2-Stage vs Single-Stage Air Compressors

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I’m perplexed by how many people don’t understand the distinction between two-stage and single-stage air compressors.

I mean, I understand that we all want to make a living, but it appears that brands are intent on making things even more confusing, and no one (at least online) has taken the time to compare these two types of air compressors.

This is why I decided to do an in-depth comparison of 2-stage vs single stage air compressors so the reader can understand the differences and similarities and, hopefully, make the best decision.

2-Stage vs Single-Stage Air Compressors

Whether you just want an air compressor to run your pneumatic tools (e.g., air impact wrench), you should understand the main difference between 2-stage vs single stage air compressors so you can make a more informed decision:

  • Single stage air compressor are designed to, after sucking air through the cylinder, use only one piston to compress air. They do this one time, which allows them to generate around 120 PSI
  • 2-stage air compressors, on the other hand, use two pistons to compress the air two times, allowing them to generate an air pressure of around 175 PSI
  1. Aire Pressure
  2. Noise Levels
  3. Portability
  4. Efficiency
  5. Price

Air Pressure

What are the differences in air pressure between single stage and two stage air compressors?

Air pressure is what runs pneumatic tools and it’s a very important measurement to compare air compressors as it will let you know whether you can run a particular air tool or not.

Single stage air compressors produce approximately 120 PSI of air pressure, which is sufficient to power most commercial-grade air tools. This lower level of air pressure is due to the fact that it has a weaker motor and only compresses air in one stage.

2-stage air compressors can achieve 200+ PSI not only because they have stronger motors and other internal components, but also because they compress air in two stages, resulting in a higher air pressure suitable for industrial applications.

Noise Levels

Consider this: you work all day with a noisy air compressor that makes your head spin.

This is not only uncomfortable, but also dangerous because it may damage your hearing.

In this regard, two-stage air compressors have a slight advantage over single-stage air compressors because they are quieter.

This is because they are built with stronger and more advanced internal components that do not require high RPM levels to provide a consistent level of air pressure.


You’re constantly moving an air compressor!

Around the job site, to the garage, or somewhere else.

This is where portability comes into play for air compressors, as it allows owners to move them around without much physical effort (which is why I love the compactness that hotdog or vertical air compressors bring to the table)

In this context, single stage air compressors are typically lighter and more compact, allowing them to be moved more easily around the job site.

2-stage air compressors are known to be built with larger motors and other dependable components, making them bulkier and heavier.


We often judge books by their covers, don’t we? We know it’s wrong but we do it anyways.

Sometimes we do the same with air compressors: we believe just because they are new that they are highly efficient and that’s not the case.

Single stage air compressors are less efficient since since they are made with weaker internal components that require more energy to provide solid levels of air pressure.

2-stage air compressors have the upper hand here, as they are made with stronger internal components that don’t take that much energy to generate a strong level of air pressure.


Your budget and making your money work for you are always important.

I mean, who has thousands of dollars to invest in an air compressor?

Pricing is another significant difference between 2-stage and single stage air compressors in this context.

Because single stage compressors are made with cheaper and simpler internal components, they are reasonably priced (starting at $500). Which is a good option if you want to run your air tools cheaply.

2-stage air compressors are more expensive because they have more complex internal components that cost more to design and manufacture. This is why they are frequently sold for more than $1000. They do, however, provide greater air pressure.

Benefits of Single Stage Air Compressor

Here are some of the most important benefits that single stage air compressors offer:

  1. Portability
  2. Price
  3. Easier to Maintain


While you have no control over the design of air compressors, you DO have control over whether your money is invested in a heavy and bulky air compressor or a portable and compact one.

If you like portability, single stage air compressors are for you.

These air compressors are built with simpler and smaller components, making them lighter and more compact. As a result, it is easier to move around.

This is critical for workers who want to use their air tools (for example, framing nailers) in different locations and must move their air compressors around.


In addition to being portable, single stage air compressors are relatively inexpensive.

In fact, they range in price from $200 to $500, which is less than the average two stage air compressor.

What causes this to happen?

Again, single stage air compressors have simpler and cheaper components, which, while making them weaker than 2-stage air compressors, also makes them much more affordable because they are less expensive to manufacture.

This is critical in order for brands to market 1-stage air compressors at competitive prices while maintaining profits.

Easier to Maintain

You know, I hate having to spend time and money putting oil on an air compressors and doing general maintenance stuff, as I usually forget about it.

This is why I like single stage air compressors as they are easier and cheaper to maintain and repair too.

They require little to no maintenance, especially the oil free versions, which is perfect if you’re looking to skip the hassle of constantly putting oil in your air compressor.

Cons of Single Stage Air Compressor

Now, let’s talk about some of the disadvantages that single stage air compressors have:

  1. Lack of Power
  2. Louder

Lack of Power

If you’re planning on working on intensive jobs or running professional grade pneumatic air tools, then a single stage air compressor isn’t the best choice for you.

