Have you ever found yourself in the middle of nowhere stranded because of a flat tire?
Or maybe, you have been at the park with a deflated ball. Perhaps, you are looking forward to a fun day at the beach and don’t want to exhaust your lungs filling up your inflatable boat. I know that I have been rescued by my portable compressor on more than one occasion when my low tire pressure warning suddenly came on.
Hooking up takes only a few moments, and the best portable air compressors can fill a tire in as little as 5-10 minutes.
Portable air compressors are useful for a vast array of situations—I have carried one in my car with me for years and have been continually grateful to my little machine. I spent a lot of time researching the different models and decided to put together this guide to help you select the best portable air compressor for your needs.
Table of Contents
- Best Portable Air Compressors – Comparison
- Best Portable Air Compressor – Reviews
- Portable Tank Compressors
- What to look for in a compressor
- The final pressure reading
Best Portable Air Compressors – Comparison
|DBPOWER 12V DC|
|Tcisa Portable Air|
|LifeLine AAA 300|
Best Portable Air Compressor – Reviews
1. EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor
The EPAuto portable air compressor is a great candidate to kick off our list—this 12v DC compressor is small enough to stow away in the trunk of your car. But what makes this compressor a strong candidate is the combination of functionality and bonus features.
As a compressor, the EPAuto is capable of handling a load of 100 PSI, which is more than sufficient to handle most any passenger car tires, bicycles, balls, and inflatable water equipment. The compressor kit comes with a standard tire attachment and includes adaptors for both balls and inflatables. The power cord plugs into the cigarette lighter of your car and has a 9-foot length that is sufficient to reach all the tires on most passenger vehicles. The inflation hose is 2.5 feet, giving you a total reach of almost 12 feet.
One of the nicest features of the EPAuto compressor is the digital pressure readout that is accurate down to 1/10 of a PSI. For those who prefer other forms of measurement, the dial can be changed to display pressure in KPA, BAR, or even kilograms/centimeter. Regardless of your preferred pressure unit, you can set the compressor to your desired pressure and it will automatically shut off at the desired pressure to prevent over-inflation.
The entire compressor unit is compact and easy to transport. At just under 4 pounds, you will have no trouble carrying this compressor to wherever you need to. The top mounted carry handle further aids in the quick lift and carry.
- Comes with a travel bag
- Compressor has a built-in LED light
- Accurate digital pressure readout
- Has its own fuse to prevent damaging your vehicle
- Can only run for about 10 minutes before overheating
- Cannot be used on LT or HT designated truck tires
2. Audew Portable Air Compressor Pump
The Audew portable air compressor is built around safety and durability—even the shape of the unit has been designed as a hazard triangle with a bright yellow center against a black border that helps make the system more visible on the side of the road. In addition, the Audew is equipped with an LED light to help with use at night, plus it makes you more visible to other drivers on the road.
The Audew uses a standard plunger-style connection to make hooking up to your tire fast and easy. A digital readout on the compressor gives you the accurate tire pressure information, and then allows you to set the compressor to the exact pressure you want it to fill to. Once it has reached the desired pressure, the air compressor will shut off to prevent over-inflation or damage to your tire. The auto shut-off works with a variety of air-filled applications like innertubes, bikes, or balls. With each mode you can set the exact air pressure without having to worry that it will overfill.
Using a cigarette lighter style DC connection, the Audew can go anywhere your car can. The compressor comes with a 3-meter (10-foot) power cord that can reach around the different areas of your vehicle, or give you space to inflate your raft without pushing it up against the car.
- Durable and strong construction
- Included tips for non-tire applications
- Compact and easy to store and carry
- Included safety features
- Doesn’t have an adapter for standard outlets
- Compressor is loud
3. SuperFlow Portable Air Pump, 12-volt
If compact and portable is your goal, then the Q Industries SuperFlow Portable Air Pump is an excellent option to pursue. The SuperFlow is less than 9 inches long, 8 inches tall, and 4 inches wide, so it is compact enough to easily store in almost any car. It weighs less than 4 pounds, further making it easy to move and transport everywhere you need it to be.
The Superflow has a 140 PSI max limit that allows for faster filling and more filling options. The flow rate maxes out at 25 liters per minute. For an average tire, this mighty mite takes only three minutes to inflate. The included adapters let you quickly and easily fill everything from tires, to camping equipment, to fun summer pool equipment, to balls. The combined lengths of the power cord and air supply hose total about 13 feet.
