Safety on the road is paramount, and it’s recommended that you carry out monthly checks on your tire pressure to ensure you’re driving safely.
It’s therefore worth having a good-quality portable air compressor that you can keep in your boot, so you don’t have to travel to the nearest gas station to maintain an appropriate level of air pressure.
Although all models share a common basic purpose, portable air compressors can offer different extra features which can make them suitable for various uses. Handy functions include digital gauges which can show you the current level of air pressure, or convenient settings like the ability to select the desired PSI level you want to reach before the auto shut off feature kicks in.
This means it can be difficult to wade through all the information surrounding portable air compressors to find one that’ll suit your needs. That’s where this article comes in. We’ve reviewed 5 of the best portable air compressors for you and compiled them in a list below for you to compare.
If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a buyer’s guide that will hopefully point you in the right direction, but if you’re in a hurry, feel free to skip to our top pick to see which model we’ve selected as the best portable air compressor.
Top 5 Best Portable Air Compressors
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Our top pick for the best portable air compressor had to be the EPAuto AT-010-1Z model, which has an impressive 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon with almost 20,000 reviews.
It’s popularity is understandable as it can be used for a range of functions, including tire inflation for cars or bicycles, sedans, and even SUVs with an engine size less than 3.5 liters.
There is also a universal valve connector for schrader valves included with the air compressor, as well as a needle valve adaptor for smaller items such as basketballs or soccer balls and both long and short cone adaptors for inflatable swimming pools.
The AT-010-1Z focuses on convenience for the user, and the clear, simple display unit will tell you the current PSI allowing you to easily determine when the job is finished. It also features a bright torch which helps to illuminate the surrounding space if you’re inflating after dark.
If you own a truck or if you’re looking for a portable air compressor for more heavy-duty use, then the AT-010-1Z may not be the right fit. However, when it comes to lighter vehicles and smaller jobs this portable air compressor offers powerful performance considering its compact size.
It has a 120 Watts power rating and 1.06 CFM, so it will make light work of inflating whatever you need. Additionally, the auto shut off and overheat protection features will prevent you from overworking your portable air compressor and it will extend the lifetime of this already durable tool.
Comes with a carry bag to be easily transported
Connects to cigarette lighter socket plug
Auto shut off
Not suitable for truck tires
Coming in at a close second to the EPAuto AT-010-1Z is this VacLife electric air compressor, which boasts incredibly fast inflation times that will have your tires pumped in seconds, and an auto shut off function that prevents overinflation.
It features a 13ft hose to easily reach the front and rear tires, or if you have a last minute guest coming to stay and you need to dig out your inflatable mattress, it comes with 4 nozzle attachments so you can connect to a range of items.
You’ll have no problem taking this lightweight, portable air compressor with you wherever you go thanks to its compact design, although it doesn’t come with a carry pouch included as some other brands offer.
The digital screen is sleek looking and will automatically display your current tire pressure levels. It’s also easy to set your desired PSI using the setting control buttons to increase or decrease the level of pressure.
You can party in your inflatable pool all night without having to worry about it going down, as LED lighting means you can always see what you’re doing even if you need to inflate in the dark.
Lightweight and easily transportable
Auto shut off feature
4 additional nozzles included
Excellent customer service
No carry bag included
The AstroAI A220B model is another portable air compressor that is known for its efficient tire inflation, capable of filling a 35 liter capacity in less than 5 minutes.
Manufactured using high-quality materials and with a 120 Watts power rating, this air compressor performs all basic functions to an excellent standard.
However, unlike some of the other portable air compressors included in this list, it can’t handle high-pressure or large volume inflation such as large pools or inflatable kayaks, and the hose is slightly shorter at 10 ft.
You won’t have to strain your eyes to see the display screen even after the sun goes down as the LCD backlit, digital display is clear and easy to read, and it includes an in-built LED flashlight for emergency use.
Listed as Amazon’s Choice for ‘tire inflator, this portable air compressor is small and compact in size with a useful handle, meaning this air compressor is highly portable and can be easily stored in your vehicle’s boot or garage until needed.
3 nozzle adaptors included
LCD backlit, digital display screen
Not intended for high pressure or heavy-duty use
This Viair portable air compressor is a great investment for anyone who wants to be prepared for all emergencies. It’s small and easily portable, whilst also being strong enough to inflate up to 33-inch tires.
The Viair 88P is a battery-powered air compressor which connects to 2 battery terminal clamps in order to run, although the engine must also be running during use. It has a maximum PSI of 120 for powerful air pumping and can be used on small ATVs, trucks, SUVs, and Sedans.
You can see how well your Viair 88P is inflating in real time by monitoring the pressure gauge displayed on the top of the unit when it’s not in use, although this can be less accurate than digital display screens.
You won’t have to wait around too long for the job to be done either, as it has a 1.47CFM rating for free flowing air pressure. It comes with an included 10 ft. power cord and a 16 ft. air hose, as well as a 3-piece inflation kit.
12 volts and 120 PSI maximum
129 PSI maximum pressure
Pressure gauge instead of a digital display screen
This model is one of SKEY’s practical, easily portable, electric air compressors that focus on user convenience and functionality.
The pre-set controls are simple to use with just the touch of a button and the digital screen is high-resolution for a clear display.
It’s the perfect tool to ensure you can check and maintain your vehicle’s tire pressure whenever you need, although it also has a range of functions beyond car tires, including the application of motorcycles, bicycles, balls, and more.
