Top 8 Best Portable Air Compressors and Tire Inflators
By | Last updated: April 27, 2021
portable air compressors

Most of us have been there – you’re rushing though the morning routine, late for work, running out to the car … only to find that one of those round black rubber hoops has failed in its job of holding air. A flat tire. Great.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options in the market of portable air compressors which can pump you up faster than Hans and Franz. Some of them require power from a household electrical socket, a few are battery-powered, while others fire right up with juice from a car’s 12V power outlet. The latter two are especially handy if compressed air is needed while one is on the road in a remote area and not parked in the comforts of a covered garage.

Remember, a tire that is leaking air has been damaged, creating a potential safety problem. Be sure to get it inspected by a pro at the first possible opportunity.

With that legally mandated mumbo-jumbo out of the way, here are a few of our picks for portable air compressors and tire inflators.

1. Editor’s Pick: Oasser Portable Hand-Held Air Compressor

Its inscrutable brand name is offset by great customer reviews and too-cool looks, thereby appealing to both left and right sides of the brain. Styled in the appearance of a cordless power drill, this unit has a large 2200mAh rechargeable lithium battery to get you back on the road quickly.

A full set of accessories are included, allowing re-inflation of not only car tires but also bicycle tires and sporting equipment. The manufacturer, for reasons unknown but probably kowtowing to bed-wetting lawyers, have specified it is not to be used on trucks. Cars, crossovers, and SUVs are kosher. It comes with a car charger, two different length air hoses, and a battery pack.

Pros/Provides inflation to 130 psi, plays with certain battery ecosystems, looks hella cool
Cons/Don’t forget to recharge it
Bottom Line/Editor's Pick for best Portable Air Compressor / Tire Inflator

2. Well-Reviewed: EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor

When looking at a product’s average review score, it’s important to consider the total number of customers that have provided feedback. A five-star rating based on a single review isn’t much to go on. This unit has over fifteen thousand reviews, making its 4.5 star rating an impressive feat.

It draws power directly from a car’s 12V power source, making it a handy tool when you’re on the road. Multiple redundancies, including a pair of fuses and an over-inflation shut off, add a sense of security. An easy to read display shouts out numbers in kPa or psi, while a built-in LED flashlight is awesome for illuminating the tire you’re trying to inflate or find that burrito you’re searching for under the seat. Pro tip: don’t eat that burrito.

Pros/Auto-shut off prevents over-inflation, compact size, thousands of positive reviews
Cons/Not recommended for inflating LT tires
Bottom Line/Stellar average review

3. Low-Cost Option: Triple Tree 12V DC Tire Inflator

If all you’re looking for is a bit of cheap insurance to toss in the truck of your car, this may be the rig for you. Priced less than a couple of fast food meals, this compressor is the flat-and-square type that runs off your car’s 12V power outlet.

It does come equipped with four different nozzles, so it can also be used to inflate smaller items like basketballs or that weird doll you got in Vegas. Truth be told, this is probably what this unit is best used for, but there’s nothing wrong with an ounce of cheap prevention.

Pros/Extremely affordable
Cons/Not as robust as others
Bottom Line/Might be good only in a pinch

4. VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor

Here’s an option for gearheads looking for something beyond the standard 12V portable air compressor. Viair 300P Portable Compressor is a mid-range portable compressor kit capable of inflating up to 33-inch off-road tires by simply clamping the power leads to the battery terminal, connecting the lever-style tire chuck to the tire valve stem and turning the unit on.

That’s right – this thing has robust alligator clamps for connectivity, just like a set of jumper cables. It can operate at 150 psi for 15 minutes at a clip but needs a half hour cool-down period in order to catch its breath (pun intended). It’s not light, weighing in at a lard-like 8.6 pounds, but its 25-foot air hose and ability to work in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees F to 158 degrees F means it’ll provide the air you need no matter what condition in which you find yourself.

