You’ve probably run about every large air compressor under the sun, so you know that they are big, heavy, loud. They’re also essential for those large framing and roofing jobs. But which manufacturer minimizes the bulk while optimizing power and capacity? Makita thinks they have struck the right balance between size and power. The Makita 5.5 HP Big Bore Gas Air Compressor features two 5-gallon tanks instead of a pair of 4’s. With a wheelbarrow-style layout, it remains highly portable. Our crews have been running it on a bunch of jobs for a while now and we’re ready to tell you all about it.
- High performance and capacity in a more compact package
- High build quality
- Honda GX160 4-stroke engine
- V-twin pump design
- No major drawbacks
Check out our Best Air Compressors article for our top picks across a variety of applications and uses.
Makita Big Bore Air Compressor Top Features
Big Bore Trifecta
Makita claims the Big Bore design’s elements are burlier than those of its competitors and result in more power, faster recovery times, cooler running temperatures, and longer life. Its constitution includes:
- Cast iron cylinder
- Large diameter piston
- An oil-lubricated, cast iron, V-twin pump
It’s that V-twin pump design that sets this Makita compressor apart visually. You won’t find it on most of the competition and it’s a move that should help keep the compressor in service longer.
Honda GX Performance
Makita works with a Honda GX160 4-stroke engine. Honda has a near-legendary reputation in the small engine world and that 4-stroke engine will run quieter and more efficiently than any 2-stroke options you’re considering.
Other Notable Features
- Industrial-grade recoil starter
- Automatic idle control
- 10-inch non-flat tire
- Large automotive style industrial air filters
- Convenient oil drain valve at the front of the pump
- Integrated control panel with oversized pressure gauges
- Lever-handle ball valve tank drain
- Anti-vibration rubberized feet
- Fully enclosed belt drive with large fly-wheel
- Stainless steel braided discharge hose
- Low profile design
- Oil sight glass
- Two universal brass couplers
A Weighty Subject
The pendulum has swung dramatically since our recent review of the Hitachi 1-gallon machine! It highlights the need for a variety of the same tool, right? That’s what we tell ourselves, anyway. Whereas this Makita is overkill for that Hitachi’s niche, the Hitachi is no match for the Makita 5.5 HP Big Bore Gas Air Compressor’s sweet spot: full power for maximum output.
But if you’ve ever come close to herniating something important while moving a big compressor, you’ll appreciate the Makita’s relatively light weight. At 192 pounds net weight, it seems at least 15 pounds lighter than a couple of its competitors that we own. You’ll see several reviews that use the shipping weight of 233 pounds, so just make a mental note. The difference is even starker in a gallon-for-gallon comparison: several comparably-sized and weighted compressors often come in around 2 gallons shy of the Makita’s capacity.
Big Bore, Small Package
Weight isn’t the Makita’s only smaller attribute. It’s smaller – in all three dimensions – than our other compressors. In fact, we can use our smaller trailer because the compressor fits in it sideways and not just lengthwise. At the same time, its pressure and volume meet or exceed those competitors.
We often run five or six nailers, but at the time this review, we only asked the Makita 5.5 HP Big Bore Gas Air Compressor to run three. It did so without breaking a sweat. There’s no doubt in my mind that it could handle several more guns. If your framing nailers generally require just over 2 CFM to operate optimally, the math checks out. At 90 PSI, the Makita cranks out 12.5 CFM, so it’s right on track.
The Makita also outperforms the field in portability. The weight is close to the wheel, giving you more control. Our other compressors place the weight in the center which feels awkward and unstable. Our guys like this feature – and we like that it means less wear and tear on the compressor as hard set-downs and tips are less likely.
That’s also true of the lighter weight, generally. It’s no surprise that a tool’s owners are usually more gentle than a tool’s users! It’s not as critical if there’s a ramp to use, but a heavy compressor can take a lot of abuse getting loaded and unloaded from a truck bed. And this leads us to our next point.
Neat & Tidy
Makita does a really clean job with the Makita 5.5 HP Big Bore Gas Air Compressor’s welds. We expect it will hold up longer than other compressors when the inevitable, if unintentional, abuse happens. Each bend in the metal housing and each connection is solid and nicely beveled. It just seems neater and tighter than any other compressor we’ve used.
All controls, gauges, and couplers are centrally and intuitively located on the front panel. This interface is much more desirable than having to reach between the belt housing and pump to release the air, for instance. It’s enough to make you wonder why this isn’t a standard design!
Price and Value
You can easily pay more than Makita’s $999 price tag or, at least, sacrifice capacity and or performance. The $750 Ridgid 8-gallon wheelbarrow compressor weighs almost the same as the Makita and produces 10.2 CFM at 90 PSI. DeWalt’s $1,166 8-gallon wheelbarrow is a bit lighter at 168 pounds but only produces 9.9 CFM at 90 PSI. Even Hitachi’s $999 model falls short in air delivery and capacity.
In short, this MAC5501G is superior to the DeWalt, Ridgid, and even the other Makita compressor we used before it. The Big Bore allows Makita to compactly package a lot of power.
One More Thing…
Kenny used this same compressor in the Pro Tool Reviews’ best framing nailer head-to-head article. It also might make a good optional pick for our best air compressor for the home garage due to its mix of capacity and portability.
As they say, there’s no replacement for displacement, and so the Makita 5.5 HP Big Bore Gas Air Compressor is able to deliver at least the same performance as its close competitors in a smaller, lighter design. The company also makes extra efforts to finish the components well and locate them intelligently. We’ll be doing projects with the MAC5501G for a long time to come!
Makita 5.5 HP Big Bore Gas Air Compressor Specifications
- Model: Makita MAC5501G
- Maximum Horsepower: 5.5
- Running Horsepower: 5.5
- Tank: 10 gallon
- @ 40 PSI: 14 CFM
- @ 90 PSI: 12.5 CFM
- Maximum Pressure: 135 PSI
- Overall Length: 46 inches
- Net Weight: 192 pounds
- Pump: Oil lubricated
- Gas or electric: Gas
- Shipping Weight: 233 pounds
- Price: $999
- Warranty: 1 year