Sturdy, durable, and easy to use. Lightweight paint gun cuts down on user fatigue. Once pressure is adjusted, it provides good coverage and sprays easily.
May need to water down thick paints like latex.
Powerful pump works straight out of the bucket or can. Pump only operates on-demand, cutting down on noise and wear and tear. Reversible tip makes it easy to clear blockages.
Parts and construction make it difficult to repair if it breaks. Some users had to replace the gun hose after a single use.
Sprays evenly. Reversible tip works well to clear clogs. Easy to clean up. Manufacturer offers excellent customer service.
Suction tube has a hard time reaching to the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket.
Adjustable pressure gives good control of spray. Can handle thick latex paint. Cart can hold and transport 5-gallon bucket.
Puts out a lot of overspray, making interior painting difficult.
If you've ever used a brush or roller to paint a large room – or twenty yards of fence – you'll immediately appreciate the speed and ease of an airless paint sprayer. Plug in, prime, and you can be laying a fine finish over large areas in minutes.
OK, it takes a little practice, but even while you're getting acclimated to your new spray gun, you're still painting faster than ever!
BestReviews is here to help you pick out exactly the right airless paint sprayer. Our mission is to take the hassle out of shopping. The five models here are our top picks for performance and value. We've also put together the following shopping guide to detail how the best airless paint sprayers stand out from the rest.
All paint sprayers use one of two technologies: air or airless.
An air-powered system uses a compressor or turbine to blow the paint (or other finish) through the gun. A vehicle painter or fine furniture maker will benefit from the finesse offered by a high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) air system. Airbrush artists who paint custom cars or helmets use air for this reason.
Higher transfer rates (more paint where you want it)
Better for fine detail
Better for touch-ups
Slow product delivery (not as good for large areas, particularly external walls)
Fussy about materials (some must be thinned or strained; some can't be used at all)
Turbine units lack flexibility
Expensive compressor units
An airless paint sprayer uses a piston to pump the paint at high pressure. If you want to paint your house (inside or out), doors, fence, or deck, an airless paint sprayer will get the job done more quickly and with less fuss. While the airless system won't produce the glass-like finish possible with an HVLP sprayer (it's a difficult technique to learn and just not necessary for surfaces like drywall, brick, or garage doors), the comparative simplicity of an airless system makes it much easier to learn to use well.
Minimal learning curve
Easy to use
Covers large areas quickly
Uses virtually any material without thinning
Overspray from high pressure (wastes paint)
Not good for detail work
Not good for glass-like finish
While there is plenty of variation in details, there are two basic types of airless paint sprayer.
Compact air sprayers have the motor, paint cup, and spray gun all in the same handheld tool.
Stand-mounted air sprayers (or cart-mounted) feed the paint via hose to the spray gun.
Your choice should be guided by the kind of painting you do most often. In general, people searching for an airless paint sprayer have large projects in mind. If that describes you, the compact air sprayers just don't have the capacity or power you need.
Compact air sprayers (also called handheld electric spray guns) are popular for repainting old furniture and other relatively small projects.
Adjustable nozzles; different spray patterns (some models)
Relatively low cost
28-ounce cup capacity (frequent refills needed for large areas)
Heavy when full of paint
Lack durability (cheap models)
Stand-mounted air sprayers (or cart-mounted units) are the solution we recommend for painting large areas.
Good for internal or external walls, decking, fences
Good for small jobs (doors, furniture)
Lighter to carry (separate paint tank, separate motor, gun attached by hose)
Easy to control
Take up more space
More power equals more overspray
Limited hose length (usually about 25 feet)
Pump needs priming before use
This is always a consideration. Stand-mounted air sprayers only weigh around 10 pounds but must carried from place to place. A handle makes this easier. Mid-range and commercial cart-mounted airless sprayers weigh anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds and more, but these models are wheeled. The wheels and tires are usually substantial, so movement, even up and down steps, isn't a problem.
Motor size and pressure
These are less important than you might think. DIY motors start at about about 3/8 horsepower (hp), and commercial sprayers rarely exceed 1 hp – not a vast difference.
Likewise, maximum pressure runs from 1,500 pounds per square inch (psi) to 3,000 psi, but this isn't directly related to machine size. We found several DIY models at the top of this range, and one or two mid-range models at the lower end.
Pressure control, however, is a big benefit. It gives you the ability to match pressure to material, and spray with more control so there's less waste. Many airless sprayers don't offer this feature, but it's invaluable if you want maximum accuracy and material cost saving.
