27.6 pounds. That means you can move it from room to room using one hand. The carrying handle remains on the top, which makes it well balanced. I haven’t faced any issues during unloading from my truck. 

With a 1/2 HP motor, the Makita MAC100Q fills the tank from zero to 135 PSI in only 1 minute and 7 seconds. That’s pretty quicker than the competitors. And the refilling time is too fast. It takes 20 seconds to reach the maximum pressure of 135 PSI from the motor kick time.   

My past primary compressor was a 6-pancake unit from porter cable, that worked well and was suitable for any pneumatic nail gun. The only downside was the noise level. It was above 90 DB. In the Makita MAC100Q, its tank size is small but super quiet and suitable for indoor use. 

The Makita MAC100Q is wholly protected with a full-size roll case frame. Its pressure switch, motor, and air pump remain inside the protective case, ensuring the unit’s proper safety and saving the compressor from damage. 

What pneumatic tools can you power up with the Makita MAC100Q 1-gallon compressor? 

First of all, you should figure out the airflow requirements of the pneumatic tools you are using, then match them with the MAC100Q. You can use an airbrush, brad nail guns, finish guns, pneumatic staples, floor nail guns, and blow guns for a short time. Also, you can use this compressor unit for inflating car tires. 


California air compressor 1 gallon – CAT-1P1060S

California air compressor 1 gallon

Its reliable, quiet, lightweight and has a higher airflow than other 1-gallon compressors. And perfect for running any lower air-consuming nail gun. It can deliver 1.20 CFM of air at 90 psi, which is 50% more than the Makita MAC100Q. California air compressors are most famous for their quiet operation. In the CAT-1P1060S, its noise rating is 56 DB, but my DB meter measured it at 62 DB from 1 foot away. 

You don’t have to wait long while it recovers the tank pressure. It only takes 17 seconds to fill the tank at maximum pressure. The maximum tank pressure of the California 1-gallon compressor is 120PSI, and it considerable for lower air-hungry nail guns. 

The downside of this California 1-gallon compressor is it doesn’t have any roll case protection like the Makita MAC100Q. Its pressure gauges, pressure switch, hose connector, pressure regulator, motor, everything remains naked. So, if any heavy things fall on it, it’s a possibility of significant damage. And the second downside of its weight balance ratio, it weighs only 29 pounds. But its carrying handle is not positioned well, that’s the reason feels over wight when carrying.

What can you do with the California 1-gallon compressor?  

The California 1-gallon compressor can deliver 1.60 CFM of air at 40 PSI and 1.20 CFM at 90 PSI. An excellent option for those guys looking for a small airbrushing compressor. It’s so quiet, lightweight, and compact, so you can easily move it around your job sites. Also, it will take a mere space in your garage while you store it. Its air-flowing capability allows you to run, staple guns, finish nailers, brad guns, and floor nailers. Also, you can use it for occasional framing, but you must fire nails slowly. 


Dewalt 1 gallon air compressor – DEWALT D55140

Dewalt 1 gallon air compressor

The DEWALT D55140 is the most lightweight and compact 1-gallon compressor in our recommended units; its height is only nine inches and requires less space to store. More convenient compressor for those who need a compressor for inflating tires and trim carpentry jobs. The specs of DEWALT D55140 are closely similar to the Makita MAC100Q. It can deliver 0.75 CFM air at 135 PSI, which is plenty for any nail gun, but the airflow capacity does not allow using a framing gun. 

After inflating my 2018 Honda Gold wing tire and firing 18 gauge brad nails using the DEWALT D55140, we evaluate its performance. 

The tank fill-up time from zero to 135PSi was great. It takes only 1 minute and 14 seconds. Also, its recovery time was surprising; when the pressure is down to 100 PSI, it kicks on. It takes 23 seconds to raise the tank pressure at the maximum position of 135PSI. 

The downside of this DEWALT D55140 is it’s a bit louder. We measured 76 DB from 5 feet away, although the manufacturer claims its noise rating is 71 DB. 

Can a 1-gallon air compressor run a nail gun?

Yes, it can run nail guns. Before buying a 1-gallon compressor, you should figure out the airflow requirement of your nail guns. If you want to power up your low air hungry nail guns, such as staple guns, floor nail guns, brad nail guns, finish nail guns, or any pneumatic tools that require under 2CFM of airflow. Our recommended all 1-gallon compressor’s air flowing capability is limited, ranging from 0.70CFM to 1.20CFM at 90 psi. 

Most air-hungry nail guns, such as framing, roofing, and siding, require 3 to 4 CFM air at 90 PSI, although their requirements are high. But you may run them using a 1-gallon compressor occasionally, and you must fire nails very slowly. 

Will a 1-gallon air compressor fill a car tire?

You can inflate car and (D, E, F) rated tires using a 1-gallon compressor. Most passenger car tires require 30 to 35 PSI, and C, D, E, and F-rated tires pressure requirements are, respectively, 50, 65, 80, and 95 PSI. 

Most of the 1-gallon compressors are designed for running pneumatic air tools, and their building pressure is higher. Our recommended all 1-gallon compressors have maximum pressure above 120PSI, so all of them are suitable for inflating those categories of tires. But, you should carefully inflate car tires using a higher flow air compressor. Many reliable car tire pressure gauges are available online, which help to inflate tires by maintaining supply air pressure.