Getting a flat tire isn’t just a time-consuming nuisance; it can also cost you a lot of money. Buying new tires isn’t cheap, and even repairing one can dent your wallet. On top of that, depending on your auto insurance, you might have to pay a lot of money for road service. Meanwhile, if you’re in the middle of nowhere it could take an hour for a tow truck to get to you.
A one-time investment for a portable air compressor can save you both the time waiting on roadside assistance and the money of paying the per-mile fee of getting towed back to the shop. If you have a patch kit, you can inflate your tire right there and hobble back to get a replacement.
Finding the right air compressor for car tires is no easy feat. They aren’t tools that you use every day. So, it’s hard to know which one is right for you. We wrote these reviews to give you a leg-up searching for one, and we included a quick little buyer’s guide to give you some extra tips.
(Best Budget Buy)
We wouldn’t call the Yome Portable Dual Cylinder Air Compressor Pump perfect, but it comes pretty close. When it comes to reviewing things, we like to imagine all products used under the worst possible circumstances, and in this case, that means getting stuck in the middle of a nighttime storm.
The two biggest things the Yome has going for it are its easy-to-read digital display that allows you to program the tire inflation, and its fast inflation rate. The Yome can inflate most car tires in less than two minutes. It also uses a dual-compression chamber, so it generates minimal heat.
One word of caution is that it can’t handle tires that require much more than 40 psi (pounds per square inch) of tire pressure. That’s still most cars, but if you’ve got a light truck or an SUV you’ll need something with more muscle.
Among the air compressors we reviewed, we gave the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump our Best for the Money because it has the best dollar-for-dollar performance out of the bunch. It combines versatility, speed, and the latest features to deal with an inconveniently timed flat tire.
With a maximum pressure of 70 psi, it isn’t suitable for truck tires, but it can do anything smaller. It services motorcycles, bicycles, sports balls, and almost every car manufactured today. It’s also easy to program the maximum pressure you need and will shut itself off when it hits the mark. It can also inflate at up to 10 psi per minute.
Unfortunately, the EPAuto 12V DC is prone to overheating, which means it’ll take a little longer if you’ve got multiple flats you need to inflate.
In a pinch, the DBPOWER 12V DC Portable Electric Auto Air Compressor Pump will get you back on the road in not a lot of time. Among the compressors we reviewed, it’s also among the most affordable. That’s why we gave it our Best Budget Buy.
It’s also versatile enough to inflate your basketball, inflate a bicycle tire, and blow up your air mattress. Its compact frame is also easy to store and it won’t add a lot of weight if you travel with a lot of tools in your trunk.
It is a no-frills compressor, however, so you won’t get the easily programmable pressure limit with the brightly lit displays, either. If you want digital, you’ll need to cough up more money. It’ll also heat quickly and hold on to it. Make sure you give it plenty of time to cool off between uses.
If we had a category for sexiest tool, the Oasser’s air compressor would take the prize, hands down. Whereas most portable air compressors have a body, hoses and a power cable. This one looks like a cordless drill. The design is more intuitive for people who only occasionally use tools, and dare we say probably more fun, too.
Able to inflate tires needing up to 120 psi of pressure, the Oasser is also surprisingly versatile. It can handle everything from bicycle tires to SUVs, and has a digital readout that allows you to program your desired pressure.
It’s battery operated, so you’ll want to keep up on its charge. Also, be aware that if the battery dies, so does the tool. Because the handle is involved in the air compression, it can get quite hot, too. So wear gloves. Among these air compressors, this one is also the most expensive.
You can use the Kensun Portable Air Compressor Pump just about anywhere. It’s got settings for wall current and power from your car’s cigarette lighter. If you’re about to leave on a long road trip, that means you can inflate your tires to their desired pressure at home, and then when doing on-the-road maintenance checks you can fill them back up for maximum fuel efficiency.
It’s also powerful enough to service most passenger vehicles. It can’t handle the biggest, heaviest trucks, but tires for compacts, sedans and most SUVs are easily within this compressor’s service range.
We’d call it a better maintenance compressor than an emergency inflator. It’s got an analog readout and you can’t program your desired tire pressure, so you’ll need to keep track of it yourself. It also takes extra time to fill tires. Compared to the rest of the class, it’s also in the higher end in terms of price.
Judging by appearance, TIREWELL’s 12V Tire Inflator is the most utilitarian tire inflator available. Its hard plastic chassis has a black, ridged design that gives the impression that it’s part of your car.
Among the air compressors we looked at, at 2.2 pounds it’s also among the lightest and easiest to carry. It’s also got a price we think most people will find appealing.
The model specifications suggest that it’s rated to 80 psi, and the literature says it can go much higher. In practice, however, don’t try inflating anything over 60, because it’ll conk out if pressed too hard. That’s still enough for most passenger vehicles, but if you want a compressor for heavy-duty trailers or SUVs, you’ll want to keep looking.
Based on sheer performance, the NoOne Digital Tire Inflator is a rock star. It provides a lot of the features that we like in portable air compressors and has the makings of a real asset if you find yourself with a flat on a dark and stormy night.
It isn’t the fastest compressor we looked at, but at three minutes to inflate most car tires, it’s also none too shabby. It’s also got a digital system that allows you to program your desired pressure and will shut itself off. Plus, it’s easy to read.
Like a lot of air compressors, it can get hot after prolonged use. That might not matter if you’re just trying to get your car to the shop, but could pose a problem if you’ve got several tires to service. The worst thing about it, however, is that you can get similar performance at a much lower price.
