California Air Tools 10020C Review

Editor Rating: 4.7/5

Great Product

California Air Tools 10020C Review
Reviewed by: Timothy Henderson Last modified: Mar 1, 2023 @ 8:29 am
  • Design
  • Functionality
  • Price

California Air Tools 10020C Review

According to the manufacturer, the California Air Tools 10020C is one of the quietest in its category, if not the industry. This compressor is ideal for homeowners, serious DIYers, and a backup for professionals or workshops.

Sporting an upright design, it supplies a maximum of 125 PSI and delivers 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI. Coupled with its 10-gallon tank, you’ll get enough air to power air-intensive tools (or those that require a continuous supply). The tank also sits on wheels, so it’s easy to move around the job site.

In addition, it has a low-speed 2.0 horsepower motor — slower is better here — designed to increase duty cycle and continuous run times. As a result, it’s quiet compared to many, both small and large.

Its oil-free dual-piston pump is fast, reliable, and prepped to last 3000 hours before requiring any attention. And, the 10020C control panel has two standard universal quick connectors, pressure dials, regulator knob, plus safety valve.

Overall, in my opinion, you can expect to enjoy power, relative quiet, and portability — even considering it’s a 10-gallon compressor — from this machine.

California Air Tools is a USA-based company out of San Diego, California, and assembles its own compressors, paint sprayer guns, plus other pneumatic tools and accessories. The company is only a little over 20 years old, yet it’s encouraging to see how they continue to tackle industry giants with innovative compressors.


  • Tank capacity – 10 gallons
  • Max pressure – 125 PSI
  • Air flow – 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI
  • Weight – 82.5 pounds


Relatively quiet — only 70 decibels.
Outstanding air supply for medium and light tasks.
Fast, reliable, and durable motor/pump.
Includes a wheel kit for convenient transport on any surface.


Bulky — weighs 82.5 pounds.

Features and Benefits of California Air Compressor 10020

The 10020 California Air Tools model is one of the best-selling 2.0 horsepower compressors. Let’s dive into the features to find out what makes it tick.

Quiet Operation

If air compressor manufacturers possessed signature skills, California Air Tools would be recognized for specializing in silent operation. This feature is evident in the CAT-10020C. Operating at only 70 decibels, it’s impressive given the size and power of the tank. For a real-life comparison — this compressor has a similar sound level to that of a vacuum cleaner. Hence, should be hardly noticeable when you step away from the unit to work. In short, while it’s not completely silent, it sure is music to your ears compared to most of its competitors. This means it’s perfect for those working inside, in close proximity to others or if you value your hearing — let’s face it, who doesn’t.

Efficient Motor and Pump

One of the most notable components has got to be its SP-9421 14-amp motor. At 2.0 horsepower, the heart of this compressor runs at an impressive speed of only 1680 rpm. This means it uses less energy to generate air, so it will last longer. Unsurprisingly, it’s rated to run for 3000 hours before requiring any repair. For clear understanding, smaller pancake compressors can reach up to 4000 rpm. That’s over twice the running speed of the 10020C. And remember, when it comes to these machines, a lower number means a more efficient and longer-lasting motor. Also, its easy-start valve improves start-up in cold weather and motor performance. It bleeds a small amount of air from the pump, easing the motor of the load. Hence, using fewer amps to start.


Granted, it’s a 10-gallon compressor with air delivery of 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI, so it’s only logical to assume it’ll see heavy use. California Air Tools keeps this in mind in the design of the 10020C. Featuring a thermal overload protector on the motor. If the motor exceeds 275 degrees Fahrenheit, it shuts off to prevent overheating — saving you from experiencing a toasted motor. Meanwhile, the tank is made of solid steel, so it can withstand the occasional knocks and bumps without damage. Also, two Solenberg air filters sift out detritus that could damage the compressor and help to reduce noise. These filters can be easily removed and reinstalled for cleaning.

