Last updated: September 11, 2020

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A portable air compressor is a very handy tool to take along, whenever you go on a road trip. The tires of your car will likely lose pressure after traveling lots of miles, or you could have to deal with a flat tire. Having the right tools is vital in this type of emergency, that often happens on the road.

To drive safely and keep your tires in perfect condition, you should periodically check the air pressure as recommended by the manufacturer. Choosing a reliable portable air compressor can be a somewhat complicated task, to help you choose the one that is right for you, we have prepared this article with all the information you need to know.

Key Facts

  • Portable air compressors are designed to be carried in the trunk of your car. Some models are so compact that you can even store them in the glovebox.
  • These devices have a pressure rating of about five bars, which is sufficient for any standard tire. However, it may not be powerful enough for larger tires such as those found on SUVs.
  • These tools are operated when connected to the car’s 12V cigarette lighter socket. Some models have adapters for mains power, so you can plug them in at home. The latest models are equipped with lithium batteries.

Our Selection of the Best Portable Air Compressors on the U.S. Market

For your car to have optimum performance, a portable air compressor is an indispensable tool. It is very important to be aware of the condition of your tires and to ensure that they are always kept at the correct pressure. So you can choose the portable air compressor that is best for you, we have prepared this ranking of the five best portable air compressors on the US market:

Best Portable Air Compressor With Built-In LED Light

12-volt portable air compressor with a built-in LED work light. Inflates from 0 – 28 PSI in approximately 2 minutes or less. Plugs directly into the cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle. The JOYROOM tire inflator is equipped with a large high-precision and bright display that will help you to calculate the required values. 4 display units available: PSI, KPA, BAR, KG/CM². It has a built-in bright and long-lasting LED flashlight, which allows easy operation for making quick repairs in the dark, while making sure you can be seen in an emergency.

This is one of the best selling products on the market and it has great reviews from users. They love the convenient digital display, fast and easy operation and all for a super low price.

Best Portable Air Compressor for Tires

Here have another great portable air compressor from EPAuto. It is perfect to inflate tires on cars, bikes, sedans and midsize SUVs. Universal valve connector and additional adapters including needles (for basketballs, footballs etc), short cone/long cone adapters (for inflating mattresses, swimming pool accessories, toys, etc). 4 Display Units: PSI, KPA, BAR, KG/CM; a super bright LED flashlight and auto shut off function.

This is another top seller that has great reviews. Users report that it is a powerful unit that is easy to use and is the perfect tool to keep in the trunk of your car. It also offers great value for money, as one of the less expensive options on our list.

Best Portable Air Compressor for Small Budgets

This portable air compressor from Avid Power has lots of great features, while still being one of the cheapest products on our list. It is very simple to use, just preset the value you want and the air compressor will automatically shut off when the desired pressure is reached. It not only works as a tire inflator, but also as a tire pressure gauge, making it an important tool for maintaining your tires at optimal pressure levels. With a 10′ cord, 3 nozzle adapters, an extra fuse, carrying bag, user manual, 24 month warranty, and US based customer support, what else do you need to be convinced?

Not surprisingly, this popular product has very positive reviews from happy users. Unless you need something that is really powerful, for professional jobs, this is definitely a portable air compressor you should be considering.

Best Digital Portable Air Compressor

Kensun presents you with a premium quality programmable air compressor. This portable tire inflator comes with two power cords (110V and 12V) making it extremely convenient to use both on the road and indoors. The backlit digital pressure gauge allows for choosing between different measuring units for your convenience.

This product is designed for compact portability and can be easily stored in the trunk or a driver’s cabin. A zipped carry bag that comes included, helps protect it from dirt and dust. In addition, it provides neat storage for cables and accessories!

Best Lightweight Portable Air Compressor

The Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor is portable and lightweight. It features an oil-free, maintenance-free pump that delivers 2.6 SCFM @ 90PSI and a maximum tank storage of 150 PSI for long tool run time with quick recovery. The 78.5 DBA rating is ideal for a quiet work environment. It has a BOSTITCH high efficiency motor for easy start up in cold weather.