The power source is a 10-foot DC cable that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter. The length of the hose and power cord make it easy to reach all four tires of the average family vehicle. The compressor attaches to you tires or your adapters via a screw-on nozzle to make sure you have a secure connection with little chance of leaking.
- Comes with compact nylon carry bag to safely store the compressor
- Made from metal
- Accurate analog gauge
- Insulated handle helps protect the user from the heat
- Gets hot with extended use
- Vibration causes compressor to “walk”
4. MasterFlow MF-1050 Air Compressor
The MasterFlow MF-1050 is the portable tire compressor that works for everything from small household inflatables all the way up to 4×4 and RV tires. This is a one-stop shop for handling your truck or ATV with one tool for the whole weekend.
With an average fill speed of 4 minutes for trucks and 1 minute for passenger car tires, you can easily fill all your truck tires and accessories in the 20 minutes you have before the compressor overheats and needs to cool down.
The MasterFlow is powered directly from your vehicle battery, so you won’t have to worry about having the car ignition on. The power cable and accordion-style hose give you plenty of reach to safely put the compressor on the ground while having enough length to easily reach all four of your tires.
While a little bit larger than other compressors, the MasterFlow packs a serious amount of power and efficiency into the bigger package. The compressor is designed with a direct drive motor for the sole purpose of faster tire inflation.
- Can inflate an average tire in about a minute
- Great length for most vehicles
- Easy to power on and off
- Durable nylon carry case
- Analog gauge is inaccurate
- Gets very hot
5. DBPOWER 12V DC Portable Electric
The DBPower portable compressor is a simple-to-use device that is perfect for keeping your car tires properly inflated, and it is a great emergency tool to get you up and going without the fear of being stranded along a dark road.
The average fill time of the DBPower compressor is around 5 minutes per tire, running from 0-35 PSI. The 10-foot power cable is adequate for most mid-sized sedans without having to overstretch the cord. The air hose is 20 inches long, giving you a total reach of 12.5 feet. The air hose connects to your inflatable stems with a quick connect.
The pressure is monitored by an analog gauge that keeps you completely aware of the current tire pressure—this is also very helpful for the bonus uses, including sports equipment and all the great summer toys.
On the bottom side of the DBPower compressor is a set of vents that help keep the unit cool, and 4 rubber feet that help to keep it stable and minimize movement while the compressor is in action.
- Cord is long enough to reach all four tires of average-sized vehicles
- Lightweight (2.15 pounds) and easy to handle
- Great tool for maintenance and emergency use
- Can be used for more than just car tires
- Slower than similar models
- Does not shut off automatically
6. LifeLine AAA 300 PSI 12 Volt DC
AAA is a name synonymous with roadside emergency preparedness—they have become the expression commonly used when you need a tow truck. The LifeLine portable compressor puts the power and preparedness of AAA into the trunk of your car. The LifeLine really is a no-frills, get the job done compressor that will become your best friend next time you are running late for work, and your low tire light pops on.
AAA has built the LifeLine to be capable of withstanding air pressures well above your needs. You will never use the 300 PSI capability, but it does mean that you can depend on this compressor to quickly fill your tires and be there every time you need to inflate something. The LifeLine is capable of filling a tire from 0 to 35 PSI in less than ten minutes. Now, that may not seem fast, but when you are stranded, ten minutes to get moving is a lot better than a two-hour wait for the tow truck.
AAA didn’t just make this compressor for emergencies, the included adapters can inflate your sports equipment and fun inflatables as well. The DC cigarette lighter power cord has a 10-foot length that makes reaching around the car relatively easy, although if you have a large SUV or truck you may have trouble reaching the rear tires.
- Reliable budget inflator
- Fast and consistent tire inflation
- Compact and portable
- Easy to use
- Very noisy
- Pressure gauge is only in 5 PSI increments
7. Ontel Air Hawk Pro Automatic Cordless
I’m usually not one for the “as seen on TV” gadgets, but this tire inflator has seriously caught my eye with its power drill looks. Unlike most of the inflators you will find on the list, this unit is battery operated by a rechargeable battery that can be charged at home, or with the included car adapter.
If you run into the situation that your battery is dead and you need a fill-up immediately, the car adapter can be used to power the compressor just like the other units on this list. Put the features together, and you have a lightweight, handheld tire inflating powerhouse. Plus, the Air Hawk comes with adapters that allow you to air up inflatable toys and balls.
