Air Tools Vs. Electric Tools:Which Is Better-Let’s Find out!

Are you a DIYer? Then you know how important powered tools like random orbital sanders and hand drills are. Maybe you need to smoothen the rough surfaces of a wooden bench before fixing a cushion upon it. Or, you want to build a free-standing stairway. The problem is, you don't have the right tools for the job, or your neighbor borrowed them and then relocated to some other place without returning them.

So, you rush to the nearby store or go to Amazon to buy new ones. You are confronted by numerous models, but there are two main categories to choose from – air tools or electric tools.

Your choice between the two determines how much you will spend, how easy it will be to complete the job, and how long you will keep the tools, among many other aspects.

In this page, you will find lots of valuable info that will help you make an informed decision.

Before we look into the two categories of powered tools, I'd like to highlight the factors you ought to consider to determine which one suits you best. We shall compare the two categories concerning these factors:

  • Power
  • Size
  • Weight and portability
  • Durability
  • Price
  • Cleanliness
  • Convenience

Air-Powered Tools

Air Tools

Also known as pneumatic tools, these are tools that are powered by compressed air. An air compressor supplies the air.

Air gushes from the compressor to the tool through a flexible hose. 

Some air compressors have a tank capacity of 1 gallon, while others can hold more than 500 gallons of air at once. Typically, the more the tank capacity, the more the power delivered.

In Fact, air tools are cheaper than electric ones. However, they need to be frequently replaced.

Compared to their electric counterparts, air tools are smaller and lighter. Also, with adjustable airflow, air-powered tools give you more power regarding RPM and torque. That helps you finish your job faster and more effortlessly.

Here are a few disadvantages  to air tools:

Air compressors are quite noisy. Even the quietest ones produce around 60 decibels, which is the level of noise humans produce while talking loudly.

The other problem with using air tools is that you will have to follow a strict maintenance schedule for the air compressor unless you have a low-end model that doesn't use oil.

Another issue is with the hose. Remember, you have to connect your tool to the compressor using a hose. If you use a cheap hose, leaking is almost inevitable. You need a high-quality hose, which may be a little pricey.

Electric Tools


These are powered by an electric current. Compared to their air-powered counterparts, electrical tools are more comfortable to use and more convenient. Provided the battery has some power or the power cord is plugged in, the device can be used immediately with no additional setup.

You don't need to wait till the compressor fills up and you don't have to keep swapping air tools on the hose. 

The drawbacks associated with electric tools include:

The initial cost. Typically, more power tools are costlier than the air-powered versions.

Electric current requirement. Air-powered tools can have some air stored in the tanks for later use (unpowered), but electric ones require electricity (some models need to be always powered) to function. If you have a cordless model, keep a few extra batteries.

Fortunately, you can interchange batteries among more power tools in a similar product line of the same manufacturer.

For a corded model, you may extend the power with an extension cord but be very careful, as this is not very safe.

The other downside to corded electric tools is that you always have to consider where the cord is concerning the tool. Most cords are not replaceable, and thus you have to take care not to cut them. That could not only mean rendering the tool obsolete but also receiving a pretty severe electric shock.

​​​​Air Tools vs Electric Tools: Highlighted Features


Air Tool

Electric Tool


Up to 950 pounds per foot maximum working torque

1,295 pounds per foot breakaway torque.

Up to 700 pounds per foot working torque

1,200 pounds per foot breakaway torque.


Around 4.5 pounds, excluding air-hose weight.

About 7pounds – approximately 40% heavier


Generally around 7 x 10 inches excluding the hoses and fittings.

Typically, about 8.8 x 10.7 inches.


The length of your air hose is the limit. A more extended hose increases the reach but also reduces the power.

For corded models, the length of the cord might limit you, but with a cordless model, the sky is the limit.


Costs around $70 less but that doesn't bring the price of the hose into the picture. A good-quality hose might cost you a few hundred dollars.

Though the tool might be more expensive, if it's cordless, the price includes a few batteries and a charging station. Also, you don't need to purchase any hoses.


The air hoses might make quite a mess and leave marks on the ground.


Relatively cleaner with minimal marks on the ground.


If your model uses oil, you need to oil the air motor regularly to maximize the power and life of the tool.

Doesn't require much maintenance as long as you keep it in a clean, dry place. The only thing you need to do is keep the batteries charged.

Final Verdict: Which Is Better?

The declaration of which category is better than the other depends on your DIY needs. In case you only want a hand drill to use in your garage, a cordless electric model would be great.

If, on the other hand, you want a multipurpose DIY tool to use in your garage, garden, and house, maybe you need to invest in an air-powered tool.

My guess is, shortly, cordless electric models will begin dominating the market. But in the end, it all boils up to your needs. Feel free to go to the table once more to see what best suits you. If your target is an optimal convenience, I would recommend getting a cordless electric tool. 

Don't hesitate to share this post with your fellow DIYers and leave a comment.

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