This high flow regulator maximizes air tool performance. It has two universal couplers to easily support two users. This is a powerful unit, designed for heavy use and professional jobs. However it is still relatively light at only 29 lbs, making it easy to carry and store.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Portable Air Compressors

Air compressors are portable tools that are designed to be carried in the trunk of the car or stored in your garage at home, they are perfect for maintaining the correct pressure of your tires. Before making your purchase, it is important that you have a bit of background information about portable air compressors. Keep reading as we answer the most frequently asked questions, from people thinking about buying one of these tools.

check holding pressure

Some portable air compressors have backlit LCD screens that allows you check the reading easily.
(Source: Luckybusiness: 46091992/

What is a portable air compressor?

Air compressors are tools manufactured for the purpose of increasing or decreasing the pressure of a tire by using compressed air. A compressor, which works with gases or vapors, are often confused with a pump which (technically speaking) only works with liquids. The compression process is carried out through an exchange of energy between the device and the gas or air. Flow energy is then created, which increases the level of compression.

Portable air compressors are compact models of compressors. They are a more advanced version of the older manual devices that are often carried on bicycles. The latest portable air compressors are much more powerful with many digital functions, and are designed to be carried in the trunk of your car or stored in your garage.

Portable metal air compressor pump for car wheels

Although they are designed to be used for pressurizing car tires, you can also use them for other functions such as inflating sports balls, beach toys and even inflatable mattresses.
(Source: Tymchenko: 118114011/

What are the main characteristics of portable air compressors?

The main feature of a portable air compressor is its compact size. These tools are designed to be taken with you, so they should be easy to carry and take up little space. Most have a housing that allows you to store any accessories inside. Other models are small handheld devices, that are even lighter and easy to take with you wherever you go.

Another key feature is a DC power connection. This allow the compressor to be connected to the cigarette lighter socket of a car, which supplies 12VDC power. Some models have lithium batteries, backlit LCD screens, internal memory for pre-programming the desired pressure and even emergency flashlights.

Remember that not all compressors are the same, and not all models will be able to inflate the wheels of your car.

What are portable air compressors used for?

Portable air compressors are mainly used to maintain the correct pressure of a car’s tires. Vehicle manufacturers recommend keeping the tires within a safe pressure range, the compressors serve to check this pressure and inflate or deflate them as necessary. The pressure of tires must be checked regularly and correctly maintained.

In actual fact, portable air compressors can be used to inflate any type of tire, such as those used on bicycles, motorcycles, go-karts, wheelchairs or anything else you can think of. Due to their compact size, they can also be used to inflate all kinds of balls, inflatable pools and other types of toys. They are the ideal tool to take on your next camping trip, and will make inflating camping mattresses a simple and easy task that anyone can do.

Car portable electric air compressor on the wooden table. 3D ren

Some models are equipped with LED flashlights and flashing red emergency lights.
(Source: Alexlmx: 92623261/

What are the advantages of a portable air compressor?

The main advantage of a portable compressors is obviously their portability. Being compact we can keep them in the trunk of our car and have them ready for any task that comes up. If you suffer a puncture in the middle of the road, you will be thankful you have one of these devices ready at hand. Another advantage is that they have LED lights, which allows them to be operated at night.

Another big advantage apart from the portability, is that most models come with an integrated memory that allows you to pre-program the pressure of your tires. Here is a list of the main advantages of portable air of compressors:

  • They can be stored in the trunk of your car, which will let you fix a flat tire while on the road.
  • They have integrated LED lights, which allow them to be operated at night.
  • Most models have LCD screens that make it easier for you to check the readings.
  • Some models come with an integrated memory that allows you to pre-program the pressure of your tires.
  • They will save you trips to a gas station or garage to check your tire pressure.
  • They help to keep your tire pressure within the range recommended by the manufacturer, so you can drive safely.

What is the difference between a portable air compressor and one that is fixed?

The main difference between fixed and portable air compressors is their size and the tasks they are designed to be used for. Fixed air compressors are large and complex tools designed for industrial use. They have an air storage tank and an engine that runs on compressor oil. These compressors are often used to connect other air-powered tools, and are less expensive to run than electrical models in the long term.