Air compressors are usually an ugly piece of equipment. They’re designed for function over form and usually look blocky. Helteko’s portable air compressor is a departure from that, with a hard plastic case that looks more like a piece of testing equipment than an air compressor. We like it.
We also like that it fills tires to 150 psi. Most cars are under 50 psi, which means this is also good for lots of trucks and SUVs. For a powerful air compressor, it also has a pretty good price tag.
It also comes with an auto-shutoff, and while this is normally a great feature, we caution that this air compressor is known to add a couple of extra pounds of air before shutting off. It can also get hot, which we suspect is why it’s also got a habit of needing extra time between servicing tires. The first one fills like a dream, but you need to wait a minute or so before it’ll turn on for successive tires.
WindGallop’s 150 psi Portable Car Air Compressor is small enough you can fit it into the pocket of your door panel, your center console, or your glove compartment. As such, it’s one of the most portable air compressors we looked at.
If you’re looking for an air compressor capable of working in settings beyond measuring psi, this is also a good one. It can measure four different units of measurement giving you a good deal of versatility.
It’s also capable of servicing the tires on most passenger cars, but it can’t handle trucks or SUVs. It says it can inflate tires up to 85 psi safely, but it actually starts to get taxed above 55 psi. It also inflates slowly compared to better compressors and can heat up quickly.
There’s a market for portable air compressors like the Sunlifer Car Tire Inflator. If you have a small car and want something affordable to throw into the trunk that you can forget about, it’s worth looking at. It doesn’t offer performance anywhere close to the better compressors we reviewed, but not everyone is looking for a bunch of extras or to maximize their dollars.
There are three serious sins of which this compressor is guilty. It’s pretty slow. It’s rated at between three and five minutes to fill a normal passenger vehicle tire. We found that it takes a little longer than that. It can overheat pretty quickly, which means downtime between uses. In practice, it is also limited in what car tires it is capable of inflating to normal car tires. If you need a fill on your Subaru tires while on the road, it can do that. If you need it to handle a heavy-duty trailer or an SUV, you’ll need to spend more money.
If you’re considering the purchase of a portable air compressor, there are a few different qualities you’ll want to consider when comparison-shopping. We put together this handy little buyers’ guide to help you understand what they are and why they’re important and how you can arrange them for the air compressor that is just right for your needs.
Most importantly, you’ll want to buy an air compressor that can inflate your tires. Most passenger vehicles require around 35 psi for safe operation and maximized fuel efficiency. All of the compressors we looked at can meet that pretty basic requirement. You might need a portable compressor for more serious work, however. Heavier vehicles like trucks and SUVs require more air in their tires, and if you have anything designed for heavy hauling, you’ll need something capable of hitting those levels, too.
Having tire issues in the middle of nowhere isn’t just a nuisance; attending to your car at the side of the road can be dangerous, too. If it’s dark and rainy, it’s hazardous and also miserable. Most of the air compressors we looked at have an inflation speed of between three and five minutes. The heavier your vehicle, the more time it’ll take, of course. We also looked at a couple of compressors that can work quickly. You’ll want to be aware of how long you can expect your compressor to take to inflate your tires in any case.
Air compressors can generate a lot of heat and poorly designed ones get hot in a hurry. This could lead to things like the compressor overheating and shutting itself out or just burning up. Probably this isn’t going to be a problem if you just need to add air to one tire; if two or three of your tires need air, heat could be a problem. At the very least, you’ll want to let the compressor sit for a few minutes after use before putting it away.
We ought to mention here that one of our favorite air compressors, the Oasser hand-held portable air compressor generates heat directly where you hold it. If you opt for that air compressor, wear gloves while using it.
Our basic scenario for getting a flat is in the middle of nowhere during a nighttime rainstorm. These are just about the most miserable, dangerous conditions imaginable. Anything less is a bonus in your favor. In those conditions, however, you want a readout that is brightly lit. Digital is a giant plus because it’s the easiest to interpret. Analog requires a step or two of extra brainwork.
We also like compressors that you can program to a certain pressure and shut off. Again, anything that can assist you in hazardous conditions is a big plus.
If you anticipate needing it in mostly favorable conditions, you can usually save a few bucks and get a standard analog readout.
One thing we didn’t talk about is noise, which is usually a pretty serious concern when it comes to air compressors. Most air compressors are gas-powered, however, whereas these all run off electricity (in one case, generated by a battery). Noise probably isn’t going to be a serious concern.
The air compressors we reviewed are all affordable. That doesn’t mean you need to make a beeline for the most expensive one. Figure out what you need from your portable air compressor versus which models deliver. You can save yourself a few bucks by maximizing your investment or spend a little more to get a feature that you previously didn’t realize that you wanted.
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Buying the right air compressor will save you valuable time and pay for itself by sparing you the costs of roadside service and potentially expensive tow trips to a tire place. We think the best ones combine ease of use (especially when it’s dark), portability, and speed of use. That’s why we picked the Yome Portable Dual Cylinder Air Compressor Pump as our Top Pick. For our Best for the Money pick, we went with the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump. Portable air compressors aren’t all that expensive, but we felt this one delivered the best for-dollar value within the field we reviewed. If you don’t have a lot of money, we’d suggest the DBPOWER 12V DC Portable Electric Auto Air Compressor Pump as our Best Budget Buy. It might not have the extras that some of these air compressors have, but in a pinch, it’ll get the job done.
We hope that you found our reviews helpful in helping you put together a list of qualities you want in a portable air compressor for car tires. We also hope that you found our buyers’ guide a wealth of information about what to look for.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!