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Compare Screw vs Reciprocating Compressor Costs

Screw Air Compressor Overview

Rotary screw air compressors use newer technology than reciprocating air compressors. The machines rely on twin screws instead of pistons to pressurize air.

Rotary screw air compressors are capable of producing more horsepower than reciprocating models, so they’re most often used for large commercial and industrial applications or powering large tools.

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How Much Do Screw Air Compressors Cost?

Rotary screw compressors used to be far more expensive than reciprocating models, even with the same horsepower. But the price gap is narrowing as rotary screw models have become more popular.

Low-power models designed for business use begin at around $2,500. That will buy you around 5 HP. If you’re looking for 10 HP, budget about $4,000 to $6,000. 50 HP models sell for up to $15,000, while 100 HP models go for as much as $30,000.

Screw Air Compressor Pros

  • Power - You can find rotary screw air compressors with 200 HP, while reciprocating models cap out at about 30 HP.
  • Better for industrial use - Rotary screw air compressors have become the standard for commercial and industrial use. They offer the right balance between price, power and efficiency.

Screw Air Compressor Cons

  • Not ideal for residential use - If you need the compressor for residential or light use - say, to power a nail gun - buying a rotary screw air compressor is not worth the added cost.
Average Screw vs Reciprocating Prices

Reciprocating Air Compressor Overview

Reciprocating air compressors have been around for a long time. They operate using pistons to compress the air and force it into a storage tank. Reciprocating compressors are most often associated with light or home use, capping out at about 30 HP.

How Much Do Reciprocating Air Compressors Cost?

At the low end of the market, reciprocating compressors are cheaper. You can find a 5 HP model for about $1,500 to $2,000, compared to $2,500 or more for a rotary screw model with the same horsepower.

Compressors with 10 HP are priced similarly whether they are reciprocating or rotary screw models - about $4,000 to $6,000. A 25 HP, reciprocating compressors are actually more expensive, priced at about $10,000.

Reciprocating Air Compressor Pros

  • Ideal for light use - For smaller jobs, reciprocating air compressors are more efficient and more affordable. If you need a compressor for your home workshop, this is the way to go.
  • Durable - Reciprocating air compressors tend to be very sturdy and reliable. They are able to withstand harsh environments.

Reciprocating Air Compressor Cons

  • Not ideal for industry - Most reciprocating compressors are less efficient than rotary screw compressors above 20 HP.
  • Expensive to repair - If a reciprocating compressor does break, the repairs can be costly.
  • Noisy - Reciprocating compressors are much louder than rotary screw models.

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