Oil-Free and Easy to Maintain

If a machine is high-maintenance, it also transpires into time-consuming, which let’s be honest, who wants to spend time on upkeep if they don’t need to? And, that’s the beauty of the 10020C — the low-maintenance element. First, it has an oil-free pump, which cancels the chore of regularly monitoring and refilling oil. Secondly, handling the two silencer filters is a breeze — as you already know. Finally, the tank only needs to be drained daily or every other day, depending on your frequency of use. Habitually, its drain valve is near the bottom center of the tank. However, you may need to rock the tank to drain it completely.

Adequate Air Delivery

The California Air Tools 10020C produces 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI and 6.4 CFM @ 40 PSI. It also supplies a maximum pressure of 125 PSI with a 10-gallon tank capacity. This setup opens up to a wide variety of air tools you can use, such as:

  • Roofing and framing nailers.
  • Staplers.
  • Impact wrenches.
  • Cut-off tools.
  • Die grinders.
  • Inflation kit and blowguns.

It pumps from 0 to 125 PSI in 120 seconds and recovers from 95 in only 25 seconds, which is pretty fast.

Finally, its durable motor has a duty cycle of 70/30, and it’s spec’d to run continuously for between thirty to sixty minutes. This will vary depending on the demands of your pneumatic tool.


Considering that the CAT-10020C weighs 82.5 pounds, you might think using the term ‘portable’ here sounds overly optimistic. Here’s the kicker: The bulk of its weight comes from the fact that it has a large 10-gallon tank and dual-piston pumps. However, the whole setup is stacked tall and fits in a 16 x 15.1 x 35.9 inches footprint. Couple that on a sizable wheel kit, plus its overhead handle, and you can push/pull it around effortlessly. Thus, maneuvering this beast around the workshop, garage, or job site shouldn’t be as challenging as you’d think.

California Air Tools 10020C Specifications

California Air Tools 10020C
Max PSI125 PSI
Capacity @ 90 PSI5.3 CFM
Capacity @ 40 PSI 6.4 CFM
Motor2.0 horsepower
Tank size10 gallons (45.4 liters)
Quick connector size0.25 inches (6.4 mm)
Power supply Electric corded
Noise rating70 decibels
Dimensions (LxWxH)16 x 15.1 x 35.9 inches
Weight82.5 pounds (37.8 kg)
Amps14 (US)

What Users Say About the CAT 10020C

So, for me, this is one quiet beast of a machine with sufficient air and delivery to power most garage, auto repair, and home maintenance tools. However, that’s just my two cents about the 10020C. What do those that use this machine regularly have to say? Firstly, users love its ‘ultra-quiet’ 70 decibels noise operation. They acknowledge how rare it is to find this in a compressor, or one of its size for that matter. Secondly, they commend how fast it builds pressure and recovers. And that the cold start valve makes it easy to fire up the motor in even unfavorable conditions. Additionally, they enjoy the plethora of air tools they can use on the California compressor. Plus, handling those tools from the tall control panel, and reading the pressure dials from the angled dashboard is a welcomed convenience. It will be unfair to say there were no harsh comments about the CAT-10020C. Those that stick are moans of inferior fittings and sometimes, a wobbly wheel mount. Comically, some users get annoyed because of its ‘ultra-quiet’ marketing and might be in their right to think it’s deceiving. Aside from these minor niggles, most feedback about the California Air Tools 10020 is of a positive nature.

Alternatives to the California Air Tools 10020C Compressor

While it appears to be a popular choice on the compressor circuit, the 10020C may not be cutting the mustard for you. Below, I’ve listed some respectable alternatives you might like instead.
If the California brand appeals, yet you’re seeking something super quiet, consider the CAT-8010. This compressor has an operating noise level of 60 decibels. However, the trade-off is a slightly smaller 8-gallon tank. This hotdog-style unit weighs only 48 pounds, features an oil-free pump, 1.0 horsepower motor, and arrives with wheels. Nonetheless, you’ll have to make do with lower air delivery — it supplies 120 PSI maximum pressure and 2.20 CFM @ 90 PSI.
  • Rated at 60 decibels, the CAT8010 is quieter than the CAT10020C.
  • Considerably lighter — weighs 48 pounds compared to the 82.5 pounds of the 10 020C.
  • The CAT-8010 is significantly kinder on the pocket.


