What Size Air Compressor For Mobile Auto Detailing Should You Get?

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What Size Air Compressor is The Best For Mobile Auto Detailing

Buying the right size air compressor for mobile auto detailing is very important. However, there are many different opinions when it comes to this topic. To help you, I decided to thoroughly research this topic and find out what size portable air compressor is the best for mobile car detailing and what other things you should also look for before buying one.

The best size air compressor for mobile auto detailing services is anywhere from 5-20 gallons. However, it mostly depends on your needs, vehicle, and air compressor dimensions.

A good air compressor for mobile auto detailing should have the following:

  • Ca. 5-20 Gallon tank
  • Around 120PSI
  • SCFM from 4-6 at 90 PSI
  • Not more than 80 dBa
  • Up to 100 lbs

From this answer, you can see that only the size itself isn’t the most important thing. Several other factors are also crucial.

Let’s see why are all those features (and some others) so important when choosing the right size air compressor.

What To Look For When Choosing The Mobile Detailing Air Compressor

Here are all the features you should pay attention to when choosing your new portable air compressor for your mobile detailing business.

1. Size Of The Tank (Gallons)

To choose the right size air compressor for mobile auto detailing, you need to know in which vehicle you will drive it.

It’s a big difference if it’s a Van, a Truck, or you have a Trailer.

The bigger the tank size, the longer you’ll be able to work without the compressor starting to refill.

The ideal air compressor tank size is anywhere between 5-20 gallons; it will be enough for most car detailing jobs.

Some compressors are in vertical style, and they don’t take up too much space, even though they have a 20-gallon tank. That’s a great choice again.

I see some people having 30-gallon air compressors, but they also said that it’s too big and not convenient for working. It just takes up too much space in your vehicle. And we all know how space organization is essential for mobile auto detailing business.

Yes, it would be better to use 50-gallon air compressors, but how can you drive that big thing around? We need some compromised solution that will still work well.

Don’t Forget To Count The Cubic Feet of Air

It would be best if you always counted the cubic feet of air your air compressor has. It’ll help you later with the air compressor’s CFM properties (I talk about CFM below in the article).

To calculate the air compressors’ cubic feet of air, you should divide the size in gallons by 7.48.

So, 1 gallon equates to 0.134 cubic feet of air.

Let’s check the example on the 6-gallon size air compressor.

  • 6 gallons / 7,48 = 0,8 cubic feet of air.

2. Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI)

PSI stands for Pounds Per Square Inch, which means the amount of pressure placed on a square inch of space.

Usually, the higher the PSI, the better. But, most air-powered car detailing tools don’t require a PSI of more than 120.

The good thing is that most air compressors have much higher PSI, so you shouldn’t have a problem with that.

Anyway, don’t buy an air compressor with less than 100 PSI.

3. SCFM – Standard Cubic Feet Per Minute

SCFM measures the standard flow rate of air under pressure. For air compressors, manufacturers mostly count the SCFM at 90PSI.

Even in the 3rd place, I would say that this is the most important thing you should look for when choosing your new air compressor.

Most of the tools, especially the mentioned ones, need an SCFM of around 5-6.

So, having that said, the SCFM of the air compressor should be around 5-6. Don’t go less than 5, and there’s no need to go with an air compressor with an SCFM higher than 7.

Remember when I told you about the cubic feet of air your tank have? The smaller the tank, the more often it will have to turn on and refill the air inside.

For example, a 6-gallon tank is 0,8 cubic feet of air. If the SCFM is 5, that means that you could continuously work with the air tool for around 10-15 seconds before the air compressor starts to refill.

That’s the reason why a bigger tank is better.

4. Weight of The Air Compressor

The weight of the compressor is also essential when it comes to the mobile auto detailing business. You’ll have to carry it around, so make sure that it’s not too heavy.

Anything up to 70-80 lbs is fine, I think. I wouldn’t pick a heavier air compressor than that. We need to take care of our spine.

5. Loudness (dB)

Even though it’s not crucial for the air tools to work, you should also check an air compressor’s loudness.

Some of the compressors are just way too loud, and they may disturb people in the area you’re working.

I wouldn’t go with an air compressor that is louder than 80 dBa (decibels).

It Depends On What Air Tools You Plan On Using

Before you decide to buy anything, ask yourself what air tools do you have.

Mostly, it’s those three tools (or similar ones):

  1. Air Blow Gun
  2. Vortex Air Tool
  3. Tornador Black (check the price on Amazon now)

There’s no need to have a $600 worth of air compressor if you won’t use its full power.

2 Best Air Compressors For Mobile Car Detailing

Here are two superb air compressors for mobile auto detailing. I believe that you won’t make a mistake choosing any of these two.

Both of them have enough PSI and CFM so that you won’t have problems running a car detailing air tools.

1. Rigid 4.5 Gal Portable Air Compressor: An Ideal Solution

rigid 4.5 gallon portable air compressor, mobile car detailing

This Rigid 4.5 Gallon Portable Air Compressor (check the price on Amazon now) catches my eye.

Even though it’s only 4.5 Gallons, it’ll be enough for most of your needs. It’s not a very large device, so you can carry it everywhere.

Even though the tank size isn’t the best, and it will have to refill the air more often, it has enough power to do it. You should be able to use your air tools continuously.

Rigid 4.5 Gallon Portable Air Compressor Features:
  • Tank Size: 4.5 Gallon
  • SCFM: 5.1 at 90 PSI
  • Max Pressure: 200 PSI
  • Loudness: 77 dBA
  • Weight: 61lbs
  • Horsepower: 1.6 HP
  • Voltage: 120V
  • 2 Pressure Gauges
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • Powerful Compact Design

2. Hulk 20 Gal Portable Air Compressor: If You Need a Larger Tank

hulk 20 gallon portable air compressor, mobile car detailing

This Hulk 20 Gallon Portable Air Compressor (check the price on Amazon now) is excellent for you if you still need a bigger tank than 4.5 gallons.

It’s a vertical-style portable compressor, and even though it’s a 20-gallon tank, it won’t take up too much space inside your vehicle.

Also, two wheels will help you with carrying it around the car when cleaning. You’re going to need them since it’s a pretty bulky device.

I said that the air compressor shouldn’t be heavier than 100 lbs, but this one is easy to carry around, and it’s in vertical style, which helps a lot.

A high SCFM will make sure that you can use any auto detailing air tool. All air tools should work just fine with this air compressor.

Hulk 20 Gallon Portable Air Compressor Features
  • Tank Size: 20 Gallon
  • SCFM: 5.77 at 90 PSI
  • Max Pressure: 125 PSI
  • Loudness: 51 dB at 10 feet (around 75 at 4 feet)
  • Weight: 110 lbs
  • Horsepower: 2 HP
  • Voltage: 115 V
  • 2 Pressure Gauges
  • 2-Year Limited Warranty
  • Vertical Design For Space Savings
  • Easy to carry around


Choosing the right size air compressor for mobile auto detailing is completely your choice. I tried to show you the essential features you should look for when selecting the right air compressor.

You always need to compromise for the mobile detailing business to be profitable. The lack of space is the biggest problem.

However, with these instructions, I don’t think you’ll make a mistake. Furthermore, choosing any of the two compressors mentioned above will benefit your mobile detailing business.


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