Top 8 Best Portable Air Compressors and Tire Inflators
By | Last updated: May 5, 2020
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: Corbase Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator

Its inscrutable brand name is offset by two things: great customer reviews and too-cool looks, thereby appealing to both the left and right sides of your author’s brain. Styled in the appearance of a cordless power drill, this unit has a large 1800mAh rechargeable lithium battery to get you back on the road quickly.

A full set of accessories are included, allowing the practical among us to re-inflate 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 carrying case, car charger, two different length air hoses, and a single battery pack.

Pros/Provides inflation to 130 psi, great customer reviews, looks hella cool
Cons/Don’t forget to recharge the battery
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 is 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 almost five thousand reviews, making its 4+ 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/Uses 12V power, not recommended for inflating LT tires
Bottom Line/So many 5-star reviews

3. Low-Cost Option: DBPOWER DC 12V Mini Tire Inflator

If you’re looking for a very inexpensive way to inflate tires or sporting gear, it’s tough to beat this affordable unit. Small in size and shaped like a pack of cigarettes, this very useful tool is small enough to qualify as a hand-held device. Readers of a certain age may have had cellular phones larger than this tire inflator.

Inflating a passenger car tire from totally flat to 35 psi allegedly takes about 10 minutes, reasonable for this class of tool and impressive for one of this size. Its power cord is nearly 10 feet long, meaning that it should reach all four of your car’s tires from the 12V power source from which it gets its juice. Maximum pressure is 100 psi, far beyond anything called for by an auto manufacturer.

Pros/Dirt cheap, compact size
Cons/Less than precise analog gauge
Bottom Line/Solid pick if you're shopping on a budget

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 2.54 CFM Universal Air Compressor

Offered as another compressor that’s heavier duty than most, this tool has the added convenience of being able to air-up or air-down tires to accommodate various types of terrain. This makes it a great thing to have on board your off-road rig when hitting the trail.

It has some very robust features, including a 1/3 horsepower oil-less direct drive motor (that’s about the same power as a household garage door opener) and a 30-amp inline fuse. Maximum airflow is rated a 72 liters per minute and has a duty cycle of about 40 minutes at 40 psi. The bumf states its minimum operating temperature is -4 F, much less than the Viair unit listed above. If you’re venturing out into extreme conditions like that however, our hats off to you.

Pros/Powerful direct-drive motor, air-down capability, recognized brand name
Cons/Not cheap, weighs 12.5 pounds
Bottom Line/Great 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. Helteko Portable Air Compressor Pump

This unit sells itself on style alone, looking for all the world like a colorful Tesla Powerwall battery. Said to be comprised of durable materials and stainless steel, this thing will probably bounce around your trunk without complaint. Its LCD digital display is old school but, somehow, fits the look of this unit.

Its manufacturers say it can inflate a standard car tire in 3-5 minutes, remarkable for a portable compressor. Taking its power from a 12V source, owners should have no trouble reaching around to all four tires on their rig with its 11.5-foot cable length and decently-sized air hose. Compact and lightweight, it comes with three additional connector nozzles and a storage bag.

Pros/Rockstar good looks, built-in emergency light, great customer reviews
Cons/Less expensive options exist, 12V power only
Bottom Line/If looks matter

Get Pumped Up

If a tire on your car has lost enough air pressure to warrant being reinflated, it’s definitely time to take that sucker into a garage and have a professional inspect the thing. Underinflated tires can be a safety hazard and, if nothing else, contribute to poor fuel economy thanks to a higher rolling resistance.

Be sure to carefully consider the conditions in which you’ll be using your new portable compressor. For occasional emergency use, one of the budget examples on this list will probably do the trick just fine. If you’re frequently airing up/down the tires of your off-road machine, however, it would be a good idea to invest in something more robust.

Always be careful when using a portable compressor, read all the instructions, and make certain you’re inflating car tires while parked in a safe place. It’s never a bad idea to be prepared, so having one of these machines on hand is a smart move – especially if you’re late for work.

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.]

No Comments on “Flat, Busted: Best Portable Air Compressors and Tire Inflators...”

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.