On the chance that you want more grunt and size, Stealth’s SAQ-12018 might suffice. It has a staggering 20-gallon tank, 150 Max PSI, produces 5 CFM @ 90 PSI, with a low working volume — 68 decibels. It also has a fast pump with a speedy filling and recovery time. But with a lower duty cycle and at 130 pounds, it’s considerably heavier than the CAT 10020C.
  • SAQ-12018 includes a lifetime warranty, as opposed to the one-year guarantee of the 10020C.
  • The Stealth is more expensive than the California.
  • Both include an oil-free pump and a vertical design.
Craftsman CMEC6150K
If you’re happy about the tank size and specs of the CAT-10020C, but the price tag isn’t making you smile, take a look at the WEN 2289T. Like the California, it has a 10-gallon steel tank, a comparable footprint, and an upright build that includes wheels. It weighs only 72 pounds and features a 150 PSI maximum pressure and air delivery of 4 CFM @ 90 PSI — hence, has a dependable capacity for staplers, nailers, and spray guns. However, it’s a lot louder.
  • The WEN 2289T is more pocket-friendly than the CAT-10020C.
  • Both can handle similar types of pneumatic tools.
  • Backed by a two-year warranty as opposed to the one-year of the California.


Without a doubt, this California Air Tools 10020C review reiterates the widely acclaimed durability, power, and quiet operation of this model. This compressor is versatile with the range of air tools it supports, and both you — and others around you — will appreciate the lack of volume it produces. It requires little maintenance with its oil-free pump, and its reliable motor is built to start under unfavorable weather conditions. The 10020C’s low-spinning motor reduces the effort it takes to generate air — giving it a longer life cycle and relatively tranquil sound operation. And it goes from empty to full faster than even smaller tanks. Despite its size, the CAT-10020C is easy to push around with its wheel kit. Plus, it has its control panel at a height and direction you’ll cherish in the middle of a job. All in all, if you’re in the market for a 10-gallon compressor to efficiently run a variety of air tools — without bursting your eardrums in the process — do check out the California Air Tools 10020C.

California Air Tools 10020 Review FAQs

Q: Are California Air Tools Good Compressors?
California Air Tools is a small respectable company known for producing quiet, reliable, and innovative compressors. Some of their compressors are rated to have a noise level as low as 60 decibels or less.
Q: Where Are California Air Tools Manufactured?
The company has its headquarters in San Diego, California, where most of its compressors are assembled. In addition, they have five other assembly lines in San Diego and one air tank factory in Mexico. California Air Tools air compressor factory was just recently ASME certified in 2020. However, like most — if not all — manufacturers, they also source parts from China to be assembled in the States.
Q: What’s the Price of The California Air Tools 10020C?
The California Air Tools cat 10020 delivers 5.4 CFM @ 90 PSI, includes dual couplers, an oil-free pump, and a wheel kit. Click here to see its latest pricing.
Q: Where Can I Locate the California Air Tools CAT 10020 Manual?

You can download the CAT10020 owners manual directly from the official California Air Tools website. Alternatively, you can also find it by clicking here.

Q: Can the 10020C Work With an Impact Wrench?
Yes, it can work with a 3/8-inch impact wrench. But it’s not sufficient for 1-inch and 1/2-inch impact wrenches.
Q: Will This CAT-10020C Unit Work for an Automotive Hobbyist With Grinders and Cutters?
This unit can work with die grinders, staplers, and air tools within the range of its CFM (5.3 @ 90 PSI and 6.4 @ 40 PSI). However, tools like cutters or angle grinders require a more powerful compressor to function properly.
Q: What’s The Max PSI?
The compressor is rated at a maximum of 125 PSI.
Q: Can I Do Auto Body Spray with It?

Yes, but on the condition that you are patient and want to spray a small item. Since the CAT-10020C supplies 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI, it should work with a small HVLP or LVLP spray gun. But you’ll have to deal with it running out of air.

Q: Is The California Air Tools CAT 10020 Good for Running Air Sanders?
This compressor supplies 5.3 CFM @ 90 PSI. Meanwhile, most pneumatic orbital sanders require six to 9 CFM of air, in theory. So, no, the California Air Tools CAT-10020 isn’t suitable for running air sanders.

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