If you are a beach goer and you don’t want to blow up your inflatable and haul it across the sand, the portability and battery power will let you carry the floaty deflated to your beach site and inflate it just before you get in the water.
Air pressure accuracy is high thanks to the digital pressure gauge that reads the actual pressure down to the tenths. The digital control also allows you to set the precise pressure that you want to inflate to, and the inflator will automatically shut off when it reaches that level—this is a nice feature I have used that allows you to get your sandwiches ready to eat while the inflatable fills itself up.
A 5-inch flexible inflator hose gives you reach and flexibility to make inflating more comfortable, and simple.
- Threaded nozzle helps ensure correct seal while filling
- Great tool for emergency use
- Quick and easy to use
- Battery life is shorter than is desirable, about 15 minutes
- The inflator gets hot when used for extended periods
Portable Tank Compressors
8. Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI
Now after seeing all of the small portable compressors, you might wonder why we would have put this traditional-style compressor on the list. Quite simply, it’s because of the power. The Bostitch Oil-Free compressor has a 6-gallon (22.7 liter) storage tank that makes filling any type of inflatable fast and easy. The built-in analog pressure gauge makes it simple to keep track of your current pressure.
What makes this a portable unit great is that it provides all the power you need in a compact system with a convenient carry handle mounted on top. At 31 pounds, it is not feather-weight, but it does have a much stronger base to it. This setup is ideal for the RV enthusiast or frequent outdoor adventurer. One of my favorite uses is for 4×4 and rock crawlers. The advantage of going with this system is that this power allows you to use it with air tools that make on-the-fly repairs so much easier. For water enthusiasts, you’ll be able to blow up larger boats faster and hit the waves sooner.
- Lightweight, full-sized portable compressor
- Very stable while pumping air, doesn’t shift or shimmy
- Oil-free design makes it very low maintenance
- Longer reach than smaller portable compressors
- 78.5 dBA noise rating is still loud
- Has more plastic parts than desirable for this type of compressor
9. Craftsman 3-Gallon Oil Lube 135 PSI
For decades Craftsman has been the go-to tool brand when you want something done right, and this 3-gallon air compressor does not disappoint. The 3-gallon size is a near perfect-intersection between compact portable and traditional portable air compressors. This little compressor gives you all the power and benefits of a garage compressor, with the compact size and portability of an emergency car compressor.
This Craftsman is powered by an AC plug, so you will either need an adapter or a standard outlet to use it out in the field—this isn’t a big deal in most modern campsites and recreation areas where supplied power has become the norm. The AC power lets this puppy run a 1 horsepower motor to quickly fill all of your toys, tires, and power your tools while you’re out having fun.
- Easy to set up and use
- One-handed quick disconnect hose operation
- Tanks fills to 3-gal at 135 PSI in less than two minutes
- Smaller than 2 feet long, and two feet in height. Easy to pack and transport
- 41 pounds
- Oil lube makes it quieter than similar models, but it’s still loud
What to look for in a compressor
Thus far we have covered the best portable air compressors and have highlighted a couple different areas of specific use. So, the first thing you want to be aware of is making sure you know what you want to use the compressor for. I, personally, have two compressors. One is an emergency-only compressor that packs away in a cubby of my car. The other is a heavier-duty compressor that I can use to fill up my inflatable boat or use it in my garage.
Just because a compressor says “portable” in the description, it doesn’t mean it is actually portable. While conducting my research, I saw 20+ gallon compressor that says portable in the title or description, because they have wheels on them. My rule of thumb is that you have to be able to easily pick it up and carry it, and be able to stow it in your trunk without it being an eyesore or burden. Even the two tank compressors on the list are small and easy enough to pack in the truck to take with you almost anywhere.
Higher PSI doesn’t necessarily mean a better compressor either. Unless you are planning on using air tools, you likely will never fill anything above 70-75 PSI. Most vehicle tires have a PSI rating around 35. In portable compact compressors, the higher PSI really just means that this compressor is able to handle filling your tires with reasonable speed and efficiency.
The final pressure reading
I introduced two primary categories of compressors—if you’re looking for the portable compact type that plugs into your car, I would recommend going with the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor. It is a great all-around compressor for a variety of uses beyond just filling your tires.
The other option is getting one of the compact tank compressors—even though there were only two, I think we have a solid example of how useful they can be as a portable compressor. For this style, I would recommend the Craftsman 3 Gallon Portable Air Compressor. This is small enough so you can easily carry it with you but has the speed and power of a traditional shop compressor.