The following table outlines the key differences between fixed and portable air compressors:

Portable air compressors Fixed air compressors
Connections Electrical connection with accessories to connect to the 12V car cigarette lighter. Electrical connection. Some industrial models may work with liquid fuels (diesel).
Capacity Some models do not have tanks at all, so they do not store compressed air.
Other models have small tanks, between 30-60 oz.
Industrial models have tanks with a capacity of up to 25 gal. Traditional models have capacities ranging from 2-5 gal.
Uses They are perfect for maintaining the correct pressure of a car’s tires and for inflating the tires of bicycles and motorcycles, beach toys or mattresses. They have all kinds of industrial uses, including the operation of air-powered tools. Cutting, cleaning, vacuuming or painting.
Motor They have electric motors. They have lubricated mechanical motors.
Portability They are very compact, and fit in the trunk of a car or in the glove compartment. Larger industrial models cannot be moved. They must be installed and remain in a fixed location.
Flow and pressure They have a pressure ranging from 2 to 5 bars. Sufficient to inflate standard car tires. Industrial models are capable of supplying much higher pressure, and are suitable for any type of application.

What are the best brands of portable air compressors on the market?

A portable air compressor is a tool that you definitely want in the trunk or your car, as it can save you from an unexpected flat tire. Some of the best portable air compressors are made by Black & Decker, which is part of the Stanley corporation, recognized worldwide for manufacturing tools of the highest quality, with the best materials and latest technology.

Einhell is another leading brand, with a reputation built up over more than 60 years of manufacturing top-quality tools. Other brands such as KYG or Ring Automotive are also recognized for creating reliable tools, and currently have a range of more than 2000 products on the market.

red portable air compressor on white background - 3d illustration

LED flashlights provide you with greater security at night, when it can be difficult to be seen on the road.
(Source: Mipan: 47104658/

What is pressure and inflation capacity?

Tire pressure is essential if you want to optimize the performance of your vehicle and make sure your tires are resistance to wear and have a longer service life. The most important thing to know is that tire inflation has a direct influence on the safety and load capacity of a vehicle.

A correctly pressurized tire stabilizes the structure of the tire and evenly distribute the support across the tread of the tire. This optimizes the performance of your tires, which ensures greater safety.

It is important to maintain the pressure indicated by the manufacturer, and it should be checked periodically and after long journeys.

What is the air flow?

The air flow rate of a portable air compressor is the amount of compressed air, measured in volume, which is supplied through the compressor per unit of time. Flow must always refer to the temperature, pressure and humidity in which it has been measured. In the USA flow is typically measured as cubic feet per minute (CFM), while in the rest of the world it is often expressed in liters per minute (l/min).

How is a portable air compressor used?

The first step is to set the correct pressure on the screen of the compressor. All manufacturers recommend an optimal pressure rating for every tire, and with a portable compressor it is very easy to pre-program whatever setting you require. This is usually done using buttons or by setting the pressure gauge. Once the necessary pressure is set, it can easily be stored in the internal memory of the device for the next time you need to perform the same task.

Once the pressure of the portable air compressor is programmed, you should now attach the nozzle to the air valve of the tire. Wait a moment for the device to stabilize and it will begin to inflate. Digital models automatically stop when they reach the marked pressure. Remove the nozzle, replace the cap on the valve and your portable air compressor is ready to store away again. It’s really that easy.

Here’s a step-by-step guide of how you should use a portable air compressor.

  • Turn on the air compressor.
  • Mark on the screen, using the buttons, the desired pressure of your tires.
  • Remove the valve cap and be sure to leave it in a safe place.
  • Apply the air compressor nozzle to the valve of the tire.
  • Wait for the compressor to stabilize.
  • The tire will inflate. If you are using an automatic compressor, it will stop when it reaches the marked pressure. If it does not feature auto-shutoff, pay close attention so that you do not overinflate the tire.
  • If you have an overinflated tire, use the compressor to remove pressure until it reaches the value as indicated by the manufacturer.
  • Once the tire is inflated, replace the valve cap and turn off the compressor.

Shopping Criteria

When purchasing a portable air compressor you must take into account the way you intend to use it and the features it offers. There are many different models available on the market, which makes your choice a little tricky. To make the process easier, in this section we explain the most important criteria to consider. Continue reading and learn everything you need to know to chose the model that is perfect for you:


When choosing a portable air compressor you must check several specifications that will directly effect the performance of the device. One of the most important is the power rating of the model you are thinking about purchasing. Handheld and portable air compressors usually have fairly low power ratings somewhere between 1.5 and 5 hp. They are designed for domestic use, and certain professional applications.

Portable compressors are designed for tasks around the home, such as inflating toys or mattresses and for maintaining your car’s tires within the optimal pressure range. If you have a big car, with large tires, you should take a careful look at the power rating. Otherwise any compressor will work for standard tires, commonly found on cars, motorcycles or bicycles.

