10 Best 12V Air Compressors of 2020 – Top Picks & Reviews
It’s something most of us have experienced at some point; a flat tire. When it happens, it’s always an inconvenience. But if you have the right tools in your trunk, then you can easily solve the problem and get on with your day. That tool is a 12-volt air compressor.
Traditional air compressors are great for filling up car tires, but they’re not very portable. Not only are they big, bulky, and heavy, but they also need an outlet to plug into, which isn’t likely to be nearby when you need it. Thankfully, 12-volt compressors solve these problems. They’re small and compact making them easy to store in your trunk for emergencies. Just as importantly, they’re powered by your car’s 12-volt system, so you can use them just about anywhere.
We always prefer to be prepared, so we set out to find the best 12-volt compressors on the market. The following 10 reviews will compare our favorites, and we’ll leave you with our three top suggestions at the end.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites:
|Best Overall||EPAUTO AT-010-2 Portable Air Compressor||
|Best Value||Avid Power ACAP330 Tire Inflator Air Compressor||
|Premium Choice||Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor||
|Helteko 4336329793 Portable Air Compressor||
|TireTek TT-303 RX-i Portable Air Compressor||
The 10 Best 12V Air Compressors:
1. EPAUTO AT-010-2 Portable Air Compressor – Best Overall
A good 12-volt compressor needs to small enough to easily store in your vehicle and powerful enough to quickly inflate your car’s tires and get you back on the road. The EPAUTO AT-010-2 Portable Air Compressor meets these qualifications and it manages to do so without breaking the bank.
The biggest drawback of this compressor is that it doesn’t support truck tires. However, it’s capable of inflating to a maximum pressure of 70 psi, so we didn’t encounter any problems filling the tires on our SUVs and small pickups. And car tires are no trouble since they rarely inflate over 50 psi.
This compressor is dead-simple to use. Just insert the included 12-volt plug into your vehicle’s lighter socket and use the digital display to set the precise pressure you want the tire inflated to. Then you just turn the compressor on and it does the rest. The built-in auto-shutoff feature even ensures that your tire never over-inflates, shutting off once the proper pressure has been reached.
Once you turn it on, you might be surprised at just how quiet this compressor is; we were. And thankfully, additional adapters are included for inflating items that aren’t tires.
2. Avid Power Tire Inflator Air Compressor – Best Value
Don’t let the affordable price of the Avid Power ACAP330 Air Compressor fool you; this is a very capable device that’s a great value for what it costs. It’s cheaper than most of the other compressors we tested, but it’s still an excellent tool that you can count on when you need it, which is why we think it’s one of the best 12V air compressors for the money.
This compressor conveniently plugs right into your car’s lighter socket. It’s got a 9.8-foot power cord, but the air hose is pretty short, which can make it difficult to reach the back tires. But if you get stuck at night, this device is a lifesaver thanks to the built-in flashlight that will illuminate the tire so you can see.
Despite the low price, this compressor can inflate to higher pressures than many of the more expensive pumps we tested. It’s capable of reaching 150-psi max pressure, though it can take a long time to get there. The first 30 psi takes about 3 minutes, but it’s slow going from there. Of course, you might want to use this for inflating other items, which is why extra adapters are included.
3. Viair Portable Air Compressor – Premium Choice
While most of the 12-volt compressors we tested simply plugged into the lighter socket of your car, the Viair 88P Portable Air Compressor has alligator clamps that need to be attached to your car’s battery terminals. This is because a powerful 20-amp motor is tucked inside this device, which requires more power than can be pulled through a standard lighter socket.
All that extra power helps this compressor inflate to pressures as high as 120 psi. It also manages to get to those higher pressures much faster than the other compressors we tested. In fact, this compressor can even fill tires as large as 33 inches!
The power cord on this compressor is 10 feet long, about the same as others we’ve used. But this one has a 16-foot air hose, which gives you tons of reach for getting to those back tires, even in longer vehicles like trucks. But this compressor is a bit more expensive than the rest. We think it’s worth it though, considering the extra reach and power this compressor provides.
4. Helteko Portable Air Compressor
The Helteko Portable Air Compressor is small and compact enough to easily fit in your trunk. It’s reasonably priced and even comes with an 18-month extended warranty that ensures you’ll get a replacement if anything goes wrong with your compressor.
Overall, this was a solid unit, but several flaws kept it from our top three. First, this feels like a cheap device. Many of the other compressors were made of metal, but this one’s covered in plastic that gives it a cheap feel.