Versatile accessories are included with this portable air compressor such as 5 different nozzle adaptors, and it also comes with a storage bag so you can pack it away safely when not in use. Additionally, it features a safety lock to prevent any unauthorized operation that could damage your air compressor.
It’s worth noting that this portable air compressor runs is powered by a rechargeable battery, so you’ll need to remember to charge it before use. The manufacturers also recommend not using it in excessively high temperatures or under direct, intense sunlight.
Powerful compression up to 150 PSI
Dual power supply
Digital pressure gauge
Slightly more expensive option
Best Portable Air Compressors Buying Guide
What do they do?
Portable air compressors are used to inflate anything from balloons to car tires, and they can be a really useful piece of equipment to have in your arsenal. They are available to purchase in a variety of 12v power or battery-powered models, depending on how powerful a piece of equipment you’re looking for.
You can also find air compressors which are able to fill gas cylinders with highly pressurized air or to power industrial tools, although these are not portable and are designed more for industrial use.
The inflation of vehicle tires is most likely the main purpose of portable air compressors, and most of them will perform this function. Being able to inflate other items is a secondary feature, and one that will vary between models.
Portable air compressors work by using a single motor to produce kinetic energy from the power source, by converting its electrical energy. Skipped a few too many science lessons in school? Guilty. In simpler terms, they send air through a compressor hose to pump up any deflated item.
Size and Portability
Just like us humans, portable air compressors come in all sorts of various shapes and sizes. That’s pretty much where the similarities end. You’ll need an air compressor that’s capable of performing its intended functions, but too big and you’ll lose some of its easy portability.
For vehicle tire inflation, portability is going to be a more important factor as it will need to travel with you, therefore you won’t want it to take up too much space in your car. For that reason air compressors designed specifically for this use tend to come in smaller sizes.
The size of the compressor tank will also affect the overall size of the portable air compressor, as they’re available in different shapes. With great size comes great power, and larger portable air compressors are designed to suit more industrial needs. You can choose between vertical or horizontal, which are similar except for placement, or you can decide on either pancake or twin-tank.
There’s a bigger difference between the latter two types of compressor tank which will affect their overall performance. Pancake compressors have a single cylinder, whereas twin-stack models have a vertical placement which provides a larger capacity for air. Pancake compressors are thus suited to smaller jobs, and the higher CFM and PSI values of twin-stack compressors mean they are capable for medium-level jobs.
If you’ll allow us to have one last say on size, it’s important to know the length of the hose before you buy. If you work on a remote site, for example, and will need to transport your air compressor to various locations, a long hose will hinder its portability. Shorter hoses are therefore better suited for anyone looking for ultimate portability in an air compressor.
PSI, CFM, and HP
No, not that HP. Not after the author’s recent comments on gender identity. Rather than being shorthand for potions or spells, HP actually stands for horsepower, which refers to the amount of strength your portable air compressor will have.
CFM is a measurement of Cubic Feet per Minute and it indicates how much air your portable compressor can inject into your deflated item per minute. The higher the volume of air that can be produced per minute, the more suitable your portable air compressor will be for larger jobs.
PSI refers to the level of air pressure that can be generated by the tank and is measured in Pounds per Square Inch. A PSI of 90 would be found on domestic air compressors that are intended for light-duty use, whereas you’ll find closer to a 150 PSI on more powerful air compressors.
How do you use it?
If you’ve gone through all the trouble to read up on portable air compressors so you can make an informed decision about which is the best one for you, then you’re going to want to know how to use it.
You should always consult the instructions your air compressor comes with when setting it up, as the process will vary between brands depending on what different functions they offer and their intended use.
You may be required to complete a ‘break-in’ period before first using your portable air compressor by running it with the pressure valve open for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will help you make the most of your new compressor, but isn’t necessary for all models.
They’re pretty simple to use, so even if you’re not an expert on cars you won’t have to call your garage the next time your tires need inflating. Simply switch your portable air compressor on and connect it to the air vent opening of the item you’d like to inflate. That’s it!
The air will travel through the compressor hose and inflate your item. Turn off the portable air compressor once you’ve reached a level of inflation you’re happy with, and make sure the power source is also switched off.
Pumping air into a tyre or any deflated item is always going to come with a certain level of noise. Think about the last time you were in a room full of people frantically blowing up balloons before the start of a party, and then multiply it by 10.
If you don’t want to be attracting stares for any reason other than how great your car looks while you’re inflating your tires, then look out for models with a lower decibel rating. These will perform much more quietly than air compressors with a high decibel rating, as it will indicate the amount of noise produced during use.
Smaller air compressors that are designed for lighter use will make the least amount of noise, but they tend to be less powerful than other models which is also something to consider.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find out what the correct PSI for my tires should be?
The optimal PSI for your vehicle’s tires can be found in your car’s user manual, or it’s easy enough to look up online, just remember to include the make and model of your car for accurate search results.
Is a digital pressure gauge better than a non-digital pressure gauge?
Digital pressure gauges tend to give a more accurate reading, although this will depend on the model. They are also easier to read as the PSI will be displayed in analogue form rather than trying to see where the arm lands on a manual pressure gauge.
What happens if you overinflate your tires?
Driving on overinflated tires means you could damage them. In the worst case scenario, your tire could even burst while you’re driving.
The most common consequences of overinflating your tires is that you’ll wear your tread down quicker and you’ll have less traction due to the increased air pressure distorting their shape.