Tire fitting car service retro poster

Portable air compressors are very practical and versatile.
(Source: Seamartini: 108571345/

Power Supply

Not all air compressors are powered using the same method, since some can only be operated using a 12V car cigarette lighter socket. Other models have the option of being powered from a wall outlet. The models with the most functions and better performance offer both methods, and even have the extra option of an internal lithium battery.


For the majority of tasks, you will not require a pressure of more than 6 bars. Portable air compressors most commonly offer a pressure rating ranging from 2 to 6 bars. Although this may seem very low, this amount pressure is sufficient to inflate most tires, even those found on an SUV.


Although it is true that portable air compressors are the perfect tool to keep in the trunk of your car, so you can maintain the correct pressure of your tires, this is not the only way they can be used. Most models have nozzles and adapters that can be used for inflating sports balls, inflatable mattresses and all kinds of toys.

Some models of portable air compressors also include compressed air guns and blowers, which work perfectly for filling balloons or even to clean the keyboard of your computer.

Some portable air compressors have a suction function, so they can be used to clean your car.


Standing in the middle of the road at night to inflate a tire because you have a flat tire can be very dangerous. This is when the inflation rate of the compressor will be most noticeable, and when you will wish you had purchased a fast unit. The fastest portable air compressors on the market can fully inflate a tire in only 3 minutes.

More commonly, you will find that most models will take between 10-15 minutes to fully inflate a tire to a pressure of 35 PSI. So you can think about this when weighing up the price you want to pay, against the performance you are hoping to get. If your budget will allow you to buy a portable air compressor with a fast inflation speed, then you should definitely chose a model with this feature.

Size and Weight

Although all portable air compressors are usually fairly compact, before making your choice you should consider the wide-range of sizes in which these devices are available. Think carefully about how much space you have available to store it, and whether it will be kept in the trunk of your car, a closet or in your garage at home.

These gadgets are very small but extremely powerful. Most usually do not weigh in excess of 1 lb, although there are some models that weigh over 2 lbs. The smallest devices can be stored in the glove compartment of your car, although more commonly they are left in the trunk.


What you want when you buy a device of this kind is for it lasts for as long as possible. This is why it is important when choosing which portable air compressor you are going to buy, that you think about how durable and resistant it is. This will depend largely on the materials used in its manufacture.

Portable air compressors are usually made of resistant plastics and have aluminum frames. This is because they are not supposed to be heavy. Although these materials are lightweight, they are very hard and resistant. Always be sure to check for warranty seals and compliance with manufacturing standards, to make sure you are buying a product that will last.


Most modern portable air compressors have an LCD screen, these are very easy to read and all the relevant data is clearly displayed. Models that have pressure gauges use a needle to indicate pressure, which can make getting an accurate reading a little more difficult. If possible, make sure you choose a model that has a backlit digital display.

Many of the latest portable air compressors also have built-in LED lights. This feature is great to have during an emergency at nighttime, because inflating a flat tire in the dark can be difficult as well as dangerous.

The best models available on the market have internal lithium batteries and offer fast charging technology.

Reach and Light

Choose a portable air compressor with a hose that is at least 10 feet in length. In this way you can work easily on your car, without being limited by the size of the tire or the vehicle itself. If the hose is too short, your job will be much more complicated and very frustrating. If your car is particularly large, you may not even be able to reach all the tires.

When it comes to lighting, a compressor that incorporates a flashlight is an extra safety feature that you should definitely consider. Many models have powerful LED flashlights, perfect for use at night, while others have emergency mode with flashing red lights.


Portable air compressors are compact tools, that are the perfect companion for your next road trip. Maintaining the correct tire pressure is a basic maintenance task that your should regularly perform on your vehicle. These devices allow you to easily check the pressure and keep your car tires working at their optimal level, and with less wear and tear.

You can store the compressor in the trunk of your car, and some models are even small enough to fit in the glovebox. Next time you have a flat tire, you’ll be glad you decided to purchase a portable air compressor. In our shopping guide we covered the most important factors such as flow, capacity, inflation speed, accessories and safety. Now it’s your turn to choose the model that is best for you.

If you liked this article, please leave a comment and be sure to share it with your friends and family, so they can learn all about these amazing new devices.

(Featured Image Source: Tymchenko: 11811427/

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