Industrial air compressors come in a wide variety of types and specifications — but can be divided into two fundamental categories: stationary and portable. Typically, stationary air compressor units have electric motors while portable models run on diesel.

When you’re looking for an air compressor rental, each option offers a clear set of benefits and disadvantages — and the decision of which one to use will ultimately depend on the application. So, to better understand which type of rental air compressor is best for your facility, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of stationary vs. portable air compressors.


Advantages of Stationary Air Compressor Rentals

  • Cost-Efficient
  • Powerful
  • Quiet & Clean


One of the main advantages of stationary air compressors — especially on an industrial scale — is cost-efficiency. It’s estimated that an electric, stationary compressor will cost 2-4 times less to operate and maintain than a portable, diesel compressor of similar capacity. This difference can have a major financial impact in high-volume contexts such as manufacturing facilities, where continuous usage requires a substantial amount of energy.

In addition to the financial considerations, because stationary compressors are electric, they’re also much quieter and cleaner (i.e. exhaust-free) than their diesel counterparts, making them a more suitable rental option for indoor operation — and better for the environment as well. 

Furthermore, stationary electric compressors are often bigger, and therefore more powerful than portable diesel compressors. Given these facts, it’s easy to see why electric compressors are the preferred rental option for large, single-site industrial operations such as manufacturing facilities.

Disadvantages of Stationary Air Compressor Rentals

  • Require a specific power source
  • Requires floor space to accommodate


Stationary compressors are the ideal rental for fixed-location contexts (e.g. production lines) — but certain industries demand mobility and versatility. For example, a construction company may need a portable air compressor that can be easily hauled to various job sites.

Electric air compressors can potentially be transported. However, the problem is the power source. Remote job sites may lack an appropriate electrical supply to run heavy-duty electric compressors, which often require three-phase electricity (as opposed to the single-phase electricity found in residential/commercial buildings). 

Continuing on that note, electric compressors are also subject to power interruptions, which can lead to downtime. 

Additionally, stationary air compressors require dedicated floor space to operate. If your facility is tight on space, it can be difficult to find the room to safely operate a stationary compressor. Portable diesel compressors, on the other hand, can be used virtually anytime, anywhere — which leads us to our next section…

Sulliar Portable Air Compressor

Advantages of Portable Air Compressor Rentals

  • Can be placed outside with hose running inside
  • Self-sufficient


Portable air compressors generally run on diesel to eliminate the need for an electrical power source. As mentioned above, having a fuel tank allows diesel compressors to function virtually anywhere — making them ideal as temporary rentals, especially for outdoor/remote applications that require mobility. Industries that commonly rent portable diesel air compressors include construction, agriculture, oil/gas, and utilities. Even if your application is indoors, your portable air compressor can be placed outside with the hose running in, saving you floor space and keeping noise to a minimum.

In addition to being portable, diesel compressors also have the advantage of being self-sufficient — which is why manufacturing facilities often rent one as a backup to the main electric compressor. In the case of a power outage or malfunction, a portable diesel compressor can be quickly substituted to restore operation and avoid downtime. 

Disadvantages of Portable Air Compressor Rentals

  • Fuel Cost
  • Maintenance
  • Noise & Exhaust


While diesel’s self-sufficiency makes it perfect for portable air compressors, there are several reasons why it’s not as well-suited for big draw industrial applications. Again, given the cost of fuel, a portable diesel air compressor can cost 2-4 times more than a stationary electric compressor to run for extended periods. So, in large-scale continuous use contexts where portability is not a concern (e.g. manufacturing), the answer to the question of whether to rent a portable vs. stationary air compressor is clear from a cost-effectiveness standpoint.

Portable air compressors also require more attention and maintenance than their electric counterparts. For example, diesel engines need to be refueled every 8-12 hours and the filters need to be replaced every 250 hours. Conversely, many stationary electric compressors can run for 4,000 hours without any maintenance. 

Portable compressors’ diesel engines are also noisy and produce heavy exhaust — which is an environmental pollutant and can also pose health/safety risks. That’s why, when it comes to industrial air compressors, stationary units are typically electric while diesel is reserved for portable models.

Stationary vs. Portable Air Compressors: What’s the Best Rental Option for Your Application?

Generally, if you’re renting an air compressor for an industrial application, a stationary compressor is likely the best option for your facility. They’re cleaner, quieter, and less expensive to run, plus you don’t have to worry about refueling or the cost of that fuel.

If you need to rent an air compressor for temporary use, or if it’s something you use only occasionally in your shop or facility, then a portable diesel compressor might be the better option. They’re less expensive, don’t require a power hookup, and can easily be loaded and unloaded for an easy rental setup and takeaway process.

Do You Have a Rental Air Compressor Contingency Plan?

If your main compressor fails and you need a backup in a pinch, you don’t want to be caught without a plan. Make sure you have a plan in place to get a rental compressor in your facility and up and running as soon as possible. Consider the following aspects:

  • You will need floor space for a rental compressor, especially for a stationary electric compressor 
  • An emergency connection will need to be routed in before the air dryer to avoid dirty air in your facility
  • A stationary electric compressor will require an electrical source
  • Where will you source your rental compressor from? TMI offers 24/7 servicing and installation in West Michigan, meaning that we will be there when you need us.


Looking to rent an air compressor? Contact TMI. We rent, supply, and service both portable and stationary air compressors. Whether you need an immediate backup for a failed compressor or just need more air for the busy season, our experts can help you select the best option for your facility and application, on your timeline.