Pros/Inflates tires in minutes, robust construction, all-temperature operability
Cons/Heavy weight, relatively expensive
Bottom Line/A more heavy duty portable air compressor/tire inflator

5. Smittybilt 2780 Universal Air Compressor

Offered as an option that’s heavier-duty than most compressors, this tool has an auto-thermal cutoff switch to protect against motor damage for those times you leave the thing running while answering the call of nature behind a tree. Another bonus? Owners can air down tires to a specific pressure level, which is very handy for off-roading.

It has some very robust features, including a 1/3 horsepower motor (about the same power as a household garage door opener) and a 30-amp inline fuse. Maximum airflow is rated at 72 liters per minute and has a duty cycle of about 40 minutes at 40 psi. In another nod to off-roaders, this thing can be permanently mounted and hard-wired.

Pros/Air-down capability, recognized brand name, new lower price
Cons/Weighs a stout 12.5 pounds
Bottom Line/A great selection for off-road use

6. AstroAI Portable Air Compressor Pump

Most gearheads know that a smidgen of air will escape a freshly inflated tire while the operator is removing the air hose nozzle from the tire’s inflation valve. This unit takes care of that vexing problem, leaving the final inflation value 0.5-1.5 psi higher than the value set into its memory. The company says this approach solves the problem of reduced pressure after removing the valve connector, thus making inflation more accurate. Fair enough.

Built-in overheating protection will shut the thing off automatically if its operating temperature gets too hot. It has a maximum operating time of fifteen minutes, more than enough to top off a single tire and plenty to inflate sporting equipment like a basketball or air cushion. An backlit LED screen calls out numbers with the clarity of a stadium scoreboard. Adaptors are included for different inflation situations.

Pros/Reasonable price, inflator takes into account lost pressure during disconnection
Cons/Not recommended for LT tires, short air hose
Bottom Line/Affordable option that's perfect for normal daily drivers

7. BLACK+DECKER 20V Lithium Cordless Multi-Purpose Inflator

A well-known brand name appears on this inflator, billed as a multi-purpose unit. Its reviews are solid, with real world customers reporting a sub-10 minute time to inflate a vehicle tire to spec from completely flat and a top-off time of 15-20 seconds. Like many other portable compressors of this style, its 10-foot power cord snakes back to a 12V power socket in a car for its electricity source.

Be aware that this tool is part of the Black & Decker family of portable tools and, as such, does not come with a rechargeable battery. One can be purchased separately or use one they already have if they’ve previously bought battery-powered tools which are part of this product line. On-board storage pockets mean owners won’t be hunting for that inflation needle the next time Junior wants his soccer ball inflated.

Pros/Clear readouts, automatic shutoff, reportedly quieter than other models
Cons/Battery not included
Bottom Line/If you want an option from a well known brand

8. Energizer Portable Air Compressor

No word if this thing comes with a fluffy bunny beating on a marching bass drum, but it is emblazoned with the brand name made famous by those commercials. Who knew Energizer was also in the tire inflation business?

Of course, they likely just lent their name to a generic unit that’s mass-manufactured in a faraway plant. This little compressor has an LCD screen for accuracy, 120PSI maximum working pressure, and a price tag that won’t shock the budget.

Pros/Affordable, you know the brand, has accessories
Cons/DC power only
Bottom Line/Famous name

Air Compressor & Tire Inflator FAQs

Is there any difference between all these options?

Absolutely. Some of the units have a very limited capability to push air, making them fine for pumping up bike tires or the scattered roadside emergency. However, if you’re looking for something upon which to rely during off-roading or other extreme driving situations, go ahead and invest in one that has robust CFM and duty ratings.

Wait – CFM?

It stands for cubic feet per minute, or the volume of air that can be moved. After all, air technically takes up space, even if it is a gas. Compressors with a high CFM rating can generally do more work, though it is prudent to note if a unit is advertising a continuous or peak CFM. The difference? One is the amount it can keep providing over a long(ish) period of time while the other is a simple quick one-and-done; the latter could leave you breathless when your tires desperately need air.

What are all these accessories?

