Affordable Air Tools for an 8-Gallon Compressor


Several of the big box home improvement stores offer a version of a horizontal eight-gallon air compressor at a reasonable price. My recent purchase of one such compressor got me started on researching just how much I could do with it – without spending a fortune on tools. 

I ended up combing through home improvement stores’ product listings and learned the little compressor is rated to power a wide range of tools that cost less than $100 – though sometimes only a few models can operate within the compressor’s capabilities. 

8 Gallon Air Compressors

StoreBrandHorsepowerSCFM @ 40 PSISCFM @ 90 PSICustomer RatingPrice
Harbor FreightMcGraw1.55.14.14.6/5$169.99
Home DepotHusky1.84.83.74.1/5$159.99
LowesKobalt1.8543.6/5$179.99
MenardsPerformax1.55.24.2$169.99
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Reasonable Performance, Good Bargain

Using air tools for DIY maintenance on motorcycles or cars has several advantages compared to electric power tools, such as their relatively low cost, better maintainability and, sometimes, better tool ratings (torque, speed, etc.). Some tools – such as an air hammer – don’t have an equivalent electric version. 

Not everyone has the money, space or electric service to get a medium- or large-size air compressor. Large compressors often require 220 volt or 240 volt service – something that’s not an option to renters or can be expensive to run to a detached garage. Compressors larger than 30 gallons may be awkward to fit in a smaller garage or shed.

The eight-gallon compressors offer DIY mechanics access to enough power for intermittent use of a bunch of air tools and continuous use of a few while using a typical 15-amp circuit. 

Though the tank is considered small, the compressors listed above sport 1.5-horsepower or stronger pump motors – which is about the same horsepower as some 20-30 gallon compressors. Tank size is a big factor in how long you can continuously operate an air tool, but the strong horsepower rating means the tank gets repressurized quickly. And the eight gallon compressors draw about 12 amps peak. This means you’re not maxing out capabilities of a 15-amp residential circuit – which you do with many medium-sized compressors.

For those who doubt whether a small-tank compressor that costs less than $200 at press time is too good a bargain to be true, online reviews say otherwise for two of the four models listed above. Menards doesn’t feature customer reviews on its website’s product pages, but the Harbor Freight Tools McGraw brand model and the Home Depot Husky brand version each boast ratings of 4.1 out of 5 stars or better.

Tool Requirements and Compressor Performance

The instructions for some of the compressors listed above specify that using a tool that requires more air than a compressor is rated to deliver is grounds to deny a warranty claim. 

Could one of the compressors run a tool intermittently that required a little more air than it can pump out? Probably, as a tool’s SCFM rating is for its continuous use. For example, an impact wrench that “requires” 4 SCFM at 90 PSI needs that volume of air if you hold the trigger down for a few minutes or more at a time. A similar model tool that specifies 4.5 SCFM at 90 PSI would probably work fine if it’s used for a few seconds at a time. Deciding whether to do something that could void a compressor’s warranty is up to you.

Tools that are used for longer periods of time, such as full-size paint guns, full-size sanders and polishers really do need to be used with a compressor that can supply them with enough compressed air in order to function properly. I’ve read that such tools should be paired with a compressor that puts out at least 150% of the SCFM the tool requires to ensure no drop in the tool’s operation or performance.

If you’re new to shopping for air tools, you may notice that less expensive models of some tools require more SCFM – sometimes a good bit more – than the expensive models. I’m not an air tools expert, but my understanding is that some higher-quality air tools use air more efficiently than their bargain counterparts. So, while a tool may be more expensive, it may be worth buying it so you don’t have to buy a bigger compressor.

So what tools can I use with an 8 gallon compressor?

My research identified two or more models of eight common air tools that are affordable (retail for $100 or less at press time), are available through one of the four major big box home improvement stores and can operate within most of the eight-gallon compressor models’ output. The list doesn’t include several common, low-power air tools that an eight gallon compressor can easily power – such as a blow gun, tire inflator or brad nailer.

The one exception among the four compressor models was the Home Depot’s Husky-branded one, which does not supply at least 4 SCFM at 90 PSI or 5 SCFM at 40 PSI. If you decide to go with the Husky model, be aware you may get slightly less performance compared to the other models and may not be able to run some of the tools listed below without voiding your unit’s warranty.

Abbreviated Tables

Have I tried out these tools with my new compressor? Not yet. I make no claims as to the quality or longevity of the tools listed below. They are simply the ones I found that retail at or below my price limit and are rated to work within the specifications of most of the air compressors mentioned above. 

But, I am looking forward to giving many of them a go in the future.

The full listings for the tools and eight-gallon air compressors can be found at 8-Gallon Air Compressor Tools Matrix.

