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Oil vs OilLess Air Compressor

You have decided that you will purchase an air compressor. A strong and indispensable tool that powers up any pneumatic tool. However, there is an important factor that you need to consider before deciding on which model you are going to buy, that factor is whether you have to buy an oil-lubricated air compressor or an oilless air compressor.

So What are the differences between each model, which one to buy, and which one suits you better? Throughout this article, we will do our best to answer these questions to give you a better understanding and help you make a better purchase.

Short Answer:

If you want a compressor that is more durable, can withstand extreme working conditions, and is much quieter when operating, then an oil-lubricated air compressor is the one for you. However, if you need a cheap, light air compressor that is suitable for home use, then an oilless air compressor is the answer to all your prayers.

Oil vs OilLess Air Compressors – Full Comparison

Oil Air Compressors Overview

Oil air compressors are heavy-duty compressors that are perfect for large construction sites. They are the most common and most used of the two models. Moreover, they are more durable and tend to last a longer lifetime. However, they need to be maintained more than their counterparts as the oil needs to be constantly checked to see whether it needs changing or you need to add more oil.

  • Durable
  • Not noisy
  • Can maintain long continuous hours of work
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Need maintenance

OilLess Air Compressors Overview

Their name does not indicate they do not contain any oil; however, it means that you do not have to check for the oil yourself. These compressors come pre-lubed, this makes their maintenance minimal to none at all. They have a much simpler and compact design making them lighter and much cheaper than their counterparts.

  • Cheap
  • Light
  • Noisy

Now we will discuss some points to identify the differences between them.


Oil Compressors: Despite being larger and more heavy-duty oriented than their counterparts, oil-lubricated air compressors tend to be quieter than oilless ones.

OilLess Compressors: They have always had a reputation for being very noisy and loud during working. However, newer models have introduced sound reducing technologies, direct-drive features as well as a dual-pistons all in an effort to reduce oilless air compressors notorious loud noises. 

This means that when it concerns noise created, there is not a big difference between the sound that an oil-lubricated air compressor creates and the one that a new oilless model creates, as they both do not create too much noise and are considered quite. However, an old oilless lubricated compressor creates loud noises when working.


Oil Compressors: They last a lot longer than oilless compressors; this is due to the continuous maintenance that must be performed. This maintenance is done to check the oil levels as well as all the other parts of the compressor. This makes them last a lot more, and they also have an extra coating of heavy metal that protects all the interior parts.

OilLess Compressors: They are not as durable as their cousins; this is because they are not maintained as oil-lubricated compressors; also, simpler and cheaper components are used to create them. This makes them more prone to breaking down. Also, as there is no oil to cool down the parts, they are more likely to become extremely hot.


Oil Compressors: There is not much difference between the two models in terms of portability. However, oil compressors lose to their counterparts as oil compressors are larger and heavier, so moving them from one place to another is not as easy as it seems.

OilLess Compressors: They have the edge over their cousins due to their smaller size, lighter weight, and also having simpler and fewer components. This makes moving them from one place to another easy to perform.

Checking the Oil Level

We will now talk about a thing that is exclusive to oil-lubricated air compressors. It is checking the oil level. This step is essential to maintain the compressor’s performance and efficiency and also to maintain its durability. 

It is vital that you make sure that you have the right amount of oil in your compressor not too much or too little as if you have more oil than you need, then you must drain some of it while if you have too little them, you must add oil.

Your user manual will contain the exact amount of oil that your compressor needs. There are two ways to know how much oil your compressor contains; they are:

  • Using an oil dipstick
  • Checking the oil sight glass

1. Using An Oil Dipstick

Exactly as we do it in our cars, all you have to do is to insert the oil dipstick in the opening and check the oil level and act accordingly either by adding oil or removing oil.

2. Checking the Oil Sight Glass

This is a sight glass that should be in the front of your air compressor. If it contains a dot, then the oil level should be exactly at the dot. However, if it does not contain a dot, the oil level should be above the oil sight glass’s middle by a small bit.

Final Thoughts

Air compressors are extremely useful and easy to operate; however, purchasing one is not an easy decision that needs to be approached wisely. We hope that our article has cleared some of the fog that shrouded the differences between an oil-lubricated air compressor and an oilless one to help you make a wiser decision.

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John Graham

John Graham

I am a 35-year old avid DIY-er. Ever since I was young, my father used to prompt me to help fix things around the house or even building my own cupboards and shelves.
That’s why I developed the habit of doing everything on my own. And since this is the only way to reach the unique results I really want, I don’t like depending on any services.

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