Due to their cheaper and weaker internal components, single stage air compressors are fairly weak regarding the air pressure they provide.

Don’t get me wrong, they’ll be able to comfortably run most commercial-grade air tools and even inflate tires. However, they aren’t destined for heavy or industrial applications.


Another significant disadvantage of single stage air compressors is that, due to the use of weaker motors, they must achieve a high level of RPMs (engine rotational speed) in order to provide a consistent amount of air pressure.

As a result, these air compressors are significantly louder than the average two-stage air compressor.

So, if you want to work quietly, a single stage air compressor may not be the best option.

Benefits of Two Stage Air Compressor

Let’s talk about the benefits that come when getting a 2-stage air compressor now:

  1. More Powerful
  2. Efficiency
  3. Quiet

More Powerful

It goes without saying that the more air pressure an air compressor can produce, the more productive you will be and the more difficult tasks you will be able to complete.

That is where 2-stage air compressors excel.

2-stage air compressors typically produce more than 175 PSI of air pressure because they are designed to compress air twice and have stronger internal components.

So, if you need an air compressor to power your most air-pressure-hungry air tools (i.e. professional grade pneumatic tools), a 2-stage air compressor may be the best option.


If you want to get an air compressor that will create the most air pressure without wasting much energy, then a 2 stage air compressor should be a top priority for you.

Due to their technologically-advanced motors, 2-stage air compressors are perfect for providing superior air pressure efficient, thereby reducing energy consumption.


Wouldn’t you despise working all day next to a loud air compressor?

If you’re anything like me, you will.

2-stage air compressors are the ideal solution for this problem because they have more powerful internal components that allow them to provide excellent air pressure without strain.

So, if you want to keep your air generator from running at higher RPMs (and thus making a lot of noise), 2-stage air compressors are ideal because, in my experience, they can run at lower RPMs while being significantly powerful.

Cons of Two Stage Air Compressor

Not everything is cool when it comes to 2-stage air compressors. In fact, here are some of the most frequent cons of getting one:

  1. Price
  2. Size
  3. Complexity


When it comes to purchasing new tools and accessories, most of us have limited funds.

Unfortunately, 2-stage air compressors are very expensive, which means you may be unable to obtain one if your budget is less than $1000.

Why is it so expensive?

Well, 2-stage compressors have more complex and expensive internal components that, while allowing them to be more powerful and efficient, also make them more expensive.

That’s how you’ll see 2-stage air compressors starting at $1000+.


Unfortunately, most 2-stage air compressors are large and heavy.

This is a problem for many people because most of us want portable and compact air compressors to power our most frequently used air tools (e.g. paint sprayers).

These compressors are fairly large because they are constructed with bulkier and stronger internal components (e.g., larger fuel tanks, stronger motors, etc…), allowing them to provide higher PSI.


Last but not least, another con of getting a 2 stage air compressor is the complexity of their internal components.

These air compressors are made with complex designs and internal parts which allow them to compress air in two stages so they can deliver better air pressure.

That means that you’ll have to deal with complex air compressors that are difficult to maintain and particularly difficult to repair, which could be a huge headache in the future.

Comparison Table

Single Stage Air CompressorTwo Stage Air Compressor
Air PressureLess air pressureMore air pressure
Noise LevelsLouderQuieter
PortabilityCompact and lightweightBulky and heavy
EfficiencySomewhat efficientHighly efficient

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequent questions that pop up when comparing 2-stage vs 1-stage air compressors.

Let’s begin:

What Is Better a Single-Stage or a Two-Stage Air Compressor?

The short answer is that it depends.

Single-stage air compressors are ideal for providing sufficient air pressure to power the majority of your air tools. They are reasonably priced and simple to maintain. They are, however, noisy and lack the power to handle difficult tasks.

2-stage air compressors, on the other hand, are ideal for heavy tasks due to their higher air pressure output (courtesy of their 2HP+ motors and 2-stage air compression system), which is ideal for running professional workshops and construction sites. The only disadvantage is that they are very large, heavy, and expensive.

Is a Single-Stage Air Compressor More Reliable Than a Two-Stage Air Compressor?

Because two-stage air compressors compress air in two stages, they are more reliable and powerful than single-stage compressors.

This is ideal for powering professional-grade pneumatic tools as well as industrial and factory applications.

Single-stage air compressors, on the other hand, are designed for intermittent use because their internal components are much weaker and compress air in a single step.

Is a Two-Stage Air Compressor More Expensive Than a Single-Stage Air Compressor?

Yes, two stage air compressors are more expensive than single stage air compressors.

This happens because 2-stage air compressors are made with more complex and powerful internal components which are key to deliver a higher level of PSI than single stage air compressors deliver.

This boost costs which leads to brands to offering these air compressors for more money than single stage air compressors (that is, if they want to make profit on their investment).

Hi, I’m John Smith, a proud husband, and father of two little beautiful girls. After a long time of thinking I made up my mind to build a website around my passion.. helping people who need smart advice from handymen with years of experience.

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