Car tires have a way of leaking at the most inconvenient times, usually when you're nowhere near a gas station. I first purchased a portable air compressor for my car when I moved to a rural town, where the nearest gas station was a half-hour away. I've since relied on the compressor to top off the tires on my car, lawnmower, and trailer, as well as to inflate an air mattress. The compressor lives in my vehicle so it's always there in case I need it.
Whether you work on vehicles at home or need to maintain air pressure in your own car or lawn equipment, these portable air compressors are affordable and offer unbeatable convenience. Most of them are powered via a vehicle's power outlet (12V cigarette lighter socket). Outside of the car, with adapters, you can use them to inflate many different objects, from air mattresses and sports balls to pool floats and more. Many of these air compressors can also be stored in a car trunk, ensuring you're able to fill up a leaking tire no matter how far you are from a gas station.
Our top picks in this list have been evaluated according to the compressor's quality, performance, versatility, and value. This list includes a budget compressor to have on a just-in-case basis and a heavier-duty option for more demanding jobs. Our top pick strikes a great balance with an affordable price, overall durability, and some valuable features that contribute to its overall performance.
Please be sure to read the directions that come with any product you purchase. Some of these compressors require your vehicle to be running in order to power the compressor (and to prevent your battery from dying). You should also verify if a compressor offers overheat protection; if not, time your usage so you don't overheat the motor.
The EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump is a versatile, all-around pump that's equipped with some valuable features. One that this unit has (that many other compressors lack) is an automatic shutoff valve, which helps prevent accidental overinflation that could damage an item if you walk away or get distracted during the process.
It also has an overheat protector, which will shut the unit off if its temperature exceeds 167 degrees Fahrenheit, preventing the unit from burning out. I once had a compressor burn out after five minutes of use, so I can personally attest that an overheat protector is an essential feature.
This compressor connects to a 12V cigarette lighter socket and is powered by the vehicle. It can inflate items to a maximum working pressure of 70 psi (pounds per square inch, the unit of measurement for pressure), but does not support light truck tires or heavy-duty truck tires.
The universal valve connector allows for a quick and easy connection to the tires' valve stem, but this unit also comes with a needle and two cone adapters for inflating inflatable pool accessories, basketballs, and more.
The digital display makes it easy to monitor the pressure, and you can choose a readout in psi, kpa (kilopascal), Bar, or kg/cm (kilogram centimeters) units. Additionally, this compressor is equipped with an LED flashlight, ideal for when you're working in the dark.
The EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump has a 4.4 out of 5-star Amazon rating, based on more than 5,000 reviews. One Amazon customer writes, "This does everything you would ask of a portable inflator: it's fast, it's efficient, and it's quiet. My old inflator sounded as if I was tearing up my driveway when I used it and it probably took twice as long to work." Another customer writes, "It's heavier than average and [has a] quality [feel], quieter than most pumps — almost too quiet, as I can't tell it's done, love the auto pressure button! I can work on other parts of the car while the tires are inflating. It will stop on your pre-selected PSI."
Pros: Auto shutoff and overheat protection, inflates to 70 psi, includes needle and cone adapters, LED flashlight, digital readout converts to multiple units
While the DBPower 12V DC Portable Electric Auto Air Compressor Pump doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of the other compressors on this list, it comes in at under $20 and is versatile. With a maximum pressure of up to 50 psi, this compressor can inflate standard midsized car tires. It also includes three adapters for inflating sports balls, bikes, etc.
A pressure dial on the unit lets you monitor the tire pressure, and because this unit doesn't have an automatic shutoff, you'll need to be attentive and turn the pump off manually when you reach the desired pressure. This unit can only be used for 10 minutes at a time or the motor can overheat, so it's ideal for small jobs. This compressor is backed by a one-year warranty.
The DBPower 12V DC Portable Electric Auto Air Compressor Pump has a 4.2 out of 5-star Amazon rating, based on more than 600 reviews. One customer writes, "It can be kind of slow, and sometimes the gauge seems like it's not moving at all, but with five minutes and some patience, you're good to go ... The power cord is really long; I just plug it into the power port in the console and roll down my front windows, and it reaches all four tires with no issue."
Cons: No automatic pressure shutoff, no overheat protection, can only be used for 10 minutes at a time, no digital display
About a year ago my car tire's valve stem started to leak. Until I could get it replaced, I had to carefully monitor my tire pressure. I purchased the P.I. Auto Store Premium Air Compressor to store under my seat so that I could refill my tires whether I was on the road or at home. I also found that while this unit may be small, it's plenty powerful and convenient to have around.