We also weren’t thrilled with the design of the inflator. It’s bulky and you have to be able to flip the top up to lock it onto your valve stem, which can prove difficult with some rims. Moreover, the built-in pressure gauge isn’t accurate, so you’re always inflating your tires to a different pressure than what you’re aiming for.
Still, this device had some redeeming qualities. It’s got an automatic shutoff that prevents it from over-inflating anything. And one of our favorite features is the digital display. It’s larger and brighter than on many other compressors we tested, making it easier to see and set.
5. TireTek RX-i Portable Air Compressor
We liked the TireTek TT-303 RX-I Portable Air Compressor as soon as we pulled it from the box. It comes in a hard carrying case that keeps everything organized and safe. You’ll also get four additional adapters with this device, allowing you to fill a variety of inflatables, including Presta stems on bicycle tires.
The first time we used this compressor, we were happy to see that the air hose is 11.5 feet long, unlike the short hoses that were attached to several machines we tested. When added to the 9-foot power cord, you get almost 20 feet of reach, so you should have no trouble getting to those back tires.
Where this unit went wrong is with poor craftsmanship. First, we noticed right away that the built-in pressure gauge was incorrect. It was overfilling all of our tires by several psi. Not the end of the world, but also not ideal. Worse, the valve connector broke in the first month. It’s cheaply built and not meant for regular use, though it might survive if it were only used once in a great while.
6. AstroAI AIR100 Portable Air Compressor
The AstroAI AIR100 Portable Air Compressor seemed like a winner on the surface. It’s a bit more expensive than many of its competitors we were comparing, but it’s also got a solid build quality and very few plastic parts. We liked some of the features that were included, such as auto-shutoff to prevent over-inflation, or the exterior fuse that’s easy to change should it happen to blow.
But we also came up with several complaints about this compressor pretty quickly. First, the gauge is wrong. It repeatedly underfilled our tires by 2 to 5 psi. The worst problem we encountered though was the max operating time of just 15 minutes. This isn’t a particularly powerful or quick compressor, so if you need to fill more than just one tire, that 15-minute time limit might hold you up and leave you sitting and waiting for the unit to cool off.
For the price, we found plenty of compressors that outperformed the AstroAI, so we don’t recommend this one.
7. Glamore Portable Air Compressor
Another compressor that’s covered in a cheap-feeling plastic case, the Glamore Portable Air Compressor looks good, it just doesn’t feel good. But some of the features are nice, such as the built-in lighter plug that conveniently works with your car’s lighter. Plus, this compressor can inflate up to 150 psi, so even larger vehicles should benefit from carrying this compressor.
Once we started using the Glamore compressor, we started to notice its drawbacks. First, the hoses don’t want to fit into the storage compartments on the unit. We weren’t able to get the compartments closed again! And the air hose is pretty short, which also costs you a good deal of reach. Worst, the hose is so weak that it actually popped while we were attempting to fill a tire!
Because of the large, bulky head on the air nozzle, you might have a hard time getting it to work with some rims and tires. With so many other great options available, we’d advise skipping this one for something that’s a bit better built with an air hose that won’t explode.
8. Kensun AC/DC Power Supply Portable Air Compressor
Though it’s more expensive than many of its competitors, the Kensun AC/DC Power Supply Portable Air Compressor doesn’t do much to earn its higher price tag. What it does offer is the ability to plug it into a standard outlet at your home or the 12-volt outlet in your car. This compressor also offers a max runtime of 30 minutes, which is double what many of the other compressors we tested can do.
But that’s not enough to warrant a price that’s so much higher. Especially when this device has other glaring weaknesses. First, it only includes two adapters. Many cheaper compressors we tested included twice as many. Additionally, the air hose on this machine is extremely short; just 19 inches long. That makes it very hard to reach the back tires since the power cord is just over nine feet long.
9. HAUSBELL Portable Air Compressor
There’s plenty to like about the HAUSBELL Portable Air Compressor, but with so many excellent options available, this one seems to fall short. Still, it’s got some notable features like a max inflation pressure of 150 psi or the built-in flashlight that makes it easier to work at night.
But like many other cheap 12-volt compressors, this one has a tiny air hose that makes it very hard to reach the back tires. That’s not the only thing on this device that’s too small though. The digital display is also tiny, making it quite difficult to read. It’s hard to see what type of reading it’s giving you because the symbols are so faint on the screen.
We also noticed that this was one of the slowest compressors we tried. It could take more than ten minutes to fill a single tire, which then requires giving the compressor some time to cool off before attempting to fill another.