This is the amount of paint (or other material) sprayed per minute. More material flow means the job gets done more quickly. It's difficult to be precise because the same gun will spray a thick material like latex at a different speed than a thin, water-based stain. Nevertheless, it's useful for comparison. Entry-level airless paint sprayers are rated at around 1/4 gallon per minute. Commercial models can double that.
Duty cycle (also called recommended annual usage) is another good indicator. A DIY model with an annual rating of 50 gallons will be fine for many householders, but mid-range and pro airless paint sprayers can use anything from 125 to 500 gallons a year (again, this will vary depending on the thickness of the product being sprayed).
Maximum hose length is a good indicator of power. For example, a sprayer might be supplied with 50 feet but capable of using 75 feet. Performance decreases as hose length increases, so this is a good sign there's plenty of power available. If you do want to extend it, you must use the correct high-pressure hose. The garden variety can't take the pressure and will split.
Being able to pump to the gun straight from the paint can is another convenient benefit available with many paint sprayers.
Several airless paint sprayers have a hose connection for rapid rinsing (although you should always consider where the waste is going, of course).
Manufacturers like to claim things like “less overspray,” “higher transfer rates,” and “improved control.” These are always better than "standard." The challenge is knowing what "standard" is. Without direct comparison, these figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
There's a popular myth that HVLP air sprayers are cheaper than airless. It's true you can buy an air-powered spray gun for $15, but you also have to buy the compressor and hose, so you're easily spending $70 or $100. Top-quality HVLP spray guns cost $250 and up – just for the gun – so you can guess what kind of tool you'll get for $15!
You can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $700 and more for an airless paint sprayer.
Inexpensive: Compact all-in-one handheld airless spray guns can be found for under $30, but cheap airless spray guns, like their air-powered counterparts, aren't something we'd recommend. They don't have the throughput you want, and durability is a concern.
Mid-range: Good-quality airless spray guns are available for around $70. It sounds like an affordable solution if you're on a tight budget, though as mentioned above, they lack the productivity and are tiring to use.
Expensive: The airless paint sprayers we recommend start at around $225 and run to $400.
Premium: You can pay $700 or more for an airless paint sprayer, but unless you're a contractor, you really don't need to.
It might seem like a considerable investment, but these are powerful machines capable of spraying large areas remarkably quickly. If you compare them to the cost of using a contractor, they actually represent very good value.
Always wear goggles and a mask when spraying. Most paints for walls are relatively harmless, but you still wouldn't want to drink or breathe the stuff. The fumes from varnishes and lacquers are unpleasant and can be toxic, so always work with plenty of ventilation.
Watch out for small washers when cleaning your airless paint sprayer. These can easily get rinsed into a bucket of wastewater and thrown away accidentally. The washers aren’t expensive to replace, but if you don't notice one’s missing, paint could go everywhere the next time you fire up your spray gun!
Never pour old paint or paint cleaning products down the drain. Water-based paints like latex can be thrown in the trash. Use something like sawdust or kitty litter to absorb the liquid first. Oil-based finishes should be taken to your local hazardous waste center.
Q. Are airless paint sprayers difficult to clean?
A. No, but most problems happen when paint cures inside the machine, so you need to clean up as soon as you finish painting. The tricky part is the paint nozzle, though reversible models make the job easier.
The manufacturer of your paint sprayer will have cleaning instructions, and there's also plenty of useful information online. It is a bit time consuming, but so is cleaning ordinary paint rollers properly. Don't try to take shortcuts. Professionals tell us that most painting problems come from equipment that hasn't been cleaned and maintained properly. Following the procedure carefully will help ensure even coatings the next time you spray, prolong the life of your sprayer, and reduce paint wastage. Once a job is finished, filling your airless paint sprayer with water or storage solution is often recommended.
Q. Can I paint a car or truck with an airless paint sprayer?
A. Although you could put automotive paint in an airless gun – and it would spray – it is not recommended. Auto paint is very expensive. Auto-type spray guns use HVLP technology to increase accuracy, reduce overspray, and provide a fine, even coating. Airless paint sprayers, on the other hand, are designed to cover large areas quickly. They might not look it, but the drops of paint sprayed are much larger and the spray pattern much wider. Trying to get the glassy finish you see on vehicles just isn't possible with airless sprayers – and there would be lots of waste, which would be very expensive.
Q. What is atomization? Sounds like it might be dangerous!
A. Atomization is simply the process of converting a liquid into fine droplets, often using pressurized air. Carburetors and fuel injectors do it to the gas in your car. An airless paint sprayer does it with a piston pump. The pressure used to force the paint through the nozzle breaks up what would otherwise be quite a thick liquid so you can spray it on the wall.
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