This air compressor weighs just 2 pounds, and at 7 x 3 x 6.5 inches, it fits under a seat or in the trunk. The cables and hose can be stored inside the unit (although, it's difficult to reinsert them). This compressor also comes with a storage bag, spare-tire valve stem caps, and a valve adapter for bicycle tires.
Best of all, the air compressor is easy to use. It plugs into a 12-volt cigarette lighter, and its quick connection design means you don't have to twist the hose onto your tire valve, saving both time and air. The LED screen is large and easy to read, even in sunlight, and the unit automatically stops inflating once it reaches the pressure that you've set, so there's no risk of overinflation.
One of my favorite features is that once you've connected the compressor, it automatically determines the current air pressure in the tire. I also appreciate the LED light and the flashing red light option, which is ideal for safety and visibility in case of a breakdown.
The P.I. Auto Store Premium Air Compressor has a 4.1 out of 5-star Amazon rating, based on nearly 2,600 reviews. One customer writes, "It worked very fast to inflate my tire. I like its compact size and how it stores the cords right inside itself and the case is an added plus. I have it stored in my trunk and feel much safer on the road knowing I don't have to worry about it needing batteries or charging. The display is easy to read and it does shut off once the psi setting is reached."
Pros: Compact design comes with storage case, LED light and flashing red light options, automatically reads tire pressure, quick connect design helps to save time and prevents air from escaping
While air compressors that are powered by your vehicle are handy to have, you're restricted by the length of the unit's power cord. The Ryobi P737 Portable Cordless Power Inflator eliminates that restriction, making it easy to reach trailer tires, air mattresses inside your house, and any other item that may need inflating. This battery-powered inflator is compatible with the Ryobi ONE+ battery system, so if you have other ONE+ battery-powered products, the batteries are interchangeable. Annoyingly, the battery is not included.
This inflator is versatile, and with two nozzles and a sports equipment needle, you can use it for plenty of tasks around the house or in the garage. The inflator's base features a compartment to hold all of the nozzles so you don't lose them. Additionally, a pressure gauge is included right on the unit for accuracy, and the inflator can power up to 150 psi. Weighing just 2.5 pounds, you can store the inflator in your car (you might also want to get the optional car charger accessory) or easily carry it around with you while you're doing tune-ups. This inflator is backed by a three-year manufacturer's warranty.
The Ryobi P737 Portable Cordless Power Inflator has a 4.4 out of 5-star rating at The Home Depot, based on more than 2,700 reviews. One customer writes, "Topping up the tire pressure on the snowblower or a lawnmower is much easier when I take the Ryobi out to the tool rather than schlep the tool into the garage where the big compressor sits." Another customer says, "The inflator works just as advertised. It pumped up a normal car tire from flat to 30 pounds in just under the five minutes the duty cycle calls for."
Pros: Cordless design, compatible with Ryobi's ONE+ batteries, includes storage within the base for adapters, onboard pressure gauge, three-year manufacturer's warranty
While the other air compressors on our list are ideal for light or occasional use, you'll want something more powerful if you'll be relying on your air compressor regularly or for larger jobs. The Slime Heavy Duty 2X Pro Power Tire Inflator is up to the task: This inflator features dual cylinders for powerful and fast inflation, allowing this compressor to inflate a car tire in only two minutes. (Most other pumps take at least five minutes to complete that task.)
Additional features highlight the durable, quality design of this inflator. Its power cord gives the unit a 30-foot reach for overall ease of use, and the dial gauge lets you monitor a tire's pressure. This unit also has a thermal break to prevent the motor from overheating. While it's plenty powerful, the motor is also quiet. Rather than connecting to your vehicle's cigarette lighter, this compressor connects directly to your vehicle's battery.
The Slime Heavy Duty 2X Pro Power Tire Inflator has a 4.1 out of 5-star rating from Walmart, based on 48 reviews. One customer writes, "It is easy to operate and with the long reach, I plan on using it on my RV." Another customer writes, "I have 16-inch heavy-duty truck and trailer tires with a max air pressure of 80 psi and this inflator does the job very well."
Pros: 30-foot cord for increased reach, dual cylinder motor for plenty of power, in-line dial gauge allows you to monitor pressure, thermal break to prevent overheating
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