10. TACKLIFE ACP1B Portable Tire Inflator Air Compressor
We’ve enjoyed many TACKLIFE products in the past, but the ACP1B Portable Tire Inflator Air Compressor isn’t their best work. Despite this, it does have some redeeming traits. We like the 24-month extended warranty that keeps this compressor protected for longer than any of the other ones we tried. But it can only inflate up to 80 psi, so bigger trucks might have a hard time, especially since this compressor isn’t meant to work with truck tires at all.
Like other tiny compressors, this one has a run-time limit of just 15 minutes. If you need to fill multiple tires, you’ll probably have to give it a break to cool down between.
On the other hand, this compressor is one of the smallest we’ve tried. If size were everything, then it might top our list. But even the flashlight on this machine was a disappointment. It wasn’t nearly as bright as other units we tested, which was the final nail in the TACKLIFE Portable Air Compressor’s coffin.
There are tons of different features on these little compressors. But how do you decide which features to prioritize to help you choose the right one? If you’re asking that very question, then this buyer’s guide is for you. We’ve compiled a list of the most important traits you need to consider when looking for a 12-volt air compressor.
Maximum Inflation Pressure
One of the most important traits you need to pay attention to on your new 12-volt compressor is its maximum inflation pressure. Some of these compressors can’t inflate to the same pressure others are capable of reaching. This is especially important if you drive a truck since they have larger tires that are inflated to higher pressures.
The amount of power your compressor can pull is measured in amps. More amps equal more power. A more powerful compressor can inflate a tire faster.
Plug or Alligator Clips?
There’s a problem with more powerful 12-volt compressors though. A standard 12-volt lighter socket in your car can only handle 150 watts maximum. That’s 12.5 amps total. If your compressor pulls more than this, you’ll have to hook it up to the battery directly with alligator clips. It’s a little less convenient, but it will save you time in the long run.
Length of Hoses and Cords
This is another trait that’s even more important if you have a long vehicle like a truck or van. Many of the compressors we tested for this list had power cords that were about 10 feet long, but air hoses that were shorter than two feet. This can prevent you from reaching the back tires, which might stop you from getting back on the road! We prefer the compressors that have a long air hose and a long power cord for maximum reach to be able to handle any situation that arises.
Your 12-volt compressor is meant to be stored in your vehicle so it’s there when you need it most. One thing that makes these compressors better for this type of situation than a regular compressor is their compact size. Look for one that’s small enough to be easily stored in your vehicle without inconveniencing you.
Though these compressors are built to inflate things, they often have additional features built-in to expand their usefulness. Here are our favorites:
If you’ve ever had to deal with an inflation situation in the dark of night, then you’ll appreciate having a bright flashlight built directly into your portable air compressor.
Auto shutoff ensures your tires will never over-inflate. Just set the right pressure and once it’s reached, the compressor will shut off on its own.
Extra nozzles give you the ability to fill up things that don’t have a traditional Schrader style inflator. Often, balls, bike tires, kayaks, and more have different types of tips, nozzles, and valves that a regular air nozzle won’t work on. Luckily, many of these compressors include several additional nozzles to open up the possibilities and allow you to inflate anything you need.
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There are tons of 12-volt compressors on the market. While they’re all built to perform the same duties, they’re not all created equally. Our reviews have shed some light on how they compare, but we want to leave you with our final impressions.
Out of them all, our favorite was the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor. Just set your desired pressure up to a maximum of 70 psi and turn it on. Once it reaches the right pressure, it will shut off automatically. And it’s so quiet, you might not even notice!
For the best value, we recommend the Avid Power Tire Inflator Air Compressor. It’s priced very affordably, but it’s still packed with great features like a built-in flashlight so you can see at night. Best of all, it can fill to a max pressure of 150 psi.
If you want a more powerful option that fills tires faster but costs a bit more, then you might like the Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor instead. It’s got a powerful 20-amp motor and even has a 16-foot air hose so you never have trouble reaching the back tires.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites:
- The 10 Best 12V Air Compressors:
- 1. EPAUTO AT-010-2 Portable Air Compressor – Best Overall
- 2. Avid Power Tire Inflator Air Compressor – Best Value
- 3. Viair Portable Air Compressor – Premium Choice
- 4. Helteko Portable Air Compressor
- 5. TireTek RX-i Portable Air Compressor
- 6. AstroAI AIR100 Portable Air Compressor
- 7. Glamore Portable Air Compressor
- 8. Kensun AC/DC Power Supply Portable Air Compressor
- 9. HAUSBELL Portable Air Compressor
- 10. TACKLIFE ACP1B Portable Tire Inflator Air Compressor
- Buyer’s Guide