Impact Wrench

NameBrandDrive SizeMax. Torque (lbs.-ft.)PriceRating
1/2 in. Impact WrenchHusky1/2″300$39.983.1/5
3/8 In. Impact WrenchHusky3/8″250$62.984/5
3/8″ Butterfly Air Impact WrenchPowermate3/8″75$29.99N/A
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Air Ratchet

NameBrandDrive SizeMax. Torque (lbs.-ft.)PriceRating
1/4 In. Air Ratchet WrenchCentral Pneumatic1/4″15$19.994.4/5
1/4 In. Mini Air Ratchet WrenchCentral Pneumatic1/4″20$29.993.7/5
1/4 In. Stubby Air Ratchet WrenchCentral Pneumatic1/4″15$19.994.1/5
3/8 In. Mini Air Ratchet WrenchCentral Pneumatic3/8″20$29.994/5
1/2 In. Air Ratchet WrenchCentral Pneumatic1/2″45$24.993.7/5
3/8 in. Ratchet WrenchFlorida Pneumatic3/8″55$30.98None
3/8 in. Ratchet WrenchHusky3/8″50$42.984.1/5
Pneumatic 3/8 in. Ratchet WrenchFreeman3/8″60$47.505/5
1/2″ Drive Air RatchetURREA1/2″50$72.26
PRO 1/4″ Air Ratchet WrenchSanborn1/4″18$44.99
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Air Hammer

NameBrandBarrel SizeImpact RatePrice
Air Impact Hammer KitCentral PneumaticShort4,500$12.99
Medium Barrel Air Impact HammerCentral PneumaticMedium3,000$14.99
Professional Medium Barrel Air HammerChiefMedium$49.99
Air HammerFlorida PneumaticShort3,500$19.12
Medium Stroke Air HammerHuskyMedium3,700$44.98
Air Hammer, Hex Shank with 4 ChiselsCapri ToolsMedium3,000$58.75
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Die Grinder

NameBrandAngleMax. RPMPriceRating
Pneumatic 1/4 In. Compact Die GrinderCentral PneumaticStraight25,000$14.994.5/5
Pneumatic 1/4 In. Front Exhaust Angle Die GrinderCentral Pneumatic90-Degree20,000$24.994.3/5
Pneumatic 1/4 In. Professional Mini Die GrinderChiefStraight25,000$39.994.9/5
1/4 In. Professional Mini Air Angle Die GrinderChief90-Degree22,000$49.994.8/5
Pneumatic 1/4 in. Die GrinderFreemanStraight25,000$29.994.4/5
1/4 in. Mini Air Die GrinderSunsex ToolsStraight25,000$30.995/5
1/4 in. Straight Die GrinderHuskyStraight20,000$44.984.3/5
Air Die GrinderAstro Pneumatic90-Degree20,000$49.775/5
1/4 in. Die GrinderIngersoll RandStraight27,000$49.904.5/5
1/4 in. Angle Die Grinder with Accessory KitHusky90-Degree20,000$64.984.5/5
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Paint Gun

NameBrandTypeCup SizePriceRating
4 oz. Adjustable Detail Air Spray GunCentral PneumaticGravity4 oz$14.994.3/5
Pneumatic 0.8 mm Tip Mini HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun with 125 cc Plastic CupNuMaxGravity125cc$26.994/5
Pneumatic 1.4 mm Tip HVLP Gravity Feed Spray Gun with 600cc Plastic CupNuMaxGravity600cc$28.194.7/5
Spray Gun, General Purpose with 1 Qt. CanisterCampbell HausfeldSiphon1,000cc$58.004/5
1 qt. Industrial Paint Spray GunBuffalo ToolsSiphon200cc$37.903.6/5
Basic Spray GunPowermateSiphon600cc$42.763.6/5
Gravity Feed Pneumatic Touch-Up Spray GunDeWaltGravity124cc$49.004/5
Siphon Feed Detail Spray GunHuskySiphon200cc$49.984.2/5
Gravity Feed Spray GunCampbell HausfeldGravity600cc$56.884.3/5
Gravity Feed HVLP Spray GunHuskyGravity600cc$64.984/5
Vx Gravity Feed Air Spray GunPowermateGravity$29.99
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Sander

NameBrandWidthMax. SpeedPrice
2 In. Mini Orbital Air SanderCentral Pneumatic2″15,000$29.99
6 In. Dual Action Air SanderCentral Pneumatic6″10,000$34.99
6 In. Professional Orbital Composite SanderBaxter6″12,000$99.99
6 in. Quiet Dual Action SanderSunex Tools6″10,000$59.99
6 in. Dual Action SanderHusky6″10,000$64.98
6 in. Dual Action SanderDeWalt6″11,000$69.00
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Air Saw

NameBrandBlade SizeMax. SpeedPriceRating
High Speed Metal Air SawCentral Pneumatic3.7″10,000$24.993.3/5
Vx Air Body SawPowermate9,000$29.99
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

Cut-Off Tool

NameBrandDisc SizeMax. SpeedPriceRating
3 in. Cut-Off ToolFlorida Pneumatic3″20,000$24.75
3 in. Air Pneumatic Cut-Off Tool with Metal Safety GuardSteelman3″20,000$34.995/5
3 in. Cut-Off ToolHusky3″20,000$64.984.1/5
3 in. Air Pneumatic Cut-Off Tool with Metal Safety GuardSteelman3″20,000$37.175/5
All prices are as of May 23, 2022

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