Last Update: 10 Jan 2021

What Size Air Compressor to Paint a Car

James Kelly
James Kelly

Hi! This is James. I'm a professional writer and working on this field for a long time. Basically I love to write about everything related to tools, diy and home improvement. All my writings speak for itself as I'm passionate about this. I love to explore new things as well as new places whenever I get free time. You'll never find me free for this reason!

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If you are starting to use an air compressor for your paint jobs, this is a good time as any to know about your tools. An air compressor is a machine that traps a large volume of air in a container and release in absolute pressure when it’s time to use. They come in various sizes and shapes. Now that you know, what a compressor is? A question may come to your mind, What Size Air Compressor to Paint a Car is suitable for you?

A brief answer to your question, it depends on your job requirements. For example, if you are painting only a few parts of a car? An air compressor with a 20-30-gallon tank should be enough for the job. But on the other hand, if you are going to spray paint a whole car, you need at least a 60-gallon tank.

Let me be honest with you, and the tank size is not the only thing you should be concerned about. There are other factors like CFM, PSI, HP, and so on. These words are not new to a professional. But if you are a beginner, these terms may go over your head quickly. That’s where we come in.

We have constructed this article with all the necessary information you need to know, to understand which air compressor is right for you. I strongly recommend you continue reading this article till the end.

Read More: What Size Air Compressor for Framing Nailer?

How Air Compressor Works In Spray Paint

Well, you already know that an air compressor supplies air pressure to your pneumatic tools. Before we talk about which air compressor is best for spray paint? Allow me to give you a short explanation of how it works?

Spray paint is applied with a particular spray gun. It comes with a pot that holds the color for use. There is also hose connected paint gun and air compressor together. After you pull the trigger, air rush through hose and burst out from the nozzle of your spray gun. If your weapon is gravity-fed, it will add paint to the stream of air. And if it’s a vacuum gun, the air pressure will pull color from the pot and on to the surface.

One thing you should remember, always maintain a constant airflow through the gun. If that’s get fiddled, you could end up with a terrible paint job.

Consider These Facts Before Buying an Air Compressor

It is always a good idea to consult a professional about which air compressor you should buy according to your needs. Nevertheless, we have listed the facts that will help you in a critical situation.

Tank Capacity

Every air compressor comes with a tank that stores compressed air to power any pneumatic tools like a sander, nail gun, paint gun, and vice versa. Tank capacity also the reason air compressor has different sizes and shapes.

Generally, 10-30-gallon tanks are used in tools that work a few seconds at a time. Such as staple gun, nail gun, wrench, even spray painting a small surface. Bigger tanks that are over 30-gallons are used for continuous work.


HP determines how potent your motor is in terms of supplying air to the storage tank. This is easy enough to understand that higher power means better performance.
Most small-sized air compressors get by with 2-3 HP. As their container is relatively small and work requirement is less intense. But when tank


This is the most critical indicator of an air compressor. Tools that use airpower also require a certain level of CFM to run correctly. CFM stands for Cubic Feet per Minute. In simple words, it means the volume of air it can push through in one minute.

2-4 CFM is enough for most air-powered tools. But for power-hungry tools like grinder or sander may require much higher CFM. Check your equipment spec sheet to be sure.


Pound per Square Inch, in short PSI. This rating determines the rate at which air is coming out of the tank. Some work needs higher PSI, and some don’t. Check your tool’s recommendation specification.

A most general paint job can be done by 10-30 PSI rating. But for the ultimate car paint experience, you need to have at least 90 PSI mark.


The Air compressor makes a lot of sounds. If you are using a compressor in your garage or workshop, it may not be a problem, whether it makes a noise. But for the home garage or in the basement, you should consider the noise level very carefully. You don’t want to trouble your neighbor with noises.

Other Factors

These factors are not essential to the compressor or affect performance in any way. But it’s nice to have those features. Like, overheat safety protection, active cooling system, castor wheels for easy navigation.

Choosing An Air Compressor For Car Paint

Paint of a car is an essential part of your vehicle’s exterior. Not to mention how expensive it is, if you hire a professional to do this for you. With just the right tools and proper instruction, you can experiment and learn a new skill in a small amount of time.

Now on the subject of Choosing an air compressor for car paint. As I mentioned earlier, spray painting requires a constant CFM flow throughout the spraying operation. Though some small air compressors can provide you the required CFM. But there’s a catch. You cannot use it for a more extended period.

If you’re painting a car? A small-sized tank is not advisable. You might hear it is possible to wash your car with a small compressor. Many experts say they have done it. In reality, you have to wait for the tank to refill every minute of using a sprayer.

You should buy yourself a sizeable 60-gallon tank compressor with a 5-6 HP. Then you won’t have to worry that much. It will charge you a couple of hundreds more, will be a bit heavier, but it will be enough to spraypaint your whole car.

Another thing you should look out is the compressor types. Two types of compressors are prevalent for spray painting.

The rotatory screw air compressors are relatively affordable and do not require much maintenance. The only disadvantages are, it’s not that efficient. Also, they would require lubricants to operate, as compared to the reciprocating type.

The reciprocating air compressors have higher horsepower but cost more. And it is more efficient than the Rotatory type.

If you are looking for the best output all the way, you should opt for a 15-20 CFM rating at 90 PSI.

Also Read: Best Air Compressor for Framing Reviews

Best Air Compressor Under 300 Dollar Reviews

What Size Air Compressor To Paint a Car? Video Guide

Final Verdict

Spray painting is a tough job, it requires a specific skill set and a lot of attention to details. But that doesn’t mean you can start learning, and choosing the right air compressor for your spray gun is a step in the right direction.

So, if you ever need to know what size air compressor to paint a car, and how to choose the right one, we hope this comprehensive article is your answer.

What Size Air Compressor to Paint a Car? Epic Guide in 2021 1