What Size Compressor Do I Need To Paint A Car?

Cars and automobiles are big investments. For some people, cars are their passion. So, they want to maintain their cars very dearly. But sometimes, your car can have scratches, and you might have to paint your car. Again, you can also paint your car to modify its design. One of the major tools you need for painting your car is an air compressor. If you want to paint your car properly with a perfect finish, you have to choose the right size compressor. But the question remains,’’ What size compressor do I need to paint a car? Don’t worry we will answer all the questions here. Keep on reading. 

What is an air compressor?

An air compressor is a device used to power airbrushes and spray guns to spray paint onto surfaces. It consists of a motor, a tank, and a regulator and works by compressing air and storing it in the tank until it is needed. The compressed air is released when the trigger on the airbrush or spray gun is pressed. It then draws the paint from the container and atomizes it into tiny droplets that can be sprayed onto the surface. Air compressors are commonly used in automotive painting, mural painting, and other applications where precise and even paint application is required. Depending on the intended use, they come in various sizes and power levels.

Types of paint compressors

Types of paint compressors

Air compressors come in various sizes to accommodate different needs and applications. Here are some of the common sizes of paint compressors available:

Mini Compressors

Mini Compressors are small, portable compressors designed for light-duty jobs such as hobby painting, makeup application, and small touch-up work. They are lightweight and easy to carry. You can easily use these compressors in small spaces.

Compact Compressors

Compact compressors are slightly larger than mini compressors and are designed for light-duty jobs such as home painting, furniture refinishing, and small automotive work. They are still portable but have a larger air tank and can handle slightly more demanding jobs.

Mid-Size Compressors

Mid-size compressors are larger and more powerful than compact compressors. They are designed for medium-duty jobs such as large-scale home painting, automotive painting, and woodworking. They have a larger air tank and can handle continuous use for longer periods.

Industrial Compressors

Industrial compressors are the largest and most powerful compressors. They are designed for heavy-duty jobs such as industrial painting, sandblasting, and construction. They have large air tanks and powerful motors that can handle continuous use for extended periods.

What Size Compressor Do I Need To Paint A Car?

The compressor size you need to paint a car depends on several factors, such as the size of the vehicle, the type of paint you are using, and the spray gun you will be using. Generally, you will need a compressor with a minimum capacity of 7 CFM (cubic feet per minute) at 40 PSI (pounds per square inch) to spray paint a car. 

However, a larger compressor with a 20 to 30 CFM capacity is recommended for larger vehicles and more professional paint jobs. You can use mid-size compressors for painting your car.

In addition to the compressor size, you must consider the length of the air hose, the air regulator, and the spray gun. Using a 3/8-inch diameter air hose is recommended to minimize air pressure loss and to have an air regulator that can adjust the pressure to suit your specific spray gun. The compressor size you need to paint a car will depend on several factors, and it is best to consult with a professional or experienced painter to ensure you have the right equipment for the job.

How to choose the right size of the compressor to paint a car?

The size of the air compressor you choose will depend on the type and scale of work you plan to do. It’s important to select a compressor that can handle your project’s demands while being easy to use and maintain. However, choosing the right size compressor for painting your car depends on several factors, such as the type of paint and the size of your vehicle. Here are the general steps to follow:

  • Determine the required air volume (CFM) for your paint gun: Check the manufacturer’s specifications for your paint gun to determine the required CFM (cubic feet per minute) for the weapon to work optimally.  
  • Calculate the air storage tank size: Once you know the required CFM for your paint gun, calculate the minimum size you’ll need. A rule of thumb is multiplying the required CFM by the duration of continuous use in minutes. Then multiply by 1.5 to account for inefficiencies in the system. For example, if your paint gun requires 8 CFM and you plan to use it continuously for 15 minutes, you’ll need a tank with at least 180 cubic feet of capacity.
  • Consider the compressor’s horsepower: The horsepower (HP) of the compressor is an indicator of its power output. A compressor with higher horsepower will be able to deliver more CFM. But it will also consume more electricity.
  • Determine the power source: Consider the power source available in your workspace. If you have access to a 220-volt electrical outlet, you can use a larger compressor with a higher horsepower rating. If you only have access to a 110-volt outlet, you may have to choose a smaller compressor.
  • Check the noise level: Compressors are noisy. So consider the noise level of the compressor when choosing a size. A quieter compressor may be necessary if you’re working in a shared space.
  • Consult with a professional: If you need help deciding which compressor to choose, consult a hardware or automotive store professional for guidance.


Choosing the perfect size compressor is very important. It saves your time, effort, and paint. You will get a perfect finish without spilling paint with the perfect-sized compressor. So, follow these facts while choosing the right compressor and paint the car perfectly. Hope you have got the answer to the question ‘’what size compressor do I need to paint a car?”

Share on:

Samuel H. Murphy is DIY expert and Interior Designer. He is also a part time content writer of Capische. He lives in Warren city, Michigan. He test tools like drill, saw, sander, air compressor etc and helps readers to find out the best tools.

Leave a Comment