While most of the compressors on this list will be pressed into duty pumping up vehicle tires, they can also be used to inflate other household items like kiddie pools or sporting equipment. Most of those items, especially the latter, require different attachments (sometimes called chucks) in order to push air into the item.


From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

12 Comments on “Best Portable Air Compressors and Tire Inflators: Flat, Busted...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Since I’ve standardized on the Lowe’s / Kobalt 80V / 24V tools, I recently got their 24V tire inflator to join my 24V impact wrench and 24V drill.

    https://www.lowes.com/pd/Kobalt-Kobalt-24-Volt-cordless-high-pressure-inflator-24-Volt-Lithium-Ion-Li-Ion-Air-Inflator-Power-Source-Battery/1002183680

    It’s very good. Set the pressure, press go, and let it run up to the setpoint. Great for tire rotation and the change of seasons.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      DeWalt makes a similar inflator, the DCC020IB:

      https://www.dewalt.com/products/storage-and-gear/air-compressors/20v-max-cordedcordless-air-inflator/dcc020ib

      It goes up to 160psi with auto stop, will inflate tires or high-volume items like rafts or air mattresses, and will run on DeWalt’s 20v Max batteries or 20/60 flex batteries, off of a lighter/power port, or on 110v AC (adapter sold separately). The only downside is the max 10 minute runtime with 20 minute rest.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Relevant:
    http://www.pedrosgarage.com/Site_5/Nitrogen_or_Air.html

    Even more relevant:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tweel

  • avatar

    https://specialopstools.com/products/tire-inflator-air-armor-m240

    Bought this for my Jeep instead of the high dollar ARB one. It’s not as fast as the ARB but it does a good job on larger tires and the kit fits in the ammo can with all the tools which is nice. It’s hard to beat this for $120. I got it on sale for $90.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    “hella”? Was this written by a teenage boy?

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I do have one of these type inflaters, it works pretty well but it takes time to inflate a tire. My neighborhood gas station offers “Free Air”, so I go there

  • avatar
    kosmo

    1. Pick the size you want/need.

    2. Choose the appropriate VI Air model.

    3. Never worry about this again.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      This +1

      Never heard of Viair (wacky off brand? not at all!) but saw they were highly recommended. Pretty much the only inflator I’ve had that can actually handle the 50 PSI of my trailer tires. All the other ones overheat. It also comes with a cord that is about 2 miles long so you can reach all the tires with no struggles.

      Only complaints is the gauge is off by about 5 PSI so you need to slightly over-inflate. Also would be nice to have auto-shut off.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Not portable, but it is an air compressor and is available on Amazon. :-)

    I recently picked up this little guy ‘just because’ – only 2.2 CFM, but it really is quiet, refills quickly and they claim a lifecycle of 3,000 hours.

    “California Air Tools 2010A Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 1.0 HP 2.0-Gallon Aluminum Tank Air Compressor,Silver”

    (Just about ideal for running a brad nailer or finish nailer inside the house, for example. The reduction in noise compared to my old pancake and twin stack compressors is dramatic – and welcome. Only draws 8 amps, if you ever needed to power a compressor from an inverter. Plus it has “California” right there on the tank.)

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Many off-roaders I know have the Smittybuilt compressor. I used to have a portable air tank that worked well for dirt bike tires. Ever since I’ve changed to running 10 ply tires on my F150, I haven’t had an issue with flats.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’d follow the commenters mentioning DeWalt and Kobalt.

    Makita makes an 18V one.

    Milwaukee has a nice one in their 12V line.

    I did some looking at these a few months back. The DeWalt honestly seems like the best one if you’re not in a battery platform already.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I spent considerable time researching before purchasing my most recent compressor.

    Was tired of 12volt compressors that either burnt out their motor or blew the vehicle’s fuse.

    Wanted something that a) could plug into my home electrical socket, b) came with a rechargeable battery c) had a ‘screw on’ connector rather than one of those ‘quick clips’ that rarely work, and d) had other options such as a light or could serve as a ‘power source’.

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