3/8 vs. 1/4 Air Hose: What’s the Difference?

One thing to notice about these air hoses is a 3/8-inch air hose has an inside diameter two times larger than 1/4-inch air hoses. Having a larger space for airflow will accommodate more air volume.

However, 3/8-inch air hoses are generally heavier than 1/4-inch ones. You’ll use a 3/8 air hose for pneumatic tools requiring more power and 1/4 air hose for light-powered tools.

3/8 vs. 1/4 Air Hose: Hose Diameter

Hose inner diameter:

A 3/8 inch air hose will measure exactly 3/8 inch diameter. A 1/4 inch air hose will measure exactly 1/4 inch from the inside. 1/4 inch is two times smaller than a 3/8 inch air hose. Either way, a 3/4 inch fitting will fit in any of the two.

Hose outer diameter:

There is no standard OD required for air hoses. Air hoses are prone to abuse. The outside diameter depends on the reinforcements applied by the manufacturer and the type of material used.

3/8 vs. 1/4 Air Hose: PSI

Commercially available air hoses are advertised to withstand 300 PSI or pound per square inch. Although, you’ll normally set the air pressure to 90 PSI for most tools. Both 3/8 and 1/4 air hoses will have no problem with it.

3/8 vs. 1/4 Air Hose: Where and How to Use Them?

It all boils down to the tools used. If you’re a hobbyist or DIYer, you’ll probably have lighter air pressure requirements.

Nailers or staplers will require 1/4 air hose. A 1/2 impact wrench will require a 3/8 air hose. If you’re using a 3/8 air hose on an air polisher, it can deliver the needed air pressure even at 150ft hose length.

The bottom line, 3/8 air hose will be suitable for more powerful tools. 1/4 air hose is enough for light-duty applications.

3/8 vs. 1/4 Air Hose: Prices

You can find a 3/8 rubber hose for as low as $10, but know that 3/8 rubber hoses around this price can be around 3 ft only. The same goes for hybrid hoses. They can go as low as $10 for just 3 feet.  But if you’re buying a 3/8 polyurethane hose, the same amount can get up to 25 ft of hose.

I’ve seen nylon 1/4 air hoses that go as low as $7 for 25 ft. Some hybrid hoses can be as low as $15 for 25 ft.

3/8 vs. 1/4 Air Hose: Materials

The materials used on air hoses can be rubber, hybrid, PVC, or polyurethane. You’ll probably hard-pressed to find 1/4 rubber hoses since the diameter is slim.

3/8 vs. 1/4 Air Hose: Quick Comparison


3/8 inch hose

1/4 inch hose

Hose Diameter

Depends on air hose material and reinforcements

Depends on air hose material and reinforcements


Max 300 PSI

Max 300 PSI


1/4 ratchet, 1/4 air impact wrench, orbital polisher, Select air sanders, 3/8 pneumatic drill, paint gun, screw drive, sandblaster

Brad nailer, finishing nailer, roofing nailer, riveter, grease gun, caulking gun


$10 to $540

$7 to $282


Rubber, hybrid, PVC, polyurethane

Hybrid, PVC, polyurethane, nylon


3 ft plus

3 ft plus

Which Is Better: 3/8 or 1/4 Air Hose?

The answer to this question depends on the tool you’re using. But if you have a variety of powerful ones in your workshop, a 3/8 hose is better. A 3/8 air hose would be overkill for lightweight ones.

If you’re a professional who works with powerful tools like an impact wrench every day, 1/4 air hose won’t be enough.

Does Air Compressor Hose Size Matter?

The diameter and length of the hose work hand-in-hand when delivering air pressure to the tool. A 3/8 hose gives enough room for power. The air compressor also is a factor that affects a tool’s performance. If your hose can accommodate high power, but the air compressor is smaller than the hose, the compressor will be working harder to meet the power requirements. The power would likely be still lacking.

How Do I Know What Air Hose Size I Need?

Your tools

I’d personally go over the tools I owned and see how much power they need. Consider also the future tools and projects.

Pressure resistance

Flexible hoses have resistance capacities. You don’t want your hose bursting into uncontrollable air. Ensure that the hose can take the standard 90 to 150 PSI, or to be sure, get one that can stand up to 200 PSI.


Rubber is more resistant to substance and environmental abuse. Remember that working can expose your hose to oil, grease, acid, and more.

When Should I Use A 3/8 Air Hose?

You don’t need a 3/8 hose when you are using light-powered tools. Use it for high-powered tools.

When Should I Use 1/4 Air Hose?

Use this air hose size for lighter tools.

Is 3/8 Air Hose Big Enough?

It’s big enough if you’re working with different air-powered tools.

The Final Verdict:

You’ll often refer to the air hose’s ID as its hose size. A 3/8 air hose would be flexible for different tools. However, it can be too heavy to work with a 3/8 air hose. If you’re going to use the air hose for lighter compressors, personal, or home projects, get a 1/4 air hose.

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